AN: Well I'm not technically late on this; however, this length of time is not going to make my goal any easier. Personally I blame SWTOR for my tardiness, though I assure you it had no influence on the content of the story, so Read and Review.
Ah, Good Old Artoo…
As Obi-Wan returned to the cockpit, a barrage of laser cannon fire began flying at the ship. Ben was redirecting the blasts that were absolutely necessary, but even still the explosions that made contact with the cruiser managed to push it off course. "We should abort, sir!" the pilot shouted back at Qui-Gon who was braced next to him, "Our deflector shields can't withstand much more of this!"
"Stay on course." The Master ordered calmly.
"Are there any cloaking devices on board?" Obi-Wan questioned searching for an answer.
"This is not a warship!" Captain Panaka snapped, looking angry and betrayed, "We have no weapons, Ambassador! We're a nonviolent people, which is why the Trade Federation was brave enough to attack us in the first place!"
Obi-Wan turned to Ben anxiously, "Master Antilles, I've seen you cast force illusions before, surely you could cloak the ship, or create false reinforcements, or something!"
"Padewan Kenobi, illusionary techniques have some basis within the mind of those who are targeted by them, so the droid brains of are targets would be less susceptible to such tricks. I could potentially modify the technique to make them more susceptible; however, given the rarity of such a technique's usage the effectiveness on both parties would be suspect." Ben responded maintaining his meditation.
"Meaning?" Obi-Wan asked hurriedly.
"Meaning it might not work and would completely wipe me out. Especially, while I'm already redirecting enough of the enemies fire to keep us relatively safe. Now if you will excuse me I would like to get back to focusing on said redirections." Ben finished before sinking more deeply into his meditation.
Just before he returned to his meditative state a series of explosions, that caused the lights on the control panel to flicker weakly, jarred the ship. Alarms sounded shrilly as the power drive stalled momentarily.
"No, weapons," Qui-Gon grunted agitatedly before leaning in to speak to Ric Olie again, "The Trade Federation uses pulse tracking for its weapons. Spin the ship; it will make it more difficult for them to get a reading on us."
Ric nodded as he began to maneuver the ship in tight rolls while approaching the battleship. As the Nubian shot across the surface of the enemy ship a laser bolt slammed into them causing sparks and smoke to erupt from a panel. For a moment the ship began to tumble out of control, before Ric managed to pull back on the throttle bringing the ship back under control.
"Something's wrong," Ric announced, and after a minute of investigation elaborated further, "shields are down!" They continued spinning to avoid shots from the battleship, and they were now so close that most of the ships cannons could not be brought to bear, but with the shields down even a glancing hit would end their little trip. Ben redoubled his efforts now making sure no bolt touched the ship.
"Sending out the repair droids!" Ric shouted flipping a lever.
The viewscreen displayed an airlock spitting out astromech droids whom immediately began moving towards the damaged area of the ship. Ben could not help, but smile at the familiar blue and white markings of the droid that he could feel was, clearly Artoo-Detoo.
Ric continued to hug the battleship in avoidance of its larger cannons; however, this brought about a change of tactics for the Federation as they began launching Vulture droids to deal with the evading cruiser. The droids were on them in no time, and between the ship and the fighters, a few bolts escaped Ben's notice to slip through and eliminate two of the astromech droids.
Seeing the situation, Obi-Wan acted on impulse and gripped the pieces of the destroyed droids with The Force, sending them hurtling toward the oncoming fighters, getting lucky enough to actually send a sizable chunk into the droid brain of the fighter. That particular droid began drifting dead in space, and Obi-Wan, feeling a new sense of capability, ripped the fighter to pieces which he then added to his barrage against the other enemy fighters.
Artoo-Detoo worked furiously connecting wires that had been left exposed, even as laser fire continued flying in all directions surrounding it, and its partner being blasted away. Still it pressed onwards working constantly. Unfortunately, Obi-Wan's debris was slowly being blasted away by the Vultures, who had discovered the distraction and were working to get around it. It was not long before Obi-Wan was out of debris and the only protection offered to Artoo was Ben's Ayna-seff technique, and the little droids own amazing luck.
It did not take long before a change occurred on the cockpit display and Ric shouted, "The shields are up! That little droid did it!" He jammed the thrusters all the way forward, and the transport rocketed away, leaving all of the Federation's attempts at stopping far behind, along with the Naboo.
Artoo returned to the airlock and re-entered the ship. Once they were far from any further danger Ric began scanning the controls preparing a damage report, with the assistance of Obi-Wan, as Ben came out of his meditative state taking a deep breath to relax. Qui-Gon and Panaka stood in the back of the cockpit waiting on said report, while the Queen and the others had been secured in another chamber.
Ric shook his head doubtfully, "We can't go far, the hyperdrive is leaking."
"We'll have to land somewhere to make repairs." Obi-Wan agreed.
"What's out there?" Qui-Gon questioned.
Ric punched in a star chart, and the four of them hunched over studying it, while Ben remained in his seat continuing to relax. "Here, this should do," Obi-Wan said to the others, pointing to a small planet covered in shades of yellows and browns, "Tatooine, it's small, poor, and out of the way. It attracts little attention. The Trade Federation has no presence there."
"How can you be sure?" Captain Panaka asked quietly.
Qui-Gon glanced at him, "It's controlled by the Hutts."
Panaka started in alarm, "The Hutts?"
"It's risky, but there's no reasonable alternative." Obi-Wan attempted to placate.
Panaka was not convinced, "You can't take there Royal Highness there! The Hutts are gangsters and slavers! If the discovered who she was-"
"It would be no different than if we landed on a planet in a system controlled by the Trade Federation," Qui-Gon interrupted, "except the Hutts aren't looking for the Queen, which gives us the advantage."
At this comment Ben spoke up gathering the attention of the others, "Actually, Master Jinn, this situation would be very different. For one the Hutts are still an open organization that, if the situation were to call for it, could be convinced to assist us whereas the Federation is already under the control of another. Secondly, I have contacts amongst the Hutts and enough experience with them that we will surely be safe, especially with Jabba himself. As for Tatooine, while it has been some time since I've returned it was once my home, I know the place better than I know my right hand. We will have a massive advantage over the Trade Federation or anyone they might send after us to collect the Queen while we are on the planet. I assure you Captain Tatooine may very well be the safest place for us to be at the moment."
The security head took this into consideration, before nodding his head at the old master's experience. With Panaka's nod of approval, Obi-Wan tapped Ric on the shoulder, as he had moved back to the controls of the craft, and said, "Set course for Tatooine."
The Jedi stood with Captain Panaka and Artoo as the captain gave his report on the events surrounding their escape of Naboo. Amidala sat surrounded by her handmaidens, white face framed by a black headdress, dark eyes steady, as she listened as the captain concluded.
"We are lucky to have this one in our service, Your Highness. It is an extremely well put together little droid. Without a doubt, it saved our ship back there, not to mention our lives." Panaka said glancing down at the astromech occasionally throughout the speech.
Amidala nodded, eyes shifting to the droid, "It is to be commended. What is its operating number?"
As Artoo processed the conversation it gave a series of small beeps and tweets that Ben recognized as a reflection of Artoo's pleasure at such high praise. Captain Panaka scraped some smudge off Artoo's dome before straightening, "Artoo-Detoo, Your Highness."
Queen Amidala reached forward to touch Artoo's domed casing, "Thank you, Artoo-Detoo. You have proven both loyal and brave." She glanced over her shoulder, "Padme." Ben watched as the true Queen stepped forward, as he knew it was really Padme who commanded the respect and authority of her people, to present herself before her "Queen."
"See to the cleaning of this little droid, Artoo-Detoo deserves our gratitude." The Queen told her before turning back to Panaka, "Please continue with your report Captain."
Panaka glanced uncomfortably at the Jedi Knights before nodding at the Queen and continuing, "Your Highness we are headed to a remote planet called Tatooine." He paused, to think on what he would say further.
Before he could continue Obi-Wan took over, "It is a system far beyond Federation presence, and is an easy place for one to get lost within the crowd. It is also home to junk dealers and scavengers from whom he may find the parts we need to repair the ship. Once the repairs are completed we will be able to continue on to Coruscant with little difficulty."
"Your Highness," Panaka said finally making his decision on the matter, "Tatooine is very dangerous. It's controlled by the Hutts. The Hutts are gangsters and slavers. I do not entirely agree with the Jedi on their decision to land there even if they believe they can control the situation."
The Queen looked at Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon stepped forward unwaveringly, "You must trust our judgment Your Highness."
"Must I?" Amidala asked quickly.
Before she could shift Ben stepped forward, "The Hutts are a trivial matter your majesty. They will not think anything of a random ship landing on their planet, especially when so many others already come to such places in an attempt to get lost. If they did take an interest in the situation they would not be prepared to deal with Jedi. Both points are moot, however, as if worse comes to worse I have dealt with many Hutts before, including Jabba the ruler of Tatooine, though he lacks any knowledge of it. If I must I will deal with them again."
During the elaboration Amidala had managed to find Padme again, even though they both seemed intrigued by the amount of control over the situation that the Jedi was eluding too. She nodded briefly before turning back to Artoo and leading him out of the chamber. Ben wanted to follow, but after his most recent monologue he had brought to much attention to himself, and so remained to see the end of the discussion, which he was sure would be very soon.
Amidala looked back to the three Jedi, "We are in your hands," she relented, and the matter was settled leaving Ben to excuse himself. He followed Padme, and came upon the young girl conversing with Jar Jar while pouring some oil on Artoo from a can Jar Jar had just brought her. He watched from the shadows as the two introduced each other and then began discussing how Jar Jar came to join their party, but did not join them. He felt he needn't interject.
Ben returned to the cabin that the Jedi had taken for their quarters. As he sat on his bunk he withdrew his lightsaber and ignited its emerald blade. It had been ages since he had faced an opponent, or combination of opponents, that was strong enough to warrant his usage of his lightsaber, and it would probably be a few years longer still until he would need it. He knew Palpatine's Zabrak apprentice was not strong enough, nor was Dooku at present though if he would be in ten years, while doubtful, was still unknown. It was only on a whim that he had used it against that single destroyer droid. He began to contemplate on who the last opponent to face him in a lightsaber duel was. There was Malgus during the sacking of Coruscant oh so long ago after he had killed Master Zallow. Did he use it against Bane when they met? The years and the battles always blurred together when he stopped to think about them. All he really remembered was his refusal to slay either of the two Sith Lords along with a laundry list of the galaxy's worst villains since his encounter with Revan on the Endar Spire. From Malak and Nihilus to Angral and more recently up to Plagueis.
Maybe if he had stopped Malak the Jedi Civil war could've ended sooner. He could've saved Meertra if he'd have stopped Kreia and her triumvirate sooner. He probably could've stopped the Galactic cold war if he had just brought this blade across the throat of Malgus and pursued Angral. Then he would have had no need for leaving on his third exile after the battle. No, he knew his actions were necessary. He had assured himself of that conclusion before he returned to help Hoth. There was no point in dwelling on it now, not so many years after the fact. It was not his place to be the downfall of those Sith. For all of the lives it would've saved, who's to say it wouldn't have ended more, not to mention the effects it could've had on the situation today. If he had killed Bane would there have been Plagueis? And if Plagueis had never lived would his father? And without his father what would happen to the people on board this ship not to mention himself. He felt selfish thinking along those lines, but then he was not the only one who needed his father.
No it was for the best that this blade had allowed mercy to so many of its opponents. Back to the blade. It always felt interesting returning to the planet where he had forged this tool. The feeling had listened since he left the crystal back on Dantooine, but it was still there. Almost as if it was calling to its home even now when, for all intents and purposes it had yet to even be constructed. Ben snorted at the oddity of his musings, though he supposed he should blame his studies with the Kiffar for the feelings he got from his lightsaber.
He withdrew the blade of the lightsaber and returned it to his belt before dropping to a cross legged position so he could begin meditating. He knew if he continued dwelling on the past he would be brought back to Rakata prime, and then the Endar Spire, and then to Dagoba, and how he had not aged a day since. The past was best left in the past.
Ben felt as the cruiser touched down on the sandy surface of Tatooine, but more clearly he could feel the presence of his father. His presence, even untrained, radiated more clearly than the force nexus off in the Dune Sea. He rose and, after dressing in clothes not very different from those he had worn working his uncle's moisture farm, began walking in the direction that he felt the other Jedi.
He found them standing with Jar Jar and Artoo in the main cabin examining the hyperdrive. He approached Obi-Wan even though he felt that Qui-Gon had already made a decision in this regard. He wanted to remind Qui-Gon again who was supposed to be in charge of the mission even though it was so far out of the mission's original parameters, "Obi-Wan, have you decided what who will go into town?"
Obi-Wan turned to Ben and looked a little shocked at the question before seemingly remembering his position as leader. With his lack of preparation for the question, originally having simply resigned himself to Qui-Gon's decision, he felt the only way to answer would be after first consulting the force. So after quickly feeling out the situation in the flow of the Force he responded, "I feel that my test will come here on this ship, rather than out there in the spaceport. As such I feel that as the both of you are more prepared for this situation with your experience, it should be you who go into town to get the parts we need, along with Jar Jar and the droid to remain a little less conspicuous."
Ben smiled at the answer before turning to the other master as he through on a poncho, "Shall we?"
Qui-Gon, who had just finished getting the damage report from Obi-Wan, nodded his head, "After you." And they gathered the droids and left the ship.
As they reached the desert sands Jar Jar glanced skyward, a grimace on his billed face, "Dis sun gonna do murder ta da skin of dis Gungan," he muttered. They began to make their way toward the city of Mos Espa, Jar Jar continuing to mutter in irritation.
Before they could get far a shout from the cruiser brought their attention back to it as Padme and Panaka came running from it towards them. The group stopped and waited for the two to catch up, and as they got closer it became clearer the difference in Padme's clothing, which interestingly enough had gone from resembling a servant to royalty to a simple peasant on the street.
By the time they reached the group Panaka and Padme were sweating from the run, "Her Highness commands you to take her handmaiden with you. She wishes for Padme to give her own report of what you might-"
"No more commands from Her Highness today, Captain," Qui-Gon interrupted quickly, shaking his head in refusal, "Mos Espa is not going to be a pleasant place for-"
"The Queen wishes it," Panaka interrupted him right back, his face angry and set, "She is emphatic. She wishes to know more about this planet."
The girl took a step forward. Her dark eyes found Qui-Gon's, "I've been trained in self-defense. I speak a number of languages. I am not afraid. I can take care of myself."
Panaka sighed, looking over his shoulder toward the ship, "Don't make me go back and tell her you refuse."
Ben spoke up this time, "I believe it's a wonderful idea. You should let the young lady come Qui-Gon, it will be a marvelous eye opening experience."
Qui-Gon glared at his colleague, "This is not a field trip." He said sternly.
"Perhaps, however one should always take every opportunity to learn from the universe around them, and besides between the two of us, and this little droid here, she will surely be safe." Ben responded, almost with a hint of amusement.
Qui-Gon felt like throwing his hands up in defeat, his fellow master had never been so insufferable as he had on this mission, the only thing stopping him was the thought of maintaining his Jedi composure, "Fine, I give up! She can come with us! But you're watching her." He said pointing at Ben, before turning back around and continuing to the city.
Padme began following as she spoke up in a tone of indignation, "I am not a little kid!"
Qui-Gon refused to respond as he strode forward. Ben walked up beside her, "Comparatively, you are. C'mon lets go." He said before accelerating in approach of Qui-Gon's pace the other three moving to follow, leaving Captain Panaka behind watching with a mix of relief and worry on his face as he watched them walk away.