Title: Thoughts of the Ocean Time Period: Prequel Trilogy Genres: Action & Adventure, Jedi Philosophy Primary Characters: Padmé Amidala, Plo Koon, OCs (Kalen Gant, Raden Mavik) Secondary Characters: Dormé Author's Note: This story was written in accordance with the Clue Challenge. The elements of my first guess are included in the story and listed below for clarity. Character: Padmé Amidala - Location: Coruscant - Action: Flying a Ship Raden Mavik tightened his grip on the fighter’s control stick, deftly avoiding the other vessels in the vicinity by taking his small craft through yet another series of rolls, turns, and loops before plunging into the fast-approaching atmosphere of Coruscant. Toggling a switch next to the steering column, he spoke into the cockpit’s loudspeaker. “This is Shadow calling Estate.” “Estate here. Was your mission successful, Shadow.” His master’s voice. “My mission was successful, Master Plo. Requesting permission to dock. “Permission to dock granted, Raden. You’re clear to land in bay three. Meet me in the Council chamber once you’ve arrived. And welcome home.” Raden allowed himself a small smile. After more than two weeks undercover on Bespin, an outer-rim planet with a lucrative mining operation, it would be good to sleep in a bed again. And to see his master. Plo Koon was a man of few words, preferring to be defined by what he did rather than what he said. But Raden had been his apprentice for more than six years and little difficulty discerning his teacher’s moods. Master Plo was pleased with the success of his mission and that he’d returned ahead of schedule. There was still the matter of his report to the Council- what likely awaited him once he was planetside- but that was a mere formality undertaken by all Jedi following completion of a mission. Raden made a point of rehearsing public speeches before he made them, taking care to keep his remarks brief but accurate. He already knew what he would tell the other Jedi Masters about the events at Cloud City, so there was little to be concerned about. And the sooner he made his report, the sooner he could move on to his next assignment. Pulling up on his control stick slightly, Raden began to slow his fighter’s velocity as the Jedi Temple loomed larger and larger beyond the forward viewport. *** Raden tugged at the collar of his tunic- a nervous habit he’d had since childhood- and struggled not to stare at the woman in front of him. He’d met Padmé Amidala several times, had even been to her apartment to take a statement following an assassination attempt on one of her colleagues from the Republic Senate. But those experiences hadn’t prepared him for what the Naboo native was now saying to him. “You don’t need to actually do anything,” she told him. “I just need someone to stay with my pod in case there’s another assassination attempt.” Raden nodded. That Senator Amidala would receive his help was a foregone conclusion. The politician was a supporter of the Order and a friend of both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. But that didn’t make the throbbing behind his left eye- something that always happened when he was faced with unpleasantness- any easier to endure. As was the case with most Jedi, Raden detested politics. He understood its necessity. Society would be unable to function without any sort of government or supervising authority to guide the trillions of citizens who fell under the Republic’s jurisdiction. But Raden had always been content to leave exercises like debates, elections, and filibusters to people who actually cared about them. Reading about them was bad enough- he’d nearly failed the Temple’s political science course as an initiate- without having to actually spend any length of time in the Senate rotunda itself. And to be so close to Palpatine. Raden didn’t know why, but the Supreme Chancellor bothered him. He bothered his master, too. Neither was foolish enough to speak out against the head of state. Sedition of any kind was not acceptable, particularly not for a Jedi Council member and his student. But the human and Kel Dor spoke of their distrust of the despot frequently. It was as though the longer he stayed in the office, the more dangerous he became. Raden was so engrossed in his own thoughts that he failed to realize Padmé was now staring at him. “Raden,” she began, “I’m not sure if you heard what I said. Will this be a problem?” Raden bit his lower lip, disgusted with himself over the mistake. He’d let his attention wander, another weakness Master Plo wanted him to purge before he took his Trials. He refocused his eyes on the Senator. “I’m sorry,” he offered. “Would you mind repeating the question?” If Padmé was offended, she didn’t show it. The perfect politician’s poker face. “I’ll need you for the entire day. Whether I need you after the opening round of talks depends on when my delegation is scheduled to speak. If we’re asked to make our presentation the second day, I’ll need someone then, too. Will that be a problem for you? Or should I ask someone else?” Raden’s eyes flicked briefly to his master. My mission went well, so he’s letting me decide. I wonder if it’s going to be like this from now on. Plo Koon’s expression was unreadable behind his facemask, though Raden thought his posture betrayed mild amusement at the younger man’s predicament. Padmé Amidala’s beauty was the subject on constant conversation whenever the woman made public appearances. Most men his age would kill for the chance to be in her company, company she was asking him to share for perhaps two whole days. But that meant enduring the torture of the political arena. Raden thought that he’d rather face down the Sith warrior Obi-Wan had killed. But he wouldn’t let Padmé know that. Meeting her gaze, he said, “It would be my pleasure to stand with you, Senator.” Padmé smiled. “One of my handmaidens will contact Master Windu with the details as the date approaches.” Raden matched Amidala’s smile, his face a mask of polite acquiescence. And tried to ignore the churning in his gut that now accompanied the drumbeat encircling his orbit. A clear picture of Palatine floated in front of him, an apparition that only he could see. But it was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. If the Force was trying to warn him of a potential threat, it wouldn’t do rouse the senator’s anxiety over something so fleeting. His master would be interested, however. Raden’s eyes again shot to the older man. A slight nod from Plo indicated he understood. They would talk later. And see what Palpatine’s ghost image had to say for itself. *** “Get down!” Raden threw his body atop Senator Amidala as the pair dove for cover behind a duracrete wall, narrowly avoiding the blasterfire that struck the structure’s exposed side. All around them, troops were scrambling to locate whoever was attacking the Naboo delegation. The senator’s speeder had been destroyed, and at least two of her guards were injured. Raden felt a presence next to him. “I’ll see to the senator,” said Dormé, her warm smile masking the combination of anxiety and determination Raden knew she felt. Dormé had been one of Padmé’s handmaidens since the senator served as Naboo’s queen and was no stranger to combat. Raden had seen her personnel file and knew she was an expert marksmen on par with the Republic’s best soldiers. But he would have known her mood even without a review of her background. Raden’s perception of the Force differed from his peers in the Jedi Order and was one of the reasons- apart from a mutual love of flying- that Plo Koon chose him as his padawan. Raden saw the Force not as the mysterious energy field so many described it as but as a physical entity of nature that one could touch, hear, and smell. For Raden, touching the Force felt no different than what the average person experienced feeling sunlight or rain on one’s face. A major disturbance in the Force might feel like a sudden gust of wind or a bolt of lightning. Today’s attack reminded him of a tidal wave in the middle of a great ocean, threatening a nearby sailing ship. But his mind’s eye told him that if the wave wanted to topple the mariner vessel, it would have to overcome a second tidal wave bearing down on it. Dormé was that tidal wave. And she was growing larger by the moment. Rising into a crouch, Raden ignored the cacophony surrounding him and immersed himself completely in the Force, bathing himself in its energies. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to see. He was near the mariner vessel as though he were a great rock within the ocean, its turbulent waves crashing into him and around him but never moving him from his place. Twin tidal waves rose in the distance- one making for the ship, the other for its counterpart. And Raden knew instantly that the second wave would be completely overwhelmed by the first, even as it sought to match the phenomenon’s size and potency. It wasn’t possible to save the ship. The vessel was doomed the moment it started its voyage. But as Raden studied the image more closely, he realized that his charge was not the ship itself but its captain, whom he could visualize clearly on the vessel’s deck. A captain who looked like Padmé. Raden considered what he might do. The rock was immobile, but even a moving rock wouldn’t stand a chance against something as large as a tidal wave. It would be carried away along with the ship. But if Raden allowed the wave to destroy the vessel, he would be a refuge for her captain until help arrived. He would be a rock for Padmé, so that no tidal wave could claim her. Raden opened his eyes. Tossing his cloak aside with one hand, he reached for his lightsaber with the other. Its cerulean blade sprang to life, the familiar hum of the weapon drowning out the whine of the nearby attack. Looking again at Dormé, he spoke in clear, clipped tones. “I’ll take care of this. Stay with the senator until I get back.” Dormé didn’t argue, only nodding in his direction as she peered from behind the duracrete, a small blaster in her right hand. Beside her, Padmé held a nearly identical weapon. But the senator was also speaking into a small communication device as though calling for more help. Satisfied, Raden straightened to his full height and stepped out from behind the wall to face the weapon’s fire. But no waves hit him. Raden swung his blade in quick and precise arcs, easily deflecting or absorbing any volley that passed near him. Lightsaber combat was not his strength. But being paired with a master for whom it was meant ample opportunities to practice and improve. The Jedi was pleased that his efforts seemed to be paying dividends, easily advancing on his target as the assault was kept at bay by his blade-work. He couldn’t be sure who was responsible for the attack on the senator. But he knew where they were shooting from. His quick survey of the battle zone told him the blaster bolts striking the wall were each being fired from the same position. An assassin firing from different places would mean a unique trajectory for each volley being unleashed. A single firing location also meant that he was likely dealing with only a single perpetrator. It didn’t make sense for two people to shoot from the same place. Too easy to find and neutralize them. Sensing the object of his search was near, Raden broke into a run, cutting a swath through the paved area outside the Senate building. The rock would meet the tidal wave. And the rock would emerge unscathed, the tidal wave washing away with the rest of the ocean. *** Plo Koon watched silently as Republic troops led away the man responsible for the day’s excitement. Government officials had already announced that the Senate would be in recess for the remainder of the week to further investigate the attack on the Naboo delegation and any relationship to the recent assassination of another senator. But the Kel Dor suspected authorities would find nothing. He glanced at his padawan. Raden had scarcely said a word since apprehending the criminal, most of his attention focused on Senator Amidala, Dormé, and rest of their party. Plo had many things in common with his friend. Both loved to fly, and neither was shy about engaging in a hand or two of sabacc. But master and apprentice also shared a growing sense of dread about the future of the Jedi Order and the Republic, a foreboding that many on the Jedi Council did not take seriously. Plo had been a friend of Qui-Gon Jinn. And though he didn’t share the deceased’s tendency for rule-breaking- not since adolescence, at any rate- he did agree with Jinn’s assessment that the Council was in error more than the body was willing to admit. It was one of the reasons he served on the Council, apart from fulfilling a promise to his dying master made many years before. Fixing mistakes before they happened was preferable to dealing with their repercussions. Plo’s gaze lingered on his padawan, a member of the next generation of Jedi. And what was the curse of the next generation but to fix the mistakes of the one preceding it? Would Raden pay the price for his mistakes? Plo said a silent prayer to the Force that his protégée would have it easier when he replaced him on the Council. At least he won’t have to put up with Master Mundi’s incessant chattering. The man just won’t take a hint. The soft patter of footsteps drew both men’s attention. Padmé Amidala and another woman Plo didn’t recognize were walking in their direction. The senator was still dressed in her formal gown, her hair tied back in a seashell-like bun. The other woman wore the uniform of the Republic Navy- a lieutenant commander’s rank insignia, Plo realized- and bore long brunette hair of a shade similar to Amidala’s that was kept in a tight ponytail. Her expression was serious but not unfriendly. She was staring at Raden. And he stared back, his own expression a mixture of surprise and amusement. “Commander Gant,” he said, his voice unusually playful, “I had no idea you were on the surface. It’s nice to see you.” “I’m on detached service to the Senate until the matter of the recent assassination is resolved,” she said. “It’s nice to see you, as well.” Turning to Plo, she offered her hand. “Lieutenant Commander Kalen Gant of the Republic Navy. And you must be Master Plo Koon.” Plo blinked in a rare moment of surprise. “I didn’t realize the two of you were acquainted. I don’t believe we’ve met before.” “No, we’ve never met, Master. Raden and I know each other from his last mission. I was acting first-officer aboard the Courageous.” Plo shared another look with Raden. “Of course. I do recall seeing your name among the military personnel Raden said he worked with. He spoke highly of your crew.” “I’m glad to hear that, Master.” Gant was biting her lip in gesture that mimicked Raden’s. Plo made a mental note to speak with his Padawan again once they’d returned to the Jedi Temple. If he was reading the interplay between the two correctly- Jedi did not have attachments, so he was far from an expert- he would need to put a stop to this friendship before it became something more problematic. But that could wait for a while. He was anxious to hear the Navy’s official status report of the crime scene. Gant seemed to sense his question and made a sweeping gesture with her left hand. “The scene is secure. We’ve set up a small perimeter covering the area around the Senate as well as adjacent city streets and all speeder lanes within both this and the grids immediately to the east and west of this location. All incoming and outgoing ships have been detained until a complete search of all cargo can be affected. Our best guess is that this assassin acted alone. We’ve no information linking him to the earlier assassination or to any other recent incidents in Republic space.” Plo nodded. “If he had confederates, it’s likely they’re no longer in the area. But we should be vigilant in case they make another attempt on Senator Amidala.” Turning to Raden, he said, “Padawan, go with Commander Gant and the Senator. See that she’s escorted safely home. Then return to the Jedi Temple. How does some sparring sound?” Raden suspected he was walking into a trap, but he didn’t care. “That sounds like a great idea, Master. I’ll meet you in training room five.” *** Back at the controls of his Jedi starfighter, Raden increased the throttle to full as the vessel easily separated from the atmosphere of Coruscant and broke into open space. A contented smile split his face as the familiar backdrop of stars came into view, leaving behind the worsening smog and pollution of the Republic capital. More than two weeks had passed since the completion of his first solo mission and the subsequent excitement involving the attempted assassination of Senator Amidala. No new leads had emerged linking the assassin to any other deaths, nor was any information uncovered revealing associates or co-conspirators. And none were likely to be found now that the guilty party was dead. Raden suppressed a shudder as he angled his ship away from Coruscant. Two days after the criminal’s apprehension by Jedi and Republic Naval forces, he was found murdered in his cell in spite of having only limited interaction with the guards and no contact whatsoever with other prisoners. Raden and Plo met briefly with prison officials to determine if anyone could have breached the facility’s security and assaulted the prisoner, an eventuality they were told was impossible. “Not impossible,” Master Plo had said to them. “Merely unlikely.” Raden’s eyes darted to the flashing proximity indicator on his computer console that noted the presence of his ship’s hyperdrive ring, a necessity for deep-space missions of the type Raden was about to begin. He loosened his grip on the control stick, gently guiding the fighter to the ring for docking. His Master’s statement gnawed at him. Plo Koon was a loyal member of the Jedi Council- and arguably the Order’s finest pilot and most gifted swordsman if Raden had anything to say about it- but he was not beset by the naiveté of so many of his colleagues. His thoughts again meandered to the vision of the rock upon the ocean and the twin tidal waves. He’d thought it the perfect metaphor for the battle scenario surrounding the attempt on Padmé, but further consideration left him wondering if perhaps the small mariner vessel was in fact the Republic and the twin tidal waves forming out of the ocean were the Jedi and the Sith. Would one annihilate the other in the end? Settling his fighter into its ring, Raden couldn’t be sure he wanted to know the answer. So he pushed thoughts of the ocean aside as he made the jump into hyperspace.