"I am with the Force. And my path will not find its way with yours, perhaps not ever again." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi
"You cannot be serious!"
Mace Windu’s eruption rang off the walls of Chancellor Palpatine’s inner office and jarred the sensibilites of Palpatine’s chief administrative Kaj Defino who had apparently been nearly dozing off his in his chair while the Republic’s supreme force commander Admiral Tarkin asked for questions regarding his plan to attack Tyrannus’ stronghold planet of Ponscii, recently discovered by a wayward trade ship on its way around a supernova near Ord Mantell.
Palpatine and Tarkin traded a glance and the Supreme Chancellor cut his eyes at the gaunt, younger military man. Palpatine swiveled on his large, high-backed chair toward the dark-skinned Jedi Master.
"A concern, Master Windu?"
Windu met Palpatine’s nonchalant look with rage beneath his solem expression. "This is your master plan, Chancellor? Piling the most powerful of our kind onto a small transport where a single stray turbolaser might allow Tyranus to wipe out the rest of our Council? Have you gone mad?"
This time, Tarkin did speak up, before Palpatine could glaze another honey-coated comment toward the present Jedi masters -- Windu, diminutive Yoda, the fearsome Plo Koon and the always-thoughtful Ki Adi Mundi.
"It is precisely the sort of plan that will work against our opponent, " Tarkin said with conviction. "If a fleet of clone troopers and Jedi fighters breaks hyperspace anywhere near Ponscii, do you think for a moment that Tyrannus will not flee immediately? An opponent of his caliber must be outthought, not outgunned."
Anakin Skywalker spoke up for the first time in the 90 minutes the meeting had transpired, a miracle for those who knew his hot-headed way with words.
"Admiral Tarkin is exactly right. Tyrannus has confounded us thus far because he knows how we think and what strategies we will employ. He knows us too well because he once was one of us. If we do the unexpected, we can defeat him."
Yoda smiled gently at the bold statement Skywalker made, "So certain are you, young one? So knowledgable of the Force and its eddies and whirlpools at such a young age? Will you never learn from your mistakes?"
Anakin cringed at the harshness of Yoda’s words, partially because he was surrounded by men he hoped would or did respect him, partially because he had heard the same questions asked in his own mind when he took the time to meditate on the Force.
"I’ve not shied away from my errors, Master," he said slowly, "But I cannot sit here and debate while others fall and die in the face of a Sith who can only be defeated by Jedi Knights. We all know that this is the Jedis’ fight, and we must strike now, while we still have the upper hand!"
From his seat near Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi took a deep breath and sighed as he met his apprentice’s heated glance.
"For all your potential Anakin, for all you good will, you still have not learned your role as a protector. I fear this course of action will be your undoing. Confronting Tyrannus again with such huge stakes can only be bad for your relationship with the Force."
Palpatine interrupted the personal debate with another sweeping gesture toward the Jedi.
"Might I remind you all that the Jedi Council agreed to take part in any approved military action as support for our troops. I believe this falls into that category so while your concerns are dually noted, they are overruled by the senatorial committe of wartime activities."
"Not quite, Chancellor, I for one object whole-heartedly," came a new voice from the room’s doorway. Sen. Bail Organa stood there, with his aide, a determined look on his face.
"So good of you to join us, Senator Organa," Palpatine demurred in the newcomer’s direction. "I was afraid my message might not reach you in time."
"You know damn well that message was delayed, Palpatine, just as several others have been when crucial votes have been taken. I cannot believe this battle plan has made it as far as the High Council, it’s foolish, you’re sending our most powerful weapon straight into the enemy’s clutches!"
"Ever the dramatist, Bail," Palpatine shot back, "But your lone vote isn’t enough I’m afraid, Governor Defino has cast his vote for the battle plan, as have I, late as you may be, you are not in time to defeat us."
With Organa silenced, Palpatine turned back to the Jedi, to note that Yoda and Windu had been deep in discussion the entire time.
"The plan will proceed accordingly as drawn up by Admiral Tarkin then, you of course, will be given the opportunity to handpick your selections of a strike force, but we would like Jedi Skywalker in place as the commander, it will look very good for the public to see a bright young hero for a change."
Yoda focused his eyes on Palpatine and it was the Chancellor who broke gazes first this time.
"Ill-conceived and hurried this course of action is. Proceed it may, but without my assistance," the diminutive Master stood and turned his back on the Chancellor and his bureaucrats.
A stunned Palpatine flitted his gaze to Windu, who had stood up as well.
"We both resign effective immediately from the Jedi Council. We will not be a part of this potential slaughter so you might look good for your political relationships."
Ki Adi Mundi took a long glance at the disenfranchised pair, then nodded to Palpatine.
"The Chancellor has my support, but only until the Dark Lord is unseated, then I will ask for full reinstatement of Masters Windu and Yoda."
Koon moved beside Adi Mundi without making a sound. The large alien with the breath mask was a warrior, perhaps the finest in pure combat among all Jedi. The opportunity to speak throught his lightsaber was again close at hand, and he would seize it.
Anakin was already standing near Palpatine’s chair as Windu and Yoda distanced themselves, and it was he who now stared at Obi-Wan Kenobi as the bearded man sat with a blank stare, seemingly gazing through the wall as if searching the outside world for the answers he sought.
Palpatine broke the silence.
"Well, Master Kenobi? You are either with us or you are against us."
For a long moment, Obi-Wan remained silent, and although his words were addressed at Palpatine, his eyes locked with those of Anakin again.
"I am with the Force. And my path will not find its way with yours, perhaps not ever again."
With that, Obi-Wan fell into line behind his two most cherished teachers, and they filed wordlessly out of the Chancellor’s chambers. It surprised no one there, when Bail Organa, still standing by the doorway, followed them out.