Chapter X – Discovery
Chapter X –Discovery
The entire warehouse was one giant room filled wall-to-wall with cylindrical tubes more than four meters in height. Row upon row of the transparent, green tubes was connected to an electronic panel. As the shock wore off, Anakin and Obi-Wan began to walk down one of the rows inspecting tube after tube. Each one contained a clone in a state of hibernation. Tubes and wires were connected to each one in a prime example of uniformity as the clones silently floated in a bacta solution.
“Don’t touch anything,” Obi-Wan warned.
Anakin nodded in agreement. “That goes for you too Sena…” he turned to see that Padme was still standing by the door. Her hand had risen to her mouth, her eyes wide in shock.
“In all this time…I never…I mean, I always thought something was wrong…but this?” she stammered in horror.
“It appears that your investigation has steered us away from the negotiating table. Would you like to see how far the road goes?” Obi-Wan gestured for her to join them.
Padme took the holo-recorder from her pack and began recording as she slowly walked down the row. Anakin walked behind her and paused to observe the digital readouts on one of the tubes.
The display had typical medical information such the clone’s pulse, breathing, blood flow, brain function, and development of his muscular, circulatory and skeletal systems. Something on the display caught his eye. In the upper-right hand corner, the display read “1,027 of 141,426”.
Anakin noticed that this clone looked amazingly lifelike behind the glass. The clone was male, approaching two meters in height, with a typical military haircut and a muscular build. Even in stasis, it was an intimidating specimen. It seemed exactly like what Anakin would want in a soldier.
“Simply incredible. I can’t believe Tarkin would do such a thing,” Amidala breathed in awe as she stepped closer to one of the clones with the holo-recorder.
“This would explain the need for space, Senator,” Obi-Wan said. “We need to leave soon. I believe the Jedi Council and the Galactic Senate will be very interested in this holo-recording.”
“Cloning has been banned for over sixty years,” Amidala said into the recorder. “Sixty years since the Treaty of Sundari forbade all knowledge, construction, production, or any creation of clones. Tarkin has the arrogance to create a clone army…but to what end? All he would need to do to get more troops is to request them. What would General Tarkin want with an army of clones?”
Anakin shrugged his shoulders. “So Tarkin is making soldiers instead of conscripting them, what’s the big deal?” Anakin could recall with a shudder when “Patriotic Volunteer Enforcement Squads” would roam across Tatooine.
Padme turned to look at him, the holo-recorder still humming.
“Anakin, sixty years ago, there was a great movement in the Galactic Senate to use clones instead of actual people for military service. Nobody wanted conscriptions and to create enough battle droids to fill our ranks would have bankrupted the Republic several times over. At the time, cloning seemed the answer to our problems. In a few short years, we could have a standing army and navy with no risk to our own citizens.”
“The problem was that now we had ‘created’ people to do our fighting for us. No one had considered the moral and ethical implications of creating people to fight and die for us. Did they have rights? Did they have souls? Did we have the right to create an entire race of people bred only to fight? What did we do with them during peacetime? There questions and many more were hotly debated across the Republic until the mutinies began,” she continued. Her attention returned to the clones and Obi-Wan took over.
“At the height of it all, there were twelve clones to every non-clone in the military. The clones disobeyed orders, refused to attack, refused to defend, refused to do much of anything at all. This act of insubordination quickly turned violent and the Republic found itself badly outnumbered. The clones went berserk, attacking friend, foe, and civilian alike. There were incidents where starships of clones would bombard peaceful Republic worlds from orbit, causing massive devastation.
“Our scientists discovered that there was a genetic design flaw that causes all clones to eventually lose their minds within twenty-four months of being created. There was no preventing it, there was no curing it, and nothing could be done to save those clones already in service,” he closed his eyes in sympathy.
“So the Republic set about a course of action that would shame itself for generations. We had no choice but to destroy them all. Countless millions of clones were killed, regardless of if you believed they had souls or not. It was regrettable, but there was no other alternative. What you see here before you is monstrous because the clone you look at will one day turn against you and try to kill you. And worse still is the fact that one day you will have to turn against it and kill it,” Obi-Wan said.
Anakin peered closer at his clone. The peaceful sleep it was in made him wonder if it really was alive. It seemed so motionless that it was statuesque and not a flesh and blood person. Anakin’s hand reached out and tapped the glass on the tube.
The clone’s eyes flashed open and it began to thrash about in the tube. His hands beat upon the glass and his eyes rolled around wildly. All the displays began to flash red as alarm sirens began to wail. Obi-Wan and Padme whirled around at Anakin, the holo-recorder still recording.
“I thought I said not to touch anything!” Obi-Wan shouted over the klaxons.
Anakin waved his hand mimicking Obi-Wan’s actions against the soldiers. “You didn’t see me touch anything,” Anakin shouted back.
Obi-Wan grimaced and sped for the door. Anakin felt embarrassed as he ran after him with Padme on his heels, stuffing the holo-recorder into her pack. They didn’t get more than a few feet outside the building before the two guards Obi-Wan had persuaded to allow them inside appeared with four additional soldiers. Anakin’s eyes locked on the six rifles pointed at the three companions.
“Hold it!” yelled the lead soldier. “Get your hands into the air and…”
Anakin could feel a surge emanating from Obi-Wan Kenobi when the guards appeared. He was amazed to see Obi-Wan bow his head, close his eyes, and then focus that surge. Obi-Wan flung his arms out and all six members of Republic Garrison Three-Two-Eight were scooped off the ground, soared into the air, and crashed back to the pavement thirty feet away, knocking them all out.
“Keep moving!” Obi-Wan shouted and then sprinted back to the low part in the wall where they had entered the base. The three of them skidded to a halt as a large Armored Land Cruiser appeared in the intersection just between them and their escape.
The ALC rolled its gray, boxy frame around on six wheels each as tall as a man. Anakin’s stomach knotted as the ALC lowered its massive cannon toward them. From the folds of his robe, Obi-Wan pulled out a metallic object.
“Stay out of sight, if possible,” Obi-Wan instructed. Anakin’s heart skipped a beat as a blue blade extended with a snap-hiss. Obi-Wan ran directly at the ALC, the lightsaber raised high into the air. The ALC let out a blast from its cannon that should have cracked open the street. Jedi Kenobi deflected the beam into a nearby building. Smaller cannons mounted on the front of the ALC also opened fire, red blasts flashing at Obi-Wan. The blue of his lightsaber flashed almost too fast for Anakin to see as Obi-Wan quickly closed the distance to the daunting machine.
Padme and Anakin crouched behind a bench. Anakin watched with wonder and admiration as Jedi Kenobi danced with the ninety ton monster. He darted around the machine, the blade flashing here and there; and everywhere the lightsaber was, sparks and flames erupted half a heartbeat later. Anakin was entranced by how effortlessly Obi-Wan moved. It was as if he moved naturally and with no danger around at all.
Two soldiers crawled out of a hatch at the top of the vehicle and began drawing their side-arms. Before they had a chance to attack the Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan thrust his arm out and flung them off the vehicle with ease using the Force. Finally, the ALC collapsed on its flat tires and Obi-Wan extinguished his blade. But the desire in Anakin’s heart would never be so extinguished.
Obi-Wan Kenobi took one more look around, and then waved at Padme and Anakin to come join him. Together, they ran past the burning hulk and back to their tension wire at the wall. They climbed over one at a time, and then sped off into the night.
“Are they away?” General Tarkin asked his aide.
“Yes, General,” Colonel Kinyon answered with disgust.
General Tarkin sighed as he stared out the window as firefighting brigades were working to extinguish the blaze that engulfed one of his ALC’s. As he watched seven million Republic credits go up in flames, Tarkin fought to keep his wrath down.
He was exposed now, but it was not done according to his plans. Tarkin knew that Amidala would be screaming at the top of her lungs in the morning to everyone with at least one set of ears. The fact that she did it on her own initiative and had not “danced” to his tune was upsetting and humiliating.
“Shall I inform Senator Palpatine?” Colonel Kinyon broke the uncomfortable silence.
General Tarkin’s voice became gravely quiet. “No, Colonel. I do not see a reason to share our incompetence. I suspect he’ll find out when Amidala finds a transmitter anyway.”
“Do you know what the single most important facet of any battle is, Colonel? The one thing that you absolutely must have when battling a squad or an entire Star Fleet? You must have the initiative! This girl has stolen it from us. Please convey my extreme disappointment to the men and prepare them for tomorrow’s inspection,” Tarkin gave a dismissive wave of his hand.
“But, Palpatine…” Kinyon began.
“Is not your commanding officer,” Tarkin whirled around and faced his aide.
“Stop thinking and follow orders,” his eyes glowed with a darkness that made the blood in Kinyon’s veins run cold.
After leaving the office, Colonel Kinyon felt a tremendous amount of shame. His superior officer, one of the finest military minds the Republic had ever known, had been humiliated. It was clear now that the girl would have to suffer for this disgrace.
Thankfully, he had been preparing for just such a contingency. He knew that Tarkin could never give the order to have her killed. However, “plausible deniability” was a wonderful thing. Now is the time for redemption for the Republic’s Finest. As he sat down at his desk outside General Tarkin’s office, he keyed an order into his communicator.
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