Darth Vader: Hero of Naboo

Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars.

Cifo was no coward. He made a point of never becoming like the simpering, fearful lot his kind usually were. But he knew he wasn't alone in being unnerved by what was going on.

"...May I ask, droid, why you just gunned down every Neimoidian on the command deck?" Cifo asked, eyeing the screen showing the command deck, droids removing the dead Neimoidians to take their seats and resume operations of the Lucrehulk.

Of all things occurring on this assault, a droid uprising was not one of them.

"I am replacing captain Etrid," OOM-8 informed, his organic predecessor right at his feet. The droid was staring at a static screen, Cifo knew, as their visual communications were only one way. "He was designated a traitor by parameters set by the Viceroy. Until such time as a loyal captain is appointed, I am to take command of the Lucrehulk designated as the Fooni Tiina."

Okay, not a droid uprising. That was... better. Unexpected still, but bettter than that.

"Should I assume that you are retracting Captain Etrid request for a cease-fire?" Cifo asked grimly.

"Your assumption is correct," OOM-8 answered, turning his censors to the display showing the other captain.

"I-I of course refuse as well," Rorn said quickly. "You will find no surrender from the Trade Federation."

Cifo couldn't help but note the resignation in Rorn's voice at that.

"I can see that," Cifo said before frowning. "May I inquire something of you, OOM-8?"

"You may. Answering is my own prerogative," OOM-8 granted.

"Why kill every Neimoidian? Why not kill only the captain?" Cifo inquired.

"...This inquiry allows for a response," OOM-8 decided. "The Viceroy's orders were to purge the organic crew if they attempted to abandon their post, or similar treasonous parameters were met. He did not stipulate it should only be those committing treason."

Rorn inhaled sharply while Cifo nodded. "Very well, Captain. To battle it is," he said before cutting the transmission. "Well, a rancor just shit in my breakfast."

"Agreed," Boba responded over the coms. "There isn't a chance Gunray was just stupidly rash in that programming, right?"

"Unlikely," Cifo admitted with a frown. "This is a desperation play. And I don't like it."

"Neither do I," Boba agreed.

"If the Federation finds out he did this, they'll turn on Gunray faster than you can destroy a vulture," Cifo remarked. "I don't think he intends to let Captain Rorn live, or any other Neimoidians on those ships."

"...He's not stupid enough to crash a Lucrehulk onto the planet, is?" Boba asked grimly. A ship that size, falling at a terminal velocity? The devastation to this verdant planet would be nigh world ending in scope.

"No, that is a line I think Gunray is too afraid to cross," Cifo remarked with a sigh. "If he did, the Trade Federation would bear the blame, and the Trade Federation would blame him. Not to mention he'd be too fearful of it coming down with him still on the planet."

Boba hummed. That was at least one possible problem he didn't have to worry about. The worrying question, however, was what line Gunray was prepared to cross?

Meanwhile

"Does...does Gunray have the Queen?"

Vader gave Sola a glance. "Your sister is not captured," he answered meaningfully.

Sola let that line settle for a moment before nodding, quickly accepting that Vader knew who she was, who Padme was. Pretending was a waste of time. And they didn't have any. "Is there anything you can do?"

Vader fell silent before turning his attention to the subject of her inquiry, the other living beings in the hidden room.

Living, for the moment.

On the floor were the bodies of two adult humans, a man and a woman. Both had blaster wounds in their torsos. They had been left in here to die, slowly. The male was already passed out from the pain, while his wife held his hand and silently wept.

"No, there isn't," Vader answered solemnly, allowing his rage to swell a new as he looked down upon their faces, and knew their names well: Ruwee and Jobal Naberri, parents of Sola and Padme.

In another time and another life, his in-laws.

The sister of the queen inhaled deeply and choked on a sob, hand over her mouth as she leaned against some old, ornate table in the room.

"I am sorry."

Vader was very aware that he had never uttered those words, to anyone. Not since he became a Sith Lord. But he would say them now.

Was this the price for his machinations against the old timeline, for changing history? A ripple effect, a distortion that spread from his return to the past? Or was this something more personal and twisted? Was this the trade he had unknowingly caused? That in saving his own mother and sparing his younger self of seeing her die, he now must watch as Padme was forced to endure that same agony?

He felt the Dark Side come to him in answer to his ire, as he peered into it with all the fury of a krayt dragon denied its prey. And yet, he did not feel its influence in this. If this was the Will of the Force, it was not the Desire of the Dark Side.

He shunted this aside and returned his focus to the present. "Remain here, try to keep them stable. I will send aid once I am able."

Sola said nothing as the cyborg left the hidden chamber, still numb as her last hope for her parents crumbled before her.

Vader remained in control, contained for half a minute as he marched down the fall. With every step, statues and paintings shook with his rage, cracks forming in the more fragile displays of art

He was failing her.

He was not delusional; he knew that Padme would never get through everything without scars, physical or emotional. Surviving things like this is what made people stronger for it. But she was already losing something in this timeline she had never lost in his native time; her parents.

And why? He couldn't clear his mind to reason through it. Why did Gunray leave Padme's parents to die a slow death? Was it cruelty for the sake of spite? The viceroy was certainly capable of that, Vader knew. Perhaps it was some twisted logic of a merchant, killing all but one member of the family to...increase Sola's value to Padme?

Panes of glass shattered as he passed, the Force rippling with his wrath while he followed the path to Gunray, led by Sabe's fear.

It didn't matter why Gunray did it, just that he did. And that he paid the price for it.

But that price was no longer his alone to extract.

Meanwhile

"Hm. Somehow, I knew you'd be foolish enough to try a daring rescue."

Sabe kept her face stoic and passive, eyeing Gunray like he was the insignificant roach they both knew he really was. She didn't know what he was talking about but decided that the more Gunray ran his mouth, the better.

They were walking through a hallway, a sizable force of droids in front and behind them, with two droidekas rolling at awkwardly slow paces. Gunray was pacing too fast for them to waddle about on their legs.

"It would seem your desperation and overconfident fell this false-Sith for me," Gunray said smugly, holding the blaster they had confiscated from her.

Sabe raised a regal brow at that. "And what exactly would you know of True-Sith, Viceroy?" she inquired coldly.

She saw him shiver. Good, she wanted him afraid and uncomfortable.

"Because I have felt the ire of a true Sith, Your Highness," he said, spitting the title like dirt. "And a Sith would not be felled so easily."

Well, he was right about that, Sabe decided.

"Your fellow Naboo still fight, along with your new allies," Gunray noted with distaste, a distant sound of fighting being nearly drowned out by the steps of battle droids. "You will sign this treaty so that we might end this folly, once and for all."

"I say it once more, Viceroy: I will sign no treaty," Sabe said with no fear.

The droids suddenly stopped. And over the cacophony of their march, she had failed to notice Gunray had abruptly raised his arm and pointed the blaster at the side of her head.

The royal makeup hid her paling expression, but she was sure Gunray saw the widening of her eyes. She stared at the Neimoidian, his face a gnarled mess of frustration and fear, his body trembling with too many emotions.

He wanted to kill her, Sabe could tell. He was terrified out of his mind and blamed the Queen of Naboo for making this invasion turn into a disaster.

Sabe considered signing it. Not out of cowardice, but to buy time. She was the queen's double, not the queen herself. Her signature was distinctly different from Padme's own, and would not match even slightly. But that would just give the Federation more time to pretend there was any legality to this mess they had started, and cause more suffering for her own people.

Still, it was a tactic she considered if only to stall Gunray long enough to help to arrive.

Finally, Gunray seemed to regain control of himself and smirked. It was disgusting and made Sabe feel uneasy about what the Viceroy had up his sleeve. "I believe I have a way of making you see matters in my perspective, Your Highness," he said with thickly feigned civility as they continued on.

Unnerved, Sabe had no choice but to follow as the droids started moving again, taking a staircase down to the lower levels.

Her heart grew heavy with suspicion. The detainment area, the "dungeons" as younger minds thoughtlessly nicknamed it.

"Sir, OOM-3 is not responding," The command droid informed Gunray as they approached the final door.

The viceroy gave something between a growl and hum before snapping. "Bring two lines of droids with us. The rest remain here. And shoot her legs if she tries to escape!" Gunray ordered the droids as he moved to the sealed door. A few codes into the panel, and it slid open.

The Naboo were dedicated to a sense of democracy and fairness. Even their prison cells were humane in design, each being small but with two small beds that were lightly padded and could slide into the wall. The cell itself was of reinforced glass. Enough to hold most sapient lifeforms on their own, but wouldn't last very long against a blaster.

"WHAT?!" Gunray roared in rage as they walked in, and found all the cells appeared to be empty. He stocked forward, looking over the inactive droids that lay scattered about, and saw no one in sight. "Check them all!" he snapped to two droids.

"Sir," they acknowledged before walking into the detainment area, checking every cell.

"Something the matter, Viceroy?" Sabe asked, truly confused but almost smirking all the same.

Gunray turned his gaze upon her with narrowed eyes. "Very clever. You managed to free the prisoners before going on to save your family."

"..." Sabe kept her face from reacting, but only barely as a cold sweat came up her spine. Padme's family? He was bluffing, he had to be. Padme changed her last name for just this kind of situation.

"I thought seeing the suffering of your people firsthand might persuade you. But I am more than willing to resort to rather uncivil methods to gain your cooperation!" he warned fiercely.

"Sir, there is no sign of any prisoners," the battle droids reported as they returned.

"Grrr. A waste of time, coming here," Gunray muttered darkly. "We're leaving, to the tower. So long as we have the queen, they wouldn't dare risk losing her."

Sabe watched as Gunray stormed by her before she was forced to follow.

But as she left, she couldn't help noticing something peculiar.

The detainment area was free of organic bodies. In fact, it was free of any signs of any weapons being fired at all. The droids themselves looked perfectly intact, with no marks on them.

Gunray, in his anger, had been too busy to notice this, but Sabe did. Just what had happened here? It wasn't Padme and her group, and it definitely wasn't Vader. Had Vader's Mandalorian managed this somehow? Or was there another element at play, some part of the Naboo Resistance that had been waiting for a chance to strike?

She didn't know, but whoever it was, she was grateful they managed to spare more suffering on the souls that had been kept here.

Meanwhile

Sixxa grunted as he crept through the forest, sprinting from tree to tree while keeping his eyes and ears open.

The droids had taken the bait. Nym had managed to distract the main army long enough for the Gungans to make a full retreat into the forest, and once the cavalry departed into them, the clankers had pursued them all into the forest. With more of their command units destroyed, they wouldn't be able to engage in complicated tactics. The droids were now just seeking out enemies to kill, with no regard to the fact that the Gungans now had the advantage in this territory.

He could hear them in the distance: war cries, blasters, spears meeting metal, but nothing close.

His fellow meres were traveling as a group, clearing droids as they went, sniping them from between the trees and hidden in the foliage. He had elected to break off. They were capable and experienced; they didn't need him here for this. This front was a grind, but it was all but won now.

He had no way of helping the battle in space so that just left Theed; AKA, where Gunray should be.

It wasn't that he didn't trust Vader to ensure the Viceroy was taken dead or alive, but that didn't mean Sixxa didn't want to be a party to that event. After all, taking Gunray was about more than Naboo. It was about the Trade Federation and every other planet in their grip.

He came to a halt as a noise invaded his earhole. It was a distinct mix of buzzing and whirling of a repulsor-craft; small and fast by the sound of it.

He came to a stop at a tree, bringing up his rifle and scanning the direction he heard it from. A smirk formed on his scaled face as his sight confirmed his assumption: A droid atop a STAP, Single Troop Aerial Transport. Not as fast as a speeder, but it'd do the job.

Focusing on his target, he waited and timed the speed of the craft as it weaved between the trees, and pulled the trigger.

The droid fell off the vehicle. Sixxa waited for an instance, but nothing moved as the STAP hovered where it had stopped.

With that, he ran forth, keeping his head low in case another droid was in the area and noticed him. He slowed as he came to his prize-

A blaster rang out, very close.

Sixxa ducked by the trunk in an instant. He didn't hear any impact though. He glanced out and saw nothing. He flinched back as he heard another bolt, but witnessed no flash or light from a blaster.

He ran forward more, and several more shots rang out. He ducked over, but never saw or heard any impact near him. He finally reached his prize, turning all about once to survey for any droids. He found none, save the rider he had shot from the STAP. He looked down at the fallen B1, noting that he had blown the head clean off.

But it was covered in a lot more blaster shots.

He looked down at the ground, seeing the footprints on the muddy ground…small ones. His eyes followed it to the bushes and held his gaze there for a second.

"Be careful with that blaster," he said before turning to the STAP, climbing up it as he strapped his rifle on his back. As he mounted the vehicle, he looked down and saw exactly what he expected.

A small, young Gungan; A teen in their years, perhaps. He wasn't sure, but he believed they had been crying. They looked up at him with a guarded look while Sixxa just had a knowing expression.

"It'll burn your hands if you fire it too often," Sixxa warned knowing from experience how the Trade Federation used their droids' lack of pain to make their weapons cheaper and unsafe for organics to use.

The Gungan youth didn't reply, just watching in awe as the mere rode away on the STAP.

Sixxa cleared the forest line soon enough, looking out over the battlefield as he soared by it.

Corpses of dead Gungans and destroyed droids littered the place, with the burning wreckage of the droid vehicles leaving small columns of smoke. One of the fambaas was still half alive, somehow, and trying to limp away; either to heal or just somewhere better to die.

Sixxa pitied the poor bastard, but sped on over the hill, towards the capital of Naboo.

Theed looked...good, really. The place wasn't on fire or anything. Most of the fighting seemed to be near the palace. From the little time he spent with the Queen, he was sure she wanted it like that, to decrease the chance of civilians caught up in this.

He reached the city before dismounting the STAP. No need to run the risk of friendly fire with someone mistaking him for a droid.

"Sixxa! Sixxa!"

"Shit!" he cursed, jumping behind a wall as he pulled out his communicator. "Nym, what is it?! You trying to give me away!?"

"Something is going on. The droids are retreating from the forest. I think they're trying to head back to the city!"

Sixxa stopped at that, scowling. "Either Gunray is getting worried or one of the command units in orbits realized they were losing down here," he said with a frown. "Doesn't really matter. Can you deal with them,?"

"Not really. All our beasts are pretty much dead, and the droids are surprisingly good at shooting while walking backward," Nym answered.

"Well, the good news is that I'm here. How many of them are left?" Sixxa asked pointedly

"Not a lot. Less than five hundred, I'd say," Nym answered. "We'll whittle them down, but once they get over that hill, it'll be hard to do much against them on our end."

Sixxa nodded absently. "It'll take them a while to walk here. Link up with the meres, and do whatever you think is best. I'll see if I can get some kind of defense ready here."

"Good luck, Sixxa."

"I have a sniper rifle. I don't need luck, just a good perch," Sixxa retorted with a smirk.

"Ha! Then good shooting."

Meanwhile

Captain Rorn eyed the OOM battle droid like it was a bomb. And, apparently, it was. Not literally, just in the sense that it would kill him if he said the wrong word. Oh, and kill his entire crew too, that was important.

The tension aboard the command deck was thick, but luckily, the droids were incapable of noticing that. All of them knew what happened on Etrid's ship, how the battle droids turned on the organics because of Gunray's command.

The implications were simple but bone rattling: they probably wouldn't survive this, even if they won this battle.

Perhaps he could buy his own life by ordering the droids to dispose of the other Neimoidians. After all, it would help whatever story Gunray would try to sell if he had a survivor to back up the story; a witness to whatever "tragedy" befell the officers of the lucrehulks.

He'd have to be careful though. Gunray was unusually paranoid right now, even for a Neimoidian.

But that was assuming they won. He had to figure out a way to survive if they were unable to defeat these enemies of the Trade Federation.

It wasn't a problem yet. They were attacking the Fooni Tiina now. The droids might not be great military thinkers by even the barest of levels, but they should be able to grind away more of their foes.

Lucrehulks didn't have a lot of weapons, but they soaked up a lot of damage. Whatever that ship was, it was unlikely it could outlast all three of the carriers-

Rorn hummed as an idea came to mind. "Get me the captain of the Fooni Tiina," he ordered.

"Umm, you mean the OOM droid, sir?" one of the Neimoidians asked skeptically.

"Yes, the droid, just do it!" he snapped in frustration.

His crew got to work and he could feel his own OOM droid glancing at him. It might as well as aim its blaster at him.

"You requested communication with me, Captain Rorn?" OOM-8 questioned.

"Indeed. I believe there needs be a change of plans, OOM-8," Rorn said sternly.

"Elaborate," OOM-8 requested.

"We only require one Lucrehulk to keep the droids operational, correct?" Rorn pointed out.

"This is accurate," OOM-8 accepted.

"That battleship appears to be the main threat to our Lucrehulk, besides the Firespray," Rorn pointed out. When he received no response, he continued with explaining his plan. "I believe it would be in our best interest if the Fooni Tiina rammed the enemy craft."

Silence rang over the command deck as the droid calculated that plan. "The Fooni Tiina has a 40% of surviving such a plan," OOM-8 pointed out.

"And what are the chances that enemy craft survives?" Rorn challenged.

"The ship's capabilities are unknown. But judging by the size, conservative calculations are at 30% in their best case scenario," OOM-9 acknowledged.

Rorn nodded meaningfully. "And even if not, they will be heavily damaged, easy for us to finish the job," he reasoned.

Their droids were expendable and cheap. In the context of a suicide mission, they had no programming to prioritize their own survival. They would readily do something they had no chance of surviving. The only trick for Rorn was making the OOM-8 droid see the logic in the plan, to get it to agree with him.

After a moment that felt like it stretched out for an hour, the droid finally answered. "I concur with this plan, Captain Rorn."

Rorn could hear several of his comrades letting out breaths of relief.

"However, this plan hinges on the Fooni Tiina being able to hold out until the enemy ship arrives," OOM-8 pointed out. "And that it does not attempt to maneuver away."

"No plan is without failure being possible," Rorn stated with a shrug. "Is there nothing else?"

"Negative. Fooni Tiina ending transmission," OOM-8 answered.

"Sir, we're detecting more ships entering orbit from the planet," one of the Neimoidians informed, urging him over.

"Hmm?" Rorn moved over to observe the screen. And yes, it did show signs that several more starfighters had taken off from Theed. But also...

'If the FT is compromised, should we hack the DCPs?'

That was the text typed at the bottom of the screen, the Neimoidian eyeing him nervously…as were those nearby.

Rorn thought fast to understand just what the officer was really asking. These weren't official acronyms, he was sure. The droids would recognize that and figure out what was going on. FT was Fooni Tiina. DCP? Droid...Droid Control Protocols. They were asking to hack the systems that controlled the battle droids if the Fooni Tiina was destroyed.

If they tried it right now, the Fooni Tiina's own control systems would take over from their "compromised" systems and just get them killed. But if they were the only system controlling the droids, there was nothing to rule it as compromised.

He nodded while humming. "Yes, yes," he answered before adding on, for show. "But the Fooni Tiina should be aware of them already. No need to report to them and distract their planning."

The droids did nothing, they suspected nothing. Even the OOM droid wasn't watching him. Good, good. That might just keep him alive through this disaster, no matter who won.

Granted, the only reason he didn't consider ratting out this Neimoidian was that the droids would probably just kill him either way.

Gunray had essentially made the droids trigger happy with how he phrased that instruction. The first moment they thought any of them were "traitors" they'd shoot them all.

Strange. Rorn never imagined he'd be so afraid of his own droids since becoming a captain. Perhaps he should have, perhaps they all should have.

He almost snorted. If he could he'd be tempted to make the battle droids designate Gunray himself as a traitor, let him enjoy feeling his own blasters turn against him.

Still, Rorn would settle for surviving at this point.

End of Chapter

And there's the new chapter. Hope you all ehnjoy it. So, yeah, not a Droid Uprising, just moreo f Gunray being Gunray. But Rorn is trying to slither his way out of this, annnnnd Padme's parents are dying.

Yeah, obvioisly not everything is going to go perfect and there are some bad side effects. Gunray, in canon Ep I, was at least confident in his droids and in Sidious's planning. Here, he's a paranoid, terrrified mess and he's decided to get as much leverage over Padme as possible.

Oh, and Sixxa had a smaller encounter with a Gungan child. I'm sure you all aren't as interestied in scenes like them, but I do enjoy writing them.

Hope you all enjoyed this, until next time!

Early viewing of chapters 35-36 avaliable on my pat-reon:

p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64