Two nights after she had lost consciousness on Naboo, Padmé woke up. Her head felt like if it was on fire. Her mouth was bitter and dry. She lifted herself from the wall on which she rested, tried to find her bearings. She was in a windowless room, wide with high walls, cartons neatly stacked against one wall, no visible entry or exit. A storage room. The muffled hum of turbo-engines, and the characteristic rocking beneath her told her she was in space – sub-space or hyper-space? – she had no idea.
She tried to get to her feet and a strange weight on her right ankle made her look down. She fell back against the wall as her blood ran cold.
Her foot was chained to the wall.
She was in a cargo hold in a moving space vessel. The bounty hunter’s vessel – she remembered the details of her abduction now.
He had brought her here… and was taking her… where? She had no idea.
How she could escape… seemed even more unfathomable.
The first hour of consciousness was a desperate one for Padmé Naberrie. Alone, and defenceless in the bounty hunter’s ship as it charted a course to her unknown but definitely unwelcome destination, Padmé fell victim to the demons of despair.
She thought of her parents and how they had died before she could even remember them. Thought of her sister, Sola, dying in front of her. Thought of her grandmother and how she never saw the body. Thought of her sister/friend Sabe and how she had betrayed her.
A strange creak from the far corner of the hold took her from her dismal thoughts. Padmé tensed, searching for the source of the sound until she saw the ladder descending into the hold.
The old instinct of survival kicked in and galvanized her out of despair. Yes, she was chained by one foot but her hands were free. She sprang to her feet and felt her person for the tools she usually kept on herself. Nothing. Not even shoes. All she had were the clothes on her back. Even her poisoned hair-pins had been removed. Not fazed in the least, she grabbed the chain that pinned her to the wall. It was strong and unbreakable but almost the length of the span of her arms.
Her search her took her seconds. A pair of metal-encased legs was descending the ladder when she fell back to her reclining position on the wall, the chain held loosely in her hand.
Her captor’s shoulders passed through the trap door and she waited.
His head was enclosed in armour as well. In fact, his armour was not dissimilar to the uniform of the Imperial troopers and she wondered if he was a rogue trooper turned bounty hunter.
“Who are you?” she cried faintly. She didn’t have to pretend. Her voice was weak with disuse. “What do you want with me?”
He regarded her from where he stood before the ladder. Padmé did her best to look as innocent and defenceless as possible.
He stooped slightly and stretched out his hand. He threw something towards her. It skidded across the smooth floor until it hit her body.
She looked down. It was a small protein bar. She looked up defiantly, “How do I know it isn’t poisoned?”
He just stared. They both knew that if he had wanted her dead, he would have killed her a long time ago.
Padmé suddenly realized she was extremely hungry. She picked up the bar with the hand that didn’t hold the chain, tearing it open with her teeth and swallowing half of it in one gulp. She was ravenous. How long had it been since she had left Naboo?
He turned to go.
“Why are you doing this?” she cried after him.
“Money,” was his bland reply, his voice muffled but still audible through his helmet. He started climbing up the stairs.
“How much? I can pay you! I have friends…”
He ignored her.
The chain slipped from her fingers.
There was a tiny camera at the far corner of the hold. Padmé discovered it mere seconds after he had gone.
“How long have I been here?” She asked the next time he came with a protein snack.
He took his time before answering her. “Ten hours.”
“Where are we going?”
Her heart leaped at that. Coruscant – the Imperial capital. Who? Why?
He was turning to go.
“Who hired you?”
He ignored her.
She could move a few feet with the chain on her ankle. At least the distance to the cartons that lined up the wall. They improvised as a ‘fresher.
There seemed to be no ventilation into the hold. Padmé endeavoured to use the cartons as infrequently as possible.
“When will we get there?”
“In a few hours.”
Padmé watched him from her small corner on the cargo bay. She felt a great deal better than she had when she had first woken here. She was full of protein bars and physically stronger for it. Also, she was mentally stronger. She had been thinking and had come to a strange, but irrefutable realization.
A realization that enraged her and consequently, gave her courage.
She wasn’t giving in without a fight.
“I do have friends, you know…” she said clearly. “People that would pay you almost three times whatever bounty you were offered for me.” She slowly unwrapped the bar and the noise seemed loud in the silence that followed. It was hard to tell from his helmeted head, but it seemed like if he was watching the movements of her hand…
He started violently, his heavy armour clanging loudly against the walls. It was the first reaction she had ever got from the mercenary.
“That’s who you are, aren’t you? That’s why Sabe betrayed me to you…”
The protein bar had not been tampered with. But after gulping the snack and chewing it for a long time, Padmé made use of a carton/fresher and angling herself away from the camera, discreetly spat out the unswallowed contents.
Then she waited.
“We are here.”
Journey’s end. It was almost a relief, in a way.
She felt him approach from her slumped position. Her breathing was deep and steady. To all intents and purposes, she was out cold and had been since she had swallowed the last bar.
He walked towards her, his armour loud on the metal floor, and she felt a swift poke in her stomach.
She stifled a cry and instead moaned softly, folding into herself.
He seemed satisfied and walked round her. She felt the touch of metal against her ankle and waited…
She was being lifted, her weight placed over his shoulder and she felt herself ascending. He was carrying her over the ladder.
She tried to relax. Tried to keep her weight as dead as possible… Tried to holds herself in and wait…
She felt him slow. Felt the back of her legs brush against a wall… And that was when she attacked.