So when she left the priest with him back at his alter, praying for something, she deliberately hadn’t paid attention to what, she all but ran back to her quarters. She didn’t feel anything yet, except the temptation to not feel anything ever about what had just happened, and her only thought was on the next course of action, the first response to the current situation.
Most female Jedi, Padmé Naberrie included, carried two forms of contraception among all the other components of their belt kits. The first was a serum carried by most Jedi of any sex, that worked on most species with minimal side-effects, but needed to be taken before intercourse. So when Padmé sat down in her quarters and opened her kit, she instead drew out her two doses of levonorgestrel. The side-effects of this hormone dose could be very unpleasant, but she might be lucky and not suffer them, and it would prevent her from getting pregnant. She was lucky already, that she was a species for which the conception process took some time; that wasn’t true of all species.
The levonorgestrel was supposed to be carried around in case of rape. Not that the majority of Jedi females imagined they could ever be overpowered. If the priest had tried that with Padmé, she could have had him subdued within moments. There was always the possibility, of course, of being overpowered by sheer numbers, but Padmé had before this always thought of the hormone doses as something she kept for the same reason Master Windu and some other male Jedi did, for when they were coming to the aid of a civilian female. She knew he’d used his supply in such a capacity more than enough times.
She took the loaded hypospray into the ‘fresher, but even with the aid of the mirror she had trouble zeroing in on her vein. That was an anomaly; normally she could inject herself precisely and without needing to see what she was doing.
But she got herself injected, and then was left standing in the ‘fresher with no required actions to take, and several different urges: to meditate, to take a shower, to strip down and examine her body as if that might provide her with some clarity, to suppress this all and rejoin Master Windu where he was talking with the Premier’s assistants, or to march in on them and tell them just what she thought of their “deflowering” ritual.
Whatever else, she decided, she didn’t want to wear this ceremonial gown anymore. She took it off and hung it on a convenient hook near the door. She wondered if the priest had noticed the lack of blood on it. She suddenly feared that he thought she’d lied to him about being a virgin. But there were athletic females on this planet, so surely he’d had to realize that there wasn’t always blood the first time.
Retrieving her clothes, she fastened her cloak around her neck, so if Master Windu came in she could throw it over herself quickly. Even this made her nervous, and that was another anamoly; now the last of her old infatuation with him was years behind her they’d reached the point that neither reacted much to seeing the other naked.
Instead of taking the normal meditative position on her knees, Padmé got down with her thighs spread, her knees bent, and her feet pressing against each other. Strange how exposed she felt, when from this angle she still had trouble seeing her genitals when she looked down.
She reached down and ran a finger between her labia. The feeling of soreness was beginning to fade, taken care of by her ability to quickly heal. When she pressed down on her clitoris, the sensation felt no different. Well, why should it? Whatever contact that particular part of her genitals had had with the priest’s body was incidental. He hadn’t even looked down there.
And with that thought came the realization she was looking in the wrong place. The problem did not lay with her body, but how the priest had reacted to it.
She had not been exposed to most of it. She had gone to the priest with an open heart and mind, only to sense in him a strong contempt for her that he’d hidden before that. The only thing that had prevented her from calling him on it and possibly fleeing was confusion as to why. She’d stayed because she’d wanted to understand, she’d lain there through his ritualistic words and let him get on top of her and in her, when even with no hymen she’d barely been lubricated enough for it not to hurt anyway.
And he’d wanted it to hurt for her. There had been no mistaking that desire in his mind. From what she could tell he’d felt it proper that a young girl’s first time be painful, and he’d liked it that way.
When after that she’d sensed his desire to dominate and possess, Padmé had had enough. In retrospect, she now wished she’d pushed him off of her, but in the stress of the moment, she had instead just raised her shields to full strength, closed her eyes, and absorbed herself into a meditation that would cut her off from the outside universe. He’d only noticed what she was doing afterwards when he’d looked angry and blathered something nonsensical about her not getting the full effect of the ritual.
“I am sorry,” she’d replied, and wouldn’t Master Windu have been proud to hear her regal tone of voice, “but that held little significance for me after all. I am not this crude matter.” Because she wasn’t.
She might not be, but as she mentally recoiled from the memory of her all too close contact with the foulness in his mind, she suddenly thought of how often the man did this, and of all the girls he left hurting and ashamed for a wrong he had done, not them, having lost something the planet’s society had raised them to value, and they could never get back, no matter how desperately their peace of mind depended on it.
Padmé hastily pulled herself up onto her knees, as if that might make it easier to release her soul-eating rage.
She was still struggling when Master Windu came in. “Padmé?” he heard her ask, his concern unusually evident. “I sensed it did not go well.”
“It did not,” she answered, “but I will be all right. Which may be more than can be said for the young women of this planet.”
“I sense far too much anger in you,” he observed, which just made Padmé angrier.
“How can you let this happen?” she demanded, rising to her feet and trying to stare him down. “I can tell now you knew what I would be in for, but at least I can handle it. At least I had the levonorgestrel and the knowledge to use it as well. At least I know better than to turn that man’s misogyny inward onto myself. It took the education of the Temple to teach me that. Did you know there are still legal limits to abortion on this planet? As if this priest’s victims hadn’t endured enough already. We came to this planet in order to put a stop to the difficulties here, but now I see all this pain below the surface that we’re ignoring completely, and why?”
“What would you do to stop it?” Master Windu asked, as calm as ever.
That made Padmé pause. Most of the courses of action that came to her mind weren’t practical.
“Is this like slavery?” she asked. “A problem the Jedi don’t have the resources to fix?”
“That is one way to think of it.”
When Master Windu talked like that to Padmé, he usually was trying to get her to figure something out. So she thought some more, letting go of the worst of her rage, and mused out loud, “I know we Jedi aren’t supposed to interfere in cultural matters, but to me, that honestly doesn’t seem like enough of an excuse in this case.”
“You may not be looking at this situation clearly. Look to the Force directly for an answer.”
Soothed by her Master’s gentle presence, Padmé released the remainder of her anger and centered her mind on the Force. It told her what she already knew, and another thing she hadn’t quite seen, that nearly caused her to give herself over to rage again.
“It’s not just this planet,” she said. “This scenario repeats itself on planet after planet, all over the galaxy. It even did so on Coruscant, once in the distant past. The effects still linger there now, centuries and centuries after the worst of it is over. I always felt that there was deep pain all around me, but too much of it is pain inflicted on females, for no other reason but that they are female. Even on Coruscant.”
One look at her Master’s astonished face and she knew this was not the response he had been expecting. But he did not contradict her.
“I’m not your first female Padawan,” Padmé couldn’t help pointing out. “Did Depa never notice this?”
“If she did, she never mentioned it. I do not think she quite ever endured a situation like your current one. Many don’t; most people in the galaxy see our lightsabers before all else; to them we might as well have no sex.”
“That is not an excuse. I wish I had seen this before myself. Do you mean to tell me, Master, that in all your years...I’ve been with you to the planets where the females are all but invisible, kept confined to their houses, or worse. I’ve seen you give initial treatment to rape victims and helped you do so. We’ve read of the laws and restrictions...”
“It is a pattern one cannot escape entirely,” Master Windu said, and he spoke very slowly, which was the closest he ever came to showing uncertainty of what he was saying. “But you are right. When the way the galaxy operates seems so deeply set that change seems impossible, it is all too easy just not to look.”
“We are Jedi, Master,” Padmé said to him. “It is our duty to fight against what is unjust as much as we can.” She was all but openly challenging him now, but she felt driven to it, by his words, by what she had just sensed in the Force, and by the ugliness of the priest’s thoughts still clinging to her mind. She knew she was right.
And he knew it too. He bowed his head and said, “There still is not much we can do here. Speaking out would do more harm than good.”
“I know, Master.” Padmé bowed her head in turn, sensing that the mutual lesson was over. “But the next girl who is ‘deflowered’ by one of the high priests while we’re here should be quietly given your hormone doses. A pitifully small thing, but at least we can do that.”
“We shall do it. But now you must dress; we are expected at lastmeal. They may ask you questions there; are you ready to answer them?”
“I can answer without giving offense, I think.” Though it would not be easy.