Refugee Relief Movement Worker Padme has an unpleasant shopping experience.
Gate was probably the ultimate corporate world. True, there might be other planets owned by one corporation, but none of them boasted stores that covered nine hundred acres, at least as far as she knew. If this place with its sector-wide monopoly on Transmission Uni-and-Bi-lateral Anticipators, the largest TUBA store in the world, and the galaxy, with what was swiftly looking like the worst service in both as well, wasn't the ultimate example of why completely free market capitalism was a bad idea, Padme didn't know what was.
There were apparently 5000 droid employees in the store, in fact they were manufactured in an employee factory attached to the store proper, and the advertisement had also claimed to have loan agents on hand. Padme had been waiting in the store foyer for ten hours, having been led there by a single droid who had forbidden her to proceed any further unless escorted by an agent, who had never appeared. If it hadn't been flooding outside, she would have left long ago. Thankfully there was a toilet adjoining the room, but as it was, she was tired, hungry, and bored out of her head.
"Please come in this way and sit down." Padme turned as the droid came in from the outside again, this time leading three new customers: a big, bulky, human man with a big blaster in one hand and dark shaggy hair, a young blue Twi'lek girl, and a little blonde boy.
Ignoring them, Padme went straight up to the droid and demanded, "Where is my escort? How much longer are you going to keep me waiting here? Is this some sort of joke? Can I have something to eat?"
The droid was expressionless, but somehow managed to look even more blank. "Please return to your seat and wait, madam. An escort will be with you shortly."
"That's what you said ten hours ago! Hello, fellow customers. I think I'd better warn you..."
"No need." The man cut her off. He reached into his cloak. "Care for a ration pack?"
"Yes, thank you very much." She took the pack, then turned back to the droid, only to find it had gone back outside. How it was avoiding getting washed away was anyone's guess.
She sat back down next to the blonde boy and devoured the contents of the pack. "Two more hours," she decided out loud. "Then I'm returning to my ship if I have to swim to it, and the Refugee Relief Movement will have to get its Transmission Anticipators from another sector."
"Transmission Anticipators? You don't mean we're in a TUBA store?" asked the boy, looking excited.
"Well, I don't think we're going to get service for buying them," the Twi'lek pointed out.
"Then why are you here?" asked Padme.
"We can't tell you," said the boy brightly, both of the other two glared at him in warning, and Padme decided that she didn't want to know.
They sat in silence for perhaps half an hour, before a droid came out. Wondering if she wouldn't scream in the combination of relief and outrage, Padme stood up, intending to get service from the droid before it just went straight to the three newcomers.
"I am sorry, Madams, Masters, but the water level has officially passed safe operational levels, and TUBAworld is closed until further notice. Please leave immediately."
Padme did scream then: "WHY COULDN'T YOU HAVE TOLD ME THAT TEN HOURS AGO????"
"Calm down." A surprisingly gentle hand on her shoulder from the man. "Can you get to your transport?"
Padme went to the windows and stared out as hard as she could, then shook her head slowly. "I don't know if it'll even work. It's not built to deal with these kind of conditions at all."
"I suggest you come to ours instead then. Can you swim?"
"Well, I don't know if I could manage it right now." She was exhausted, and she hadn't swum in years.
"Aayla, do you think you could swim with Anakin on your back if you had to?"
The Twi'lek considered for a moment, then said, "I think so.
"All right, then." He discarded his cloak and removed his boots, Aayla and Anakin following his example. Padme cast a glance back at her own cloak on the chair, but resigned herself to leaving it as well, and removed her own footwear. It was then that she noticed the lightsaber hanging from Aayla's belt, which she thought was strange, because despite the cloaks and boots, none of them were dressed like Jedi. Taking a firm hold on Anakin with one hand and Padme with the other, the man headed towards the door.
But before he reached it, the door was suddenly blown apart, water flowing into the foyer. "No no no no no no no no no no!" the two droids yelled together, before two more blasts blew them both apart.
"Olar." The man released Anakin and Padme, and pushed them both aside. Aayla grabbed them both and shoved them further back. As she did so, someone slipped in the water, and all three tumbled to the floor.
Soaked from the splashing, Padme looked up as Aayla leapt to her feet and ignited her lightsaber. The man didn't seem to have one, but instead pointed his blaster at the figure who had entered. Olar was of a species Padme didn't recognize, and he carried an identical blaster in one hand and an un-ignited lightsaber in the other-the man's?
"Vos." Olar might have been smirking. Padme couldn't tell for sure. "How did you ever get yourself and that boy out of the desert?"
"Give me my lightsaber," Vos growled. "It's no use to you, that much is clear."
"Now, now, I gave you that blaster for it. Fair is fair."
"I assume the trade wasn't willing on his part," Aayla commented. She at least had to be a Jedi. Noone else could be that calm.
"No, it was right before I turned them out to wander in the Dune Sea on Tatooine, along with his mother," he gestured to the boy. "The poor woman didn't make it, did she?"
"You!" Anakin scrambled to his feet, and Aayla had to restrained him from attacking Olar.
"She was dead days before my padawan here finally picked us up. Do you think you can take on both of us?"
Olar gingerly regarded him, then her. Then he shrugged. "Jedi or no, all Twi'leks are the same."
At that moment there was the sound of footsteps, and someone yelling, "There he is, officers! That man stole my umbrella, and all of Sesa's TUBA-ware, , and Rew's ri-gems!"
"You stole an umbrella?" Aayla asked. Padme had to agree it was odd.
"He's a compulsive thief," Vos explained as five law enforcers sprung in with blasters all trained on Olar, and one of them proclaimed him under arrest.
Then one of them turned to Aayla and asked, "If this man here a minion, Master Jedi? Are they two thiefs? Do we need to arrest them both? Were they attempting to rob the younglings?"
"No, the other man's my Master; he stole his lightsaber as well," Aayla explained as Anakin laughed.
"Shut up!" Olar screeched hysterically at Anakin, and fired a shot at him, which Aayla used her blade to deflect harmlessly into the ceiling. In response two officers moved forward and attempted to knock him out. As a mad scuffle ensued, the stolen umbrella flew out of the man's cloak, a bundle of Anticipators and several gems falling to the ground. Grabbing it, Olar hurled it in the general direction of Aayla, Padme, and Anakin, and it hit the boy on the forehead.
He tottered about, Padme moving to catch him as Aayla joined the fray. He looked dazedly as her, asked, "Are you an angel?" and fainted in her arms, his head knocking against her own forehead. The last thing Padme was aware of before she herself passed out were two more droids storming into the foyer, yelling, "No no no no no..."
When she came to, she found herself up to her shoulders in water, and strapped behind Vos as he swam. She looked over, and through the rain saw what looked like Aayla swimming next to her Master, with what looked like Anakin strapped to her back. Beyond them she could see nothing, leaving her with no idea of where on Gate they were.
"You're awake," she grunted. "We found your ship. It's useless. You'll have to come with us. We're not far, I hope."
Padme felt refreshed, so she answered, "Unstrap me. I can swim on my own here, I think, so you can carry Anakin."
It took more effort then they had thought to make the transfer in the water, but Aayla was clearly relieved to get Anakin off of her, and when he was securely strapped in Padme's place behind Vos, he said to her, "Keep close to me. Aayla, get your breather on and see what you can spot underwater."
"Yes, Master." She sounded cheerful now, and with her breather secure she dove under the surface, and out of Padme's sight, but she was sure that was a grin on Vos' face. After all that had happened that day, and Padme was still wondering how they'd gotten out of the store and how much they'd had to pay the droids for damages, they were enjoying this.
As she swam on, she decided to follow their example, at least for as long as she could, and simply enjoy the sensation of splashing through the water with the thick rain on her face, her limbs gaining confidence as they remembered what to do, until she was cutting long smooth strokes, the reassuring sound of Vos pushing through the flood near her.
Though she supposed after this little incident, she'd never be able to purchase any Tranmission Uni-/or/-Bi-lateral Anticipators on this planet.