Hero of Naboo

AN Sorry for the delay! I was going to post this days ago, but FF had some site issues that just cleared up.

Padme was fully prepared to discover they were too late to reach the tower before Gunray, though she was hoping otherwise.

But they were all caught off guard when upon reaching the elevator, they found Gunray's escort of droids using it to go up in groups.

The surprise didn't stop the droids from taking aim at them.

"Porepiss!" Brannder yelled, shoving one of the Naboo behind a pillar as he ducked for cover.

Others weren't so fortunate, three of their group falling as blaster fire hailed down at them.

"We're too far to run to the walkway," Panaka realized bitterly from behind a stone pedestal.

"Captain!" Padme explained, staring at his shoulder.

Panaka followed her gaze and he couldn't see it, but he could smell the ozone and burnt fabric of his uniform. Was he hit? Being hit by a blaster was hard to miss, but sometimes, it happened and people were numb to it for a few seconds.

"You lucky spawn-leech," Rellen said with a laugh from behind them, peering at the supposed wound. "Don't worry! It just grazed the clothes."

Panaka relaxed mildly as Padme let out a sigh of relief.

"Can't say the same for my rifle," Rellen mustered, inspecting the scorch mark on the side of the damaged weapon. "Yeah, this thing is scrap now. So, anybody have an idea?"

"What about your ion grenades?" Padme reminded.

Brannder peeked his head out before jerking back in to avoid a shot to the face, "Hard to throw it far enough without getting hit!"

It went unsaid that if the grenade was dropped here, many of them would be injured if not killed. Ion grenades were best against electronics, but there was still enough concussive force in them to be dangerous to organics.

"Hmm," Rellen said, giving a reconsidering look to the rifle before looking to Padme. "We still have permission to wreck the palace?"

Padme gave a pointed look in response.

"Just checking," Rellen said, "Brannder!"

Without hesitation, Brannder threw his rifle across the gap to Rellen. It fortunately dodged the incoming blaster fire.

"Queen, you're going to want to cover your breathing holes," Rellen warned as he fiddled with the rifle and loaded the launcher, before reclining back and aiming the rifle high.

"What are you doing?!" Panaka asked in alarm.

"Probably something stupid," Rellen answered casually while angling the rifle, carefully.

An explosive launched from the weapon's under-barrel, heading for one of the archways at the ceiling before bursting in a hissing pop.

"You missed!" Gavyn yelled from the side.

"No, he didn't," Brannder said as the droid fire appeared to lessen, despite being just as loud as before. Taking the chance, Brannder hurled an ion grenade as far down as he could before pulling back. With the detonation echoing in the halls, Brannder took out a pistol to take shots from a distance, the Naboo following his lead as the Droids thinned from the grenade.

"They're thinning!" Gavyn called, ducking down- and grimacing as he realized the security officer next to him was now lying dead from a blaster shot to the neck. "But so are we."

"Hey, did any of you see that elevator go up since they started firing at us?!" Brannder called out to everyone, right from behind his hiding spot.

Padme watched as negative responses were called out. "Gunray's already up there," she deduced.

"Most likely," Rellen agreed solemnly. "But he'll have less droids to hold up with like this."

"And he'll have no place to run once he gets to the Watchtower," Panaka pointed out. "Even if we can't reach him, we'll have him trapped."

"Assuming he doesn't have reinforcements coming," Brannder muttered. "And where the depths is Vader!?"

"Probably murdering a tank or ten," Rellen commented, his scaled brow furrowing as he quickly peak out and shot another droid. "We have about a dozen left."

"Ahh, to hell with it, I've saved these enough," Brannder said, tossing another ion grenade down the hall.

The streaks of red lines whooshing through the halls decreased to a much less intimidating degree.

"Three, no, four left!" Gavyn called out. "Everyone fire!"

And so they did, cutting down the surviving droids with merciless quickness.

Silence came as they all waited for an instant, eyes keen for any sign of movement.

Sparks jolted from the back of a fallen droid, causing several to fire at the downed droid.

"...Okay, we're clear," Rellen said, quick scanning with the scope of the rifle. "Watch them though; they sometimes come back online."

"Wonderful," Gavyn muttered as they all paced forward, watching for any sudden movement as they approached the elevator. "So, what was that back there, with the smoke bomb?"

"Droids are predictable without a commander," Brannder answered with a shrug as he retook his rifle from Rellen, who picked up his damaged one. "They're programmed to recognize an enemy taking cover and focus fire on it. That includes smoke bombs. They just don't always realize that we can't walk on walls."

"So even when they're smart, they're stupid," Gavyn said with some relief.

"The terror of the droids is in their numbers. They're basically just walking turrets. Which sounds insulting to them until you see a squad of them coming towards you, blasters ready," Brannder mused with a distant look.

"..." Gavyn and the other Naboo wisely didn't pry into the Mere's past, nor whatever trauma the Trade Federation had left on him and his people.

*BLAST!*

Everyone turned, grips tight on their weapons, to see Padme pointing her blaster at a droid. Her face was calm but suspicious. "I'm sure I saw one of them move," she said with certainty.

"Let's get out of here then. Even if a couple of them can still shoot none of them are getting back on their feet without repairs," Rellen suggested.

Padme nodded as she approached the panel, Panaka guarding her as she punched in the codes to open the elevator…one step closer to ending this.

Meanwhile

"Alright, this all of you?"

Sixxa looked over the six militia with critical eyes. It hadn't been hard to find the main group of them, working their way through the streets. They almost shot him too. But after some quick, rapid explanations, he got the message delivered: the remainders of the droid army were coming and he needed some help taking some out.

"Yes, Sir...Sixsa?" one of them asked in confirmation.

"Sixxa," he corrected idly. "Okay, you two have some skill with snipers, so you're with me on top of the walls. Now, they don't have tanks, so they can't just blow us up, but don't get cocky. Keep your head down, don't waste shots, and take out as many as you can. You three are down at the gate with the ride, and the last one is the pilot."

He paused, glancing at the hovercraft, modified with a turret on the end of it.

"Take shots at them when they get too close, but you're mainly here so we all have a way out here. That craft won't take too many shots," Sixxa explained. "Any questions?"

"Sir, I heard that the Gungans are helping us?" one of them asked hopefully.

Sixxa nodded grimly. "They did. They're why you're facing less than five hundred instead of over a thousand with tanks," he explained. "I already asked. They're spent and licking their wounds. Even if they wanted to, they're scattered from leading the droids into the swamps."

They all looked rather uneasy at that, not liking the odds they were facing. If they couldn't escape fast enough, they'd probably all die.

"Look," Sixxa said with a sigh. "You're scared and I'm some stranger from another planet. But let me put this in context. Forget about the city for a moment. If that army gets through to the palace, it'll give Gunray the chance he needs to escape. Your Queen is fighting, right now, within the palace to capture him and end this once and for all," he encouraged strongly. "Trust me, as someone that has been fighting the feds for years now. This is the closest to victory we've ever gotten."

The six humans slowly gained more determined, stony faces as he finished his speech.

"Alright, good. Let's get going," he said, turning to run up the stairs ascending the walls, the two humans following him with their own sniper rifles. They weren't as good as his, but they'd do.

They crouched down on the wall, getting themselves prepared, aiming their scopes at the horizon. There, in the far distance was a marching army of droids approaching. Even with the scopes, they looked far away.

They'd have to wait a bit longer to get good shots. Three-hundred fifty meters was the maximum effective range of his rifle. Any further and the bolt would rapidly lose its potency.

"Can I ask a question?" the Naboo to his right asked.

"Fire away," Sixxa quipped dryly.

"What's your stake in this?" she asked curiously. "The goodness of your heart? Your planet back? Revenge?"

"First and last. Getting Mere back isn't that simple, not yet, but denying the Trade Federation another planet is a victory in my book," Sixxa remarked. "Though..."

Both of his new allies glanced at him curiously.

"That's not why I'm up here with you two," he explained, something approaching a primal sneer on his amphibious face. "I'm here because if we get Gunray then maybe the next Viceroy will get the message. Maybe even think twice before stepping out of line. Maybe I won't end up on another planet like this too soon."

Both Naboo snipers shared a look before nodding in agreement, refocusing on their approaching targets.

"Just wish I brought some explosives," Sixxa muttered to himself as the droids marched ever closer to being within their range.

Meanwhile

"Thanks again for letting me fly that beast of yours, Fett."

Boba refused to comment on the Vulptereen Patriarch's remark. Letting Sod use the Slave II was something he had done with bitter reluctance. But he agreed to infiltrate the palace, and Sod gave her back in the same condition, so he'd let it go this time.

Sod Gert chuckled at his silence. "I understand. I respect a pilot that respects his ship," he assured. So, how did we fare against the first one?"

"Adequate," Boba answered. "You Vulptereens know how to survive a dog fight."

"High praise from a Mandalorian," Sod said with amusement. "But that's not what I meant."

"I have a few more tricks and plans for this second one. It's the last we have to worry about," Boba warned.

"Good. Then I can find out how these Naboo ships handle in the meantime," Sod said before the radio went silent.

Boba idly noted the one yellow ship moving a bit erratically. He'd almost think it was a rookie pilot. And in a way, Sod was. A rookie with these ships at least. Every starship model was unique and took some getting used to. There were universal normals and conformities to certain setups. After all, one didn't need to be an expert for casual flying or even for hyperspace travels. But something as intense and deadly as starship combat, one needed to get well suited to whatever model they were in, to understand every trick and quirk of its design so it might be used to its maximum potential.

It was part of why he never gave up the Slave I, er, Slave II. Besides being his father's ship, he had already known and memorized most of it before his father died on Geonosis. He could fly just about any ship he had to, but he was at his best on this ship.

"Slave II, report. Any sign of the vultures?" Cifo's voice called in.

"Negative," Boba answered, watching his radar for a second, but only found friendlies. "They're going to try and wait us out."

"Hmm?"

"It'll take a little bit for you and the Clamator to catch up to us and join the fray," Boba elaborated. "We won't be able to retreat for repairs, but they wi-"

"What is it, Fett?" Cifo called with concern.

"Nothing, just a thought. Do they even repair the vultures?" he asked idly.

"I wouldn't be surprised either way," Cifo remarked. "I see your point though. You'll be cut off from the cover this ship can provide, while the vultures will have the support of the Lucrehulk."

"The droids are playing this better than the Neimoidians," Boba summarized.

"Do you want to change plans?" Cifo inquired.

"No. If we need to disengage, I have a plan," Boba answered flatly.

"Right. By the way, is Sod Gert's ship damaged, or is our radar malfunctioning?" Cifo asked in confusion.

Boba glanced to the ship in question, watching it swerve around with the graceful precision befitting an ace pilot. "He's fine. Just getting a feel for a new ship."

"I'll take your word for it. You're approaching the enemy craft now. Contact me if there is any new development," Cifo instructed.

Boba just hummed as he studied the enemies. They were circling and swarming around the Lucrehulk in ominous rings, obviously waiting on them. "Everyone, brace yourselves. The moment we're in range, break off and attack. Protect the bombers, they're your priority. Bombers, take out the turrets first, we can't afford to lose too many ships."

"What about you, Fett?" Sod questioned, coming up beside his ship.

"I'm the distraction," Fett answered bluntly. "Now...here we go."

Meanwhile

"If he's here, Gunray's an idiot."

Padme glanced to Brannder with an odd look. "Not to disagree, but why?" she asked as they crossed the room. A room filled with books. Not holobooks, but physical, paper books.

The Library of Ars Veruna, one of the only good things she could say about her predecessor. On Naboo, there was no greater deposit of Naboo's culture and history. While digital copies were of course made, there was a sense of history by keeping these ancient records preserved or copied as authentically as possible. Not even the Royal Academy could match the breadth and depth of wisdom here.

It was somehow fitting that this tower was the only way to reach the watchtower. Only by history and wisdom might one survey against future threats to the people.

"He didn't break the elevator after he realized we were here," Brannder mused, glancing up the curved stairway suspiciously. "And we've had to climb two staircases so far."

"This is the last," Padme assured, holding his blaster at the ready.

"Not what I meant," Brannder responded, holding up a fist to order them all to hold at the halfway point. He crept up the rest and vanished for a long moment before hurrying back down. "There's been no droids to slow us down. These libraries and staircases would have been perfect for ambushing."

"Would he even think to attempt it?" Panaka retorted meaningfully.

Brannder muttered to himself. "Maybe, maybe not. But something feels off."

"He might not even be here," Rellen pointed out. "I mean, did you see the rugs in these libraries?"

"Rugs?" Padme questioned as she glanced down at the carpet, many of their party looking baffled.

"A small army of droids, marching through a room? Unless it's empty, there's usually going to be a sign," Rellen pointed out with a shrug.

Brannder hummed. "Okay. Me and Rellen are going to scout out the bridge to the Watchtower. You all stay here, watch the stairs," he said, looking to Padme. "Unless you have a problem with that?"

"Don't take any risks," Padme said with a nod.

"None that we haven't before," Rellen assured with a small smirk, heading up with his comrade.

"There is another idea," Gavyn spoke up as they descended back to the penultimate level.

"And what's that, Lieutenant?" Panaka inquired idly.

"Gunray realized it would take a while to get too many droids up here, between the elevator and the stairs," Gavyn reasoned. "Unless he bothered to come back here at some point, he wouldn't know exactly what getting to the Watchtower is like."

"You believe he changed paths?" Padme inquired.

"It depends on how scared Gunray is," Gavyn mused with a scowl. "But he thinks he has the queen, right?"

"That's right," Padme said thoughtfully. "And if he's not just lying, he thinks that Darth Vader is dead."

"So he's confident if anything," Gavyn continued to speculate. "And a confident Neimoidian is an opportunistic one."

That ominous idea floated through the air until the silence was broken by the sound of blaster fire, making them all flinch and point their guns towards the staircase.

Suddenly, the Meres came running back down, Brannder standing on the staircase with his rifle pointed to the next floor while Rellen nearly fell down the last few stairs.

"Okay, bad news? I was wrong about the rugs, they're more droids in the watchtower," Rellen informed, catching his breath, holding up his damaged rifle, with more scorch marks on it. "And somehow, this rifle insists on acting like a very good shield."

"Worse news? They have droidekas there, hence why we retreated," Brannder explained, nodding to the stairs, which the rolling droids would have an issue coming down.

"Did you see Gunray?" Padme inquired with a frown.

"Didn't get a good chance to peek inside," Rellen answered with a sigh. "But with that many droids, where else could he be?"

"Attention!" an unwelcome voice called over the communication systems. "I am addressing the fools still fighting at the watchtower!

"Is he watching us? Are there cameras in here?" Rellen asked as he looked around the room, but was ignored for the moment.

"The elevator has been disabled."

"Shit," Gavyn cursed, racing down the stairs to check on said elevator.

"And you are now trapped. If you wish to live, come to the east end of the library's tower and prepare to surrender. None more will be harmed if you comply!" Gunray commanded.

"Well, I doubt he's serious about not hurting us," Brannder remarked. "What the hell happened? Did that droid lie to us?

"Perhaps not," Padme said with a grimace as she looked up the stairs, "There's a balcony just behind this tower. Gunray likely saw it and realized that it'd be safer to try and trap us in here than just fortify himself in the watchtower."

"Opportunist," Panaka remarked in distaste as Gavyn reentered their floor.

"He's right, the panel isn't working," Gavyn informed with a frustrated look on his exhausted face. "We're trapped like rats."

"Could we hold out?" one of the officers suggested, motioning to Brannder and Rellen. "They said these were perfect for ambushing."

"And they'd be open targets on that bridge. It's long enough we'd have time to dwindle them down and retreat," Rellen remarked optimistically.

"Even if we killed every droid, we'd still be stuck here," Brannder reminded, a thoughtful and gurgling growl in his throat.

"Not necessarily," Padme informed, looking around the library.

"You have a secret passage in the library, don't you?" Rellen guessed. "I've always wanted to see one of those opening, false-wall things."

"Focus," Brannder reprimanded neutrally.

"There is one, somewhere," Padme remarked, looking between Gavyn and Panaka. "Captain, Lieutenant?"

"The floor below us," Panaka remembered thoughtfully. "I can find it, Your Highness."

"That's all well and good, but where does it lead?" Rellen questioned.

"Just down the hall from the base of the elevator," Panaka answered. "But it's only big enough for us to leave one at a time."

"That's not a short walk and Gunray isn't a patient sapient," Brannder pointed out. "He'll send the droids in eventually and realize we're gone. Can we catch him before he makes a run for it, or rejoins the droids?"

"Possibly. That area isn't isolated like this one," Padme answered, cupping her chin.

"Some of us need to stay and distract him. Or, worst comes to worst...let him think he's won, one way or another," Rellen said with a grimace.

Silence rang over the room as Padme looked at the face of every officer and resistance member in their group

"Well, we're staying," Brannder remarked with a sigh. "We're the best here for dwindling down the droids. Some of you stay to make it look convincing while the rest take the Queen out and-"

"I have no intention of abandoning my men to run away, Brannder Keat," Padme said firmly, frowning at the Mere.

"Queen, the safest place for you-" Rellen tried diplomatically.

"Is here," Padme answered with certainty. "Once Gunray realizes who I am, he'll either come to me or bring me to him. And that isn't a short walk, between the balcony and here."

"And he'll have to activate the elevator either way," Brannder remarked. "It's smart. Assuming he doesn't just kill you."

"He has the "queen" remember?" Padme pointed out. "He still needs me for the treaty."

"Your Highness, you can't use yourself as bait," Gavyn discouraged carefully. "If you're captured-"

"Gunray has already lost this battle, he just doesn't realize it," Padme said solemnly. "Even if he kills me, that will not destroy Naboo nor make it his own. He's lost too much now to hold the planet."

And Vader would see this through. She didn't say it, but she believed it. She believed that dark, wrathful Sith would see Gunray fall before the day was done.

So lost in her thoughts, Padme missed the looks of respect and admiration she had gained from her fellow Naboo.

"Okay, you're staying," Brannder accepted, turning to Panaka. "Captain..."

He narrowed his one eye at the scaled humanoid.

"They need someone to lead them, who knows this castle," Brannder reminded, nodding to the other soldiers. "Sky looks ready to collapse, so not him."

Panaka grimaced, seeing the point yet hating it. "Very well. But I'm trusting her life with you two."

"Don't worry. Sixxa would have our hide if she got shot on our watch," Rellen pointed out.

"Not to mention Vader," Brannder remarked under his breath. "Okay, we need just four or six of you to make this look convincing. Figure out who you're taking, Captain-"

"You have ten minutes to comply!" Gunray's voice barked over the speakers.

"And do it fast."

Meanwhile

The good thing about sniper rifles was that they had an incredible range. More than triple the range of a B1's rifle. That meant there was a large gap between when they could start firing, and when the droids could start firing.

The problem was that sniper rifles were not rapid fire. They could only take out one or two targets per shot. Not to mention, no sniper was perfect, just better than others.

Thus, Sixxa could practically hear an imaginary timer in his ears, ticking away the seconds before the droids would be close enough to start firing back; Two hundred meters. The speed of the droids walking gave them three minutes, tops. Between the three of them, they had shot down at least fifty droids.

About a tenth of the army coming to them.

He froze as the first bit of returned fire started to aim at them.

"We need to fall back!" Sixxa yelled over the sniper shots, as one red shot of plasma became two, then four.

"We can hold them off," one of them called back.

"Forget dying a hero, you roats! We fall back, we can keep withering them down until we're out of ammo!" Sixxa ordered, pulling them down by the back of their clothes. "Look, that ride of ours gets shot down, we think about making a final stand. Now? We fall back and do this again. Got it!"

The two shared a look before nodding in agreement.

"Good, now get down there. I have to confirm something real quick," he ordered, waving them to the stairs. He didn't even watch them leave as he held up his rifle again, tensing as he scanned the droids while enemy fire rained around him.

"Sixxa! Come on! You don't get to die a hero either!" the Naboo called back up to him as the transport and the other soldiers fired their own weapons at the approaching army.

"Go, go, go!" Sixxa called as he ran down the stairs, leaping down to the street. The hovercraft was already moving as he ran to catch up to its held pace, jumping on the side to ride with the humans. He braced himself as he felt the vehicles lurch under him, accelerating down the street.

"What was that about?" the female sniper asked with a frown.

Sixxa grunted as he idly reloaded his weapon. "I was checking the droids; see if they had a command unit or anything else special we had to worry about."

"Are the command units that much of a problem?" one of the others asked curiously.

"It's the difference between fighting a mindless horde and a slightly coordinated horde. So, yes, it makes a huge difference," Sixxa answered with a sigh. "None out there though."

"You don't look too relieved about that," the soldier observed with curiosity.

"This battle is dragging on," Sixxa remarked. "And I'm beginning to worry how the other fronts are doing."

End of Chapter

Well, Padme walked into a last minute trap by Gunray. Actually had to do a fair bit of research for this chapter alone- the building nearest the watchtower, the range of a SW sniper rifle vs the range of a SW droid's blaster, how fastthe droids march, etc. Was honestly fun.

But despite things dragging out- and that's by design, the droids are not each to get rid of- they're steadily coming to a close. You all know that Gunray is going to lose, but the question is, how much is it going to cost everyone by te end.

Early viewing of chapters 36-37 avaliable on my pat-reon:

p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64