[Prologue: Anoat, Clone Wars, 19 BBY]
The engines boom and the stars snap into place as the Venator-class Star Destroyer Protector re-enters real space. The whine of the activating sublight engines reverberates through the deck of the ship, adding a constant hum to the clicking of the boots of the rushing clone troopers. The claxon pulses with warning as each man prepares his station for battle.
The ravages of the Clone Wars have descended upon the mining world of Anoat. Seemingly insignificant to galactic politics, this small mining world has now become a territory of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Having learned of the resources to be had amongst the asteroid belt and mines of the Anoat system from the Figg Excavations, the CIS has since conquered the planet and forced the miners to work for them. A battle droid factory has been built in the center of Anoat City; the drilling, both in the field and on the surface, is ceaseless. Noxious fumes have polluted the air, rendering the atmosphere virtual un-breathable, save for the use of a breathmask.
“Why do the Clankers want this place, sir? The resources don’t seem worth the trouble.”
The Clone Commander stood at rugged attention; his white armor, polished and shining in the light of the systems main star, was adorned with blue streaks, marking him as a member of the 501st Legion. The man he addressed was draped in the dark brown robes of the Jedi Order and stood staring pensively out the front view port, stroking his stubbly face.
“Well Commander Course, have you seen all those asteroids? That generally equates to metal, which leads to droids.” The man drew back the hood he had been wearing to reveal an equal amount of brown stubble on his head. He was taller than the trooper next to him, belonged to a fair complexion, and possessed penetrating blue eyes the color of a frosty sea. His skin looked like tanned leather pulled across his face, evidence and the years he spent in the war. Though the Clone Wars had only raged for a short while, they had their toll on the Galaxy, and those who sought to defend it.
The helmeted head of Clone Commander Course swiveled to look at the Jedi and replied, “Please excuse me General Solari, I did not mean to second guess orders sir," with marked curtness. It was obvious he felt the resources that would be used to fulfill their objectives would be wasted.
The General waived a hand of dismissal in the Commander’s direction. “Neither of us likes this assignment. Too many troops will die for nothing but a bit of scrap, as far as I’m concerned. But, orders are orders; if the Seps want this pile of scrag, it means we can’t let them have it.” The General exhaled a resolved sigh, and, rubbing his prematurely graying temples, turned to observe the holographic projection of Anoat City.
As he stared at the blue lines representing the city’s center, Jedi Master Marcus Solari thought about the tithes of war. The lives lost, not just those of clones and Jedi, but of the galactic citizenry. Too much has been sacrificed in this war, he thought, the younglings and padawans shouldn’t have had to deal with the war. He reached out in the Force to tap the presence of his apprentice and smiled. The young boy was at peace, and in deep sleep. Master Solaris chuckled, a slight grin touching the corners of his mouth. If I’d have stayed in bed that long, my Master would’ve drug me out by my toes and forced me to run ten miles. His grin faded as his thoughts went back to his old Master; he was part of the one-hundred and twenty-seven Jedi to fall at the battle of Geonosis at the start of the Clone Wars. He had been a valiant Jedi; Jedi Master Sta-Den Eekin. The Klatooinian had been a harsh but caring man, quick to reprimand, and equally as quick to laugh and show his love for others. Marcus missed him dearly. He had not been at Geonosis with his master the day he fell. A deep sinking feeling had thrown Marcus from his sleep the day before the battle. He had tried to tell his Master, to warn him of some coming danger, the encroaching darkness, to make him promise to stay at the temple. His Master simply smiled at him with those deep and caring eyes, which filled with sorrow as spoke of how he must obey the will of the Force; Marcus knew the conversation was over. When the call came down from Mace Windu the next day for the Jedi to gather at Geonosis, Master Eekin looked on Marcus with piteous eyes and allowed him to stay at the temple.
When the news came back of the casualties and those missing after the battle, Marcus wasn’t surprised to see his Master’s name on the list; but the sorrow still hit him in the gut harder than anything he’d yet experienced. It was like a hole had opened in his heart. Master Eekin was the only parent Marcus had ever known, he’d shared with his master all his hopes and dreams of the future, and his Master had always listened. And now he was gone. What had happened? Where was the “Chosen One” in all of this? The “Chosen One”, he scoffed at the thought. Some prophecy, all these long years and the darkness still spreads, he hasn’t balanced anything. He may be powerful, but he’s so kriffing arrogant. So much so, in fact, he wasn’t even knighted until long after those of his age, he grit his teeth, and now I’m his subordinate…He shook his head to clear his mind. He had more important things to worry about at the moment; Anakin Skywalker was the least of his worries.
“Commander Course! Launch Torrent squads Alpha, Gamma, Theta, Tau, and Chi. Have them clear the path for our landing craft, and tell them to watch out for stray asteroids!”
“Sir, yes sir!”
“The bridge is yours Course. I want regular status updates.” If nothing else, the clones are efficient. It’s time to go wake Garyth, he’s going to want to see this.
The battle to reclaim the Anoat system had begun.