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Nov 27, 2022 2:43 AM
One obstacle stands between Kina Skywalker and freedom: The Boonta Eve Classic. Also Darth Maul.
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Obi-Wan is already on the ship by the time Kina finishes talking, but Qui-Gon trips while gasping for breath, and lands on the entry ramp. He manages to push himself up, and finds himself at the feet of the Queen Amidala.

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Technically, this is not Queen Amidala, but for the moment, this is the role the decoy must play. "Master Jedi," she says, smoothly. "Do you need medical attention?"

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"That might be best," pants Qui-Gon. "I may have broken a rib. Or two. The girl's with us - and she's right, we should leave, now." He climbs up into the ship, leaning on the Queen no matter how undignified it might be, and arrives in the medical bay, next to Obi-Wan.

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Kina gives the person who looks like a Queen a strange look, but not an unpleasant one, more bemused than anything, as she follows Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to the medbay, before shooting off one parting comment.  "Artoo, see if the speeder can tell you anything?  I bet he was smart enough to turn off explicit tracking, but you can reconstruct where he's been from the engine and gyro data in the black box.  And that speeder definitely just crashed, so the data just dumped, so if he came straight here from wherever he had set up, we might be able to tell where his ship is.  Doesn't look like he was dressed for the weather."

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Sabe is somewhat confused by Kina, but she doesn't let it show, marching into the cockpit. "Mr. Olie, enter orbit. Captain Panaka, accompany the astromech to the hyperdrive; the moment the installation is finished, I want this speeder analyzed for origin, as well as this Zabrak. And Padmé," she says, thankful to see her, "do you have anything to say?"

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"I think the Jedi have something to report to you, milady," says Padmé. "Master Jinn is still recovering, but Padawan Kenobi appears to be in good enough condition to speak to us. He seemed to only want to tell this to the Queen."

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"Of course," says Sabe. "Accompany me to my quarters first."

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When the Queen enters the medical bay several minutes, she is now the real Queen, though Obi-Wan notices nothing different. "Master Jedi," she says, noticing his bandaged arm. "Forgive me if this is a difficult time, but I must know who that was that attacked us."

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"I didn't recognize him," says Obi-Wan. "However, based on the lightsaber with the red blade, Master Qui-Gon seems to be of the opinion that he is a Sith Lord. A figure out of legend, a member of the Dark Jedi. I... doubt this theory."

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"And what of the children? Padmé told me that there was a girl who might become a Jedi, but we now have nearly a dozen of them."

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"I don't know much more than you," replies Obi-Wan. "If anyone knows, it would be the girl herself."

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Padmé would prefer not to get too close to Kina as the Queen, considering her exceptional clarity of sight. "Could you speak with her? I... think it might be best for her to have the perspective of a Jedi at this time."

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Obi-Wan nods and heads into the halls, following the sounds of shouting children. None of them, however, seem to be able to direct him to Kina. After several minutes, he hears the faint sound of breathing from a closet, and opens it to find her on the floor.

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Kina looks up from where she's sitting on the floor as the door opens and the light hits her eyes, blinking in a way that just looks tired.

"...hey.  What brings you to my resting place?"  She stands from where she's resting her back against the metal of the interior wall, and steps out.  "I was...just, processing, about to get ready to go check on you, actually, but I think I missed the moment - it wasn't really urgent, anyway, whatever it was.

"Did Qui-Gon tell you what was up with the, anti-Jedi?  Because I don't know what you saw when you looked at him, but boy, I saw some shit.  It was...it was distilled, distilled, um."  She grasps for a word.  "I've been thinking about things, and...the Force is probably filling a lot more gaps than I knew I had, even after I started to consciously reach out, because I always sort of...had this impression of people, like if I looked at them the right way, I could see - their essence, I suppose?  Their emotions?  And...I saw what he looked like because, it's a reflex to look that way when something bad's coming, seeing how people feel helps you navigate through fights before they happen, but...he looked like suffering, he looked like something being blown around in a sandstorm of chaos, without even a beacon home...He looked like a person had been pared down to a glass knife - sure, it's sharp, but it breaks so easily, and I...I saw him, I saw him die, and I wished I could tell him I was sorry, that...I didn't want this for him, because even him, I don't, even Watto, even Gardulla should get to be happy, in the end, and he was never going to have a chance because of you and me and Qui-Gon, and...and he couldn't believe me, like he'd been so twisted up by whatever makes a person do this that, there was nothing anyone could say to bring him out of the dark despair...and...and now he's dead and there's not anything we can do, his soul's just lost, I think he, destroyed himself or something out of spite, or he's gone somewhere else somehow and honestly I don't know if I prefer that which scares me because I think people deserve to exist but I want him to be not-existing because if he turns up as a ghost later he'll be extra problems and it seems wrong to even make that judgement ever and...he wanted nothing more than to hurt people, like, like he had been hurt...and...and..."

She heaves a breath, and chokes back a tear.  "And you're just a kid and I'm just a kid and we both could have died if he'd been a little bit smarter, if we'd been a little less lucky, and I don't know how to deal with that, that people might try to kill me for inscrutable reasons or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and, and there's nothing even stopping them now that I don't have someone - invested in my usefulness like Watto, especially if the Jedi don't take me, and...I don't want to hurt people!  You have to all be fighters!  And I think I have to learn and I have to do it well but..."  She doesn't even know what to say.  "...at least he didn't die slowly...at least it was quick.  Small mercies...I'll take them."

"...I don't...I'm sorry, I shouldn't have...you didn't need to hear that.  I could've talked to the medic.  Has confidentiality, apparently.  But uh.  I'm not all back together, yet.  Um.  There something you wanted?"

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For a brief moment, Obi-Wan remembers the first time his own life was at stake, the first time he'd ever had thoughts like the ones Kina was having now. Only he wasn't having them, it wasn't these thoughts because it was careful, it was prepared for, it was safe enough to barely count as a risk. At a certain point in the Jedi training, a year or two after he had entered his apprenticeship to Qui-Gon, they had gone on a trip through Coruscant, carefully close enough to the Jedi Temple that Obi-Wan wouldn't be too uncomfortable. They had tracked down a common criminal that had been shooting people in an alley, and Obi-Wan had ignited his lightsaber and weaved around the poorly aimed blasts that had come his way. Qui-Gon had supported him in the fight, but it was Obi-Wan who grabbed him and knocked him out. Afterwards, Obi-Wan had felt a little of what Kina was feeling, but most of it was just the pride of knowing yes, he could handle this, that wasn't even one of the tougher things he had gone through. And then, over time, he had been exposed to more and more danger, but gradually, in that sanitized Jedi form that kept you off of the dark path of fear. And Kina... she wasn't much more than half the age he had been, and right away she had been hit by what was even for him one of the more deadly experiences. What did that have to be like? Being hit by the realization it might just end right now, being forced to weigh her values against each other to the point that she was already hoping her enemies would have quick deaths?

He manages to stutter out a reply, something about being sorry and that the Queen was wondering about the children. Honestly, he isn't even listening to himself at this point.

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...And now Kina is hugging Obi-Wan.  "It's...Tatooine was already a rough place.  It's.  This is more than I was, expecting.  But...I've had to get used to the concept of protecting people by hurting people.  And being hurt for people.  And...this is, that, like...mom can probably tell you she's proud but I don't wanna because it sucked in the moment...just...bigger.  With different stakes, but it's still sabaac.  I know the rules.  I'm just...off-balance, because, flying high from the Classic, then this, then all of that's got a mysterious prophecy too...yeah.  I'm a kid.  I get to have my emotions go on swoop rides."  She gives him a watery grin.  "I'm...I'm gonna go get a hug from my mom; you don't worry like I'm dying, 'cause I promise you, I'm not.  Alright?  And you talk to someone too!  Dunno what the Queen wanted but I'm sure she'll find me if she needs me urgently.  Or I'll find her."  And if Obi-Wan agrees to go talk to somebody about his near-death experience, and it's not her, off she goes, to find her mom and get a hug.

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Obi-Wan hugs her back and then lets her leave, still lost in his thoughts. Maybe he does need to talk to Qui-Gon, once he recovers. But by now, there wasn't much to say on the topic of approaching death that hadn't been said countless times before.

And he knew that sooner or later, Kina would be back in this place herself.

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At least she's safe from it here, for the moment.

 

Kina spends most of the trip to Coruscant drinking in an unfiltered holonet connection like a sponge, in between bouts of tinkering with whatever's at hand (she needs something to defend herself with literally yesterday; she'll settle for 'now'), doing her part to help keep the rescued kids comfy, and getting an overview of what the Jedi Order's like for a kid from Obi-Wan.  However, a few days before their arrival, she goes looking for Padmé, if Padmé hasn't found her first.

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Kina finds Padmé walking through the halls, back to a simple handmaiden's set of clothes. "Kina! I haven't seen you in a couple days, is everything all right?"

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"I think it's...as alright as it can be, considering recent events, but you're nice so I'd hardly say no to a hug.  And maybe shooting lessons?  I...don't think I can solve all my problems with a thrown wrench."

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"Shooting? Kina, you're still - " She remembers all the times people have said those same words about her being queen, and she can't tell her she's just a kid, she knows that only encourages people to keep going... but still, "Kina, I know you helped out Obi-Wan, and believe me, we're all very grateful, but... you don't have to become a fighter!"

For the first time, she can really sympathize with her parents, and political opponents, and everyone else who had... was this what had been going through their heads then?

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"...Miss Padmé, if you can convince me that I'm not going to get tied up in this mess and everything that comes after just by sheer proximity and unprecedentedness - did Qui-Gon tell you I broke his midi-chloran counter? - then I'll drop the subject.  But if I have to expect - more surprise assassins with lightsabers, because I'd put money I don't even have on there being more where the Zabrak whose name we don't know came from, with an agenda and eyes - then I do have to be able to defend myself.  So...would you like to help me learn?"

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"I'm not saying you shouldn't be able to defend yourself! It's just..." It's hard to put into words what it is! "I guess I just don't want you to get so involved in these battles! It's... I've taken on a lot of - " oh crap she can't say the truth make something up "danger to myself because I'm always around the Queen, and it's... it's not something I want you to have to deal with! Kina, do you realize what you're getting into with the Jedi?"

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"Padmé, I...If I don't get into things with the Jedi, then I'm still going to get into something all on my own, and then I won't even have...well, the Jedi.  They're pretty good at their thing.  I...I can't just say 'I've saved myself, good job, I'm done'.  I could, I mean, nothing's stopping me from saying those words, but...I can't mean them.  You don't want me to be in danger and, I respect that, I don't really want to be in danger either, I plan to do my best to avoid it, but Hutt Space continues to exist.  That's not just going to stop happening.  And...if I sat by and let it, I'd be killing the force for good I could otherwise become in bits and pieces, and that's a danger too."

She blinks at Padme's flicker of anxiety and momentary stutter, but doesn't press on it.

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It's agonizing, and the worst part is that she's right. "Then at least promise me to be as careful as you can," she says. "And Kina, believe me, even if you are determined to do this, we will always be here to protect you, me and Qui-Gon and your mom and Captain Panaka and the droids and... Jar Jar, even. If you ever are worried, about anything, you can always turn to us."

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