The darkness of night becomes the pale just before dawn.
The concrete beneath Obi-Wan's feet gives way with a crunch, and he leaps again. Several long strides before they reach the palace, the Jedi Masters can tell there is something terribly wrong. The large four-winged ship hovering at the dock is not a diplomatic vessel, but rather a warship, and at the peak of their jumps they can see the skeletal shapes of battle droids disembarking. Their dash becomes a charge, and within a few more paces they are being fired upon.
Lightsabers flash to life, blue and green. Their blades of pure light can cut through anything. Their infinitesimal edge is created by a laser focused through a rare crystal that can only be cut by a Jedi with guidance from the Force, and can only be wielded by the same--any lesser being would slice through their own limbs before they realized what they had done.
This time their lightsabers are wielded defensively, spinning around each Jedi in a way that catches and deflects every shot.
Obi-Wan takes out a chimney with his next landing. In the street below him, citizens of Theed scramble to avoid falling bricks.
He peers several rooftops away at Qui-Gon, who is pinned down as three rocket pack battle droids take turns strafing him. Obi-Wan's next leap takes him directly towards one of them, which is swiftly cut in two. Qui-Gon jumps for the cover of a nearby park filled with trees. Obi-Wan takes out the second battle droid, and soon the third is flying haphazardly away without a head. Obi-Wan joins his partner under cover.
Qui-Gon's saber is still drawn before him, but his eyes are shut. "The Queen is dead," he says plainly. "She and her twelve handmaidens lie cold and lifeless in the throne room."
"I'll take your word for it," Obi-Wan says as he swings and barely misses a rocket pack battle droid diving through leaves and branches. It takes a shot at Qui-Gon, whose lightsaber twitches to deflect the shot back at the droid. The droid crashes into the nearby brush with a flaming boom. Qui-Gon does not open his eyes.
"Most everyone in the palace is dead. Neimoidians coordinate the unloading at the dock. In the eastern tower, two people fight for their lives."
"Hm," says Obi-Wan, "Rescue the survivors or take out the bad guys?"
"Rescue the survivors," says Qui-Gon.
"You sure? There's two of us. We could do both."
Qui-Gon opens his eyes. "Rescue the survivors."
"Very well." Trees crack and crash nearby as a Federation tank begins to enter the woods. "Go!"
Simultaneously they are out of the trees and on the ramparts of the palace, dashing from spire to dome as they make their way to the eastern tower. They remove a few more rocket pack battle droids from their path, and they're through a window and rolling across a lushly carpeted floor.
An oversized statue of Amidala stands at the end of a magnificent hall, and behind its pedestal cower a Naboo soldier and a woman wearing the orange and yellow robe of the Queen's Handmaidens. The soldier peeks out to fire his blaster, but his weapon is of no use against the two small droideka scuttling toward either side of the statue to get a clear shot.
The Jedi are on them in an instant. Obi-Wan's lightsaber slices through the droideka shield without resistance. Qui-Gon deflects a rapid volley of fire from his droideka, then extends his palm and telekinetically sends it crashing out the window.
"Boy are we glad to see you," the soldier says, jogging out to greet them. "I'm Typho Panaka, Captain of the Palace Guard. And this is--"
"Padme, Handmaiden of Amidala," says the young woman, coming up from behind him.
"Last Handmaiden of Amidala," Captain Panaka stresses. "And you must be the Chancellor's ambassadors."
"I'm Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is my partner, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Sorry we're a bit late."
"The Queen is dead," says Panaka.
"We know," Qui-Gon says. "Our condolences are insufficient, but you have them."
"We are grateful to see you at all, Masters Jedi," says Padme.
"What were those things?" Obi-Wan asks.
"New technology developed by the Trade Federation," Panaka explains. "They call them droidekas, and the palace is crawling with them. There are sure to be more at any moment."
"Then we must find a place to hide and talk," says Qui-Gon, "until we know more about what we're dealing with."
"This way," says Padme, leading them to a grate in one of the walls. She picks at its screws. Obi-Wan moves her aside, and with four quick twirls of his saber, the grate comes crashing to the floor.
At the dock, the networked cyborg Tey How reports to the Viceroy.
"Sir, they've gone up the ventilation shaft."
Rune grins. "We have them on the run now. They're no match for Droideka."
The Viceroy scowls. "Sssstill, I don't like it. Tey How, get our SSSSith on the line immediately."
"Yes sir." The cyborg does not change posture. No difference can be seen in her eyes, covered as they are by the goggles through which she sees the network stream. But the voice that next comes out of the speaker unit covering her mouth is not her own high-pitched electronic squeal, but rather a deep gutteral croak transmitting through hyperspace from a place light-years away.
"What is it?"
Newt unconsciously straightens his shoulders as he replies, "Thisss plan of yoursss hasss failed, Lord Sidioussss. The Chancccellor'sss ambasssadorsss are Jedi. We dare not go againssst them."
"Don't be such a stunted slime," croaks the voice of Lord Sidious through Tey How. "This turn of events is unfortunate, but we must simply accelerate our plans. Begin securing the rest of the planet."
"My Lord, with all due ressspect," hisses Rune, "Taking the capital isss one thing. Martttial law acrosss an entire planet isss another. Are you sssure thisss isss legal?"
"I have control of the Senate," says the voice of the Sith, "You must take care of the rest. Law comes from power. You need only take that power."
"And what of the Jedi?" asks Newt. "They have essscaped with knowledge of our invasion."
For a moment, Tey How is silent. Then, "They are no problem for the Sith. I will send you my apprentice, Darth Maul. He will take care of your missing Jedi."
"Thank you, my Lord. That will ssssuffice." Newt waits for indication that the transmission has ended, then says, "That will be all for now, Tey How."
Rune grumbles. "Thisss isss getting out of hand. Now there are two of them!"
"Nonsssenssse," assures Newt. "You heard what he sssaid. Law comesss from power. And we have the power here."
"He hasss the power here," says Rune. Newt waves him aside and turns to give orders to the battle droid commander. Under his breath, Rune adds, "We ssshould never have made thisss bargain."