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War machines of the type never before seen by the galaxy…

Now rumble through the Republic’s staging area on Coruscant daily, as if in grim parade.

“If these vehicles were not so terrifying they would be awe inspiring.”, Master Kenobi darkly observes.

“With these weapons we will have Dooku begging for mercy in another week!”, Anakin exclaims, taken by the massive machines

Obi-Wan grimaces, disappointed by his padawan’s eagerness for battle. “I’m afraid you will not be joining me on this one.”, begins Obi-Wan.

“What!?!”, Anakin bursts, stunned.

“The Council… and I feel it would do you good to meditate upon your feelings. For Padme, your mother, and this war.”, Obi-Wan delicately continues.

“My place is with you! Winning this war!”, an angered Anakin yells.

“You forget your training my very young padawan, wars not make one great.”, Obi-Wan sternly reprimands.

“And you forget it was I who saved you on Geonosis.”, Anakin retorts.

“Yes”, Obi-Wan concedes with a laugh as Commander Cody joins them, “But now I have Cody.”.

“He’s in good hands Commander. Our forces are ready General Kenobi.”, Cody interjects.

“Very well. Make the most of this my friend.”, Obi-Wan advises Anakin.

As Obi-Wan and Cody begin to depart Anakin’s voice calls after them, “Obi-Wan!”.

“Yes.”, Kenobi responds turning to face his padawan.

“May the force be with you.”, Anakin wishes.

“And you.”, Obi-Wan returns, touched, “In many ways you need it more than me.”.

“It troubles me greatly that the Jedi would allow such a gifted warrior to remain secluded in the Temple. You should be leading the armies of the Republic to victory on the front lines of this war.”, Palpatine shares with Anakin as they discuss the Council’s decision in his majestic office.

“They don’t trust me.”, Anakin broods, “They never have.”.

“It is because of your mother. They can never understand that love.”, Palpatine observes.

“She’s… She’s dead.”, Anakin painfully relays.

Aghast Palpatine clasps Anakin’s hand, “My boy. I am so sorry. I remember when my family was murdered. No words can describe the pain.”, the Chancellor comforts.

“I… I killed them. All those who took my mother from me. Men… Women… Children”, Anakin continues.

“Jedi or not you are still only human, and it is natural to possess feelings. Even good. Our feelings give us guidance Anakin. Those who you killed deserved their fate.”, Palpatine advises.

Anakin looks down, mulling the Chancellor’s wisdom against his own Jedi Order’s Code.

“I fear I have rather upsetting news.”, Palpatine sighs, “I have received intelligence which strongly implies there is to be another attempt on our friend Senator Amidala’s life. I of course have dispatched a clone unit to protect her. I only wish there was more I could do…”.

Sharply roused from his contemplation, Anakin fumes, “If Dooku is behind the attempt clones will not be enough.”.

“I quite agree… I will intercede to the Jedi Council in order to have you appointed as Jedi advisor to the Clone unit protecting her.”, Palpatine agrees.

“Thank you Chancellor.”, Anakin accepts, relieved.

Palpatine sadly smiles and states, “I only strive to recognize the talent that the Jedi Council so desperately tries to stifle.”.

“Anakin has not returned to the Temple yet?”, the holographic image of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi questions, shocked.

“No.”, Windu replies, clearly displeased, “And what is more we have received a request from the Chancellor that Skywalker be assigned to provide continued protection for Senator Amidala.”.

“Blast!”, Obi-Wan curses, “Anakin is too conflicted to control his emotions.”.

“If he has up until now.”, Mace doubts.

“Perplexing your padawan is.”, Jedi Master Yoda states to the flickering holographic projection of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“He does have an interesting definition of meditation. He has too much of Qui-Gon in him.”, an agitated Kenobi answers.

“Aided by his friend, the Chancellor, is the boy’s disobedience.”, Yoda darkly observes.

“His attachment to Palpatine and Senator Amidala clouds his judgement. If he is to bring balance to the force he must be committed to the force, not his friends.”, Windu gravely adds.

“And the only way we can possibly hope to teach him this is through trial. He will not listen to any of us, he must learn for himself.”, Kenobi argues.

“Indeed.”, Yoda agrees, “In the final reckoning only Skywalker can conquer his feelings, alone.”.

Yoda leans heavily upon his cane and sighs, “Yield to the Chancellor will we. May the force be with all.”.

The first time Anakin stepped foot in Padme Amidala’s Coruscant apartment months ago he was amazed by how easily it could put his wandering mind to rest. The gentle breeze against his tunic, the soft lighting, and the overwhelming sense of belonging caused him to the view the apartment as even more sacred than the Jedi Temple. Today however none of these peaceful qualities were present.

“I want full body scans and background checks on all droids! Tear them apart if you have to!”, orders a gruff clone Captain, proudly displaying the color flashes of an ARC Trooper, the clone troopers personally trained by Jango Fett to become more independent and lethal than their brethren.

“Oh no! I’ve done nothing wrong I tell you!”, shrieks C3-P0, as a pair of clone troopers approach him.

“That won’t be necessary.”, Anakin assures as he joins the Captain, “I personally built that unit. He may be fussy, but he’s loyal.”.

“Annie!”, Padme cries relieved rushing to him. “They won’t listen! They’ve already ordered poor Corda and Typho away! Can you imagine, either of them traitors!”, Padme explains, greatly upset by the intrusive security protocol instituted by the clones.

“On what grounds did you do this soldier?”, Anakin challenges the clone Captain.

Looking Anakin up and down the Captain sneers, “I don’t need to discuss my security measures with a mechanic.”.

“I am a Jedi padawan!”, Anakin snaps back.

Feigning regret the Captain replies, “My mistake, I didn’t know Jedi built droids. I thought Jedi scrapped droids. Nice ponytail.”.

“You’re rude for a clone.”, Anakin observes.

“And you’re dim witted for a Jedi.”, retorts the ARC trooper.

Choosing to ignore the insult Anakin reports, “I am here under the direct command of the Supreme Chancellor. Captain…”.

“CT-7567.”, answers the clone, “They call me Rex. Tell his excellency we have everything well in hand.”, Rex continues turning away from Anakin, “We don’t need help from Jedi school boys too green to fight on the battlefield.”.

Before Anakin can reply he feels a grave warning in the Force…

… And rushes to bat away several laser blasts from Padme!

Just as a team of terrorists rushes in from the terrace!

As Anakin continues to protect the Senator…

Rex turns to face the surviving troopers under his command and orders, “Defensive pattern AN-H4! This is live fire boys, take ‘em down!”.

The clones begin a valiant counter attack…

Inflicting grave loses on the terrorist team…

But the terrorist leader is more than a match for the clones.

Rex grabs a blastshield from a fallen trooper, as he begins to formulate a plan.

Coming alongside Anakin Rex yells, “I’ve got the Senator, you take the bounty hunter!”.

Anakin rushes through the fray…

Locking weapons with the thug.

While a gifted warrior…

The bounty hunter is no match for the young Jedi’s skill.

Laying on the ground, writhing in pain, the mercenary cackles, “I…am but… the first.”.

With that the mercenary surcumbs to his injuries.

Joining Anakin Rex grudgingly admits, “Nice fighting… For a guy with a ponytail.”.

“You weren’t half bad… For a guy with a skirt.”, Anakin reciprocates amused.

Rex chuckles and observes, “Senator Amidala is in far more danger than we originally believed.”.

“I agree.”, Anakin concurs, “We have to draw these assassins out in the open and end it if Padme is to ever be truly safe.”.

“But how?”, Rex questions.

“Leave that to me.”, Anakin assures with a ruthless smile.

“It is outrageous!”, the holographic projection of Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray fumes, “That after over a decade of insulting the Trade Federation, and me, Padme Amidala lives!”.

“An insult I will soon correct Viceroy.”, assures Ganancioso Verme. A brutal assassin of the Trade Federation Verme is an unique Neimoidian. Like all Neimoidians Verme’s early years were spent competing with fellow grubs for limited food. While this traumatic childhood leaves most Neimoidians greedy, desperate for a life of luxury and ease, it turned Verme into a stone cold killer, willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. That is precisely the reason he was personally selected by Viceroy Nute Gunray to see to the death of the Trade Federation’s greatest enemy , Padme Amidala.

“You had better! I had thought that the Badoo Cobra would have finished her.”, the Viceroy blusters, clearly disappointed.. Becoming slightly more upbeat Gunray chortles, “Well, at least I had not paid him yet.”. Becomingly suddenly frightening Gunray demands, “Do not fail me Verme.”.

“No target has escaped me yet.”, the assassin assures, “Padme Amidala will die. By whatever means necessary.”.

Meanwhile, in the Jedi High Council…

“We are ready to proceed with the plan Generals.”, Clone Captain Rex reports to the Council.

“Very well, you may proceed. Everything is in place.”, Master Windu yields.

The hologram of Rex fades away as the Councilors rise, leaving them to their thoughts. “This was a grave mistake. Skywalker was not ready for this trial.”, Mace heavily shares.

“Not ready for many of the greatest trials in life are we, but face them we must.”, Yoda answers.

“True, but are we ready for the trials that await the Order should Skywalker fail?”, Windu questions, haunted by the answer.

“This had better work.”, Rex grumbles as he and his clone security unit escort their charge to the awaiting gunship.

“All too easy.”, Verme gloats, staring down at the vulnerable group.

“Now.”, Verme orders into his comlink.

A massive explosion erupts in front of unit!

The explosion is followed up by a staccato burst of laser fire..

From an elite unit of Federation droid forces.

“Go!”, Rex cries to the white hooded figure as his clone comrades exchange fire with the Federation’s droids.

Needing no further urging the figure rushes towards the awaiting safety of the cruiser…

Coming to a stop as Verme cuts them off!

“It ends here Senator!”, Verme loathes, raising his weapon to deliver a killing blow…

Which is effortlessly deflected by the lightsaber blade which emerges from the cape.

Verme draws back in shock as Anakin Skywalker emerges from the cape!

Skywalker rushes forward, locking blades with Verme!

“It does end here, but for you, clever friend!”, Anakin sneers.

As if on signal the doors of the Republic Gunship swing open…

Releasing its payload of Coruscant Guard Shock Troopers…

Which quickly overrun Verme’s droids!

“No!”, Verme cries, stunned…

Following up with a vicious assault!

The two continue to trade blows…

Locked in a deadly dance.

Yet just as suddenly as it began, it ends as Verme is downed by a stun blast from behind.

Rex stands over Verme’s body, a smoking pistol in each hand and wryly states, “I never did like Neimoidians.”.

“That makes two of us.”, Anakin chuckles, locking step with the clone.

Together the two walk towards the awaiting Gunship.

Coruscant has beautiful sunsets. The simple saying had been around long before tonight’s sunset, a well known ploy to entice tourists to the planet. Yet as she stared out at the sprawling cityscape Padme Amidala could not help but think that the saying was made just for tonight’s particularly beautiful sunset.

“Magnificent.”, the tender and familiar voice of Anakin Skywalker calls from the apartment’s entrance.

Joining his wife’s side Anakin continues, “Gunray’s thugs have been captured. You’re safe now Padme.”.

“My valiant Jedi Knight to the rescue again. It would seem I am deeply indebted to you.”, she softly teases.

Blushing a shade of red as dark as the sunset Anakin answers, “No, it is I who am indebted to you. It was you who saved me from slavery all those years ago on Tatooine and you again who saved me from despair after my mother’s death. I couldn’t live without you.”.

“I know.”, Padme replies with a gentle smile, locking hands with her husband.

Together the two watch as Coruscant surcumbs to tender embrace of night.

Finally, breaking their tranquil silence Anakin laments, “Once I’m deployed to the battlefields I don’t know how long it will be before I see you again. That scares me more than Dooku’s mightiest weapons. I… I don’t know if I can do it.”.

“Yes you can!”, Padme sharply answers, “You have a duty. The Republic needs you more than ever Anie, you cannot turn away.”.

Grasping her husband’s face Padme continues, “No matter where you are, I will love you. We may be separated by galaxies, but we will always remain close in heart.”.

The two fall into a tender embrace…

Just as Captain Rex enters.

“Oh dear!”, C3-PO fuses, “It would appear that the Senator is… presently engaged.”.

Anakin hurriedly breaks away from the arms of his wife.

Attempting to act casual he questions, “What is it Rex?”.

Clearly unnerved Rex answers, “The Chancellor has summoned you Commander Skywalker.”

Disappointment briefly flashes over Anakin’s face before, remembering Padme’s words, he peacefully turns to her and states, “Then I must take my leave. Until we meet again Senator.”.

“Until we meet again Master Jedi.”, Padmes softly breathes.

Anakin locks step with Rex and awkwardly requests, “I would appreciate if you were to keep what you saw tonight… private.”.

“I don’t recall seeing anything Commander.”, Rex answers with a mischievous glint in his eye.

“You’re… different for a clone.”, Anakin observes, relieved.

“And you’re quite different from the Jedi the Kaminoans taught us about.”, Rex good naturedly replies.

“I suppose that a different clone and a different Jedi can make a pretty good team.”, Anakin observes.

“You have done a great service for the Republic, and me Anakin.”, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine thanks Anakin as they walk throughout his office.

“I did my duty, nothing more, Excellency.”, Anakin humbly replies.

“Yes, but few could have performed their duty as ably as you my friend.”, Palpatine observes. “I heard that you and the ARC Captain Rex worked rather well together. Is that true?”, the Chancellor continues.

“He is a skilled soldier and I consider myself lucky to have fought beside him.”, Anakin proudly answers.

“Well, as a token of my gratitude and continued belief in your abilities I have ordered the Captain and his clone unit

to be reorganized into your own clone trooper company. Which is to be immediately deployed to reinforce Master Kenobi.”, the Chancellor explains, paternal pride gleaming in his eyes.

“I…I… Thank you! Can you really do that?”, Anakin stumbles.

Palpatine laughs and assures, “Yes my boy, I am the Supreme Chancellor after all.”.

“I sense you two will do great things together.”, the Chancellor concludes with the weight of fate attached to every word.

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