Well after sunset, the landspeeder bears Anakin and Padme along a winding mountain path, its headlights displaying a sheer rocky cliff on one side and a drop into darkness on the other. Anakin slows them to a halt where the path ends.
Padme rouses from her nap in the passenger seat. "What is it?"
"We've run out of road...again."
"Last time you checked, you said this road went through for sure."
"I was wrong. Sorry, Your Majesty."
She bites her tongue and says no more, as she has done for most of the ride. She doesn't want to argue, but she can tell that Anakin does.
"I'm going to go check again," he says, climbing out of the vehicle.
"Is it safe for me to get out and stretch my legs?"
"Who knows? Just stay close to the speeder." Anakin scampers up the side of the cliff, out of sight.
Padme steps out and stretches, avoiding the edge. She breathes in deeply, letting the crisp night air call her to her senses. She is anxious to return to the Academy, make contact with Mace Windu and Count Dooku, and use every last diplomatic resource at her disposal to avert war. She feels this entire outing with Anakin has been a mistake, a distraction from her duties, and she fears the consequences of her selfish folly.
Long minutes pass, and she sees no sign of Anakin. "Ani?" she thinks, broadcasting the thought like a shout. The response she hears is not an intelligible reply, but rather a yearning for her presence coming from back down the road. It is not distressed, but she still thinks perhaps Anakin is in trouble. She makes her way into the darkness, keeping her hands against the mountain and taking each step with care.
The rock gives way under her hand, and with a rumble, a passage opens in the cliff beside her, outlined by a pale blue glow from within.
Lead by instinct, she steps inside, down steps carved from stone, and into one of the most guarded secrets of the Jedi Council.
The dark walls sparkle with chips of lucasite. At the center, three of the largest crystals she has ever seen jut out from the center of a small altar, illuminating the chamber with their blue light.
"Padme!" Anakin calls from outside. Before she can respond, he is beside her.
"Padme, what is..." He is struck speechless by the sight. He stumbles up the altar and collapses kneeling before the great crystals.
"How...how did you find this?" he asks, breathless.
"I don't know. I can't explain it. It just sort of called to me."
Looking down, his eyes grow wide at the sight of the blue shards scattered haphazardly on the ground around him, many of them the perfect size for use in a lightsaber. He takes one in his hand and turns to show it to her, his gaze transfixed on it.
"Do you know what this is?" he asks.
"It's...lucasite. The crystal that powers lightsabers, and my throne back on Naboo."
"It's not just any lucasite," he says, his eyes wild and glinting in the crystal's soft glow. "There are deposits of green lucasite on many planets, easy enough to find if the Force is with you. The clouded lucasite of Naboo isn't pure enough to power a lightsaber."
"This is the Council's lucasite," he says. "Having this in your lightsaber marks you as a member of the Council. Jedi Knights take saber color very seriously. They say Master Windu's purple saber marks him the leader of his generation. They would recognize this as a sign."
"So if you returned to the Academy with this in your saber..."
"They'd have to let me join the Council, which means they'd have to recognize me as a Knight," Anakin finishes her thought. "Don't you see? You can't be on the Council if you're not a Jedi Master."
"I don't know, Ani. What if it just upsets them?"
"The only one it would upset would be Obi-Wan," grumbles Anakin, but he doesn't dwell on the thought. "I can't believe you just stumbled onto this place! It's gotta be...fate."
He takes his saber by the hilt and flips open a panel, revealing the green crystal within. The blue shard in his hand will fit perfectly; he only needs to swap them. He hesitates.
"You're not going to do it, are you?" asks Padme, sensing his intentions.
He sighs, and flips the saber panel shut, leaving the green crystal within.
"It wouldn't be right," he says. "It's not fair, though. My life has been filled with signs like this. It's like the Force itself wants me to be a Jedi Knight. The time has come. But..."
"But it's not what Obi-Wan wants."
Through Anakin's mind flickers every single lesson he has been taught by the Jedi, and he finally sees within them a common thread.
"We have great power," Anakin mutters, "and we can always take more. The real difficulty is learning not to." He casts the blue shard to the ground.
"You're a good man, Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan will come around in time." She rests her hand on his shoulder to comfort him.
He looks at her, and they both very much want to embrace. Instead, he walks past her and back out into the night.
After turning the landspeeder around and taking the turn they missed, they make their way back to the Academy without further incident.