A Fork in the Road—Chapter 8: Turning Point
Obi-Wan and Darth Maul watched the green blade that penetrated the durasteel door to Palpatine's quarters in surprise. Conflicting emotions ran through the two occupants standing amongst the debris of the once pristine room. Cursing softly under his breath, Darth Maul dropped his syringe and called his lightsaber back into his hand. He thumbed the switch, and Obi-Wan drew his eyes away from the emerald blade making quick work of the Senator's door to stare at the crimson blade now placed entirely too close to his throat for his liking.
Both captor and captive watched as the blade finished cutting a wide oval in the door. The blade disappeared for but a moment and then a booted foot kicked in the hastily made opening. In strode in a Jedi that Obi-Wan had thought he would never want to see again. Now though, the tall and regal form before him was the most welcome sight he could ever remember seeing.
"Master Jinn!" Obi-Wan could not help exclaiming, his voice clearly showing his relief at a possible rescue. A touch of awe could also be heard, almost as if the boy thought himself imagining the tall Jedi before him.
Qui-Gon Jinn took a quick glance around the room and was not surprised to see it in complete shambles. He then let his gaze rest on the two responsible for the room's condition, namely a young boy with a lightsaber hovering precariously close to his neck. Qui-Gon felt a brief flash of anger at the sight of Obi-Wan: he looked horrible. Blood trickled from a split lip, the left side of his face already bruising, and his eye was swelling shut. His light tunics were ripped and stained with blood, but from what wound, Qui-Gon could not tell. The boy's travel cloak hid most of his body. He was clearly exhausted, not that the Jedi Master was surprised. Obi-Wan appeared to have put up quite a battle against his dark foe.
"Are you alright, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked, his gaze locked with that of the boy's. Obi-Wan stared at the Jedi Master for a moment, almost as though he was still trying to determine if the Jedi Master was real. Blinking slowly, Obi-Wan broke the stare and focused on the red blade before him. He then purposefully snapped his gaze back to the man who had shattered his dreams.
"All things considered, Master Jinn; I would have to say that I have certainly been better," Obi-Wan quipped with a dry chuckle. The youth felt decidedly giddy at this turn of events and could just barely restrain himself from grinning when he saw Qui-Gon quirk an eyebrow at his odd show of humor. Determining that the boy could not be too seriously injured, if he was issuing such sarcastic remarks, the Jedi Master turned his attention to the dark man holding Obi-Wan.
"Release the boy," Qui-Gon commanded, extending his right arm and raising his lightsaber so that the point was directed towards the Sith Apprentice.
"I don't think so Jedi," Darth Maul practically hissed. Shifting the boy roughly against his chest, the Darksider inched his lightsaber just a touch closer to Obi-Wan's throat. Qui-Gon lowered his saber, easily sliding into a ready stance at Maul's move. "I will kill the boy before I see him in your hands."
Qui-Gon purposely avoided looking into the wide, slightly panicked eyes of Obi-Wan. Instead, the tall Master reached out to the Force, trying to get a feel for the red and black menace before him. Looking into the cool, yellow stare of his adversary, the Jedi knew that what the dark one said rang partially true. Qui-Gon did not doubt that the young Zabrak did have orders to kill Obi-Wan; however, the Jedi Master was also sure that the Darksider was only to do so as a last resort.
"I do not believe that those are your only orders," Qui-Gon challenged. Changing to a defensive stance, the Jedi Master spoke again. "If you truly want that child, you will need to go through me." The tall Jedi watched as the Sith's face clouded over in a thunderous scowl, clearly not liking the challenge before him. Then, just as quickly, a sardonic smirk was gracing the demonic visage.
"If that is how you want it," the deep, growling voice stated in dark amusement. Before Qui-Gon, or Obi-Wan, knew what was happening, the young Sith broke his hold on his captor, swinging his blade down to his side, and away from the boy. Quickly stepping back from the youth, Maul brought his saber immediately back up and lunged; stabbing Obi-Wan through his right thigh. The ginger-haired youth let out a surprised cry before the blade was gone and he found himself falling to the floor. Yet, Obi-Wan never hit the ground. Before he made contact with the plush carpet, the youth felt himself being flung across the room with an impressive Force shove.
"Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon cried out in alarm, horrified at what he was witnessing. Stepping out of his ready stance, the Jedi reached out with the Force to catch the injured youth before he could connect with anything else that could cause him harm. It was exactly as Maul had planned. With his attention diverted to the boy that should have been his apprentice, Qui-Gon almost missed the Sith spring into action, jumping toward the Jedi Master with a vicious downward thrust.
The tall Jedi Master quickly, but gently, lowered Obi-Wan back to the ground. At the same time he did this, the long-haired warrior side-stepped. He felt a brief flash of relief as he heard the chilling hum of the Sith's crimson blade sailing just inches from his head, singeing the bottom of his robe, which had billowed out at his hasty movement.
Qui-Gon, finding himself off balance, was not so lucky in dodging the side kick that Maul executed. The booted foot connected with the Jedi Master's side, just below his ribs, causing the older warrior to stumble a few steps to his left and into a data pad case. Using the case itself as leverage to keep himself standing, Qui-Gon recovered quickly. With his attention now fully back on the Darksider before him; the Jedi Master was able to bring his saber around to block a diagonal blow that was aimed to slice from his right shoulder down across his body to his left hip.
Keeping their blades locked, Qui-Gon lunged against his blade using all of his size to push the smaller man back. Seeing the dark one backpedaling, the tall Jedi slid his emerald blade down the length of the Sith's crimson saber and tipped down the point of his blade. Not wasting the opportunity of a lowered defense, Jinn struck out with a backhanded fist, catching Maul on the side of his face.
Absorbing the blow, Darth Maul felt himself shift a few steps to his right. It was now the younger Sith's turn to throw up a hasty parry to stop a thrust from the long haired Master that would have pierced his stomach. Jumping back from the Master, Maul glared at the Jedi before him, clearly calling an end to this first round of battle.
Qui-Gon, likewise, stepped back, his piercing blue eyes appraising his opponent. Master Jinn knew that those first few blows were nothing, just two adversaries feeling each other out, trying to see if they could gain a quick victory. As he saw the red and black visage before him twist into a hateful sneer, Qui-Gon knew the true battle was about to begin.
Obi-Wan slowly crawled over to the windows along the perimeter of the room, in an attempt to keep out of the way of the room's combatants. So far, they had only stayed around the door to Palpatine's quarters, but the boy was sure that would not be the case for long. Sitting against the cool glass, the youth clutched at his leg, gritting his teeth against the pain that was steadily throbbing forth from the wound. Trying to ignore the injury as best he could, Obi-Wan looked over at Qui-Gon and the Sith as they prepared to start their duel again.
Almost as though their was some unheard bell signaling that they should start, the tall Jedi Master and the smaller Sith Apprentice simultaneously moved to begin their battle. Obi-Wan watched in fascination as the two men lunged, parried, and battled at breakneck speed. He had always heard that Master Jinn was one of the best swordsmen the Jedi had to offer, but seeing the Master duel his would-be captor made the youth a believer. Qui-Gon Jinn did not execute any fancy aerials, or flashy maneuvers, but fought with a perfect form that relied heavily on the fundamentals. He was steady, powerful, and agile.
Obi-Wan continued to watch the two combatants whirl about the room, to the naked eye nothing more than a blur of crimson and emerald. Various objects in the room were either pushed aside with the Force, or cut through, to create space to move as the battle intensified. The more the boy watched the more optimistic he became. He could almost feel the dark one's frustration at being unable to land a blow on the Jedi Master. Obi-Wan felt a small smile tug at his lips as he noticed the smaller man backpedaling, clearly on the defensive. Qui-Gon was going to win! He was going to be safe.
No sooner had that thought crossed the youth's mind when he suddenly felt as though the floor had opened up from underneath him. A startled gasp was torn from shocked lips, as Obi-Wan's stomach lurched, almost as though he had gone into a complete freefall. The ginger-haired youth felt his vision swim.
Obi-Wan closed pain filled eyes against the graying of his vision, trying desperately to ignore the gnawing void his stomach had become. Just as soon as golden lashes fluttered against his cheek, the youth felt the sensation of freefall suddenly leave him. Instead, the boy felt as though he had suddenly been thrown to the ground with jarring force.
Immediately, Obi-Wan realized that the felt decidedly different. Opening his eyes, the first thing he noticed was that he was standing in a hallway made of some sort of alloyed metal; a feat he should not have been capable of with the injury the Sith has inflicted just moments ago. In fact, Obi-Wan realized he felt no pain whatsoever in his leg. Looking forward, the ginger-haired boy was greeted by a hazy, static-like, wall of red translucent light. Befuddled, the youth looked down at himself and could not control the gasp that escaped his lips.
He found himself dressed in the garb of a Jedi, a braid trailing from behind his right ear, trailing nearly to his waist. Reaching out an entirely too large hand, Obi-Wan picked up the end of the braid and stared at it in wonder. What was going on?
Looking up from the braid laying in his palm, Obi-Wan's eyes widened in shock. Through the red haze of the force field trapping him, the youth saw a decidedly older looking Qui-Gon dueling with the red and black terror who had been trying to kidnap him. The two combatants fought around a large round room with a huge pit adorning its center. The two moved in extreme slow motion, while Obi-Wan seemed to move outside time, his movements coming at their normal pace.
Pushing aside this observation, Obi-Wan noticed two things immediately: one, the demonic man was fighting with a dual-sided saber; and two, Qui-Gon, although still capable, was not quite as agile and graceful as he saw him just moments ago. There was a barely noticeable stiffness to the taller Jedi's movements that had not been there before. Judging from his own body, Obi-Wan had to figure he was witnessing events at least ten years into the future.
Another fact became apparently rather quickly; Qui-Gon was definitely on the defensive, parrying attacks from the unique double blade. Events seemed to suddenly speed up and before Obi-Wan knew what had happened, Qui-Gon's guard was gone as the red and black demon used the handle of his saber to thrust the taller Master's arms up and away from him. The horned menace then spun and plunged the lower end of his staff through Qui-Gon's midsection.
"No!" Obi-Wan screamed in anguish, unable to control the reaction. Already facing Obi-Wan, Darth Maul slid his saber out from the shocked Jedi Master, executed a superfluous spin and glared challengingly at the boy. Again, Obi-Wan felt a wave a disorientation fall over him and he closed his eyes. Vaguely hearing what he assumed was the shield generator cycling off, Obi-Wan started.
Blinking in confusion, the boy found himself once again sitting on the floor of the Senator's quarters, his back braced against the cool glass along the perimeter of the room. From the progression of the battle before him, Obi-Wan was amazed to realize that his vision, for he was positive that was what it was, had only lasted a matter of seconds. Shaking his head, Obi-Wan focused again on Qui-Gon and Maul, and once again felt a smile tug at his lips. Things appeared to be going well.
His frustration getting the better of him, Obi-Wan saw the tattooed warrior make a hasty lunge at Qui-Gon. Easily dodging the haphazard attack, Master Jinn sidestepped and landed another backhand to the side of Maul's face. The dark one dropped to one knee with the force of the hit, his saber scorching into the floor of the apartment. Darth Maul's opposite arm shot out to support himself from falling completely to the floor. His robed head was bent, looking at the floor before him. His would be captor never got to recover from this position as Qui-Gon pivoted to move behind him, placing his saber alongside the younger man's neck.
"Power down your saber, Darksider." Qui-Gon commanded in a calm, authoritative voice. His whole attention was on his adversary effectively kneeling before him. Maul let out a low growl of denial. He then looked up and his eyes locked with Obi-Wan, his face looking anything but defeated. Obi-Wan cocked his head to the side, trying to figure out what the Sith Apprentice might have up his sleeve.
It was then that the young would be Jedi saw the dark one move his finger over the switch of his saber: the same saber he had been using in Obi-Wan's recent vision. A sense of dread swept through the ginger-haired boy as he noticed that the back end of Maul's saber was exposed, pointing backwards; directly at Qui-Gon. In that instant, he knew what the Sith was planning to do.
"No!" Obi-Wan screamed as he threw up his arm, the Force seeming to come forth with the same urgency as his cry. The youth felt his world fade to black as the Force seemed to collapse into him as though he were a black hole, and then just as quickly burst forth with the strength of a Supernova. Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul barely had time to register what was happening when they were both knocked unconscious by the Force wave that came barreling into them.
Obi-Wan did not know how long he had been out, but it couldn't have been long. Looking up at the large ornamental clock from Naboo that his uncle kept on the wall, he was correct. Only minutes had passed. Looking around the shambles of the common room, the boy saw Qui-Gon Jinn slouched against the far wall, seemingly lifeless. A trail of blood ran down his face from his temple. Apparently he had struck something on his short voyage across the room. A slight panic filling him, Obi-Wan relaxed slightly when he saw an equally unconscious Sith Apprentice lying only a few feet from the Jedi Master.
Knowing that he needed to get out of here, Obi-Wan began to drag himself across the room, his right leg trailing behind him as dead weight. Stopping briefly at his saber, the boy grabbed the trusty blade and clipped it to his belt. Slowing as he passed Darth Maul, Obi-Wan found himself coming to a halt at the Sith's deactivated saber. Snatching it up, and keeping it clutched in his hand, the boy came up beside the fallen Jedi Master. Obi-Wan reached out a trembling, blood-soaked hand and gently shook the large man's shoulder.
"Master Jinn," the boy whispered urgently. "Please, Master Jinn, you have to wake up." He tried again, shaking a little more vigorously. He tensed when a low moan came from the demonic man sprawled just a few feet away. He didn't know what he would do if the dark one awoke first. The boy was now completely drained and knew he would not be able to fight the apprentice off. He contemplated stabbing the dark one similarly in the leg, but he was unsure if the pain would bring him to consciousness. Getting desperate, Obi-Wan decided on a new tactic.
"Master Jinn," Obi-Wan stated a little more firmly. Then, reaching up, the boy slapped the Jedi Master across the face, snapping his head to one side. Any regret Obi-Wan may have felt at the rough treatment fled as Qui-Gon's eyes fluttered. "Master Jinn?" the boy tried again. Hearing that voice seemed to be the final thing the Master needed, as piercing blue eyes snapped open to look at Obi-Wan.
"Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon croaked out, clearly disorientated. The youth nodded encouragingly. His mind quickly clearing, the tall Jedi Master sat up. He looked down at the battered boy before him, a wave of awe flooding him. While he did not quite understand what had caused Obi-Wan to unleash such a Force wave, he could not deny that he was fully impressed at the power the boy had exhibited. It seemed that, like most animals, it was not wise to back Obi-Wan Kenobi into a corner. The results could be profound.
"We…we need to get out of here Master Jinn. That dark man could wake up at any moment," Obi-Wan spoke up, in a hushed whisper, breaking Qui-Gon's rumination. Bringing his attention to the here and now, Qui-Gon looked over at his assailant and frowned. Reaching out with the Force, the Jedi Master realized that the man was out cold. Did he dare waste time trying to confine the Darksider? His main objective was to get Obi-Wan to safety, not to play Sith Hunter. He would alert the other Jedi as soon as he was clear of the threat. They could deal with him.
That decided, the tall Jedi Master stooped and lifted the injured boy into his arms, cradling him across his broad chest. Obi-Wan hissed in pain as the laceration in his thigh was jostled. He looked up at Qui-Gon in silent thanks as he felt the pain subside. The long-haired man smiled gently at his would-be apprentice. Walking carefully over the fallen Sith, Qui-Gon reached out and called his saber to his hand.
"Here, Obi-Wan. Take my saber, my hands are a little full," Jinn stated with a small smirk. Happy to comply, the youth clutched both the Sith's saber and the Jedi's saber to his chest, looking over the Master's shoulder to where their opponent lay. Panic gripped the boy as the dark assailant was no longer there. Where could he have gone? He had just been there five seconds ago when they had walked over him. Had he been playing possum?
"We are not finished here Jedi," Darth Maul called out, flashing into Qui-Gon's line of sight, blocking their exit. Obi-Wan turned his head toward the door, and saw the smaller man standing before them, his hands on his hips.
"You are unarmed dark one," Qui-Gon stated calmly, already noticing that the clever boy he held had taken the Sith's saber. The red and black visage before them smirked. He lifted one hand, clearly drawing on the force. Suddenly, a blast door came slamming down over the front entrance, followed by a second set that came across horizontally.
"Am I?" He asked rhetorically. Then, reaching into his belt, he pulled out a small cylindrical device with a thumb switch on the top. Obi-Wan knew it could not be good as he felt Qui-Gon tense. "I told you old one. I would rather see him dead than in your hands, and if I get to see you dead too; all the better."
"And you are willing to sacrifice yourself as well? With those blast doors down, there is no way you are escaping before that detonator goes off."
"I am more than willing to make the sacrifice. I do not fear death," Darth Maul scoffed. Almost as though trying to prove that point, he thumbed the switch and the sphere opened, lights and various beeps started emitting from the device. "You have one minute," he stated calmly and then carelessly tossed the thermal detonator at Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Not wanting to drop Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon reached out with the Force to catch the device and bring it to him.
In the few moments the Jedi Master was distracted with trying to catch the bomb, Darth Maul ran over to the wall of windows. Pressing a button, one of the large panes retracted, opening up to the skyline of Coruscant and the thousand story drop below him. Parked right where he had left it, the Sith jumped onto his one-man speeder and quickly pulled away from the building, leaving both the Jedi and the Chosen One behind. His Master would not be pleased, but it was better than letting the Jedi win.
Back within the Senator's apartment, Qui-Gon thought frantically about his options. With less than a minute, he didn't have many. He didn't have enough time to cut through the blast doors, nor did he have enough time to try and stop the timed detonator. If he'd had even three minutes to study the device, he could probably figure out what internal switches he needed to disable, but thirty seconds? He doubted even Master Yoda could accomplish that task.
He could toss the bomb out the now open window. However, that would endanger the thousands of inhabitants that where even now buzzing around this very popular building. No, it would be better to keep it in the apartment. Each set of quarters was properly enforced to contain such a blast so as to not affect the building as a whole. That left only one option.
"Obi-Wan, I need you to trust me," the Jedi Master stated, only realizing once the words were out of his mouth, what he was truly asking of the boy. He, who had thrown this boy aside; he, who had unintentionally set this turn of events into motion now needed this one child's trust, even though he knew he did not deserve it. Solemn blue-green eyes looked up at him.
"Yes Master. I trust you."
And with those words, Qui-Gon tightened his grip on the youth, ran for the window and jumped.
Author's Note: I am so sorry everyone. Once again, life, namely my new nephew, got in the way of this story. Hopefully, this extra long chapter makes up for it! In order to get this up, I do not have any author responses. But, do know this; I do appreciate each and everyone of you who reviewed!!!! Your kind words have meant a lot. You have all kept me truly interested in finishing this story. I hope you are all enjoying the ride! Until Next Time…