What does it feel like to kill?
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Anakin swung his lightsaber behind his back as Obi-Wan slammed his own blade down towards Anakin's shoulder. Surprised at the block, Obi-Wan was caught off-guard for a long enough second that Anakin kicked his leg out behind him and connected with his master's thigh. Whipping around as Obi-Wan recovered from the fall, he lightly touched the tip of his lightsaber to the older man's neck.
"Impressive, Anakin," Obi-Wan complimented as they both shut off their weapons and hung them at their belts. Ignoring the tiny stinging sensation coming from the patch of skin touched by Anakin's blade while at its lowest setting, Obi-Wan bowed to his apprentice. Returning the sign of respect, Anakin wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead.
"Do you think I'm ready for this mission, Master?" His squeaking voice- ah, how Obi-Wan could remember his own days of maturing- made the request sound silly, but in all earnestness, Obi-Wan did believe his padawan was ready.
"Of course, Anakin. The Council would have assigned another Master/Padawan team if they doubted your progress." Anakin nodded grimly, and headed for the ship's controls. As Obi-Wan took the pilot's seat and pushed the button that would terminate auto-pilot, he sensed his padawan's growing nervousness.
"Anakin, do you need to talk to me?" He suspected Anakin needed guidance whether he would agree to take it or not. The upcoming mission was monumental in the fact that it was almost guaranteed to be violent. The Council was careful to assign missions based on a padawan's age and progress. Up until this point, Obi-Wan and Anakin had been given small assignments where all they needed to do was oversee this or firmly suggest that. Anakin had always itched for something more hands-on, and when this mission had been handed down to them he was at first thrilled. They were headed to a planet called Re-Nahn in the normally peaceful Shalist-Ha system. A group of rebels had slowly grown under the surface of the system's eleventh planet, and several days ago, they had taken the Prime Minister of Re-Nahn hostage. Their terms were simple and quite common in this galaxy- better working conditions in their carbon mines, lower prices on everyday goods, and a relaxed constitution.
The Council had elected to send only two Jedi, as the natives were a peace-loving race. The few radicals in charge of the kidnapping might present a problem, but they would easily be out-forced by the Jedi. And the Council had unanimously decided that it was time for Anakin Skywalker to learn an important lesson.
The first kill. Despite being quick, painless, and in the light of everything the Jedi had been taught since birth (Anakin was an exception, but he still believed wholeheartedly in the Code), the first kill was always the hardest. A being brought up to protect and serve taking another's life for the first time was devastating to the individual, and the Council would immediately bring Anakin back to the temple for several weeks of meditation after this ordeal was over. Obi-Wan and Anakin had known since they received their orders that Anakin would emerge from Shalist-Ha changed.
"I know what's on your mind, and don't forget, I've been in this situation." If Anakin didn't want to talk, he'd offer yet more incentive. Stepping off the ship with an already-heavy heart wouldn't be wise, especially under the current circumstances.
"What does it feel like? To kill." He added the last part hurriedly, as if he had been planning not to say it aloud.
"Well, the first time feels quite different, as you can imagine. The first time feels…wrong. You'll spend the next several days analyzing it over and over in your mind, trying to determine if there had been another way to end things. The moment will be seared into your memory, so you'll have no problem recollecting it as you ponder. But after awhile, you will accept it. You will see that there was no other way, and how many will benefit from the loss of that life, and that it was done strictly in ordinance with the Jedi Code. And then, you will have gained a wisdom most creatures cannot claim to possess."
"And after that?"
"Each death is a regret, but you learn not to dwell on it. You grieve for the ones whose lives you have taken, but you know in your heart that it could not have been any other way. As long as you follow the Code and only kill when absolutely necessary, you will be an insightful man indeed."
"What if I'm not powerful enough?" Anakin voiced his other concern.
"Anakin, you brought me down just a few minutes ago. I am a Jedi Master, in case you've forgotten, and I hardly think the Re-Nanians will rival me in combat." He affectionately cuffed the young teenager's head and chuckled. Anakin didn't smile at his Master's silliness, just stared out the forward window.
A group of orange-skinned Re-Nanians met them at the landing platform, franticly welcoming the Jedi and pleading for their time sensitive help. Obi-Wan talked to the Governor of the planet's capital as Anakin tried to focus on the impending event. To take another's life…to see their eyes glaze over as they looked up at him…to walk away, knowing that individual would have to be carried out, was sickening. He'd never questioned how his master felt about executing creatures on the odd mission that had ended up unexpectedly aggressive. Anakin had strict orders to let all live on those occasions, but now, his restrictions were gone. The Council was putting trust in his judgment to decide whom to pardon and whom to slay.
The rest of the day passed in a stomach-churning blur. Obi-Wan secured a small transport and the location of the rebel's headquarters, and he allowed Anakin to fly them there. Piloting did help calm his nerves, but the minute his feet touched the dusty ground, he once more felt like he was going to bring up his breakfast.
"I'll go to the doors and request admittance as an official Republic Ambassador here to negotiate the Prime Minister's release. You go scout out the building, see if you can find another entrance." The rebel group had taken up residence in an old weaponry factory, closed by now, and its immense structure was the only thing that could be seen for miles in the desert terrain. "When you do, avoid Re-Nanians and try to find where they're keeping the Prime Minister."
A few minutes later, Anakin had indeed found another way in. The building did not have many windows and the ones it did have were caked with a reddish dust. But on the side of the building, a few stories up, was a broken window just small enough for a thin human such as himself to slip through. Taking a cable out of his belt, he swung the hook around the shattered window's frame and climbed up the side of the building.
Inside it was dark, and black crates were lined up everywhere. Navigating them proved to be maze-like, and Anakin soon devoted all of his thought process to recording his path. Not noticing the being sneaking up behind him until it was too late, Anakin was forced to draw his lightsaber. Seeing it, the Re-Nanian immediately fled in panic. Partly relieved, and partly disappointed that he couldn't get his ceremonial first-kill over and done with, Anakin continued to move through the twists and turns.
He overheard a bit of two rebel's conversation while hiding behind another crate. "Fifth floor, right?" "No you idiot, fifth floor is the command center and where old Kahe's shacking up. Recruitment is on the fourth floor!" Remembering that Kahe was the Prime Minister's name, and that he was currently roaming the third floor, he sprinted back to where he had seen stairs a few minutes earlier.
Obi-Wan was already there, pointing his lightsaber at a Re-Nanian dressed in combat gear when Anakin slipped in.
"My apprentice," Obi-Wan said to the man, beckoning Anakin to emerge from hiding. Striding forth, he stood at his master's side and looked at the rebel through calm and collected eyes.
"Leave us be, Master Jedi. All we want is to better the lives of our people- surely you cannot object to that?"
"While Re-Nahn's labor codes and laws are a bit old-fashioned, the Senate has voted to allow the structure to remain. By kidnapping the Prime Minister, you have stepped out of line. This is something that should be handled in courts and congresses, not by aggressive acts."
"So it is better to allow injustice to take place than to fight it with somewhat drastic means?"
"If it keeps the peace, yes. Though you and your men might feel slightly differently, I have no doubts that the majority of your population would rather stay alive at all costs."
"You will not take Kahe back to the capital without a fight."
"Regrettable, but I understand." The Re-Nanian lifted his arm and shot a volley of lasers from a device on his wrist, and Anakin added his lightsaber to the blue of his master's as the two whirled around and directed fire from all sides. An alarm began to sound, and more Re-Nanians with blasters joined the fray. Sending their fire back at their feet and making them jump, Anakin felt a surge in the force as an electric javelin whizzed towards him. Ducking, he turned to the rebel who'd thrown it. This one was taller than the rest, wearing plain brown breeches and a vest. His two large black eyes, characteristic of Re-Nanians, looked into Anakin's, and a feeling of purpose washed over the apprentice as he walked towards him. Picking up another javelin from the crate he stood upon, he hurled it as Anakin leapt on top of the crate with him.
Crashing his lightsaber against the third javelin his opponent had picked up, he parried and thrust with the Re-Nanian. This one was a relatively good fighter, and Anakin's attempts to disarm him amounted to nothing. As he gave the other fighter a few steps of ground, Anakin reached out through the force. Using it, he saw the other's next move milliseconds before it happened, and swung his lightsaber into the creature's neck an instant before his own heart would have been pierced. Knocked off-balance, the body and the javelin fell back, as the head rolled off the crate. Breathing heavily, Anakin turned to look at the gaping rebels.
"The boy killed General Shate," several of them murmured, and Obi-Wan turned to see his padawan. Nodding sympathetically to Anakin, he announced in a loud voice "Your General is dead; shall we stop this useless fighting?" Slowly, everyone around them put down their blasters, and Anakin sat down heavily on the crate.
"That was a relatively short mission," Obi-Wan observed in good cheer on the flight home. Anakin said nothing. He hadn't said a word since returning the Prime Minister to the capital.
"So, I noticed you today. Please remember, Anakin, that I'm right here if you're having trouble coming to terms with this."
"I'm fine," Anakin spoke suddenly, surprising Obi-Wan. And he spoke the truth. Inside his head, the same words were repeated over and over until he knew he wasn't upset or distressed by his deed. 'I killed today. I killed today, and it was nothing like Obi-Wan described. It was power, and control, and adrenaline. It was triumph. It was enlightening.'
"No one is fine after this, Anakin."
'I killed today, and it felt good.'