"What am I doing?"
Those four words had been running circles in Willow's mind as she escorted the two Neimoidians back the way they had come. No matter how much she tried, she knew that she couldn't maintain for much longer the butch persona that she had been quickly forced to adopt in order to show them that she meant business. The only thing that gave her some comfort was that the Neimoidians apparently weren't aware of her shaking resolve.
Or if they were, they weren't about to make any effort to do anything about it.
She watched as one of them, most likely the Viceroy, moved to sit down on the throne. Reluctantly, she raised her blaster, noting that his movement slowed.
"You're not going to shoot me just because I'm going to sit on a chair, are you?" he sneered.
Willow was reluctant to agree, but kept the blaster raised all the same. "Just don't try anything funny."
Sitting down, the Viceroy glared at the blaster being pointed at his face, then at Willow. "You won't use that."
Willow was more than a little surprised by the statement. She had hoped that she wouldn't be found out this soon.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
The Viceroy's red eyes bored into Willow's face, making her feel uneasy. "You're a Jedi. You're not a killer. You would never do anything unjust to another living being."
Willow's face grew cold, as she rested her finger on the blaster's trigger. "You mean like you? What you did to this planet? What you did to my Master? Like you did with me?"
"That was not my doing," The Viceroy huffed. "I was strongly against taking you as a prisoner."
Willow scoffed at that.
"It's true!" The Viceroy insisted. "None of this is what I wanted. But, like you, I have become a pawn in a far greater scheme."
Willow's brow creased. "What are you talking about?" She thought she caught the Viceroy give a small grin, but before she could inquire about that, the Viceroy continued to talk.
"I...I was forced into this plot," he said. "It was the wish of..." A slight pause, as if he couldn't quite describe the person he was talking about. "A higher power."
"Higher power?" Willow inquired. "What do you mean?"
"I...I cannot say," the Viceroy stuttered. The act painfully reminded Willow of her Master, who often stuttered whenever she was nervous. She could use this to her advantage.
"You'd better," she said, unconsciously putting the power of the Force behind her words. "Or else I just scratch my itchy finger."
Willow wasn't sure, but she thought she saw the color drain from the Viceroy's face. "He's...he's..."
Groaning, Willow fired a blast directly above the Viceroy's head, sending small chunks of plaster down on top of his head. She noted, with some satisfaction, that the act caused him to cower even further.
"Who...is...it?" she hissed through clenched teeth.
The Viceroy whimpered. "Please...please...I'll tell you. Just promise me..."
Willow let out a breath. She was getting sick of having to deal with him, and was more than willing to do whatever was necessary to get the information out of him. "What? What is it that you want?"
She would never find out the answer to that question, for moments after the words passed through her lips, she felt a wave of pain across her back. The blaster she had been holding fell useless from her grip as she slid to the floor.
Her last thought was that she had once again allowed her emotions to overcome her, and that Tara was now in more danger because of it.
Wiping some remnants of plaster from his robes, Nute Gunray looked up at Rune Haako's, who held in his hands a rather exquisite statue. He wasn't sure what surprised him more: the fact that his Lieutenant had acted very much out of character or that the Jedi had been taken completely unaware of it.
"That was...rather dangerous," he noted, getting to his feet.
"I thought...that it would be a good idea," Haako pointed out. "After all, she seemed so intent on causing you harm."
Straightening his miter, Gunray affixed Haako with a icy stare. "At least we've captured her once again."
"But what do we do with her?" Haako asked. "With the Sith taking care of the other Jedi, there is no one who can guard her."
Gunray was about to respond when the armrest communicator inset to the throne began to beep. Heading over, he pressed the button. "What is it?"
"We have captured the Queen, sir," came the mechanized voice of a battle droid. "We are bringing them to your location now."
Gunray let out a smile. In the space of thirty seconds, his fortunes had changed quite dramatically. The Jedi had been recaptured and the Queen was now his prisoner.
There was nothing that could ruin this day for him now.
The two Jedi had performed well; Maul had to grant them that. But they, much like the female, would succumb to his power. Even now, the younger of the two was trapped down the corridor, his path blocked by the defensive laser shields that protected the room in which both he and the elder Jedi, who Maul could feel growing weaker with every passing moment, were currently engaged in deadly combat.
Good. He could watch helplessly as he killed his Master. Then he would return to deal with the younger one. And once they were both out of the way, he would gladly send the female to join them.
Blocking a strike aimed for his head, Maul knew the time was now. Seizing the advantage, he slammed his own weapon against the Jedi's arms, sending them upward. Allowing a grin to form on his face, he spun on his heels, driving his blade deep into the Jedi's chest.
He heard a yell, and realized that the younger Jedi was angry. Good. Much like the female, he would teach him to use that hate. Then, when he had learned his lesson, he would join his Master in the great beyond.
The time for stealth had long passed. Tara realized that now. And as her lightsaber sent another battle droid to the scrapyard, she realized how wrong she had made things. How sheltering Willow led to her stunted growth as a Jedi. How her leading the two of them to the Gungans had led them to be exiled from their home. How her indecision to act had gotten her captured.
But she was close. So very close. Willow was nearby. She could feel it. She only had to make it past these battle droids...
And suddenly, without warning, she felt something through the Force. It was if someone had delivered a roundhouse kick to her midsection. The breath was immediately knocked out of her, and she collapsed to her knees.
Something terrible had just happened. But what could it have been? Had her prophetic dream come to pass? Was Willow now dead? Or had Master Qui-Gon been killed? She had no way of knowing for sure which of those scenarios had just played out.
All Tara knew was that someone close to her had just died. And she, in one way or another, was responsible.
She had to press on, however, but suddenly became aware of the fact that she was no longer alone. Approaching her from either side was a battle droid. All pointed their blasters straight in her direction.
"On your feet, Jedi," one of them spoke.
Tara did so, fighting the urge to smile. These droids would no doubt take her to the Viceroy. Once she was there, she would be able to find out from him what happened to Willow. If she was alright, she wouldn't do anything to harm him.
If not...no. She wouldn't think about what would happen if Willow wasn't alright. That was the old Tara. The Tara crippled by her fears. The Tara she no longer was.
And, as the droids marched down the corridor, the Tara she vowed, once again, she would never be again.