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Binks: A Star Wars Story

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Act I: Useful

A life debt is a powerful thing.

Jar Jar has been taught, his whole life, that if someone saves your life, you owe them. That your life should be dedicated to protecting them. It’s important, almost spiritual and mystical. Jar Jar never expected it to happen to him.

Qui-Gon saves his life. And then Qui-Gon dies.

Jar Jar has no idea what he’s going to do now.

***

Jar Jar is a war general, somehow. He got accepted back into his people. It doesn’t make much sense to him, this process of events, but it happened. He’s a hero now.

The people love him, and he wants to help.

***

As the rubble is being cleared, someone finds Qui-Gon’s weapon. A lightsaber. Jar Jar just happens to be in the throne room with a few other people milling about when it’s brought in to Queen Amidala, who looks down on it with sadness behind her eyes before glancing up at Jar Jar.

“Do you want it?” she asks softly. “I would send it back, but I’m not sure Obi-Wan needs the reminder right now.”

It might be flimsy logic, but Jar Jar finds himself reaching for the lightsaber anyway. It’s warm when he takes it, and heavier than he expected, hefty in his hand.

He spins it around, feeling it, and presses the power button.

Someone shrieks as the weapon ignites. It’s longer than Jar Jar had expected, and the balance is strange, with all the weight in the handle. When he moves it, he sees a smoking black hole in the palace wall. He hears a couple of faint gasps.

Whoops.

“Sorry,” he mutters. Padme’s eyebrows are raised, the only hint of expression he can see.

“We’re repairing things anyway,” she says after a long moment, and the rest of the room seems to relax as well. “Don’t worry about it. But please turn it off.”

Jar Jar does, quickly.

It’s ridiculous for him to keep it — it’s a weapon he can’t use, the weapon of a man he barely knew. But for some reason, it feels like he should keep it. If it weren’t a totally ridiculous thing to think, Jar Jar would think the lightsaber wants him to keep it.

So he does. Not on him as a weapon, nowhere visible, but with him. A reminder, always.

***

“I want to be your senate aide,” Jar Jar tells Senator Palpatine a week after the battle. Naboo is being cleaned up, broken battle droids being collected and buildings repaired, and the Gungans are negotiating with Queen Amidala for equal representation in Naboo politics. He did that. It’s hard to believe that Jar Jar Binks — the idiot, the fool, banished from his own people — managed to bring a new peace.

Palpatine just looks at him for a long moment, head tilted in consideration, and then smiles. Something in the back of Jar Jar’s mind doesn’t like that, but he pushes it down. If he can’t trust Palpatine, the kindly uncle of Naboo, who can he trust?

“Of course, my boy. I think we can do a lot of good together. You could run for local politics as well, do some good work here. Help the people of Naboo.”

It sounds like a good idea. It sounds like a reason to keep going, when he’s just lost the first thing that gave him that. Qui-Gon’s lightsaber, hidden somewhere among his belongings, could almost be nodding in approval.

“Thank you, Senator,” he says, and even though this is a good thing, even though this is perfect, it’s what he needs — he feels almost afraid, a cold and leaden feeling in his stomach like he’s swallowed poison, as he bows and Palpatine bows back.

***

Yes, the General will be useful, Palpatine muses. Jar Jar is a bumbling fool. Useless. Worse than useless, really — a weak-minded idiot who wouldn’t understand a plot if it were dropped in front of him.

He’s loved by the people of Naboo, a local hero. That is useful. Palpatine himself has not been so loved on his home planet for a few years — despite his best efforts, the Naboo have somehow picked up on his indifference to their plight. He’s fairly sure the recent Trade Federation occupation didn’t help, even if he’s showing up to supervise the recovery.

He can form Jar Jar into a competent Senate aide, who knows nothing but what he’s been told to do. And from there, well. It’s always useful to have a pawn if you need one. To use for your own gain, or to throw under the bus if needed.

Yes, Jar Jar Binks will be useful.

***

Half a year after the occupation, Naboo has, on paper, recovered. There are no more droid parts littering city streets, no more bodies to identify, no more repairs to do. Which means they should be back to normal, and Jar Jar, as newly elected senate aide, back to Naboo during a Senate recess to recuperate, has a plan.

“Queen Amidala,” Jar Jar says. He’s one of the rare few who doesn’t need to request her audience; he’s almost like her coworker, her equal. She looks up from her work, and smiles the way she does when she’s in her facepaint: only a little, so it doesn’t smudge, but her eyes light up. Jar Jar knows she’s happy to see him. It’s nice to be on Naboo, where lots of people, even the Queen, are happy to see him. That doesn’t happen as much when he’s on Coruscant, working as Palpatine’s assistant as he angles for the Chancellor chair.

“Jar Jar! How are you?” She puts down her datapad and one of her handmaidens takes over what she was doing as she stands and makes her way over.

“Very well, your highness.” He bows to her as she approaches, and she bows back before taking his hands in her smaller ones.

“How can I help you? How are you adjusting to your position? I know it’s a lot of pressure.”

Despite everything, it hurts, just a little, when she says that. He’s a general, a politician, a well-loved servant of the people, and Queen Amidala, despite her power, is still a child. It stings. Just a bit.

“I wanted to talk about veterans,” he says, and she nods, leading him over to a small sitting area. He sits, and waits while she arranges her dozens of layers of skirts and sits as well.

“Veterans?” she asks.

“Of the Trade Federation occupation. Gungan and Naboo alike. I would like to request programs to help them.” He’s not talking like himself, and he hates it, this political machine he’s becoming. He still wants to help people, but it’s hard when he feels so distant, so not like himself.

“Of course,” Queen Amidala says, and gestures for a handmaiden to hand her a datapad. Her painted nails swipe across the screen and jot down some notes. “I’ll be in touch later this week, if that’s alright? I’ll see what funds I can allocate.”

“Thank you, your majesty.” He bows his head at her, and when he lifts it again, she’s smiling softly at him.

“I’m glad you brought this up, Jar Jar.” She shuts off the datapad and hands it off again before beginning the difficult process of getting to her feet in all those layers of clothing and headgear. “It’s certainly important to remember those we lost and help those who survived. Actually — are you on the council for the memorial?”

“What memorial?” He’s been off-planet for ages, but that’s probably not an excuse. It sounds like something he should’ve known.

“Near the edge of the city, there was an old building that got bombed, and instead of rebuilding it we’re going to make a memorial for the Naboo and Gungan soldiers we lost during the occupation.” She looks haunted for a moment. She probably knows the exact number, probably spoke to the grieving families who lost a father, a son, a brother. She’s a child and it still rests on her shoulders.

Jar Jar can’t imagine.

“I’d like to help,” he says. “I’ll holoconference in.” Technically he can’t make those sorts of promises, but this is important, and since he makes so much of Senator Palpatine’s schedule, it extends to a lot of impact on his own. He’ll make the time.

“Thank you.” She takes his hand again, smiling up at him with her eyes.

For once, Jar Jar feels like he’s doing something truly good.

***

The feeling doesn’t last.

The longer he works for Senator Palpatine, the more worried he gets. Jar Jar has never counted his own intuition for much, but even he can’t ignore all the alarm bells in his head when he sees how often Palpatine is meeting with members of the Banking Clans, the war profiteering scum of the galaxy — after what the Trade Federation, a third of them, did to Naboo! — as well as certain members of the Senate who give Jar Jar a bad feeling. And more and more, he’s talking about what he’s going to do as Chancellor. It’s not surprising that Palpatine expects to become the Chancellor when Valorum’s term runs out — he’s one of the longest-running senators, and one of the most popular — but Jar Jar just doesn’t trust the look in his eyes when he talks about it.

In the runup to Valorum’s re-election attempt, Jar Jar is kept late with more and more work looking through old Senate records. He’s not sure what he’s looking for until he finds it: early votes from Valorum for incredibly unpopular policies. Warmongering policies.

When he finds it, he considers, long and hard, whether he should send it to Palpatine. It’s what he’s supposed to do. It’s his job.

It still takes him a long time to hit send on the data collection, sending it straight to Palpatine’s desk.

It’s out of his hands now.

***

The anonymous attack ad campaign is massively successful. Valorum’s early votes — never mind that he was only a Junior Senator then and probably being entirely influenced by his predecessor, never mind that he hasn’t voted that way since and has ruled fairly for both his terms — causes mass fury. Jar Jar follows the story on holonet news and discussion forums, and the distaste is unanimous.

Palpatine wins by a landslide. His victory speech promises greatness, prosperity, and unyielding strength in the face of enemies.

Jar Jar has no idea if he did the right thing.

***

Maybe it shouldn’t be so unsurprising, but Palpatine’s rule does not bring about the promised prosperity and greatness. The talks of dozens of systems leaving the Republic to form their own Alliance continues, with greater intensity, despite how often Palpatine alternates between mocking and furiously rejecting the idea during his Senate addresses. Civil unrest is on a rise across the galaxy, random violence, danger. Jar Jar sees more and more Jedi being sent on dangerous missions, and a smaller number returning. Not significantly smaller — the Jedi are still more powerful than most opponents — but there are still Jedi being lost.

Every time he hears about it, he thinks about Qui-Gon’s lightsaber. He keeps it in an ornate box in his apartment, up on a shelf, out of the way. Every so often, he takes it out and holds it and asks himself if he’s doing the right thing. It doesn’t help. It just brings more questions, sadness, and regret.

The only good part of this, at least, is that Queen Amidala is Senator Amidala now, and she allows Jar Jar to transition to working beneath her instead of now-Chancellor Palpatine. Jar Jar is glad. He still has to spend time with Palpatine, but he’s glad he has a different boss now.

Senator Amidala — or Padme, as she insists he call her — is wide-eyed and optimistic, and half a dozen other Senators — Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Onaconda Farr — immediately take her under their wings. She stays late in the office discussing policy and falls asleep at her desk, and in the morning she rebraids her hair and does it all again without complaint.

Jar Jar admires her more than he could ever explain.

She’s unbelievably optimistic and hasn’t yet gotten beaten down by the constant roadblocks, the constant waiting, the endless slow progression towards the Senate actually looking at any of the bills she brings forward. Palpatine calls himself her mentor, and visits her every couple of weeks in her office for stilted drinks and chatting, leaving with vague promises of looking at her proposed bills. He never does, and Padme endures the meetings with a frozen smile that drops the moment Palpatine leaves, replaced by rolling eyes and mumbled curses as she tries to get back the half hour of work he’s cost her.

 Jar Jar is fairly sure she doesn’t value Palpatine’s “mentorship” as much as he seems to think she should. But he’s an important ally to have, and Padme is nothing if not strategic.

Jar Jar isn’t quite sure he trusts Palpatine, but he trusts Padme and her judgement, and that has to be enough.

***

Padme nearly dies.

Jar Jar couldn’t have done anything —  not the first time, when her handmaiden died for her, and not the second, when the poison worms snuck into her apartment — but he still feels guilty, or like he didn’t do enough. Anakin Skywalker — nearly a man now, so different from the small boy who won the pod race and helped save Naboo all those years ago — takes her home, and Jar Jar stays behind with one of her doubles, pretending she’s still there.

He starts carrying the lightsaber. He disguises it, keeps it on the inside of his clothes, but it’s a weapon on him at all times. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll be able to make a difference the next time.

A few days after she leaves, Jar Jar gets a frantic message from one of her guards. She and Anakin snuck out. She’s on the run, putting herself in more danger.

Jar Jar shouldn’t panic — she’s been through more than he can imagine and survived it with her head held high — but he can’t help being afraid, being terrified, because he remembers when she was fourteen years old and forced to rule her own planet through an invasion. She was strong, but she was a child, and a part of him still sees that child when he looks at her, even ten years later.

Shortly after he receives the message, Palpatine sweeps into her office like he owns the place. Which, well, he does, if one considers the Chancellor the owner of the Senate.

“Where is Senator Amidala?” he asks, all grandfatherly concern.

“Home for the day,” Jar Jar says. It’s a blatant and ridiculous lie. It’s barely past noon and Padme has never gone home during daylight on a workday for as long as he’s known her.

“Oh. I had hoped to speak to her.”

“I could pass on a message.”

“I’m afraid it’s somewhat sensitive information, Aide Binks,” Palpatine says, some of the kindly mask slipping. Palpatine is certainly more shrewd, more impatient than the sweet old man he prefers to be seen as. “Do you have any way of contacting her?”

Well, he had, until she decided to run off to Geonosis with a handsome Jedi with hopes of heroism. “She’s been very busy lately, you understand, she turned off her communicator for some well-deserved rest. If it’s sensitive, I’m sure you could send her a message for when she checks in the morning—”

Palpatine raises a hand, and when Jar Jar opens his eyes again, he’s on the floor. The sun, which had been high in the sky when Palpatine came in, is low on the horizon, almost set.

Jar Jar has no idea what just happened.

Only a few moments later, he’s forgotten it completely.

***

Two thousand systems declare a split from the Republic over irreconcilable differences. The new collection of systems calls themselves the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and they’ve declared war on the Republic. The Jedi are being rallied as war generals, which hasn’t happened for over a thousand years.

Padme — along with Anakin and Master Kenobi — almost died. They were kidnapped and nearly executed, and would have been killed in front of an audience if not for the timely intervention of several Jedi and their new clone army. (The army that somehow fell into their laps at the right time — most people seem to have decided not to question it.) This was enough to make the private scheming public and spark the war.

Jar Jar stands before the Senate, in a sea of empty seats and squabbling Senators, truly panicked for maybe the first time in decades. Padme is fine, uninjured and safe, but she isn’t back yet. He has to represent Naboo right now.

The Republic is on the verge of falling apart. Jar Jar doesn’t know what to do.

***

Before this session, he’d been called into the Chancellor’s office. Palpatine had been trembling in fear and horror, and had told Jar Jar everything he knew: that the Confederacy had declared war, had almost killed Padme and the two Jedi, that he needed to declare war on them back to help their democracy survive. It was terrifying.

“I just don’t know if I can do it,” Palpatine had said, sitting at his desk with his head lowered, looking almost defeated. Jar Jar felt a twinge of pity, against his better impulses. “All this bureaucracy, all the steps before I can take action against these traitors. I don’t think I can lead effectively. Maybe I should step down…”

“No!” Jar Jar said. “No, you can’t. We can’t survive a power transition now. Is there a way to bypass all the checking? So you can keep us safe?”

“Come to think of it,” Palpatine said, slowly, “maybe there is a way.”

***

So he calls for a vote to give Chancellor Palpatine extraordinary powers. There’s nothing else to be done. They need a leader, they need the power to move decisively against their enemies.

He just has to hope that he made the right decision.

***

Act II: Pawn

Jar Jar has spent a lot of time asking himself, what would Qui-Gon do?

Maybe it’s a bit of a useless question. He only knew Qui-Gon for a week before he died. But it was long enough to get a sense of the man: how he was kind and noble and caring and brave. That he would rescue people who needed it, even if they were idiotic Gungans like Jar Jar. During all of that, he’d let himself fantasize, a time or two, of a world where Qui-Gon could teach him to be a better man. Or that he could pay off his life debt by helping, because Qui-Gon would be able to show him the right thing to do.

And then, of course, Qui-Gon had died. But the idea of having him as a moral compass of sorts never left Jar Jar’s mind. And the influence has grown and grown over the decade and change since his death, to the point where it comes to mind whenever Jar Jar finds himself faced with a moral dilemma. Which seems to be happening more and more these days. Sometimes he even takes out the lightsaber, and talks to it — not out loud, that would be ridiculous, but in his head — about the current problem. His dilemma. The question always comes back.

What would Qui-Gon do?

Probably not this.

The war has devastated everything. Life on Coruscant hasn’t changed much: the Senators, Jar Jar and Padme among them, still do the same things. (Except the ones who left for the other side, including lots of old friends. Sometimes Jar Jar still instinctively looks for them across the Senate, only to be greeted by the sight of their empty pods.) They have meetings and propose bills and nothing changes except the casualty numbers growing more and more as the months go by.

Palpatine’s speeches are rousing: tales of the courage and bravery of the Jedi generals and their soldiers, their inevitable victory against the Separatist scum. And sure, sometimes it seems like they’re gaining ground, but the war just keeps dragging on and on.

Only a few months in, Padme is starting to get frustrated. Jar Jar can tell. She vanishes every few weeks with a Jedi or two, occasionally ends up in conflicts or crises or mysteries without even leaving the planet. Despite it all, she still believes in democracy. Still wants to make things better.

Jar Jar wishes he had her optimism.

He looks at what’s around him — the death, the destruction, the petty senatorial infighting that isn’t doing a thing to help — and wonders if he did the wrong thing. Palpatine having the power to quickly make decisions can only be a good thing, right?

Except Palpatine doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all except making rousing speeches and occasionally leaving for a week or two at a time. Nothing is changing. It feels like the war might go on forever.

***

No wars can go on forever, of course. This one ends faster than Jar Jar expected.

And then everything gets so, so much worse.

***

The Jedi temple is burning.

All across Coruscant, there are broadcasts, saying the same thing in plain, bold text on billboards or a pleasant voice over a crackling speaker from a police droid.

THE JEDI HAVE BETRAYED THE REPUBLIC. THE TRAITORS ARE BEING ELIMINATED. DO NOT PANIC.

It’s hard not to panic when the columns of smoke keep rising and blocking out the sunset.

***

“The attempt on my life has left me scarred and deformed,” Palpatine proclaims from his Chancellor chair. It clearly has: his face is misshapen, white and ghastly under a hood. “But my resolve has never been stronger! In order to ensure security and continuing prosperity, the Republic will be reorganized into the First Galactic Empire!”

Padme gasps. Palpatine’s words fade into the background as cheers rise around them.

“So this is how liberty dies,” Padme says softly to Bail Organa, sitting next to her. Jar Jar can’t see their faces, but he’s sure they wear equal expressions of horror. “With thunderous applause.”

Palpatine, the new Emperor, is basking in the moment. Jar Jar doesn’t know if he should believe the promises of future security, or be terrified. The war is over. Maybe, just maybe, Palpatine can help them, even if the Jedi are gone.

(The Jedi — gone. Jar Jar can’t believe it. It doesn’t sound real.)

(The lightsaber, inside his robes, almost feels like it’s burning against his skin. Now it’s archaeological evidence of a dead species. He didn’t want anyone to know about it before; now he really doesn’t want anyone to know he has it.)

***

Padme is panicked and crying by the window. Anakin had been here, but now he’s gone, and Jar Jar has no idea if he’s okay, or if something worse is happening, because there’s been something very wrong with Anakin for a few days. When Obi-Wan stops by to speak to Padme in private, Jar Jar tries not to listen, but overhears a few words anyway.

Anakin killed them.

He killed them all.

We need to find him.

Anakin, little Ani, who he lifted onto his shoulders after he won a race, who he protected. Anakin was a war general, but that’s not the same thing as what Obi-Wan is saying.

Everything has changed.

“We’re leaving, Jar Jar,” Padme says a few minutes later, hurrying out of her sitting room as she ties off the end of her braid. She’s changed out of her fancy senatorial garb (all with the voluminous skirts to hide her pregnancy) into a practical getup.

“Padme,” Jar Jar says, and she turns to look at him, her braid swinging around her head. Without any fancy hair pieces or makeup or overly formal clothing, she looks young and sweet, the way she did when he first got to know her.

Jar Jar isn’t sure he’s ever going to see her again.

“Yes?” she prompts after a moment.

“Stay safe,” he says, and unexpectedly, her face crumples up and she runs over to him, wrapping her arms tight around him. Jar Jar hesitantly hugs her back as Obi-Wan emerges from somewhere and clearly indicates that they need to go.

“Thank you, Jar Jar. You’ve been such a good friend.” She wipes away something that might be a tear as she steps away.

Jar Jar isn’t wrong. It is the last time he ever sees her. And he never meets her child at all.

***

According to all official sources, Padme died in childbirth, along with her child. Anakin, the father (obvious to everyone close to either of them, Jar Jar included) is dead too, in the Jedi massacre. Obi-Wan is officially a missing, wanted person.

Jar Jar has never felt so entirely alone.

His promotion, only brought about by Padme’s death, isn’t even bittersweet. It’s just bitter. He never wanted that kind of responsibility. He just wanted to help, wanted to make things better for the Gungans, for the veterans of the wars on Naboo. Now he’s the first Naboo representative in the new Imperial Senate, directly serving the Emperor.

“You must know I trust you quite a lot, my boy,” Palpatine says when he first visits Jar Jar in his office, maybe a week after Padme’s death and a few days prior to her funeral. “I wouldn’t have anyone else as my Naboo senator.”

“Not Padme?” Jar Jar asks. Something ugly flashes in Palpatine’s eyes before he smiles again. The scarring on his face, turning it white and wrinkled, makes him hideous to look at. Jar Jar can barely make himself meet Palpatine’s eyes.

“Of course, if Senator Amidala were still alive, there would be no one better for the job,” Palpatine says smoothly, no indication of anything else. “But unfortunately, she is gone. We must look only forward. I will be speaking to you in the coming days, my boy. In the meantime… take care of yourself.”

Palpatine leaves, and Jar Jar is alone at the desk that shouldn’t be his.

***

Everything in the funeral is a blur. Palpatine doesn’t attend, saying he has business to attend regarding his new empire, so Jar Jar makes the journey back to Naboo alone. The planet is in mourning, shocked by the sudden and tragic death of its most beloved queen.

It’s strange to be back on Naboo. He’s been back a few times during the war, but mostly in the midst of some kind of struggle. He hasn’t had much time to meet with his people, the ones he’s supposed to represent. He’s only met the current queen once before his arrival today.

Shortly after the funeral procession, when Jar Jar is at the palace, he receives a message from the Emperor. Brief and to the point.

Choose your successor. I have a new role for you.

He finds the current queen in her mourning wear, and asks her who should be the next Senator for Naboo. She looks at him for a long moment, her expression entirely unreadable under the face paint, and says, “No one is more popular here than you are, Senator Binks, but I’m sure we can find someone.”

Jar Jar bows hastily and leaves the throne room behind, not sure if he’s imagining the angry eyes drilling into the back of his head.

What would Qui-Gon do? Not step willingly into whatever Palpatine has planned for him.

***

His replacement is a young and fiery woman that he thinks was once one of Padme’s handmaidens. Padme would’ve liked that, he thinks. Better than him as her replacement: stupid, fumbling Jar Jar. They take the same ship back to Coruscant, and he hands over the keys to the office that was briefly his, as well as Padme’s apartment — no one had really known what to do with it, so Jar Jar had been given control — and goes to find Palpatine.

“Ah, my boy,” Palpatine says when Jar Jar steps into his office. “How was the trip home?”

I was coming from home , Jar Jar thinks. “Fine.”

“Glad to hear it. Advisor Binks, I have a proposal.”

Jar Jar knows that Palpatine is only calling him that to butter him up. Unfortunately, it works. “What is it?”

“I’d like you to be my personal assistant and provide assistance, as needed, to Lord Vader.”

“Who?”

“You’ll meet him very soon. He’s a very useful asset, but he needs a bit of grounding.”

Jar Jar needs to think. He has no idea what to do. He wants to say yes, but a part of him knows that’s a very bad idea, somehow. His skin is crawling, and the words feel stuck in his throat; it takes him longer to speak than it should.

“Can I get back to you?” he manages.

Palpatine blinks. He probably thinks he’s presented Jar Jar with the opportunity of a lifetime, that Jar Jar would be an idiot to turn it down. Maybe that’s true.

“Come back tomorrow, my boy. I understand if you’d rather retire… a life of politics is a difficult one.” Palpatine sighs, gazing out his office window, looking over his city. “A lot of weight on one’s shoulders.”

It’s true, but somehow, Jar Jar doesn’t think Palpatine has ever really seen it that way.

***

In his apartment, Jar Jar ends up pacing in circles around his dimly lit living room, knocking into furniture as he walks. It’s not a very big apartment.

By all logic, he should accept. It’s the offer of a lifetime. There’s no reason to say no, except.

Why him? Why does Palpatine trust him?

Qui-Gon has no answers here. He’s brought out the lightsaber to stare at it for a moment before putting it back half a dozen times already.

There’s a rap on his front door, and Jar Jar jumps, nearly knocking over a lamp.

“Hello?” he calls out, and ventures towards the door. He can’t think of anyone who would come here. Until a few days ago, he was barely important.

When he opens the door, he doesn’t recognize the woman standing there. She’s human, with long, silver-streaked black hair in braids down her back and a clear, steely gaze.

“You’ve been offered the position of the Emperor’s personal assistant,” she says without preamble. Jar Jar nods, too surprised to say anything else. She pushes past him into the apartment without another word and Jar Jar closes the door behind them, following her in.

“We need your help,” she says. “Palpatine was bad enough as the overpowered Chancellor of a failing republic. He’s going to be worse as a self-made emperor. We need someone close to him who can help us, report back to us, tell us what he’s doing.”

“Me?” Jar Jar manages, finally. He can barely comprehend what she’s asking him. Or why she’s asking him. He’s… Jar Jar Binks. He’s not someone who could ever be a spy, a double agent, even against someone he knows is evil. And a part of him still can’t believe that Palpatine could be a cruel emperor. “Why me? I can’t do that.”

She focuses her gaze on him, narrowing her eyes. They’re startlingly pale grey against her dark skin, and something about them makes Jar Jar feel like she can see right through him down to his soul. It’s disconcerting, but also strangely comforting. It’s hard to imagine her judging him wrongly.

“It has to be you,” she says. “No one will ever suspect you.”

It’s true. It stings a little, but it’s true.

“Okay,” Jar Jar says, certain he’s making a massive mistake. “What can I call you?”

She tilts her head, considering, and says, “You can call me Arrow.”

***

“I’m so glad you’ve come to your senses, dear boy. I think we can do a lot of good together.” Palpatine puts a hand on Jar Jar’s arm, as cold and clammy as a dead fish. “Now, I know this is old fashioned, but I like loyalty.” His nails dig in. “Kneel.”

It has to be you.

Jar Jar kneels.

“Good, good.” Palpatine pats his shoulder and Jar Jar awkwardly gets back to his feet. It’s a little weird, but, well, Palpatine has always had some odd habits. “Now — Lord Vader!”

The door slides open, and the sound of heavy, mechanical breathing fills the room. Jar Jar turns and sees a monster. A cyborg or advanced droid, not an inch of real flesh showing beneath his black suit. When he approaches, he’s eye-level with Jar Jar, unlike most people he meets.

“You two will be working very closely together,” the Emperor says, and Jar Jar is suddenly very, very concerned about his status as a traitor. He has a feeling that however poorly the Emperor would respond to this discovery, Lord Vader will be much, much worse.

***

Act III: Double Agent

Jar Jar Binks is, without a doubt, the worst thorn in Vader’s side that has ever existed.

For over five years they’ve worked together on a regular basis. It’s astounding to Vader that he’s lasted this long without putting his lightsaber through the miserable Gungan’s throat.

Every mission they’ve had, he’s been utterly useless. And it doesn’t help that those missions have a high failure rate, probably because Vader is frustrated and distracted by having to deal with him, his stumbling and chatter and awkward silences. That’s what he chooses to blame for the failures: Barriss Offee, escaped from prison, escaping once again after being captured by the Hutts while Vader and Jar Jar were on their way to get her. A small rebellion on Alderaan somehow managing to go entirely underground and untraceable before they even got to the planet. The exact group of rogue clone troopers they were looking for somehow managing to get the jump on them.

(That last one was particularly bad. None of Vader’s real flesh was damaged, but his left robotic arm needed serious repairs and his helmet was cracked. Jar Jar, with his eternal luck, made it out without a scratch.)

Vader doesn’t always have to work with Jar Jar — when he’s working on more military or spacecraft tech-oriented missions, even the Emperor must know Jar Jar would only be a hindrance. But for whatever reason, on some, seemingly almost randomly selected missions, Jar Jar gets sent along. Vader has lots of idle theories for this: it’s psychological torture, it’s when the Emperor is bored and wants him to be irritated, it’s to make him work faster to end his interaction with Jar Jar.

He suspects the real reason is because, somehow, the Emperor trusts Jar Jar. Maybe he’s right to do so. The Gungan has always been painfully transparent, and he’s clearly loyal to the Emperor and his goals. Vader values efficiency and quality of work over personal loyalty, but he’s aware that Palpatine does not agree.

Ultimately, it matters very little, because Vader still gets things done, even if he’s starting to see Jar Jar as something akin to a bad luck charm. When he gets back from overseeing TIE fighter production on Serenno — going quite well, and he’s actually feeling somewhat excited to test-fly the new models, which is an unusual feeling for him — and sees his next mission, with Jar Jar, for once he actually isn’t bothered by it.

This one will be personal to him.

***

Jar Jar is, somehow, an important rebel informant and double agent.

No, he doesn’t know how this happened, either. And the fact that he hasn’t been caught, five years later, is astounding.

There’s not much information he can pass on, really. Palpatine is tight-lipped with information; half the time he doesn’t know what his next job will involve until he’s already there. It’s mostly odd jobs, too, seemingly uninvolved from the most important aspects of running an empire. The exception is his jobs with Darth Vader.

Some jobs, it seems, Palpatine doesn’t trust Vader to do alone, for whatever reason. Those ones, Jar Jar gets an itinerary, and sometimes even a basic outline of the situation. He sends the information on to his Arrow, who is still his contact, and usually by the time they get there, it’s clear that they’ve done something. Not much, and nothing that couldn’t be explained away by bad luck or timing, but it’s something.

Jar Jar knows that he’s saved lives doing this. It’s a strange thing to think about. Being a war hero is one thing, everything you do immediate and clear; being a spy is something entirely different.

He’s not a war hero anymore, that much is clear. He hasn’t been back to Naboo since the beginning of the Empire. Partly because he hasn’t been sent there, but he doesn’t go back when he has time off, because he’s ashamed.

He’s one of the faces of Imperial power. He’s seen himself on holonet announcements of new restrictions to Imperial citizens, standing behind the Emperor with Vader and a few high-ranking officers.

Sometimes, when he loses a bit of his self control, he looks on Naboo’s local network. They hate him. It’s not frequent, but it’s a theme: he’s the ex-hero that sold himself for a shot at power. There’s speculation of whether he joined the battles in the first place, all those years ago, to eventually climb up this ladder of power.

Being a hero means people know what you did. Being a spy means, sometimes, being hated.

Jar Jar can live with it, but he doesn’t have to like it.

It’s been a couple months since he’s had an assignment with Vader, and he has a couple of days off, so he heads out to find Arrow late that night. He has an entirely fictional drinking problem that he “hides poorly”, so the guards of the Imperial palace are used to him doing a terrible job of sneaking away and taking his speeder down to the lower levels.

He starts off at a less sketchy location, where occasionally some of Arrow’s friends meet. He rarely sees her there, but if the friends are around, they can tell him where to go or if she’s even on-planet. When he’s inside, he pushes through the refreshingly non-rowdy crowds to look at the tables. No familiar faces or head shapes, so he heads back out.

The next three bars are all busts, too. As he’s heading out of the third, he sees a fight break out across the street, and the old instinctive question — what would Qui-Gon do? — runs through his mind. He forces himself to turn away, even as he can practically feel Qui-Gon’s lightsaber burning into his hip.

(He’s not sure why he still carries it. It was bad enough before and it’s insanely dangerous now. But every day he still clips it on, inside his robes, out of sight. He can’t go without it. He feels naked, or worse… lost.)

The sounds of shouting and jeering as people watch the fight fade away as he gets on his speeder and goes. He sends out a little thought into the Force or whatever else is up there that no one gets badly hurt.

At the fifth bar, he finds her.

This one is dirty and grimy and filled with haze: some of it smoke, some of it the humidity, and some of it probably illegal. There’s no music and it’s not actually hideously loud, so Arrow actually looks up when the door opens and Jar Jar comes in. He makes eye contact almost immediately.

Her braids have gotten more silver over the years, and she’s cut them down a bit, but her face is still the same one that asked him to spy for her five years ago. The same intense eyes and beautiful, lined face.

Jar Jar might be a little bit in love with her. He’s also fairly sure she would laugh and then kill him if he ever even implied that, so he’s never going to say a word.

She gets down to business immediately when he slides into the booth across from her. She’s nursing a glass of something alcoholic, and her nails are tapping into the warped, sticky surface of the table.

“Do you know where you’re going next?” she asks, her voice low and husky the way it usually is, and Jar Jar swallows.

“No,” he says, and then looks in her face again, worried, because he realizes that had sounded more like a hypothetical.

“Well,” she says, taking a sip of her drink, “I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

“What is it?” He doesn’t bother asking how she found out. The rare times she’s let things slip to him instead of the other way around, she’s clammed right up at every question. She protects her informants.

She pulls a datapad out of her bag and unlocks it with a few quick swipes. The brightness of the screen is at odds with the dimness of their surroundings, and Jar Jar blinks down at it as she swipes through a few pages before stopping.

“Suppress a rebel uprising on Naboo. Native population. No peace tactics. Extermination. Lord Vader and Assistant,” she reads out from whatever Imperial internal document she’s found. “You leave in two days.”

It takes almost too long for the pieces to slide into place in Jar Jar’s head. Rebel uprising. Naboo. Native population.

“The Gungans?” he whispers.

Arrow shuts off the datapad and slides it away again, not making eye contact. It’s not like her. Jar Jar thinks she might actually feel sorry for him for the first time ever. “Yes. I told you that you weren’t going to like it.”

“Is it… is it me?” He can’t bring himself to ask if he’s the one who is meant to help . The idea is so horrifying he can barely think it, let alone say it.

“It doesn’t name the assistant. But I think that’s a reasonable guess.”

Jar Jar buries his face in his hands, trying to breathe. He’d been focused on his part of this, which is probably hideously selfish of him: this whole situation is awful. No peace tactics. Extermination.

Darth Vader is going to kill a huge number of his people right in front of him and there won’t be a single thing he can do.

Unless.

“Can you help?” he asks, dropping his hands to the table. He pushes past his terror and sadness and panic. He needs to fix this. “Arrow, is there anything you can do? You know people, right? You have contacts?”

She looks right up at him, and reaches out to lightly touch his wrist, where it’s resting on the table. It’s almost like she’s comforting him, which Jar Jar doesn’t think he’s ever seen before, with him or anyone else.

“I’m sorry. There’s nothing.”

“You can’t — there has to be!” Jar Jar realizes he’s raising his voice, and forces himself to stop shouting, because heads are starting to turn. No one cares about their conversation — it’s not that kind of bar — but disruptions to the quiet peace, certainly. “You have to have something. You can’t just — just tell me this when there’s nothing I can do.”

Arrow’s face is tight with tension or repressed emotion, her hands clenched together on the table, only a few inches from where Jar Jar’s hands rest. Now that he’s felt the faint heat of her fingers on him, he just wants it again, which is pathetic. He needs to get it together.

“If I had to guess,” she says slowly, “this is a test of your loyalty. To see if you can stand by and watch your people being slaughtered and stay loyal to the man who ordered it.”

Jar Jar’s stomach lurches. It sounds — it sounds horribly plausible. The Emperor certainly would.

“Of course,” he says. “Of course.”

“I’m sorry,” Arrow says, slowly, like she’s unused to the feeling of those words in her mouth. “There’s nothing I can do.”

Jar Jar just sits there, for a long moment, and then gestures for a drink. His drinking problem might be fictional, but he needs something right now.

***

Jar Jar is still nursing a hangover when he takes off for Naboo two days later. It’s not his lowest point, probably — depends on what he said when he was blacked out, and he doesn’t really want to know — but it’s up there.

He knows that Vader shows next to no emotion, but he can almost sense a feeling of smugness coming from him as they fly through hyperspace. He hasn’t received an itinerary this time, a rare exception to the usual, so Vader is likely assuming he doesn’t know what’s coming.

Jar Jar wonders if it would be easier if he didn’t.

Qui-Gon’s lightsaber burns into his hip. He has a few wild, impulsive urges to do something — cut out the ship’s engines and stop them arriving, stab Vader in the back. But it’ll only get him killed and it won’t stop the massacre for more than a couple of days at best.

There’s nothing he can do except watch the stars pass by and count down the moments.

***

“There are two phases to this,” Vader says. He’s practically gloating. They’ve arrived on Naboo and met with the local law enforcement, who have rounded up most of the Gungan rebels, and now Vader is finally briefing him. “The first is simply dispatching about half of the traitors, once I have hunted them all down. Your job is simply to supervise. The next phase is next week. A public execution.”

Jar Jar, who had been fidgeting in his seat, stills. “Public?”

“The people of Naboo have adapted poorly to Imperial rule. It’s important to make an example.”

That doesn’t surprise Jar Jar. Currently, they’re in the Imperial headquarters: the former royal palace, where Queen Amidala once ruled, converted and turned into a standard Imperial building. If Vader is put off by this — being here, or the reminder of Padme — he doesn’t show it in the slightest.

“Of course.”

“We’re choosing who will be an example right now. The local branches will have more guidance, but most of the Gungans will go today. The people of Naboo don’t see them as much more than pests.”

Jar Jar stays still, eyes carefully pointed at the floor. Qui-Gon’s lightsaber shifts against his leg as he tries not to move. He can tell Vader is waiting for a reaction, and he won’t give him one.

“Next week,” Vader continues after a long pause, “a mix of Gungans and other Naboo rebels. And the Emperor will be coming to observe. It is his home planet, after all, and it won’t do at all for the citizens to be seen as troublemakers.”

“Of course.”

“Later this afternoon, you’re required to supervise.” Vader pauses, waiting.

“And?”

“Will this be a problem?”

“No.” He doesn’t hesitate. There won’t be a problem, because he’s not going to make one.

“Good.”

***

The actual killing is a blur.

Vader is efficient with his lightsaber, and the firing squads are precise. All Jar Jar has to do is be there.

He looks off into middle distance, and more than once, he hears his name in his own language. Along with several choice profanities. It’s completely fair, but it still hurts to hear it wash over him. Every word feels like a blow.

Traitor, scum, garbage. Should’ve died in the war before becoming an Imperial traitor.

They’re not wrong. Not a single word is wrong.

***

“I’m impressed,” Vader says after, and Jar Jar starts. He’s been… out of it. “And I do not say that often, Advisor Binks.”

“Was it a test?” Jar Jar knows he shouldn’t ask, but the taste of blood is stuck on his tongue from biting the inside of his lip bloody. He needed something to stop himself from running away or running in to stupidly try and help.

“I will not speak for the Emperor. But I would think so. If it was, you passed with flying colours.”

Great. Exactly what Jar Jar wanted.

***

“My boy,” Palpatine says when Jar Jar steps off the ship back on Coruscant, and Jar Jar starts in surprise. He’s been in a bit of a haze the whole journey, distracted by his departure from Naboo. The citizens shouting at him as he passed by, spitting at his feet. They’d been knocked to the ground by Stormtroopers for their insolence, but most of them seemed to have found it worth it.

Jar Jar has never been so hated, and he deserves it. He absolutely deserves it.

“Emperor,” he says, bowing. He didn’t expect to see Palpatine here, and going by Vader’s pause as he steps off the ship behind Jar Jar, he didn’t either.

“I am very proud of you,” Palpatine says. “You did the right thing and you did it remarkably well. Effective immediately, you will be my personal security during next week’s speech and ceremony after our little demonstration.”

Personal security. Even Vader rarely gets to do that. “I’m honoured,” Jar Jar says, trying to think. This is — he can use this. He can figure this out. He’s never been more trusted, which gives him power.

“Of course. Go freshen up and get some rest, we’ve got a big week ahead of us.”

“Yes,” Jar Jar says. Qui-Gon’s lightsaber burns, and it doesn’t hurt. It almost feels approving. “Yes, we do.”

***

Act IV: Right Hand Man

“I will be the Emperor’s personal security next week.”

Arrow’s jaw literally drops. He’s never seen her look so shocked, or so delighted as she does a moment later.

“Personal security — so—”

“I’ll have access. And he trusts me, and I have the full itinerary for the public execution, including where the prisoners are being kept. If you have contacts—”

“Now is the time.” Arrow’s eyes sparkle. She picks up her glass and throws it back, celebratory for once. “Barkeep, a drink for the man!”

“What’re you so excited about?” the bartender mumbles, pulling out a clouded bottle from behind the bar and handing it to Jar Jar. He nods his thanks as he opens it, takes a sip, and nearly spits it out.

Arrow laughs. “Not the best stuff, but it’ll do.” She raises her glass, and Jar Jar clinks his bottle against it. “To maybe winning, for once.”

“To maybe winning.” The second sip doesn’t go down nearly so painfully.

This is one of the better drunken nights of Jar Jar’s life.

***

He rides a high for maybe the next day and a half. He tries to make it look like he’s happy about the promotion, telling everyone he sees about how he’s going to be the Emperor’s personal guard. Whenever he does this in front of Vader — which is often, since they’re often together for logistics meetings — he can practically feel the eyes rolling behind the mask. It doesn’t matter what Vader thinks, though.

He sends off as much information as he can to Arrow, and she lets him know she’s working on it. He tries extra hard to be careful, because getting caught now would be — devastating. But he’s not even thinking about that. It doesn’t feel like a real possibility.

Of course, as always, the pride comes before the fall.

***

Each morning, Jar Jar gets an updated list of known rebels at large. He usually doesn’t check it — it’s just an information blast to all Imperials — but he has been this week, because any updates could cause real problems.

He’s glad he checked this time, because he nearly spits out his morning coffee.

JAIA TURE, the screen reads, and below is a picture of Arrow. It’s clearly several years old and cropped from a different photo, with a half-face beside hers, but it’s clearly her. There’s less gray in her hair, and it’s shorter and puffed out around her head instead of braided. Her face is less lined.

But it’s her. They know about her. Whatever anonymity she was relying on is gone.

Jar Jar knows he can’t get caught now, and has to control his reaction. He keeps drinking his coffee, and expands her profile as if idly checking. If nothing else, he can be glad that he knows she hasn’t actually been caught, because she’s listed as being at large.

There’s all kinds of information here that he didn’t know about her. She’s almost fifty. Unmarried and runs a tailoring business with her sister. She was flagged for too many suspicious off-planet trips, and is now considered a confirmed rebel after a brief period of observation.

Jar Jar’s plan may have just gotten a little more complicated.

***

After allowing himself a few moments to pace after his breakfast, under the guise of stretching out from a night of sleep, Jar Jar feels ready to try and contact Arrow. Jaia? He’s not quite sure what to call her. He shoots off a brief message from their encrypted, old-fashioned communicators: you’ve been compromised. Plan still good?

He hides the comm on his belt along with the lightsaber and heads to work. He’s meeting with Vader to sit in on a meeting about… something. He’s not totally sure. He’s attended a lot of meetings over the last few days.

“Advisor Binks,” Vader says when he arrives, a couple of minutes late. “Sleeping in?”

“No, sir,” Jar Jar says, before remembering that technically they’re the same rank. Arguably, Jar Jar currently has more power. “Just checking the databases.”

“Of course. Speaking of which, we exterminated a rebel cell right here on Coruscant today.”

Jar Jar’s blood runs cold. Colder than usual, that is. “Oh?”

“Oh, yeah, it was great,” says someone else, an out-of-uniform Stormtrooper. Jar Jar doesn’t know him, a youngish human man with too many freckles and far too much enthusiasm for the topic of discussion. “Got them right at the start of their meeting. Stupid, they were, running everywhere, but I got most of ‘em. I’m a crack shot.”

“You couldn’t hit Vader from here, Bek,” his friend says, and he flushes patchy red.

“I hit a bunch of them, asshole. Shame that leader lady got away. I hit her, I swear, and I thought Vader was going to finish her off, but—”

His friend elbows him, and he goes quiet, looking up at Vader nervously. Vader simply stares at him for a moment before turning back to Jar Jar.

“Hopefully that explanation was satisfactory. We have work to do.”

***

Obviously Arrow isn’t stupid enough to hang out at her usual bar haunts right now, but Jar Jar checks them anyway. She’s not responding to his messages. He has no idea if the plan is still on. He has no idea if she crawled into an alley with mortal wounds and died anyway. There hadn’t been a natural way to ask where Bek hit her.

He starts asking around a few bars in, only to be met by suspicion. Which is probably fair. If anyone knows who he is, they know him as an Imperial, but enough of them should’ve seen him drinking with Arrow to know that he’s not just an Imperial. Regardless, none of them tell him anything.

At the end of the night, on no sleep, Jar Jar goes home and sends one last message. I’ll still kill the Emperor. I hope you can free the prisoners.

It’s the best he can do for now.

***

Act V: His Own Man

Jar Jar is, to put it lightly, a nervous wreck arriving on Naboo.

He’s trying to contain it, because he’s supposed to be happy right now, and he needs to pretend to be happy if he wants any chance of seeing this thing through, but he’s a mess. He’s heard nothing from Arrow. He doesn’t know if he’s going to get the planned distraction he needs to kill the Emperor, and he doesn’t know if he’ll have the strength to do it without that.

The old question returns to him, as they arrive and make their way to where everything is being set up: what would Qui-Gon do?

Jar Jar has a blaster, loaded and charged, strapped to his wrist. His signal is an empty building blowing up. As soon as that happens, he’s going to take aim and fire at Palpatine’s exposed back, and keep firing until he stops moving.

It sounds simple enough. If Jar Jar tells himself that enough times, maybe it will be.

***

Before the speech starts, Jar Jar checks his messages one last time. Nothing. He has no idea if the prisoners are currently being freed or if he’ll have to watch them all die.

Hiding in a small back room, he sends one last message to Arrow.

Wherever you are, even if it’s not here, I hope you’re okay. I hope I see you again, but if not, take care. Good luck.

He considers, briefly, adding something about his feelings for her, but they’re probably best left unsaid. If he survives this, it would be humiliating. He hits send, and heads out.

***

The crowd does not look happy. Unsurprising, considering how much the people of Naboo despise the Empire and everyone who supports it, but Jar Jar is a little impressed by how openly they’re glaring. No one is interested in subtlety, it seems.

When Jar Jar files out along with the other guards to stand behind Palpatine, an angry ripple goes through the crowd. There are faint shouts and murmurs of discontent, before Palpatine calls, “Quiet!” with a voice amplifier, deafeningly loud. The crowd falls silent.

Palpatine begins his speech. Jar Jar has heard it being rehearsed a couple of times already, so he’s not listening. He’s scanning nearby buildings. Is that one empty? Is that one? More importantly, is one of them going to blow up?

It’s a long speech. There was no specific part of the speech that they planned the bomb for — maybe they would have, if they’d had a couple more days to plan, but clearly that didn’t happen — but as it goes on and on, Jar Jar’s hope grows thinner. Any moment, the prisoners will arrive for their public executions on the other half of this stage. They haven’t been rescued.

Jar Jar is alone, watching death again, knowing that he’ll never blame himself as much as those watching will blame him.

Palpatine’s speech ends. Something about unity and strength. The stormtroopers in the crowd start to clap, and slowly, a few others in the crowd do as well. Scattered applause isn’t the standing ovation Palpatine is used to, but clearly he’ll take it.

As he turns to Vader to speak quietly, Jar Jar bows his head. It’s too late. Any moment, the prisoners—

A stormtrooper runs out of the Imperial complex. Palpatine looks up, irritated, before the stormtrooper bursts out, “They’re gone, sir, they’re all gone—”

“What?” Palpatine snaps, and then, behind him, a building explodes.

It doesn’t just explode, plain and simple. A column of flame, white-hot, bursts out of the roof and into the sky, ejecting a cloud of bluish smoke. The windows explode, raining glass onto the street below, which is mysteriously clear of civilians. A roar of unease goes through the crowd, and half of Palpatine’s guards start to move towards the violence.

In one motion, Jar Jar pulls out his blaster and shoots.

The blaster bolt punches through Palpatine’s shoulder, and he can see through it for a moment, a circle of blackened flesh. Palpatine lets out a shriek like no sound Jar Jar has ever heard before, and he knows his life is over. All he can hear is screaming, running, more things blowing up in the distance.

Jar Jar shoots, and shoots, and shoots, and when his gun runs out, he drops it and runs.

The inside of the Imperial Complex is a disaster. People are running in all directions, screaming. There’s a few fires burning, a few broken windows. Jar Jar doesn’t know how it happened. He’s just trying to get out, somehow.

He doesn’t know if Palpatine is dead, but he’s definitely injured, and that’s something, even if it’s not everything. It’s something.

Jar Jar turns a corner, and finds a dead end.

“Foolish,” Vader says from behind him, “to attempt to run.”

His lightsaber ignites, and Jar Jar turns around.

“I see your loyalty was an act. Truly impressive. I commend you.”

Jar Jar doesn’t have a gun. He doesn’t have anything. Vader is going to kill him, and—

Oh.

He does have a weapon. A weapon that burnt a hole in the wall of this very palace, all those years ago.

He reaches inside his robes and pulls out Qui-Gon’s lightsaber.

“Where did you get that?” Vader asks after a moment of surprised silence.

“Found it. Few years ago.”

“It’s Qui-Gon’s. Obi-Wan told me it was lost.” Vader almost sounds like he’s talking to himself, and Jar Jar has to wonder how he would know who this lightsaber belonged to. “Fascinating history lesson. However, this is tiresome. You are not a Jedi. Put it down.”

Jar Jar hits the button. This time, the blade doesn’t hit a wall, and he holds it out in front of him, green and blazing.

“No.”

“You’re a fool.” Vader swings, and Jar Jar tries to block, but the blow is hard enough to rattle his fingers. He drops the lightsaber, the blade retracting as it falls and hits the floor.

“This is tiresome,” Vader says. “You will need to stand trial. Come with me.”

A trial where he’ll be humiliated and turned into an example. Hated by everyone. “No, thank you.” Jar Jar picks up the lightsaber again.

This time, he manages to block the blow and hold on to the ‘saber. It’s hard, with the strange balance of the weapon and the knowledge of how easily he could be gutted if either blade hits him. Jar Jar is forced back blow by blow until he bumps into the window, and Vader hits his blade hard enough to make his arms shake. Fingers spasming, he drops the lightsaber again.

“What was the point of your little rebellion?” Vader asks idly. “It wasn’t going to work. All you did was kill yourself.”

Jar Jar is spared an answer by a ship flying so low over the palace that the window shakes behind him. Twisting his head around, Jar Jar looks out, and—

It’s the prisoners. He can see, through a massive window on one side, a dozen or more Gungan and Naboo, patching each other up. And a dark, gray-streaked head bent over the pilot’s seat that might just be Arrow.

Jar Jar smiles.

“A little more than that, I think.”

Vader is silent, for a moment. Jar Jar thinks this might be the first time Vader has ever respected him.

“Well,” Vader says. “Impressive, soldier.”

Jar Jar closes his eyes. Whatever happens next, he’s his own man, and he did the right thing. That’s what matters.

*