"Shattered Balance"
Chapter 3/?
By: Pink-Green-White-4ever
Last Revised: November 12, 2008

Summary: While the Jedi began putting their plan into action, Padme begins implementing her own with a little help from a friend
Rated: M for language and adult situations
Ship: AP
Authors Notes 1: This piece is AU RotS from the morning after Anakin's nightmare. Knowledge of the SW universe prior to this will be helpful.

AN2: This is my first venture into the universe that is Star Wars. As my big brother so eloquently put it "You didn't want to start shipper-centric, you decided to just jump right off the edge." And he's right, I did. The main idea for this story was his, something he wanted to see done but hasn't been, and probably doesn't have time to do since he writes for two other fandoms on top of this one, but that he gave me, helped me shape into something that has my own unique spin and vision on.

AN3: All the details I've got that have been gleamed from the canon of this wonderful sandbox of George Lucas' come from 's data bank, Master Shawn30 and his collection of books and his vast knowledge of the force, and of course my own knowledge of the universe.

Dedicated to: Shawn30, for being my favorite brother from another mother and the most wonderful and knowledgeable Master I could have asked for! And thanks to everyone who reviewed the first two chapters, I appreciate the feedback immensely!

Side Note: 500 Republica is open! A link to it is on my profile here or you can email or IM me; I'll be happy to provide the link to you. We've added probably a half dozen new authors since I last updated this story, so pop over and check them out.

--

"The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is the exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach." -- Unknown

--

"Padme, are you sure every thing's alright?" Bail cared to ask while seated beside his good friend and fellow Senator. Her beauty was haloed by the light streaming through the picturesque transparisteel glass, making her appear even lovelier than usual. Thought mindful of her attractiveness, he thought of her more like a slightly younger sibling, having helped her gain her footing in the Galactic Senate when she'd first come to Coruscant. His presence had been requested in an almost panicked voice, so he knew that something was amiss. Padme was well known for keeping calm and level headed.

"I wish everything was fine," she noted while smiling sadly. "What I'm about to reveal to you, I couldn't tell the others earlier this afternoon. I am in need your counsel first and foremost."

Bail tilted his head, watching her. Padme's normally calm attitude was anything but. She appeared tired, and yet, tense as a bow string. "Whatever it is, you know that you can trust me with it."

Nodding, Padme folded her hands in her lap and looked him straight on. "Part of the reason I've cut back on my senatorial duties is because I'm pregnant," she softly told him, watching his eyebrows shoot up. She knew he'd had suspicions, but had never asked because he respected her privacy. "I know you've wondered, and I wish I could have told you before now. Information has come to light, just this morning, that makes it imperative that I tell you everything I've learned. I truly need your help."

"I take it part of the reason you've just told me this is because of who the father is. Am I correct?"

Padme smiled. "Perceptive as always." Her compliment earned her a small grin. "What if I told you this morning the Jedi finally discovered the true identity of Darth Sidious?"

"I'd ask how you found that out and with what proof?" he volleyed back.

"My husband discovered it this morning during his attempted rescue of an injured clone trooper at the Ministry complex." Padme knew he'd would put two and two together after having been told just this morning about Anakin's attempted rescue mission.

"Husband?" he gasped mildly. Bail stared at her, assured sincerity in her brown eyes spoke nothing but the truth. Suddenly overcome with with renewed hope, he stood and began to pace toward the window behind where he'd been sitting. Staring out over Galactic City, he felt the immense implications of what she told him settle into his soul.
"General Skywalker?"

"Yes," Padme confirmed proudly, and then switched gears back to the dire events at hand. "The point is, this morning he uncovered the identity of Darth Sidious. It's Supreme Chancellor Palpatine."

Turning swiftly, Bail saw the hardened expression on her face, the fire in her eyes. His heart felt lodged in the vicinity of his throat. "Are you sure it's him?"

Padme brushed her long flowing hair back as she nodded. "The clone trooper Anakin attempted to save was from the first cycle that Master Yoda retrieved from Kamino," she explained. "His injuries were so severe that he was incoherently mumbling all of his mandates. Even those he was never supposed to speak of. One of them being Order 66."

Bail paled as he stood before her. "What is it?"

"That the entire order of the Jedi are be exterminated when Order 66 is executed. All of them. Even the Younglings," Padme told him, her lips trembling as she did so. She was determined to make sure it never happened... no matter the cost. "Over a million clone troopers versus a couple thousand Jedi. It'd be a slaughter, Bail. And there would be nothing anyone could do to stop it. It's a voice activated command only Palpatine can order."

Things could not possibly be more difficult in Bail's estimation. "Is there a plan in place?"

"Part of one, which is why I've asked you to come here," she explained. "The Jedi are going to want to arrest Palpatine by any means necessary. In order for the Republic to stand whole against the devastating news, the Senate is going to need to remain strong and appear as if they were in on this from the start. Those aligned with the Supreme Chancellor will fall after he's been arrested and tried in the high courts. Of that I have no doubt," she passionately laid out the information. "But I also know that the senators that are of like mind on speaking out against him won't be safe here on Coruscant until it's all over. Besides, if the Jedi are to do their jobs, to accomplish this last, most important mission, they don't need to be worrying about the safety of those of us they're going to end up relying upon to hold the Republic together when the HoloNet learns of what has taken place."

"Are you suggesting that we go into hiding?"

"Yes. Because when it's all over, we'll be the ones having to pick up the pieces of the Galactic Senate. We can't do that if we're dead. And rest assured our lives, and those of our loved ones will be at great risk when Palpatine is arrested. As much as it goes against my very nature of finding a diplomatic solution to this all, the senator in me knows that this war will not end diplomatically. It will end by force. I won't have Anakin or Obi-Wan worrying about any of us, knowing as I do that they will be among the group of Jedi to go after the Chancellor."

She could see in the way his stance shifted that he agreed with her, however much it rubbed against his nature to find a solution to this problem peacefully. "You don't think the petition is enough?" he asked. Padme frowned slightly, realizing his voice almost hinted at something beyond the petition and what the Jedi were going to do.

"I think that we need to quietly recommend as many of the senators as possible secretly leave Coruscant immediately. A group of us must go together, and I have the perfect place for that. Then we can contact as many of the other senators as possible, so that we are all on the same page when it's our time to take a stand."

Bail exhaled deeply, having expected none of this. Nonetheless, a true end to Palpatine's rule and this war was at hand. Now they had a chance. "I'll see who I can gather and then I'll contact you." He suddenly looked as tired as she felt. "You really think this will work?"

"I'm praying that it does," she responded.

Before he could say another word the sudden sound of what could only be a star fighter roared up near her veranda. In an instant, Anakin was striding into the apartment, R2 right behind him. He stopped in mid-step when he caught sight of Bail standing a few feet away from Padme. "Senator Organa," Anakin greeted, bowing to him respectfully.

"General Skywalker," Bail responded, smirking slightly before his expression turned somber. "Your wife was just informing me of the incredible events of this morning."

Blinking slightly, Anakin came up short when he heard the words. He understood that Padme trusted Bail in much the same way he trusted Obi-Wan, but was still unprepared for someone outside of the two of them to call her his wife. "Yes, Senator. Rest assured the Jedi Council is planning and preparing to arrest the Supreme Chancellor."

"Ani, what is it? You're practically vibrating with energy," Padme began to struggle to her feet, only to have Anakin rush to her side, gently pressing on her shoulders for her to remain seated. "Anakin?"

He couldn't hide the grin adorning his face. Kneeling, he reached out to take her small hands in his. "I was granted Mastery this afternoon during my meeting with the Council," he told her, his eyes shinning with pride. "Master Yoda granted it to me without a word to the others. I'll have my ceremony at a later date, but I am now a Jedi
Master."

Padme's eyes shone with happiness and a true smile swept across her face. The absolute happiness she felt for him caused her already healthy glow to simply burn all the brighter. "Truly?"

Anakin acknowledged that it was so. "Master Yoda is sending Obi-Wan and I on a special information gathering mission tomorrow, but for tonight, he wants things to appear as normal as possible."

"How long will we have, Master Skywalker?" Bail respectfully asked.

"A few days at most," Anakin responded. "I'm sure Padme told you of her condition. I want her as far away from Coruscant as possible when it happens."

Striding over, Bail reached out a hand to the Jedi. "I'm on my way to gather several of the other senators I feel should be told of what is taking place. We'll make plans to leave Coruscant immediately, and trust that I'll do everything I can to look out for her."

Anakin shook Bail's hand, feeling as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "I appreciate it, Senator Organa."

"I'll be in touch as soon as I can, Padme," Bail told her before he took his leave of the two.

The couple silently waited until Bail was out of the room before they turned back to stare at one another, identical smiles caressing their faces. "I'm so proud of you," Padme whispered, reaching up to brush his long, sun-streaked locks from his face. "How do you feel?"

"Relieved," he answered, pressing their foreheads together. "With the way things had progressed lately I wondered if they'd ever truly trust me. It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. To have Master Yoda of all people, simply grant me mastery… it was beyond description."

"Your mother would be proud of you as well," Padme reminded him, seeing the pain flashing in his eyes for the briefest of moments. "What did the council decide upon?"

Sitting back on his heels, he looked up at her. "Master Ti is taking the Younglings to a safe location. Masters Ki-Adi-Munidi and Master Windu are sending out a coded transmission to all Jedi under the guise of a mass re-assignment. Instead of arriving at their new destinations, they'll be going gathering together. Obi-Wan and I are to meet with Master Yoda in the morning to go over plans to get information on the Supreme Chancellor's schedule and personal security."

"One of the only people who would have all those details would be Vice Chair Mas Amedda. Palpatine is rarely seen without him," Padme detailed. "Other than the Red Guard, who are with him at all times."

Pushing aside all thoughts for a time, Anakin reached out to take her hands in his, and then gently pulled her to her feet as he stood. "Let's think about that tomorrow, Angel. For tonight let's just rest and celebrate."

"Celebrate huh?" she teased playfully. "You want to celebrate? I thought Jedi were taught to have no ego?"

He had the nerve to look appropriately offended by his wife's comment. "Excuse me, but I'm not a normal Jedi, now am I, Mrs. Skywalker?"

Padme gave him a look that spoke volumes seconds before her lips curved upwards in a radiant smile. "I should hope not, Jedi sir, considering this rather large bump is partially yours," she gestured to the curve of her belly. She smiled lovingly when Anakin's hands slid to either side of her waist, his palms settling over their baby. In that moment, they both felt the strong, healthy kick of the child they'd created. Anakin's eyes shone with such awe that it humbled her to no end. He was going to be a wonderful father, of that she had no doubt. "Ani?" she softly called to him.

"Yes Angel?"

She looked up into his eyes and watched the desire he'd always shown her well in those beloved blue orbs of his. "Love me?"

"Always," he whispered, leaning down to feather a kiss to her mouth. His intentions had been for a soft, whispery kiss. Instead, the touch went deeper, so that their mouths were fused together, their tongues dueling, each of them uttering a moan in response. When Anakin finally managed to grip the last slippery threads of his control, he pulled back, chest heaving. He couldn't help the Sith-like smile that spread across his face at the look of utter arousal on Padme's. Her lips were kiss swollen, her chest was heaving, and her eyes were clouded dark with arousal. It was beyond words what she did to him in moments like this. Without another word, he led her through their apartment to their bedroom.

--

While part of her wanted nothing more than to make love to her husband after months of not having seen him, the day's events had worn on her so thoroughly that she expressed a wish to just simply take a long, hot bath. Tonight she just wanted to relax. And keep her mind off the fact that her husband was, even now, in the kitchen attempting to make her dinner. His skill with a lightsaber, in a star fighter, and in 'aggressive negotiations' she didn't question. But his prowess in the kitchen worried her greatly.

As the calming steam from her bath rose around her, she felt her strength come flooding back. After nearly four years of constant worry over losing the single most important person in her life, she felt that they were about to turn a huge corner. With the revelation of Darth Sidious' true identity, the Jedi were about to end the war, and the Senate was about to begin the long and arduous task of fixing the Republic. Her and Anakin's time was coming.

Finally.

With Master Yoda granting him mastery, they no longer had to worry about whether or not the revealing of their marriage and the child she was carrying would effect his position within the Jedi order. Yes, there would be questions, endless hours of questions to come, but it was one less worry they now had. She understood that Queen Apailana may ask her to step down as Naboo's representative in the Senate. For the first time since their marriage had begun, since they'd started keeping secrets from everyone, Padme felt that she would be more than accepting of stepping away from the Senate and its never-ending spotlight. She had another, much more important job looming in the near future; being the mother of the next generation of the Skywalker family.

If their child ended up being anywhere near like Anakin it would be a full time job in and of itself.

Almost unconsciously her hands slid to her stomach. She hadn't been lying when she'd told Anakin the night before that she wanted to have their child on Naboo. The peace and quiet of the Lake Country, and of her family estate of Varykino, sounded like heaven at this moment. She hated running from her problems, but if Anakin and Obi-Wan's fears were founded then she needed to be as far from Coruscant as possible, if for no other reason that Anakin's sake alone. Palpatine would use her against her beloved, and that she couldn't permit. The Chancellor had been privy to so many of her and Anakin's private moments, joys, and fears due to her husband's trust of the horrid man that he would stop at nothing to use her to get Anakin to do his bidding. Besides, it would be the perfect setting, traveling to the Lake Country, to discuss the possibilities that she'd long since told Bail she wanted to know nothing of for fear that they'd be held in contempt of the Chancellor and accomplish nothing.

Under her hands, her belly rippled with the movement of their child. "I know you're in there, my sweet little one. I'm not ignoring you," she spoke softly, leaning back against the bath pillow she'd brought with her. "Your father's so sure you're a girl, but I know you're a boy. I don't know how, but I can feel it deep down to the core of my being. You're going to be a beautifully handsome little boy with sun-kissed blond hair and bright blue eyes, just like your father." She smiled, her words seemingly calming the child within down so that no more movements were felt.

While Padme enjoyed her bath, Anakin found himself staring worriedly at their kitchen. He'd never had to worry about making a meal before that didn't consist of rations or being in a mess hall, let alone the bugs he wasn't allowed to talk about in front of his wife. "Master Ani, why, you look lost," C3PO spoke up as he entered the kitchen, R2 by his side chirping his agreement.

"I promised Padme I'd make her dinner 3PO."

"Would you care for a suggestion on Mistress Padme's favorite dishes?" the protocol droid asked, stopping to stare at Anakin's tall, lanky
form.

"That would be helpful, yes. Something that isn't complicated and won't take a great deal of time; my Jedi training didn't including cooking class," Anakin muttered.

When Padme emerged sometime later, her eyebrows shot up and her heart jumped into her throat when she smelt the smoke in the air. "Ani?" she called out, fear lacing her voice. "Anakin?" When she got no reply, she began to hurry as fast as she could toward their kitchen.

Before she could get to the door, Anakin came out, waving his hand in front of his face and coughing. He winced when he saw her stop a foot from him, worry on her face and realization dawning in her eyes. "Um…it's probably best if you stay out here, at least until 3PO gets the fire contained…"

"Fire? What exactly were you trying to do in there, cook a seven course meal?" she shot back, watching him carefully. He pressed his lips together in embarrassment.

"I was trying to make Grecian pasta and Shaak-milk sauce for you, but um….it sort of boiled over….."

"Oh Ani," she let out, shaking her head at him and trying not to laugh.

"I think I caused a few of 3PO's circuits to short," he chuckled, moving to hug her. "He was going on and on about getting turned into scrap metal for letting me cause a fire in the kitchen."

Padme giggled as she laid her head against his chest. He was such a sweet man to even try and do something as simple as making dinner when it lay outside of his realm of experience. He was always doing everything he could in their brief moments together to take care of her, to see that she was safe, happy, and well loved. It was so nice for her to have him within touching distance. Their longest time together during their marriage had been ten days about seven months ago on Naboo. She knew that was very likely when they'd conceived their bundle of joy. He'd done everything within his power that short time together to pamper her as best as he could. "I love you," she earnestly told him, looking up into his beloved eyes. "Endlessly."

He smiled down at her, looking decidedly happy and relaxed, despite his failed attempt at dinner and the more pressing matters that lay outside of their cozy world for two. "I know," he replied, brushing his flesh hand over her cheek. "I would have walked away from all of this. All you needed to do was ask it of me."

Leaning into his hand, she closed her eyes. She'd been thinking the same thing. "Anakin, as much as I'd love nothing more than that, we have to face reality. We're needed," she told him solemnly. "Even if I'm asked to step down, you have attained your mastery and a seat on the Jedi Council. I cannot, and more importantly will not, ask you to leave something which you have strove so hard to attain. And for now, I'm needed in the Senate. We can't leave, no matter how appealing the idea is."

"I know, but I wanted you to know that I would, and could, walk away from it all if you asked it of me," he lovingly told her, leaning down to feather a kiss to her forehead. "I love you, so much."

"When everything is said and done, and Palpatine has been taken care of, we're going to discuss this again," she firmly informed him. Anakin nodded and then quietly steered her over to the couch. She smiled up at him while he fussed over her, moving pillows to mound around her, trying to make sure she was comfortable. Once he was sure she was, he sat down next to her and drew her to his side, his arm curling protectively around her shoulders while they watched the sun begin to set outside.

C3PO brought out a steaming cup of Marbelo tea for Padme and a class of blue milk for Anakin. "Master Ani, R2 and I have put the kitchen back to rights and are preparing a nice Carbini bean soup and tossed side salad for dinner."

Anakin grinned and tried not to blush when Padme giggled at his failed attempt to cook for her. "Thank you 3PO," the Master Jedi uttered, turning his head to kiss the top of his wife's head.

"Will either of you be needing anything else before dinner?" the protocol droid queried.

"No, thank you, C3PO," Padme responded.

"Yes Ma'am."

They sat in comfortable silence, simply enjoying their time together, knowing all too soon it could come to an end. Not for the first time since he'd gotten home, Anakin found his attention being drawn to the swell of Padme's belly. Force sensitive as he was, he could feel their child within, feel the life stirring to the noises it heard from without. "I hope it's a girl," he whispered suddenly, causing Padme me to look up at him and smile.

"You said that last night."

"And I'm saying it again. It's a girl, one who's going to be as beautiful and spirited as her mother," Anakin spoke with pride. "She's going to be such a handful."

"Yes, HE is," Padme told him. "I'm telling you, Ani, it's a boy. He kicks hard enough to be a Jedi in training already," she teased. When Anakin remained silent, Padme shifted so she could look up at him. "What's wrong?"

He looked slightly pensive. "What are we going to do if she turns out like I did, and has a high midi-chlorian count?"

The thought had crossed her mind, but given that right now their lives were unstable enough, she shook her head. "Let's concentrate on now, not later. We don't know what's going to happen, and I'd like to discuss that when we've less on our minds and can think clearly."

Anakin just nodded. In a series of shifts on the couch, they soon ended up with Anakin having his cheek resting against her abdomen while he stretched out length wise. Padme's head was resting back against the plump cushions while her fingers sifted through his long locks. Every so often she'd smile when she felt his hands rubbing soothing circles on her belly. He was absolutely awed by the changes in her figure, the feelings so prominently displayed on his face each time he stared at her. Her Ani had grown up without a father of his own, having been a mysterious conception, and he'd had his mother for only a few short years. Part of her feared she'd never be half the mother her own had been, or that Shmi had been to have raised such an extraordinary young man. Even when she'd first met him, Padme knew Anakin was destined for greatness. She just hadn't realized at the time how much he'd truly change her life. Being parents was going to be not only the most important job they'd ever have, but it would be the most challenging and rewarding one. Thank the Force they'd be together for it.

--

If there was one thing that he'd learned in all his illustrious years serving in the Galactic Senate, at first as a Senator and then Vice-Chair of the Republic, it was the value of immense power and the means to get it. Those with great wealth and lofty positions gained influence, and a rare few learned how to wield that depth of control. He was a being who had learned to change a minor opportunity to wealth and his minor position to a better one, gaining power and notoriety with it. As such, he used all those things to get what he wanted, when he wanted. Which was why he was currently sitting at a very exclusive and secluded table inside the V.I.P. section of Skysitter Restaurant.

The Skysitter was one of the most exclusive restaurants on all of Coruscant. As a structure, it was a 1,000 meter towering spire located in the Ambassadorial Sector of the Senate District. The restaurant itself revolved at a soothing rate of speed, giving the occupants an unobstructed 360-degree panoramic view of Galactic City. Tri-legged waiter droids moved quietly from table to table, speaking in whatever native language the table's occupants spoke, before bustling back through the sliding doors to the kitchens to retrieve food and drink. The atmosphere was quiet and cultured, all the way from the expensive Morden purple-colored velvet that lined the walls to the thick, plush Bacari carpet in cerulean blue that covered the floors. Tables were set with white linen table cloths and flatware in gleaming Hanoi gold, the goblet stems were the same gleaming gold and the goblets themselves were Mondari crystal.

"Vice-Chair?" one of the Clone bodyguards called out, approaching Mas Amedda where he sat surveying the restaurant's elite clientele, making sure several of the prominent senators and dignitaries present saw him and understood he was watching their activities. Anything out of the ordinary that could be deemed the actions of a traitor to the Chancellor would come in handy to get what he wanted from them.

"Yes Captain?"

"Governor Tarkin asked that a message be relayed to you. His shuttle was delayed, but has just landed and he will be here momentarily," the guard responded, bowing his head.

"Excellent," Mas smiled, the move sending a chill down the guard's spine. Quietly, the Vice-Chair laid his napkin on the table and stood. The guards immediately shifted to attention. "At ease, gentlemen. I'm merely going to the refresher. Rest assured I will not
need your assistance in there." That said, he strode away from the table, disappearing into the V.I.P. sections refresher hallway.

--

Anakin was focused.

Nothing else existed. The gusting winds rushed around him, billowing the dark brown Jedi cloak he wore and sending strands of his sun-streaked hair flying into his face. Quickly and quietly, he ignited his lightsaber and carved an opening in the transparisteel
glass hub before diving through. Leaping to his feet and scanning the plush, red and gold decorated refresher, he found his query washing his hands and straightening his clothes. With a Sith-like grin, Anakin rushed forward.

"Skywalker…!" the Chagrian managed to gasp even as Anakin dashed him off his feet, slung him over his shoulder, spun to the opening he created and leapt through.

Seconds after they were gone, an unmanned Cyan speeder ricocheted off the side of the building, slamming into the wall, causing significant damage to the refresher room. The loud crash immediately alerted the guards who'd been assigned to the vice chair.

--

The second they began to free-fall, Mas Amedda began shouting Chagrain curses from the top of his lungs. He felt a sense of blinding anger and extreme helplessness dangling over Anakin's shoulder as they plummeted 200 standard feet through the air, falling at a vastly accelerating rate, narrowly missing air-taxis and sky-buses that whizzed past on their daily routes at dizzying speeds. The winds rushed passed him maddeningly, and the weightlessness he felt lodged his heart somewhere in the vicinity of his throat. "BY THE GODS!"

Not much longer after the words had been shouted and died in the wind did they land with a thump in the cockpit of a speeder. With a thud, he found himself thrown in the backseat of the speeder with Anakin. Turning wide, terrified eyes forward, he recognized the driver instantly.

"Why Vice-Chair, how nice of you to join us," Obi-Wan dryly greeted him. "I hope we didn't disturb your meal?"

"General Kenobi," he hissed, his forked tongue flicking out of his mouth as he leaned forward. There was no warning before the lightsaber, fully extended, ended up parallel to his chest, just under his chin.

"I'd sit back and enjoy the ride, Vice-Chair," Anakin's voice ground out, the sound practically sparking with the immense power the Jedi held.

Swallowing hard in the back of his throat, Mas sat back, sensing that provoking Anakin Skywalker right now might not be the bets course of action. He wasn't called the Man With No Fear for nothing. "You have abducted me against my will! This is treason against the Galactic Senate," he informed them, his voice smug.

"So is Darth Sidious being IN CHARGE of the Galactic Senate," Anakin responded in kind, his blue eyes focused on Mas' mildly stunned face.

Obi-Wan coughed, bringing their attention back to him. "It's not treason, Vice-Chair. We're merely detaining you in our investigation. You have important information that's about to bring this illusionary war to an end."

"I have no clue what you're speaking of," Mas argued while trying to control the rapid beating of his heart. "You're insinuating that Chancellor Palpatine is being controlled by Darth Sidious? It's preposterous."

"Not controlled by," Anakin informed him. "Palpatine is Sidious, and don't bother denying it. We know that, as clearly as we know about Order 66. Shall I continue?"

Mas was visibly shaken by Anakin's words. "I'd listen to my young friend, Vice-Chair," Obi-Wan offered, just as the Jedi Temple came into view. "I've never been able to stop him from acting rashly and I fear you may not like the results if you see fit not to cooperate."

The Vice-Chair said nothing, though his eyes widened as Obi-Wan drove the speeder straight past the Jedi Temple and headed for one of the seeder sections of Galactic City. He'd been expecting a formal interrogation at the Jedi Temple. Now he wasn't sure what to think.

--

Bordered by massive, twin Ion-energy drives powered down and fried into a rusted shade of brown, the hollowed out wreck of a building that once stood as the Greth Lan-Dwu Corp building appeared set for demolition. That was, if it didn't fall in on itself first. Crippled best described its shadowy, fowl decor.

The Vice Chair of the Republic sat in a small, dank, dark room with only a single Holo-disk above to light the dim room's interior. There was a small table in front of him, which Obi-Wan Kenobi was currently leaning his palms on as he stared into Mas' face. The Chagrain's expression was composed and devoid of any emotion. His vast experience
in the Senate lent itself to his current situation; he'd long ago learned to reveal nothing. "What help do you think I'm going to be to you, General?"

"Vice-Chair, as I see it, you're going to be most helpful," Obi-Wan pointed at him while wearing a calm smile. "Can I get you something to drink? Perhaps some Star-bucka coffee or a cup of Camerillian tea?"

"No, thank you, General," Mas seethed as he sat in the chair, arms folded over his chest. Two deep breaths later he calmed down and stared at Obi-Wan. "What is the meaning of this interrogation? You have no order from the High Courts, nor do you have anything in
writing from the Jedi Council to keep me here. This is most disrespectful."

Obi-Wan just stood there staring at the Vice-Chair while he dusted off his Jedi robe. "The time for mincing words is long past. We know all about Palpatine. His plans have been divulged, and we have discovered the truth about the war raging even as we speak. We will end it, make no mistake about it."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You keep saying that, but somehow, I think you and I both know that's not the truth. I don't like being here anymore than you do, but until I get the information I came for, neither of us can leave. I will have your full cooperation or you can deal with my good friend, who's waiting outside. Trust me when I say you don't want to deal with him. You want to deal with me."

"You honestly think that Sidious and Palpatine are one in the same?" Mas laughed, and then flicked his forked tongue at Obi-Wan, bringing up what Anakin had mentioned in the speeder on the way to the where they were. "The mere thought is preposterous. Why, he works with Jedi Master's daily. You're crazy, and this is treason."

Shaking his head, Obi-Wan stepped away from the table, folding his arms into the sleeves of his Jedi robe as he did, and then began to pace in the semi-darkness. "Undeniable proof has been uncovered and delivered to the Jedi Council. We know Darth Sidious' identity. We know about Order 66, and we know that the Sith were behind the war all along. The Jedi Order is already putting plans into motion to end the war, and stop Palpatine's reign of terror for good. It's really quite simple for you, Vice-Chair Amedda. Your fear of Palpatine and his wrath if you betray him is palpable. We will arrest him, or kill him if need be. And every being who's aided him in his perverted quest to rule the galaxy will no doubt be tried in the High Courts, found guilty of treason against the Republic, and be executed. I'm giving you an option. Help us, and escape the coming battle with your life, or stay and die in it."

The Vice-Chair of the Galactic Senate began to sweat, particularly near his horns. His already blue skin taking on a decidedly pale and clammy look, but his features remained schooled in an expressionless facade.

"Vice-Chair, as we speak, every member of the Jedi Order – Younglings, Padawans, Knights, Masters – are all being taken to safe locations. They're going into hiding as far away from any clone trooper as they possibly can. Those remaining here on Coruscant at nightfall will be the most powerful of the Jedi Order. We will seize Chancellor Palpatine, make no mistake about that. Even if he manages to succeed, he will have a true, fill-scale Galactic war on his hands. Only this time with the Republic itself, and it will be led by those Jedi who are left. Order 66 is, in a very real way, the end of Palpatine himself. He's going to trade his fake war for a very real, very destructive one that will only end one way – with his death."

Watching Mas from the corner of his eye, Obi-Wan began to pace in front of the table, a hand reaching up to stroke his beard. The Vice-Chair's eyes were glued to Obi-Wan's form with every step he took. The Jedi Master sensed his suspect's immense unrest. "If you help us, I can guarantee your life will be spared. I will make sure that a press release is issued, stating that you were hurt during the unfortunate incident at the Skysitter Restaurant and saved by a Jedi nearby. And then I shall have a Jedi go to Palpatine to request your expertise on a sudden, but very important diplomatic dispute in the far reaches of the galaxy. You, meanwhile, will withdraw as many credits as you can from personal accounts, take an unregistered starship that we provide for you, and disappear from Coruscant. Forever."

Damned if he did and damned if he didn't, Mas Amedda considered his option carefully. No matter how this played out Coruscant was about to become a war zone he wanted to be no where around. "And if I don't agree to help you?"

The door swung open and slammed into a wall with such force that Mas jumped in his seat. Anakin strode in, his Jedi robes swirling around him as he made his way to Mas' side. Leaning down, Anakin made sure that Mas's attention was on him, their blue gazes locking hard, as he uttered, "You will help us, or I will kill you myself and move on to
the next person in Palpatine's cabinet that will be of use to us. Rest assured someone will take us up on our offer,. Because when we storm the Senate anyone in our way will go down.."

In that exact moment, the two Jedi watched Mas' fear become quite visible as he struggled to swallow, with Anakin remaining coldly in his personal space. The politician was not stupid, and so as the silence continued, he weighed his admittedly few options. Agree to help the Jedi and disappear with his life, or Skywalker killed him, which might just be worse than if Palpatine got wind of his betrayal, especially if the look in Anakin's eyes was anything to go off of.

"I've spent the last three years in a war so brutal and unjust it cannot be described. I've lost countless friends and comrades, men and women whose faces and names I will never forget. I have seen death so brutal, and the genocides of far too many races, on a scale no one should ever witness. And all of it is because of one man – Palpatine. I have no mercy for him, or for any who aided his bloody quest for domination. I will not sit here and play games with you as many more people perish in a war not of their choosing. I cannot be bargained with, and you've no cards left to play. Either you help us now, or I kill you where you sit."

Mas Amedda, despite his immense confidence, knew when he wasn't holding a winning hand. This was the ultimate no-win scenario. "What do you need?"

--

Despite a busy schedule for them both, Jedi Master Mace Windu found himself being ushered into Chancellor Palpatine's office at the sudden request of the Chancellor himself. "Your Excellency," Mace greeted upon entering the elaborate room, his hands tucked into the sleeves of his robes even as he bowed.

"Master Windu, thank you for coming on such short notice," Chancellor Palpatine told him, rising from behind his grand desk to greet the Jedi Master. It took everything in Mace's power to control the horribly dark rage that was filling him; so many Jedi, and countless others, lost because of this man. His features remained stoic as he took a seat across from Palpatine's desk. "I'm afraid I've just received disturbing news, my friend."

"And you believe the Jedi to be useful?"

Palpatine gave him a curious look. "Master Windu, the disturbing news is about the Jedi. I received reports that all your warriors are leaving their posts on the direct command of the Jedi Council. Can you explain?"

"We're reevaluating our forces and performing a mass reassignment of our Masters and Knights. As you well know the war has decreased our numbers. It's the council's opinion that the Jedi Order is spread much too thinly. All the Masters and their Knights should be arriving at their new destinations shortly."

"Why was I not informed? Why was the Senate not informed?" Palpatine demanded, making sure his tone came across as one of feeling betrayed. Mace internally seethed as he watched the man before him act wounded.

"With all due respect, Chancellor, the Jedi do not answer to the Senate, or you, at least on this matter. We've lost forty percent of the order in this war already, and we cannot afford to lose anymore. If this mass reassignment prevents the loss of anymore of our forces, then so be it."

Palpatine searched his foe's feelings and found Mace as basically cold as ever. He sensed a troubling note, thought not necessarily coming from the Jedi Master. "I understand the sacrifices the Jedi have made, my friend. But as you well know this is a time of war. We must both be aware of the strength of our combined forces, or I fear there will be discord among those in our command."

The two stared at one another across the massive desk before Mace nodded his assent. "Of course. I assure you, you'll be the first to know of our plans from now on."

"Thank you. Now, I'd like to discuss something else. Something that needs immediate attention," the Chancellor smiled, before settling back in his chair, his face taking on a grave expression.

"Of course," Mace merely responded, his eyes boring into Palpatine's face.

"Vice-Chair Mas Amedda was injured this morning while dining at the Skysitter Restaurant. Some sort of errant speeder crash. Luckily for him, a Jedi Knight not far from the restaurant saw the crash and saved his life. And now General Kenobi has requested his help in a diplomatic matter."

"I am aware of the request."

Palpatine nodded. "Unfortunately, the Vice-Chair has gone missing. Neither his staff or mine has seen him since this morning. I fear something unfortunate may have befallen him."

"Disturbing indeed," Mace spoke up. "I'm afraid I have few Jedi remaining on Coruscant to assign to the case. However, I believe Skywalker is still on leave. If it pleases you, I'll have him assigned to investigate."

The Chancellor smiled. "I would most appreciate Anakin's skills. If anyone could discreetly discover the Vice-Chair's whereabouts in a timely fashion, it would be him."

Mace was about to excuse himself when one of Palpatine's aides came rushing in. "Excuse the interruption, Chancellor, but your guest has arrived at your private landing platform."

Nodding, Palpatine stood. "I'm afraid this requires my immediate attention, Master Windu."

"Of course, Your Excellence. I'll return to the temple to speak with the rest of the council and assign Anakin his this mission.."

"Thank you my friend." Palpatine watched Master Windu walk away ever so calmly. And for the first time in decades a sense of dread fell over the Dark Lord of the Sith.

--

Night had fallen on Galactic City, leaving it awash in the bright lights of a city that never slept. Shaking his head, Anakin parked his speeder in front of the Galactic Opera House before rushing inside, his Jedi robes snapping in the wind behind him. Palpatine's summons had come just as he and Padme had been getting ready to eat, a fact that didn't escape the Jedi. Far too many of their moments had the Chancellor interrupted or engineered.

Guards let him pass without a thought, and each step he took brought him closer to his target – Darth Sidious. The name alone ignited a burning, searing path of anger and resentment in him that eclipsed what he'd felt toward even the Jedi Council.

Images of fallen friends and allies filtered across his mind's eye – Master Qui Gon, his mother, the squadrons of clone troopers he'd come to know and respect – they had all died in a war not of their choosing and all because one man saw them as dispensable.

He stood behind Palpatine's chair in the Chancellor's private booth and stared. He could do it now, he surmised. He could ignite his lightsaber and kill the monster before anyone could react. He knew it was inside him, coiled like a serpent waiting to strike. And he would have done it had Padme's sweet brown eyes and loving voice not stroked across their Force link, soothing him, but reminded him of their plan. There would be no taking Palpatine like this. They needed proof of Palpatine's treason against the Republic and his order of death for the entirety of the Jedi order. Anything less could lead to a civil war that might tear the Republic apart from within.

The subtle touch across his senses was like a cold glass of water being dumped in his lap, telling him the Chancellor had sensed his presence. "Anakin?"

"Your Excellence," Anakin properly murmured, bowing to him. "I came as soon as I could."

"Your prompt presence is greatly appreciated. Come closer, my boy." Without even a glance over his shoulder, Palpatine declared, "Leave us." Those in the booth quietly departed. "Have a seat, Anakin."

He bit down on the urge to grab his lightsaber and forced himself to sit next to the Chancellor. "Your message sounded urgent."

"It was. Have you spoken to Master Windu?"

Anakin nodded. "He said the Vice-Chair is apparently missing. It's disturbing news, as I know Obi-Wan was looking forward to his expertise on a matter."

"Disturbing indeed," Palpatine answered. "More so what I've learned since I last spoke to Master Windu."

Anakin tensed, waiting for Palpatine to reveal his hand. "It appears an absurd amount of credits were withdrawn from the Vice-Chair's personal accounts this morning, shortly after he was injured at the Skysitter."

"Do you fear he's been abducted, or perhaps brokered his own disappearance?" Anakin asked.

"As of yet, I am uncertain. Rest assured my bets people are searching for him. But none compare to you. Anakin, find him. My worry for the Vice-Chair grows by the minute."

The Jedi nodded, scanning Palpatine's face. How long has he witnessed this depth of sincerity and caring? It often drew him to the Chancellors side; now it sickened him to know it was all a lie. And what was worse, he'd been played a fool. "I will, Chancellor."

"Good. Now, we have other matters to discuss before I send you home to that beautiful creature you call a wife."

Anakin could have snapped Palpatine's neck the second the Sith Lord mentioned Padme. "Excellency?" he spoke, trying to keep his voice level. All he wanted to do was end it all, but the thin, persistent voice in his head kept reminding him it wasn't time yet.

"It's come to my attention that the Jedi are performing a mass reassignment of their forces, and I wasn't informed of the move until it was already under way. I fear I can no longer trust the council to keep me properly informed."

The Jedi nodded. "I was informed myself just this afternoon," he smoothly lied.

Turning, Palpatine faced him. "Anakin, I love you as if you were my own son, and I trust your judgment; which is why I'm insisting Master Yoda grant your mastery and place you on the council. I need to be kept up to speed on their actions, especially if they're going to be going against the Senate, and by extension, the Republic."

His jaw ticked as the muscles clenched. Palpatine wanted a spy on the Jedi Council. "But Chancellor…"

"Anakin, it's not just that I need information. The council continues to hold you back, and we both know it's because they fear your power."

Turning, Anakin's eyes zeroed in on the actors far below. He'd always understood the council feared him and his power, but now, he was beginning to understand why – they'd never truly understood him. If they hadn't been able to sense the Sith within their presences, then how could they have understood him and the mysteries surrounding him. They'd lost touch with the Force so much so that it had nearly abandoned them. His long talk with Master Yoda after Mas Amedda's interrogation that afternoon had confirmed as much, while showing him many things, including the fact that they council feared he'd be the end of Jedi.

"I understand, Chancellor, and I'll do everything in my power to not disappoint you."

"Thank you, Anakin. And do wish Padme my best as her pregnancy proceeds. I'm sure you're excited about the prospect of being a father."

Anakin's smile was genuine despite his hatred for Palpatine. The fact that the man knew his wife was pregnant was extremely dangerous. "That I am. Once this war is over, I'm never going to be away from her or our child again if I can help it."

"Honorable, my young Jedi; have a good evening."