Anakin's face is glued to the window as they descend, eager to take it all in. Obi-Wan hovers near his shoulder, eager to instruct.
From upper orbit, the planet of Coruscant seems crisscrossed with lines of fire and pockmarked with craters that burn at the edges. "That's not fire at all, that's air traffic," explains Obi-Wan. "The entire planet is one big city, and so traffic needs to be diverted along a specific course, known as a 'skyway,' otherwise people would be crashing into each other all the time."
They approach early dawn near the equator, flying towards what appears to be a shining silver tower perched on the peak of a craggy mountain overlooking a plain of sparkling iridescent mist. "That mountain is made entirely of buildings," says Obi-Wan, "Hundreds of them. The Naboo embassy is at the top of that spire; the docks are at the base of the spire, so we'll have to take a carriage to get to the embassy."
As they draw to a landing, the mist parts, and Anakin gasps. Where he expected to see the ground, instead he sees the tops of more buildings, lighting each other and the sky above with more colors than he had imagined existed. Looking down, he sees every building recede into that glow. He can't see if they ever manage to touch soil. "Whoa! How high up are we, Ben?"
"Too high for me to jump," says Obi-Wan, "and that's saying a lot!" The ship jerks slightly as they touch down. "Come now, Ani, and stay by my side. I sense that events are about to unfold quickly, and we don't want you to get lost in the shuffle."
"Reverend Sister! Thank heavens!" Senator Palpatine's jolly voice carries over the whipping winds of the landing platform as Padme and her companions disembark. She makes her way directly to him, and they clasp hands. "It is a great gift to see you alive."
"My life belongs to Naboo," she intones in response. "I will readily give it in her service."
"And Captain Panaka, welcome! Thank you for delivering the last Handmaiden to us safely. We are in your debt." He enthusiastically shakes Panaka's hand.
"Um, he had a little help," says Obi-Wan.
"Masters Jedi, of course! You have our gratitude as well. Why, when I went to seek help from Chancellor Velorum, I would have never expected us to be so blessed as to receive intervention from the Jedi Council..."
"The Jedi exist to serve the Republic," says Qui-Gon. "Your gratitude is unnecessary, but appreciated."
Palpatine conspicuously ignores the Gungan and doesn't even notice the droids. "And you must be Anakin Skywalker..." He does not stoop, nor soften his voice as if addressing a child, but rather extends his hand in respectful greeting. "I dare say you may be the true hero of the day. Before your droid signed off, it transmitted quite a bit of documentation on the invasion. Between this evidence and Reverend Padme's presence, I am certain that we shall overcome all bureaucracy and put an end to the Federation's treachery for good."
Anakin smiles so wide his face might break; he shakes hands as firmly as he can. "That's what I'm here for, too, sir!"
Palpatine takes a deep breath and claps his hands together, looking at the gathered entourage and radiating love. "Let us not delay in formality any longer! Your journey has been rough, and there is much to accomplish. My carriage awaits to bring us to the Naboo embassy; there you may find all the comforts of our homeworld at its best!"
Less than a day on Coruscant, and Anakin is already bored.
After seeing the party safely to the embassy, the Jedi leave to speak with the Jedi Council, and Padme and Captain Panaka join Senator Palpatine in his private chambers to prepare for the special session of congress convening this evening, leaving Anakin alone in a guest suite with two droids and a Gungan.
He fiddles with Artoo for awhile, but having his nose in a control panel begins to remind him too much of home. Jar-Jar sits hunched in front of the room's high-definition holographic projector, eagerly punching buttons on the remote as he flips through channel after channel of planetary broadcasts, but they are little different than the broadcasts on Naboo. Much to his dismay, the embassy itself ostentatiously displays Naboo architecture, design and technology throughout. It offers little clue regarding the thousands of cultures intermingling outside its walls.
He walks to the window and presses his nose against it, shielding his eyes against the sun to see as much as he can. It's the same view that he saw during their approach and savored during the carraige ride. Down below, the traffic arriving at the embassy docks is far enough away to be barely distinguishable as traffic, giving Anakin an uncomfortable sense of scale. So he looks closer.
Just outside the window is a short ledge. He searches the window and finds what appears to be a latch, but after several tugs in different directions, it still won't budge.
"Master Anakin," Threepio chimes, "I think you will discover that all locks at this elevation are magnetically sealed. According to Coruscant Local Ordinance 074B-115, organic lifeforms are permitted on the exterior of a spacescraper only in cases of emergency. All other high-elevation maintenance is to be performed by droids alone."
"Like that one?" Anakin asks, pointing at a small eight-legged silver ball scuttling along the ledge.
"No. I believe that is a spyder, a recording droid of Federation design."
Threepio speaks without distress, as if this is a common occurrence. "Heading for the Senator's chambers, I'd imagine."
Anakin is not so calm. "We've got to stop it!"
"I shall summon a security droid immediately."
"There's no time for that. Who knows what it will record before they get here!"
"Master Anakin, I'm not sure there's anything else we can do."
Anakin shuts his eyes and wraps his hand around the window latch, thinking of the tiny midiwhatsits living inside of him, blocking out the projector's soundtrack and Jar-Jar's laugh and Threepio's further warnings.
"C'mon," he whispers to whatever's living in his blood, "Say something to me."
He feels a strange twitch, as if reality itself has skipped a frame. Dubiously, he pulls at the latch.
There is no ray shield here as there is on the docks to keep the air pressurized at this elevation; Jar-Jar screams and Anakin grabs his chest as their oxygen gets sucked out the window. The atmospheric recycler kicks into high gear, accompanied by a loud buzzing alarm, and they can breathe again. Anakin thinks of the many times he had left the door open during winter, when Watto would lecture him about "paying to heat the whole neighborhood."
"I'll be right back," Anakin shouts above the rush of wind and the alarm and Jar-Jar's panic. "Just don't tell anyone where I went!"
The spyder does not seem to notice Anakin peeking around the corner at it, much to Anakin's relief. Its sensors are all directed towards the room on the other side of the window, where the representatives of Naboo meet to discuss political strategy. He figures stealth is his best option here; he doubts he can catch the droid in a real chase without losing his balance on the wind-whipped ledge. The thin air is already beginning to cloud his mind, and so he shuts his eyes and breathes deeply, centering himself. He's about to make his move when, with his senses so heightened, he discovers that he, too, can hear what's happening in that room.
It's Padme's voice he hears first. "Chancellor Velorum, I don't understand what you're saying. You promised us your support."
Anakin cranes his neck to peek. On the other side of the windowpane stands the Leader of the Free Galaxy!
"And you do have my support!" Chancellor Velorum is tall and gaunt, with wispy grey hair and a worn look about his face. He sounds desperately sincere. "But I am no dictator; I must lead us in the direction that the Republic points, and the Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates who are only looking out for themselves and their home systems. There is no interest in the common good...no civility, only politics...it's disgusting. I must be frank, Reverend Sister, even with this evidence and your testimony, there is little chance the Senate will act on the invasion. What's done is done."
"Senator Palpatine seems to think there is hope," Padme says.
The Senator chimes in almost casually, "You could declare martial law for our region of space, and place an executive order to the Jedi to kick the Federation out!"
The Chancellor glowers at him. "Senator, the plight of your people is breaking my heart. But martial law has not been declared for centuries, and with good reason. Need I remind you that we nearly lost the Republic last time? No, that is a door that will not be opened on my watch."
"My apologies, Chancellor. But what other options do we have?"
"You can always submit a plea to the courts..."
"There's no time for that," Padme says. "The courts take even longer to decide things than the Senate. Our people are dying, Chancellor...more and more each day. We must do something quickly to stop the Federation."
"To be realistic, Reverend Sister, I'd say you're going to have to accept Federation control for the time being."
"That is something I cannot do."
"Then bring your case before the Senate this evening. Perhaps I have misjudged your chances; this is a matter in which I would delight to be proven wrong. If there is any way within the rules to help your people, I will do all that I can to assist you."
The spyder's legs retract into itself. It sprouts translucent wings, and darts into the air. Before he can think about it, Anakin has jumped up and snatched it. Much to his dismay, he doesn't land.