"We cannot continue to be manipulated by this self-serving Oligarchy!" Count Dooku of Serenno declared, "Nearly 8 years ago, the Galactic Senate, in a selfish attempt to squeeze the outer rim dry, voted into law a tax on the Free Trade Zones! Do you see the contradiction?" The audience roared in frustration and agreement. The Count continued, "Ever since that atrocious law was passed, and the Trade Federation's attempt to protest failed, the senate has sought to limit corporate control along major hyperspace routes, thereby preventing the commerce exchange that many worlds are dependent on. If the senate continues this agenda, those worlds will end up in poverty; a lot of them are not capable of sustaining enough resources on their own with their heavy populations, and they are dependent on corporations like the Trade Federation and Techno Union, who provide these worlds with the basic needs they cannot satisfy on their own. The Republic is failing, and the only way to save the mega-corporations and their client planets is to withdraw from this corrupt system." The crowd roared with satisfaction and support as the Count continued, "We'll create our own system, our own government; a Confederacy of Independent Systems!" Count Dooku was a former Jedi and associate of the late Hego Damask, who began a motion within the senate to withdraw Corporations like the Trade Federation, Commerce Guild, Techno Union, Corporate Alliance and Banking Clan, as well as sub-companies like SoroSuub, Bactoid Armor, Haor Chall, and Gowen Planetary Advancement, and all of their home and client worlds, and form an independent government. Halna's mother Callista, had already withdrawn Celanon from the Senate, and Argo reached out to GPA's client worlds; Celanon was a close neighbor of Serenno, and an invaluable ally. The family watched the rally on Coruscant from their mansion on Celanon via the CIS Shadowfeed, a new newsfeed created by the Commerce Guild for the CIS. "He knows what he's talking about, that man." Argo said, "Who better to lead a new government than someone who was once a Jedi?" Callista sounded nervous when she responded, "A former Jedi; who knows what's changed about him; it might be a turn for the worst. I've heard some awful stories about Jedi who used their powers to sow terror and chaos." "You needn't worry about that honey," Argo said soothingly, "Count Dooku is a people's person; he cares about us, and knows that the only way for us to leave the oppressive Republic is through unification." Callista still sounded nervous, "Well I hope it's a peaceful transition." Halna was listening in on the conversation, and found his opportunity to say something he's been wanting to say for a while, "Well Count Dooku is preparing for the possibility of a war; he's ordering the construction of a droid army, and is recruiting beings to become commanders. Captain Bonteri signed up, and I was wondering if I could too." Both Argo and Callista looked at him with mild surprise, then each other, then back at him. After a few moments of thinking, Argo was the first to answer, "Well you still have to finish your semester at the university, but I suppose you can sign up." "Wait a minute!" Callista interrupted, then looked to Halna with a worried look, "Halna, are you certain this is what you want to do? I mean it's great that you want to help our new government, but if war breaks out, you- you could get killed, and," she started hyperventilating, "we would-" "mom," "we would miss you, and" "Mom." "you're so sweet and kind and brave and-" "MOM!" Callista paused. "99% of the army will be droids," Halna explained, "I'll have plenty of protection; they're mindless droids which will take orders without question." Callista still looked worried, "But what about your education?" "Oh he'll be fine dear," Argo said soothingly, "There's no better teacher than experience. Besides, the Ruusan Reformations prevent the Republic from building an army; there likely won't be a war." Callista looked like she discovered a great treasure, "Yes! Your father makes a good point Halna; why waste your education if there won't be a war?" "Just because the senate can't order the creation of an army," Halna responded, "doesn't mean that the Jedi will willingly surrender to us; they're not the peacekeepers of the past; they're puppets of the Republic-" Argo interrupted, "Alright! Alright! You made your case." he sighed, "I'll tell you what; I'll let you submit your application for recruitment, but I want you to work extra hard on your studies." Halna's face lifted up, "Sweet! Thanks dad, and mom," Callista looked up, "I'll be fine." Halna then walked out into the garden. "Oh it's almost as if he's going right now" Callista said with sadness. Halna was very excited; he was going to fight against the Republic, but, his mother's dismayed look came into his mind. He made a silent vow to himself; no matter what happens, he would survive... for his parents.
2 Months Later, 23 BBY
The Munificent-Class Frigate dropped out of hyperspace above Geonosis. Halna looked out the window at the dusty, orange, ringed world, and saw two Xi Charrian droid starfighters approaching the ship. As they passed, an announcement came on, "We have been cleared for atmospheric entry. Please proceed to the shuttle." As he made his way to the hangar, Halna thought of how he got here; he completed his semester at Celanon University with flying colors, and a lot of his professors were disappointed he dropped out. When the frigate arrived in Celanon orbit, he was surprised to find that Proddo and his brother Pors signed up as well. They sat together en route, and were discussing politics and the potential of war; almost everyone on board agreed that if war were to break out, the droid forces will quickly overcome the Jedi, and the Republic would agree to their terms. "I wonder who our mentor is going to be." Proddo said excitedly. Halna, with like-minded excitement, responded, "I heard that the headmaster is a Chiss!" "That's unlikely Halna." Pors said arrogantly, "The Chiss keep to themselves; they wouldn't want anything to do with us."
Sev'rance Tann was waiting expectantly for the new arrivals. As a Chiss and an apprentice of the Sith, she was ruthless and objective; she saw the new commanders as little more than extra-valuable droids, but she was hoping some would prove her wrong. Her Tactical Droid, T1-87, walked up to her and reported, "General Tann, a shuttle has broken the perimeter; scans show it's a sheathipede-class." She looked at the droid, "Did they transmit a code clearance?" "Affirmative," the droid replied, "it checks out." "Direct that shuttle to landing tube 18" she ordered. "Yes Ma'am" the droid said as it walked away.
The shuttle flew into a tube in the side of a mountain, and landed on a docking pad at the end. Sev'rance assembled the rest of the cadets to welcome the new arrivals, ordering them to stand in a wall, creating a path in which she stood. The shuttle's landing ramp extended, and disembarked a group of ten young men and women of diverse species; several Neimoidians, Aqualish, two Muuns and a human. At the sight of the human, Tann's red eyes seemed to light up; there was only one other human, a promising cadet named Bonteri. Sev'rance Tann saw humans as superior to the rest of the member aliens of the CIS; they bared the most semblance to the Chiss; Neimoidians were too fearful and Muuns were to acquisitive. "Cadets, Attention!" she called. The cadets looked to their headmaster. "Welcome to Geonosis. Here at the Confederate Officer Academy, we're preparing for the potential of war against the Republic." walking towards them, she continued, "The droid army is a force to be reckoned with, but with out adequate officers, admirals or generals, it is an incompetent rabble of machines. Keep in mind, you will not be trained as soldiers, but as commanders. I will be training you in how to lead droids into battle, how to execute Chiss battle tactics, and how to deal with Jedi." The new arrivals gasped with shock as she drew her red-bladed lightsaber. "Don't worry; I'm not a Jedi, but I can use the force, and I know how to counter the Jedi and their abilities. You shall be using test battle droids against me during training sessions, and I will train any who are willing in fencing, should you ever encounter a Jedi. I won't be the only teacher; Admiral Trench is the academy's tactical teacher; he will teach you the basics of battle tactics." she started assessing each person. "To be honest, this is the last place I want to be; creating battle commanders from incompetent bankers, merchants and cruiser pilots." she spoke with distaste, and was delighted to see some faces tense with determination and a desire to prove they weren't incompetent. She continued, "I'd rather be assassinating Jedi, but Count Dooku ordered me here to supervise your training, so that's what I'm going to do." "You will have quarters ready; T1-87 will show you where to go." she concluded. She started to walk away. "Oh by the way," she added, "I'll have favorites." Then T1-87 walked up and asked for names. When a name was called, the droid assigned a battle droid to show them to their quarters.
The Next Day
Admiral Trench surveyed the group of new cadets, focusing each eye on a cadet simultaneously. His pincers clicked as he began the lesson, "The Judicial Forces of the Republic is a measley defense force; a pitiful excuse for a fleet meant to protect the interests of the common-folk. But with the Jedi, they can be a serious threat to the Confederacy. While few in number, the Judicial Forces officers are some of the best strategists in the Galaxy. Though you're learning from the corporate fleet commander who blockaded Malastare-Narrows and successfully repelled a Judicial Forces squadron, and survived an attack from the Jedi. It is possible to beat them." With that, he started to run a simulation of 5 Republic Corvettes going against 5 Confederate Frigates. He demonstrated bombing runs, strafes, and even a properly performed Marg Sabl maneuver. Halna paid attention thoroughly, and began running his own simulations in his mind. He found it easy to understand; he thought then, that he would succeed.
1 Year Later
The eight droids followed Halna over a light-orange foothill. The visibility was limited due to a recently dissipated sandstorm, and the sun barely shined through. For this battlefield practice course, Halna and the battle droids were escorting a GNK Power Droid to a checkpoint. His goal was to get the gonk droid to the checkpoint without losing more than half his battle droids. The checkpoint was over 4 kilometers away from the starting point, and each step of the way, he and his droids had to get through an entire battalion. All of the droids were modified for training; they fired light, ionized particle bolts that deactivated other droids and brought severe yet non-lethal pain to organics hit by them. The explosives were also stun grenades. The gonk droid walked at a speed of 2 kph, meaning that if not interrupted, it would take 2 hours to complete the mission. None of the battle droids could carry the gonk, even if working together, so they were forced to walk at a slow pace to protect the droid. As Halna scanned the view from the top of the hill, and found the red light that indicated the checkpoint, the gonk droid marched up, uttering "gonk" to indicate its presence, then continued walking. Halna scanned the area for enemy droids, then turned to his second in command. "We're almost to the finish line. Set protective position 9823 around the power droid" he ordered. The droid's reply was quick, "Roger Roger" It then waved the other 7 droids forward, and they formed a circle and scanned the area; 5 droids were holding E-11 blaster rifles, 2 pulse cannon sniper rifles, and the last one was holding an ion neutralizer, a lighter form of the illegal disruptor rifles. Halna originally started with ten battle droids, but he lost one to blaster fire, and sacrificed another as a diversion "Enemy units approaching at 10 o'clock!" A droid called out. Halna looked to confirm, and saw 10 Super Battle march in. Designed by the Techno Union and Bactoid Armor, these droids were advanced versions of the B1s, with heavier armor and greater firepower, but they were slow, and had limited range. "OM-11, acquire target." Halna said to the droid with the neutralizer. The droid lifted the rifle put it's scope up to it's "eye". As the B2 droids were extending their blaster arms, OM-11 fired. The blue particle bolt deactivated 5 battle droids. The deactivated droids fell on the ones behind them, causing them to stumble and get quickly cut down by Halna's droids. Halna then lead the squadron down the hill. They were about 50 meters away when he heard a blaster shot, and saw OM-11 fall to the ground; a squad of B1s came up behind them. "Return fire! Cover the power droid!" Halna yelled as he drew his blaster. The droids intentionally aimed near but not directly at their target, so as to trick cadets; Halna was quicker than others to figure this out, and he downed 2 enemy droids while his sniper units picked off the rest. The last one threw an ion grenade before it was gunned down. "Droid Popper! Get Clear!" The battle droids ran to the power droid to escape the electrical blast. The battle droids managed to escape, but Halna's right foot was touched, coursing electricity through him. He screamed in pain, and fell to his knees as it died down. Breathing heavily, he tried to move his foot; it wouldn't respond. This would cause him to lose training points, but all that really mattered was that the power droid got to the checkpoint, which lit green as soon as the droid arrived. He'd done this battlefield practice multiple times before. As he limped to where the speeder would pick him up, he thought about his time at the Confederate Academy; he was sick of Geonosis; it was hot and dusty, and he lived in a Geonosian hive that served as the academy's dormitories. Every night, he heard the flapping of wings and clatter of claws from the locals. The courses were also starting to get boring. Sure, he learned a lot, but it was all just becoming practice now. He also gained some weight, despite his success in field command training; thinking about battle tactics and strategies left little room for physical training. The only respite from the daily buzz was the simulator and field command practice. The Simulator was a featureless room lined with holoprojectors; it was designed to simulate flying a starfighter or running the bridge of a space cruiser. Interactive computation droids aided in the experience, making it as practical as it was surreal. A cadet could get any angle of the battle he or she wanted. Pors was a master with the Simulator, being praised by Admiral Trench, who is very difficult to please. There was talk among the cadets that if war broke out, Pors would be promoted directly to admiral. Halna himself was hoping that he would at least become a captain; he wasn't even the second best. He frequently made mistakes in strategy, but he excelled in field command; a war game that required commanders to guide a squad of training battle droids through an outdoor course and fight other training droids; he took blaster lessons unlike a lot of the other cadets, and where Pors was the master of the simulator, Halna was the most prepared for a battlefield. But he knew blasters would not be enough to stop a Jedi, so at the end of a battle command class, General Tann made her usual reminder that positions for lightsaber combat were open. This time, Halna chose to sign up. He walked up to the General. "General Tann." Halna called out. The Chiss's red eyes turned towards him; they seemed to see right through him. She looked expectant, "Yes?" Halna composed himself, "I would like to sign up for the lightsaber combat course." Halna was shocked to see mild surprise on the General's blue face, "You're the first student to ask. I thought Bonteri would've been interested, but clearly not. What's your name Cadet?" "Halna Gowen", he replied quickly. "Oh yes. I remember that name. You beat the Republic battlegroup, but lost over 70% of your forces; you're awfully liberal when it comes to sacrificing forces." she said coolly. Halna looked disappointed, but he was determined to press the subject, "But I only lost one battle droid in the extraction run; you know how hard that run is." Tann interrupted, "I'm well aware, but a good commander needs to be well versed in strategy as well as combat. So complete a level 11, variable 38 battle simulation with more than 70% of your forces surviving, and then, I may be inclined to teach you." Halna remembered that simulation; 10 republic corvettes and over 20 Jedi Starfighters, and he looked even more disappointed, but he chose to accept the General's terms; better than nothing.