Chapter Twenty-Eight -- Exile

"My Master saved me, where you abandoned me to certain death, Obi-Wan." -- Darth Vader

Obi-Wan came awake in his old quarters on the third level of the Temple. The room was much as he had left it, with the exception of two stormtroopers standing at rapt attention with weapons trained on him near the door.

He was chained and manacled at his hands and feet to the wall, although at this point he doubted he could stand and walk ten feet, so badly did his body ache.

He called out to the Force to help clear his mind and stop the pounding within. His body would take substantially longer to heal, that is, if the Imperials let him live that long. In letting the Force flow through him, he again felt the presence of the Sith Lord.

This close, he could feel the hatred there, and it was a familiar presence indeed. When he finally placed it, the impact racked his body a thousand times harder than the clubbing the stormtroopers had administered to him an hour before.

He had felt that rage, that fury a few times in the past.He had felt it when Anakin first revealed that his mother had been killed on Tatooine two years ago. He had felt it when Tyrannus attempted to bend Anakinís will to his won by telling him Padme had been killed, he had felt it again when Anakin had lashed out at him during the duel in the Coruscant power plant some months ago.

Even during their duel however, that level of fury had been like spikes of energy in a malfunctioning engine. They had been dangerous rages toward the dark side, but they had always been returned to normalcy with time, help from a peer or his wifeís soft hands on his shoulders.

Now, as Obi-Wan felt the dark presence draw near, the rage he felt was unwavering, it was the constant of the essence of whatever remained of Anakin Skywalker.

The door slid open and the two troopers snapped to attention. In strode a massive giant encased in black armor, his breath echoing from a strange apparatus that seemingly connected his head and lungs.

Lights blinked on the figureís chest plate, clearly having something to do with whatever bastardization of science was keeping him alive. On his belt he wore a lighstaber, not unlike the one he had lost in his fateful duel with Obi-Wan.

The Sith Lord raised his right fist and the stormtroopers wordlessly departed the room, the door sliding shut behind them.

Obi-Wan peered at the black deathís head helmet. His eyesight could not penetrate it, but he could stretch out through the Force to feel the rage behind the mask.

"Hello, Anakin."

Even as he said it, Obi-Wan felt the surge in anger and winced badly as one of the Sithís black-gloved hands smashed openly into his face, raising a welt there.

A voice that Obi-Wan did not recognize as that of his former Padawn blasted at him out of the hulking form.

"That man is dead, you saw to it yourself, Obi-Wan. I am Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith."

Trembling from the pain his body felt, Obi-Wan managed to sit back up.

"How did you survive your fall? Who made you into this?"

"My Master saved me, where you abandoned me to certain death, Obi-Wan. I was remade and reborn to serve the Empire and my Master."

"Who is this Master?"

Vader laughed, a low hideous-sounding chuckle. "Again and again, the Jedi prove to me why the Sith have triumphed. My Master is the same as yours. The same as every being in the galaxy. For years, he has guided the course of the Empire, with the enlightened Jedi oblivous to his actions. My Master is Darth Sidious, he is the Emperor."

As much as Obi-Wanís mind had reeled at the revelation of Anakin reborn as a Sith Lord, now it simply refused to believe.

Palpatine, a man Obi-Wan had seldom trusted, often supsected and always thought dangerous, had been more than any of them possibly could have imagined.

As the events of the last dozen years came back to him, Obi-Wan felt himself on the verge of emotional shattering. Everything, everything he had fought for and believed in, everything save his committment to the Force, everything was a lie.

Beginning with the Trade Federationís occupation of Palpatineís home world of Naboo, Obi-Wanís quick-thinking mind now traced a path of careful steps and careful manipulations that were all linked back to the one man, who was not only the Galaxyís ruler, but perhaps its most powerful Force-wielder as well.

The occupation of Naboo forced Chancellor Valorumís hand and got him removed from office. Before that, Palpatineís popularity had him already in place for such a coup to occur.

In a jolt, one of many his mind would suffer over the next several months as he recanted his actions over more than a decade, he realized that the tatooed Sith he had slain in Theed had been Sidiousí apprentice, perhaps his first. So Palpatine was responsible for Qui-Gonís death.

The pieces rapidly fell into place now into Obi-Wanís brain. Tyrannus was not the demon-faced Sithís Master, he was his replacement. Tyrannus never meant to revolt, he and Palpatine used the Clone Wars to build up troops and ships, at the cost of trillions of credits to manufacturing worlds and the loss of millions of lives.

The Jedi Ambush at Ponscii, another Palpatine blow, that one Obi-Wan had suspected, but had not the clout to prove it. And now Anakin, reborn as a Sith Lord, which meant Tyrannus was dead, for never could more than two Sith exist at one time. That meant Yoda had succeeded in his mission, and more importantly, might still live.

The same could not be said for Master Windu, Obi-Wan realized in a choked-off cry as he saw the lightsaber of the orderís greatest fighter hanging off the opposite side of Vaderís belt.

Obi-Wan could no longer stare up at the malevolent black helmet, even though he could not make out any of Anakinís face through its blackness. His head hung down, if he could have cradled it in his hands he would have, but he remained chained to the wall.

Vader was equally silent, but for different reasons. Finally, he had broken Obi-Wanís spirit, made him feel worthless and powerless, exactly the way he had felt in that metallic tube for so many long months after Obi-Wan had forced him down that shaft into the reactor pit of the power plant. He had suffered through a waking nightmare during his months of recovery, paralyzed, unable to move, barely able to remember who or what he was.

He had been a dead man while still breathing, he would ensure Obi-Wan would share that experience.

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After a long moment, Obi-Wan looked back up, finding some composure in the Force.

"And now? Will you execute me while chained and complete your quest to snuff the Jedi flame out of the galaxy? Or will you free me of these manacles and hand back my blade, so I may show you just how much your studies still lack?"

The verbal barb that months earlier would have spurred Anakin Skywalker into a blind attack, did not appear to even faze the visage of Darth Vader.

Vader picked up Obi-Wanís blade off the desk casually, inspecting it slowly as he spoke.

"I shall do neither, Obi-Wan. There was a time when I would have traded my soul for the opportunity to stand here now, with your life in my hands, so I could snuff it out at my leisure."

"But now, I understand the true nature of power. Killing you now would absolve you too quickly of the wrongs you have committed.. It is time for you to face your weaknesses, your shame and your agony at failure. Your feeble meditations and philoscophical debates are no match for the power of the dark side of the Force. I condemn you to a life of nothingness, of regret, of agony over your own failures, and those of your Jedi Masters."

Vaderís deep voice swelled as his gaze locked that of Obi-Wanís, who stared up at his former apprentice in a combination of shock and disbelief.

"I do not care where you choose to go, Obi-Wan, but you are forbidden from entering Imperial space again. If you are found inside the Empireís borders, I promise you, you will die by my blade."

Vader lit Obi-Wanís own saber as he finished his banishment of his former Master. He flicked the blade deftly and sliced through the chains that bound Obi-Wanís arms and legs. Extinguishing the blade, he smashed Obi-Wan across the temples with it then place the lightsword back on the desk.

With one long last look in the direction of the unconscous Kenobi, Vader turned and strode out of the room, urging his stormtrooper escort to follow behind before either of them could steal a peek into the room to see what had happened to the Jedi.