Disturbing Discovery

by Bernadette Crumb

Time: Now
Location: Palpatine's secret clone lab

Dr. Thalia Padi's desk looked uncharacteristically messy. Files and 
printouts of inventories, and power drain readouts were scattered about 
with several datatapes. The graph on the computer screen held her 
attention, the lines spreading further than they should. The sixty-seven 
year old woman looked up from her computer screen, an expression of anger 
on her normally serene face. "The Emperor needs to know about this," she 
Padi set up the seldom-used direct communications holo transmitter and 
composed herself before it. She keyed in a code that she'd only used three 
times before in her decades as manager of Palpatine's personal clone lab. 
True, various Sith had been placed in overall charge through the years, but 
she, a student of the original clone masters and sworn to utter fealty to 
the Emperor, was the one who kept it running on a day-to-day basis when the 
Sith Princess was otherwise occupied.

It took several minutes for the encoded comm request to make its way to its 
destination, and when the green light showing the connection was complete 
flashed, she took a deep breath.

An oversized holo of Palpatine's hooded face covered the area in front of 
her desk, obscuring the surveillance viewscreen that allowed her to 
supervise her staff's maintenance activities without their knowledge. She 
bowed deeply, rising only when bidden to do so.

"Dr. Padi. What is so serious that you send me a rare direct 
communication?" he snapped.

The dark-skinned woman replied, "Sire, even on this encrypted, secret 
transmission, it is not something I feel safe about divulging. However, I 
believe the security of your primary clone may have been compromised."
"I will come at once. No one is to leave the lab for any reason and _no 
one_ is allowed entry until I arrive. _No one_. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, your majesty." She bowed again. "I would not disturb you if I did not 
feel it was a true threat."

"I know that, Doctor. But you had better have your proofs ready for me."
Without a parting salutation, Palpatine closed the connection, momentarily 
filling the room with static until Padi turned off the transmitter on her 
end. Pausing briefly to run a thin manicured hand over the surface of the 
sparti cylinder that rested against the wall behind her, she turned back to 
the documents and files on her desk and began to go through them again. She 
shook her neatly coiffed gray head as suspicions ran through her mind. *It 
couldn't be^. Could it?*

(To be continued)

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