“Send him in.” Since he had ended up amoung her pilots, Padmé Amidala had seen a lot of her young friend, but never in an official capacity. She thought immediately this might be interesting.
She was seated in the small office where she retired in early afternoon and made herself available for meetings with individual citizens, with only her top five handmaidens with her. So when Anakin, on coming in, fell to his knees, and started, “Your Highness, Queen Amidala, I must humbly beg-” Padmé cut him off with, “No need for that, Ani. You’re amoung friends here. Have a seat.”
Looking a little sheepish, Anakin sat down. Saché drew back his chair for him, and Anakin thanked her by name. That impressed Padmé; most people wouldn’t have been able to tell the handmaidens apart in their current garb.
“I need to request leave,” he said, looking up at her and then down. She wondered if her make-up intimidated him. She’d never dealt with such a clash of the professional and personal in any of her relationships before. “I’m not sure how long I’m going to be away. A week, maybe. You see, I’ve been saving up my pay as best I can, and well, I think I have more than enough to convince Watto to free my mom, so I need to get to Tatooine, and...”
Shock and guilt both took Padmé over. Guilt because it suddenly occurred to her that she had never spared a thought to Shmi Skywalker, when the woman was still a slave, and her son in service to Naboo, and granted citizenship in the face of his belonging to no other planet, and shock because never in all their conversations had he mentioned her, or his hoping to free her.
“Anakin,” she asked, “why didn’t you say something earlier? You should have reminded me, and I would have sent someone to Tatooine as soon as I could. Your mother is eligible for Naboo’s protection; in fact, we could probably even claim her as a citizen already, if we’re claiming her underage son as one, though obviously your case is unusual, and the Republic holds no legal tolerance for slavery.”
“Well...I wanted to be able to do this on my own, I think,” said Anakin, “but it sounds like I shouldn’t even have to pay for her then, but that we should remove her from Watto by force.”
“Would that work, though?” Padmé hastily countered. “He can kill her via her transponder in a moment. It might only result her dead, and even with us being attacked. There’s always the chance of the Hutts taking offence...Naboo does not want another war.”
“Or you don’t want another war!” Anakin shouted at her accusingly. “What’s wrong with you? One moment you’re talking about how mom’s a citizen of Naboo now, the next you’re saying you won’t do for her what I know you’d do for someone born here!”
“Pilot Skywalker,” Sabé said, stepping forward to the desk and standing over him. “You are not to talk to the Queen this way.”
Instantly Padmé knew exactly how Anakin would take that, and before he could scream his outrage, she cut in: “Don’t, Sabé. He’s right to be angry.”
This kept Anakin froming exploding completely, but he pressed on. “I’m right, aren’t I? You just don’t want to fight, even when you should.”
“Yes, you are right. I prefer to find a peaceful solution whenever I can. And there’s an easy one here. Ani, if you want, I will provide you with transport and give you money out the treasury to pay for your mother's freedom.”
“But it still wouldn’t be fair!”
So simply stated, and impossible to deny. “You’re right. In truth, it makes me angry too, that we sometimes have to submit unfairly to people who are more powerful than us.”
“You didn’t submit to the Trade Federation.”
“I had no choice there. They were destroying everything that was Naboo. And I had to use force because there was no other way to thwart them. But what are we losing by giving in here? Only a little money, and a little pride. And in return, we can free Shmi without endangering her, or anyone else.”
Anakin still looked unhappy, but he remained quiet for a minute or two, then said, “You know, Watto’s a coward. What if I went to Tatooine, maybe with a couple of my fellow pilots-I think a couple of them would be happy to go with me, told him that Naboo had claimed mom and that he had to hand her over or there would be hell for him to pay? He might just give her up. She’s not even worth much to him anyway. I’m surprised he didn’t let her go to Master Qui-Gon.”
“And what if he refuses to hand her over?”
“Oh, if he calls my bluff I’ll pay him,” Anakin assured her, giving her something of a dirty look as he did so. “And I don’t need any of Naboo’s money. It would have to be converted into something I could use anyway. I’ve done that for my own money already.”
He watched, fidgeting, as Padmé drew up the paperwork to give him two weeks leave and allow a transport for his use. For a moment she wondered why he hadn’t asked Captain Panaka, but perhaps he’d been more certain of success with her. She also drew up the names of the two pilots he wanted to take with him, but suggested that he make sure they were willing to come before getting them leave.
He stood to go, then looked right into her eyes and said, “One more thing. If this doesn’t work, if Watto first refuses to let her go, and then won’t even take my money, or demands more than we can pay, and I know it’s unlikely but if it happens-”
“If we have to use force in order to free your mother,” she interrupted, holding his gaze steady in her own, letting him know she meant what she said, “I promise you I will do whatever it takes.”
It was the right answer. He smiled for the first time since he’d walked in, and Padmé felt as if some sort of storm had passed at last. “Thank you, Your Highness, Padmé.” He was off at a run, undoubtably to seek out his pilot friends.
“I must say,” declared Sabé as soon as the door was shut after him, “he could have behaved better than that.”
Padmé felt no indignation the way her friend did, but even so this was a side of Anakin she had never quite seen, an indication that he had not bounced back from a life of slavery the way everyone, herself included, had assumed he had. Hopefully seeing his mother free and happy on Naboo would help him, but even so, she would have to keep an eye on him, and do whatever she could.