Chapter Ten -- End Duel

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"The dark side will claim you no matter how much you believe you use it for good." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anakin lunged, and Obi-Wan parried. Anakin twisted and spun and cut overhand and across the floor, but his Master matched each stroke with the slightest of efforts, making the Padawan more incensed that his attacks were being rebuffed with such ease.

Anakin seized hold of a computer monitor and propelled it through the Force, but Obi-Wan felt the move coming and waved the object away, his concentration never wavering in the slighest from Anakin.

For Obi-Wan, the duelís opening moments were not unlike his sparring sessions with Anakin before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. Anakin was aggressive and inconsistent in his attacks, and Obi-Wan exerted little real effort in containing the fight. His Masterís complacency enraged Anakin, and in a moment he felt untapped power rising in his soul. The dark side? He touched it again, and felt it surge through him, then called it to him.

Obi-Wan was taken aback as Anakinís manuevers came faster and more intensely than Obi-Wan had ever seen. He was forced to backpedal to keep the attacks from beating him down.

Obi-Wan flipped and cartwheeled his way across the room with Anakin in pursuit, slicing through his Masterís robe as Kenobi flung it aside to give himself more mobility. Obi-Wan back-flipped up onto a shelf and Anakin stopped his attack and grinned up at his Master.

"Learn anything yet, Master?"

"Iíve learned that this is not your first time dabbling in the dark side, Anakin. Iíve learned that you are so blind now that you believe killing me will restore your good name to the Jedi and Padmeís trust of you."

The mention of his wife set Anakin off again, and this time he used the Force to rip the supports of the shelf Obi-Wan stood upon out of the wall, plunging his Master to the ground. He was on Obi-Wan in a moment, pinning the smaller man to the ground as their lightsabers clashed.

For the first time in the fight, Obi-Wan attacked, planting a boot in Anakinís jaw, staggering him back. Obi-Wan sprung to his feet but stood his ground, again refusing to press the attack.

"So the noble Master does value his own life after all," Anakin taunted as he rubbed his sore jaw.

"I gave my vow to protect this galaxy, Anakin. I can do more good to it alive than dead. It is a vow you seem to have forgotten."

Anakinís jaw hardened and his eyes seemed almost sorriful at that.

"Iíve found vows to mean very little in my life, Master. Qui-Gon promised to keep me safe, then died before he ever began my training. I vowed to return to free my mother, then waited too long while the Council made me its errand boy, and it cost her her life. Padme promised her love to me alone, yet in times of trouble, it is your embrace she found comfort in. FORGIVE ME, Master, if I see little value in the weight of a vow."

Obi-Wan was tight-lipped, feeling the sadness and hurt roll off his Padawan in waves.

"When I was half your age, Anakin, my best friend at the Temple tried to make a lightsaber before she was ready. When she activated it for the first time late one night, it exploded, killing her instantly. The next day, after her funeral, Qui-Gon told me the way of a Jedi is a hard life, without remorse, reward or regret. My friend, you are obsessed with the second, and hindered by the other two. I have failed as your teacher, for not recognizing this sooner."

"Words, Obi-Wan. Always with you, it is about words." Anakin scoffed, the anger surging through him again.

He lunged forward and Obi-Wan had to duck to parry the blow again. Anakin pressed forward, with his voice and his saber, and the two battled back the way they had come across the room.

"Words couldnít save your Master, Obi-Wan. They could not save my mother. They will not save the Republic from the Sith! Action demands action in return! Why canít you accept this?"

Obi-Wan again used the Force to jump to a higher platform, this one containing a host of spare parts for the robots running the power plant.

"I cannot accept your opinion, Anakin, because you use the Force to do your bidding, when it should be you doing its will. The most fundamental lesson of what it is to be a Jedi is lost on you. Without it, the dark side beckons and seduces you, playing to your innermost desires, making it seem that you are in control when in fact you are lost within it."

Anakin again ripped the supports out of the platform, but this time Obi-Wan jumped to the next one over. In frustration, Anakin repeated his destruction of the support structure, and again Obi-Wan nimbly set foot on another shelf.

"How long will you dance up there, Master? Do you think I do not possess the power to bring you down?"

Anakin stretched his arms wide and a dozen of the shelves plummeted down, while several others groaned in pain as their screws were manipulated by the dark side and pulled out of their sockets, leaving their burdens hanging tenuously.

Obi-Wan did fall this time, without another escape option, and Anakin attacked more savagely, with dangerous uppercut swings designed to lop an opponentís head off. Obi-Wan parried time and again, but found himself growing weary, and finally counter-attacked, combining his lightsaber slashes with kicks to the chest that drove Anakin back.

Obi-Wanís strikes were more conservative, more controlled as he hearded Anakin toward one of the roomís corners, hoping to somehow disarm the Padawan before one of them landed a killing blow. Anakin might find temporary solace in his death, but it had been a long time since Obi-Wan had killed another living being, not counting Dookuís clonetroopers who were manufactured synthetics, and not really human..

Even in cutting down the Sith Lord on Naboo, Obi-Wan had been tinged by the knowledge that violence had been the only way out. He hoped against hope that it would be different with Anakin.

While not possessing the tactical genius that his Master or Admiral Tarkin was hailed for, Anakin could feel himself being pushed in a general direction, and stole a glance over his shoulder at the melting pit that harnessed the plantís reactor rising up behind him.

In the split second that Anakinís gaze was diverted, Obi-Wan reversed his lightsaber and smashed the Padawan in the chest with it, knocking the air from his lungs and sending him stumbling down to the ground, losing control of his lightsaber.

Obi-Wan seized the saber with the Force, and flung it up onto the shelf directly over the edge of the pit, , standing over Anakin with his own weapon still lit.

"The galaxy needs its protectors, Anakin. Let me help you find your way back to the Jedi Order. The dark side will claim you no matter how much you believe you use it for good. Look at what happened to Count Dooku, it has consumed him, and millions more may die for his loss of control."

But again, Obi-Wanís words fell on deaf ears. Summoning the dark side to his aid, Anakin erupted in motion, planting a kick to Obi-Wanís sternum that dropped his Master backwards.

Anakin sprung to his feet and back-flipped up to the platform to claim his saber and rejoin the fight. In his haste to exact revenge on Obi-Wan, he forgot his earlier show of power.

His weight planted squarely on the already-weakened platform caused it to list to one side, dumping the stunned Jedi head first over the melting pit.

Anakin turned in midair to grab an outcropping of metal with one hand as his lightsaber bounced off the permacrete floor of the main chamber and rattled noisily to a stop.

Obi-Wan returned to his feet and rushed to the pitís edge, feeling the searing heat of the reactor even from this height. Anakin was two meters down, clutching the outcropping desperately with one hand, and suddenly seeming much like the boy Obi-Wan had first encountered in the desert outside Mos Espa so many years ago.

"Anakin! Give me your hand! I can save you!"

The Padawan looked up and his face changed from fear to anger to hatred as Obi-Wan slung his hand down to try and reach him.

"Please, Anakin! Your hand! I will save you!"

Anakin was defiant as he spoke to his Master for the last time.

"More tricks, Obi-Wan. More words. More vows."

Anakin released the outcropping and fell. His body plunging noiselessly through the clouds of radiation that permeated the plantís reactor core.

Obi-Wan screamed in horror, and desperately summoned the Force to grab hold of Anakin, but he was too exhausted, his powers waned from the exhaustion of the duel. His superb hearing mocked him with the distant sound of Anakinís body plunging into the white-hot liquid that filled the reactor core half a mile below. He felt Anakinís connection with the Force severed and buried his head in his hands.

After a long time, Obi-Wan stood, gathered both the Jedi robes strewn on the ground, along with the lightsaber Anakin had dropped. Obi-Wan had been there the day a younger Anakin had proudly ignited it for the first time. To leave it here would be disrespectful to the Padawan who had become his friend.

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A long moment after Obi-Wan departed the power plant, a shadow came alive in the darkest corner of the upper level. An eight-foot tall, insect-like shape moved downward throught the still-active machines of the plant, gliding with a low hum.

The probe droid, much like its masterís Sith robes, was jet black, and its variety of appendages suggested a host of insidious activities it could perform.

Programmed by its Master, the droid had tailed Anakin Skywalker for the past several days, charting his progress and recording those interactions he had with others.

When the droid had identified Obi-Wan Kenobi, it had instantly trasmitted an electro-pulse back to its Masterís comm unit, from which Chancellor Palpatine had been able to watch the entire duel through the multiple elctronic eyes of his artifical creation.

The droid now had a new series of commands, and so it passed down, down down, through the ever-increasing heat and radiation so poisonous to oxygen-breathers.

Into the power plantís liquid core it descended, using three powerful arms to lift the lifeless body of the Padawan up, then rising again to return to its secret departure area to await its masterís next command.