Chapter Nine -- The Duel Begins

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"I have nothing left to learn from you, Obi-Wan" -- Anakin Skywalker

Obi-Wan, Yoda and Mace Windu met twice in the next week, once at an abandoned warehouse in the industrial yards of the midlevels of Coruscant, the other in Winduís priavte shuttle in low orbit around the planetís moon.

Had Obi-Wan not have been sent reeling by the events of the past two weeks, he would have had time to contemplate the shocking irony of three of the five most powerful Jedi in the universe confined in a shuttle when they once had an entire complex of their own building in which to contemplate any matter they saw fit.

Reports from within the Jedi Temple were of war preparations, with Masters Adi Mundi and Koon recruiting their most powerful members for the stab into Tyrannusí lair. Reports of Anakin at the Temple were scattered, and Obi-Wan fervently searched the Force for signs of his Padawanís mental condition, as well as that of Padme Amidala.

Yoda and Master Windu were struggling with the situation much as Obi-Wan was. If the strike against Tyrannus was successful, they would be reinstated to the Council, but at what price to the orderís sanctity?

If it failed, they would likely have to fight again because their numbers would be further decimated, and the Sith Lord would be that much more confident of his ability to win this war. And would Palpatine simply welcome back the disenfranchised Masters? It seemed unlikely to Obi-Wan. More likely he would scapegoat them, as he had Organa in the last week in front of the Senate, revealing a choppy video of the Alderaanianís top aide meeting with Tyrannus. A tape Obi-Wan knew was likely faked using Bailís confiscated ID disc from the day they had all walked out on Palpatine.

Obi-Wan made his way into a lower-level power plant, entirely run by machines. Master Windu had sent him a private com message that morning that a third meeting would be held here, and Obi-Wan had spent the last two hours making his way down levels, trying to avoid drawing attention to himself, lest Palpatineís spies realize the Jedi Masters were still on-planet and meeting.

The lights were very dim in the plant, which was of no surprise to Obi-Wan. Machines didnít need lights to operate and as taxed as Coruscant was for resources, every small concession of conservation helped.

Still, he felt an odd discomfort as he walked through the rows, searching for his two teachers. He felt neitherís presences in the Force, but they could have been dampening themselves spiritually to avoid detection.

Obi-Wan was nearly at the far end of the generator room when the lights suddenly blazed to maximum, catching him off-guard.

He shielded his eyes and turned back the way he had just come from. Standing atop a bank of computer terminals, eyes flashing bright with excitement and confrontation, stood Anakin.

In a flash, Obi-Wan knew the meeting was a ruse. He silently cursed himself for having forgotten Anakinís technical abilities. To break his Masterís private com codes was a thing of ease for the former Podracing wizard. He should have known better than to think Anakin would simply dismiss the Organa incident without attempting to confront him..

"Hello, Anakin. Itís good to see you."

Obi-Wanís calmness enraged Anakin further than he had already been at seeing his Master.

"IS IT, Master? As good as it was when you sabotaged a direct order from the Chancellor and spared the life of a traitor?"

"Bail Organa is no traitor, Anakin," Obi-Wan intentionally kept his voice quiet, hoping to keep this a discussion and not a shouting match. He could feel Anakinís emotions in turmoil, the dark side tempting the younger man to action. "The video evidence against him is fabricated. Surely, you can see that, as knowing as you are of technology. He opposed Palpatine, and nearly paid the price for it."

"Funny how the Chancellor told me exactly what you would say, Master." Anakin replied, again making mockery of Obi-Wanís title. "Tell me, was the video of your arms around my wife also a fabrication?"

Obi-Wan sighed. He often suspected the dwellings of important senators were bugged, and this certainly appeared to be the case.

"No, Anakin, Padme was worried and upset over you and I was attempting to comfort her. The fact that the Chancellor has cameras in your wifeís apartment should concern you more, I would think."

For a moment, Anakinís eyes flickered in confusion at this, but the rage returned.

"Do not try to confuse me, Obi-Wan. I can feel your jealousy of me. Itís always been there, from the moment we met and Qui-Gon wanted me as his Padawan."

The mention of Qui-Gon stung Obi-Wan badly and Anakin, sensing his distress, pressed on.

"Iíve always felt your jealousy, Master. When Iíve fought better, when Iíve learned faster, when others who thought you the most talented Padawan have changed their minds after seeing me. You canít stand having an apprentice be more important than you, so you tried to steal my glory and my love! Did you think I would let you get away with it? DID YOU?"

Obi-Wan stood still and silent under Anakinís vocal attack, hoping his Padawan would release his emotions as need be and that he could then be reasoned with, but Anakinís anger continued unabated.

"I have nothing left to learn from you, Obi-Wan. I am a Jedi, the same as you, only stronger, quicker and faster. While you and your teachers dote on the past, I lead the Jedi to the future. You are the emblem of everything that has dragged our order down for centuries, made us susceptible to the return of the Sith! I am the new Jedi Knight, strong, wise and willing to fight!"

"I do not doubt your strength Anakin, truly your connection to the Force in a fight is as strong as Iíve ever wittnessed. And your sense of duty is non-paralleled. But your widsom lacks more and more as the days past. Sometimes it seems you made better decisions as a boy than you attempt to as a man."

Anakinís rage at that comment could not be contained. He lashed out with the Force, driving Obi-Wan bodily against the back wall of the room. Maintaining his calm, Obi-Wan softened his blow against the permacrete, and kept his balance, not an easy task.

"Your anger leads you to the dark side, Anakin. Your fear of loss continues to consume you and drive you to rash decisions. It makes you weak and it could be your undoing."

"WEAK??? You call me weak, even now when I control the Force?? I am your better, Master!"

With that, Anakin pushed Obi-Wan through the Force again, only this time his Master met the push with resistance and the two squared off mentally. Losing his concentration to frustration, Anakin snatched his lightsaber and ignited it.

"Do not challenge me, Anakin. Your anger will best you and I shall be forced to resume your teaching here and now." With that, Obi-Wan wrenched Anakinís lightsaber from the younger manís grasp, deactivating it in mid-flight and catching it out of the air.

Anakin turned away from Obi-Wan, and the Master felt the shame roll off his Padawan. He started forward to close the distance between them, at least physically, when a creak behind him caught his attention.

Obi-Wan turned just in time to see a 20-foot high crate tipping off the high shelves behind him. With a flash of his robes, he somersaulted forward and out of the crateís impact area. Even as he did, he felt Anakin wrest his lightsaber back via the Force, and reignite it.

"Enough of your tricks now, Obi-Wan. Light your blade, and we shall see who needs a lesson taught to him."

Obi-Wan remained motionless, staring straight into Anakinís eyes, while his Padawan sought to look elsewhere, refusing to match his Masterís gaze.

"No tricks, Anakin. I will not fight you."

Anakin took a stride forward, then a second and a third, until he stood mere feet from Obi-Wan, blade still lit and pointed at his Master.

"Would you cast your life down on some antiquated notion that a Jedi can never attack, Master? Would you throw it all away for a principle?"

With Obi-Wanís stillness enraging him further, Anakin lunged at his Master. At the last second, Kenobiís saber lept into his hands and he ignited it, as blue-white met blue-white in a clash of sparks, strength and a fury of emotions.