Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into the middle of the blast door; it does not immediately slice, but rather begins to melt the usually unmeltable hypermetals. "It's not cutting fast enough!"
"WEEEEEEESA GONNA DIEEEEEEEE!" yells Jar-Jar, running in helpless circles.
"Relax!" Obi-Wan shouts, pointing a commanding finger at Jar-Jar. The Gungan collapses to the floor, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. "Whoops, overdid it!"
Qui-Gon shouts, "Threepio! Can this Artoo droid stop the countdown?"
"Well, I would presume so, sir. He should be capable of--"
"Well tell it to stop the countdown!" Obi-Wan screams.
"You can tell him yourself, Master Obi-Wan. He understands your language, he just can't speak it."
Artoo blips and bleeps in a way that almost sounds annoyed, and the voice of the alarm says, "Countdown reset. Sixty seconds to self-destruct. Fifty-nine. Fifty eight." Artoo blips some more.
"He's trying, sir, he's trying!"
Obi-Wan adds his saber to Qui-Gon's, hopping to avoid a large chunk of molten blast door as it falls to the ground.
"It's still not cutting fast enough!"
This is gonna be close.
Driving away in his hoverjeep, Rune Haako watches the exploding dish in his rearview lens, chuckling to himself. In the past couple of days, he has taken part in the destruction of both an Eternal Queen and two Jedi Masters. And to think folks had once called him a coward!
He rolls back the top on his vehicle and lets the hot breeze from the blast rush across the back of his neck. The cloud from the explosion begins to mushroom, and he thinks it is beautiful.
Now mind you, no one steps into the middle of a hoverway. Hover vehicles simply travel at too insane a speed for one to ever have time to look both ways. So when the Naboo Captain of the Palace Guard walks out into the middle of the road, Rune doesn't even think to swerve. The soldier raises his blaster and fires.
Rune's hoverjeep begins to tilt. A corner catches the pavement and the vehicle rolls over on itself, even as it continues to hurtle forward. It bounces over Panaka's head and into the hoverway wall, where it bursts into flames.
There are no screams of burning death from Rune Haako, however. He was dead the moment Panaka's bolt hit him between the eyes.
Just outside the city of Theed, there is a strip of woods surrounding a lake that has never felt the cold touch of a construction droid or been seeded with genetic manipulators. It is mother nature's last gasp on a world that has been largely terraformed, where entire uninhabited continents are nonetheless kept as trim as any palace garden. The Handmaidens have maintained it as a sanctuary for the full ten thousand years of Amidala's rule, and in all that time, only their feet have tread its mossy ground.
Padme arrives at twilight. They will all rendezvous here, at her suggestion, if they have survived.
She has walked all day, ever since parting from the others upon their exit from the cave, the direct route to the preserve taking her uphill where the others must head down. From her path she could see the spectacle of the dish's explosion, and the lesser flames of the hoverjeep's impact. She tries to keep hope.
She sits on a log at the edge of the lake, watching the first moon rise over the trees. She can feel the despair of her city and her world all around her, palpable, and she must push through it like muddy water to move. Her only true desire is to console the people of Naboo. But their Queen is dead, and so there must be sorrow for now.
Panaka arrives, bearing news of Rune's death. The delight at this news does not last long, however, for all that still hangs over their heads. Why have the Jedi not returned yet?
In the distance, Panaka spots what appears to be the plume of a rocket pack battle droid drifting in their direction. They scramble for cover. It passes overhead several times, and they stay low, hoping it will pass without noticing them.
"Oh dear, oh dear, where could Miss Padme be?"
She runs back into the lake clearing to greet the droids, and actually laughs at the sight of the protocol droid suspended in the air beneath the magnetic feet of the astromech droid. The astromech brings them to a gentle landing, and its rocket boosters retract back into its body.
"Miss Padme, it is my pleasure to introduce you to R2-D2, an extremely well put together little droid. Without a doubt, it saved all of our lives!"
"It is to be commended," says Padme, "But what of the Jedi?"
"Here we are!" calls out Obi-Wan, as he and Qui-Gon skip down from the treetops, with a breathless Jar-Jar crashing out of the brush below them. "Sorry we took so long, but we had to walk so these guys could keep up with us. I mean actually walk, not Jedi 'walk.' You should've seen it--we had to go even slower until we figured out Artoo had rockets. Wish we would have known that all along!"
"We successfully contacted Senator Palpatine," says Qui-Gon.
"You must tell us everything!"
They do. Panaka recounts his own adventure as well.
"Lucky shot," chuckles Obi-Wan.
"What, only a Jedi can use the Force?"
"We mustn't stay here any longer," says Qui-Gon. "I fear we may have been tracked. The droid's rockets bought us some time, but at the expense of secrecy."
Artoo bleeps; Threepio translates. "He says that if Rune Haako is indeed dead, he is now the property of his programmer, Anakin Skywalker. Under this circumstance, he has been instructed to lead us to Master Skywalker's home."
Qui-Gon says, "Skywalker's droid has proven more than trustworthy so far; we may not have succeeded at all without it. I suggest we pay its master a visit, and discover more about our hidden ally."
"I like him so far!" says Obi-Wan.
The Queen turns to the Gungan. "Jar-Jar, why have you not yet spoken?"
Obi-Wan begins laughing, and Qui-Gon cracks a small smile. Threepio says, "During our walk, Master Obi-Wan informed Master Binks that if he opened his mouth again, he would be made to chew on a lightsaber."
Jar-Jar's lips seal shut. Obi-Wan topples off his log holding his gut, and Qui-Gon begins to chuckle.
Padme frowns. "Jar-Jar Binks, I cannot control what these offworlders do to you when I am not around, but please rest assured that when you are in my presence, you may feel free to speak your mind. Do you understand?"
Jar-Jar lets out a deeply held breath. "Oh, tank yoo, TANK YOO Missa Padme!" He turns to Obi-Wan and lets forth a long, sloppy wet raspberry.
At the palace dock, malevolence incarnate lands its hovercycle.
It approaches Newt from behind. Newt is talking to Tey How, hearing news of Rune Haako's death; Tey How stops mid-sentence and begins to run. Newt breathes in quick, as if someone has forcibly stuffed air into his lungs, and turns to face the cloaked arrival.
"No! No!" is the only greeting Newt can think to provide.
"Where are the Jedi?" Its whispery voice drips like excrement in an open wound. It does not move its black lips. Newt averts his eyes, cowering.
"Th-th-they were ss-ssighted lass-ss-sst at a n-n-nature press-sserve b-b-but we l-losst them!" He collapses into a ball with a cry of raw fear.
"They will be found again soon," it says, "I can feel it. And I will destroy them. Return to your ship. I will take charge from here."
Newt Gunray bursts into tears.
"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi," Darth Maul whispers in dark vow. "At last we will have revenge!"