But not quite. Inside the temple’s main foyer, several Younglings ran about, and near one end, she spotted a very familiar face.
Luke was standing opposite one Korto Vos, a little boy with dark hair and a yellow stripe painted across his nose. Exactly like his father, who of course was not on the moon.
But as Padmé got closer, she realized how loud their voices were getting, and as Korto suddenly threw himself at Luke she broke into a run.
By the time she reached the two boys they were pummeling each other for all they were worth. She grabbed her son and pulled, and got Luke off the other boy, only to have both boys attack her. She warded off several blows from four-year-old fists before Luke realized he was attacking his mother, and yelled, “Stop! Stop! Korto, please stop!”
He pulled, Padmé pushed, and together they got the boy off her. As she pulled herself to her feet, Luke, forgetting his own wrongdoings, turned on Korto and yelled, “You leave my mom alone, you hear me?”
“But you attacked her first!”
“But you attacked me first!”
“Then you’ve both done wrong,” Padmé told them sternly, “and you both need to think about what you’ve done and submit to whatever punishment is given you. Who’s currently in charge?”
The boys looked at each other, then down. Luke mumbled something that sounded like “Swan” and Korto muttered something that sounded like “Kruk.”
“Follow me,” she commanded. For a moment she was worried they wouldn’t obey, but as she walked out of the foyer they followed.
She led them to a large room which the Jedi used as a medical bay, where she found Khaleen, sitting on a bio-bed and arguing with Bultar Swan.
They both looked over as she led to two boys in. “Where’s K'Kruhk?”
“Gone only an hour ago,” replied Bultar. “Those two haven’t been fighting again?”
“They’ve fought before?” Padmé asked her.
“As a regular thing,” answered Khaleen. “It was too long before they would tell me about it, either.”
“I’ll handle this. Come along, both of you.” The Jedi seized them both by the wrist and briskly marched them out.
“Sorry, Padmé,” said Khaleen as the door closed after her. “She’ll keep your son away from you now until one of you leaves again.”
“And you?” Padmé glanced at Khaleen’s swollen belly. “I thought you were due already.”
“Nah, that was before they remembered the baby’s half-Kiffar, and therefore unpredictable. Someone needs to get T’ra Saa back here. When I was at four months she gave me an exact date for Korto, another hybrid baby of course, to come out, and lo and behold, he came out on that date. I’d like to see a professional Healer beat that!”
“Luke and Leia were two days early,” Padmé noted. “I was told that was perfectly normal.”
“Though personally, I’m starting to think it’s just an excuse to keep me cooped up in here, and away from Korto. And never mind that the day before I had Korto all three of us had to run a marathon with a battalion of clone troopers behind us, and I kept up with two Jedi Masters just fine. Which I couldn’t have done normally. Became oddly aware of things too.”
This was a subject that intrigued Padmé, since her pregnancy, too, had delivered unexpected boons. For a week before delivery, she’d been able to read emotions off people, and she’d sensed a presence around her that could only be the Force. “What things?” she asked.
“Oh, just...things." Padmé didn't think she was delibrately being elusive, though with Khaleen she could never quite be sure. "If it happened to you too, I shouldn’t have to explain!”
“You’re probably right.” Padmé knew that she could never explain what she had felt that one week. “You know, I think the two of us should work together on this. It’ll be easier for two people to force this issue about seeing our families.”
“Well, if they’ve got any sense at all,” replied Khaleen, “they’ll let me work with Quinlan after I give birth. Just like I used to.”
“Just like I used to work with Anakin,” Padmé reminded her. “But of course, with me they’ve pretty much said that now that Anakin’s becoming a Jedi, thing won’t work the way they used to. With you and Master Vos they don’t have that excuse.”
“They can’t keep me here, anyway. If they do I’ll go crazy. You know, in a normal galaxy, I never would have been a mother.”
While Padmé, in the end, would have been. Only the smallest of their many differences.
Even so, she found herself asking, “Will you try to see your children then?”
“Of course!” Khaleen indignantly exclaimed. “I’m their mother! I was originally planning to be a mother with only Quin to help me out, please remember. The little group I arrived with only formed because we were all on the run from the new Empire.”
“Speaking of which,” she continued, “I don’t see them trying to keep Tholme and T’ra Saa apart. Think we should call them on that?”
“No, Khaleen, you know what they’ll say.”
“Right.” Khaleen sounded like she was turning very cross, but she had to know Padmé was right. “In fact, right now, I’d be happy just to see them more often. You don’t think they want to isolate me that much, do you?”
“No!” said Padmé instantly. On second thought, she added, “Well, maybe Master Windu does, but no one else, I’m sure. But surely you can tell that better than me right now. Isn’t the baby giving you some empathic ability?”
“What?” Khaleen looked at her in complete confusion. “It’s supposed to do that?”
“It did for me.”
“Oh, well, you can practically read people’s minds anyway,” she retorted. “Not all of us were taught that in a school, Senator. But speaking of Master Windu, why is he never here? Does he know we’d let him have it if he was? Same reason, maybe, that Master Yoda’s really never been here since before you arrived, you say.”
“Do you think he’s still alive?” Padmé asked softly. < p>Khaleen looked her in the eyes and asked, “Do you believe he’s dead? You’re the one who’s met him; someone like me never would have; if you think he is...”
Padmé looked back, then just shook her head. She even let Khaleen’s comment about meeting Yoda go. “We could ask what’s going on with him first,” mused Padmé. “Assert ourselves where they’re not quite so much on guard, before pressing for what we want from a more comfortable position.”
“I don’t know if I have that kind of patience, Padmé. Besides, we’ve got our starting point already.” She pointed to her belly. “I have to stay with this baby to nurse her. It’ll be a waste of food supplies if I don’t, and we can’t afford to waste anything here. That gives us a good year and a half.”
Hearing it put in those terms, Padmé then commented, “I don’t know if I can wait that long either. You’re right. Let’s be direct about it.”
“Well, how about that, the Senator consents,” said Khaleen, and Padmé could not entirely ignore her sarcasm. She decided it was time to address this.
“Khaleen,” she said, carefully choosing her words as she spoke, “I have put up with a lot of things you’ve said, because I do understand why you would resent a person like me. In a ‘normal galaxy,’ as you put it earlier-”
“In a normal galaxy, we never would have met,” interrupted Khaleen, “and you know it. Okay, you might have worried about people like me more often than the Senator next to you, but at the end of the day you’d have put us all away to cuddle up with your husband and your two kids in your expensive home. You can’t tell me it doesn’t bother your idealistic head a little that if it wasn’t for the horrible war, I would have spent my life a pathetic little cultist on some planet somewhere.”
It was something Padmé tried not to think about, but when pushed she had replies. She could have pointed out to Khaleen that the two men who were largely responsible for where she was now, Count Dooku and Master Tholme, had both been using her, and that the latter, at least, had admitted to it right in front of her, and her relationship with Quinlan Vos was in spite of them both, and that if she therefore owed them nothing, by extension she owed the war nothing.
But right now she had to stay on the subject. “As I said, Khaleen, I understand why you’re angry. I even understand why you might think me naive, or blind, or even foolish. But if we are to work together on a permanent basis, on anything, we have to accept that we’re on the same planet now-or moon, as the case may be. I’m going to ask you to take a tip from those around us and let go of your anger.”
“Right,” said Khaleen again, and it sounded a lot like her last “Right.” “Look, I’m getting tired and I’m sure you are too after the trip here, so can we talk later?”
“Very well.” It might just be an excuse on Khaleen’s part, but then again, it might not be. And their histories and the way they clashed wouldn’t vanish overnight.
In the meantime, she thought as she turned towards the entrance of the sickbay, let’s see if I can track Master Swan and the boys down. I won’t be aggressive about it-yet.