"Shattered Balance"
Chapter 4/?
By: Pink-Green-White-4ever
Last Revised: October 23, 2009

Summary: The pieces start coming together as the Senators and Jedi put their plans for bringing down Palpatine into action.
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 three chapters, I appreciate the feedback immensely!

Side Note: Shawn and I have joined in yet another venture, this time with a few of our friends – Angel, Enigmaforum, Liz and Rapunzl – to create the message board and fan community known as Valhalla. We want to extend a welcome to all of you readers to come over and enjoy the insanity. So far, we've got Avatar: The Last Airbender, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Camp Rock, Glee, House, Lost Power Rangers, Star Trek, Star Wars, Supernatural and True Blood. So, I hope all of you come over, come to visit, sign up and I look forward to chatting with you! (there's a link in my profile)

--

"Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape" -- William S. Burroughs

"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation" -- Kahlil Gibran

--

In the dead of night Anakin and Padme secretly left their apartment with Dorme and the droids in an unregistered Maldalorian cargo shuttle piloted by Captain Typhoo. Their destination, the lower level districts of 172. The sudden communication had come an hour earlier from Bail that everything was in place and it was time to leave. The others were gathering there to keep under the Chancellor's radar.

Not an easy task at all as Palpatine's eyes and ears on Galactic City were endless

Repulser traffic was lighter this time of night, offering a quicker journey through the city as tensions ran high – Anakin was as gravely worried as ever about Padme's physical condition and her safety. Padme worried that with her husband's emotional state of mind he would do something rash without her. Something that might get him killed. Their eminent separation increasing their anxiety with each passing minute that brought them closer to their destination. Neither spoke when Anakin took Padme's hand. She smiled and then squeezed it as hard as she could, almost to tease him to ease the tension. Showing fear was not an option. Not when they both had incredibly important duties to perform to now.

"Would both of you just relax," Dorme responded, a sleepy smile on her face. "Captain Typho has taken every precaution for this trip, I assure you. Not to mention, I called in a few favors."

Both Padme and Anakin eyed her curiously. "Sabe's joining us for the trip, Milady," was all Dorme would say to the looks she was getting. When Padme's eyes widened and Anakin chuckled, Dorme knew that the two approved of the decision.

When they arrived in the lower levels district the landing pad was a hub of activity. A large Correlian frigate sat in the middle, surrounded by more than a dozen Jedi and several groups of armed guards. After disembarking from the ship, they noticed the guards were the personal security officers of several senators – Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Giddean Danu, Terr Taneel, Fang Zar, and Nee Alavar. Also visible were Jedi Masters Yoda, Windu, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and Kenobi.

"Masters," Anakin greeted as he and Padme moved to stand before them.

"Master Skywalker," Yoda addressed him. "To see the senators off, come we have."

Anakin bowed to him. "I thank you, Master Yoda."

"Discuss our plans, with the Senators we have. Prepared them for what's to come, we wished to do."

The other three Jedi Masters nodded. "Anakin, the council has assigned one dozen of our finest Jedi Knights to escort the Senators to their destination," Obi-Wan explained, which eased Anakin's mind immensely. But he knew his former Padawan would never feel truly comfortable with trusting Padme's safety to anyone but himself. Still, this was the best that they could do. It would be enough. "There are several others who will be joining the escort after it's under way. We've routed out of the way so that our journey won't appear predictable. In addition, Senator Organa provided cloaking devices for all the starships. I have decided to not ask how at this time."

At Anakin's curious expression, Master Yoda hummed. "Assigned Ashoka Tano have we, to join her squadron with the escort. The choice we knew, you would approve of."

The blue eyed Jedi swallowed hard to drive his worry away. Of course he approved of their choice; Ashoka was one of the few people in the vast universe he'd trust with guarding the frigate's precious cargo. "Of course. I have one other request."

"Ask it?" Master Windu spoke, his sharp gaze on Anakin.

Anakin then addressed the man he often thought of as a father. "Obi-Wan, I'd like you to go with them."

Obi-Wan sighed heavily, having sensed this beforehand. "I'm needed here, Anakin; you know that." Thoroughly repulsed by the idea of not being part of the team that went after Palpatine, it was only Anakin's guarded expression that drew him in.

"Master, there is no one I trust more to guard the most important thing in my life, than you. I'm asking you, please, go with Padme and the Senators."

Obi-Wan was at a loss for words while Ki-Adi-Mundi, Mace and Yoda shared silent communication before Master Mundi stepped forward. "Perhaps Anakin's right. There isn't a Master among the Jedi we chose to guard the Senators. They're going to need a combat-ready General, to lead them."

"You can't mean to send me?" Obi-Wan gasped. "Palpatine is very powerful and we do not know the whereabouts of General Grievous."

"Indeed," Yoda responded. "But ease to Master Skywalker's mind, you will bring Master Kenobi. Less likely to make a mistake, he will be, if you are with his wife. Trust you, he does, more than he trusts even the Council. More than he trusts himself."

Obi-Wan and Anakin locked gazes, their own form of silent communication between them. When Anakin's attention flicked to the heavily pregnant Padme, Obi-Wan's resistance melted. Much as he loathed missing out on helping bring the war to an end, he knew in his heart that guarding the Senators and making sure they returned to Coruscant unharmed was as vital a mission as arresting Chancellor Palpatine was.

"Speak again, we must, with Senator Organa," Yoda announced before Masters Windu and Ki-Adi-Mundi followed him away from where Anakin and Obi-Wan stood. They would settle this best by themselves.

"Master," Anakin started, watching his friend lift an eyebrow in question.

Reaching out, Obi-Wan put his hands on his friend's shoulders. "As much as I want to stay and fight, I understand why you're asking me to go. I'll protect both of them with my life. I promise you." When Anakin's tense shoulders sagged in relief, Obi-Wan finally realized how much stress had just been lifted from him. Anakin always seemed to carry the very weight of the universe, and now he seemed relieved.

"Thank you, Master."

Obi-Wan gave a nod and a grin. "I'm going to go speak with Captain Typhoo about getting this ship in the air. Why don't you go say goodbye to your wife?" When Anakin turned he added, "And please, do not die. I have grown rather fond of you... Master."

Such respect and friendship they shared. "The same to you, Master."

Anakin strode toward where Padme and Dorme stood with C3PO and R2. He was about half-way to them when red-robed Sabe joined him. "Master Skywalker," she greeted, emphasizing the Master portion of it.

He couldn't help the little grin that broke at the sound of her voice. "It's wonderful to see you again, Milady."

She shot him a look, one that he was barely able to read beyond the oath of protection she silently vowed, which was followed by her words. "I'll protect her at all costs, Anakin."

The Jedi Master stopped to face her. "I appreciate that. Obi-Wan has agreed to go with you." When Sabe rolled her eyes, Anakin found he couldn't hold back his chuckle. It was well known just how much Sabe and Ben got along, which was hardly. "Sabe, you will need him."

She sighed and then conceded, "I know."

"A squadron of Jedi, led by Ashoka Tano will be in route to meet up and escort you the rest of the way to your destination," he supplied.

Any annoyance at Obi-Wan's presence melted away and Anakin watched her eyes narrow. "You're anticipating trouble." She said it as fact, not question.

Anakin's expression grew grim. "How much has Dorme or Captain Typhoo told you?"

She shrugged. "Not much as I'd like. Dorme just said that Padme needed my help."

"We've discovered who Darth Sidious is. The Jedi believe he may use her against us."

"You mean against you?"

"She's with child, so it makes matters even worse," Anakin told her.

Sabe could do nothing but helplessly nod. The worrisome vibrations bouncing off her told Anakin how seriously upset she felt. Nonetheless, Sabe lifted her chin high. "We'll protect them both. I swear it."

"I'm counting on it." The two moved to stand with Dorme and Padme. "Dorme…"

"Stop worrying, Anakin," she admonished softly, smiling to try and soften the stress she knew he was feeling. "She'll be safe."

Biting back yet another question about how she was feeling that he knew annoyed her, Anakin turned to face his wife. A hard, strong, icy grip wrenched his heart and began to squeeze. Flashes of his dream caused him to close his eyes. He couldn't bare the thought of facing the future without her. He'd already lost his mother and he couldn't survive losing his wife. When two small, warm hands touched his face, he opened his eyes and found himself staring into her beloved brown eyes.

Separations had never been easy for either of them, but they had long ago learned to adjust. Only this separation was more for him – he'd no longer have her or the life carried within her beside him. At least not until it was all over. He tried to contain his rage and get a handle on his grief, but where his feelings concerned Padme, it was nearly impossible. Leaning down, Anakin rested his brow against hers, cupping her cheeks with hands that shook slightly.

"Ani…"

"Promise me something?" She smiled and nodded. "Don't have our baby without me."

"I'll do my best," Padme laughed through her tears, leaning forward to rest her head against his chest. "Anakin, I love you."

His arms wrapped around her as best he could. "Angel, I love you too. This is only temporary, I promise. As soon as it's safe, I'll come and bring you home myself."

Pulling back, Padme blinked away the remnants of her tears. "Be careful, Master Jedi. I'd like to keep you in one piece."

The serious tone of her voice told him it was time to pull back, emotionally. She was his wife and a mother to be, but the strong Senator was about to board that ship and began discussing what was next for the Republic after Palpatine. He knew her well. "Safe journey, Milady."

Stepping away from each other, they became the Senator and the Jedi again. Anakin made one final gesture – a low bow – before watching Sabe and Dorme escort her onto the frigate, C3PO following them. Once she was out of sight, Anakin and R2 joined the other Masters and Senators.

"Anakin," Obi-Wan acknowledged.

"We're all set," he responded.

"Safe journey, we wish you. May the Force be with you," Yoda spoke to the Senators, punctuating his comments with a bow.

"Good luck," Obi-Wan told Anakin as he and the group of Senators headed for the frigate. The Jedi stood watch until the ship engines ignited in a red-blue hue, and then lifted and launched off into the sky. He looked on, grim determination lit in his eyes.

--

"Gold leader, what is your ETA to the transport frigate?" the static-filled form of Master Ki-Adi-Mundi asked over the secured communication channel.

"Six standard hours, Master," the pilot responded. "We're preparing to jump into hyperspace now. Master?"

"Yes?"

"What's so special about this frigate? Why does it need a full Jedi escort?" The frustration was evident in her voice. The squadron's original mission had been to head to Ilum and prepare the frozen temple there for the arrival of Jedi Master Shakk Ti and the younglings she was secretly escorting from Coruscant. The urgent message had come through just hours before that the Jedi Council was reassigning the squadron to another, apparently more important mission.

"Ashoka, that information is classified," he spoke to her calmly. "What I can tell you is that Master Kenobi is aboard the frigate and we've reassigned your squadron to this particular mission to ease the mind of one of your fellow Jedi."

"Who?"

"Master Skywalker."

Shock seemed to resonate through her. Ease Anakin's mind? What was so important about the frigate's cargo that just her being there to guard it would ease her former Master's mind? Shaking her head, she resigned herself to finding out once her mission was accomplished. "Understood. I'll contact you once we join the frigate."

"You have your jump coordinates?"

"Yes Master. Jump coordinates set for Naboo."

"May the Force be with you."

"And with you, Master," she replied respectfully before shutting off the communication with the Jedi Temple. Inhaling a deep breath, she opened secure communications with the other seven members of her squadron. "Check in." One by one, the Gold Squadron checked in as they began their preparation for the jump to hyperspace.

"Gold leader, I'm picking up a dozen or so Trade Federation Droid Starfighters closing in hard and fast from behind us."

Switching her attention to the radar scanners, Ashoka saw that Gold 8 was right. Swearing to herself, she was certain this attack wasn't by accident. They weren't in Federation territory. "Our orders are to make the hyperspace jump and meet up with that frigate."

"I don't think that's going to be possible, Gold leader. Those starfighters are coming are nearly within attack position. They're going to reach us before we get the course plotted," Gold 4 responded.

"Agreed. Evasive maneuvers!" Ashoka ordered as the group broke into sharp turns left and right, heading back the way they'd come to engage the enemy. Ashoka's eyes widened at the sheer number of fighters headed their way. "This is all Anakin's fault!" she muttered to herself even as she began firing on the enemy starships.

--

Chancellor Palpatine reclined behind his broad, ultra dense lanthanide-alloy desk, gritting his teeth behind the smile he'd plastered on his face. Mas Amedda had been missing for nearly a day and was suddenly checking in. "Vice-Chair, I am so happy to see you 'alive' and well, given the seriousness of your unfortunate accident yesterday morning," he emphasized the word alive, watching as Mas visibly swallowed.

"As am I, Chancellor," the Vice-Chair assured him with a respectful bow. He was outwardly calm, his words precise, yet on the inside cold terror gripped his heart. "The med-droids gave me a powerful sedative to help deal with the initial pain. I apologize for my abrupt disappearance. Rest assured it will not happen again, your Excellency."

"Yes... see that it doesn't," Palpatine warned without so much as a scowl adorning his face. "On to other matters. Master Kenobi…"

Mas nodded slowly, as if he understood before his master began. "I'm already on my way to meet with him," he interjected. He didn't want to talk to Palpatine longer than he had to.

Through the Dark Side of the Force, Palpatine sensed yet another shift. Something was most certainly amiss, but couldn't determine what just yet. "Then I wish you a swift and safe trip back to Coruscant."

When the blue figure of Mas' Amedda's transmission faded out, Palpatine considered that his usefulness was at an end. He was so lost in his inner thoughts concerning an even more terrible accident befalling the Vice-Chair that when his secretary walked in he never noticed. Instead, he kept staring out the glass hub of his office overlooking Coruscant at the sprawling lines of repulser traffic that made up the capitol's magnificent skyline.

"Your Excellency?"

"What is it?" he hissed out. "My apologies. What's wrong?"

The Bothan female trembled. "A member of Senator Organa's cabinet is here to speak with you. He says it's urgent."

Pasting a fatherly smile on his face, Palpatine turned from the window and nodded. "Send him in."

A moment later a young man in his mid-twenties entered and bowed. "Chancellor."

Palpatine recognized the youth. He was a relatively new member of Bail's cabinet, and in him, Palpatine sensed a hunger for power, position, and a desire to be close to the Chancellor of the Republic. "Mr. Morgon, what brings you to my humble office?"

Visibly nervous, the dark haired young man turned green eyes on the Chancellor, clearing his throat before he spoke. "Your Excellency, please forgive my unexpected intrusion. But I believe your office should be made aware of some strange goings on. This morning I observed something odd and most disturbing."

Ambition was as old as breathing, so Palpatine considered his presence useful if for no other reason than to keep another set of eyes on one of his most ardent enemies. "Do tell, dear boy."

"Senator Organa left his office, having spent the entire night there, and traveled to a landing pad in lower level 172. A group of other Senators joined him there, as did several dozen armed guards and at least a dozen Jedi. I watched them board a frigate and leave Coruscant. Rumor around the office is they were going into hiding."

Palpatine's eyebrows moved as if intrigued. "Really?"

"There are unconfirmed reports that many senators are leaving the capital as we speak."

Sighing, Palpatine nodded. "Disturbing indeed. I'll look into it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Please do keep me informed of anything else you deem important, Mr. Morgon. My office is always on the look out for strong-willed, ambitious individuals."

The young man bowed and left. Palpatine kept a smile in place until the door closed before leaning over to touch his intercom. "Get me Masters Yoda and Windu." With that done, he reached over the panel and pressed another button. An image of General Grievous quickly appeared. "The Senators are leaving Coruscant. Ready your ship and every available droid you have. Things may move quickly. Be prepared."

"As you wish, Lord Sidious."

--

Ashoka cursed under her breath as she lost two members of her squadron in the wild assault taking place around her. "THIS IS GOLD LEADER! REGROUP!"

The other five star fighters quickly fell into position behind her. "We're taking heavy casualties out here. What are your orders?" Gold 3 asked while whirling his fighter by a jet-stream of blue laser fire.

"Form up behind me! Let's draw their ranks and then scatter them!" she ordered. Using skills she'd learned at Anakin's side over the years, she flew a pattern that drew many of the Vulture Droids on their tails, and then ordered her wings to splinter in all directions.

The result, precious time it took for the Vulture Droid computers to decide who they would chase gave Ashoka and her fighter squadron the advantage they needed. Swiftly, they tore through their adversaries.

"Ashoka, there's got to be a Separatist droid control ship near here. There's no way those Vulture Droids could be this far from one," Gold 4 chimed in.

"Never a dull moment," Ashoka recalled Obi-Wan saying once. "We need to get out of here while we still can. Prepare for the jump into hyperspace on my mark," she commanded, evading half a dozen streaks of laser blasts.

Her fighter group quickly keyed in their coordinates. "Ready!" they responded.

"NOW!" Ashoka ordered as the six Jedi fighters jumped into hyperspace, leaving their pursuers behind.

--

Standing just over the shoulder of the Mandaloran pilot, Anakin watched as their ominous destination came into view. At a towering 750 feet tall, with a staggering 550 floors, the intimidating Vexer Securities Inc. headquarters was as spectacular a structure as there was on all of Coruscant. Thought to be impenetrable, while boasting a private droid army for security, it was considered nearly the equivalent of breaking into the Galactic Senate Dome or 500 Republica itself. The Sith-like smirk on Anakin's face was the only indication that he was looking forward to the immense challenge of breaking into the famed security giant.

"We're almost there, General," the pilot confirmed.

"I'll let the Senator know," Anakin replied as he strode to the back of the small starship.

A clearly tense Senator Melvi Palan stood next to Master Windu, going over last minute instructions for their entrance to the building.

"We're arriving now," Anakin announced. He watched the petite Senator from Ettomega with great pride and respect. She was relatively new to the brutal Coruscant political climate and Palpatine's regime, but had become loyal allies with both Bail and Padme for her focused stance on ending the war. Though this mission would be very dangerous for her, she had been more than willing to help smuggle Anakin and Mace into the facility when she'd been told why they needed to gain entrance. The fact was, despite her royal title on her home world, she wanted Palpatine brought down as much as the rest of them and was willing to risk her life doing so. Both Anakin and Mace had warned her that by helping them as she was, her life was most definitely at stake.

"Are you ready, Milady?" Mace quietly asked her for the last time.

"Master Windu, I'm more than ready," she told him respectfully, brushing her long auburn tresses from her dark brown eyes. "My entourage and I will stay out of the way at all costs. My pilots are aware of the rendezvous point; we'll meet you there at exactly the decided upon time. Good luck to you both."

"Thank you, Milady." Mace bowed to her before facing to Anakin. The pair of them were dressed not in their usual Jedi attire, but in the same, dark red and gold stitched tunics that the Senator's security detail wore. Their lightsabers were attached to their belts beneath the thigh-length fabric. Carefully, Anakin bent down to slide the small virus-drive in his hand into his boot. It was a key bit of tech given to him by Obi-Wan's friend Dex, and would be aiding them in breaching the infamous security of the building.

The seating area gave a low rumble as the landing gear extended. The moment the ship touched down on the sky dock, the two Jedi drew their hoods up, effectively covering their faces, mimicking the look of Senator Palan's guards. Mace's brows narrowed. "Remember Anakin, our priority is to disable the security systems first. Then we go after what we came for."

"Yes Master."

The pair fell into the formation the guards had formed around the Senator and quietly exited the ship with her.

--

Ashoka sighed with relief when her squadron entered hyperspace, though her mind warred with the knowledge that they'd been tracked. Nonetheless, their escape gave her enough time to take stock and catch her breath. Gold Squadron lost two Jedi in the fight, which made their job that much harder. Quietly, Ashoka began preparing an encrypted transmission on the Jedi's coded frequency. The squad was just about to descend out of hyperspace, and after that, they'd have about four standard hours until they reached the frigate. "Friends, this is Snips. Our trip turned a bit hectic and we lost a couple of credits at the table. Ben lost four times as much, but alls well. Snips out."

The second the squadron dropped out of hyperspace, Ashoka sent the encrypted transmission.

--

The heated debate had been going on for more than four hours, and Senator Nee Alavar had said hardly a word. Not that anyone expected her to. She was, by nature, a woman of few words with a strong opinion when it counted most. One wouldn't know it though by looks alone. Wrapped in a dark as twilight cloak, she rested in the corner and watched the proceedings. As was the case with many Lorrdians, her well trained eyes took in the body language of each individual in the room. Her perception by sight was far better and spoke deeper than her hearing of her fellow travelers.

Emotions and opinions were strong and ran hard through the room. Senators Mon Mothma and Fang Zar were in a heated argument about what executive powers, if any, should be given to the next chancellor. With the way they were debating, one would think they disagreed, but their bodies gave off another view – they weren't acting hostile to each other, but were in fact facing one another, leaning together, which told Nee they were very much in agreement with what they were speaking of.

Another vehement discussion was rising not far from where the two senators

were. Nee watched Senators Giddean Danu and Terr Taneel facing one another.

"How are we to even trust the Jedi at this point?" Danu argued, watching as Terr's cool facade betrayed nothing of what she was thinking. The Senator from Kuat turned his attention to Master Kenobi who was calmly braced against the far wall next to where Senators Amidala and Organa sat. Danu had always held a great deal of 0respect for the Jedi, but even he had his limits, and this seemed to be one of them. "Masters Yoda and Windu have been in Chancellor Palpatine's presence for years and they have never once sensed he was the Sith Lord. How are we to trust the Order to defeat him now, let alone continue on trusting them to help us guide the Republic when they lied about the origin of the clone army's creation?"

"Giddean, you're forgetting one thing," Terr added to him, reaching out with her hands to calm him. "If the Jedi don't defeat Palpatine, if they can't stop him, they're going to die right along with the rest of us."

All eyes turned to Obi-Wan, who pushed away from the wall. "Yes, Milady. If Chancellor Palpatine initiates Order 66, the Jedi Order will likely not survive. The Republic's Army vastly outnumbers us; make no mistake, we will be hunted down the same as any found of treason against the Chancellor. It is only his massive ego that gives us this chance to defeat him when he thinks he is invincible. "

"And we've all committed treason against the Chancellor, simply by being here," Bail spoke up.

For a moment, Nee watched them stiffen and shrink back just slightly. Each of them had been more than ready to go along with Bail and Padme's plan, just as they had all been in agreement with signing the Petition of 2000 that was safely in Mon Mothma's possession; fear was to be expected, because if they failed, they would surely die if the Chancellor and his forces found them. "Does everyone have their plans in place if the Jedi do fail?" Mon Mothma quietly asked as she and Fang joined the group. Nee stood from her seat and moved toward them as well.

"We'll have to go into hiding. Each separately until a later date" Giddean murmured, suddenly looking very tired.

"There won't be any hiding from the Sith," Padme finally spoke up, her hands resting in her lap, her fingers tightly linked together. Lines of tension gave her a pinched expression. Her shoulders were set and her skin pale. "Even those planets with a vast military presence will fall before him."

"We have all individually planned for the possibility of failure, but I for one believe that the Jedi will succeed," Bail spoke, taking a moment to look each of them in the eye. "When the Chancellor is brought down, the Republic is going to look at us with accusation, anger, and fear. It's going to be our job to convey trust and stability. And to lead them."

"To do that, we must stick together on this," Padme explained. "If the Jedi fail... if we must continue to act Order 66 will be invoked. At that point Palpatine will control the Republic Army solely by himself. Only our unity will see us through the dark days ahead. And rest assured, triumph or failure, the galaxy will never be the same again."

Nee watched the Senator of Naboo gently slide her hand across her abdomen, in a comforting way, signaling that she was trying to calm the child within. Even through the highly elaborate dressings of Nabooian custom that Padme wore and even without having seen her earlier that morning with Anakin Skywalker, Nee would have known she was pregnant. The signs were all there – the change in clothing, the changes in demeanor, even the changes in Padme's face.

She was only so thankful that her own children were grown. She couldn't have imagined becoming a Senator while she was carrying; it had been stressful enough to be a mother. The road ahead of the former Queen was going to be extremely rough, especially given the fact that the child's father was a Jedi. But she understood the one thing that perhaps the Jedi, and even many who would eventually condemn Padme could not – love knew no bounds. Circumstances beyond the realm of what was normal and acceptable had pushed the Senator and the Jedi together; there would be no pulling them apart, not now that a child was involved. She wasn't a sentimental woman by nature, but Nee wished fervently that the young, beloved Senator would come out of this experience unharmed. To lose the intelligence, grace, and wit that was Padme Amidala Skywalker would be a travesty.

"Senator Amidala is right," Obi-Wan interrupted, drawing the attention of the group. "Trust me when I say once this is all over with, the Jedi will close ranks and take a deeply introspective look at the Order. Until then we must prepare the Senate for the end of Palpatine's reign. You must be in accord on what you plan to do and do it quickly."

"We'll need to begin contacting the other Senators," Fang Zar told them. "If we could use the ships communications…"

"That's impossible at this time," the Jedi responded. "My primary mission is to get you to your destination safely. To ensure that you do get there alive, all communications with anyone outside of the Jedi Temple are expressly off limits."

"Where are we going?" Terr asked.

"We will be traveling to Naboo, where another ship is waiting to take us to our true destination," Obi-Wan supplied. "A squadron of Jedi fighters will be joining us for the second leg of the journey."

Nee cleared her throat, causing the others to look to her. "That still doesn't tell us where we're going."

Bail gestured to Mon Mothma, who was holding out a small device. Suddenly a tactical map appeared. "We're heading for Coronado City on Ettomega. Over the last few years, Mon Mothma and I have been building a fortress known as Freedom 1."

"With help from Senator Palan?" Obi-Wan quietly asked, impressed.

The senior senator nodded. "The Palan family has been instrumental. Melvi's father has wanted to join the Republic for a long time, but with Palpatine having Emergency Powers over everything, he never felt it wise. Until both Mon Mothma and I went to him. We've been planning this for some time."

The group on whole was impressed. "Since the Clone Wars started, both Bail and I have felt that Palpatine has had too much power and that the Senate on a whole itself is too corrupt to stop him. It's why we started the Petition of 2000, and why we asked each of you to join us. We knew it was going to take a strong stand to force him from office. Lately, it's looking more like it's going to take a rebellion to cast him out." Mon Mothma's face was as serious as any had ever seen.

Nee looked on as the others quietly stared at the tactical map in the senior senator's hand. Her gaze centered on Master Obi-Wan Kenobi as he tucked his hands into the sleeves of his robe and leaned back against the wall. Like many, including the Senators in this room, the exception obviously being Padme, Nee was wary of the Force user. Even more so now that it seemed the Jedi had been hiding secrets from the Senate. Much to her surprise, she watched the shock filter across his face when he didn't think the others were looking. Obviously word of a rebellion was news to the Jedi Master. He'd been on the front lines of a false war for years and that knowledge had to weight on him, not matter that he was a Jedi. He probably lost so many close friends in the war.

Nee spared a quick glimpse at Padme, and saw that she too was surprised by the revelation. The others didn't seem as shocked, which led Nee to believe that they, like she, had been informed long before either Padme or Master Kenobi. Of course the former Queen's close ties to the Jedi Order long before her marriage was revealed played a part.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," a young woman in long red robes announced as she

entered. Nee recognized her as Sabe, a member of Padme's security team. "Master Kenobi, you're needed on the bridge. An encrypted communication from Jedi Tano is coming through for you. Senator Amidala, the med droids would like to meet with you, if you have a moment."

Without as much as a word, Obi-Wan helped Padme to her feet and escorted her from the room, leaving the other Senators to continue discussing their plans for when the reached Coronado City.

--

Anakin's intensity grew as the group made their way from the skydock on Level 276 toward the turbo-lift at the center of the building. Late evening winds gusted about as numerous multi-armed security droids hovered in and around the massive installation. If getting into this place was hard, getting out might be twice as bad.

Jacsi Fispo, the CEO of Vexer Securities, had begun rambling on from the moment he'd greeted Senator Palan and hadn't stopped in the ten standard minutes since he'd begun leading them away.

Mindful of the story Senator Palan used to gain them access, Anakin ignored the big-mouthed CEO and focused his attention to the elaborately posh surroundings as they entered the facility. The Corus-plated flooring was covered in a plush burgundy wine-colored carpet that Anakin knew without a doubt came from Naboo, as the same material was in several rooms at Varykino. The long corridor's walls were done in the same color scheme, along with intricate patterns of golden swirls and symbols of the powerful company. Every so often near the decorative molding he recognized wall-embedded security cameras. There weren't many entryways in the lengthy hallway, but the ones that were there were only noticeable because of the security keypads.

"I'm sorry for the long journey," Fispo explained to the Senator apologetically. "We must be cautious of our own secrets."

"It's quite alright, Chairman Fispo. I've just returned from Ettomega; a good walk after such a long trip will do me good," she jovially joked with him.

"Of course. One more corner, Senator, and we'll be at the turbo-lift," he assured her.

Mace peered over at Anakin and the pair shared nod. Their chance was coming. Just as the rest of the Senator's group was rounding the corner for the turbo-lift, the pair hung back. They waited a full thirty seconds before turning the corner themselves, finding that the turbo lift had closed. "We don't have much time," Mace spoke up.

"The utility room is two rows down this corridor and to the left, around the next

corner," Anakin detailed as the two retraced their steps toward their first destination. That stopped when the sensed a vibrant hum beyond a secure doorway. "This back wall is flush with the turbo lift shaft."

Mace opened his palm over a wall-mounted security station, using the Force. Several screws undid themselves at his command as the magnetic memory drive was exposed. He quickly withdrew a small cylinder-shaped device from his belt. Anakin kept watch while Mace quickly replaced the systems memory with the device. Within a few seconds there was a chime and then entry-panels slid open, allowing them access. The Koran Master replaced the small security panel, and then entered the room with Anakin. The door-way slid shut behind them. "We'll have to use our lightsabers to pierce an opening in the wall and then we'll have to jump down to the next level."

"There's no telling how many security droids are down there," Anakin noted as the pair ignited their lightsabers.

"I sense five humanoids. As for the droids, we have all the experience in the world dealing with them," Mace informed him again. "The droids will likely be stationed on the floor, traveling in pairs. They'll likely pass the security room every few minutes on a sweep of the area."

Anakin nodded as the pair shoved their lightsabers into the wall, and going in opposite directions cut a hole large enough for the both of them to fit. The cut piece fell down the shaft. "And the humanoids?"

"Provided we get to the five of them before they sound the alarm, smooth sailing," Mace's face was grim. "If they sound the alarm…"

"We're vastly outnumbered."

"It shouldn't be a problem," Mace noted as the pair re-attached their lightsabers to their belts. Stepping forward, they looked into the shaft. The floors were spaced apart the size of city blocks; if they fell it was going to be a long, long way down. "Remember, concentrate. If you don't, you may over shoot and fall. I won't be able to catch you and bring you back up."

The last thing Anakin enjoyed was being told how to survive. "You as well, Master." Taking a deep breath, the pair looked down and out to their destination. Without a second thought, they both sprang across the shaft. Air rushed up past them as they hurtled across the shaft, their eyes locked on their goal.

Mace landed on the tiny ledge of the door of the next floor down, his fingers clinging to the top. Anakin was right beside him, but his balance was just slightly off and he started to slip. He grunted a second later when he felt the Force wrap around him and knew that it was Master Windu's doing as much as his own grasp on the Force that kept him from falling over the edge. "Anakin, can you get to your lightsaber?"

"Yes Master."

"Get it and open the door while I hold us up," Mace grunted, sweat beading on his forehead.

Anakin brought one of his hands out to the side and let his lightsaber quickly float up to it. With a quick flick of his wrist, the blade had ignited and he was cutting a whole through the door. When it was done, Mace let him go and the pair quickly darted through. The second they were through, the both knelt to catch their breaths. Then they heard the click, click, click of a pair of feet coming down the right hallway of the sterile floor. "Here comes a droid patrol," Anakin growled.

Mace motioned for Anakin to head for the security room down the opposite hallway while he dealt with the droids. "Go. You know what to do, just make sure they don't get any communications out."

Anakin set about his task, running down the left hall while Mace turned to head down the right.

Reaching to his belt, Mace retrieved his lightsaber and hid at the corner made by the wall near the turbo-lift. He waited for the two Kessel droids to come around the corner. Sensing no more living beings were nearby, the master and creator of the Vaapad fighting style attacked. The purple blade cleanly severed one of the droids in two.

The second barely had time to register what was happening.

Concentrating his stare, Mace, spun in a circle and brought his lightsaber at a high arc, severing off the head of the second droid. When the body dropped, he toed each of them with his boot to make sure they weren't moving. Using the Force, he lifted both droids bodies and shoved them in the turbo-lift hole. Satisfied, he turned and strode down the left hallway toward the security room and Anakin.

Rushing in, Mace raised an eyebrow at the five bodies lying unconscious on the floor at Anakin's feet while he worked at one of the computer consoles. "How much longer?"

Anakin didn't spare Mace a glance as he continued installing the hacker-ware program on the console. "Give me another minute. I have to rewind the feeds long enough to have the video loops looking realistic and I have to change the time on the cameras."

"I thought that device Dex gave you was supposed to do that?"

"No, the device just ensures that the loops continue uninterrupted, I still have to set it all up."

"It's an advantage for us that you're good with machines."

That was as close to a compliment as Mace was capable of. Anakin's lips quirked into a grin for a split-second before his concentration went back to what he was doing. "Thank you, Master. I've sent administrators reports on renovation work being done on this floor and the one we first entered. That'll insure the droids are aware of damage. I removed the system checks on all security droids, so none we know if any don't report in when they're programmed to. Then I pulled up the schematics for the entire facility. There's a Species-specific research lab on the other side of this floor."

"Then that's where we're going. One of the scientists is sure to have access to the floor we need to be on."

The younger Jedi nodded. "I don't know how long this is going to hold, so whatever we're going to do, we need to do it now."

"Lead the way," Mace ordered. The two of them carefully crept to the doorway on the opposite side of where they'd entered. Once the coast was clear, Mace followed Anakin down the wide, carpeted hallway. They passed several other corridors that broke off from theirs as they progressed straight. A glance out one of the few glass hubs in the hallway spoke of the large, curving structure they were in – the outside view was a completely different direction from where they'd entered with the Senator.

"This is it." Anakin stopped in front of a set of double doors.

Mace nodded and stepped forward. "You work on getting the door open," he spoke, before he closed his eyes and reached out with the Force to probe the room. He found a dozen or so droids of varying varieties and one living being. A glance at Anakin and Mace saw that he was ready.

Blinking his eyes once, Mace waited for Anakin to flip the switch on the door. It slid open with a light hiss, allowing the two Jedi entrance to the lab.

"Who are you!" the tall, thin female scientist yelled out. "You can't be in here!"

Anakin quickly dispatched the droids with his lightsaber while Mace faced the Kaminoan scientist. His eyes were unblinking as he stared into her face, his mind reaching out with the Force as he expertly took her over. "We need to get into the Vault. You're going to help us."

"I'm going to help you…" she murmured, her mind stuck in the Force-trance that Mace was using on her.

"Take us to the Vault."

Moving as if she were walking through water, she led the two Jedi out of the room and down the branched-off tunnel area toward a non-descript looking panel. Reaching out, she touched her palm to the wall panel and it lit up, scanning her D.N.A. When it slid away, a flat-screen monitor emerged from within the door. A quick retinal scan provided access to what looked suspiciously like a hidden turbo lift. "Come," she softly beckoned.

Quietly, the two Jedi slid into the turbo-lift behind the female, both with their lightsabers at the ready in case they ended up walking directly into a trap. The swift ride to the top floor where Vexer Security kept their most important schematics and new designs in a massive technologically advanced vault. Exiting the turbo-lift, the Kaminoan led them to a door at the end of the silver-hued hallway. Another retinal and palm print scan gave them access to chamber that contained the vault.

"You will access the Vault for us," Mace spoke evenly, noting with relief that she followed his command.

Quietly, she moved to one of the computer keyboard arrays and began typing in her personal access codes. The computer conveyed access a moment later as the Kaminoan looked up at Mace. "The Vault has been accessed."

"Anakin?" Mace gestured, while he took the lookout position.

"Copy all files pertaining to the design and construction of Chancellor Palpatine's official office at the Senate Building. I want all modified panic rooms and if he requested any renovations where he did not specify or ask your company to do anything with. Copy all files pertaining to the design and construction of Samuel and Grimes Banking Incorporated headquarters on Coruscant and Zenthia. I also want all Rothana Heavy Engineering co-operative starship designs."

The scientist turned from the Jedi and began working on what Anakin requested. While she did so, the younger Jedi sensed Mace's question. "The other files are to throw off anyone who comes looking. This theft needs to appear authentic"

Mace just nodded. "Good idea. When I release her from the Force-trance, those are the only copies she's going to remember being taken. She won't remember either of us."

"Oh?"

"Let's just say, it's going to send Palpatine in the Vice Chair's direction."

Anakin grimly nodded before turning back to the Kaminoan scientist. The files were just about complete. "Master, it's almost time." Mace took a deep breath and began to reach out with the Force. They had to time it all perfectly to get out unseen and undetected.

With the files safe copied to the holo-disk that was currently being tucked into his clothing, Anakin turned to Mace. "Master?"

Mace turned back to the Kaminoan. "We are personal aides of Vice-Chair Amedda. The only files you will remember accessing are those of the Samuel and Grimes Banking headquarters. Erase the system log that anything related to the Galactic Senate Dome was accessed. You will not remember how they got into your laboratory, nor will you remember them leaving."

"Yes."

With a wave of his hand, Mace made the Kaminoan unconscious, catching her slim figure before she hit the floor. He laid her down softly. "Let's go. There's a droid patrol coming this way. We'll use the blasters we stole."

"What's our exit strategy?" Anakin asked, cringing at the thought of what was about to happen as he and Mace neared the window and began blasting their way through.

The alarms began to shriek throughout the building, and just as the footsteps of the droid patrol sped up, the two Jedi leapt through the window and into the vast airspace of Galactic City.

--