The sky is the most perfect blue that a sky can be, speckled with the fluffiest of cotton clouds. The grass waves with shifting shades of green, flashing pink and golden flowers in the afternoon breeze. It's a surreal contrast for Anakin, who feels like he's walking into a child's picture book to face his doom. For the amphibious army trudging behind him, it's downright miserable.
"Dis sun doen murder tameese skin!" Sergeant Binks complains to Captain Tarpals as their company takes up the rear. "Whassa Ani tinkin, marchin da Gungans inta dat!?!?"
"Yous betta be hopin da Choosin One tinkin good," says Tarpals, annoyed that on this greatest of all days for the Gungans he should be left in the back to babysit. "Yousa sniffin kadoodoo witoutim, Sahjint!"
The army is on a flat plain, making their way toward a gradually sloping ridge. Boss Nass and Anakin take the lead on kaadu, with Artoo flying along by their side carrying Threepio.
Anakin commands the army to halt. "We haven't much time," he says, "But if we can make it to the peak of that ridge, we will have the high ground." He shuts his eyes and stretches his senses.
Artoo bleeps, and beneath him, Threepio automatically translates, "Artoo's long-range scanners have yet to detect Federation troops."
Anakin reaches out with his mind...
It's too late to reach the high ground.
"Boss Nass! Raise the shields immediately!"
"Makem da shells!" Nass commands. The order is relayed to the keepers of the gigantic fambaa beasts that bear the shield generators. Anakin had thought the fambaa were extinct, but now thunderclaps rip across the plain as ray shields fountain up from the backs of these prehistoric behemoths. The shields fall like a gentle rain, encapsulating the army on all sides, and not a moment too soon.
Droid laser missiles are exploding onto the shields before any of the Gungans see them coming. The noise is deafening. The kaadu buck, and Nass and Anakin leap from their mounts and let them retreat. The shields hold.
"Steady! Steady!" Anakin shouts to his warriors as the last of the barrage echoes away. "Activate personal defenses!"
The warriors press buttons on their gauntlets, and long personal shields of pure energy snap into existence in front of them. Jar-Jar fumbles with his, bashing his wrist against the ground to try and make it work until Tarpals activates it for him.
"Here they come!"
Over the ridge rolls a pack of nearly a hundred droideka. The shell of the Gungan army's outer shield wobbles as they penetrate through it. Once inside, each ball sprouts three legs and its own shield, letting forth a volley of blaster fire. Most of the blaster shots bounce off the Gungan personal shields, but a few Gungans begin to fall. The Gungans return fire with their boomers, small ones thrown by sling and large ones thrown by catapult, but the boomers smash harmlessly against the droideka defenses as they continue to advance.
Anakin and Nass retreat slightly to stay out of the direct line of fire. Nass begins to run among the troops, issuing commands to keep them organized and direct their attack. Anakin, however, is dazed and bewildered, watching the front lines clash. The droideka are plowing his army under faster than he could imagine, and a knot forms in his stomach.
He raises a hand tentatively toward a droideka and pushes it back with the Force, but the droideka simply snaps into a ball and rolls back to where it was. He uses his shield to deflect blaster fire from a second droideka, and uses the Force to send it hurtling toward the first, but they simply bounce off each other.
"C'mon, don't panic," he thinks to himself. "All these Force powers, there's gotta be something I can do to stop these things!"
Another droideka directs its fire at him, and he reaches out and grabs it with the Force. He holds the spinning ball hovering over the ground. He shuts his eyes, and tries to block out the chaos surrounding him, focusing all his attention into a squeeze.
KERCHUNK! The droideka collapses into a twisted hunk of scrap metal and falls harmlessly to the ground.
Anakin looks at his hand with awe.
"I...I can CRUSH things with my MIND!"
He reaches for another droideka. Once again, it takes great effort and focus, but then there's another kerchunk and another dead droideka.
"YEEEE-HAW!" Anakin bellows.
Padme and Captain Panaka reach the base of the mountainous cliff that forms the boundary between Meadowbrook and Theed. Waterfalls sprout from the cliffside as the taller continent drains onto the shorter. The duo dismount from their hoverycycles.
"Did you see where Obi-Wan went?" asks Padme.
"Probably up the cliff already," says Panaka, pulling a launch tube from a compartment on his hovercycle and unfolding it. "Scouting for danger. Or just showing off."
He presses a button on the assembled tube, and it sends a grappling hook rocketing up the side of the cliff. A moment later, he is able to pull the trailing wire taut, and he attaches it to a harness on his back.
"Your Highness," he says respectfully, opening his arms to her. "If you don't mind, we only have one..."
She steps into his embrace. "Thank you, my Captain."
With a push of a button, they are both speeding up the cliffside as the retracting wire lifts them. About halfway up, Padme nods toward the plain below them.
Rows and rows of battle droid foot soldiers stand in formation, loading onto transport ships.
"There are more troops than there are ships," says Panaka. "They'll be sending them in waves until the job is done. What your basic model battle droid lacks in sturdiness, it makes up for in number. Hang on, we're almost there."
With a jump and a roll, they're over the edge of the cliff and on solid ground. Obi-Wan stands there, looking up at the palace.
"It's completely empty," he says. "We could walk right in if we wanted to."
"I don't like this at all, Your Highness," says Captain Panaka. "Why would they care so much about the Gungans that they'd leave the palace undefended?"
"Maybe they heard that the Chosen One has come," says Obi-Wan. "I can't say I blame them. Anakin is going to put up a good fight, that's for sure."
"The secret path is faster," says Padme, "and will take us exactly where we're going. Follow me."
Though Artoo and Threepio are not targets for the droideka, they still risk damage in the melee, and so they move well away from the battle. Artoo bleeps.
"Yes, my friend," says Threepio, "It does seem the droideka are no match for your maker. But I'm afraid he's not fast enough. The Gungans will be crushed before he's finished."
More bleeps, then Threepio says, "These are actually a larger model of droideka than I saw in the palace. These must be the full-sized versions."
"What else do I know about them? Well, their command system is entirely in Neimoidian. They appear to respond exclusively to commands in that language. An effective measure, considering that only Neimoidians can speak Neimoidian."
"Of course I can speak Neimoidian! I am fluent in over six million forms of communication--"
Artoo blips with extreme frustration.
"Yes, I speak Neimoidian and I'm not Neimoidian. But I don't count--I'm just a droid. Deactivate the droideka myself? Why my little friend, that just wouldn't be pro--ah--AH!"
Before he can say any more, Artoo lifts him by the shoulders and flies them both back to the battle. Laserbolts whiz past Threepio, and Artoo bloops angrily.
"I--I see your point, my friend!" Threepio hisses in the Neimoidian tongue, "DISSSENGAGE! DISSSENGAGE!" The nearest droideka flips into a ball and starts to roll away. Artoo blips some more. "I mean--SSSELF-DESSSTRUCT!" The droideka explodes. Threepio shouts it again and again as they fly across the battlefield. The Gungans scramble to avoid the shrapnel, and soon the droideka have been completely destroyed.
"Dada teechum!" laughs Jar-Jar, making an obscene gesture at some droideka remains.
"Notten ovah yet, Sahjint Binks" says Tarpals, pointing. Droid troop transports line the ridge.
"Reformen da ranks!" Boss Nass commands, shuffling a much smaller army back into line. Anakin projects his mind to the ridge to get a closer look.
The doors of the troop transports slide open, and racks of droids slide out. With a repetitive clanking, the racks unfold and drop thousands of metal cubes into formation. The cubes transform themselves into spindly humanoid battle droids, flimsy but difficult to target, each bearing a powerful blaster. All at once, the droid army begins its perfectly synchronized march toward the Gungans.
On the command ship in orbit, Tey How delivers her report.
"Viceroy, we have detected a small party of Naboo rebels entering the palace. The Queen is with them."
"The palaccce," Newt mutters, waving a hand dismissively. "Our Sssith will no doubt ssstop them."
Newt pauses for a moment of personal independent thought.
"If the real battle isss in the palaccce," he ponders to himself, "Then the power isss there, too. Sssso why am I up here, and not with the power?" He clenches his fist.
"Prepare my lander, Tey How. I am going to the palaccce. Do not tell the othersss."