Every one of the one hundred thousand seats of the Colosseum of Geonosis is filled, mostly by swarming Geonosians tittering with excitement. Criminal executions are the most popular entertainment on the planet, and today's event promises to be the best ever. Bets fly between the natives as to whether it will even be possible to execute a Jedi. The spectators feel the edge of danger, sitting so close to the action. Battle droids line the aisles and wait in the wings, in case anything goes wrong.
At the center of all this, in a small circular battle arena, still bound by red lucasite energy, Padme and Anakin try to make peace with their impending death. The unconscious body of Obi-Wan hanging next to them offers little hope or comfort.
"Before we die," Anakin thinks to her, "I want you to know...I love you."
"I thought we decided not to fall in love," thinks Padme, "That we would be forced to live a lie. That it would destroy our lives..."
"I'm pretty sure our lives are about to be destroyed anyway," thinks Anakin.
Far above them, small in their vision, the leaders of the rebel alliance sit in observation and judgment. Dooku steps to the front of the box and speaks, his voice amplified by the Force to fill the stadium.
"Fellow citizens of Geonosis, the eyes of the galaxy are on us. Today our humble planet will demonstrate that the crimes of the powerful will not go unpunished!"
The crowd roars and cheers.
"Anakin Skywalker," Dooku continues, "You have been found guilty of terrorism and murder. The punishment is death by the beasts of the colosseum."
"Go ahead and try! Your monsters won't even get close!" Anakin shouts as loud as he can, struggling pointlessly against the rays that hold him. The crowd laughs.
Dooku raises his hand to hush them and says, "It is true that Jedi are notoriously difficult to kill. Even immobilized, a Jedi Knight's power over mind and matter make it nearly impossible to bring them to harm. Yet there is one creature that even the Jedi fear. Immune to telekinetic forces and with no mind beyond the instict to kill, I present to you the prize of the Geonosian bestiary, the Acklay of Vendaxa!"
At the edge of the arena, heavy gates swing open and a team of half a dozen Geonosian handlers lead the chained acklay out onto the battlefield. It is three times the height of a man, a thickly armored green body picking its way along on the tips of six gigantic claws. Its head and neck are shielded by a long bony crest. It snaps up one of the handlers into its wide mouth and uses its razor-sharp teeth to snap the poor creature in two. The other handlers fly away as fast as they can, leaving the chains to dangle. The crowd cheers.
The red beams surrounding Anakin disappear as soon as the acklay begins its charge. He knows it is pointless but he has to try. He raises his hands and focuses the Force with all his might to knock the monster back, but he doesn't even slow it down.
"I'm back!" says Obi-Wan. "Sorry I took so long. What did I miss--OH!"
Anakin rolls to dodge the acklay's claws as they pound into the dirt around him. He tries to work his way underneath the monster to find a soft spot to attack, but every inch of it is covered in layers of massive armor plating. He tries punching anyway, and ends up clutching his fist in a grimace of pain. The crowd laughs and jeers.
One of the acklay's claws catches Anakin from behind. Padme screams, the crowd roars and Anakin falls face first into the dirt, but all the acklay manages to do is rip off his tunic. The rippling muscles of his bared flesh are untouched. He jumps back up, avoiding the acklay's snapping jaws by a hair, and leaps upon the fearsome beast's back.
This is the moment that Padme makes her choice.
Time seems to slow to a halt as she watches her shirtless lover lasso the acklay, winding chains around the monster's neck and finally through its mouth with the precision guidance of the Force. Anakin grabs the loose end and pulls back, effectively reining the creature. It leaps and bucks, trying to throw him off, but he hangs on tight.
Padme floods with passion and emotion. Anakin is the most powerful Jedi she has ever seen, and she was there in the beginning. Within him glows the strength and magic of her world. He is the culmination of her history, the fruit of her long rule and her hope for the future. He is perfect. He is hers.
And she knows, deeps down, that this is what her Creator intended all along.
Anakin gallops to her side on the back of the acklay. With a wave of his hand, he uses the Force to disable the lucasite shackles and lift her up to him.
"I love you too, Ani!" she cries, wrapping her arms around him. "I love you!"
He leans her back in his arms and kisses her.
The crowd roars--this is entertainment!
"Hey, I don't mean to interrupt!" Obi-Wan shouts. They gallop over and Anakin releases his bonds. Obi-Wan drops to his knees.
"Sorry," he pants, "Astral projection takes a lot out of a guy. Gimmie a second."
"Did it work?" Anakin calls from his mount. "Did you get through to the Council?"
"Yeah," Obi-Wan says resolutely, "It worked."
Padme and Anakin turn to follow Obi-Wan's ominous gaze. They are surrounded by battle droids, a different build than they have ever seen. These droids have bulky silver bodies, and at the center of each glows a red lucasite eye.
"As you can see," booms Dooku's voice, "Even the ackalay is no match for the Jedi. But what if the natural Force powers of such a monster could be molded by sentient hands? Could we not create the perfect weapon, a weapon that will even stop the Jedi? Would that not ensure independence for whoever wielded it? Fellow citizens, today I tell you, we have created such a weapon! We shall wield it, and we shall be free!"
The super battle droids open fire amidst screams and cheers. Anakin and Padme tumble to the ground, but moments later the blaster fire stops, and only the acklay is dead.
To drive the point home, a single super battle droid steps forward and points its blaster at Anakin. Anakin steps forward to face it. A strange hush falls over the crowd as Anakin raises his hand and attempts to brush the droid aside with the Force. His effort shows on his face. The super battle droid does not budge.
In response, the super battle droid lets out a volley of blaster fire. Shots explode around Anakin's feet, and he's forced to scramble out of the way. The shots chase him around the arena, and the crowd hoots and hollers.
Dooku raises his hand and the blaster fire stops. Anakin dashes back to Padme's side.
"Let this be a demonstration and a warning," bellows Dooku, "For all who would stand against our Confederation of Independant Systems. Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi, prepare to die!"
All of the super battle droids raise their blasters. The trio of heroes can only spin in circles, helplessly looking for a way out. And then another voice echoes throughout the stadium.
"Not today, Count!" shouts Master Windu. His violet lightsaber springs to life at the pinnacle of the colosseum opposite Dooku's box. Throughout the stands, blue and green lightsabers activate. The super battle droids whirl and begin firing at the new arrivals. Geonosians fly from their seats to escape. Waves of traditional battle droids march into the arena.
The fight has just begun.