As Dooku leads them down the passage, the leaders of the rebel alliance hear it before they see it: booming repetitive hisses, clicks and thumps echo from a cavern ahead. They step out into the glow of a droid factory.
Deep below them extends the main assembly line. Great pipelines pump molten metals into casts. Droid parts flow by on a web of conveyor belts; sparks fly as large mechanized arms weld them together. At the bottom of this massive apparatus, assembled battle droids march away in formation.
"Behold," proclaims the Count, "the wonders of automated mass production!"
The rebel leaders ooh and ahh. San Hill applauds. Padme eyes Wat Tambor, whom she expects to be more shocked than she is, but he is giving Dooku a congratulatory pat on the back!
"Oh my goodness! Shut me down!" says Threepio, taking it all in. "Machines making machines! How perverse!"
"I don't get it," Anakin thinks to Padme. "What's the big deal with automated production? Seems like a good idea to me, now that I think about it."
"The prohibition against automated mass production has been in place for thousands of years," thinks Padme, "ever since the Galactic Depression."
"What was that?"
"Goodness, didn't Obi-Wan teach you any history?"
"Nobody ever talks to me about history," Anakin thinks pointedly, "not even the folks I know who lived through it."
Padme sighs; luckily she can explain this with the speed of thought.
"By the fourth millennium, droids had been built to do just about everything, but that left no jobs. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The Galactic economy was completely stagnating. The Senate resolved the crisis by prohibiting automated mass production. That's why everything in the galaxy, especially droids, must be assembled by a sentient being."
"Hunh," thinks Anakin. "I guess I just took it for granted; it never even occurred to me that droids could be used to make more droids."
Padme walks over to Wat Tambor. "Excuse me, Foreman..."
"Your Majesty!" squeaks the speaker in Tambor's suit, "I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why the Techno Union is not appalled at this violation of laws we have long supported."
"Yes..." says Padme, disturbed that Dooku has turned to listen in.
"Sentient beings require more than a task to perform," says Tambor, "We are educated and imaginative. We require the opportunity to create something new. Let machines build the things that have been built before. With the shared technological knowledge of the Confederation, sentient hands will be employed by invention for millennia to come. The laws that once served workers are now our greatest obstacle to success."
"Laws can be repealed..." says Padme.
"Too many powerful people are invested in the status quo," says Tambor, "Too many corrupt politicians can be bought off. Revolution is the worker's only hope."
"The old galaxy will burn in the fires of industry," Dooku says, "A new order will arise. Your Highness, will you join in this rebirth?"
"Anakin," thinks Padme, "How fast can you get us out of here?"
"Just let me know when to start running," Anakin thinks back. "Artoo can take care of Threepio."
"You're not tempted by this offer, are you?" thinks Padme.
"Hell no," thinks Anakin, "We need to get to Coruscant and bust the lid open on this operation!"
"Good," thinks Padme, "Let me see if I can talk our way closer to the exit..."
Before she can open her mouth, Dooku's voice echoes through both their thoughts.
"You should know, I can hear everything you're thinking..."
Anakin blanches, and Padme shouts.
In a flash, Anakin scoops Padme up by the waist and dashes along the factory catwalk, away from Dooku. Geonosians leap from the walls, gliding toward them on membranous wings. With a twirl, Anakin sets Padme down carefully and draws his lightsaber to face the onslaught.
He uses the Force to push away the first two attackers, but the third reaches out for Padme and loses its bony arm to his lightsaber. The next one loses a leg, and the next loses its head. Anakin hopes this show of lethal force will get these dim-witted creatures to back off, but there's just too many of them.
One of them gets past him and begins grappling with Padme. It pins her arms back and screeches in her face. She tries to kick it in the groin and her shin crashes against hard exoskeleton. Shutting her eyes tight and taking a deep breath, she bashes her head into its face. It loses its grip and she loses her balance, falling off the catwalk and into the maze of the droid assembly line.
"PADME!" Anakin shouts, abandoning all hesitance as he cuts a swath of black blood and limbs to escape the swarming Geonosians. He leaps down after her.
Meanwhile, Artoo blips angrily at Threepio.
"My obtuse little friend," says Threepio, "If they had needed our help, they would have asked for it. Protocol dictates that we, as droids, should remain here, and here is where I'll staAAAYAAAAA!"
Artoo pushes Threepio off the catwalk, then activates his rocket boosters and flies into the action.
Anakin lands on a conveyor belt. Robotic arms twice the size of his body zip glowing hot plates on and off the line at high speeds. He dodges through this gauntlet, reaching out with his mind to find Padme.
"Where are you?" he thinks when he senses her, and she projects her own view back to him. She is trapped in a giant empty vat, the entire structure shaking as it clicks its way down the line towards a spigot spewing bubbling hot metals. She is scrambling to climb out, but finding no purchase.
"Hang on, I'm coming!" thinks Anakin as he rolls under sharp blades slicing across his path.
Threepio lands on a line of nearly completed battle droids, and finds himself swiftly strapped into place by robotic hands. "Artooooo, over heeeere!" he cries, but the astromech droid just flies on past. Threepio trembles as the conveyor belt inches him towards a tangle of probes being inserted into each droid, with a large sign above that reads "Battle Programming."
"I wish I couldn't read Geonosian," he whines to himself, "What did I do to deserve this!?"
Anakin gasps for breath as he makes it out of the deadlier portion of the assembly line, only to find his way blocked by Geonosians. He prepares to cut them down but they keep their distance. They're holding guns.
They fire wobbling globs of yellow plasma, and Anakin barely realizes in time that his lightsaber won't deflect this kind of shot. He dodges. Grabbing with the Force, he wrenches a large girder out of the factory structure and sends it hurtling towards them, knocking them aside.
Padme screams as her vat clicks into place beneath the spigot and its nozzle begins to open.
Artoo lands in front of a control panel and inserts a rod into its outlet. Dials spin and he beeps frantically, then a horn blares. With a quaking groan, the entire factory grinds to a halt. Padme sighs with relief as the nozzle closes.
Anakin reaches her and lifts her out of the vat. They leap to the factory floor. The exit is blocked by Count Dooku. With a roar of determination, Anakin raises his saber above his head and charges.
Dooku raises his hand, and bolts of lightning jump from his fingertips to Anakin, stopping him in his tracks. Anakin screams and writhes in pain. Electricity still flaring between them, Dooku uses this strange dark power to lift Anakin up and bash him against the wall. Finally he lowers his hand, and Anakin falls limp to the floor.
Dooku doesn't even afford Padme another glance. "Bind her and take them both to the reinforced holding cell," he instructs the Geonosians at his side. Staring mutely at Anakin's smoking body, Padme offers no resistance.