As a new day begins on Coruscant, Republic Commander Rykrof Enloe's medical treatment begins its final stage.
Back on the planet for several days since his narrow escape from the Badoo Corba, Rykrof has undergone extensive medical treatment to heal the wounds inflicted upon him during his imprisonment on Yinchorr.
The next days seemed sort of a dream, a phantasmal prison from which he would never awaken. During this time Rykrof remembered how until recently the Republic had glittered, been the centerpiece of hope and prosperity… before the dark times, before the Clone Wars.
But even before the war he had fought the Badoo Corba for the better part of a decade. With the war effort now being concentrated against the Confederacy, the Badoo Corba had become an afterthought to the military; free to gain strength and no longer vulnerable.
After his final treatment, rest and debriefing with Republic Intelligence, Rykrof receives news that the Supreme Chancellor has requested his presence at a social gathering with some of the most influential political and military leaders in the Republic.
Eager to see their friend, Freelo and Ralbarr greet Rykrof as he is cleared to leave the facility.
"I'm alright guys," Rykrof says to his closest friends before explaining that he is scheduled to meet with Chancellor Palpatine.
After Ralbarr grunts his disapproval, Rykrof assures his Wookiee friend that there is no reason to fear Palpatine.
In a nearby Senatorial drink lounge, several elite Republic Senators enjoy a late beverage that evening.
Nearly everyone has the same topic in mind for conversation this evening; the progress of the War.
"The entire process is a tragedy," Senator Nuros says sadly. "This entire war could have been avoided through understanding the enemy."
"That way of thinking only makes the Republic weaker," Niris Cellin replies. "We must support the Chancellor on all fronts. Only once the Separatists are defeated can we have peace."
Meanwhile a military officer approaches the bar for a drink.
"What will it be," the sultry bartender asks.
"Make it a double shot Correlian whiskey-bomb," he says with a grin.
"Wait, I recognize you," she says. "You're that commander who was on the holo net! You were captured by terrorists!"
"Thanks for the reminder," Rykrof says as he turns away.
Rykrof then is escorted by the Chancellor's assistant, Mas Amedda, to a dark guest room.
“Commander Enloe,” Palpatine says with a grin. “How good of you to join us on such short notice. I trust you have fully recovered from your injuries?”
“Yes, I’m fine Chancellor,” Rykrof replies as he receives an interested look from Palpatine’s guest.
“Tell me,” Senator Orn Free Taa says in a bubbly manner, “How in the Force did you manage to escape from the Badoo Corba?”
"More information will be made public for the media soon," Palpatine says before Rykrof can reply. "I need to speak with Commander Enloe alone. Leave us."
Once secluded from the crowd, Palpatine turns to Rykrof to speak in private.
“The public does not need to know every detail in military matters. I understand you had help on the inside on your escape. Is this true?”
“Actually it is. And I didn’t handle the situation properly,” Rykrof suggests. “One of them helped me escape. He was killed in the process.”
“Tell me what happened,” Palpatine says.
“We had the chance to get out together. But I wanted to find Mubaas Fuuda… because of my actions, the one who helped me was killed. It was my fault,” Rykrof laments.
“You had good intentions Rykrof,” Palpatine smiles. “We all know the threat the Badoo Corba bring. In some ways they may be a bigger threat than even the Separatists. They abide by no laws; there are no limits to what they will do to accomplish their goals. Because of this they are very dangerous.”
“I do wonder what you were thinking in trading yourself for your wife on Kobridor however,” Palpatine inquires.
“I’m not sure I understand what you're getting at,” Rykrof says.
“I apologize for being so forward,” Palpatine says. “But what did you hope to accomplish? Don’t you think it would have been wiser to try and draw the Badoo Corba leadership out into the open? You know very well that your mission on Korbridor was not to participate in a personnel exchange.”
“What else was I to do?” Rykrof asks in a bitter tone. “Getting my wife killed is not what I consider an acceptable option.”
“Even if it meant costing your life? You know the policy of the Republic is to not negotiate with terrorists. And that is exactly what you did on Kobridor,” Palpatine says darkly.
“I’m very sorry for that Chancellor,” Rykrof replies as he looks away. “But I had no choice. It was a field decision and I stand by it.”
“Yes, I’m sure you did what you felt you had to. I hear your wife was not very accommodating in her interrogation after your capture, but what you shared with intelligence has been helpful. While you were in recovery your friend Admiral Gere led a raid of the abandoned facility you were held at on Kobridor. This base was however not one of the stations listed on the data cylinders you brought back months ago from your mission to Dathomir.”
“Well they have more terror cells than any of us thought,” Rykrof says. "I still think it would be best to follow up on the leads we have."
“Rykrof my friend, I know you have your reasons for hating the Badoo Corba as much as anyone. But you will find that the choices we have to make in this war can not always be driven by personal interests. It’s possible you have been through more than any other officer since the onset of the war. You’ve been through so much …just speaking with you has turned into much more than I had anticipated. I should have expected as much, as you’ve become quite the celebrity. But this is not why I wanted to speak with you,” Palpatine says.
“Then why did you call me here?” Rykrof asks.
“I wanted to tell you in person that you are being granted a leave of absence. Go home to Naboo. It’s what you need. You will be notified when I need your assistance.”
"I don't know," Rykrof says. "I am beginning to think I need to be here right now."
"This isn’t a request, Commander. It’s an executive order.” Palpatine says. “Arrangements have already been made for your departure in the morning. Just remember that the time will come when the Republic needs you again. Enjoy your time off."
"Now if you'll excuse me, you are not my only guest.”
As one of Palpatine's admirers enters the room, Rykrof makes his way back to the crowd in the main hall. Although he feels a sense of guilt for being granted an extended leave, he feels the Chancellor is right and is relieved for a true break from the war.
After all, the taste of quality beer can make any man want to head for the mountains of Naboo.
As Rykrof heads back into the gathering, he sees his good friend, Senator Tame Heem of Ithor.
"Rykrof," the mild mannered Ithorian says, "It is so good to see you. I have been praying for your recovery since your escape."
"Happy I'm here," Rykrof says with a grin. "Nothing beats the free life."
"Have you been granted your leave of absence?" Tame asks.
"Actually, more than that. Sounds like I'm inactive for a while. I guess at least until the the Badoo Corba resurface."
In the corner of the room, Senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma listen in on the discussion.
"That's Rykrof Enloe," Mon says. "I've heard very good things about him."
"From what I hear he's the luckiest officer in the Republic," Bail says.
"We should make contact with him," Mon suggests. "To get to know where his true loyalties lie; with the people or with the current leadership."
"I don't think the day he gets out of rehab is the day for it," Bail replies. "But soon."
Meanwhile, Tame Heem and Rykrof continue their conversation.
"When are you departing for Naboo?" Tame asks kindly.
"Tomorrow at 0800 hours, and not a moment too soon!" Rykrof laughs.
Listening in on Rykrof's conversation, the bartender attempts to overhear what is said between the two.
"It's been a long day," Rykrof says as he leaves. "I'll be in touch with you Tame."
"Yes, I understand of course," the gentle Ithorian replies. "Have a safe trip and enjoy your time with Alyssa and Caldin."
The following morning, Rykrof and his Wookiee ally, Ralbarr, prepare to depart as they fare goodbye to their friends Kala Mly Shundi and Freelo.
"Freelo, now you know that if the Republic wants to you to assist on the Rhen Var research project, then you'll end up on that planet in the middle of a war zone," Rykrof laughs.
"Behind the front lines, this scientist hopes," Freelo replies, trying unsuccessfully to hide his fear.
A dark hooded figure then approaches the group.
Worn and tattered, Finis Valorum, former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic stares Rykrof in the eyes.
"Rykrof, I'm embarrased to have to appear this way. But I can't risk being recognized by the wrong people these days. Not Palpatine, not even by most in the military."
"I sense you have great fear in the the direction the Chancellor is leading the Republic," Jedi Master Kala Mly Shundi says. "And with good reason."
“Yes, and I wanted to tell you before you left Rykrof, I am ever grateful that you escaped the Badoo Corba. But beware of Palpatine. I don’t know what he’s telling you but don’t trust him. He’s not your friend,” Valorum says. “He will say and do things to manipulate you, to gain your trust.”
“Lines have been drawn,” Valorum continues. “Separatists on one side, and the Republic on the other. This line is drawn in blood. And Palpatine is very careful to ensure whose blood the line is drawn from… once this war is over, the victor will emerge as a tyrant.”
“We understand your concerns as much as anyone,” Rykrof admits, motioning towards Freelo. “But the Chancellor has ordered for me to take a leave of absence for the time being. There’s not much I can do.”
Suddenly Valorum’s eyes turn cold. “And you know why he’s sending you off, don’t you?”
“Because I need it,” Rykrof answers.
“No, because he needs you out of the picture. You’ve garnered too much attention lately Rykrof.”
“I’m friends with a celebrity,” Freelo says with a smile.
Ignoring the stupid comment by his friend, Rykrof continues.
“Ok… contact me on Naboo on a secure channel,” Rykrof whispers. “We can discuss it then, but now isn’t the time for this.”
“Expect to hear from me soon,” Valorum says as he abruptly walks away.
"Keep your mouth shut when these troops pass by Freelo," Rykrof says.
Rykrof then keeps a close eye to make sure the troops don't follow Valorum.
"Be safe on your trip with Ralbarr," Kala then says. "I will keep a watchful eye on Freelo. He will be safe here on Coruscant."
“Very good. Ok, ready?” Rykrof asks Ralbarr, who replies with a low pitched growl. “We’ll keep in touch my friends. Contact us if anything comes up.”
Soon Rykrof and Ralbarr depart the planet, destined for Naboo.
The following day, several Separatist Battleships encirle the battle torn planet Yeb VI.
Following a decisive victory, General Grievous relishes in adding a fallen Jedi's lightsaber to his growing collection.
But his enjoyment is cut short when informed to contact his master, Count Dooku.
"Count Dooku," Grievous says in a mechanical voice, "The planet is secure. There are no Republic survivors."
"Well done, General. One by one each system the Republic holds in the Outer Rim will soon be under our control," Dooku replies.
"Now, contact General Snodd to prepare for the assassination on Naboo."
"Droid, ready my ship for immediate departure. I will meet with General Snodd myself," he says.
Meanwhile, Rykrof's ship exits hyperspace into the Naboo System...