The Jedi ship breaks through a layer of brackish smog above what seems to be the major metropolitan center of Geonosis, though as far as Anakin and Padme can tell, the entire planet surface has been urbanized. The buildings here are not the slender spacescrapers of Coruscant, but rather broad squat buildings of orange brick darkened by soot. The rings of the planet arch over the sky, ending in a forest of tall chimneys belching black smoke that obscures the horizon.
"What's with the smokestacks?" asks Anakin.
"I think..." says Padme, digging around through her memories of a rougher era of the Republic, "I think they're factories."
"Aren't factories illegal?" Anakin asks, and Padme gives no reply.
As they cruise lower, Anakin says, "And those things that look like ants, those must be Geonosians." The fleshy humanoid insects trundle single-file along the concrete streets, dour expressions on their houndish faces.
The ship lands.
"You two stay here," Anakin says to the droids as they prepare to disembark.
"Threepio comes with us," says Padme, "I may need his diplomatic analysis."
"Miss Padme," says Threepio, "I am certainly willing to remain with the ship, if--"
"Okay," says Anakin, "C'mon Artoo."
Artoo beeps and rolls past them, out the hatch. Padme raises her brow skeptically, and Anakin says, "What? I might need his diplomatic analysis!"
The humans stride out, following Artoo.
"I'm a protocol droid!" Threepio moans nervously, "I'm not built for aggressive negotiations!" They pay him no heed, and he has no choice but to follow.
Count Dooku is there to greet them, his cape billowing out behind him in the warm dry wind of the dock. "Your Highness, Master Skywalker, welcome to Geonosis!" His formal greeting of Anakin jars the young padawan, who chooses not to correct him. "The meeting has already begun. Please, this way..."
"Stay close," Padme whispers in Anakin's mind.
"Don't worry, you're not leaving my sight," Anakin thinks back.
Dooku leads them down a dimly lit passage, along a narrow walkway with railings that give wide berth to the dark walls.
"Count Dooku," Padme says, "I would like you to explain why you contacted me at the Jedi Academy, instead of addressing Amidala through official channels."
"Unfortunately, Your Highness, your sisters on Naboo would not accept my call. They still believe it was I who attacked you on Toydaria, which is further from the truth than they can imagine. When I saw you at that summit, I could tell there was something different about you. Something special. And I knew it was you that I could treat with."
Padme stops and speaks firmly.
"Count, understand one thing. I am Amidala. Any decision I make, today or any other day, will only be made in harmony with my Sisters Amidala and the people of Naboo. Their heart is my heart."
"That is all that I ask, Your Highness. Let your world view me through your eyes, and let your heart decide. Oh! Master Skywalker, don't--"
Anakin is reaching over the railing to try and touch one of the walls. He yanks back his hand as a Geonosian's fleshy pincer snaps through the space it just occupied.
"Careful now," says the Count. "The Geonosians rest on the walls when they are not working. They are a very industrious and communal species, and they have no need for homes of their own, but they do not appreciate having their sleep disturbed any more than you would."
Padme scowls at Anakin as they continue walking.
"Here we are," says Dooku as they turn into a conference room. "Queen Amidala, Master Skywalker, I would like you to meet the leaders of the Confederation of Independant Systems."
The rebel leaders gather around a battered table under bare bulbs, nothing like the rich formality of Toydaria and Coruscant. They murmur to one another as Padme finishes reading the treaty on the document pad they have given her. Anakin and the droids stand behind her. Finally, she places the pad on the table, and Dooku rises.
"Friends, you have read the terms of our alliance," he says. "As I explained to you earlier, I am quite convinced that ten thousand more systems will rally to our cause with your support." He nods to Newt Gunray, who Padme is very displeased to see. "Our friends in the Trade Federation have already pledged their support. When their battle droids are combined with your resources, we shall have an army greater than any in the galaxy. Even the Jedi will be overwhelmed. The Republic will agree to any demands we make."
"The Banking Clan will sign your treaty," says Chairman San Hill, the long-faced Muun. This, Padme expected.
"I am authorized by the Corporate Coalition to accept your terms," says Passel Argente, speaking on behalf of hundreds of first world planets.
Comrade Shu Mai, representing the Syndicate of Asteroid Miners, clicks and squaks enthusastically.
"He says they will sign," Threepio translates.
"Thanks, we caught that," Anakin whispers.
"The Techno Union is at your disposal, Count," warbles the electronic voice of Wat Tambor. He adjusts a dial on his heavy armored suit and adds, "With these new super battle droids we have built for you, the Confederation will be unstoppable."
"And what of you, Your Highness?" asks Dooku.
Padme doesn't know what to say. She cannot deny that these men represent the backbone of the galaxy. The Republic very well may crumble without a shot being fired, if it no longer has their support.
"You're building this army, but you say you will not use it?" she asks.
"The Republic would be foolish to stand against us," says Dooku. "We will defend ourselves if attacked, but we will not fire the first shot."
"You're asking a lot from us," Padme continues. "You want access to the lucasite technology of the Naboo palace." Newt Gunray can't help but lean forward eagerly at mention of this. "But what, may I ask, will Geonosis be contributing to this cause?"
"I'm very glad you asked that, Your Highness," says Dooku. "As you are the only hold out, I believe it is time to reveal our hidden strength, and perhaps it will sway you. Please, follow me..."