Hand of Fate
by River Winters

Author's Intro/Notes: Welcome and thanks for stopping by! My name is River. I originally started writing this story as far back as 2012 or 2013 (I'm not entirely sure at this point) and then abandoned my drafts for years. Thankfully I never deleted the documents and more recently after the new trilogy released, it has me in a Sobiwan mood again and ready to write this story I've circled back to many times in my mind over the years. Sabé and Obi-Wan are truly one of my favorite pairings—my first ever ship actually in 1999. I feel like it's time to put my take on their relationship out there for the world to see!

This story will be a mixture of moments you recognize from the movies/books/shows and original content/adventures too. Please note I plan to go off-script a bit here and there from canon. You can expect a slow burn romance, character studies, and lots of emotional torture, cuz that's my favorite thing to write apparently, ha!

Please leave a review if you are enjoying the read. I love hearing from you. Thanks!

Also, follow along on the blog I've created for the story where I will answer your questions, post faceclaims, story image guides, shipping mania, art, and more. Go to hof-story dot tumblr dot com (there may be some spoilers here and there so be advised!) - happy reading!

Hand of Fate

Chapter 1 / Invasion

Theed, Naboo

It was midsummer now. A season the people of Naboo celebrated joyously every year with solstice festivals and galas that filled temples and districts planetwide. Cities and villages festooned themselves with sunny garlands and the bountiful blooms that autumn would soon wither. Lake country bustled with vacationing swimmers and boating expeditions. Theatres and art shows were held in outdoor spaces to entertain and inspire the masses underneath the cozy blanket of summer's kind warmth. Children could be heard laughing during twilight as they chased the gently glowing and ever elusive firewing bugs.

This year was not like that. No garlands of flowers hung in decoration, no celebrations commenced. Lake country remained quiet and afraid, no vacationers to be found. The theaters were dark and empty. And no children were allowed out after sundown.

Deep within the palace grounds in the crown jewel city of Theed, a lone figure walked quickly across the cobblestone courtyard of security personnel quarters. Dressed in an off-duty combination of leggings, boots, and a tunic over long sleeves, she wore her hair in a simple braid looped twice at the back of her head. With her she carried a canvas bag of market goods: greens, stone-fruit and lemons, a crusty loaf of bread, and freshly caught fish wrapped in paper and tied with twine. The sunlight was warm and soft today, the breeze pleasant, the air fragrant. Birds sang sweet little songs, butterflyas fluttered lazily from petal to petal. On the surface, a perfect summer's day. And yet… it was anything but.

Sabé Nebira came to the door of her palace-sanctioned apartment and shifted her bag to her other arm then paused and peered up at the sky, searching the cloudless azure while trying to make sense of it for the hundredth time: the appearance of normal circumstances paired with the contrasting reality that Naboo was in deep peril.

Somewhere hidden up there in the pristine crystal expanse, the Trade Federation blockade lurked quietly, holding the entire planet hostage. It had been a sum of twenty-three days so far, and Nubians were beginning to feel the strain of the halted imports and exports—that and the growing anxiety over not knowing when or how this would end was making the people restless and cagey. Markets were thinner in supplies of offworld goods, outlooks were growing more tense, travel bans and a curfew were both in place to keep citizens as safe as possible. From what exactly? No one was sure, and that perhaps was the worst part of it all. Fear and mistrust permeated the entire populace, and even though most schools and government and workplaces hadn't shut down, there was the constant ominous feeling that this would be the day it all shattered apart. It was easy to see in the nervous smiles tainting the faces of all the people here as they tried to go about their daily business; the way people looked over their shoulders and glanced at the sky frequently. Like Sabé was doing right now. It was like they were all ready to run. But run where?

Just then there was the feeling of someone coming to stand beside Sabé. A short someone. "Bay?"

The voice and nickname brought her out of the more nerve-wracked thoughts and Sabé smiled, looking down into her younger sister's freckled face peering up curiously. At eleven, Zana was small for her age and wiry. Her hair, an identical shade of pina tree bark to Sabé's, was parted down the middle and plaited into two intricately looped buns perched on the top of her head like little ears. Her schoolgirl's uniform, a dark plum and charcoal bodysuit, was just a little bit too big on her, and her backpack was definitely too big. She was in that delicate, strange phase between child and woman that Sabé remembered keenly as being awkward and quite frankly annoying.

"Hi songbird, how was your day?" Sabé asked, hiding her worries easily under a relaxed smile as she resumed what she'd been doing: unlocking the door of their quarters. Pressing her palm to the scanner, the elegant chrome and sandstone door beeped in response and whooshed open. The girls went together into their home, door automatically sealing behind them. It wasn't very often that they were home at the same time.

Their quarters were similar to the rest of the housing in this section of palace service personnel apartments. While the living spaces were small and simple, they were still luxurious and no detail was overlooked: tall marble ceilings gleamed down over smooth maroon walls, and elegant, functional furnishings made the home cozy and comfortable. The kitchenette was small and prim, neatly kept and straightforward. Two closet-sized bedrooms were off to either side of the main area, and one fresher for both occupants was tucked away toward the back. There were very few personal touches around the hardly lived in space. A small potted plant on a wall shelf and a gleaming stone statuette of Amora—the goddess of safety—and then a couple of Sabé's awards for distance running and markmanship hung nearby too. Set onto the end table by the couch was a holophoto of the girls' parents playing the same clip forever and ever: Lona and Delff Nebira smiling and waving, then kissing each other briefly as they laughed. That was a photo from the last day Sabé and Zana ever saw their mother and father alive. Six years had passed since, but it felt like much more.

Sabé set her market bag down and sighed tiredly, trying to remember what day of the week it was. An odd mixture of guilt, fatigue, stress, and fear weighed on her. Guilt because she was so absent in her sister's life—the rest of the feelings due to the nature of her job. She was on-duty most of the time right now, at least six days a week if not more, often spending the night in the palace and not setting a foot into her home for what felt like weeks… leaving Zana to raise herself, essentially.

Before Sabé was a royal handmaiden and simply another security officer in the ranks of palace guard, life hadn't felt like too much to hold in her hands—it had been manageable, comfortable even. Things had changed so drastically seven months ago with Amidala's election and Sabé's switch in position from palace guard to handmaiden. Gone were the days of security uniforms and a blaster at her side for the world to see. She now lived her days in gowns designed to conceal details of her identity, merging herself into the Queen's handmaiden attendance. A quiet, flowered army. While they appeared like harmless and genteel ladies of the court, they were all bodyguards when it came down to it. Underneath their robes were weapons, and they were all trained in self defense and combat. Some newer at it than others though, Sabé thought with mild chagrin. She currently was the most highly trained and highest ranking within the handmaiden assembly, and sometimes, it felt like the other handmaidens resented her for it or excluded her because of it.

"Do they think the blockade will end soon?" Zana asked, nudging Sabé out of her thoughts. She had set her backpack down and was pulling out her datapad as she perched on the couch. Presumably to do classwork.

Sabé paused in the middle of taking the bread out of the bag, thinking about how to word herself even as she realized that Zana didn't answer her initial question about how her day had gone. She chose to overlook it and mulled over the blockade question. Being in the new Queen's service meant Sabé was privvy to a lot of information the general public wasn't cleared to know—for example, the fact that sometime today some ambassadors from the Senate were supposed to be meeting with Federation leaders up there in space above somewhere. More bureaucracy, Sabé thought artlessly. She wasn't partial to the game of politics and didn't place much faith into a solution dropping out of the sky. "They… think the opposite," Sabé said, settling on a vague truth. She gave her sister an understanding but thin smile meant to inspire some optimism. "But… we don't know. It could end tomorrow for all I know."

Zana contemplated the answer uneasily for a couple of seconds, then set her datapad down and came to the kitchenette to help. "Classmates of mine are saying it's going to come to invasion soon. War maybe." She looked up at Sabé with candid, scared eyes. "Do you think so? What do we do if they come for us?"

Sabé was suddenly aware of just how terribly absent she'd been from Zana's life lately. Another wave of guilt hit as she regretted the credit she gave her sister sometimes and how easily she could forget how young she was and how frightening it must be. The irony was, they were in this situation because Sabé was trying to provide for them both. "We'll fight, I hope," she answered hesitantly, knowing how unlikely that was given the pacifist nature of her planet and its people. Seeing her sister's worried expression, Sabé left the kitchen things aside for a moment to kneel down and take her by either arm for gentle emphasis. "Peace is important, Zana. Always. But when a threat comes to our peace, we can't lay down and do nothing—we have to fight for our right to peace."

Zana didn't look convinced. She had never loved Sabé's affinity for self-defense, for weaponry, for tactical training. She would much rather make peace, walk away, or try to ignore confrontation. But Sabé hadn't exactly joined the Palace Guard six years ago on a whim… she'd done it to be able to take care of Zana. After all, the guard program had offered a salary, living arrangements, and continued education—all things that had been very important when they lost their parents and were suddenly on their own in the world. If Sabé hadn't done that and proven in a special court hearing that she was not yet a capable of financially caring for them both, they would have been separated. Not something Sabé had been willing to do. Huffing, Zana's expression was bitter and her eyes looked off into the unseen as she stood at the kitchen counter. "They chose to do this to us because they know we're pacifists, didn't they?" she asked quietly. A wise young lady indeed.

Sabé recognized in herself the same anger and sadness she heard in her sister's voice. Her heart broke a little bit as she wished she could protect her from this. "Yes, I think so," she replied softly, grieved for her people. The lack of help or answers. The absolute dead-end they were up against. But she couldn't relay how hopeless and afraid she was. Instead she gently touched her sister's cheek, drawing her gaze intently. "Zana, I promise. Things will be all right. Somehow." She smiled again, but it was more difficult this time. "The galaxy hasn't forgotten about us," Sabé said, so convincing that she could believe it for a second too. "Neither has the Republic." And with that, Sabé decided it was time to change the subject. She stood to her full height, trying for an encouraging tone. "Come on, enough worrying over things we can't change. We need to start dinner before we're too hungry." She smiled and brought a little playfulness into her voice and expression. "I got your favorite…"

Instantly Zana perked up a bit. "Fish?" she asked, a little hopefulness appearing on her young face as her eyes flickered to the bag of food items that had been brought in.

"With lemon and toast," Sabé said, grinning a bit because Zana lit up. It was her favorite meal, one they'd grown up eating on their family farm in a different lifetime. They hadn't had it in forever.

For a precious few breaths, it was like a scene out of happier days and the blockade was out of sight and mind as the girls set to work in a rare moment of domestic normalcy. Zana pulled the fish out to unwrap and oil it as Sabé began to chop herbs. She was just about to ask Zana about her day again when it happened. The transmission that would change their day—and lives—forever.

A sharp beep on Sabé's wrist comm caused Sabé's face to fall into confusion and then apprehension as her limbs and hands froze their work. When off duty, she wasn't supposed to hear from anyone on this specific line of communication unless… emergency. Her stomach dropped and her mouth went to cotton even as she lifted the comm to her lips and answered. Maybe it was just an accidental hail. Maybe someone wasn't following protocol. "Nebira," she managed, her pulse skyrocketing and hand shaking.

Panaka's voice, a shout, came booming through. Her worst fears were realized even before he said more than two words. His tone said it all. "Nebira, the Federation is invading us—do you hear me?! We're being invaded. Code zero four zero. Now!"

Oh my gods. Her heart lodged in her throat even as she hoarsely responded, "Copy, I'll be there in five." Dazed, she felt the room closing in on her. Invaded. 040 was the code for The Switch. Despite all the special training that she and the Queen had conducted together, she naively had all but dismissed the possibility that it would ever really be enacted. Sabé turned slowly, numb. Zana was staring at her in horror, having overheard the news.

Sabé's voice was stunned into an almost-whisper. "We have to go."

Looking close to tears, Zana was confused. "…Invaded?" she croaked.

Yes. Invaded. Sabé snapped out of her daze as adrenaline took over. She set her jaw, already kicking open a small compartment hidden in the side of their couch. Two extra blasters were hidden there, and Sabé shoved one into her waistband—"we have to go, now!"—then slapped the other one against Zana's chest even while dragging her sister along with her and out of their home.

It was chaos. Absolute chaos. The Queen's quarters, usually a tranquil retreat set against the constant lulling roar of waterfalls, had become mad sea of frightened people who were up against the clock with the knowledge that every moment passing brought them closer to facing their invaders. It felt surreal. Like out of some twisted nightmare. Sabé's ears worked fine yet sounds seemed muffled to her, and all she could hear was her unsteady breaths and hammering heart. Why is no one helping us? How can this be happening?

Even as Eirtaé and Rabé shoved and manhandled her into various parts of one of the Queen's gowns, Amidala was being scrubbed of her royal makeup and torn out of her regal red gown by Yané and Saché. As quickly as Sabé was transforming into the monarch, Amidala was becoming a mere handmaiden: Code 040.

Everyone was shouting and hurrying each other as Panaka paced near one of the panoramic windows overlooking the city, shouting into his commlink as he tried to get a handle on what was happening. Several security officers, some of them Sabé's old friends, looked unsure of what to do, gripping their weapons nervously at their posts throughout the room as they waited for orders. It was hard to catch a single word in the noise created by so many rushing, terrorized people. In a nearby corner, Zana was quaking and crying, holding herself and trying to be brave in the face of not understand at all. In the distance, even over the sound of the waterfalls bordering the palace, the sound of huge machinery and transports approaching could be heard.

Sabé squeezed her eyes shut in a desperate bid to calm herself amid the contagious panic in the room and the sound of the approaching enemy. Her ears were ringing. Don't think. Breathe. Just breathe. And then all the sounds that had been muffled became abruptly too loud.

"Hold still!" Eirtaé snapped at her, trembling so hard she could barely get the black overdress onto Sabé, who was knocked back just a bit by the weight. She'd never worn this gown before, only admired the intricacy of it in passing during a trip to the Queen's royal closet. It was heavier she'd anticipated, and hotter too.

Panaka swore loudly somewhere nearby. "Transmissions are out planetwide, I can't get in touch with anyone more than a few kilometers away, gods dammit!" Who he was talking to, if anyone, was unclear.

Amidala, now in the same ombré yellow-to-orange-to-red gown as the rest of her handmaidens (only not wearing her hood up yet), reached out and touched him on the arm, stopping him with a measured tone and calm demeanor. "Captain. Keep your head."

Her four words and the strength of presence in them rendered the rest of the room quieter. Chastened, Panaka took a moment then cleared his throat and stood a little taller, clasping his hands behind himself. "The guard on the west end of the city say they can see the invasion army approaching, Your Highness. Thousands of droids—possibly in the sum of tens of thousands—plus artillery and big machinery. My best guess is we have ten minutes before they're here. Maybe less." Yané put her hands over her mouth against a sobbing sound as Saché reached out and held her. For whose comfort, it wasn't clear. Padmé's expression flickered. Eirtaé and Rabé had gone still and a bit paler. Panaka even looked uncharacteristically shaken and emotional as he swallowed and set his jaw, anxiety filling his features. "What is your command, Milady?"

The entire room was still and painfully silent. Everyone looked to their monarch in a mixture of fear and hope and despair all at once. To subjects and the public, she was Queen Amidala. To those close to her though, she went by her given name: Padmé. And today, she looked every bit her age of fourteen. A newly-elected Queen who had suddenly found herself in the midst of the unthinkable. Only human, and short on experience ruling. How could she possibly get them out of this? What could be done? Who could save them?

Padmé drew herself up a little taller, remaining the image of purposeful calm. "We will stand down and we will do as they wish within reason. I refuse to sign the death certificates of my people, or retaliate and cause a war. There are too many of them and too few of us. We wouldn't survive. The Trade Federation…" her face flickered with emotion, "knew exactly what they were doing when they chose us." There was a heartbrokenness to her that hurt to watch.

Panaka nodded once, hard to read. "Very well, Your Highness. It seems we have no other choice."

That's when there was a soft sob from Zana. All eyes went to the child in the room, and no doubt everyone immediately thought of the rest of the children of Naboo. Sabé felt that sob on a heart level and, unable to move, held an urgent hand out. Zana ran to her, clutching Sabé's entire arm and glueing herself into her sister's side. Sabé gripped back, crushingly hard, her chest tight with pain. Eirtaé had snapped out of her frozen state and was now fastening the back of her dress as Rabé was opening the royal makeup and quickly organizing the components. It was all happening so fast. And then Zana made the connection. "Why are they making you look like the Queen?" she asked in a stricken whisper.

Sabé's face was contorting with distress as she tried to think of how to explain. She hadn't told Zana about this of course. It was top level clearance only, a highly classified secret safety precaution that Panaka had come up with. The Switch. Only handmaidens and the guards in this room knew about it. And while Sabé hadn't put the possibility of someday at some point seeing The Switch happen… she hadn't imagined it would be this soon or feel this life-or-death. A somber thought was settling in her bones: I might not come back from this. The enormity of the situation was becoming more real with every passing heartbeat. It was enough to make her instincts buck wildly, telling her to run and hide, save herself. But that wasn't who she was committed to being. It was now the moment to step up… and so Sabé stepped up. She pushed her panic and terror down—they would do nothing but make her sloppy. She drew her resolve and strength and turned her back on the fears. Brushing her hand against Zana's cheek, she forced a bittersweet smile. "It's to protect the true Queen in dire circumstances. Like this one." Her sister's eyebrows worked oddly as she tried to understand. Sabé was very gentle. "I agreed to this Zana. I've trained for it."

Zana's tearstreaked face registered a quick catalogue of emotions. Surprise, fear, confusion, mild betrayal. "But if people think you're the Queen… you could get hurt!" she protested as if that would change Sabé's mind.

Such an innocent statement. Such a true reality. It put a hard-to-swallow lump in her throat. "Yes. I know." Risking things a bit, Sabé knelt down despite the cumbersome dress. Her hood wasn't up and makeup wasn't applied yet, so she still looked like herself. Felt like herself. She grasped her sister on either arm, trying to think what to say in case this was a last goodbye. "I have to do this. It's my job." Her voice broke despite her best attempts. "Promise me you'll always be brave."

Zana crumpled and hugged Sabé hard. She was shaking her head no. "I don't know how without you," she whispered fiercely, holding back sobs valiantly. The sound of machines coming closer was becoming louder and louder. The sisters drew apart and there were no right words to say. Only a tear rolling down Sabé's cheek despite her best efforts.

Nearby, Panaka was relaying the Queen's command over his comm to anyone who could hear the message: Stand down. No resistance. Do not fight. Just beside her, Padmé placed a gentle but urgent hand onto her decoy's shoulder. "Sabé, I'm so sorry, but we don't have much time."

Sabé nodded and cleared her throat, wiping her cheek roughly and hugging Zana again before standing to receive the royal makeup. She didn't let go of her sister's little hand, but instead looked over at the Captain, an unspoken plea in her eyes. He hesitated, then nodded so faintly it could be missed.

"Gregar," Panaka said sharply, calling over one of the security officers. His nephew. A friend of Sabé's. "Take care of little Zana," Panaka directed, much more gently. Gregar nodded stiffly—he was clearly afraid too. "I want you to take her, plus Yané and Saché and Officer Ludo with you into the crypts and hide there. Stay together, wait for word from us. And do not lose hope." He gripped his nephew's forearm hard and Gregar nodded intensely, gripping back.

"Yes Captain."

Rabé was now applying the royal white powder onto Sabé's face with incredible swiftness. Sabé closed her eyes, feeling the brush flutter over her cheeks, eyelids, forehead, jaw. She squeezed Zana's hand hard, three times. I love you. Zana squeezed back three times to answer. Their special little tradition. Papa had taught them that. Eirtaé carefully placed the amulet and its chain across Sabé's now snow-white forehead as Rabé dotted one bloodred circle onto either cheek. Sabé felt Zana's hand slip out of hers and opened her eyes. Gregar had collected Zana with a kind smile and a hand on her back to guide her steps. They knew each other, since Sabé and Gregar had both been in training together for years now, and Sabé was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. If she couldn't be the one to watch over her sister, her second choice would be Gregs. The group of them: Gregar, Zana, Yané and Saché, plus Ludo began to move out—Zana looking back anxiously even as she was escorted away, into a secret passage that was behind an elegant, floorlength watercolor painting of the goddess of peace, Lailana.

Even as her sister disappeared—will I see her again?—Sabé felt the lipstick being applied. A full upper red lip and a single splitting red line down the center of the bottom lip. The scar of remembrance. Even as it went on, Eirtaé was tugging up the hood of the dress to hide everything except Sabé's face—and then Padmé herself put the grand feather headpiece in for her. Over Rabé's shoulder, Sabé caught sight of herself in the full length gilded mirror and was startled. She no longer saw herself there, but Queen Amidala. Everyone seemed to see it at the same time: how incredibly uncanny the resemblance was. How flawlessly a handmaiden had become the queen and a queen had become handmaiden. Padmé drifted to stand beside her decoy, joining her in looking at their reflection in silent awe.

The Queen shook her head ever so shallowly. "You look so much like me…" She turned and looked at Sabé directly, grasping both of her hands earnestly, visibly searching for words. Their time together preparing for this had never felt so critical. The late nights practicing her Queen voice, mannerisms, etiquette. It had been work, but it had also been friendship. Padmé's soft brown eyes were full of emotion. "I never thought it would actually come to this, Sabé." It almost seemed like an apology or a regret.

Sabé stood a little taller and returned Padmé's sad gaze with strong eye contact, feeling a new pressure to hold everything together and keep up the group's morale. Perhaps the disguise of royal clothing and makeup gave her strength—she felt invincible in that moment somehow. "I'm ready, Milady." And it was true. There was nothing left but to be ready. She had trained for this and more, and would meet any challenge the way she knew best: with everything she had.

A soft, bittersweet smile from the Queen. "I know you are."

The newly elected monarch, four years Sabé's junior, seemed so superhuman in some moments: when addressing her people, when meeting with lawmakers, when investigating the issues her people brought to her. But in this moment, she was just Padmé. "Are you ready?" Sabé asked softly. A question from one friend to another. Because that's what they had become, and Sabé could sense her Queen's unrest.

Padmé's eyes seemed to glisten faintly. "All I know is I'm so glad that you're by my side right now." She looked over to Rabé and Eirtaé. "All of you." She then drew a deep breath and put her hood up wordlessly, finalizing the transformation. She beckoned Rabé and Eirtaé over and the four of them huddled close in an unplanned group embrace. "Shall we pray?" Padmé asked gently, and there was a murmur of approval from Rabé and Eirtaé. Sabé, not one for religion, respected the request by remaining huddled in and holding hands as Padmé whispered pleas for safety, wisdom, and solution to several Naboo deities. Sabé glanced over at Panaka who stood with an anxious hold to his posture and darting eyes nervously flickering between the praying women and the windows looking out over the city. The sound of marching, metallic in nature, was very close now. As soon as Padmé closed her prayer with, "and so we plead," Panaka seized the opportunity.

"Ladies, we should go to the throne room and prepare to receive company. I can see them on the street now."

Sabé's heart lurched with nerves but she complied, leading the way as the Queen would. The handmaidens and guards followed. At the doorway, Panaka stopped Sabé with a hand on her shoulder. He said nothing, but his grim gaze and the touch conveyed many things: trust, sorrow, encouragement, empathy, worry. Sabé gave him a firm nod, betraying nothing else away other than that she was there with him in this. They had been through a lot in her six years under his command. He was almost family at this point. Albeit the sour, nitpicking uncle that wasn't much fun to be around most of the time… but family all the same. He had seen her from a scrappy new recruit to an accomplished and capable guard, then recommended her and encouraged her to apply for the position of royal handmaiden. He probably thought of her as family too—the stubborn, sometimes reckless, often outspoken niece he'd rather someone else have to deal with… but family all the same.

On the way to the throne room, Padmé and Sabé convened briefly, with Padmé giving her lowly and quickly spoken instructions on how to approach this situation. They had to stall, and hope the Senate and their Ambassadors would intervene. Padmé wanted Sabé to be cooperative in the moment, but under no circumstances was she to give in to any demands that would escalate or change the situation. Say as little as possible, be vague, be lofty.

They all entered into the throne room quietly where Governor Sio Bibble waited, as well as a few other dignitaries in their usual seats. An emotional and reactionary man, Bibble was the first one who would unknowingly talk to the decoy queen. This was the first and perhaps greatest test, since he was so familiar and worked so closely with Amidala on a daily basis.

"This is unconscionable!" he cried, jumping to his feet as they entered the throne room. He immediately made a beeline for Sabé. "The Federation has gone too far! Queen Amidala, what is your plan of action?" Behind him, the dignitaries hung on every word, anxiety apparent in the way they sat in their seats.

Sabé held his gaze, feeling her pulse quick underneath the veil of her skin. So far, he hadn't seemed to notice anything different. This was the moment of truth. Sabé used her carefully practiced Queen's voice to reply to him: a deep, smooth monotone that was accented lightly. "We will stand down, Governor. Peacefully, as to not make the situation worse."

"But Your Highness—!" he protested, even as Sabé made to move past him.

"The entire planet hangs in the balance, Governor," she said firmly, keeping her stride at a queenly speed as Padmé always did. She was pleased and relieved and yet still so overwrought that she could collapse—all at the same time. He didn't suspect a thing, but she had to remain careful not to do anything to give it away. To him or anyone else. "It truly breaks my heart, but for the safety of everyone, we have no other option but to surrender."

Bibble said nothing else and hung back with a hopeless expression. The other dignitaries exchanged glances and then left, like leaves blowing in the wind. No doubt to try and make it to their families. Or hide. But Bibble remained. He may have been exasperating at times, but he was a true loyalist. And for that, Sabé respected him. Liked him, no not really. But respected yes.

She contemplated the throne as she arrived to it for a few heartbeats, the reality sinking in of all the horrifying unknowns ahead. So be it. What will happen will happen. And then with all the grace and dignity she had always seen Padmé sit with, she took her seat in the throne for the first time, and placed a graceful hand on either side of it. A brief moment of awe overcame her. Mama if you could see your daughter now. Bibble silently went back to his seat, and there he sat with his hands clasped in prayer or anxiousness. Maybe both. The handmaidens took positions on either side of Sabé, with Padmé stationing herself at a column a few feet removed. Panaka stood opposite of Padmé and clasped his hands behind himself. He and Sabé exchanged the briefest of glances: The Switch was working. A small relief in a dark situation.

And there they waited, in tense silence. There was little else but the sound of approaching marching. Then one, two, three blaster rounds. A scream. Did someone just get shot? Sabé glanced at Padmé, who flanked her to the far left. She had her jaw clenched and her eyes were full of unshed tears.

"Federation forces are inside the palace," came a breathless, low-res voice over Panaka's comm.

"Stand down, do as they say," Panaka replied, obviously hating every word he uttered.

Sabé felt her breathing quicken as adrenaline nauseated her. She stayed stock still, willing herself to be calmer by breathing slowly and intentionally. Panaka looked sick too. Rabé and Eirtaé, faces obscured by hoods, were still visibly frightened by the quick rise and fall of their chests. The way Eirtaé's fingers worked at her sides. Padmé raised her chin a bit… maybe trying to make herself feel braver.

They all listened to the sound of many approaching footsteps now on palace floors, the terrified anticipation causing the spacious ballroom-sized space to feel claustrophobic and cagelike. A moment later, the large throne room door whooshed open to reveal a group of bone-beige spindly droids, blasters clutched at their chests. The leader, designated by a rust red color across its chest and parts of its head, addressed the guards as they came in in a metallic growl. "Lay down your weapons."

Panaka and the other officers did as they were told, even as the droids moved in to encircle them all. Two Neimoidians brought up the rear: Nute Gunray with Rune Haako trailing closely behind. Gunray, Viceroy of the Federation, sauntered in with pride, while Haako's gait and posture was more a simpering, cowering limp. Gunray came to stand in the center of the room directly opposite of Sabé, his drooping, reptilian face and large soulless bug eyes made it difficult not to leap out of her seat and destroy him then and there. Anger ate her alive inside as she thought of how many ways she could kill him where he stood. "Ah, Your Highness," he greeted smugly.

Sabé stood up calmly, putting steel into her voice and leaving emotion off of her face. "Viceroy. What is the meaning of this invasion?"

"I regret to inform you our negotiations are over, and you are our prisoner until further notice," he said, stepping aside and motioning for the exit. "Come with us."

She knew the directive. Comply. Sabé took a beat to stare into his eyes icily, then did as he said, hearing the rest of the small group fall into step behind her. Bibble came to her side and they exited the throne room, droids on all sides of them as they began to descend the grand staircase.

"How will you explain this invasion to the Senate?" Bibble demanded.

"The Queen and I will sign a treaty to legitimize our operation here," Gunray purred. "I have assurances it will be ratified by the Senate."

Sabé's entire body went cold. Would Padmé would remain silent or correct this slime-ridden scum? She went with her instinct and made sure her voice was strong and acidic. "I will sign no treaty."

The Viceroy was unaffected, perhaps even amused. "Now now, Your Highness. In time, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view." A threat that she clenched her teeth and hands at. They stopped at the foot of the staircase, where the Neimoidian addressed a new group of droids that waited there. "Commander."

The reply came in a robotic, tinny voice. "Yes sir."

"Process them."

The droid nodded to another one. "Captain, take them to camp four."

"Roger roger."

Camp Four. So they were establishing camps already and taking prisoners of war. This invasion was well planned and executed, not a last minute decision or a desperate gamble. More rage burned inside Sabé, as well as helplessness. Desperate, ridiculous, disconnected thoughts of what they should have done to better prepare for this filled her mind as they went with the new group of droids. Through the familiar interior of the royal palace they went, across gleaming floors down hallways with ceilings so tall that twenty men stacking straight up wouldn't be close to touching the top. Sabé vaguely remembered walking these hallways not even two hours ago with no idea of what laid ahead. With a false sense of security. Now everything familiar seemed tainted and unsafe, ruined by these monsters.

The grand entrance of the palace was eerily devoid of the guard—a sight Sabé had never seen in her time here. She had stood guard in this exact place many days over the years herself. The droids led them out of the palace and the bright sunlight that they walked out into was offensive somehow. As they descended the grand staircase outside, they could see other groups of citizens being rounded up and herded like cattle in the regal plaza. It was then she realized: They're parading us like this to let people see their Queen captured. More anger churned in her gut, and Sabé made herself put it aside. She wondered where Zana was, and hoped so badly that she and the rest had made it to the crypts. Droids wouldn't have much luck navigating around down there—it was the safest place to hide.

When they reached ground level, they walked at a brisk pace, almost marching, exiting the wide expanse of the palace plaza for smaller streets. These were mostly private residences—and they passed by a few other droid squadrons that were extracting citizens from their homes… citizens who saw their Queen being marched away by the enemy and visibly became distraught at the sight. They kept going, toward the riverside district, and soon saw no more people or droids. What camp could they have already established? What would happen once they were there? The decoy queen had a very bad feeling about this.

They turned a corner and went down an even smaller street that was completely quiet. Then, out of nowhere, two figures robed in brown dropped from an overhead bridgeway—even as everyone droid and human alike came to a startled halt, two swords of brilliant crackling light blazed into existence and the two men who wielded them attacked, cutting droids to pieces in a matter of seconds and sending some flying without even touching them. And then it was over. Sabé stared breathlessly at the droid remains at her feet, adrenaline rushing and mouth dropped softly open. One second the group had been surrounded by these metallic captors and the next, pieces of twisted, burnt metal laid around them harmlessly. She looked back up, momentarily caught off guard, and found herself face to face with a young man with short brown hair and piercing blue eyes. He had just twirled his weapon artfully for no perceivable reason at all, and his gaze locked with hers. She didn't miss the curious way he looked at her face, and she was sure she looked the same way at him. His small side braid, his weapon, the recognizable robes covering a very distinct tunic she'd seen only in photos and videos. Revelation hit her like a tsunami as she stared back at him: these were Jedi Knights.

"We should leave the street, Your Highness," said someone else, and Sabé remembered the other stranger—he was motioning for them all to break right. Panaka and the guards grabbed weapons and Bibble's hand touched Sabé's shoulder as he guided her toward a sideway—essentially an alleyway that ran adjacent to roads and was sheltered from view in many places.

In a daze, Sabé walked but didn't feel her legs. The group got out of sight from the street and the other Jedi spoke, establishing himself as the leader. "I'm Qui-Gon Jinn and this is my apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said. Qui-Gon was a tall, solidly built man who appeared to be in his late forties. He had long hair that was half pulled back, and an intense but calm energy about him. "We're ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor."

These were the ambassadors? Surprised, Sabé looked sideways briefly, stealing another appraising glance at the other Jedi—Obi-Wan. It was like he sensed her gaze, because his eyes slid to hers. She quickly looked away.

"Your negotiations seem to have failed, Ambassador," Bibble retorted.

"The negotiations never took place," Qui-Gon replied readily, to which Sabé felt a chill. "It's urgent that we make contact with the Republic."

Panaka stepped forward a bit. "They've knocked out all our communications."

"Do you have transports?"

"In the main hangar." Panaka took initiative, and shouldered past. "This way." Thankfully they were close to the hangar and the small group was able to steal through sideways and streets without being spotted. They had to hide and wait for a couple of squads of droids to pass a couple of times, and during each instance, Sabé tried not to gawk or look at the Jedi, especially the younger one. She had never seen or met one in person, only heard stories and varying opinions about them from others. He caught her looking at him every time.

When they got to the hangar bay, a quick glance into a side entrance revealed groups of pilots being held by at least twenty droids if not more. Panaka shook his head, already giving up. "There are too many of them."

Qui-Gon didn't seem to agree. "Won't be a problem." He turned to look directly across Obi-Wan and at Sabé for the first time. "Your Highness, under the circumstances, I suggest you and your party come to Coruscant with us."

He was suggesting that she flee the planet… an option that hadn't crossed her mind until now. It was hard to know exactly what Padmé would say and do in this situation, but Sabé didn't think leaving was an in character choice for Queen Amidala. "Thank you, Ambassador. But my place is with my people."

Qui-Gon was eerily, calmly convinced of his next statement. "They will kill you if you stay."

Words that shocked and admittedly scared her. Next to her, Sabé felt Obi-Wan shift to look at her, and she looked back at him, not sure what she was searching for but needing to find it regardless. Can we trust you? His energy wasn't immediately apparent like Qui-Gon's was.

"They wouldn't dare kill the queen," Sio Bibble was saying, sounding offended by the idea.

"They need her to sign a treaty to make this invasion of theirs legal," Panaka added. "They can't afford to kill her."

Qui-Gon addressed Sabé again, gentle yet urgent. "There is something else behind all this Your Highness, there's no logic in the Federation's actions here." She agreed immediately, and listened to him intently. "They attempted to kill the two of us when we arrived to negotiate—do not make the mistake of underestimating how far these treacherous leeches will go."

Attempted murder? Sabé received this news with shock and a surge of realization that they were being woefully naive about the Trade Federation's true character and intentions.

"Gods alive," Bibble breathed across from her, then fixed Sabé with a pleading look. "In that case, our only hope is for the Senate to side with us and intervene. Senator Palpatine will be able to help us, I'm sure of it. Go there and tell him what's happened here—I'll remain here and do what I can."

Everyone was now looking at her, and Sabé felt the pressure weighing on her with a slight panic. Making it past the blockade will be a deathwish. Staying here might get us all killed too. If we leave, are we abandoning our people? Will the Senate even be able to help us? I can't make this decision. How do I get Padmé's input?! Sabé took a long couple of seconds, then realized she knew exactly how. "Leaving will present great danger." She turned her head toward Padmé. "To us all."

Padmé turned her head toward her and answered in kind, telling Sabé everything she needed to know. "We are brave, Your Highness."

"If we are to leave, Your Highness, it must be now," Qui-Gon said.

Sabé glanced again at Obi-Wan who had not yet said a word or given much away about himself. She was both suspicious and intrigued by these Jedi, and knew better than to think she had a solid read on Qui-Gon yet. But as she searched Obi-Wan's eyes for the briefest of seconds, something in her heart of hearts and the most trusted place in her gut said to trust them. It was their only hope. So Sabé let her gaze go to Qui-Gon's. She set her jaw and let the metaphorical hammer swing. "Then I will plead our case to the Senate." Qui-Gon nodded, and without a wasted second, began to go into the hangar, motioning for everyone else to follow. Sabé grasped Sio Bibble's hand briefly as she and the rest of the entourage made to follow. "Be careful Governor."

"Go with peace and swiftness, Milady," he murmured, worry written on his features.

"So we plead," Sabé replied, already brushing past in a whisper of feathered gown into the hangar bay. Close by her, Obi-Wan fell into stride protectively, and even though she had no idea what his master was planning or doing, she felt a twinge of hope for the first time since receiving word of the invasion.

Author's Notes: Welcome to chapter one! Please leave your thoughts or say hi in a review :) Zana's faceclaim (while child/teenaged) is Hattie Gotobed, and her name is pronounced Zah-nah, just FYI! Can't wait to dive into the story. Expect chapter 2 sometime in February hopefully sooner rather than later.