Chapter Twenty-Two -- Master

"That lesson never did you learn, now, your undoing it is" -- Yoda

In their intial Force battle in the swamp, Yoda had found Dooku stronger than before, but still not a master of the Force. While he knew his former pupil was eager to test his skills against his former Master and that his taste for blood for Obi-Wan was formidable, Yoda could also sense the lack of total concentration on Dookuís part.

He was madly driven to acquire the newborn Jedi child, and that could be used against him. Trusting in the Forceís power to heal his body, Yoda allowed Dooku to blast him time and again across the battlefield, taking a huge risk in strategy by allowing the Count to move ever closer to his young prize.

As the shadow passed over Tyrannusí head, he glanced up, angrily so, guessing it to be some large avian creature passing over, and his heart caught in his throat. His assault shuttle, that which had brought him and the two dozen clonetroopers down the planetís surface was hovering above him, except that it was clearly not flying and he knew that all the troops were dead.

For a heartbeat, he glanced at Yoda and came to the horrifying truth as his former Master released his command of the shuttle and it dropped like a boulder on top of the Sith Lord.

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For all his exertion from the battle, Tyrannus dropped prone on his back and raised his hands up, "catching" the shuttle with the Force a bare four feet above his body.

He lay there, hands trembling, unable to move out of the way lest he lose his concentration on that which threatend to crush him now.

He heard a scuffle of feet and Yodaís wizened head appeared over him, looking down in pity and remorse at his fallen student.

"How?" Tyrannus spat out. "How could you do this? I bested you ..... I defeated you!"

Yoda shook his head slowly, staring intently down at the white-haired human.

"Ambition, always your weak point, Dooku. Inability to see past your own blindness. Your belief that the Force is your weapon, wrong it is. An ally, a teacher, a champion, a healer it is.. That lesson never did you learn, now, your undoing it is. "

Yoda showed the Count his arms and hands, previously charred by the Sith Lordís lightning blasts, now nearly completely healed.

"The Force is not within you, my student," Yoda solemnly continued. "Within the Force, are we."

Tyrannus was amazed by what he saw, he thought Yoda on the verge of death mere minutes before. Now, the diminutive Master seemed as young as the day Dooku had entered the Temple nearly six decades ago.

As he tried to comprehend Yodaís words, his concentration slipped and the great weight of the shutle dropped down another foot. "You canít be that strong," Tyrannus spat out. "Itís impossible, only the dark side offers true power. I donít believe i---"

As his mind reeled in the thought of the light side of the Force being that capable, his concentration slipped for the final time. The full impact of the shuttle dropped the final two feet, crushing Tyrannusí body and killing him instantly.

Yoda leapt backward onto a low-hanging tree branch as the dark side energy in Dooku crackled and sizzled, eating away at the Countís body in a grim parody of the Force-created lightning he had earlier used against Yoda.

The energy soon disappeared into the air, becoming one again with the Force as Yoda watched.

"That is why, I will always be your Master, Dooku." he whispered.

Already weary of the battle, Yoda had just drawn in a long breath when he felt Obi-Wanís panic from the atmosphere above. Feeling his studentís desperation as the forces of Dooku exerted their tractor beams on the starfighter, Yoda lost himself in the Force again, opening up his entire being to it, seizing hold of it to grant him the power to save the student , and the young one who was one half the key to the galaxyís future.

Yoda extended his hands again and the shuttle groaned and creaked, suddenly hurling straight upwards.

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While he had not been able to signal his Lord on the private comlink channel, General Arynn Barlion could barely contain his excitement at having captured the Jedi starfighter as it tried to rocket away from the planet which his navigation chief had identified as Dagobah from an Old Republic exploratory database.

The starfighter now hung helplessly in the grip of two of the Dominanceís six tractor beams, and was being reeled in carefully, lest the Jedi pilot open fire or try some other ridiculous tactic to evade them.

Thoughts of promotion, vacation or even a spot aboard one of the Emperorís new class of capital ships rose unbidden into Barlionís mind when one of the flight deck officers signalled him and called out.

"Sir, we have an unknown object rising from the surface of the planet!"

Barlion kept his cool, nothing could interfere with the capture of the Jedi now.

"On screen, corporal."

The monitors flickered to life aboard the Dominanceís bridge to show the assault shuttle rising rapidly through the atmosphereís clouds.

Barlion smirked at the screen.

"I know youíve been on board for a short time only, Corporal Gadsen, but please try to remember what our own craft look like."

The jab received a round of stifled laughter at Gadsenís expense from the officers on the bridge, but the young navigator continued.

"Sir, I recognize the craft. However, it is neither occupied nor moving under its own power. It is rising toward us at approximately four times its known maximum velocity."

A murmur of concern rumbled across the bridge now, and Barlion moved to read the monitors over the corporalís shoulder. He stared at the shuttle as it rose, then turned to his second-in-command.

"Lieutenant, attempt to contact Lord Tyrannus again. If you do not hail him, activate our deflector shields and power up lasers."

As the lieutenant turned to dispense these orders, Gadsenís voice went shrill in Barlionís ears.

"Sir, the shuttleís speed has tripled in the last 15 seconds, itís going to hit us!"

Even as Barlion opened his mouth to respond, the bridgeís deck exploded as Tyrannusí shuttle collided with the Dominance like a meteor.

The shuttle ruptured on impact, but not before continuing on through the roof of the bridge, exposing both the command crew and vital computer components to the vaccuum of space.

The Dominance listed badly on its side, completely out of control. In the Jedi starfighter, Obi-Wan once again had control of his ship, and he didnít look back, wheeling the ship around and punching in the only hyperspace coordinates he could think of at the moment.

As the starlines blurred in front of him, Obi-Wan allowed himself a slight smile. He had underestimated his Masterís abilities, he could only hope the Sith had done the same.

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Back on Dagobahís surface, Yoda cringed in pain as he felt the Dominance explode in chain reaction of fire and death.

Most on board the ship were clones, but there were some individual beings there, and their deaths now all tainted his actions.

As he felt Obi-Wan and Lukeís presence wink out across the stars, Yoda collapsed to the ground, too weak even to call the Force to help him stand. He had turned his body into a fountain, through which the Force had flown like a raging river, driving the shuttle out of the planetís gravity and through the ship above that threatend to snuff out the future of the Jedi.

After a long time, Yoda opened his eyes again to find night had fallen and passed and morning had come to the dimly-lit swampland. He could feel the planetís creatures through the Force, its plants and trees and birds and fish and land dwellers.

But through the creature and plants, he felt the pain. The pain infilcted by his battle with Dooku on the landscape, the plants crushed by the landing of both Obi-Wan and Dookuís ships, the animals haphazardly killed by the clonetroopers as they searched for the Jedi in the swamp, all the ecosystems that had been disrupted by the presence of both Jedi and Sith.

Yoda did not know if he could save the galaxy from itself, but he knew he could fix the damage done here. The weakened Jedi Master closed his eyes again and slept, only to awaken wide-eyed an hour later.

He saw a vision of blackness, death and hatred. Even though he had seen the death of a Sith Lord by his own hands a day before, Yoda knew that the evil order was not extinct. He closed his eyes to mediate on the subject, and slowly began to realize the awful, hidden truth.