Chapter Twenty-Seven -- Hatred

"Your Jedi insights fail you even at your end, Master Windu." -- Darth Vader

As the Emperor had told him during his recovery, Anakin Skywalker was dead. Vader felt confident in his control over the man he had once been, but that did not prevent memories and images from occasionally surfacing in his mind as one did now.

It had been right here in this chamber during the height of the Jedisí power. He had stood here before the the esteemed Council and watched them pass judgement on his fate.

He had been a boy then, precocious true, with his racing ability, his technological know-how and his knowledge of how to survive on the seedy streets of Mos Espa, but still a child, months short of his 10th birthday.

In the two days before his six-hour trial, test and interview at the hands of the Jedi, Anakin had seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and an array of new experiences in between.

He had won the Boonta Eve pod race, coming from behind to upset Sebulba over the final mile, an event that was still talked about on Tatooine when he had returned a decade later. He had met Padme, the Queen disguised as a handmaiden who would become the love of his previous life. He had met the powerful Qui-Gon Jinn, the only Jedi to ever truly believe in him.

He had been forced to leave his mother behind to pursue his dream of becoming a Jedi, and he wanted to stay as near to Padme and the Jedi as much as possible.

So he travelled in their starship, after watching Qui-Gon narrowly escape the first time from the Sith Lord outside Mos Espa. He had made friends with the Gungan Jar Jar Binks, and with R2D2, but most of the others had been too busy to spend more than a few moments of idle chatter with him.

On Coruscant, he had felt like a tag-along, ushered from one place to another by Padmeís Nubian head of security, until Qui-Gon had come to take him to his test at the Jedi Temple.

For the better part of the day, the High Masters had quizzed him and examined him, seeking out his weak points and strengths. He had aced their tests like no other before him, Qui-Gon would later tell him on their way back to Naboo, but when the Jedi Masters had poked and prodded into his psyche, questioning his committment and his attatchment to his mother, Anakin had gotten angry. Could they not understand his bond with her? And to have broken that bond just two days before, how could he expect to have transformed into a cold, unfeeling soul so fast?

So he stood there, in front of them all, with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan behind him, as Ki Adi Mundi admitted the Force was strong in him, only to have Mace Windu, the same man he had just bested, lean casually back in his chair and deny Anakin the right to train as a Jedi.

He remembered his sizzling anger at the Jedi, he had given what he thought a withering glare at Windu, but the dark-skinned Jedi had not even seen it, he had been staring the whole time at Qui-Gon, whose outburst had given Anakin faint hope that he might still become a Jedi.

Even Obi-Wan, after a fashion, had come to his aid, although Anakin had heard him argue with Qui-Gon about Anakinís age. But what Vader remembered most of all was Windu and the other Masters casually leaning back in their regal chairs, high in their temple overlooking the Galaxy, deciding the fate of a boyís life, crushing his only dream as if he were a tiny insect underfoot.

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Mace Winduís hand was alive with fiery pain, his mind racing to find an escape and still haunted with Vaderís foresight for his every move. Windu had one of the most carefully-trained minds in the galaxy, reading his thoughts was nearly impossible, even to a Master like Yoda.

He still felt he knew this creature towering over him, if only he could concentrate, but now Vader spoke again and all of Winduís questions were answered.

"Now you know what it feels like to be weak and innocent and unable to control your own fate, Master Windu." Vaderís voice was deep, mocking and full of hatred.

"Who ae you? How do I know you?"

"Your Jedi insights fail you even at your end, Master Windu. Thirteen years ago I stood here, as you passed judgment on me, took away my future without a momentís thought.And even though I became a Jedi, never once could you recognize my greatness, Never once could you admit your mistake. Now I am the Master, and your mistakes have torn the galaxy asunder."

Finally the recognition came to Winduís features, and his mind raced. He had been right about this being a former student, but he had overlooked the one who was more powerful and potent than them all. The one Qui-Gon Jinn proclaimed would bring balance to the force.

Somehow, Anakin Skywalker had survived his fall into the power plantís liquid core. Somehow, he had been rescued, rebuilt and reborn as this black apparition of evil.

"Anakin, I recognize your signature in the Force. Who did this to you? You do not have to serve your Master any more, we can bring you bac..."

At the mention of his former name, Vader trembled with rage. Master Windu had always called him Jedi Skywalker or Obi-Wanís Padawan, perhaps as a slight to the circumstances under which his training began, he had never known for sure. Now the Jedi dared to use that name to attempt to save his own life. Vader would not allow such an indiscretion to carry on.

He pointed his lightsaber straight down, falling to his knees as he brought the blade down into Winduís chest, choking off the Masterís words and piercing his heart with the white-hot crimson energy blade.

Winduís body tensed in trauma-shock, then relaxed and went limp.

Vader pulled his blade out.

"Anakin Skywalker is dead. There is only the dark side."

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Despite the dire situation his mind told him lay ahead, Obi-Wan could not help smiling at his current situation -- Anakin would have been proud.

Dropping all pretenses of subterfuge and caution when he had felt Master Windu in conflict with the dark side, Obi-Wan had stolen a swoop bike from outside the spaceport and was now rocketing more than 300 miles per hour toward the Jedi Temple, swerving recklessly to avoid other ships, advertising structures and the superscrapers of the top level of Coruscant.

His concentration was wholly on Winduís lifeforce, and it was weakening as he arrived outside the Temple and burst through its main doors. Shoving the front doors apart, he sprinted inside and stuttered to a halt.

In focusing so greatly on Winduís battle with the unknown Sith Lord, he had been lax to probe the Temple for others. Now, he had found them.

More than 100 of the Emperorís new stormtroopers, the improved version of the clonetrooper were waiting for him inside the Templeís main lobby with weapons drawn. He pulled his lightsaber out with lightning quick reflexes, preparing to wade his way through them, despite the overwhelming odds.

The closest troopers opened fire as he ignited his blade to block their shots, but they were still a step ahead of him. Emitting from the laser rifles were not green or red bursts of fire, but blue waves of stunning energy.

The first few ripples were either caught by Obi-Wanís blade or dodged by the nimble Jedi, but as he turned away from one, he was caught flush by two more, and he fell to the ground unconscious.

The troopers dragged him to his feet and presented him to their lieutenant. So pleased to have captured so hated an enemy, the lieutenant allowed his men to batter the senseless Jedi with the butts of their rifles, until his body was covered in bruises, and blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.