In the morning, there is no time for catching up. Anakin is stirred from his slumber by a cadre of attendants arriving to dress Padme. He watches warily from a corner as they pile on the heavy garments, thick makeup and elaborate hairpieces that transform her from a woman into a demigod. A team of political advisors arrive to brief her on the developments of the night.
Other than wishing him a good morning, Padme seems to ignore that Anakin is even there. When one of her aides mentions a conflict back home between the Agricultural Guild and the Gungans, Anakin tries to offer his opinion.
"The Agricultural Guild should accept the Queen's decision regarding diversity quotas," he says. "Their motto is 'Food For All.' I don't think that's limited to just humans."
"Padawan Skywalker, please," says Padme, "These are my people, and I know their hearts well. I think it would be wise for you to allow me to speak for myself on these matters."
As she returns to conversation with her advisor, it seems to Anakin she says the same thing he said only with more words, making him feel especially put out.
Once the Queen has been prepared, they walk in procession to the front gate, where a stout open-aired AT-CT walker waits to bear them to the first day of negotiations.
Anakin and Padme enter the summit hall. The one hundred delegates are solemnly taking their places at a circular desk. Each representative is allowed one guard to stand behind them; all other attendants are made to wait in an observation area separated from the delegates by a ray shield. Chancellor Palpatine sits alert amongst the representatives, his black eye already nearly healed by the powerful bacta restoratives available to him. Jedi Master Windu stands as his personal guard.
If Anakin were free to choose his own teacher, he would choose Master Windu, and he can't help but stare at the revered Jedi Knight as they approach. Windu nods back in greeting. Ani keeps his professional face on, but his insides jump with glee. To Anakin, Master Windu represents all that is best about the Jedi: strength, compassion and unwavering service to the Republic.
Anakin can also sense the nearby presence of Master Obi-Wan and the other three Jedi watching over the meeting, but they keep themselves hidden from sight.
As Padme takes her seat directly to the right of the Chancellor, she speaks two brief words to Anakin. She subtly gestures to a human man walking towards them, white-haired but nonetheless strong in bearing, dressed in black, with a black cape clasped by a gold chain.
"Count Dooku," she whispers.
Anakin nods. He recognizes Master Dooku. Living Jedi Knights are few enough in number that every student is expected to learn the names and faces of every one, though they are still plentiful enough to make such memorization the bane of a student's training. He bites his tongue against mentioning this to Padme, though. He doesn't want her to scold him for talking out of turn again.
"Your Highness," Dooku says to Padme, briefly nodding his head with respect. "I was much aggrieved to hear of the attack against your clone. I wish to assure you that if any Separatist was responsible, I will find them and see that they are dealt with appropriately. Such violence only serves as a barrier to peace, and peace is what I desire."
"Thank you, Count," Padme says, "But threatening to defect from the Republic is more of a barrier to peace than any blaster. The galaxy must not be divided."
"It is unfortunate to hear you say that, but perhaps these talks will change your mind."
"I am always willing to listen, Count."
With another nod, Dooku walks away and takes a seat at the opposite side of the circle from them. He sits alone, without a guard; he has no need for one.
Palpatine calls the meeting to order and calls upon Count Dooku to make an opening statement on behalf of the Separatists. Dooku rises and speaks with a voice that commands authority...
"My fellow sentients,
"Though I have lived for only a meager sliver of the Republic's long rule, I have in my lifetime seen the soul of our once fair galaxy become tarnished with mistrust, selfishness and corruption. Where once we worked together freely and voluntarily, of our own accord, to lift even the least among us to great heights, we now bicker to amass individual power without any regard for those who have no power to give. We have trapped ourselves in a cycle of escalating violence that now threatens Galactic Civil War.
"Today we stand at a crossroads in the history of our galaxy, one final chance to avert great tragedy. If we seek to dominate one another through violence, we will only beget violence. We must instead renew our commitment to the ideals on which the Republic was founded, ideals of democracy and self-rule.
"Look around you, to the example of the great powers that guard the peace today, the Jedi Knights. Ten thousand years ago, the only way to be free was to be the most powerful being in the galaxy, dominating all others. The Dark Lords of the Sith were not content to live and let live; they demanded absolute loyalty and they destroyed anyone who could possibly dissent. Then one day there arose a hero who could not be destroyed. He demanded no obedience, winning the allegiance of others through love rather than fear, and with them he ushered in an era of peace that lasts to this day. I speak, of course, of Master Yoda, founder of the Jedi Order.
"And so to this day, when a student of the Jedi comes of age, earning the rank of Knight and the title of Master, they are given the chance to take sacred oaths of loyalty to the Jedi Council, but they are also given the opportunity to freely choose their own oaths and bonds. If the members of the Jedi Council were to insist that every Jedi Knight join the Council, then they would be forever fighting amongst themselves, seeking to dominate one another rather than working together for the good of all. Where such mighty powers war, there is no hope of peace for the meek. By making membership a matter of free choice, the Jedi Council allow themselves to be worth freely choosing.
"As some of you may know, I am a Jedi Knight, trained at the Academy of Dantooine and sanctioned as bearing the wisdom and mercy expected of any great power in the galaxy. Yet I chose not to join the Council. My lightsaber remains as green as any student's, and I bear only the authority that others choose to give me personally.
"I made this choice out of no disrespect to the Jedi Council, whose exemplary wisdom has long guarded the peace of our galaxy. Rather, I chose this path on behalf of those who fear they have no choice, to be a living demonstration that choice exists and that the powerful need not fear it.
"The Jedi Knights know the reality of power, that those who bear the Force cannot be compelled to peace by mere force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with strength.
"My hope is that you, the great leaders of the galaxy, might remember the lesson of the Jedi Knights. I speak as the elected leader of the people of Geonosis and on behalf of our fellow members of the Separatist movement. We are a diverse coalition of planets who seek only the freedom to choose our own path, to work alongside one another as partners rather than be dominated by narrow majorities of the Senate. Permit us this choice. Support a resolution to allow peaceful defection from the Republic. We mean you no harm; we wish only the self-determination due to any sentient beings. May the Force be with you."
There is no applause, for it would be improper in this setting, but several delegates on Dooku's side of the circle nod in agreement. Even a few members of the Loyalist faction seem pleased by Dooku's words, though Padme is not among them.
As the day wears on, the other delegates make their own speeches and engage in debate over the nuances and high stakes involved, and it occurs to Anakin that politics are a lot more complicated than he would like to believe.