Star Wars
According To Jack

Episode I
The Phantom Menace

Scene 4: The Last Handmaiden

Captain Panaka helps Padme climb out of the shaft and into the underground cavern, lit only by the sabers that the Jedi hold safely above their heads. Qui-Gon raises his palm to the exit they've used and warps it shut. "That should keep them from following us."

"It should also keep us from getting to a ship," mutters Obi-Wan.

"They've taken the whole palace, including the dock," Panaka says. "Can two Jedi take on an entire invasion army?"

"They'd bomb the dock before they let us escape alive," says Qui-Gon. "Jedi can survive bombs, but not elegantly. We might have trouble protecting you while we do so."

"Theed is lost," Padme says certainly. "We must find a way to contact Senator Palpatine on Coruscant. He will know where best to go from here."

"I mean no offense," says Obi-Wan, "but why exactly should Jedi be taking orders from a handmaiden?"

Captain Panaka steps between Obi-Wan and Padme. "The Handmaidens of Amidala are revered by our people; they stand ever at the side of She who is Naboo." He swallows hard. "Well, stood..."

"It's alright, Captain," says Padme. "Forgive me, Master Jedi. You have saved our lives, and in our debt to you, we shall follow your guidance."

"Thank you!" smirks Obi-Wan. "Now, tell us what's happened here."

Padme explains how the Trade Federation purchased an audience with the Queen; how the entire palace felt a wave of sadness the moment she died; how Rune exited the throne room shooting, and the horror as the droideka swept the palace shortly thereafter. "We would have died, too, if you had arrived but a moment later."

"How did you escape from the throne room?" asks Obi-Wan.

"I...didn't." Padme looks helplessly at Panaka.

"A thirteenth Handmaiden is always kept for the Queen," the Captain explains, "so that should one fall ill, the traditional number of attendants to the throne may be maintained. Does something about this arrangement bother you, Master Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan is frowning. "There's a lot that bothers me about a mystical monarchy in the Republic."

Padme places an arm on Panaka's shoulder to cool his reaction, then replies, "Those who are not born of Naboo cannot know the touch of the Eternal Queen's mind on their own. If you understood the connection we have to our Queen, you would not question the democratic nature of our government. You would envy it."

"Now it is we who must beg forgiveness," Qui-Gon intervenes, shooting an irritated glance at his partner. "It is not our place to question the ways of your people." Padme curtsies politely, and says nothing else. Qui-Gon continues, "Though I might recommend against discussing any more state secrets at the moment."

"Oh, and why is that?" asks the Captain.

"Because we're being watched." With a flash, the green glow of Qui-Gon's saber illuminates the golden man, its tip hovering inches from the droid's face.

"I surrender! I SURRENDER!"

Padme laughs and runs to him, and he wobbles under her embrace. "Threepio! You made it!"

"Miss Padme, thank heavens you're all right! I thought we'd lost you with the rest!"

Qui-Gon moves his saber away.

"It's alright, Master Jedi," Padme says, remaining between them and the droid. "Threepio might as well be as close to the Queen as I am. He was there when she was attacked."

"I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, at your service." Threepio extends a hand of greeting, but they ignore it. "I can corroborate Miss Padme's story; I recorded the whole thing. The sheer number of protocol infractions made by the Viceroy and his Lieutenant on this day boggles my circuits. They must be reported to the Legislative Subcommittee on Diplomatic Standards with all available haste. Why, this may even warrant going directly to the whole Committee on Governmental Ethics!"

Obi-Wan paces in thought. "Clearly, we're not getting off the planet without a ship, and securing one will be difficult with an entire droid army pouring onto the palace dock. Our better option at this point is to attempt to contact someone on Coruscant, and transmit to them the recording in this droid and the testimony of the palace survivors. Padme, you mentioned the name of your Senator?"

Padme raises an eyebrow, but answers without further comment. "Yes. Senator Palpatine. It was he who spoke to the Chancellor to arrange Jedi intervention in this matter. If we can deliver a message to him, I am sure we will receive the help we need."

"The first thing the Federation will do is disrupt the intersteller communicator south of the capital," says Captain Panaka. "All communication with Coruscant on this continent goes through there."

"Right then," Obi-Wan flicks his saber down and out towards the cavern, passing offensively close to Panaka's nose. "Will this lead us out of the city in a generally southerly way?"

Panaka removes a flashlight from his belt and shines it in the direction Obi-Wan points. The rocky walls descend into pitch black. "These caverns haven't been traversed in a lifetime," says Panaka, "but yes, they are known to drain not far from the dish. They also drain in half a dozen other places quite far from there, including the cliffs of Meadowbrook; there's no guarantee we'll follow the right path."

"Well, then," Obi-Wan says, advancing, "I guess you'd better just follow me."

The others look skeptically at Qui-Gon. "Best do what he says," the older master sighs. "If there's anyone I'd follow blindly through the epically proportioned uncharted caverns lying beneath a planetary capital, it's Master Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Padme grabs Captain Panaka's hand and leads him forward. "Look at it this way," she says, "Whatever's out there will eat him first."

Qui-Gon guards their rear, and Threepio's amber eyes blink twice in the darkness before he shuffles after them, calling, "Wait for me!"

Next Scene: Jar-Jar Binks