Thundering Force: Chapter 12: “The Masks We Wear.”

“Thundering Force”

Chapter Twelve: “The Masks We Wear.”

By Paul Cousins.

Copyright Disclaimer: All copyrighted places, characters, items, and events, within the story, are held by their current owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.

(_)

It has been almost two weeks since the battle with the gorog, on the planet Inoc Sev. While Padme and Anakin had recovered since then, they still had not talked to each other much about what happened. This was not because they were upset, nor angry. But that they both admitted to each other they were not sure what to say to each other.

This concerned the matter that for Anakin to save the lives of Padme and himself, Anakin had to tap into the dark side of the force to kill the gorog.

Though, they had talked in private. They both agreed that tapping into dark side was a very bad idea. While Anakin had no choice, Padme pointed out that she put him in that position.

Fortunately, Padme had learned that neither Obiwan, nor Ahsoka had commented to Anakin about how he used the force to kill the gorog.

They knew that Anakin had used force to kill the gorog. It was the only explanation for how the gorog had its right arm cannon destroyed, it was lifted into the air and was choked to death.

Padme believed that given the necessity of the situation and the fact that disciplining Anakin over a matter that otherwise would have gotten both Anakin and Padme killed, Obiwan would prefer to sweep the whole matter under the rung.

Also, Padme believed Ahsoka knew better than to ask about the matter.

Due to Obiwan being the commanding officer over the scene, Padme was sure Obiwan quietly order Vice Admiral Tarkin to keep vague exactly how the gorog in Tarkin's report to the Republic military. Obiwan also kept some matters vague in his report to the Jedi High Council.

Fortunately, soon after the gorog was destroyed, Thor, Anakin, Obiwan, and Ahsoka, were able to get the fires put out and find the shut-off systems to the gas system used in the Inoc city to illuminate the lights and warm the buildings.

A few days after the battle with the gorog, Republic military ships arrived to relief the crews of the Resolute and Negotiator.

Obiwan had assigned Vice Admiral Tarkin to take point until more formal command personnel to

Being the professional officer, Tarkin accepted the role without complaint. Though, after Tarkin had received the orders, Padme, as Thor, could tell that Tarkin was not happy about the matter.

In addition, Obiwan left Tarkin orders not to enslave the local population.

That Admiral Tarkin was to wait for the Refugee Relief Movement arrive and let the Refugee Relief Movement handle the Inoc population.

In the past, Padme and her parents worked as members of the Refugee Relief Movement. While there was a war going on, Padme was sure the Refugee Relief Movement would do a good job making sure the Inoc people would be okay as they were introduced to the larger organizations the galaxy had beyond the planet of Inoc Sev.

Padme found out that Obiwan had contacted the Refugee Relief Movement, and the organization would arrive on the planet within a month.

Though, Tarkin had pointed out it was a top secret mission. Obiwan countered that they would not discuss the events of the mission

Obiwan made it clear to Tarkin that his for Inoc Sev concern was making sure the Inoc people could live in peace while the Republic maintained a presence on the planet for the duration of the Clone Wars.

Padme was sure Tarkin understood the veiled warning Obiwan was given to Tarkin. That if Tarkin tried to cause trouble of the Inoc people, Obiwan would return the favor.

To this end. Obiwan made sure that the Republic military would not act as conquerors to the Inoc people, but as relieve forces. Obiwan made sure the Republic soldiers being assign to Inoc Sev would offer relieve services in the form of food and medical aid for the Inoc living in the city. Also, for the Republic troops to help with clean up and rebuilding the city.

Obiwan did find Inoc leader of the Inoc city. With the help of C3-PO acting as the translator, Obiwan was able to work out an arrangement with the Inoc leader to help the local Inocs and not incite any more violence. Also, Obiwan made sure the Inoc leader would be able to contact the other Inoc governments around the planet, to inform them that the Republic had no intention of conquering their planet. But, there was a war going on in the galaxy and Inoc Sev had becoming one of the minor fronts in that war.

A few days after the Republic relief forces had arrive, and Obiwan had made sure the Inoc people would be okay, Resolute, Negotiator, and the crews of both ships, left Inoc Sev together for hyperspace and towards their next assignment.

This included, Padme, Anakin, Obiwan, Ahsoka, C3-PO, and the rest of the crews.

Tarkin was the only one staying behind on Inoc Sev to oversee the Republic personnel left on the planet and in orbit, as he carried out Obiwan's orders.

The assignment was a resupply for both the Resolute and Negotiator, at a military spacestation in orbit of the planet Hyabb, in the north by northwest part of Core, west of Coruscant.

During this time, as the Resolute and Negotator traveling in hyperspace, Padme and Anakin had a private conversation in Padme's quarters.

Even though, Padme and Anakin both trusted each with their lives, they decided it might be best to spend some time away from each other.

And since for the moment the Resolute and Negotiator would not be assigned to battle, Padme decided it was time request from her commanding officer, General Obiwan Kenobi, that she take leave for ten days. Given they were heading to the Core, near Coruscant, she could return to Coruscant and the Senate to work as a Senator. Taking into account travel time, she would still have over a week on Coruscant.

Taking into account what had happened during the battle with the gorog on Inoc Sev, Obiwan, had granted her leave for ten days.

Once Obiwan had granted Padme leave, she packed her luggage. This included Mjolnir.

When the Resolute and Negotiator reached Hyabb, Padme took a shuttle transport back to Coruscant.

Padme spent her time on the shuttle as Senator Padme Amidala and not as General Thor.

Padme plans were to use this time as a chance for her to more directly resume her role as Senator, on Coruscant. This including Padme intending to spend some time in person in the Senate Rotunda during the Senate, instead of attending as a hologram by holo-comm.

Meanwhile, Anakin stayed with Obiwan and Ahsoka, with them overseeing the resupply of the Resolute and Negotiator.

Both of Padme and Anakin knew each other well.

Anakin knew Padme preferred calm situations to help Padme think. While Padme knew that Anakin preferred excitement and battle to help Anakin think.

The fact that Anakin was more comfortable with violence than peace slightly worried Padme. But, Padme long since admitted that was the way Anakin was, and she was not going to be able to change that about Anakin.

Though, a few days later, as Padme arrived on Coruscant, Padme found that being away from the battlefield did little for Padme state of mind. That the fighting and the toll the war itself was putting on both her and Anakin made her begin wonder if she could balance her two roles as peacemaker and soldier without it tearing her apart.

Once Padme had reached Coruscant, her shuttle landed on Westport near the Senate District.

When Padme arrived in Westport, it was late afternoon local time in the Senate District.

As the spaceport, Padme rented a speeder vehicle. She then took her luggage and Mjolnir with her, as she headed to her apartment.

After Padme arrived at her apartment building, she parked her speeder in a speeder parking lot. Then, Padme carried her luggage and Mjolnir in the elevator up to her apartment.

When Padme reached her apartment she unpacked. Padme place Mjolnir on a small table in her living room. Padme left the sliding window door to the balcony by her living room left open, in case she needed to summon Mjolnir while she was away from her home.

Once Padme was finished unpacking, she checked in with both the Jedi High Council and Chancellor Palpatine.

Due to both the Jedi High Council and the Chancellor Palpatine were usually busy, she left messages for them on holo-comm numbers they had given her.

While Padme did not have to immediately talk to them. Part of the arrangement was to inform both the Jedi Council and the Chancellor when she had returned to the planet.

(_)

Presently, it was mid-afternoon, on a cool, partly cloudy day, in the Senate District of Coruscant.

It has been two days since Padme arrived on Coruscant. Padme was setting into her role as a Senator for the Galactic Republic.

Padme was sitting in her cushions, swivel armchair, behind her desk, in her office in the Senate building. The sunlight from the windows behind her desk offering plenty of sunlight into the white painted office.

There were two armchairs in front of Padme's desk.

Among other items Padme was wearing a sleeveless red gown that went down to cover her feet. The red dress had white embroidery through the dress. The white embroidery showed circles and half circles of various sizes connected to each other. Below the knee, there was a slit on the left side of the dress which made walking in the dress easier for Padme.

Also, Padme wore red flat sole slippers which were the same shade of red as her dress.

Padme had a thigh holster right thigh. The holster straps were connected around her right thigh, with the holster itself located on the outer part of her right thigh. In the holster was her small blaster pistol.

Padme allowed her long brown hair to hang loose down her back.

Earlier that morning, Padme had personally sat in on a senate session in the Senate Rotunda. After the Senate was adjourned for an hour long recess for lunch Padme decided to spend the rest of the day in her office reviewing documents.

At the moment, as Padme sat in her armchair, behind her desk, Padme has decided to take a break from reviewing documents on a datapad.

Padme set the datapad rested on top the side of desk to Padme's left.

Padme reach over and top a few keys that were build into the top of her desk to turn on the holo-monitor built into the desk and set the holo-monitor to show a holo-newscast channel.

The keys, monitor and track pad on to of the desk were set under a translucent flat surface top which was thin enough to for the keys and track pad to be touch sensitive through the clear surface top. In addition, the surface top was durable enough to withstand continued use.

The newscast channel of was one many found on the various holo-channels on the Coruscant satellite transmission services.

The holo-monitor projected a small hologram in the middle of the top desk. The hologram faced Padme.

The hologram showed the upper body of a beautiful, young, red skin Togruta woman whom wore a blue business dress.

Padme leaned back in her chair, as she paid attention to the Toguta newswoman.

From the hidden speakers in Padme's desk, Padme heard the Togruta newswoman say, in a calm, professional tone of voice, in fluent galactic basic, with a slight Coruscant accent, “In other news, concerning the Clone Wars, the Separatists are still accusing the Republic of more atrocities. These claims began with refugees from the Republic invasion of Balmorra...”

At the mention of the planet, Balmorra, Padme paid closer attention to the news report.

The newswoman continued, “When some Balmorran refugees fled from the fighting to Separatists space. There were reports from them claiming of that the invasion was unprovoked. While the Separatists took the Balmorran refugees in, it is clear this is propaganda against the Republic.”

Padme thought, 'I know the press was bias for the war effort. But this ridiculous.'

The newswoman said, “Still, while the Galactic Republic government denies these accusations. The Separatists persist with their claims that on Balmorra and other Republic controlled worlds the civilian populations are rounded up and murdered, or sent to labor camps to slave away for the Republic.”

Padme sadly thought, 'Actually, those reports are true. Not that I can doing anything about what is happening the enslaved people of those worlds.'

The newswomen went onto say, “Since like most planets are under direct control of the Republic military there is a complete communications blackout. So there is not way to substantiate these claims.”

Padme promised herself, as she lamented in thought, 'If I ever get the chance to help the people on Balmorra, and the people on other worlds, have been enslaved by both sides, I will do so.'

The newswoman commented, “In more local news, in the Senate District, the occurrences of sightings of the large creature dubbed the Coruscant Beast have increased. Coruscant Security has linked more injuries and deaths to the creature within the lower levels beneath the Senate District and surrounding districts.”

“While rumors of the Coruscant Beast have been circulating for some time, Coruscant Security only recently started to search of the beast.”

“Detractors of the Coruscant Security had been complaining to law enforcement for some time had done nothing as reports increased of the creature attacking people several levels below the surface.”

“While it is known that carnivorous creatures live near the deeper levels of Lower Coruscant. Close to the bedrock of the planet. These attacks have happened much closer to the surface. With the occurrences of these attacks slowly making their up closer to the surface level.”

“Social and political groups have accused Coruscant Security of ignoring their requests for help in protecting the poor and homeless whom live in these underworld of Coruscant. These groups claim that Coruscant Security does care for those living beneath our feet. With Coruscant Security only beginning to act because reports of attacks are coming closer to the surface.”

“Coruscant Security response to such charges are that they take all reports by citizens in a serious, impartial manner. That the appearance of inaction is only due to this being an ongoing investigation and hunt for the creature.”

“Let us remind everyone. Though, there has been injuries, deaths and disappearances from the levels near the surface which are suspected to be by the Coruscant Beast. Coruscant Security has pointed out that there have no injuries, deaths, or disappearances linked to the creature at the surface level and above the surface level.”

“Coruscant Security has stated they have double the number of patrols of underworld security officers in the areas where the creature has been sighted and where remains of its victims have been found.”

“There are plans to begin actively searching for the creature. Though, the details of these plans remain secret for security reasons.”

“While all this is happening, there not much is known about the creature. Details of reports from those few whom has seen the beast and escaped are sketchy as to what the Coruscant Beast looks like. The surviving victims report that beast always stays in the shadows. The beast is around three meters tall with a very stocky build. The creature is very strong and extremely tough to harm.”

“So far, the Coruscant Beast does not correspond with any known sentient life. This could be due to no one alive having been able to have a good look at the beast. Though, some believe the Coruscant Beast is intelligent due to the Coruscant Beast preferring to remain in the shadows, and whom has so far managed to elude authorities.”

“The actions of creature is even more baffling. The Coruscant Beast has reported the beast prefers to attack targets of opportunity, with no real emerging patterns for the attacks.”

“The bodies of the deceased, which have been recovered, have been found to be torn apart, with evidence of being partly eaten. Sources within Coruscant Security confirm there were bite marks were evident on the recovered bodies. The bite marks were of a large creature that would correspond with something around three meters in height.”

“If you suspect you are near the Coruscant Beast, Coruscant Security requests that you immediately run away from the beast and find a Coruscant Security officer. Or, use a holo-comm to contact Coruscant Security as soon as possible.”

“Do not confront the beast. It is reported that the creature is extremely strength and durable to the point of crushing speeder vehicles with its bare hands, and being hit by blaster bolts with no signs of injury.”

Without skipping a beat, the newswoman continued to the next story, “In relate news, this morning, the Galactic Senate passed a bill into law which gives more direct control of the security of Coruscant to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.”

“The bill immediately took effect after it was passed. After the bill was passed, the Chancellor held a press conference from his press conference within the Senate Building.”

Padme thought, 'I missed watching the Chancellor's press conference. But, I was present for the bill this morning. To call the Senate session over that bill a debate was laughable. No one actually debated against the bills for various reasons. Not even myself. Because doing so would offer the appearance of not supporting the law and order. The bill itself was anything but for law and order. The bill is more brick in the wall against freedom and one more stepping stone in the Chancellor's rise to being a dictator.'

'Though, a number of Senators did not vote for the bill, including myself, Bail, and the rest of our group. But, our votes were not enough and a majority of the votes supported the bill becoming law.'

The newswoman went onto say, “The Chancellor stated he planned to use this new authority to allow the Coruscant Guard to work more closely with Coruscant Security in enforcement of the law. In maintaining the peace on and within Coruscant.”

“The Coruscant Guard are clone troopers stationed on the planet to act as defense against a Separatist invasion.”

“The Chancellor stated that the Coruscant Guard should have no difficulties in balancing both jobs.”

“The Chancellors promised to use this new authority to to help keep all Coruscant citizens safe from both threats above us and below us.”

Padme used her right hand to press a button on the top of her desk to turn off the holo-monitor.

Padme leaned back in her chair, as she thought, 'The Chancellor is using the Coruscant Beast as an excuse to amass more power on Coruscant. Given what the beast is doing, we have no choice but to publicly go along with the Chancellor's new policies.'

Padme scoffed in a slight hiss, as she thought, with a bit of sarcasm, 'Balance... I am sure they can do the job. The issues is not that the Coruscant Guard cannot handle both planetary defense and assisting with law enforcement.'

Padme mentally reflected, with more concern, 'The issue is that the Coruscant Guard are the Chancellor's right hand on Coruscant. His Red Guard bodyguard organization came from members he picked out from the Coruscant Guard. Both the Red Guard and the Coruscant Guard are composed of elite troopers. They are basically multiple regiments of arc troopers, only without the arc troopers streak of individualism.'

'I have been around some arc troopers. They are good people. Given their individualism, when this war is over, I feel of all the troopers, the arc troopers have the best chance of acclimating to civilian life.'

'On the other hand, the clone troopers of the Coruscant Guard and the Red Guard obey their orders without question. This is why the Chancellor had these trooper stationed on Coruscant.'

'This new authority will allow the Chancellor to more directly lean on the Coruscant Security Forces to do what he desires and ignore the civil rights of the citizens. Instead of doing what is written in the law.'

Padme's mood darkened a little, as she mentally reflected, 'Now about the Coruscant Beast.'

'During the times I have returned to Coruscant, I have heard rumors of this beast. The newscasts have mentioned the creature more and more. But, there has been no leads on finding the creature. With the war going on, I have not had a chance to personally check out the matter for myself.'

'Among the many problems in finding that beast is the floor space that one would be required to search.'

'Excluding the several kilometer high skyscrapers that dot this planet. Below the surface of the planet, the underworld of lower Coruscant is one level of mazes on top of another level of mazes, going down for kilometers, until the underworld hits the bedrock of the planet's natural surface. This is not counting that fact there are some natural caves and abandoned ancient mine shafts which lead even deeper into the plant.'

'If one took into account of the Senate District, by itself. Which is just a small part of this city planet. If each level of Senate District, going down to the bedrock, was laid side by side, in a grid pattern, the amount of area such a grid pattern would cover is equal to the surface of a small planet.'

'Due the metal and concrete hallways and rooms, there are no broken twigs, or footprints in soft dirt to use to track the creature.'

'Trying to search by smell would also be prohibitive due to the number of different smells in the area. To make matters even more difficult, on the levels closer to the surface, the cleaning bots coming by and removing evidence of paths the beast has taken.'

'Even I tried to search for the beast, as Thor. I would not know where to begin to look. As such, I will leave this investigation and hunt to the professional detectives of Coruscant Security. They have the best chance of finding and dealing with this beast.'

'All in all, it is quite disheartening how easily it is for someone to hide in lower levels of Coruscant.'

'But, not as disheartening as what is intentionally not discussed in the news. What is censored in the news. Such as the mandalorian soldiers that now fight for the Separatists. Whom are from the over three hundred worlds that Loki convince to leave the Neutrality Alliance to join the Separatists.'

'While those of the Mandalore system remained with their leader, the Duchess Satine, we in the Republic military did not take into account that a number of those worlds that joined the Separatists had populations which were break away groups from the mandalorians.'

'Six months later, it took us off guard when these mandalorians entered the war.'

'While these soldiers are no match for me, as Thor. They round out and strengthen the Separatists droids forces. They are almost as skilled as some of our most elite clone troopers. A few of them have even been able to fight Jedi to a near standstill.'

'Right now, the populations of the Republic have no idea that the Separatists are now fielding humans and near-humans in their front line soldiers and pilots.'

'I can understand why the need for secrecy. If it came out the Republic was directly fighting and killing humans and near-humans, instead of just droids, the Republic population would be more against the war effort. While I would prefer to use such political support in ending this war, I am under orders not to talk to this with anyone outside of the Republic military, Jedi Order, and the Chancellor himself. Orders I have to follow.'

'Still, I find it tragic that we have to tell such lies in this war.'

'Though, I almost had a more personal tragedy on Inoc Sev. That was a very close call we had on Inoc Sev. And while we all recovered, that battle cost us...'

Padme grimly lamented in thought, 'Especially, Anakin...'

Padme forced her mood to brighten, as she thought, 'Though, I am happy that Obiwan was able to savage the situation. He is having Tarkin use the clones station on the planet to help the survivors and repair the city. Also, Obiwan sent for the Refugee Relief Movement to come handle the Inoc civilization as they are introduced to the greater galaxy.'

'As for what the future holds for the Inocs. I am not sure. Between what Obiwan did and the Refugee Relief Movement helping, the Inocs have a good chance for a better future.'

'It will help decrease the chance of trouble for them as long as they cooperate with the Republic personnel stationed there. Especially, the Republic military presence that is there.'

'This is a reminder of all the crimes my friends and I have committed in this world. Such as the people of Balmorra and countless other worlds. If I ever gain the power to make amends, I will do so as quickly as possible. Because if I do not, I know that eventually my identity as Thor will someday become public, and my victims will want to have a reckoning with me.'

'Given how powerful my friends and I are. I do not want my victims to feel driven to sell their souls and fall to the dark side of the force, because they feel that have to if they wish to face me for what I have done to them and those they care for... No, it is better to make amends and try to fix the solution. If nothing else do this will convince my victims I am trying to make things right... I do not my actions to lead to the creation of any monsters.'

'Both figuratively and literally... That giant gorog was just as much as a victim of this war as everyone else whom had died.'

'At the beginning of this war, when I first learned of Sidious. Given the way the Jedi spoke of Sidious, and how far back his machinations can be traced to. At least to the Trade Federation invasion of Naboo. But, he has likely has been planning this years, or even decades before the Trade Federation attack my world. That invasion was just another part of his plan.'

'It is like the day of the invasion of Naboo was no more important to him than any other day.'

'From all this information, I believed Sidious would be able to control both sides of the war from the shadows. But, with the introduction of Loki I feel that Sidious has lost some control over the Separatists.'

'In addition, Sidious does not have complete control of the Republic. Sidious does not control me.'

'It seems that no one is truly in control of this war. Which is both good and bad. Considering there is a galactic war raging that is beyond their control... Well... Beyond anyone's control... No matter how powerful they are... How powerful I am...'

'And power does not justify one's actions.'

Padme sighed as she let out a breath. She continued her thoughts, 'The last few days have been good for me. I arrived back on the planet two days ago and I have been busy ever since.'

'The meeting I had yesterday with Bail's little group of Senators. The meeting went well. Though, I did get an earful from Garm, about my endless diplomatic missions... I believe my cover is starting to wear a little thin. Not that I can do much about that. I agree with Garm that I need to spend more time on Coruscant in person. Which I will. I will talk to Obiwan about this. But, it should not be a problem. Every few months, I take leave and head back to Coruscant and spend a week at the Senate.'

'Obiwan and I can work out the schedule from there. Once we have our schedule ready, we will present it to the Jedi Council and the Chancellor Palpatine. They would agree to such a suggestion.'

'Though, that meeting went well. And my personal appearance has helped Bail keep our group together.'

'Still, we have had no traction on stopping this war. While the Chancellor slowly progresses in amassing more power.'

'If this keeps up. Even if we win this war, it will not be as a Republic, but an Empire, with Palpatine overseeing this Empire as a dictator. And dictators have no use for the leaderships and advisers of the old order, which does not bode well for myself and my friends, both in the Senate and the Jedi Order.'

Suddenly, there was a ring from the holo-monitor. Padme leaned up. She used her right hand to punch a button on her desk to answer the incoming holo-comm call.

When the small hologram appear, Padme was surprised to see who it was. It was someone she had not spoken to in years. And someone she thought she would likely not see again outside of few awkward moments at work.

The small hologram showed the upper half, from waist up, of the human man, Baron Rush Clovis. Rush was a made in his mid-twenties. His body was fit, with a medium physical build. He had a fair skin, and short brown hair.

Rush had yellow tattoos on his forehead.

Baron Rush Clovis was also Galactic Republic Senator for Scipio, a planet located in the northern part of the Core, west of Coruscant.

From the hologram, Rush was shown to be wearing a brown long sleeved shirt, brown pants, and a dark brown belt. With the neckline of the shirt going to his chin.

What struck Padme most about Rush was the warm smile he was giving her.

Padme maintained a calm facade, as she mentally lamented, 'Of all the people to call, why did it have to be you?...'

Rush said, “Hello sunshine.”

Padme flatly stated, “Do not start. We haven't spoken in years.”

Rush dropped his smile, but he kept a relaxed facial expression. He calmly responded, “Fine. I see you are as professional as ever. Which is why I called you in the first place.”

Padme inquired, “What happened? And how much trouble are you in?”

Rush explained, “As you know. Along with being a Senator for the Planet Scipio. I am also a delegate of the Intergalactic Banking Clan.”

Padme stated, “Yes. While that organization claims to be officially neutral in the Clone Wars. I know for a fact...” She thought, 'From Obiwan and the Jedi Order.' She continued, “That the InterGalactic Banking Clan has had dealings the Separatists.”

Rush coyly responded, “While I neither confirm, nor deny anything. The InterGalactic Banking Clan handles countless transactions daily. And I am not privy to even a fraction of all the dealings of the InterGalactic Banking Clan. Besides, nothing has been proven.”

Padme said, “I will give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Rush replied, “Thank you.”

Padme questioned, “Now start from the beginning. Why did you contact me in the first place?”

Rush answered, “Because I trust you to keep this quiet.”

Padme stated, “If this deals with anything illegal, I am hanging up before I become an accessory.” She thought, 'Given my problems as both soldier and a senator, concerning the war and Palpatine, I cannot risk getting mixed up in anything that is illegal. Especially something which might create a scandal.'

Rush commented, “No. Everything I have done has been completely legal. I just need your help. Because you have resources that I do not.”

Padme sighed. She said, “Fine. If everything is on the level. I will use my back channels to help you.”

Rush responded, “Thank you. One of the companies I oversee, dealing with investments by the IBC is handling technological research for another company. The problem is an executive of the other company came up with the idea to have me killed as a way to destroy the project. To make the CEO of that company look bad, allowing for opportunity for the executive in question to take over that company. While that executive has been taken care of, he already paid a bounty hunter to come after myself. All my contacts could find on the matter state this bounty hunter still intends to carry out the job.”

Padme commented, “Bounty hunters have a twisted sense of honor when it comes to fulfilling their contracts.” She thought, 'I could complain about that all day long.'

Rush responded, “True. The good news is that I know it is only one bounty hunter. The bad news is I heard he is good. Though, I do not know who he is. Nor, what is this bounty hunter is capable of. I need protection. But, no one from the government, nor the Jedi Order.”

Padme thought, 'Because openly asking for help will make you look weak.'

Padme said, “I know someone from the military that would make any bounty hunter think twice about facing. Whom came come here on short notice. If that is alright?” Padme thought, with amusement, 'And in doing so, I can have some fun as Thor.'

Rush commented, “Military is fine. As long as it is not someone from the civilian security, I should be fine from a political standpoint.”

Padme thought, 'That confirms my suspicions on the matter. Now where are you? If you are on the planet, you would likely already being in the building and you would come see me in person. Which is not the case. So you are likely off planet.'

Padme inquired, “Where are you?”

Rush answered, “I landed at Westport a few minutes ago. My ship is at docking bay five hundred and fifty-four, at the third floor level. I will wait passenger hallway, at the entrance to the docking port of my ship.”

Padme mentally reflected, 'Westport is the main spaceport for the Senate District and surrounding districts. Given the skylane traffic, it is about hour by speeder. And about half an hour while flying as Thor. With another ten minutes to exit the Senate building and find a hiding place from the security camera system. Where I can summon Mjolnir.'

Padme said, “The person I will send to meet you will arrive in a little over forty-five minutes. The person will then escort you to my apartment, where you will meet me. Once you are here, we can figure out things from there.”

Padme thought, 'My apartment is as safe as anywhere. It will take a little while to procure a speeder vehicle at Westport that is set aside for Senators and high ranking military personnel. And I am both. It is an hour by speeder to reach my apartment. From there, we will hide out until my sources can find out something. If they do not, I know of places I can hide you, Rush, that no one will find you.'

Rush asked, “So who are you sending?”

Padme lips curled into a smile, as she stated, “You will know. Just Just be where you said. The passenger hallway, by the docking entrance to your ship, in around forty-five minutes.”

Rush replied, “Fine. I will do so.” He cracked a grin. He said, “You always were one to spring such wonderful surprises. Padme, I will look forward to talking with you in person.”

Before Padme could say goodbye, Rush disconnected the connection.

Padme mentally reflected, 'Rush, your connections with the InterGalactic Banking Clan have finally gotten you into trouble. I am not surprised. We both know the InterGalactic Banking Clan supports the Separatists. You will not admit it. But, we both know.'

'The reasons the InterGalactic Banking Clan do not openly support the Separatists is they are making money financing both sides of the war. Scipio is headquarters of the InterGalactic Banking Clan. And Scipio is so far in Republic held space, the Separatists could not be able to stop the Republic military from taking over the planet.'

'While Scipio is the homeworld of the Muun, Rush Clovis' connections and skills allowed him to become the Galactic Senator for the planet.'

'I heard a rumor that the reason Chancellor and various Senators turn a blind eye to the InterGalactic Banking Clan is that they have secret accounts with the organization which they did not want to risk becoming public.'

'I would not be surprised if that was the case.'

Padme continued her thoughts, with mild feelings on the matter, 'Well Rush. You definitely live up to your name. I do not have a lot of time until I meet with you. But, I do have enough time to contact the one person I trust in all the galaxy. My boyfriend, Anakin Skywalker.'

While Padme pressed buttons on her desk, to dial a number on the holo-comm, she thought, 'Anakin gave me this number. This number goes directly to the holo-comm in his quarters, on the Resolute. As far as I know, he is not on any missions. And the schedule rotation on the Resolute right now should mean that Anakin is in his personal quarters, getting ready for bed. If not, I will leave a message. And I will call him after I get Rush to my apartment. He should be in his personal quarters by then.'

Padme finished dialing. A few seconds later, her holo-monitor started to ring a few times.

A second later, the person on the other end answered the call.

The hologram showed it was Anakin's upper chest and head. The hologram showed Anakin was wearing a long sleeve red shirt. Though, Anakin's face showed he was a little tired.

Anakin look at Padme, as he asked, “Hello Padme. What are you calling so late?”

Padme said, “Actually, it is only afternoon here on Coruscant. Though, I realize you are tied. And I would not call you unless it was important.”

Anakin gave Padme a tired smile, as he asked, “I know. So, what do you need?”

Padme questioned, “First, are you alone?”

Anakin pointed out, “The only other person that comes to my quarters at this time of night is you.”

Padme sheepishly replied, “Point taken.” She thought, 'We even got R2 and C3-PO personal quarters that they share. Though, we only talk while on the Resolute. Through the force, Obiwan and Ahsoka would likely know something was up if we went any further while on the ship.'

Padme stated, “Someone I know contacted me. He is in a bit of trouble. I can handle things on my end. But I need you to check something out, quietly and quickly.' She thought, 'With your connections in the Order, you have access to law enforcement and regulatory records that I would be questioned, if I looked into as a Senator.'

Anakin asked, “Okay. What is going on?”

Padme answered, “The person I know is Senator Rush Clovis. He is also a delegate for the InterGalactic Banking Clan. He claims to have no done anything illegal. But, due to corporate warfare a bounty hunter was hired to go after him. The bounty hunter hired by an executive of another company contracted to the company he was overseeing for the InterGalactic Banking Clan.”

Anakin inquired, “Do you have any names for the companies? Or, the people involved?”

Padme thought, 'Damn. I should have asked. But, I was so caught up that it was Rush that I forgot to.' Padme admitted, “No. But, he did mention that it dealt with research between the two companies.”

Anakin responded, “That should be enough. If it is legal. There should be a data trail with Senator Clovis' name on it.”

Padme asked, “I will call you back in around two hours. If that is enough time?”

Anakin stated, “It should be. I can do all the inquires from here. Though, who is this person to you?”

Padme looked away from the hologram for a few seconds. She thought, 'I have to tell him.'

Padme looked back at Anakin. She swallowed her. She admitted, “Years ago. When I first became a Senator, I was in a relationship with Rush. Though, we ended the relationship long before I went into hiding with you.”

Anakin calmly said, “It is okay. I trust you.”

Padme gave Anakin a small, warm smile. She said, “Thank you.”

Anakin replied, “It is no problem.”

Padme stated, “I will talk to you in two hours.”

Anakin said, “I will be waiting.”

Padme pressed a button to end the transmission. Padme got up from her chair. She walked around to her desk, to her left, as she headed for the double-doors to her office.

When she reached the doors to her office, she pressed a button on the panel by the doors. The doors slid open, and she walked outside. Padme passed the reception desk, to her right, where her droid secretary was located.

Padme made her way into a large hallway of the Senate building. The doors to her office soon sliding closed.

As Padme turned to her right, to head down the hallway, she heard a familiar voice say, from behind her, “Mesa Senator Amidala. Mesa has been meaning to speak with you.”

Padme stopped in her tracked. Padme thought, with mild annoyance, 'Oh great. It is Jar Jar.'

Padme turned around to see Jar Jar, in his formal political robes walking up to her. Padme saw that Jar Jar was giving her his usual toothy smile.

Though, Padme did not see anyone else around.

Jar Jar came to a stop, a meter from Padme.

Both adults looked at each other.

While Jar Jar had a slender physical build, he was taller than Padme. This forced Padme to looked up to see Jar Jar's face.

Padme calmly stated, “I am apologize Jar Jar. But, I am in a bit of a hurry.”

Jar Jar said, “This will only take a few moments. And it is so rare to talk to you. Given you rarely live on the planet, anymore.”

Padme sighed, as she thought, 'He has a point.' She inquired, in a defeated tone of voice, “Fine. What do you need?”

Jar Jar requested, “Mesa was wondering. Given the duties that mesa has been performing without problems for these passed few years. If mesa could take on more responsibilities for Senator Amidala and other people?”

Padme thought, 'Over the years, I have been having Jar Jar do odd tasks for myself, Bail, and a few of the other Senators. It is not taxing work. It is practically a part time job that keeps him busy and out of trouble. The job gives me an excuse to pay him well enough to live comfortably on his own in the Senate District. I have kept taps on him through Bail. And he has stayed out of trouble. Still, there are other matters when it comes to such duties that he may not understand.'

Padme stated, “We will see Jar Jar. But, taking on responsibilities are more than just doing repetitive tasks without any problems. One has to show some originality and initiative.”

Jar Jar's smile became a little wider. He commented, with a bit of enthusiasm in his tone of voice, “Do not worry. Mesa will think of something. Mesa always does.”

Padme returned Jar Jar's smile. She said, “Good. Now I need to go before I am late for an appointment.”

Padme turned around and she started walking away from Jar Jar.

Once Padme was out of earshot, Jar Jar dropped his grin. He sighed, as he quietly said, in a sad tone of voice, “Though, mesa is not the fool that everyone thinks he is.”

(_)

Ten minutes later, Padme found a nearby hiding place, outside, in an alcove, where one of the security blind spots in the building.

Padme saw the area was deserted.

Padme came to a stop and she summon Mjolnir to come to her without the hammer hitting anything in its path.

In Padme's apartment, Mjolnir headed out the balcony door of the living room.

Mjolnir avoided the speeders, people, and buildings, as it flew towards Padme.

Mjolnir soon reached Padme.

Once the shaft of Mjolnir was in Padme's right hand, Padme used the mystical hammer to turn into Thor.

Thor was in her armor and helmet, with the Black Solace sheathed and strapped to her back.

Then, Thor flew out of alcove and into the air, as she headed for Westport.

(_)

A little over thirty minutes later, Thor reached the Westport Spaceport.

Thor gripped Mjolnir with her right hand, as she used the hammer to fly closer to the spaceport.

Thor's loose long loose blond hair whipped in the air as it flowed under helmet and down her back.

Given the constant constant traffic from the skylanes and the spaceship landing and taking off. To avoid any accidents, Thor had to fly lower to the deck of the spaceport.

Due to her long experience in using the Westport, Thor knew the layout of the spaceport.

Westpost had several most levels going up from the surface.

Thor saw to a door, on a balcony of the docking area. By the door, painted in large yellow letting stated the door left to the third floor, in the five hundred area of the docking section.

Thor landed on the balcony, between the parapet and the door.

Thor walked over to the door. Thor used her left hand to punch in a security code into a panel by the door leading into the spaceport.

As Thor punched into the code, she thought, 'This security code, along with a few others I memorized, were given to me by Chancellor Palpatine, himself. For me to use for my duties. Though, he did say I could use these codes on less than official business, as well. As long as I do not abuse the privilege. Though, I am sure that a record of these codes being used is sent directly to his computers, in his office. So I rarely use these codes.'

Thor finished punching in the code. It took a few seconds for the code to be process. Then, the door slid open and Thor walked inside.

As the door slid closed behind Thor, Thor realized she had entered a small corridor.

Thor walked as she carried Mjolnir at her right side.

A few seconds later, Thor exited the small corridor, into a passenger hallway.

Thor came to a stop. She looked across the hallways that numbers above the docking entrances.

Thor saw that the numbers in front of her were around five hundred and forty. With the numbers increasing, on odd numbers, to Thor's left. The docking number entrances which even numbers were on the side of the hallway Thor was standing by.

Thor entered the hallway and turned to her left, as she briskly made her way across the hallway, and further down the hallway, at a diagonal angle to her right in relation to the hallway itself.

The passenger hallways was a thirty meters wide, ten meters from the floor to the ceiling, and the length of the passenger hallway stretched for kilometers in the distance.

As Thor made her way down the passenger hallway, she saw that the sunlight coming from the windows placed on the upper parts of side walls offered plenty of illumination for the hallway.

The hallway various crowded with various people walking through the hallway. Both those coming from their ships and going to their ship.

Though, the people around quickly recognized Thor. None of the people around Thor said anything to her, as they moved out of the way to allow her to pass by.

As Thor walking down the hallway, she looked at the various docking numbers on the docking entrances on each side the side walks. While Thor did this, she thought, 'It would be tempting to rush my super-speed to rush over there. But, due to the people coming and going there was too much risk of me accidentally hitting and harming someone. Flying over everyone would cause too much of a ruckus. Still, the bay should be in about a hundred meters from here, to my right. So, it is not a far walk.'

While Thor briskly walked down the hallway, she walked by people going about this business.

About a minute later, Thor saw a nearby sign over a door to her right. The sign stated, 'Docking Bay Five hundred and fifty-four.'

By the entrance to the door to Thor's right, Thor saw Rush standing there, looking at her.

A few seconds later, Thor came to a stop a meter and a half from Rush.

Rush was wearing the same clothing he had on, when he contacted Padme. Also, Thor noticed Rush had on dark brown boots.

Silence gathers between the two adults, as they each look at each other in the face for a few seconds.

Rush was the first to speak. Rush cracked a grin. He commented, in a casual tone of voice, “I did not realize that Senator Amidala would be sending me a celebrity. If the Storm Bringer of the Heroes of the Republic cannot help me then I am doomed.”

Under her helmet, Thor returned Rush's smile. She responded, “Senator Amidala is full of surprises. Now Senator Clovis. If thee will walk with thy. We will head to a nearby speeder port, where we will acquired transportation for our destination.”

The smile on Rush's lips slightly widened, as he teased. “And here I though you would personally fly me, on your back, to our destination.”

Thor held back a giggle, as she thought, with amusement, 'Always the romantic. Still, I am in a happy relationship with Anakin. If not for this war we would likely have married and started a family by now. Even if it was in secret.'

Thor calmly said, “Unfortunately, such transportation is impractical. And potentially embarrassing for both parties.” She mentally reflected, 'The few times carried Anakin and Ahsoka on missions. From location to location. It was more trouble than it was worth.'

Rush continued smiling, as he let out a small laugh. He stated, “I can see way. Now please lead the way, milady.”

Thor thought, 'Given you are a Senator that has used this spaceport plenty of times. I am sure you know the way. Still, you are being polite, so I will play along.'

Thor turned around and started walking back the way she had came.

Rush walk beside Thor, to Thor's left side.

(_)

Unbeknownst to Rush and Thor, a person in the distance, standing by the wall opposite to where Rush has been standing, was looking at Rush and Thor. As the two individuals made their way to the speeder port, the person followed. Though, the person kept his distance to avoid being detected.

(_)

As Thor and Rush walked down the hallway, those nearby parted out of the way of them. Thor walked to Rush's right side.

While they walked as a calm pace, Thor realized something, as she thought, 'This might be a good chance to learn a few things about Rush's opinions on the war. While this is a public place. We are still okay to have a casual conversation on the matter. Besides, once we get back my apartment I will have to present myself as... Myself. Padme. And given our past relationship, Rush will keep his opinions and comments to himself except for those topics dealing with the current situation.'

While they made their way down the hallway, Thor turned to Rush. Thor requested, “Senator Clovis. Thou was wondering if thy could ask thee a few questions?”

Rush turned to Thor. Rush inquired, “Sure. What do you wish to know?”

Thor questioned, “What is your opinion of the war?”

Rush responded, “While this is a public place, I do not mind talking about such matters. War is good for thirty party businesses. Though, I find so much death to be distasteful. That being said, I can make profits through other ways. Everyone has to eat. Then there is medicine and fuel. I admit selling weapons can have ethical issues. Depending on whom the weapons are sold to. I see no such issues in selling the medicine and bandages. And everyone needs fuel. Still, it would be so much easier and humane and profitable for everyone if the Confederacy was allowed to leave.”

Thor thought, 'For me to do this right, I have to play from the point of view of being for the war.'

Thor said, “While thee has made a few notable points. If the Separatists were allowed to leave, the Republic may completely fall apart.”

Rush stated, “But in many ways, the Republic has already fallen apart. Besides the Separatists. There is the Neutrality Alliance. And other groups of planetary governments trying to work together to leave this madness while they still can...” Rush let out a deep breath. He continued, “I mean no offense. But, I do not expect a soldier to understand this.”

Thor replied, “A soldier can understand many things. Even if the soldier does not agree with those things.”

Rush responded, “I stand corrected. Still, Thor. You are so much different than another woman I know.”

Thor inquired, “To whom does thee speak of?”

Rush answered, “The woman we are heading to meet. Senator Padme Amidala.”

Thor was too shocked to reply, as she wondered in thought, 'I am not that different between my personae? Am I?'

The two remained quiet, as they made their way to the speeder port.

Thor's silent response did not go unnoticed by Rush. Though, Rush did not mention it, as they walked towards the speeder port.

(_)

Ten minutes later, Thor lead Rush to a nearby speeder port, in the spaceport, where the government speeders were kept. Without any problems, Thor used her authority to retrieve a blue painted speeder, with two seats and an open top. Rush noticed this. Though, he remained silent on the matter.

Thor got into the driver's seat, on the left side of the vehicle. Rush saw in the passenger seat, on the right side of the vehicle. Mjolnir was set between them, sitting on the top of its head, where the shaft was sitting upwards between them.

Thor requested that they not use their seatbelts. Rush did as Thor has asked.

Soon, they were on the skylanes, as Thor piloted them to Padme's apartment.

Since the speeder they were in had an open top, Rush used the opportunity to looked out around them, at the cityscape, against the partly cloudy, mid-afternoon day. While there was a windshield in the front of the speeder vehicle, the wind chill of the open top made the slightly cool temperature of the day feel almost cold. But, not cold enough for Rush to complain about. And the temperature did not bother Thor.

After looking around the cityscape for a few minutes, Rush turned his eyes back towards Thor. Rush requested, “Now if you do not mind, I would like to ask you a few questions.”

Thor kept her eyes on the traffic, as she stated, “What does thee desire to speak of?”

Rush inquired, “Why do you serve the Republic? It is clear that with your power you could do just about anything you want. You are even more powerful than the Jedi. Actually, you could either take over, or just move on create your own little empire. Though, if politics does not suit your taste, you could become a very powerful and wealthy mercenary, whom only works for the highest bidders.”

While piloting them through the flying traffic, Thor thought, 'I would be lying if I did not admit that those thoughts have crossed my mind from time to time. Still...' Thor said, “Thy believes in the freedoms the Republic stand for. And the Republic itself. Also, thou feels that power should be used responsibly. Even the power thou wields.”

Rush responded, “Well, that means you are not being hypocritical on the subject. I admire that. Though, anyone with intelligence can see that Chancellor Palpatine is setting himself up to be a dictator. Even if the Republic wins this war, when all is said and done, the Republic will not represent the people, but instead one man. Chancellor Palpatine.”

In an almost knee-jerk reaction, Thor replied, “The Jedi will stop him. That is the whole point of the Jedi Order existing. To stop unchecked aggression and power.”

Thor immediately reigned in her emotions, as she thought, 'At least that is what I have been able to surmise from the time I spent with my friends in the Jedi Order. They really do not like to discuss the deeper meanings of their philosophies and mandates. Though, Anakin does tell me what they actually teach the members on such matters. As for the Jedi High Council's feeling on such matters, that is is anyone's guess.'

While Rush did not expect Thor's strong reaction, he was not surprised by it. Rush pointed out, “Given how skilled Chancellor Palpatine is at politics, I am sure the Chancellor has a plans to deal with the Jedi when then finally become a problem for him. Besides, as powerful as the Jedi are, this war has spread them out and thinned their ranks. I would be surprised if the Chancellor did not have a plan if the Jedi attempt to depose him.”

Thor kept her eyes in front of her, as she thought, 'That is a good point.' She conceded, “That is possible.” She continued, in a forceful tone of voice, “In which case, thy will stop him.” Thor thought, 'Even Sheev is not above the law.'

Rush said, in a disappointed tone of voice, “I doubt that you could. I mean you no disrespect in saying this. But, it is clear that the Chancellor and the Jedi Council have some hold over you. I am sure they know who you are. Which means they know who your family and friends are. That is a strong hold to have over someone. Even for someone as powerful as you.”

Thor immediately turned to look at Rush. The two adults look each other in the eyes, as Thor stated, with a bit of anger in her tone of voice, “They have never threaten thou. Nor, have they tried to use thou's family and friends against thou.”

Rush was the first to realize there were more important matter that needed attending too before the conversation continued. He swiftly requested, with concern and worry in his tone of voice, “Eyes back on the traffic.”

Under her helmet, Thor eyes went wide, as she realized her mistake. She replied, “Oh...” She turned back to look at the traffic. Fortunately, the speeder they were in had not deviated from the lane they were traveling on, with their speeder flying between the hovering path markers.

Thor paid closer attention to the traffic around her, as she sheepishly commented, “Sorry.”

A second later, Thor eyes went back to normal.

Rush forced himself to calm down. He said, “It's okay. I realize this is a sensitive subject for you to talk about.”

A thought occurred to Thor. She mentally reflected, 'I need to know why he thinks I am so different as Thor and Padme. My voice and appearance change. Though, my personality is the same.'

Thor kept her eyes on the traffic in front of her, as she asked, in a calmer tone of voice, “Thy was wondering. Besides the obvious. Why does thee view Senator Amidala and myself so different? We are both strong women.”

Rush raised an eyebrow for a second, at Thor's question. Though, Thor did not notice.

Rush responded, “You both are strong women. No arguments there. But, you are both strong in different ways. The truth of the matter is you are more direct. By all reports, you are one to take action yourself. Not have someone else do the job for you. Do not misunderstand me. Senator Amidala is a very capable women. More so than she likes to let on.”

Under her helmet, Thor could not help but smile at Rush's compliment. Though, Rush did not noticed Thor's smile.

Rush went onto say, “But, the Senator is also caught up in appearance and pretense. She is oriented towards her career. While she is justified in doing so, she is paranoid when it comes to security. Though, given the attempts on her life, this paranoid is warranted. But, in the past I sometimes felt that getting some private time with her would take act of the Senate itself.”

Thor dropped her smile, as she sorrowfully thought, 'Sadly, I can see your point of view.'

Rush stated, “When I use to talk to her by holo-comm. Half the time I could swear I was talking to one of her doubles. Actually, I caught her using one of her doubles doing that to me a few times. That nearly destroyed our friendship right there. I am happy it did not. But still doing that was a lousy decision on her part.”

Thor kept her eyes on the traffic, as she grimly thought, 'He is right. When I was busy, I actually did use one of my handmaidens, posing as me, in make-up and dress, to talk to him by holo-comm. Even to talk to my family on holo-comm on occasion. And when Rush caught me, it was embarrassing. When my family caught me doing so, I caught hell from all of them. I am honestly surprised that doing so did not become a major political scandal for me. But, I will defend myself against such comments.'

Thor said, “Thy agrees with you on this matter. From what thou understands, Senator Amidala has stopped using body-doubles.”

Rush commented, “True. With Jedi bodyguards she does not need doubles. It is clear the Jedi assigned to her are her bodyguards. Also, due to her being on the move most of the time, I can see how she let her other security personnel and servants go. Though, even with her being constantly on the moving for her own safety, she is using her time wisely to help others.”

“She still takes her job as a senator very seriously. Though, she only returns to Coruscant at random intervals, for her own protection. That makes a lot of sense. I was fortunate to learn she was on the planet right before I landed. Because, I was not sure what I was going to do if I could not ask the Senator for her help.”

Thor inquired, in a curious and concerned tone of voice, “Does thee not have other friends thee could contact for help?

Rush responded, “None that know what it is like to deal with being in the line of fire.”

Thor replied, “That is a good point.”

Rush commented, “Speaking of security. It is not wise to fly in a speeder with an open top. I did not want to say anything earlier, because you were clearly helping me out of the kindness of your heart.”

Under her helmet, Thor's lips curled into a slight grin. Thor responded, “Do not worry about it. Thy does not mind helping others. And thee has a point. From a sniper. Yes. An open top is not wise. Though, it is hard for a sniper to hit a fast moving target with several other moving options around it. But, if someone tried to take out the speed with a missile, with an open top thou can swiftly grip the hammer and use it to fly us both out of here before we crash. Thou has done this a few times before.”

Thor thought, 'I am keeping a watchful eye all around us. And I am listening for any oddity, such the whistle of a missile coming. With my reflexes, I can act very quickly. If it comes to it, hopefully quick enough.'

Thor focused on the traffic and other things around them with both her enhanced sight and hearing. Though, she was constantly mindful trying to sense something out of place as she safely piloted them through the speeder traffic.

Rush said, “Point taken. That explains why you did not want us to use our seatbelts.”

Thor replied, “Exactly.”

Rush commented, “When I first saw you, I thought you would be a professional no nonsense soldier.”

Thor responded, “Thou is. Though, that does not mean that thy is not a person. And while thou is a terror on the battlefield, thy sees no reason not to be polite in more peaceful circumstances.”

Rush asked, “I appreciate that. By the way, why do you talk the way you do?”

Thor coyly answered, “Power comes at a price. Including thou's speech patterns. Though, I am getting better.”

Rush noticed Thor's use of, 'I', in her sentence.

Rush questioned, “So you can speak normally? If you focus on what you are saying?”

Thor said, “Yes.”

Rush inquired, “Interesting. Given your speech patterns change with the power you have, I am guessing so does your voice. And this is not what you usually look like?”

Thor thought, with concern, 'If I am not careful he will figure out I am Padme.'

Thor stated, “This is what thy looks like. Only enhanced. Though, thy can return to normal.”

Rush questioned, “That is nice. Everyone needs some down time. Especially, someone as powerful as you. Still, considering I cannot really see you face through the slits of your helmet, I wonder what you really look like?”

Thor kept her eyes in front. Under her helmet, Thor lips curled into a mischievous smile. She teased, in a playful tone of voice, “That is a state secret.”

Rush chuckled a little at Thor's joke, for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, Thor piloted them through traffic.

(_)

Several minutes later, Thor and Rush arrive as the apartment building that Padme lived in.

Thor slowed the speeder, as she flew it into the parking garage level of the building. The parking garage was located midway up the building.

As Thor did this, she noticed, that there were a few speeder vehicles parked in the two parking rows on the side walls of in the garage. Though, except for Rush and herself, Thor saw there was no one else inside the room.

Thor gently piloted the blue painted speeder slowly into the garage. The speeder came to a gentle stop over a parking spot. Then, she lowered the speeder to hover to the floor of the parking spot. After which, Thor turned off the engine. She pulled out the key to the ignition and she pocketed the key to the speeder.

Thor looked over at Rush. She said, “Time to get out.”

Both adults opened their doors and got out.

Once Thor was standing on the floor, she turned towards the car. She leaned down and used her right hand to pick up the shaft of the hammer sticking out of the middle of the seats.

Thor pulled the hammer from the vehicle, she leaned up, and held Mjolnir to her right side.

Thor took a few steps away from the vehicle out of the way of the driver's side door. Then, she came to a stop. She used her left hand to gently shut the door on that side of the speeder.

By then, Rush was out of the speeder. Rush had shut his speeder door, as well.

Both adults look at each other. Thor said, “This way.”

Thor turned and started walking between the two rows of speeder vehicles. She headed towards the nearby turbo-lift elevator. Rush followed behind Thor.

The elevator tube when up the side of the building, allowing a open view for those using the machine as they traveled up and down the building.

When they reached the elevator, they came to a stop, with Rush standing to Thor's left side.

As Thor used her left hand to type in a code for Senator Amidala's apartment, she stated, “This elevator will take thee to the inside of Senator Amidala's apartment. She has rented the entire top floor of this building as her home. Also, she requested some privacy. So, thou will be leaving you now. Though, the Senator knows how to contact thy. If she needs thy.”

Thor finished punching in the code. She turned to Rush, to see the man looking back at her.

Rush smiled. He said, “Thank you for your help.”

Under her helmet, Thor returned Rush's smile. She replied, “No problem.”

A few seconds later, the elevator came to their level. The doors to the elevator slid open.

Rush walked inside.

A few seconds afterward, the doors slid closed. The elevator headed up to the top floor, Padme's apartment.

As soon as the elevator doors closed, Thor immediately turned towards the exit back to the parking garage. She used Mjolnir to swiftly fly out of the building. Then, Padme turned and flew up opposite side of the building, from the elevator Rush was using. Thor did this to avoid the risk of being seen by Rush.

While Thor flew, she thought, 'I do not have much time to do this. But, if I am quick enough this should not be a problem. But, if he gets to my apartment before I do, this is going to cause him to ask questions that I do not want to answer.'

Soon, Thor reached the open balcony that was attached to the living room of her home.

Padme had left the sliding window door to the balcony open to allow her to summon Mjolnir without damaging her home.

Thor landed on the floor of the balcony, between the meter high parapet that wrapped around the edges of the balcony and the entrance to the living room of her home.

Thor swiftly walked into the living room.

As Thor entered the living room, she used her left hand to touch a button on a panel, on the interior of the wall, to her left, to cause the window to the terrace to slide down to the floor.

Thor came to a stop inside her living room. Thor changed back to Padme.

Padme had on the same sleeveless red dress, with white embroidery, along with her red flat sole slippers, that she had on while inside the Senate Building earlier that day. Also, she had her small blaster pistol holstered on the outer side of her right thigh, hidden under her dress.

Padme turned to her left. Without causing any damage, she sent the hammer to fly through her home, to land on the floor, in her bedroom.

Padme had made it a habit to leave the doors open to her bedroom, unless guests were present.

Padme heard a soft thud, which signaled the hammer landing on its head, in a corner, in her bedroom, that was away from the windows of her bedroom, near her bedroom closet. After which, Padme turned to her left and walked from the living room, into a entry hallway.

The entrance to entry hallway was on the opposite side of the living room from the entrance to the hallway that lead to Padme's bedroom and other rooms of her home.

Padme reached an intersection in her hallway. She came to a stop, and turned to her left. Directly in front of her, down the hallway, were the doors to the elevator.

To calm her nerves, Padme took a deep breath and she slowly let the breath out. A second after she finished letting out her breath, the doors to the elevator opened.

Padme saw Rush looking back at her.

Padme smiled toward him. She said, “Please come in.”

Rush did so. Rush calmed walked over to Padme, as the doors the elevator doors closed behind him.

A few seconds later, Rush came to a stop two meters from Padme.

Both adults silently looked at each other for a few seconds.

Rush was the first to speak. He stated, “It has been a while since we have met in person.”

Padme thought, 'I did not realize that meeting you as myself would be this awkward.' She gestured with her left hand, towards the entrance of the living room. Padme offered, “Yes. It has. Please join me in my living room. We will talk in there.”

Rush replied, “Fine with me.”

Padme turned and walked into the living room, with Rush following her.

Padme came to a stop by the side of two couches facing each other, with a translucent coffee table between the couches. The translucent coffee table had to surfaces side by side. The surface closer to the couch facing the balcony had a holo-monitor on it.

Rush stopped a meter and a half behind Padme.

Padme turned around to face Rush.

Rush stated, “I must thank you for sending Thor to greet me. I felt very safe in her presence.”

Padme responded, “I am sure she will be happy to hear you said that.”

Rush asked, “Though, I wonder where she is now? Just in case. If there is trouble.”

Padme cryptically replied, “Don't worry. I am sure she is nearby.”

Rush commented, “I trust you both.”

Padme looked down at the floor. She realized, as she thought, 'I need to get this out of the way, before we go any further.'

Padme looked back up to Rush's eyes. She stated, “After you called. I had been doing some thinking. And I believe the way I broke things off was wrong. I could have done so in a better way.”

Rush calmly said, “I forgive you. We were both young. And things happened. I am just happy that what happened did not make us spiteful towards each other.”

Padme gave Rush a weak smile. She responded, “I agree. I hope you have found someone to love since we broke up.”

Rush inquired, “I have been on a few dates. But, nothing came of them. How about yourself?”

Padme coyly said, “I met someone. It is pretty serious. But, the war is making things difficult.”

Rush commented, “That is true for everyone.”

Then, Padme remembered, as she thought, 'I need to call Anakin.' Padme said, “I apologize. But, I need to make a quick call. It will only take a few of minutes.”

Rush asked, “A scheduled appointment?”

Padme answered, “Yes. Something like that.”

Rush stated, “Well, duty calls, then. I will be right here, waiting for you when you get back.”

Padme turned and walked towards the hallway that lead to her bedroom.

Rush silently watched Padme leave the room.

(_)

A minute later, Padme reached her bedroom. Once she was inside her bedroom, she pressed a button on the interior side of her bedroom wall, by the doors, which caused the double-doors to slide shut behind her.

Padme headed for a desk in her bedroom, which had a small holo-monitor on top of it.

As she walked through the room, she saw Mjolnir resting on its head, a corner of the room by the closet, which was away from the windows.

Padme soon came to a stop by a desk in the room, which had a holo-monitor on it. There was a chair in front of the desk, but Padme chose to remain standing.

Padme dialed the number, that went directly to Anakin' Skywalker's personal quarters on the Resolute.

Once Padme finished dialing Anakin's number, the holo-monitor began to ring a few times.

A few seconds later, Anakin answered the call. She saw from the small hologram of Anakin.

The hologram of Anakin looked up at her.

Anakin asked, “Hi Padme. How are things on your end?”

Padme responded, “Doing fine. I have Rush here. I plan to find him a safe house as soon as I finish talking to you.”

Anakin replied, “Good.”

Padme inquired, “So did you find anything out?” She thought, 'I know I did not give you much to go on. But, I hope you found something.'

Anakin answered, “Yes. As I suspected. All I needed was his name and I found a paper trail.”

Padme thought, 'That's good.'

Anakin went onto say, “I found that what project Senator Clovis was working on. Everything looks legit and legal. IBC had him overseeing investment dealings with two companies working on a project dealing with an upgraded model of a hyperdrive engine. From the information I have. It is nothing to write home about. Just an engine which is ten percent more fuel efficient than the previous model of the same hyperdrive engine.”

Padme questioned, “So Rush is in trouble over a small matter?”

Anakin noticed Padme use Senator Clovis' given name, Rush, instead of his family name, Clovis. Though, Anakin did not comment on the matter. Instead, Anakin answered, “It looks like that is the case. Also, I did find out that someone hired a bounty hunter to kill him. Though, only one bounty hunter. A skilled one at that.”

Padme groaned, as she asked, “It is not Jango Fett? Is it?” She thought, with mild annoyance, 'If it is. So, help me. Son, or no son. When I find him, he will wish I had killed him on Balmorra.'

Anakin responded, “No. From what I know of him. He still refuses to take assassination missions. Whatever you said to him on Balmorra stuck.”

Padme flatly stated, “Good.” She thought, 'There was no point in keeping what happened on Balmorra secret to you.'

Anakin commented, “The problem is. While I did not find out who it is. From the sources I contacted, this bounty hunter is good. He was hired as an expensive rate, with a top rating by the Bounty Hunters Guild.”

Padme agreed, “That could be a problem.”

Anakin offered, “Given your experience and everything you know. I have no doubt you can handle the matter, yourself. Though, I can call in some help from the Jedi Order. If you need the help.”

Padme responded, “I would prefer to keep the Order and the Senate out of this situation. Involving them over this matter could damage the Republic relations with the InterGalactic Banking Clan. Which has already been strained by the war.” Padme mentally lamented, 'Well, not really. But, Rush made the request. And I will honor his request.'

Anakin pointed out, “Okay. Though be careful. You are powerful and tough, but not invincible.”

Padme replied, “I realize that.”

Anakin requested, “Let me know how this works out.”

Padme said, “I will.”

Anakin commented, “I look forward to seeing you later.”

Padme replied, “So do I.”

Anakin smiled. He said, “I know.” Then, Anakin cut the communication.

Padme thought, 'We sometimes do have a problem of who will get the last word in. But, we try to keep that from becoming an issue.' She turned and began walking towards the doors that lead to the hallway outside her bedroom.

As Padme walked, she continued her thoughts, 'Now to talk to Rush. And making some calls. To a few friends that owe me some favors. To find out what safe house are available.'

But, as Padme came to a stop in front of the closed double-doors to her bedroom which lead to the hallway, she heard a loud crash come in the direction of the living room of her apartment.

In reaction to the crashing sound, Padme immediately turned back towards the hammer. She reached out with her right hand towards Mjolnir.

A second later, Mjolnir flew from the floor, by a corner, and into Padme's open right hand. Padme gripped the shaft of the hammer with her right hand. Then, Padme used the hammer to turn into Thor, with her clothing and items replaced with her helmet, armor, equipment, and sheathed sword.

Thor turned back towards the closed double-doors. She thought, 'I need to know who and what I am dealing with before I rush in. Or, I could accidentally get Rush killed. Even if I blow my cover, it is better I go as Thor and not Padme. Because if I try to be held back by secrets, I could get us both killed.'

Thor used her enhance hearing to listen through the walls, towards what was happening in the living room of her home.

Thor overheard Rush ask, with concern and worry in Rush's voice, “Am I going to be killed here?”

Thor heard a very deep, slightly modulated voice state, “No. Killing you here, in a Senator's apartment, in mid-day, in the Senate district, would cause too much notoriety for even me. The Republic itself would have to hunt me down on the principle alone. I will kill you elsewhere. If you do not struggle, I promise you a quick death.”

Thor thought, 'Good. That means I do not have to hurry. I can take things slowly in saving Rush. Which decreases the chance of him being harmed.'

Thor did not hear any more speaking. A few seconds later, she heard foots steps walking away from her and towards the open air coming into the room.

Half a minute later, there was the sound of a speeder vehicle taking off.

Thor used her left hand to quickly press the button by the doors to open the doors.

A second later, right after the double-doors were halfway slid open, Thor used her super-speed to rush into the hallway, heading for the living room.

As she did so, time slowed down for her, as she thought at super-speed, 'They are leaving. There is no time to call for help. I have to do this on my own. I need to get out there and track them down. But, at a distance. So the assassin does not notice me. I will likely have to wait until they land, before I save Rush and deal with the assassin.'

By then, Thor came to a stop in her living room.

While there were large windows on both side of the room. The balcony was to her right, midway down the room.

The large windows to Thor's right, passed the balcony had been broken from the outside, with shattered window pieces being the blue part of her floor. Though, the window fragments were small and did not fall are inside her living room.

The broken holes where the windows had been were right beside where the living room met the entry hallway, with the windows by a corner of the building.

As Thor walked up to the destroyed window, she looked at the fragments and the windows. She thought, 'The assassin must have used some sort of sonic device to just vibrate the window into pieces without an explosion. Then, he placed his speeder to hover by the corner, away from the wind, which would make a more stable area to quickly inter the room. A simple tactic, and that explains why the assassination did not just have the speeder hover by the terrace. If he tried the balcony, he would have had to go over the parapet. The crosswinds that are by the balcony would have made that a risky venture. Still, there is not time to worry about this, nor clean up. I need to get going.'

By then, Thor reached the hole where the large window had been. Thor did not stop, as she tightened her grip, with her right hand, around the shaft of the hammer. Thor used Mjolnir to fly through the hole and into the air.

Thor swiftly flew above the apartment. Once she was above the building, she came to a stop. She hovered in the air, as she looked around her, while using her enhanced sight.

As she looked around, she paid close attention the skylanes. She thought, 'Where are you? Where are you? Where are you? You could not have gotten too far. Now please be in a speeder with an open top. The way you took Rush suggests you used an speeder with an open top.'

A few seconds later, Thor spotted a yellow speeder with an open top, just entering a nearby skylane, which had light traffic, heading away from her.

In the right passengers seat, Thor recognized Rush by his hair and clothing. But, Thor could not see the person in the left driver's seat. The person was wearing a nice brown, broad rimmed hat, which blocked Thor's view.

Thor's lips curled into a wicked smile, as she thought, 'There you are. And I was right.'

Thor swiftly headed towards them. Soon, Thor caught up to a safe distance from the vehicle. As Thor followed she stayed out of the skylanes and she was mindful to avoid any traffic she passed by.

While Thor followed the yellow speeder, she thought, 'Now to keep my distance. I am going have to wait until they land to rescue Rush. It is too risky to try to snatch him while flying in the speeder. If I try a rescue in the air, in the skylane, there are too many things that could go wrong. Least of which is an accident that could not only get Rush killed but innocent passengers of other speeder vehicles. Even a shift of a one person's body in the wrong direction could mess up the balance of the speeder itself. As such, I will just have to be patience.'

Thor continued to follow the yellow speeder at a far distance, but she was still close enough for her to easily keep track the yellow speeder with her enhanced eyesight.

For the next ten minutes, Thor followed the yellow speeder as it made some turns and changed to other skylanes. Until finally, the yellow speeder exited the skylane it was in, and the speeder headed down into one of the many chasms of Coruscant.

Thor followed, as the speeder went down a few levels of the chasm. Thor saw them passed by large alcove the sides of the chasm, which allowed the light from the chasm to reach the area.

The yellow speeder went deeper into the chasm, into one of the darker parts of the cityscape.

Thor followed the speeder, as she thought, 'While technically exposed to the surface level of the city, the levels within the chasms are considered part of the underworld of Coruscant.'

The speeder and Thor went further into the underworld levels of the cityscape.

The speeder turned in a few times, as he followed the winding path of the charm in a diagonal arc forward and downward.

Thor lost track of the yellow speeder for a few seconds. But, as she followed the turn the yellow speeder made, she came to an open clearing. The clearing was but a very small area set near the center surface of the very large chasm.

The surface of the chasm was not flat. Some areas of the chasm were set higher and some areas of the chasm was set lower.

The area in question was an artificial square depression set into the bottom of the chasm. But, the area was still close enough to the top of the chasm to allow some defused luminosity from the sunlight on the surface above to illuminate the area.

In the center of the clearing, beside a small standalone building, was the yellow speeder. The small building was barely larger than the speeder itself, with the building being tall enough for a person to stand inside of it.

The area was set in a large square. There were walls about ten meters in each direction from the speeder and small building in the center of the area.

On the walls were doors and windows of what were former stores. Now, the stores were abandoned. Most of the doors looked to be either damaged or missing. The windows of the store fronts were empty.

The roof of the small building by the speeder was partly collapsed.

There were entrances between set a various points along the walls that lead deeper into the hallways that were part of the underworld of Coruscant.

Thor slowly flew around the small building in the center of the area in a clockwise made until she was in front of the speeder.

Thor saw Rush standing by right side of the parked speeder. Rush stood one the opposite side of the care where the small building was.

Thor noticed Rush looking back at her.

As Thor got closer, she did not see the driver. Though, she did see three sweeper droids moving about the edges of the clearing, at various locations, by the storefront walls and windows that bordered parts of the clearing.

Then, Thor noticed that Rush was wearing stuncuffs around his wrists, with his wrists cuffed in front of him.

As Thor approached Rush, she thought, 'The area appears to be rundown and abandoned. Though, I need to move in carefully, Except for Rush, I only see the sweeper droids. I do not see anyone else around. Not even the drive with the nice hat. Placing that speeder in the center of the are, by
center. That is wonderful bait for an ambush from any direction.'

'Though, I doubt the ambush will be from the center building. Anyone whom knows of me would realized melee combat would be at their extreme disadvantage. Besides, I can see into the building from the hole on the roof. I do not see anyone inside. From what I see inside that small building, the building looks like a small food stand that was left long ago along with the rest of the area.'

'Let's see if I can get to Rush and get us out of here before the bounty hunter shows up. I should be able to free Rush from those cuffs quickly enough. As long as Rush is in the line of fire, I have to think of him first. Once I get him to safety, than I can deal with the bounty hunter.'

'Even the speeder vehicle could be wired to explode. So I need to get him away from the stuncuffs are wired to explode. Though, doubt the cuffs are wired to explode because the electrical shock that stuncuffs give a person can cause the any explosive placed inside the cuffs to detonate. But, the cuffs can be remotely activated to shock the victims. So I need to get the cuffs off first, then move Rush away from the speeder vehicle.'

A few seconds later, Thor landed a meter by Rush and a meter from the speeder vehicle. The front right side of the speeder vehicle was to Thor's right's side. Rush was in front of Thor.

Two of the brown painted sweeper droids were on the far wall in front of her. There was another brown painted sweeper droid on the far wall behind her.

Both Thor and Rush looked at each other.

Thor asked, “Rush? Is thee okay?”

Rush answered, “Yes. But this is a trap.”

Thor responded, “Thou guessed this already. Let thy free you.” Thor stood a few steps forward to stand closer to Rush. Thor used her left hand to press a few buttons on the stuncuffs to undo them and have the cuff drop to the floor.

It was then, To Thor's left side, she heard the same modulated voice say, “I saw you tailing me. Not a bad job on your part, but that armor sticks out a lot in the sky. Especially in the day time.”

Thor turned to her left to look where the voice had come from. While she did so, she ordered, “Rush. Get behind me.”

Rush did step to stand between Thor and the speeder vehicle.

Meanwhile, Thor saw someone step out of the nearby shadows of a nearby doorway of a shop, across from the wall on the other side of the Thor and Rush from where the yellow speeder was parked.

The person was slender, blue skinned, male duros, with red eyes. The duros man wore a brown hat, a long sleeve brown long coat, finger-less brown gloves on his hands, and brown boots on his feet. Each boot had layer chrome metal running down the boot to a metal toe. The layered metal allowed for flexibility while protecting the feet.

The duros man had two black tubes attached his face. There was a tube attached to each side of his lower jaw down into a small device strapped behind his upper-back, over his coat. His closed coat hide his clothing and equipment underneath.

Thor could barely make out from the ends of the sleeves and the impression around the forearms of the sleeves that the dorus had mechanical gadgets on his wrists and forearms.

Thor thought, 'This duros is hiding a lot of mechanical weapons under his clothing. I need to be on guard.'

The duros man came to a stop a meter from the wall behind him.

The duros man stated, in a deep, slight modulated voice, “So you are Thor. The Storm Bringer. Enforcer of the Republic.”

Thor replied, “Thou is. And who is thee?”

The man smiled. He replied, “Cad Bane. At your service.”

Thor stated, “Well, Cad Bane. Thee is under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, destruction of private property...” Thor added as a joke, “And having a poor sense of fashion.”

Padme realized what she said. She thought, 'I have spent to much time around Obiwan.'

Cad Bane laughed a little. Then, he said, “And here I thought you were going to compliment my nice hat.”

Thor conceded, “Thy admits. Thee has a nice hat.”

Cad Bane said, “Thank you.” Then, he used used his hands to open his coat, to show his two blaster pistols, which were holstered on the sides of his belt. He swiftly drew his pistols and fired them at Thor.

Meanwhile, Rush ducked down to crouch by the speeder, as Thor rushed at the bounty hunter. As Thor approached Cad Bane, she readied the hammer to swing with both her hands with the flat side of the head of the hammer.

Rush was not hit by blaster bolts, while Thor was. Though, Cad Bane quickly realized that the blaster bolts had no effect on Thor.

Cad Bane quickly dodged out of the way, to his left to avoid the blow from Thor's hammer.

Thor came to a stop. She turned to her right, towards Cad Bane.

Thor and Cad Bane were only two meters appart.

Cad quickly found his footing, as he stood facing Thor.

Cad holstered his weapons. Cad used his left hand to pull back the sleeve of his right forearm. Then, he used the flame thrown hidden on his right wrist and forearm to hit Thor at point blank range.

Though the flames, under her helmet, Thor just looked at Cad. Under her helmet, Thor's lips curled into a feral grin.

Cad realized that the flames were not harming Thor, nor her armor and equipment.

Cad turned off the his flamethrower. He rushed at Thor. Cad used his right gloved hand to grip Thor's left gloved forearm. Then, Bane used the tazer in his right gloved hand to try to shock Thor. But, Bane saw there was no effect with his electrical attack.

Under her helmet Thor gave Cad Bane an annoyed look.

Thor let go of the shaft of the hammer with her right hand, while she held the hammer shaft with her left hand.

Then, Thor used the flat of her palm of her right hand swiftly push Cad Bane on his chest.

The blow forced Cad to let go of her left forearm, as he was knocked half a meter backward, to the ground, onto his back.

Though, Thor held back. Thor only used enough force to knock Cad off his feet, without seriously hurting the bounty hunter.

Thor swap hands to hold Mjolnir's shaft with her right hand. Thor approached Cad.

A second after Cad landed on his back, Cad forced himself to return to his senses.

Cad Bane began to reach for his holstered blaster pistols, but then, he looked up. In front of himself Cad saw Thor to his right side, with Thor's back to the nearby wall.

Thor held the hammer in her right hand, with the head of the hammer electrified with small electrical arcs popping off the surface. The head of the hammer less than a meter from his body.

Bane could tell from Thor's body language that Thor literally daring for him to try to take another shot out her.

Cad Bane immediately moved his hands away from his holstered his blaster pistols.

Cad Bane looked up at Thor, with Thor looking down at him.

Thor stated, “Thou realizes that if one kills you, another bounty hunter may take your place and hunt Rush Clovis. Your client has already dealt with and continuing to come at this target will only cause thee trouble.”

Cad stated, “You are correct. No bounty is worth this. I have already been paid. Since the client is no longer in the picture, I will drop the job.”

Thor flatly stated, “Good. Though, thee is still under arrest.”

Bane cracked a grin. He responded, “Ah. There is a cutthroat underneath the bodice. I like that.”

Bane chuckled as he quickly his right hand to punch a button on the right side of his belt.

Suddenly, the three brown pained sweeper droids around the clearing started to transform into humanoid droids. Each droid had a right arm that was a laser cannon. The left left hand was a set of three finger claws. On the outer side of the left elbow was a smaller laser cannon than the laser cannon in the right forearm of each droid.

Thor kept her eyes on Cad, though from the corner of her eyes she recognized the droids from Republic army reports on Separatists droids.

Thor thought, in surprise and concern, 'Demolition droids. Their bodies wired with explosives.'

Cad kept his eyes son Thor. Cad stated, “All three of the droids in this area are demolition droids. They cost quite a bit. But given the situation they are worth every credit. I knew heading to Coruscant I might run into more trouble than I could handle alone. So I have these droids as insurance. I programmed them so that if they detect any energy discharge within their bodies, the explosives in their bodies will blow up. Such as from blaster fire, lightsabers...” His grin turned to a smirk, as he added, “And even lightning. While you may not be harmed by the explosion, your friend is not be so fortunate.”

Thor turned to look fully look around the room at the droids, as she dispelled the electricity that had been radiating from her hammer.

The moment Thor took her eyes off of Cad, the bounty hunter immediately ignited his jet boots. As he made it into the air, he turn to look in front of himself. To escape Thor, Cad quickly flew away and into a tunnel directly behind him, which lead into the lower levels of Coruscant.

Meanwhile, Thor rushed at the closest droid which was near the wall to her right. As she did so, she swiftly thought, 'My training with the Jedi including bomb disposal. That includes dealing with bombs that were actively trying to attack in other ways besides exploding. I am sure that Cad Bane is not bluffing about those energy triggers. I need to act as quickly as possible to destroy these droids before they explode and kill Rush.'

(_)

At the moment, near the yellow speeder, Rush was unharmed. He had continued to duck down by the speeder during the battle. But, as he crouched by the speeder, he had been paying attention to what was going on.

Rush saw Thor effortlessly beat Cad Bane. With Thor sending Bane to the ground, on his back.

Afterward, Rush noticed that the nearby droids had changed from sweeper droids into combat droids.

Rush knew a few things about droid programming when considering threat and target assessments.

Rush realized if he ran he would be targeted. But, if he stayed in play, they would likely target Thor. And from the way Thor handed the bounty hunter, he was sure she could handle the droids.

Rush saw Thor move in nearly a blur, as Thor rushed at the droid closest to her, before it could get a target lock on her. She immediately used the flat of her hammer to come down on top of it, crushing it into the ground in one blow.

Meanwhile, the two other droids by the wall opposite to where Thor stood realized that Thor was the greater danger and they began to take aim of her with their laser weapons.

But before either could get a laser shot off, turned towards the two droids. Thor used her hammer to throw at the droid to her right, as she rushed at the droid to her left.

Rush watched as the droid to her right be destroyed as the hammer impacted it. And at the same time, Thor reached the last droid, he saw her use her gloved hands to swiftly rip the droid apart.

In his entire life, Rush had never personally seen such a vicious, swift, brutally savage attack, as the act that Thor had just committed on those droids. The display of such barbarism made him sick to his stomach.

(_)

Nearby, Thor had just had finished destroy the three droids.

Thor summoned her hammer in her right hand, as she thought, 'Good. None of them exploded. But, I am not taking any chances. Once I get Rush out of here, I will contact Coruscant Security to send a bomb disposal team down here to clean up this mess.'

Meanwhile, the hammer flew into the air, towards Thor.

A second later, Thor caught Mjolnir in her right hand.

Thor turned to look at Rush, whom she saw as now standing up from the nearby speeder. She continued her thoughts, 'Now to check on Rush.'

Thor turned briskly walked over Rush.

As Thor came to a stop, two meters from Rush, she lowered the hammer to her right side.

Thor asked, “Rush? Is thee alright?”

Rush turned to Thor, as he answered, “Yes. I am alright.”

Thor said, “Good. Then, let us leave. Thy feels it would be safer to leave the speeder and for us to make it up to the surface level on foot.”

Rush stated, “I know it is you, Padme.”

Thor's body immediately tensed up, confirming for Rush that he was correct.

Rush went onto say, “I am no fool. I can see the obvious. You were able to call Thor on very short notice. As the spaceport, as Thor, you knew where the government speeders were kept. You knew exactly where your apartment was. Because that is where you live. You took the fastest way there. Meaning you had experience on the skylanes of the Senate District. You knew the code to your apartment. You even become very quiet when I compared you two personae. And when I was captured, you suddenly started following me. There was no time to call for help. So, you could only be Padme Amidala. You even call me, Rush, after I was captured. Not, Senator Clovis.”

Rush continued, in a firmer tone of voice, “Now do not dare lie to me.”

Padme thought, 'I was sloppy. Now I am going to pay for it. I might as well admit to the obvious.'

Thor looked at Rush, as she admitted, “Thee is correct. Thou hopes thee is not upset.”

Rush responded, in a calmer, slightly sadder tone of voice, “Padme. I am not upset that you kept this secret from me. In your place, I would have done the same. I will keep your secret. While I am grateful for you saving my life, after seeing you commit such savagery, it is clear you are not longer the woman that I fell in love with. And you are right. The speeder might be boobytrapped. I will find my own way back up to the surface level.”

Rush turned and walked away, as he left an emotionally stunned Thor in his wake.

Rush soon exited the clearing, and into one of the hallways, with him leaving Thor's sight, while he made his way up to the surface level.

As both Padme and Thor, she had been hurt in many ways before and during the war. But, that single comment, from someone she cared for and respected, hurt her more than all the pain she had ever felt in her entire life. While the comment did not break her spirit, the comment did crack her heart.

She wondered if she still Padme sometimes pretending to be Thor. Or, was she now Thor sometimes pretending to to be Padme. She could not longer tell which one was the face and which one was the mask.

Her emotional state had caused a storm to quickly form in the sky above the chasm she stood over.

The clouds darkened the sky as the wind picked up. Thunder soon brought lightning, and along with it, the rain.

As the lightning lit up the area around her, she noticed her reflection in a window, across the open area from her.

She saw her enhanced form, in her armor, and equipment, holding Mjolnir in her right hand. And all she could feel was revulsion and disgust.

She threw the hammer at the window, shattering it. As the hammer landed into the abandoned room behind the shattered window, she looked up into the sky.

She looked up at the rain that hit her helmet, face and body. She looked up at the lightning that lit the sky. And she let out a scream that was part anguish and part rage.

(_)

A few hours later, in another part of the galaxy, it was late afternoon on the side of the forest world where Dooku's castle has been hidden. Sunset had just begun there, though there was enough sunlight coming into the castle, from the many windows, that the automated lights in the castle had not yet come on.

Two days before, Loki had sent a coded message which was directly sent to Count Dooku using a private communication channel Dooku had personally given Loki.

The message stated for Dooku to be in his office, in his castle at exactly nineteen hundred. For she wanted to talk to Dooku, before things escalated.

While Dooku went along with Sidious' plan to kill Loki and Thor on planet of Inoc Sev, he did have misgivings. Though, he did not voice his misgivings to Sidious.

Dooku learned soon after the battle with the gorog on Inoc Sev that Thor had survived the battle. But, Dooku was not sure what happened to Loki. Even when Dooku talked to Sidious, Sidious let slip that he did not know if Loki survived.

Dooku did not learn that Loki survived the trap until he had received the message from Loki.

Dooku know that only Loki could sent him such a message from that private communication channel. This confirmed Loki had survived the trap, he realized his misgivings about the matter were well warranted.

Dooku had long since realized how crafty Loki was. Dooku believed this might be the only chance to talk with Loki before things got worse. Dooku knew that if Loki desired to do so, Loki could hide and cause him no end of grieve. As such, Dooku realized that no matter what he decided to do concerning Loki, this would likely be the only chance for him to do so.

So, Dooku did as Loki had requested. Though, Dooku did take precautions.

Dooku was in his usual black clothing. Black long sleeve shirt, black pants, large brown belt, black boots. He had on his brown cape, with a small gold chain connecting the ends of the cape around the front of his neck. Dooku had his curved hilt lightsaber holstered on the left side of his belt.

Dooku sat in his chair behind his desk.

There was plenty of light through the windows of the room, from the sunset outside, to see with.

Across the room from the desk, the hallway doors were closed.

There was a clock on the wall to Dooku's right side.

As the clock changed to nineteen hundred local time, Loki immediately appeared in the center of the office, on the white tiled floor.

Loki stood a few meters from the door behind her and a few meters from the desk in front of her.

Loki was wearing her traveling green and brown clothing. Green pants, green long sleeve button up shirt, green open jacket, brown leather belt, brown leather boots.

Loki faced Dooku.

Both adults looked at each other.

Dooku mentally shielded his thoughts and emotions.

Dooku used his right hand to pressed a button on the underside of his desk. The button sent out a silent signal.

Dooku maintained a mask of calmness, as he thought, 'You were foolish to give me time to prepare. Though, I will not try to use the force to probe your mental defenses. Doing so will start a fight. I desire to talk to you, before I permanently deal with you.'

Dooku said, “So you finally showed up.”

Loki stated, “We both know what is going to happen next. So start the ball rolling.”

Dooku flatly said, “You failed in your mission. You know the consequences for failure.”

Loki firmly pointed out, “No. That mission was a trap and a no-win situation for myself. Do not pretend otherwise. You even sent a shutdown signal when everyone was in place to wake up that beast.”

Dooku thought, 'Actually, it was Sidious whom handled that trap. But, I do not mind you thinking otherwise.'

Dooku coldly stated, “Fine. I wanted an excuse to kill you.”

Loki responded, “If you had wanted to kill me. Try to do so in a direct manner. Do not invent excuses. Doing so demeans both of us. Besides which. I thought we had a good thing going.”

Dooku commented, “You have outlived your usefulness.”

Loki cracked a grin. She questioned, “Or, I am too dangerous to have around?”

Dooku said, “Justify the situation any way you wish in your mind.”

Loki responded, “Not to mock you, but I was just about to say the same thing to you. By the way, what idiot thought it would be a good idea to experiment on a gorog?”

Dooku said, with a chill in his voice, “Someone that has already been dealt with.”

Loki guarded her thoughts and emotions, as she mentally reflected, 'That likely means the person is dead. And possibly everyone else involved in the research concerning that gorog. Except for Lo'Ran. The person I saved. Though, I will check on those people, later. Still, this explains the how and why of this trap. Sidious wants both myself and Thor out of the way. He likely did not like that experiment. So, three birds with one stone. Now to use this to my advantage.'

Loki said, “When most people kill a project. It is a proverbial death. They just stop funding and reassign the personnel. But you Sith just kill everyone involved.”

Dooku calmly said, “We like to be thorough.”

Loki pointed out, “And that is your undoing.”

Dooku conceded, “Perhaps.” Dooku sensed the presence of those whom he was waiting for. He commented, “But, just because you will die does not mean I will have to dirty my own hands with you.”

The double-doors behind Loki suddenly opened inwardly. Though, the doors came to a stop when they were perpendicular to the doorway.

Loki turned around counterclockwise to see Jango and Grievous standing next to each other. Both of them standing just outside of the office, inside the hallway.

Jango was to Loki's left side, and Grievous was to her right side.

Jango was in his blue mandalorian armor and helmet. Jango had his blaster pistols holstered on his armor. Jango was not wearing his jetpack.

Grievous had on his white cloak, with the cloak closed around his cybernetic body. Though, he had the hood pulled back to show his cybernetic head.

From behind Loki, Dooku stated, “I realized you were going to be handful. So, I called in some help. In the form calling in two of my best agents.”

Dooku thought, 'Given you are able to fight Thor. I figured it might be wise to soften you up, before I faced you. I was tempted to bring Asajj here, as well. But, she might foolishly take advantage of the situation. Though, it took offering Jango four times his usual fee to even consider taking this assassination job. As for Grievous. I just appealed to his ego and insecurities. Now to deal with this you, Loki. Before you become a problem.'

Dooku ordered, “Kill Agent Laufeyson.”

Loki turned around clockwise to face Dooku.

Dooku and Loki's eyes met. Dooku watched as Loki's lips curled in a smirk.

Dooku thought, with concern, 'Why are you smiling?'

From behind Loki, Jango commented, with his helmet's speakers, “Actually. We are not planning on doing anything.”

Dooku turned looked at Jango, as he flatly asked, “What?”

Jango looked passed Loki and Dooku. Jango stated, “Between the sensors in my helmet and Grievous' cybernetic implants, we heard the entire conversation.”

Grievous looked at Dooku. Grievous said, “We have both discussed this with Loki. We find the current situation intolerable.”

Jango commented, “After talking to Loki. We realized that you plan to kill all of us when we are no longer useful.”

Grievous mentioned, “Loki has offered us so much more than you have. She has already removed the programming that made me loyal to you. After this is over, she promised to give me a new organic body. Like my old body was.”

Dooku turned to Loki. Dooku accused, “You planned this in advance.”

Loki smirk turned into an innocent smile, as she calmly said, “All I did was have a few discussions with them, concerning the obvious.” Loki thought, 'The Sith do not hold a monopoly on manipulating people. Still, I will deliver on my promises.'

Dooku turned to Jango. Dooku inquired, “What was your price? Bounty hunter?”

Jango answered, through the speeders of his helmet, “Loki informed me of a flaw included in the DNA of my clones. Including my own son. Boba.” As Jango continued, there was a bit of anger in his tone of voice, “A flaw that will rob my son of decades of his live span. A flaw that Loki promised to fix. I already had my son checked and I verified the genetic flaw.”

Jango thought, 'I am glad my son is not here. I already made arrangements with Aurra if I do not return. I made sure that Boba will be made aware of his flaw when he is twenty years old. By then, he should have the skills and maturity needed to save himself from this problem. With decades to spare before this flaw would become a danger to him.'

Dooku turned to Loki. He complimented, “Well played.”

Loki maintained her smile, but she did not verbally respond.

Dooku looked at Jango and Grievous. Dooku questioned, “Those are certainly generous payments. But, what makes you think Loki can deliver on her promises?”

Jango said, “At the rate things are going. And given the reputation Loki has garnered. We are willing to roll the dice on this.”

Dooku conceded, “Fair enough.”

Loki thought, 'If Dooku decides to try to kill them with the force. I will fall back to my second plan concerning this situation. Which they already know. I will have to teleport both of them, to two different locations. Jango back to his ship which is parked nearby. That will give him a chance to run. He already informed me that he left Bob with someone in a spacestation, a few star systems from here. Meanwhile Grievous will be teleported to one of my safe houses.'

'I am glad I can teleport more than one person at one time, to multiple locations, at once. Including myself.'

'As soon as Jango and Grievous are safe, I will face Dooku. If I lose, they and Boba will have a chance. And a good head start.'

'Though, there is one matter I would like to discuss before we fight.'

Loki commented, “By the way, I could not find Ventress. Yes. I know about her. I have a feeling the force warned her about me. And she decided that running was a wiser course of action.”

Dooku thought, 'I am so happy I had not to have Asajj come here. I would have no chance against all four of my best agents standing against me, at once.'

Dooku said, “She is obviously much wiser than these two.” He focused on Jango and Grievous, as he questioned, “So are you all going to work together to kill me?”

Dooku adjusted his body position to allow for him to jump out of his chair at a moments notice.

Jango answered, “No.”

Though Dooku remained calm, he did not relax his guard at hearing Jango and Grievous were not going to attack him.

Grievous explained, “We already talked about this matter. We all believe in rule of the fittest. So, if Loki can defeat you on her own, we will serve her. If you defeat her. We will serve you. But, we will not help either of you kill the other.'

Dooku stated, “I can accept that.” He thought, 'This is not so bad. I can salvage this situation. I might even decide not to kill you two after I deal with Loki. Though, the next few hours will not be pleasant for either of you.'

Loki kept her eyes on Dooku, as she asked, “General Grievous. I believe you have been here before? That you know the layout of the castle?”

Grievous answered, “Yes.”

Loki suggested, “Then, please show Jango to the nearby parlor. Dooku keeps a wonderful selection of drinks there. I suggest the Corellian whiskey.”

Dooku raised an eyebrow at Loki's comment.

Jango said, “I will keep that in mind.”

Jango and Grievous looked at each other.

Grievous turned and started walking down the hallway.

Jango stepped into the room, just enough to grip the outer knobs of both doors. He gently pulled the doors back towards himself as he entered the hallway. The doors closed behind Jango.

After which, Jango followed Grievous to the nearby parlor to await the results of the coming battle.

Dooku and Loki continued to look at each other.

As Dooku got up and walked around his desk, to his left, he questioned, in a slightly annoyed tone of voice, “You created alliances behind my back. You turned two of my best servants against me. And you pilfered my collection of drinks.”

By then, Dooku came to a stop in the middle front of the desk, with his back being a meter from the desk. He stood only a few meters from Loki.

Both adults continued to look at each other.

Loki shrugged. She casually said, “Sampled actually. I must say. You have good taste.”

Dooku replied, “Thank you.” Dooku's voice turned grimmer, as he continued, “Now to end this.”

Held up his right hand towards Loki. Dooku used his right hand as a focusing point, as he tried to force choke Loki. Dooku held his right hand, with his pinking, forth finger, and middle finger closed, while he had his index and thumb held near each other, without touching, as if he was pinching something in the air.

But, Dooku soon realized he was having not effect on Loki.

Dooku stopped force choking Loki.

Loki lips curled into a smirk. She held up her right hand, with her index finger extended upwards. She wiggled her right index finger in a, no, motion. Loki commented, “No cheating.” Then, she lowered her right hand to her right side.

Dooku thought, 'She is like Thor. This also means.'

Dooku continued to hold his right hand up, as he opened his right hand towards Loki.

In a smooth motion, Dooku used the force to pull Loki to him. Then, Dooku used the force to enhance his strength as he gripped Loki by her throat with his right hand. Dooku being taller than Loki allowed him to hold Loki up while Loki's feet did not touch the ground. Dooku turned to counterclockwise until he face the desk, as he threw down Loki on her back onto the flat surface of the desk top.

Dooku gripped Loki throat, while he leaned down, with his face close to Loki's face. Dooku snarled, “You will know your place!”

Loki carefully utilized her super-strength as used her the flat palms of both her hands to push against Dooku's chest, pushing him back into the air without damaging Dooku's ribcage, nor internal organs.

Dooku let go of Loki's throat, as he was whirled back into the air.

Though, by the time Dooku reached the middle of room, he used the force to catch himself in the air. He gently lowered himself to where his feet delicately touched the floor. Dooku turned to face Loki.

Meanwhile, Loki slipped down from the desk, onto her feet. She stood in front of the desk, as she turned to Dooku.

Both individuals saw that the other showed no signs of injury.

Loki used her right hand gently rub the front of her throat, as she firmly stated, “The grandeur of my place is beyond your imagination.” Then, she lowered her right had to her side.

Dooku immediately attempted to use the force to push Loki up towards the ceiling. Nothing happened.

Dooku spent a few seconds trying to use the force to push and pull Loki. But, his efforts had no effect on Loki.

A few moments later, Dooku ceased all attempts at attacking Loki through the force. He thought, 'I caught her off guard. But, now she is consciously defending herself against my attacks.'

'I could throw some of my furniture at her. But, I doubt that would actually hurt her. And doing so would leave me with a mess to clean up and expensive furniture to replace. To that end, if we fight to hard we might wreck the castle itself.'

'At least that blow to my chest did not injury me. She wanted me off her. She did not want to kill me. But, she could have. I believe I will play her game for right now.'

Dooku said, “It should be no surprise that you can counter my force abilities. I am sure you have a similar defense as young Padme has with that mystical hammer. The same goes that I should not be surprised that you have been plotting against me. Do you think I did not notice all the acts of charity you have done for various Confederacy members?”

Loki smirked, as she casually responded, “What can I say? I like to do things in a low-key fashion.”

Dooku caught Loki's joke, as he flatly stated, “Ha Ha.” Then, he used his right hand to reach around his waist, under his came and pull out his lightsaber that was holstered to his belt.

Dooku used his right hand to hold his curved deactivated lightsaber hilt away from his body, towards his right side.

Dooku stated, “Now I will kill you. Then I will attend to your supporters.”

Loki smirk became a wicked grin, as she stated, “That's what you think.”

Loki held out her right hand in front of herself. She summoned her mystical bastard sword, Cassius, to appear in her right hand.

Loki gripped the hilt of the sword with her right hand. She held up the blade of the weapon in front of her chest, in a defensive stance.

Loki asked, “Shall we dance?”

Dooku held the lightsaber hilt in his right hand, as he ignited the red energy blade. While Dooku's was holding the hilt directly away from him, the curvature of the hilt had the blade point at a diagonal, downward angle away from his right side.

Dooku held up his lightsaber blade in front of his chest in a defensive stance. Though, Dooku's blade pointed slightly away from his front, towards Loki.

Dooku said, “Yes. Let us dance.”

The two adults charged each other, as they began their fight.

As the two adults reached each other, each of them used their right hand to hold their weapon in their attacks, parries and counters. They faced each other with their right sides, as they look at each other. They held their left hand, either to their left side, or way from their left side, for balance.

To Dooku's surprised, he found the refinement and skill of Loki's swordsmanship to be worthy of his attention. In addition, while Dooku used the force to aid the direction, speed, and strength of his attacks. Loki was able counter with her own skills and abilities.

Also, Dooku realized that Loki's sword was mystical like the hammer Thor used and the blade of Loki's sword could parry a lightsaber energy blade without being damaged.

Though, both combatants realized that if they became to aggressive they would literally bring down the castle around them.

So the battle became less about the number of strikes, blocks, and parries, but instead how skillfully their attacks were placed.

They encircled each other clockwise, as one took a shot, which was quickly countered. Then, the other combatant waited a few seconds before striking back, only to have their attack countered.

Every few seconds, both adults took a few steps to walk around each other, in a clockwise manner, with their right sides facing each other. Maintained a distance of about a meter apart from each other.

This time, it was Dooku turned to make a strike with his lightsaber. Loki quickly parried with the blade of her sword. Then, Dooku pulled his lightsaber in a defensive angle.

Dooku complimented, “I must say. Your style and technique are almost flawless. Where did you learn such skills?”

Loki struck at Dooku. Dooku parried the attack. Then, Dooku struck at Loki.

As Loki used her right hand to parry Dooku's strike, she shrugged with her left shoulder. Loki coyly said, “You know. Here and there.” Then, Loki pulled back her her blade from the parry and struck out at Dooku, only to be blocked by Dooku's lightsaber blade. Loki pulled back her sword to a defensive angle, as she waited for Dooku's next attack.

Dooku said, “It is not hard to realize that underneath your casual facade there is a very serious personality.” He struck. Loki parried. He pulled backed.

Loki smiled, as she complimented, “Dooku. You always were sharp.”

Loki struck out, Dooku blocked the mystical metal blade with his energy blade. But, instead of pulling back, Loki swiftly stepped forward, allowing her to hold and push Dooku's blade with her own weapon, in a manner that pushed Dooku's blade away from him, to Dooku's right. Loki continued forward, as she used more of her physical her strength to use Cassius, to twist Dooku's blade, until she forced the lightsaber blade from Dooku's hand.

As the lightsaber fell, the weapon deactivated. While this happened, Loki swiftly raised the tip of her sword blade to the right side of Dooku's throat.

Dooku attempted to use the force to grip his lightsaber, but a second later, he realized he was unable too. And with a sword to his throat, he knew he had lost.

Loki ordered, “Oh your knees.”

Dooku complied. Loki held her sword blade against Dooku's throat, as Dooku knelt down on his knees.

Dooku looked up at Loki's face, as Loki looked down at Dooku's face.

From the corner of his right eye, he saw, that without without Loki looking, Loki extend her left hand towards his lightsaber on the tiled floor around the weapon. Green flames then erupted from her hand, onto the curve deactivated lightsaber hilt and the small area of the floor around the lightsaber.

A few seconds later, Loki stopped having the green flames come from her left hand.

Dooku saw that Loki's hand was unharmed, as Loki lowered her left hand back to her side.

Dooku looked over at his lightsaber. He saw that his weapon had been melted and the white tiled floor around the weapon had been scorched black.

Loki noticed that Dooku's attention was on his destroyed weapon.

Loki shrugged. She said, “I am a Goddess of Fire after all.”

Dooku focused back on Loki. He dryly said, “Thank you for reminding me.”

Loki commented, “I do not want you to have any foolish ideas.”

Dooku replied, “That is understandable.”

There was silence between the two, as Dooku awaited for his death.

But, as the seconds passed, nothing happened.

Finally, Dooku decided to ask, “Aren't you going to kill me?”

Loki casually said, “Actually, I was going to ask you to drop everything and disappear.”

Dooku questioned, “You never struck as merciful.”

Loki maintained the blade of her sword against the right side of Dooku's neck, without cutting Dooku's neck. Loki stated, “Oh. I am not being merciful. I am turning your Sith Rule of Two on its head. If you are still breathing Palpatine cannot take another apprentice. At least not officially.”

Dooku showed surprise on his face. Dooku thought in disbelieve, 'How does she know all this? Palpatine being Sidious is a good guess. It would only take a few threads between me and him to make the connection. But only the Sith know the master and apprentice rule is known as the Rule of Two. Not even the Jedi know this. How long did she know this? And what does she know?'

Loki realized her mistake. She responded, in a halfhearted manner, “Oops. I said that out loud. I think of him as Palpatine so much that it is hard to keep it a secret that I know he is Lord Sidious. Also known as, Darth Sidious. Dark Lord and Master of the Sith.”

Loki thought, 'Speaking of which. Darth Maul is likely still alive. But, he is completely nuts. Crazier than I can be on a bad day. I need to keep an eye out for him. If I find out where he is. I will quietly alert the Jedi to deal with him. That way if the situation backfires there is no way there will be blowback towards myself.'

'Also, the parlor is far enough from here that Jango and Grievous are not listening in on this conversation. Besides, they both know how destructive a battle like this can be. They would know better than to be anywhere near this us during our fight.'

'And worse come to worse. I can use magic to selectively erase their memories of a few points of information I do not wish for them to know.'

Dooku composed himself. He said, “Given everything else you apparently know. I am not surprised you know about Palpatine. Still, I wonder how did you learned about all of this?”

Loki stated, “If you asked me before you betrayed me, I might have told you. You may have even gotten a good laugh out of this.”

“I have to admit. Palpatine's plan for galactic conquest is good. Very epic. But, Palpatine always planned for you to die in the end. It is Anakin that he wants to be his apprentice. But, that is looking less likely by the day. Besides, I want you alive. And not just to screw with that jerk, Palpatine.”

Dooku asked, “Then why are you sparing my life?”

Loki said, “Because as I told you when we first met. You have style. Style that I admire and respect. In addition, you are a known quantity to me. I realize that no matter what I do, the Sith will remain. I prefer you to continue that line and not Palpatine, nor someone else. You are right person for that job. So, I am just asking you to sit out this war. Disappear and go freelance. You may find you prefer it that way.”

“When the time is right. I will have Palpatine dealt with. And after I do so, I will either be in a position to conquer that Republic, or negotiation a treaty. Either way, you will either be a free man, because the Republic will be gone, or the peace treaty I help create to end the war will include amnesty and freedom for all participants, except for Palpatine.”

“All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and disappear. We both know that Sidious is too busy to look for you. When all is said and done, he will be gone and you can continue with your life. You will have your wealth. I will not touch the credits you have hidden away in your personal accounts. I will even make sure your status as Count of Serenno is maintained.”

“Besides which, I can tell you are getting tired with dealing with these idiots every single day. Both in the Republic and the Confederacy. I know the feeling. You are not young anymore. Yes. The force keeps you healthy and strong. But, it is time for you to have some fun in your life. Go out. Enjoy life. You have always kept your anger at a sane level. And I can see that wildness in your eyes. You really want to cut loose and have some fun. Though, your status prevents you from doing so. I am just giving you the opportunity to do just that. So, what do you say?”

Dooku spend a few seconds thinking about Loki's offer. Then, he calmly said, “Hmm. You have a deal.”

Loki moved her sword away from Dooku. She took a few steps back from Dooku.

Dooku stood up.

Though, Loki kept her eyes on Dooku, as she, in a downward angle to her right side.

Loki said, “I am glad you are seeing things from my point of view.”

Dooku commented, “You are making a good offer. Though, before I leave I need to make some arrangements.”

Loki stated, “As long as you do not try anything with me. Nor, tip off your subordinates to this change of power.”

Dooku said, “At this point I see no need to do so.”

Loki commented, “That is nice to hear. Also, when we are done, I am going to teleport you to your ship, which is parked outside of this castle. I want you off the planet as soon as possible.”

Dooku replied, “That will be fine.”

Loki said, “It goes without saying that you should not contact Palpatine. After this failure, he will kill you, even by holo-comm.”

Dooku agreed, “I am sure of that.”

Dooku thought, 'I am likely never going to speak to Sidious again. With my skills in the force and my Jedi training, I should have no problem hiding from him.'

Loki warned, “In addition. I already found and disabled the explosives you had in this castle, and the mountain this castle rests on. Also, the maintenance droids and security systems in this castle are under my control. If you try anything against me, it will be the last you ever do.”

Dooku said, “I won't.”

Loki replied, “Good.”

Dooku turned and walked over to his desk.

Loki following him.

Dooku circled around his desk to his right. He came to a stop between his chair and the back of his desk. He remained standing, as he leaned down towards his desk. He used the monitor, keyboard, and touchpad built into the surface of his desk to work his desk's computers.

Loki stood two meter away from Dooku, on the front side of the desk. Loki kept a watchful eye on both Dooku, and what he was doing on the computer.

Loki remained ready should Dooku's try something against herself.

A few minutes later, Dooku leaned up. He turned to Loki. He stated, “I transferred some credits to a few hidden accounts that I know my master... Well, former master does not know about.”

Loki asked, “So you are ready to go?”

Dooku answered, “Yes. I can retrieve everything I need elsewhere. Though, when this war is over. Should you win. I wish to return here to retrieve a few personal effects.”

Loki stated, “Besides doing a little searching, I may take an item or two. But, nothing too dangerous.” She thought, 'Such as a Jedi or Sith holocron.' Loki continued, 'I will leave this interior of this castle untouched and maintained. You can have this place back when the war is over.”

For the kind gesture by Loki, Dooku gave the black haired woman a genuinely warm smile. Dooku replied, “Thank you.”

Loki returned Dooku's smile. Loki suggested, “Also. Given how Machiavellian Palpatine can be. I suggest you replace your droid pilots as soon as possible.”

Loki thought, 'Knowing Palpatine. He likely has secret programs in the Separatist droids that could be used to kill Dooku, myself, and others. This is why I use human pilots. Still, I will have to take care of this matter, later.'

Dooku thought, 'Who? Or what is Machiavellian? Not that is matters. That is a good suggestion.'

Dooku said, “I will.”

Loki continued to smile, as she stated, “Well then. Enjoy your retirement, Count Dooku. You earned it.”

Then, in the blink of an eye, Loki teleport Dooku to the living area of Dooku's space yacht.

Dooku's ship was parked on a landing pad near the castle.

Loki turned around, and walked to the windows by the left side of the office, when standing behind the desk.

Loki came to a stop by the windows. She then looked out of the windows. She windows from that direction offered a wonder vantage point to see both down in the valley overlooking the castle, and into the sky, which showed hues of yellow, orange, and red, as the sun continued to set in the sky.

A few minutes later, Loki watched as Dooku's personal, gold painted yacht take off into the sky. As the droid pilots directed the ship to fly off into space towards the sunset of the sky.

Loki turned towards the hallway doors.

While Loki began walking towards the double-doors, Cassius disappeared from her right hand. Loki felt she no longer needed her weapon for the moment.

As Loki approached the doors, Loki used her powers to have the doors gently open inward on their own. After the doors fully opened, the doors gently came to stop.

Loki passed through the doorway and into an interior hallway connected to Count Dooku's former office.

Loki made her the nearby parlor, where Jango and Grievous were waiting for her.

As Loki walked down the hallway, she thought, 'I got arrogant at the beginning and he almost had me with that force attack. While I cannot be choke death, I left myself open to several types of assaults at his disposal. This merely proves that I likely cannot defeat Palpatine. Though, that is a matter for another day. Now with this settled, it is time to talk to the boys. Then, I will see what toys Dooku has in this castle. Magic makes finding things so much easier. Afterward, I will be sorting out the mess that is the Separatists, the Republic, this war, and this entire galaxy.'

Loki soon made it to the parlor to find Jango and Grievous inside the room, waiting for her.

Loki noticed that Jango had not tried any of the drinks on the shelves of the room.

The room had brown painted walls and ceiling. There were ceiling lights. The flooring was brown wooden paneling.

The glasses and other items were located at a small bar counter across to the right side of the room when facing from the doorway leading to the hall. There were cushioned stools by the bar counter. There were also cushioned armchairs set around a table across the room from the bar counter.

The ceiling lights in the room were turned off.

The windows in the room allowed the light from the sunset to illuminate the room in yellow, orange, and red hues.

Both men were happy that Loki had won the battle. And Jango and Loki soon had a drink to celebrate. While, Grievous patiently waited for the time when he would again be able to enjoy consuming such drinks.

And so, Loki had a very productive evening with Jango and Grievous in her beginning efforts to fix the mess she found herself in.

(_)

Across the galaxy, in the lower levels of the Senate District of Coruscant, Cad Bane was still making his way through the lower levels, to the hidden ship he had that would take him off the planet.

It has been a few hours since Cad Bane has escaped Thor. All Cad wanted to do was get to his ship and escape off the planet before his presence on the planet was known by Coruscant Security, which would make leaving the planet much more difficult and potentially costly.

The hallways that Cad Bane were walking through had only some of their lights working, with large shadowy gaps down the various corridors.

Cad Bane approached a four way intersection in the large hallway he was in. Bane saw something, or someone moving towards him from twenty meters away, on the other side of the intersection directly in front of him. Someone whom was very large.

Cad Bane's honed instincts all screamed danger to him.

As the creature came closer, while still hiding in the shadows, Bane could see that it was some sort hulking brute.

Cad Bane came to a stop at the intersection, just within the hallway he had been walking through.

Cad stood near one of the working lights that were scattered throughout the dark hallways and open spaces of the level he was on. Meanwhile the lights did not work in the other three sides of the intersection, and the intersection itself, thus allowing the brute to remain the shadows.

The brute was still fifteen meters from Cad. Three meters to the other end of the square intersection, and other twelve meters in the darkened hallway across from where Cad stood.

Cad Bane had a lot of experience in dealing with possible fight situations. This experience was not only how to win such battles, but how to avoid such battles.

Cad knew that if he drew one of his weapons, such an action could be seen as a challenge to a fight.

But, threatening to draw his weapon would likely not start a fight, with that action being seen as a warning, and not a challenge.

After his run of bad luck that day, Cad really did not want to get into another fight.

As hulking brute within five meters of Cad Bane, he firmly stated, “That is far enough.” Then, Cad opened his coat, and he placed a hand on top of each of his holstered blasters. Allowing the light above him to reflect off of his blasters.

While Cad could not see the brute's face, nor most of his body, he did see the brute's right shoulder, which was bare brown skin.

Cad thought, 'I would say he is three meters tall. And big. Like a small rancor.'

The brute immediately came to a stop four meters. The brute was just inside the darkened hallway on the other side of the intersection from Cad.

Both of them silently looked each other for a few seconds.

Then, the brute began to laugh, with his deep voice. The brute continued to laugh, as he entered the intersection and he turned to walk into the hallway to Cad's Bane's left side.

The brute soon stopped laughing, as the brute continued on his way down the hallway to Cad's left.

Meanwhile, Cad stayed in his position for a minute, as he kept his guard up. Then, he continued moving.

Though, curiosity got the better of Bane, as he continued walking straight through the intersection, and through the hallway the brute had come from.

The lighting from hallway ceiling continued to be intermittent, as he walked down the hallway.

Fifty meters ahead, the hallway turn to Cad's right side. Once Bane made the full turn, he came to a sudden stop at what he saw.

The hallway lights around him offered enough illumination to see around him. What Bane saw both horrified him and disgusted him to his core.

The horrific sight caused an instinctual reaction that forced him to act quickly.

Cad immediately used his right hand to cup his mouth, as he forced the bile back down his throat. At the same time, he used his left hand to draw his blaster pistol from his left side holster. He swiftly looked around, as he quickly backtracked the way he had come.

Cad quickly passed the intersection where the brute passed by him, and Cad briskly made his way down the hallway he had come from.

Less than a minute later, Cad Bane entered a large, alcove over a large chasm. The sunlight coming from the top of the chasm allowed Bane a full field of vision both in the alcove and across the chasm.

It was then, after Bane quickly looked around, to see that no one nearby. Especially, not that brute. That Bane allowed himself to bend over and vomit in response to the remains of what was left by that creature.

Bane quickly finished vomiting. He leaned up, and use the forearm of his right coat to wipe the bile from around his mouth.

Then, Bane used his right hand to pull out the blaster pistol in his right side holster.

While Cad held both pistols in his hands, he looked around, as he thought, 'That had to be the Coruscant Beast. And no bount is worthy going after a monster that could do such depraved acts. Forget Coruscant Security. Forget Thor. I need to get out of here before that creature returns.'

Bane went around, along the lower levels, in the opposite direction of the Coruscant Beast went.

Within three hours, Cad Bane circled around where he had seen the Coruscant Beast to reach his ship.

A few minutes after Bane entered his small ship, he had the ship engines on and he was flying towards orbit and away from Coruscant.

Once Cad Bane was in orbit, he plotted a course to another star system. After the navigation system of his ship was ready, Cad Bane had his ship jump to hyperspace.

(_)

A few days later, a secret meeting of the Separatist Council took place on farming world in the northeastern part of the Outer Rim, where the Separatist held control of the galaxy.

Location of the meeting was in a building in small town and a not secret Separatist base.

It was mid afternoon on a warm, sunny day on the side of the planet the town in question was located.

Due to the secrecy of the meeting, the person organizing the meeting preferred secrecy over security, and the population of the town was left alone to live their lives.

Those meeting were members of the Separatist Council. As far as the Separatist Council was concerned the Head of State of the Separatist Council, Count Dooku, had organized and call the various Separatist Council members to the meeting.

The Separatist Council members knew better than to be absent from a meeting Dooku had called to order.

Though, Dooku had called the meeting by coded transmission, instead of in person by holo-comm. But, this was not the first time Dooku had called a meeting of the Separatist Council in such a manner.

The Separatist Council was the true power beyond the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The Separatist Council oversaw the Parliament of the Confederacy and the rest of the Confederacy. The only power greater in Confederacy than the Separatist Council was Count Dooku himself.

While Dooku used the Parliament to carry out orders in masked as suggestions which were palatable for public knowledge, Dooku used the Separatist Council to secretly do his bidding on his less savory orders.

This allowed Dooku to maintain a good reputation among the public of the Confederacy.

The meeting itself place in a domed, circular room. The skylights on the domed ceiling provided plenty of light to see inside. The room was six meters in diameter, with the walls going up three meters straight until the ceiling curved into a dome.

The main ten members of the Separatist Council were present. They were each seated at armchair around a circular table. The table was three meters in diameter and the table was set in the center of the room. The members were in their formal clothing.

There were eleven chairs at the table. The one empty chair faced the double-doors on the other side of the room.

Twelve B2 super battle droids were standing along the curved walls. The droids faced towards the table and the people sitting at the table. There was a B2 super battle droid stood on each interior side of the double-doors into the room. The double-doors opened into the room.

Nute Gunray, a Neimoidian male, looked at the empty chair at the table. Nute Gunray asked, “So where is Count Dooku? He call us to come here at this time?”

Wat Tambor, a Skakoan male in a pressure suit and mask, spoke through the voice box in his suit, “That is a good question. The codes were correct for Count Dooku. But, it was by message and not by holo-comm.”

Suddenly, across the room, near the double-doors to the chamber, they heard a female voice say in galactic basic, “Well, if you must know. Count Dooku did not summon you here. I summoned you here.”

The members turned towards the entrance to the room. They saw a slender, fair skin, near-human woman, with loose long black hair, facing them. The woman wore a green scale bodysuit, which show only her upper chest, head, hands, upper arms and shoulders. Over the green suit was a brown fur coat that was open down the front of her chest. She had knee high brown leather boots covering her feet and lower legs.

The woman was Loki Laufeyson.

No one had heard the double-doors open, or close. And Loki stood a meter in front of the double-doors, with her facing the people at the table. Behind Loki, to the sides of the doorway were two of the twelve B2 super battle droids.

None of the battle droids had responded to her presence.

Loki looked at the Separatists council members sitting in their chairs around the table. Loki suppressed a grin, as she thought, with amusement, 'Teleporting here was nice. They did not notice me until I wanted them to notice me. But as far as they are concerned I somehow slipped passed the doors behind me. Technology is so gullible. I am glad made sure for the droids to identify me as friendly, or this would turn violent more swiftly than I wish.'

San Hill, a male muun, asked, “Who are you?”

Loki answered, “Loki Laufeyson.”

Wat Tambor said, “We have heard of you.”

Loki raised her right hand, and she began to use her right index finger to point at each of them.

Nute Gunray inquired, “What are you doing?

Loki continued pointing at the members of the Separatist Council, as she commented, “I am counting you to make sure you are all here.” Loki soon finished counting. She lowered her right hand. She said, “I see all ten of you are here.” She thought, 'I will deal with your more direct subordinates, later. Though, I will be more charitable for those whom are not here.'

None of the council members realized the important of what Loki had just said. Instead, Shu Mai, a Gossam female, asked, asked, “Where is Count Dooku?”

Loki casually stated, “Count Dooku will not be coming back. He decided that I had outlived my usefulness. In response, I explained to him the error of his ways. The result is that I am taking over... Everything.”

Miraj Scintel, a Zygerrian female, questioned, “You believe a mere human commoner, such as yourself, can take over the Confederacy?”

Loki's voice became a dry as ice, as she firmly stated, “I am no human. I am certainly no commoner. If any of you took the time to look over half the worlds that have joined the Confederacy are either due to my direct, or indirect actions. All of the governments of these worlds are on good relations with myself. As are a number of your subordinates. Actually, the only ones not on board with this take over are you. And you can be easily dealt with.”

San Hill questioned, “If that is the case, why have we not heard about all this?”

Loki giggled a little. Then, she casually said, “Because no one likes you. While I am a very likable lass. In the end, it always comes down to manners and tact. Both of which I have plenty of, while none of you have any.”

Miraj Scintel asked, “You dare to go behind our backs?”

Loki casually commented, “I prefer to use the term. Going over your helmet. Not that there is a damn thing you can do about it.” She thought, 'I love that joke.'

Suddenly, Loki did not say a word, as she used her fire magic to cause the droids in the room to burst into green flames. The flames only damaged the droids and nothing else in the room.

The council member watched the droids standing around the walls of the room melted and collapsed into slag before their eyes.

A few seconds later, the green flames extinguishing on their own.

In response, the council members all got up from their seats. As the green fires went out, they all turned their attention back to Loki.

Nute Gunray demanded, “What is the meaning of this?”

Loki smiled at the council members, as she used her right hand to pulled out a small chrome cylinder from a hidden pocket on the interior left side of her brown fur coat, next to her left breast.

Some of those in the room recognized as the cylinder as a lightsaber hilt.

Loki held the emitter of the lightsaber hilt upwards in her right hand.

Loki pressed and held a button on the hilt to activated the lightsaber in a snap-hiss.

The lightsaber had a green energy blade.

Loki held the weapon upwards so the green energy blade was about twenty centimeters from her face.

Loki listened to the hum of her lightsaber, as looked at the energy blade. Loki said, “This is one of the items I found in Dooku's collection. I always wanted one.” Her lips curled into a smirk, as the green light from the energy blade reflected off of Loki's green irises. Loki continued, “It even comes in my color.”

Loki looked over at the ten Separatist Council members.

Loki began to advance on the representatives in the room, as she went onto say, “And like all toys, one wants to play with it. The one event I liked in three was when you spineless toads were killed.”

Then, Loki began laughing as she rushed at the members. When she reached the Separatist Council members she began slicing them into pieces.

Loki's laughter drowned out their pleas for mercy.

A few of the members tried to run, but since there was nowhere to run to they were all were killed within less than a minute.

Once the ten Separatists council members were dead, Loki stood in place, away from the bodies of her victims. She surveyed the carnage she had just created.

Loki held her lightsaber in her right hand, away from her body, to her right side, as she thought, with mild disappointment, 'Well, this coup went quicker than I expected. None of them really put up a fight.'

Loki sighed, as she continued her thoughts, 'I guess I am in charge now. Though, except for a handful of people, no one will know I am in charge of the Separatists. The way I plan to arrange this situation, it will take a while before much of the Separatist organization, the Republic, the Jedi Order, and even Palpatine realize it is I whom will be running things on this side of the war.'

Loki giggled, as she thought, 'This situation will suit me just fine.'

Loki suddenly stopped giggling, as she mentally reflected, in a more serious frame of mind, 'In the meantime, I will find some people with some courage and conviction that can actually do this job. I will have four main requirements for my new council. Genuine loyalty to the Separatist cause, and myself. Having courage and convictions. Being competent in doing their jobs. And not being a sycophant. I am sure I can find people, among the Separatist organization, whom can fill these jobs, while still living up to my requirements. If not. They will not live very long.'

'Also, I will not only arrange the Separatist organization and military in a direction to win this war, I will prepare for the next great war, which will likely be with the Yuuzhan Vong.'

'Though, it was rumored that one of the reasons for Palpatine's efforts to take control of the galaxy and built super-weapons was to prepare the galaxy to face the Yuuzhan Vong. Whom he have have already learned about. But, given how evil he is, I do not put much stock in that rumor.'

'I will not mention the Yuuzhan Vong to Palpatine. He might not know about the Yuuzhan Vong. If that is the case, I do not want him to learn about the Yuuzhan Vong. Nor, that I know about the Yuuzhan Vong.'

'I doubt that Obiwan's report went much further than the Jedi Council. As such, this will not be a hard secret to keep from Palpatine, considering I have no plans to ever speak to Palpatine. The most important reason is he can use the force to harm and kill people over holo-comm. I am not going to allow myself to be such an easy target. If he wants me dead, he is going to have to work at it.'

Loki depressed a button on the lightsaber to deactivate the green energy blade.

Loki looked at the lightsaber hilt, as she thought, 'I can see how these are so much fun. But also very dangerous. I believe I will only use this weapon when I have too. Besides, Cassius can deflect lightsaber blades without a problem and its blade is as sharp as a lightsaber. So, I really do not need a lightsaber. Though, it would be nice to keep one as a holdout weapon.'

Loki placed the lightsaber hilt back into a hidden pocket on the interior side of her fur coat.

Loki placed her hands on the sides of her hips, as she looked around the room. Loki thought, 'Now I will take a page from Palpatine and set up my new administration for me to run for the shadows. But, unlike Palpatine, I will be more hands on in the missions. I do like to be hands on. Also, I will have that mass droid shutdown switch removed from programming and hardware of the newer model droids.'

'I already have my subordinates changing the shutdown command passwords to the droids already
built, so no one single command can shut them all down. In addition, I will have my subordinates check to make sure and remove any possible secret commands Palpatine has in the software and hardware of the droids. As such, when Palpatine realizes what is going on, he will not be able to easily stop me from those angles.'

'Though, I will not upgrade the droids intelligence much. Sure, I am against a mass shutdown switch. But, at the same time I do not want them to rebel against the Separatists. Especially during a full scale war. If I want quality soldiers, I will find them from the populations of the Separatists. I will arrange for them to be trained to be badasses. I will not mass-produce quality soldiers.'

Loki let go of her hips and dropped her hands to her sides, as she mentally reflected, 'Also, I will use my now authority and influence to cancel all bounties on Padme Amidala Naberrie. It is best not to upset a Thor. Though, I cannot tell her I did this without tipping her off that I am now in control of this side of the war. Doing so would cause everyone to come after me. Still, putting less stress on Padme will only help my side win the war.'

'As I promised, I will give Grievous his new organic body. Though, I will use the technology of this galaxy to do so. I will not use magic to do so. I do not want my subordinates to realize how powerful I truly am.'

'I will give the genetic information I found, which includes treatments on extending the clones longevity to Jango, to be used to treat his son, and hopefully give Boba several more decades of life than he would otherwise be denied. Also, I will have Jango check to make sure Boba Fett has no control chips in his brain. I doubt he does. But, it is safe to check. After this war is over, I will also leak the gene therapy and control chip removal information to the Republic. This would make wonderful good faith gifts in treaty negotiations. If there is a Republic at the end of this war. Which I hope is the case.'

'These genetic treatments both dealing with the genetic flaw that will keep the clones, including Boba, when the reach old age. That is if they reach old age. Except for Boba. Their aging has been accelerated to double the normal rate. I might not be able to give them back their childhoods, but I can offer the clones treatments to slow down their aging, back to the normal rate for the species. Which will buy them a more few decades of life.'

'Also, having information on safe surgical procedures to remove the control chips in their heads will help good will from myself and the Separatists towards the Republic and the clone troopers.'

'Still, if the Republic is destroyed. One way to convince the clones to not rebel against the Separatists is to offer them treatments for free for these ailments they have.'

'If I do win this war to the point there is no Republic, I do not desire to become an Empress of this galaxy in place of Palpatine. Doing so would be too time consuming and boring.'

'My plans are that should I be able to get this war to end on my terms, I will work towards the possibility that the time during my reign will be good years for everyone, but the few whom started this war.'

'A few days ago, after Dooku left, I shared a few drinks with Jango, a parlor in Dooku's castle.'

'While, Grievous was present, Jango mentioned that he and Padme have worked out a deal, over him trying to kill her, and killing some of her friends. The deal is he no longer takes assassination missions, and that he raises his son right. I can work with that. No problem. And this arrangement keeps Padme out of my hair from that angle.'

'Even better Grievous mentioned to both Jango and I that he saw no problems with such an arrangement. Grievous commented that it is best to stay in the good graces of such powerful individuals whom could defeat on an entire army of Jedi.'

'Jango agreed. And so do I.'

Loki took a deep breath and she slowly let that breath out, as she thought, 'There is so much to do. And so little time to do it in. I guess I better get started. The cameras in and security system in this room do not detect my presence. There is no real evidence I was here. I will let someone else find the bodies.'

'No one will know who used a lightsaber to kill these people. Nor how these battle droids were destroyed. The Jedi did not such tactics and very few people know about the Sith.'

'The mystery of whom killed these powerful individuals will only add to the mystique of my secret reign.'

By then, Loki had finished letting her breath out.

Loki thought, 'Now to get started.'

Then, Loki teleported away to her next destination, as she began her reign as the secret ruler of the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

(_)

A few days later, Padme decided to cut her leave short on Coruscant and she was able to arrange to pilot a transport shuttle back to the Resolute, so she could return back to her duty as General Thor.

Padme had not talked to anyone about what Rush had said to her in the chasm.

When Padme talked to Anakin by holo-comm, Padme only told Anakin that the matter was settled. Anakin knew better than to ask for details.

Fortunately, the Resolute and Negotiator had just finished their resupplying at the military supply depot in orbit of the planet Habbi.

Padme had contacted Obiwan. Padme rendezvous her should with the Resolute and Negotiator near the northern Core world of Twith, at a hyperspace junction between the Hyabb-Twith Corridor hyper-route and Namadii Corridor hyper-route.

The Hyabb-Twith Corridor went from Twith to Hyabb.

The Namadii Corridor went from Coruscant to the northern Mid-Rim, with the hyper-route ending at the Namadii system.

The shuttle was piloted by Padme. She traveled as Padme.

Padme had her luggage, including Mjolnir, on a transport shuttle.

Presently, Padme had just dropped her transport shuttle from hyperspace back into normal space at the hyper-route junction.

Padme was casually dressed, in among other things, a dark red short sleeve shirt, brown pants, black belt, and red boots which were the same dark shade of red as her shirt.

From the windows of the cockpit, Padme saw the Resolute and Negotiator waiting for her in space.

Padme contacted the communication officers of both Star Destroyers.

Soon after, Padme received clearance and landing instructions to the ship land the ship in hangar bay five inside the Resolute.

Padme flew the shuttle transport to land in hangar bay five.

Once Padme had set the shuttle set down onto the floor, the hangar bay doors closed and the room pressurized.

Padme began to shut down the ship.

After Padme made sure the room was safe to enter, she got up from her chair in the cockpit and she headed for the exit to the ship.

A minute later, Padme had Mjolnir in her right hand, as she stood by the interior side of exit to the shuttle. She used the control panel by the exit to have the ramp to the shuttle was lowered to the floor of the hangar bay.

Once the ramp had been lowered, Padme opened the door.

Once the door slid open, Padme calmly walked out of the shuttle, with Mjolnir in her right hand at her right side. She left her luggage on board the shuttle.

Padme planned to have one of the personnel of the ship to take to her luggage to her assigned quarters.

A few seconds later, door soon slid closed behind Padme.

As soon as Padme reached the floor of the hangar bay, she came to a stop. She looked around.

The lights in the hangar bay were on.

From the lighting, Padme saw one of the sets of interior doors to the hangar bay slide open.

Padme watched as Anakin, Obiwan, and Ahsoka walk out to greet her.

They had set the interior doors to the hangar remain open.

Padme smiled at them, as they approached her.

Anakin was in the middle, with Obiwan to his right and Ahsoka to his left. They were casually dress. Though, they had their lightsabers holstered to their belts.

A few seconds later, Obiwan, Ahsoka, and Anakin came to a stop one and a half meters in front of Padme.

Anakin warmly smiled, as he said, “Hello Padme.”

Ahsoka commented, in a slightly excited tone of voice. “Hi Padme. It is good to see.”

Obiwan calmly said, “I trust that events went well for you travels here.”

Padme stated, “Yes. My trip here went well. I am happy to see all of you.”

Then, Padme noticed that Ahsoka had a lightsaber holstered on both sides of her belt. Where Ahsoka had only one lightsaber strapped to her belt the last time Padme saw her.

Padme thought, with happiness, 'So Anakin finally let you built another lightsaber. I wonder.' Padme turned Ahsoka. Padme commented, “Ahsoka. I see you have constructed another lightsaber.”

Ahsoka smiled at Padme, as she replied, “Yes.” She shrugged towards Anakin, as she continued, “My master finally said it was okay for me to do so.”

Anakin looked over at Ahsoka. Then, he turned to Padme. He commented, “I felt that Ahsoka, here, was finally ready to start training with two lightsabers.”

Padme turned to Anakin. She replied, “That is good.”

Ahsoka halfheartedly commented, “And I all had to do was completely master the Ataru lightsaber form.”

Padme remembered that lightsaber combat form from her training at the Jedi Temple. She asked, “That is the acrobatic form of lightsaber combat?”

Ahsoka answered, “Yes. And the form also teaches the basics of using two lightsabers at once.”

Obiwan turned to Ahsoka. He commented, “Fully grasping the teachings of the Ataru form is a good foundation in learning Jar'Kai. Which you will need to master if you hope to efficiently use two lightsabers at once in combat.”

Ahsoka looked over at Obiwan. She said, “At least I am now ready to learn such teachings.”

Obiwan smiled at Ahsoka. He complimented, “That is a good outlook to have.”

Padme focused on Ahsoka. Padme requested, with curiosity in her tone of voice, “So please tell me about your lightsaber? What color crystal did you use for your new lightsaber?”

Ahsoka and Obiwan turned to look at Padme.

Ahsoka stated, “I used a blue crystal. While having the energy blade being slightly shorter than my main green lightsaber.”

Anakin commented, “Traditionally the blade of the off-hand weapon is shorter than the blade of the main weapon.”

Padme stated, “That is interesting to know..”

Ahsoka pointed out, “Though, there are settings on the hilts of my lightsaber that allow me to adjust the length and intensity of my energy blades. If I desire, I can make them both equal in length.”

Padme said, “I will keep that in mind.”

Ahsoka mentioned, “Before I constructed my second lightsaber, Master Skywalker and Master Kenobi even helped me confirm the crystal I picked out a while ago was flawless.”

Obiwan commented, “It is always a good idea to have a second opinion on such matters.”

Padme turned Obiwan and Anakin. She thought, 'Given that a flawed lightsaber crystal will explode when powered in a lightsaber. A second opinion is always nice.” She stated, “I agree. That was nice gesture by both of you.”

Obiwan replied, “Thank you.”

Anakin commented, “It was nothing.”

Padme turned her attention back to Ahsoka, as she thought, with pride towards Ahsoka, 'The fact Ahsoka did not want to immediately show me her lightsaber, and turn it on, proves she has become more mature. Her body has also matured. She is almost as tall as me. In a few more years, she will be as attractive as myself. From my relationship with Anakin I have learned that not only does the Jedi frown on romantic relationships, the Order does not do much to prepare their members should something happen. I will need to privately talk to Ahsoka about relationships and boys. I am sure Anakin and Obiwan will be okay with me doing so. I think I will talk with her in private, tomorrow morning, after the usual etiquette and diplomatic lessons I have with her.'

Anakin asked, “So why did you come back early from your leave?”

Anakin's question brought Padme's train of though back to the present. Anakin's question slightly dimmed Padme's mood, though she did her best to hide her reaction both outwardly and inwardly, given her three friends could literally use the force to sense her emotion.'

Padme turned to Anakin. Padme answered, in a slightly sober tone of voice, “I felt I would be more useful here, on the front.”

Anakin questioned, “Won't you miss Coruscant?”

Padme responded, in a soft tone of voice, “No. I believe I may have left Coruscant long before I realized it.”

Anakin said, with encouragement in his tone of voice, “That is alright. It is good to have you back.”

Padme replied, in a mildly happier tone of voice, “It is good to be back.”

Anakin looked pass Padme, and at the transport shuttle Padme had just landed. Anakin turned back to Padme. Anakin inquired, “I will get a trooper to get your luggage. Anyway, it is about lunch time here. Have you already eaten?”

Padme answered “Not in the last few hours.”

Ahsoka commented, “While we eat, you can tell us about what happened to you on Coruscant.”

Padme turned to Ahsoka. Padme coyly replied, “There is not much to tell. Just politics.” Then, she grinned. She asked, “Though, did I miss anything here, while I was gone?”

Obiwan replied, “Nothing really. It was your standard resupply mission.”

Ahsoka casually said, “Well actually there was this and that.”

Padme realized that something happened while she was gone. From years of knowing Ahsoka and Ahsoka's tone of voice, Padme knew what happened was not serious, but likely embarrassing for someone.

Padme lips curled into mischievous grin, as she requested, “Do tell.”

Ahsoka returned Padme's smile, as she was more than happy to comply with her friend's request. Ahsoka answered, “We found out that Anakin has no poker face when it comes to playing cards.”

Anakin squirmed a little bit. Padme held back a giggle as the display.

Obiwan turned to Anakin, then back to Padme. He stated, “It seems that Anakin found out that some of the crew were play cards. Including, Cody and Rex. Anakin requested to be allowed to play them at card. Sabacc to be exact. They let him have a seat at their table... From there, it went downhill for Anakin.”

Ahsoka said, “Even with the force he was having a hard time.”

Anakin defended himself, as he all but whined, “I only lost a few credits. I was able to keep my shirt and my lightsaber.”

Obiwan commented, “I think they were being charitable because you outrank them.”

Anakin said, “I am being charitable in allowing them to continue to play cards on the ship.”

Obiwan shrugged, as he agreed, “True.”

Padme giggle a little at the verbal exchange from her friends. As she stopped giggling, she asked, in a curious tone of voice, “Please, tell me all the details.”

Obiwan smiled, as he commented, “Sure. We will talk, as we talk to the mess hall.”

Obiwan turned and headed for a nearby entryway into a hallway of the ship. Padme, Anakin, and Ahsoka followed behind Obiwan.

Obiwan continued his tale, “It all started a day after we reaching the Hyabb for our resupply. From what Anakin said, he was walking the hallways and he overheard some of the clones talk about a card game they played. Anakin's curiosity got the better of him...”

Obiwan went onto to tell Padme what happened, with Ahsoka filling in a few of the gaps. Anakin made a few comments in defense of his pride, as the four of them headed further into the ship, towards the mess hall, to get something to eat.

A day later, while the Resolute and Negotiator were traveling in tandem in hyperspace for their next destination, Padme talked to Obiwan about working out a schedule of having Padme take leave and return to Coruscant every month for a week. Both due to Padme needed to spend some more time in person in the Senate and that her cover story of being on diplomatic missions was wearing thin.

Obiwan agreed with Padme on both points and he believe it was a wise idea for Padme to spend more time in the Senate to maintain her cover and influence in as Padme's role as Senator.

Obiwan and Padme did work out a basic outline on how to handle the matter. Though, due to the need for Thor to go on missions, with the duration of those missions being unknown, Padme would not be able to return to Coruscant exactly every month.

Still, Obiwan was able to come up with a basic frame work to arrange transportation across the galaxy from the Resolute to the Coruscant. So Padme could take leave for Coruscant for a week, or so, and return to the Resolute without raising attention. Obiwan, Anakin, and Ahsoka would be the only members of the Resolute whom knew what was going on.

The next day, Obiwan and Padme presented this plan to the Jedi High Council and Chancellor Palpatine, in a encrypted holo-comm conference call.

Fortunately, both the Jedi High Council and Chancellor Palpatine agreed to the scheduling idea.

For the Jedi High Council, they told Obiwan and Padme that they believe that this would help balance Padme's personality and not let her forget their was life outside of being a soldier.

Chancellor Palpatine's reasons were that he enjoyed listening to a good debate. And Palpatine felt that Padme gave some of the best debates Palpatine had ever had the privilege of hearing.

Padme took Palpatine compliment at face value.

Soon after, the holo-comm conference call ended, and Padme look forward to when she would be able to return to Coruscant.

Thus, allowing Padme to find some of the balance she felt she lost in her conflicting roles of soldier and senator.

(_)

A few hours after Padme returned to the Resolute, across the galaxy, there was an ecumenopolis, a city-planet known as Abhean. The planet Abhean was on the Perlemian Trade Route, on the northeastern part of the Mid-Rim, near the Outer Rim.

While that area of the galaxy had some heavy fighting, early in the war the government of Abhean joined the Neutrality Alliance and the population of the planet had so far been spared from the conflict.

While the planet was heavily populated, Loki found the people polite and the services provided by the people of Abhean to be first rate.

Even though some of the people Loki met on Abhean recognized her, they did not say anything because they did not want to risk bringing the war to their planet. In return, Loki left those people alone.

Loki found that as long as she did not bring official Separatist business, she could come and go from Abhean as she please.

Also, Loki was able to get touch with people on Abhean whom would be able work on her current project in secret. The payments were expensive, but worth it.

Inside a dimly illuminated, secret medical lab in a the middle of a skyscraper on Abhean, Loki was overseeing the restoration of Grievous.

Loki had promised to do so for Grievous and she was keeping her promise.

Grievous was presently suspended in the clear liquid, in a large, upright, cylinder vat. There was a readout display at the bottom of the vat. Though, all that was Grievous was, after he had his cybernetics removed, was a brain, eyes, and a few internal organs. But, it was a foundation to work from to regrow his body entire.

The cylinder vat Grievous was inside of was originally a bacta tank. But, in this case bacta was not being use. Bacta would heal wounds, but bacta could not grow entire organs and body parts.

Nutrients other needed materials were being sent by intravenous tubes into Grievous' brain and organs to keep him alive, as he body was regrown around what was left of his original parts.

The liquid in the tank was filtered and the tank had the right chemical balance to help keep Grievous alive various doctors and technicians preformed procedures and treatments were used to regrow Grievous' body.

There were doctors and technicians nearby, to over see the procedures in restoring Grievous' body. While making sure nothing went wrong.

The medical staff had finished another chemical treatment an hour ago to promote the growth of the nervous system. They were waiting for the treatment to start to work.

The tank where Grievous was located was on the side of the room across from the double-doors leading to the hallway.

The room had a surgical table, computers terminals, medical scanners, various equipment and medical supplies.

Presently, Loki stood a meter and a half in front of the tank.

Loki was in her casual green and brown clothing. Which was, among other things, a shirt, pants, belt, boots, and an open jacket.

Loki looked around at the doctors and technicians, as she thought, 'I paid a premium price to do this and to do so in secret. I expect results. For the money I am spending, I am sure that this will be successful. Or, I will have to take more extreme measures in keeping my promises. Which I will do so if I have too.'

'Though, if this works, I believe I will keep this medical group on retainer. They do good work and they are discreet.'

Loki turned and looked at the readout, below the vat, in front of her. She mentally reflected, 'From the brainwave activity, Grievous is sleeping. Which was is all the best. Because I am sure if he was awake, this would traumatize him. That is something I do not want to happen.'

'It is going to be a few months until his body is completely regrown back to the way it was before. And other four months of rehab. But given his strength of will, I am sure he will be fine.'

'While his absence will hurt the war effort, he is not the only skilled tactic officer in the separatist military.'

'Afterward, when he is fully recovered, this restoration of his body will only improve his mood and tactic reasoning which will make him a better leader. Though, he will no longer be able to fight Jedi toe to toe... For now. But, that is a small price to pay for him getting his body back. And I do have some ideas on how to use him more directly in the war. But, that will come much later.'

'In the mean time, I have some loose ends that need to be tied up.'

'It is unfortunate that I was unable to find the blueprints to the Death Star. I doubt Dooku allowed another copy besides the one he gave Palpatine to survive.'

'I know the Death Star is currently being built in secret by the Republic. Though, I do not know where. Still, I am not sure if I desire to let it be built and try steal it. Or, if I wish to destroy it.'

'Later, I will decide on the matter. Though, either way I know the flaw in the ventilation shaft on that spacestation.'

'As soon as things settle down in the Separatists organization, I will have the non-droid pilots under my new command start practicing the classic trench run as part of their basic training. Or, supplemental training, if they have already finished their military training.'

'The pilots will think it is just another bombing run simulation. And a simple one at that.'

'The training simulation could be done in a few different versions. Such as the simulation could be make to look like a desert canyon. Or, a valley leading to a damn that is holding back water. The concept of the simulation will be so mundane that everyone will miss the significance of it.'

Loki lips curled into a grin, as she continued her thoughts, 'If it reaches the point the Death Star comes online earlier. Before I am prepared to steal it. Then, Palpatine will still be in for a very nasty surprise.'

'In addition, I will make sure the trench run will also be added as a combat scenario program for Separatists droid starfighters.'

Loki dropped her smiled, as she thought, 'Anyway, I believe I will spent a few more hours. Then, I will head out to work on my other projects in reshuffling the power structure of the organizations within Separatist government. Along with retrieving the clone DNA information I have, which I promised to give a copy of to Jango Fett. I do not want to make that man an enemy. Actually, I would prefer to keep him an ally. And once I am ready, I will be looking into contacting others.'

Loki grinned, as she continued her thoughts, 'I have some ideas that will need specially skilled individuals. And I know just who to ask... All I have to do is find them.'

(_)

A few hours later, it was nighttime on Coruscant, in the Senate District.

While it was night, the planet of Coruscant never truly slept. Most of the more wealthy parts of the city-planet were busy at all times of the day and night. This included parts of the Senate District.

In a busy shopping area, on the surface of Coruscant, in the Senate District, people were coming and going, as they sold, bought, and traded, various goods.

On a level below the busy shopping area on the surface of Coruscant, a group of five young adults, of various species and genders, had ventured down to the underground level.

The group was heading down a large hallway. They were in search of better deals for goods on the vendors on the underground level.

As the group turned a corner, they run right into the Coruscant Beast, whom was looking for his next prey.

The attack as was swift and brutal, with the Coruscant Beast being especially vicious that night.

The speed of the beast was swifter that one would expect from a being of his size. Though, his speed did nothing to diminish his vast strength.

None of the victims had time to act. Let alone run, or even scream.

The beast threw two of the victims against the metal walls of the hallway. Next, the creature pounded on two others. Then, the monster tore into the fifth victims.

Soon the five victims were dead. The Coruscant Beast collected the bodies in his arms, like small firewood logs. Then, the Coruscant Beast headed back down to lower levels of the Senate District, and to his current lair, where he would dine on the corpses of his victims.

(_)

“It is better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Satan. Paradise Lost.

To be continued.

(_)

Author's Notes:

I know the writing rule. Show it. Do not tell it. But, I had to do the narration scene at the beginning of the chapter to clean up a few loose ends from the end of chapter eleven.

If I had wrote those scenes out, this chapter would have been fifty pages longer and the story would have dragged.

I prefer to write narrations than to allow the story to drag.

ARC stands for, “Advanced Recon Commando”. In Star Wars the ARC troopers had a individualism and free spirit that most clone troopers did not have.

Dealing with the planet Scipio. Some websites list the planet as in the Outer Rim, but the Star Wars Atlas map shows it in the northern part of the Core, west of Coruscant. I am going with the Atlas.

A “regiment” is the next step up from a battalion. I would have used the term “legion” to describe the Coruscant Guard, but the term legion in Star Wars has been used “legion” to refer to smaller groups than a battalion.

I believe some of those working on Star War Clone Wars mistook the term “legion” from a “company” of soldiers.

Most people do not grasp how much floor space Coruscant has.

Coruscant has skyscrapers that are hundred of stories tall. But, at the base of those buildings, at surface level, the underground level has hundred of floors below the surface, until it reaches the actual ground of Coruscant.

And while Coruscant still has a few bodies of water, and a few natural mountains exposed to the surface level. Much of the planet is a city giant city. With each level being rough the surface space amount that Earth has.

Such as the Great Western Sea, the last large body of water on the surface of the planet. And the Manarai Mountains, which are twin mountain peaks.

So, Coruscant is not one the floor space of Earth. But, the floor space of a hundred Earths, one floor on top of another floor.

When it comes to the mandalorians that joined the Separatists. I am planning to show them in a future chapter. This is just as case where the plot has yet to allow me to directly introduced these mandalorian soldiers into the main story.

But, this did give me an opportunity to continue to show how the press is nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece for government.

The planet Abhean is on the Star War Atlas with no information. I just made it part of the Neutrality Alliance.

On Padme. She realizes some of her actions have been grievously wrong. And she does not want her actions to lead to the creation of monsters. Which is ironic since some of her actions in the original timeline lead to the creation of Anakin becoming Darth Vader.

Though, if Padme had learned that this was a possibility beforehand, she would have taken measures to prevent Anakin from falling to the dark side.

Still, there is the matter that Padme as Thor currently has Darth Vader's job. Though, she is still a very nice, responsible person. Which makes for interesting plot lines.

On the plot dealing with Rush. The backstory was inspired by some of the corporate politics found in cyberpunk stories. Such as in the Robocop series.

When is comes to Padme and Rush's previous relationship, between Episode I and Episode II. I wanted to use this as an excuse to show that Padme is not a saint. A lot of the things she had done as a politician would strain even the best of relationships. Which was why Padme and Rush ended their relationship.

Also, this shows how hard it is to have a secret identity towards those that personally knows one identity or the other identity.

And yes, in this story Rush will survive. Even if I do not show him again.

On Loki and Dooku's fight. Both are skilled swordsman. I wanted to show that in the quality of their attacks, instead of the quantity.

There are many ways to fight with a sword. Western styles tend to focus on many blocks and counters to break the defenses. While eastern styles focus as few a blows as possible to break the defenses. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The fight between Loki and Dooku was inspired by the Samurai style of swordsmanship. Where a single blow could decide the fight. Or in this case, a few blows.

Now about the noodle incident at the end of this chapter, dealing with Anakin. How poetic would it be for someone to not have a good poker face when that person is best known for wearing a mask?

Until next time. Have fun.



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