TEN – ESCALATION
With all the information, he gathered from the villages along the Amazon River, Obi wan was able to narrow down his search for General Grievous to a location somewhere between the Jutai and Jurua Rivers. Villagers offered food and a place to sleep for the night, while recanting stories of horrific sightings of a large machine-like man with eyes of a jaguar and a voice of a demon. They say he'd been seen moving through out the jungle leading an army of soldiers that were like children to him. Elders from certain villages advised Obi wan no to go after this creature for they feared if undefeated the creature would take revenge on them. He reassured them there was nothing to fear and graciously took his leave the following night, disappearing into the trees of the jungle.
He searched throughout the region for what seemed like days extending into weeks. Obi wan knew he was closing in when he saw broken branches and droid parts lying haphazardly on the ground. When it was too dark to continue his search Obi wan usually stopped to rest and at times, his mind would wander to his former padawan. Recently it seemed, the connection the two shared in the force would suddenly vibrate and then return to its previous state. He detected this sensation once before when Anakin was suspended. He never felt such a change in him before. Anakin was changing and he wondered if even Anakin knew it? Would Anakin even talk to him if something was going on? Apparently not. He didn't share the fact that he took his feelings for Padme a step further or even that she returned them. Obi wan looked down wondering to himself if perhaps there was a sign of trouble he missed. He suddenly remembered the look on Anakin's face during the suspension. It was a look of total and utter betrayal. He was hurt and allotted the entire council including Obi wan with the blame. Obi wan remembered his heart sinking to his stomach when Anakin looked at him. His eyes had become like ice and seemed to darken a bit. He'd never seen him like that before. Obi wan came to understand that once the suspension was over Anakin might understand why things had to be done this way.
With a remorseful sigh, Obi wan shook the thoughts from his mind and instead decided to concentrate on his mission.
Another two days had passed when he came upon a sign that he was very close to his quarry. He could see a thick dark liquid on the tip of some of the leaves. From the feel of it between his fingers and the smell, he realized this to be lubricant—typically for use with droids and machines. He continued on walking pushing his way though the foliage. Until finally he reached what looked like the glimpse of a clearing up ahead. He slowly and cautiously moved closer toward the opening, pushing aside the branches of the trees. He walked out and discovered himself standing on the edge of a cliff.
Looking across the chasm before him, he could see the heads of a thousand more trees as far as the eye could see. He looked down 60 feet into a valley and saw a large campsite. There were several sentinels standing guard in various locations. Some were stationary and some were making rounds on the far side of the camp. Obi wan could see an opening to a cave below were it seemed to be more heavily guarded than any other shelter on site. He knew this must be where General Grievous is hiding. There was a light radiating from inside.
Obi wan knelt down and removed his com device from his belt. In a low voice, he spoke, "Kenobi to Commander Cody."
"I have located General Grievous's camp. I am sending you the co-ordinates now. As far I am aware of there are no villages near this area. I am engaging General Grievous."
"How many droids are there?"
"Plenty just don't take too long."
"You know you can depend on me. Just leave some for us."
"Count on it. Kenobi out."
Obi wan quickly and quietly jumped down and ran for cover in the midst of the neighboring trees. There were battle droids making their rounds and were about to discover Obi wan's position. One was coming from the left and the other from the right. Obi wan straightened his back against the back of a tree and waited for them to pass. With their weapons in their clutches, they looked from left to right as they passed each other.
Afterwards, he thought it best if he kept to the trees and stayed off the ground. It would be better if he didn't draw any attention until he revealed himself to General Grievous. Obi wan knew his hatred for the Jedi would ignite the desire to fight him on his own without any interference, especially if it appeared to be one Jedi.
General Grievous would not consider running again.
Obi wan jumped up into the tree and stood on a branch strong enough to support him. He scanned the area quickly before moving again. Stealthily, he stole through the treetops until he reached the other side of the camp and was directly above the cave opening. There were two guards standing just outside the opening. Using the force, he pointed his finger in both direction and projected a sound. The guards turned away from each other and the cave entrance, pointing their weapons toward the origin of the disturbances.
Obi wan jumped from the tree and entered the cave. The cave was dark and dank. He could hear the ragged strained cough of General Grievous in the distance. Obi wan pulled himself against the cave wall. There was a light on one side of the cave and Obi wan continued on toward it. Behind him was a boulder, Obi wan moved behind it and peered out at the light. He soon realized that it was General Grievous accompanied by several droids including his personal guards. Obi wan watched in silence as he gave orders to the smaller droids. Obi wan decided to wait until the right time to strike.
Anakin usually waited until nightfall before returning to the apartment. There wasn't as much traffic coming in and out of the building and it was prefect timing when the doorman changed shifts. He watched the numbers for each floor change as thoughts of Padme's reaction to seeing him after being gone the last two days. He couldn't bare to be around anyone or face Padme after such humiliation. The chosen one had been punished and tamed. Instead of returning home, Anakin stayed in a hotel. Alone. Brooding about what had transpired, remembering Padme's warning about his position between the chancellor and the council. With a sad smirk he thought that perhaps he should create a force bubble around himself in case she was ready to throw something at him. He hoped she'd understand once he explained what's been going on. He sighed dejectedly remembering the information he looked at and carefully read in the envelope Palpatine had given him. He remembered how angry it had made him to know that Palpatine would make up such horrible lies about her. Palpatine would pay for trying to turn him against her. He betrayed his trust and knew about his wife.
Anakin found difficulty registering everything that he was discovering. Palpatine was not the man he used to be. He was no longer the mentor he grew to admire and desired to emulate. Anakin wondered how did he know about Padme? They had been so careful not to give any indication of their involvement.
Everything around him was changing except Padme. She was right about Palpatine all along. He didn't believe her because Palpatine was so good at covering up the truth.
Anakin stepped out of the elevator and entered the apartment. He could feel Padme's presence but didn't see her in the living room or the kitchen. He turned toward her office door and realized the door was closed. Usually Padme always closed her door whenever she was inside having a meeting or on a conference call. He smiled and walked toward the door. She'd be happy to see him and angry that he'd been gone for so long. He didn't care he just wanted to see her again.
Padme held her head as she dropped herself into a chair. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute. The news she heard over the phone was devastating and difficult enough for her to believe. She held the cell phone tightly against her cheek to keep her hand from shaking so much.
She opened her other hand wide and rubbed both her temples, "I-I can't believe this. Why would he do this? Why would he betray us?"
"For immunity and 30 million. His faith in the rebellion is gone." Bail's voice was low and filled with disappointment.
"I can't believe it. Why has the empire not reacted?"
"Who says they haven't? They are probably waiting for right time to strike."
"I never thought he would do this."
"None of us did, Mae-Mae. Ras is going after him."
Padme blinked. "What?"
"Giddean caused the deaths of 12 good men. He says he'll make sure he never gets a chance to enjoy the money."
"And Axel? What about finding the location of the weapon and the cloning plants?"
"It appears that for now those objectives will have to take a back seat. Axel has put more priority in preparing our exile. This requires false passports, ids, birth certificates. You name it. We would have to leave everything behind. We have to leave the country, immediately."
Padme blinked. She swallowed hard. "What?" She questioned whether her hearing was intact.
"We have to leave before the empire comes after us. It's only a matter of time. Right now we sitting ducks."
Padme hand started to tremble again. Life as she knew it would never be the same again. Her heart began to race. Her thoughts immediately turned toward Anakin. She stood up from her chair and walked toward the window. Anakin would be beyond fury once he found out about the trouble she had gotten herself into.
She stammered. "I-I can't leave the country now—just abandon everything?"
"Axel recommends for now that we have no contact with family and friends. The empire probably has all their lines tapped. They are probably being watched. Everything we are planning will have to be put on hold."
"We can't abandon hope, Bail. We can still fight Palpatine, even in hiding. We still have the power to bring down the empire."
"Of course, yes, Padme. But we must look to our survival first if our goals are to be met."
Padme sighed shakily. "You are right, Bail. The rebellion will only survive if its leaders survive. It is still in its early stages. What is the next move?"
"We have to leave quickly. Ras thinks it is best if we split up and go our separate ways. Once we are in hiding, we can make contact. I plan to take a commercial airline and leave in a couple of days."
"That sounds good. It would probably make it harder for them to find you."
"I want you to come with me."
Padme paused. "Bail, I don't think—I do not know if I should…" She remembered the moment she and Bail had in her office not long ago. Things were never settled between them about that. Too much was going on in her brain to properly focus. The biggest dilemma she now had was telling Anakin about this mess and escaping the empire unscathed.
"Mae-Mae, forget what happened between us or what didn't happen between us. My feelings for you are beyond platonic and I am aware that it is not reciprocated. However, this is about survival. I cannot go into exile and leave you behind. I need to make sure you are safe. You're my best friend, Padme."
Padme's heart softened. "You know how much I care for you and I am sorry for the way things have turned out. We have the kind of friendship that in these is scarce."
"Will you meet me?"
Padme hesitated. She placed a hand of over her stomach. In the chaos that was now her mind, one thought came clear and constant. Things were changing faster than she could process. There was a new element in her life that seemed to change the rules. She had to consider her safety before anything else including Anakin. She had to assume new role in addition to wife, rebel, and senator.
"Of course, I will. Tell me where and when."
"Be prepared Padme. We have to do this when the first opportunity presents itself. I will call you and tell you when to meet me. Palpatine has influence in many countries but not all of them. I will call you once everything is ready. It will most likely be a red eye flight."
"Then I guess I should get my house I order."
"Thank you, Bail."
"Thank me once we have touched down in another country."
Padme smiled remembering the first time they met in college. "I don't what I do if you didn't fall back in your chair that day."
Bail chuckled remembering the embarrassing moment in class.
She closed her cell and placed it carefully on the windowsill. It world seemed a little colder and just a bit dimmer than it did before Bail informed of Giddean's betrayal. The hope of the Rebellion was deferred, and nothing could be done about it. As much as she wanted to see the end of Palpatine and the empire, she realized that Bail was right. There was no way she could help bring down the empire and remain in the public eye. All her concerns for Anakin hung on him being forced to choose between a dear friend and his commitment to the Order. However she found herself in a very similar position. Padme realized that there was no turning back now. A choice was made for her. It wasn't a question of if she'd tell him but how she would tell him. Nothing was simple anymore. Now she had to consider telling him this in addition to telling him he was about to become a father.
Padme cursed Giddean inwardly. He is a spineless toad and deserves whatever he gets.
Padme looked up at the door to her office and realized it was ajar. She did not leave it that way. She cocked her head to the side quizzically as she walked toward it.
Why is this door open? She furled her brow and instantaneously the answer came.
No. She looked back into the office and realized that from this position, Anakin would have heard her entire conversation. It seemed her heart would beat right out of her chest. Anakin had discovered her secret. Oh Gods!
It was now a matter of when will he confront her and how he will react. Padme did not know whether her words would invoke his understanding. So, for now all she could do was pray that somehow they would make it with some normalcy in their lives.
Obi wan removed his cloak and emerged from the behind the boulder. With weapon in hand, he slowly walked toward the droids and immediately cut down three of them. General Grievous turned around snarled.
Obi wan said with a smile, "Glad to have finally caught up with you."
Grievous pushed aside the droids standing between him and Obi wan and said, "General Kenobi, good to see you once again."
Obi wan said, "You will not escape this time."
"You fool! I will not have to." As the guardian droids moved to attack Obi wan, they were suddenly halted by Grievous's command. "I will see to this insolent Jedi trash myself."
He removed four lightsabers from his cloak and unfastened the clasp, causing it to fall to the ground.
Using the force, Obi wan hurled two large boulders towards the droids surrounding Grievous. The cyborg general was able to jump out of the alcove before being sealed into side. Several droids were crushed on impact, causing a few sparks to fly.
General Grievous unhinged his arms and each held a lightsaber. Obi wan's eyebrows raised slightly but he maintained his position. Swinging and spinning the weapons with such speed, Grievous began moving toward Obi wan forcing him to take steps back further into the cave. As his claws oscillated, Obi wan narrowed his eyes. He concentrated and waited for the right time to strike.
Obi wan lunged forward and all blades converged on one point. He suddenly found himself blocking and parrying blows, and jumping sweeps from all four blades. While Obi wan's movements were elegant and effortless, General Grievous's appeared to be systematic and mechanical. Each lightsaber strike was purposeful and calculated. It seemed at one point that there was a dynamic pattern being created. Therein lied Obi wan's opportunity to remove Grievous's extra numerary weapons. Obi wan blocked and quickly cut off one claw. He spun around, blocked three more blows, and removed another claw. The two stumps receded into the two primary limbs and Grievous growled ferociously. Against the walls of the cave, the duel had shown like a spectacular light show. A commotion was heard from outside prompting General Grievous to look over his shoulder toward the entrance.
Blast fire had been seen darting pass the opening followed by several clone troopers shooting their weapons. General Grievous lunged and Obi wan blocked again. Swirling colors of blue, green and purple moved endlessly as a duel continued. Obi wan turned 180 degrees and destroyed the third lightsaber at the hilt. The general glanced at the newly cloven weapon and narrowed his eyes at the Jedi standing before him. With a back handed swipe, he tossed Obi wan meters away and turned to run. Obi wan shooked the dizziness from his eyes and extended his hand. Just as the cyborg general passed a large boulder, Obi wan lifted it and smashed him against the wall.
Obi wan got up and walked over to him, he waved a hand to remove the boulder. General grievious pelted himself at Obi wan and held him against the wall by the neck. He started to feel the metallic claw tighten it's vice like grip around his flesh. In the corner of his eye, Obi wan saw a small dark mass moving behind a bent portion of the breastplate. The impact from the boulder had created a larger opening and made it easier to see that General Grievous still possess internal organs. Obi wan's feet could barely touch the ground as he struggled to break free. He called his lightsaber to his hand and pointed it directly at the breastplate.
Obi wan ignited the blade as he started to feel himself black out. General Grievous looked down suddenly what happened and dropped the Jedi Master to the ground. They both coughed heavily. One gasped for breath. The other gasped for life.
He staggered a few meters as the embers of his cauterized organs died out. He gave out one long forced cough and collapsed dead at the mouth of the cave.
Obi wan clipped his lightsaber to his belt and walked over to the corpse. General Grievous was finally dead and now it would only be a short matter of time before the war was over and the fighting would end.
He opened his cell phone and called the Jedi Temple.
"Windu." A voice answered on the other side of the call.
"Master Windu, General Grievous has been defeated."
"Good. Then the time is now. I will summon any available masters, and go to the chancellor's office to remove him from power."
ELEVEN – A change in the wind
Palpatine welcomes his guests. Things change for Anakin. Bail discovers the clones dormant commands and struggle to contact the masters. Order 66.