Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars, which belongs solely to George Lucas.
Author's Note: Most of the major characters (if not all) will appear from time to time, though only a few will be main characters. This first chapter handles the AU events of Episode I. So here it goes…
Once you come upon death,
everything returns to nothingness.
As a puppet,
whose strings have been cut,
you just collapse.
-from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Qui-gon Jinn sighed as he and his ward left the Council Chamber. His sigh caused the blonde-haired boy to look up at him with his blue eyes. Qui-gon silently noted the fear that was present in the eyes. The change that had been thrust into the child's life was more than enough to cause and being to fear. He had been taken from his home planet and his mother, who was the only family the boy, had ever had. Now found himself on a completely foreign world and under the scrutiny of twelve Jedi Masters, who could make even the strongest of knights nervous.
"Master Qui-gon, sir," Anakin asked his voice very low. "What is going to happen to me?"
"You will be trained, Anakin." The Jedi Master looked fondly down at the boy. "You have my word. The Council just has concerns, regarding your age. Normally, candidates arrive at the temple when they are infants. This is done specially to prevent strong attachments from forming between the candidate and their birth families. Such attachments can prove dangerous for Jedi, and could possibly lead one to the dark side of the Force."
Anakin's eyes widen. "So Jedi don't know their parents?"
Qui-gon glanced out a window briefly. "Many Jedi meet their relations, while others choose to never make contact with their birth families. However, they mustn't become so attached to them that they would be unable to perform their duties. When you are older, I will tell you a story about a boy named Xanatos."
"What happened to him?"
Qui-gon brushed down the sorrow that began to eat at his heart. "He was killed."
"Oh," Anakin mouthed, sensing that Qui-gon was sad. "What do we do now?"
"Wait," Qui-gon said, leading the way to his quarters. "I am still responsible for the Queen's protection. It is likely that she will choose to return to Naboo."
"Won't that be dangerous?" Anakin asked, trying to keep up with Qui-gon's long strides.
"Yes, the Queen will find the task to be daunting." Qui-gon turned down another corridor. "But if anyone can do so, I believe it would be Queen Amidala. She is very strong-willed." He paused. "And here is my room. After the Council decides to train you, we will move into the Padawan/Master suites. They're much bigger than the Knight quarters."
Anakin eyes darted in awe around the room. The size of the room did not matter to the nine-year old, especially when he began notice all the interesting items held within its confines. On a small table in front of a couch there sat an oblong plate, which held numerous rocks that the Jedi Master seemed to collect. Anakin's attention landed on a lightsaber that hung on the wall, and he walked quickly over to it. He raised his hand to touch the polished metal, but Qui-gon called him back.
"Don't touch that, Ani!"
It was the first time that Qui-gon had snapped at him, causing the boy to frown before peering more closely at the lightsaber.
"I'm sorry that I yelled," Qui-gon said, seeming to read the youth's mind. "I don't like people touching that lightsaber."
"Who did it belong to?"
"My pada-… my former Padawan." The Jedi's eyes seemed distant to the youth, who stood by him. "I kept it even after we parted ways all those years ago, hoping that one day he would return to reclaim."
"But he hasn't." Anakin finished. His brow knitted in confusion as he processed the fact that Qui-gon's student had left him.
"No, he never did." Qui-gon sighed. "It has been my biggest regret… letting him leave. Yoda kept an eye on him after he had left the order, but one day when my Padawan visited a planet called Dantoonie… he simple disappeared without a trace. He was only fifteen. I searched for him for quite some time, but there were no clues for me to follow. Over the years, I had given up any hope that I had possessed."
Anakin grasped Qui-gon's robes. "What was his name?"
"Obi-wan," the Jedi Master answered. "Obi-wan Kenobi."
"What was he like?"
"Very brave and kind." Qui-gon looked down at the expectant face. He did not want to talk about his former apprentice as the subject was still sore. "You had best get to bed, Ani. You can sleep in my bed tonight. I will take the sofa. I expect an early morning tomorrow."
The boy nodded and vanished through the door that Qui-gon had indicated, leaving the Jedi Master in solitude to ponder his thoughts. His eyes glanced to the lightsaber, causing his heart to clench.
He had been surprised when Yoda had told him that he had been keeping tabs on Obi-wan after his dissent on Melida/Daan. The aged Jedi Master had only devolved this information after Qui-gon had come to him, asking permission to bring Obi-wan back. Only then was he alerted of his former Padawan's movements. Shortly, after the situation on Melida/Daan had been settled, Obi-wan had moved on to a various number of planets. On each of these planets, Obi-wan had lived up to his training, becoming involved in little deeds that had done much good.
The last Yoda had heard Qui-gon's wayward Padawan was currently on Dantoonie. Qui-gon had gone to that planet only to discover that Obi-wan had vanished. From the locals, he had learned that Obi-wan had become involved in a feud between different groups of farmers, which had grown into a mini war. Qui-gon had pressed hard to find information about Obi-wan, but it was as if the boy had never existed. It became apparent that his Padawan was no longer on the planet.
Sighing, Qui-gon brought himself back to the present. Dwelling on the past didn't help him, or Obi-wan, if he was even alive. He laid down on the sofa and closed his eyes, waiting for sleep to come. He would need is rest, especially if he met that horned warrior again.
The next day Qui-gon was proven correct in his observations regarding the Queen. He now stood on the docking bay with young Anakin in tow, waiting for the Queen and her entourage to arrive. In the background, the royal Nubian ship glistened in the bright morning light, reflecting the environment that surrounded.
Beside him, Anakin shifted impatiently. He had long since grown impatient. The boy's posture suddenly straightened, and he pointed to a dot in the distance.
"They're coming!" The excitement in his voice was almost contagious, but Qui-gon resisted as he thought of what lay ahead. He knew well that he could not and would not fight a war for the young Queen.
He watched silently as the small transport landed and the Queen, her handmaidens, her security guards, Senator Palpatine, and the Senator's own set of senatorial bodyguards dressed in their customary blue armor. The Queen seeing Qui-gon's bow, inclined her head slightly in respect.
"I would like to thank-you for your continue service, Master Jinn," She said, pausing briefly in front of the Jedi. "We can use all the help that we can get."
"I will only be able to protect you, but I cannot fight a war for you."
The Queen smiled slightly. "If things go as planned that will not be necessary."
Qui-gon returned her gaze before his attention turned toward Senator Palpatine and a blue armored bodyguard, who stood beside the Senator. Qui-gon noted that the blue guard was smaller than the other guards.
Palpatine smiled, making Qui-gon uneasy, before bowing faintly to the Knight.
"I am very concerned for Queen Amidala's safety. If she were forced to sign any document it would bode badly for our people." Qui-gon frowned, wondering where the Senator was going. "I am sending one of my bodyguards to aid you in your efforts." He motioned to his still companion. "He is quite capable, my preeminent bodyguard."
"That is not necessary." Qui-gon and the Queen said instantaneously.
"No, No," Palpatine was quick to say, settling his blue eyes on Amidala, appearing to almost be pleading with her. "I must insist. Please… do it for me, Milady."
The Queen paused before she finally nodded. "We will welcome his help then."
Palpatine's smile became prominent again as he turned to his guard. "You know your task, Lieutenant."
The figure merely nodded following into step beside Qui-gon and Anakin as they followed the Queen and her entourage up the ramp. Anakin glanced nervously at the Senate Guard. Qui-gon also shot uneasy looks at their new companion. Even using the Force, Qui-gon could get nothing more from the blue guard, who felt like a blank canvas. Later, he would pull him off to the side.
They had been in route for an hour now. Qui-gon inaudibly observed that the object of his attention tended to sit off by himself, choosing not to interact with the others. Now he sat at the small table in the mess hall, resting his head against the smooth wall of the ship. Since Anakin was occupied with the handmaiden named Padmè, Qui-gon decided to approach the blue guard.
"I didn't catch your name," Qui-gon said, sliding into the seat across the bodyguard.
The blue armored figure jerked alert. He seemed to be uncertain at first by the question. "I'm called Dukke."
"That is a strange name," Qui-gon commented.
"It might not even be a name," Dukke stated, leaning back into his seat. "So that would be why it sounds strange."
The blue guard's tone seemed forlorn but also very young, though his mask manipulated his voice. Something was off about the man. His force presence was severely muted, making him difficult for Qui-gon to read him.
"Would you like some tea?" Qui-gon asked Dukke.
He shook his head.
"I'm sure wearing that armor must get very tiring." Qui-gon pushed. "You are no longer on Coruscant, I'm sure that you could remove it to make yourself more comfortable."
"No," Dukke said, his covered finger running along the table's edge. "It's forbidden for me to take off my armor, especially when I'm serving the Senator."
"You seem a little too young to apart of the Senate's blue guard."
"I am the youngest," he confirmed, shifting in his seat.
"How old are you?" Qui-gon asked, rising from his seat to prepare himself tea.
There was long gap of silence. "I guess seventeen."
"You guess?" Qui-gon put the kettle down onto the burner. "A little too young to be losing track of how old you are, isn't it?"
Qui-gon could feel the guard's invisible eyes follow his every move from the moment he removed the kettle from the burner to when he began pouring the steamy liquid into his cup. Qui-gon quietly pulled the tea bag up and down within the confines of the rounded cup, causing the rich brownish-red hue to create a swirl as it mixed with the clear water. When the liquid had reached the peak color, Qui-gon removed the bag and moved toward the table cup in hand.
"You make tea often." Dukke stated.
"You can tell?"
"You move as if it were an art," the guard commented. "I like to observe people. I have witnessed many kinds of people… but you are the most interesting."
"Oh?" Qui-gon's eyebrow rose. "And why is that?"
"You remind me of someone."
"Do you have fond memories of this person?"
"I don't have many memories of them… more like feelings." The guard leaned forward. "When I am around you, I feel as if I could almost recall that person." The man sighed. "I think they liked tea as well."
Qui-gon's face remained neutral. "Do you have a family?"
"No, I was orphaned." The brusque tone closed the subject.
The Jedi Master raised the cup to his mouth, sipping the still hot tea. "Senator Palpatine seems very concerned for the Queen's life to have sent one of his own senate guards."
"She is a very important figure. Senator Palpatine thinks of her as a daughter, and wishes the best for her." He paused. "He is also very concerned for his home world. He only hopes that the Senate will move quickly to prevent the Trade Federation from destroying it." The blue guard stood up, nodding his head. "I will be resting in my quarters for the remainder of the journey. Things are bound to get interesting when we actually land on Naboo."
Qui-gon remained at the table silently finishing off his tea, unable to shake the feeling that something was horribly off. The force was trying to tell himself, but the meaning of the warning was still unclear. His mind flashed back to the creature that he believed to be a Sith, who he had briefly dueled on Tatoonie. He knew that it would be waiting on Naboo. He had always known that, but only this time there was an unknown factor… the blue guard. Wordlessly, Qui-gon wished that he had asked for another Jedi to accompany him on this mission.
"Master Qui-gon," Anakin said from behind, causing him to jerk slightly from his retrospection. "What is going to happen when we reach Naboo. Padmè says there is going to be a battle."
"Padmè is very wise." Qui-gon paused and looked hard at the boy. "You have to promise me, Anakin, that you will not get involved tomorrow. You are to find someplace safe and wait for me there."
"No, buts." Qui-gon rose from his seat, carrying his cup to the sink. "Battles are very dangerous, Anakin. Blasters can't differentiate between military targets and civilians. They don't know the difference between a combatant and a child. Do I have your word?"
Anakin nodded reluctantly. "I will make you proud."
"I have no doubt in my mind about that." Qui-gon smiled warmly at the boy before motioning him to bed. He, himself, decided that it would also be good if he caught some sleep. As Qui-gon lay in the malleable bed, he could not shake his sense of foreboding.
SW Naboo SW
Qui-gon was impressed. The Queen's plan was coming together nicely. She had managed to sway the Gungans into a partnership without the aid of her Jedi companion. The defenders had a good chance of reclaiming their home world. Qui-gon hoped that Nubian starfighters would be able to perform their task of destroying the droid control ship, because if they did not the Gungan army would be slaughtered.
"Master Jedi," Padmè Amidala spoke to him, her face without the traditional paint. "We are ready to move out."
He nodded, beckoning Anakin to follow him. Dukke fell in step with Qui-gon, saying nothing as they approached the transport that would take them to the capital city of Theed. The Gungans had already begun their trek to draw away the droid army from the capital.
"Are you afraid?" Anakin asked. His bright eyes clouded with doubt.
"It is alright to be a little afraid, Ani, just as long as you do not let it cloud your actions." Qui-gon placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Control your fear not the other way around."
"I won't let you down."
"I know you won't."
The transport ride was quiet, and they had no difficulties entering the city and maneuvering their way into the palace hanger. However, it was when they reached the palace that they met the first strain of resistance in the form of battle droids. It was now that Qui-gon was able to watch the blue guard in action and his movements with his vibroblade were eerily similar to those of a Jedi. He had had training somewhere in his past. Qui-gon turned his attention back to the two droids that barred his path, slicing through them cleaning. Their electronics sizzled for moments after their torsos had been divided. With the droids occupied, the pilots were able to get to their starfighters quickly, taking off.
As a group Amidala and her forces approached the main door. Qui-gon turned and noticed Anakin sitting in the cockpit of one of the Nubian starfighters.
"Stay in that cockpit!"
In front of him, the main door was keyed and swished open, revealing a dark warrior. Qui-gon's heart hardened. His premonitions had been correct after all. The Sith was on Naboo. Looking briefly at the Queen, Qui-gon removed his outer robes as it would only slow him down.
"I will handle this."
"We'll take the long way," Padmè said already leading the way to the opposite side of the hanger.
Qui-gon noticed that Dukke stood by his side. "You aren't a match for him." The Jedi warned.
Qui-gon wished at that moment that he could see the guard's face, because then he would know what he was thinking. The Sith Lord sneered at the interplay between them before beckoning Qui-gon forward.
"Protect the Queen," Qui-gon called, rushing at the tattooed being.
The blue guard turned to leave, and Qui-gon followed his foe through the bowels of the Palace. Forced to allow the Sith Lord to guide the paths that they took. For the second time he found himself wishing that he had asked for another Jedi… he was getting to old for this.
Dukke watched quietly as the blue blot he recognized as Qui-gon Jinn began to fade. In the back of his mind, he heard his Master's voice: You know what to do, dukke. It was only a matter of time.
Dukke's hand tightened on his vibroblade before he started to follow in after the Jedi Master and the being he knew as Darth Maul… his Master's apprentice. Using the Force, he reached out into his surroundings, feeling the battle as it took place. He began to manipulate its currents, pulling it to the Queen's side. Ahead, he could sense the Jedi Master's duel. Something about the way Jinn felt was familiar to Dukke's mind, but any such memories had been barred and sealed from him.
The ripples of the force alerted him to the changing waves of the duel ahead of him. The Jedi Master was slowing in his dance, no doubt hindered by his age. The dark currant that was Maul fed upon this weakness in his opponent and attacked with renewed fervor. They were slowly approaching the reactor core. Dukke raced ahead using the lower passages, knowing that he had to reach the reactor core before either Maul or the Jedi Master did. He succeeded in this task though not by more than a few seconds. Maul was the first to burst into the circular room.
Dukke could make out his redden form pacing back and forth predatorily. There was no doubt in his mind that the Zabrak was sneering at the Jedi, who was trapped behind a force field. Dukke blended into his surroundings, ebbing his force presence until it was no more.
He listened impassively catching the faint silence that suggested that the shield had vanished. It was quickly followed by Jinn's footsteps as he accessed the reactor room. Dukke, then, fully submerged himself into the force, pulling the strings of the various factions of the battles. The Queen would win, as it was what his master had decreed. She was useful to him for now.
The young man suddenly lurched out of the Force felling the hit to the Jedi Master before it came. He was moving forward toward Maul without thought his special vibroblade in hand. The Jedi Master's form slump unconscious to the floor, but he was still alive, Dukke could feel and see his life force.
Darth Maul moved in for the kill, only to meet Dukke's blade. The vibroblade's cortosis weave allowed it to withstand Maul's lightsaber. The blue guard felt the dark lord's shock and fear roll of him.
"You," the Zabrak hissed through his teeth. "What is the meaning of this,
"Don't you know death when you come upon it?" Dukke replied quietly. "The Master no longer requires your aid. You were a talented beast, but a beast all the same. For the next step of his plans, the master requires one with more… appeal."
Maul took step backwards raising his blade in defiance. "I will kill you and then complete the circle, killing him. I will be the Master!"
The young blue guard only response was lash out at the Dark Lord of the Sith. He fell into the Force, using it to see Maul's moves and to counteract them. Soon he was seeing Maul's attacks before he made them. He was now pushing the Zabrak backward toward the circular pit that led miles downward. In one swift move, Dukke cut through the center of Maul's double-bladed lightsaber. Maul was in shock, staring briefly at his broken weapon. That brief second of his loose guard spelled his fate, and Dukke cut Maul neatly in two before using the force to push the Zabrak passed the ledge.
He stood silently staring down after Maul, his stomach contorting as he watched the red fade to nothing. His mind wondered briefly when he would outlive his usefulness to his master.
A groan issued from behind him, causing Dukke to jerk his attention away from his former superior to the wounded Jedi. The Jedi Master's presence was fading. Behind the mask, he bit his lower lip. His master's unwanted words flitting to his mind. He raised his vibroblade as he approached the unconscious Jedi. However, as he stood over Jinn, he could not bring himself to bring down the blade. Instead the blade clattered to the hard marble floor. Dukke clenched his hands into fist, trying to understand the presence that he felt ever so lightly, but it vanished to quickly.
Reaching down to his utility belt he removed his comlink. "This Dukke. I need a medic down here immediately. Jedi Master Jinn has been wounded."
With that done, he wordlessly began to halt the bleeding that seemed to appear to coming from Jinn's midsection. With that done, he merely had to wait for the medics to arrive. He poured healing energy into the Master as he waited.
Qui-gon opened his eyes wearily, wishing he did not have to wake from the pleasant dream he had been having, in which he had felt a familiar presence that he hadn't felt in a long time. He wished wordlessly that he could disappear into the hospital bed… or at least return to the Temple. He blinked looking over to the seat to see Master Yoda sitting beside him.
"Decide to wake you have?" The familiar voice of Master Yoda asked, adding his familiar harrumph at the end. "When as old as I am, need it you will. Too young to be sleeping life away you are, eh?"
Qui-gon smiled despite the soreness. "Where is Anakin?" Qui-gon asked, noticing that boy was not at his normal place by his side.
"Well the boy is." Yoda stated. "With the Queen he is."
"Has the council reached a decision?"
Yoda frowned and his ears flattened. "Impatient as always you are, Qui-gon." Yoda paused. "Trained the boy will be. Rest with that knowledge. But great danger I sense in his training."
Qui-gon leaned back into the pillows. "I will be mindful of that, Master."
Yoda nodded his head solemnly, looking up as the door opened allowing the new Chancellor into the room.
"Master Jinn," Palpatine said pleasantly. "It is a pleasure to see you, Master Jedi, awake and on the way to recovery. I cannot think you enough for your deeds. Unfortunately, you were unable to attend the celebration so I could not do so there."
"It was nothing, Chancellor."
Palpatine shook his head. "It was hardly nothing. The people of Naboo are in your debt."
"What has become of the blue guard, he has not come to visit for a while?" Qui-gon asked.
"He has returned to Coruscant." The Chancellor paused, his face unreadable. "The battle upset him greatly. I felt it best that he should not linger here longer than necessary."
"Give him my thanks once again. He saved my life."
Palpatine smiled. "See it was a good thing that I sent him, wasn't it, Master Jedi." The Chancellor kindly tipped his head to Master Yoda and then to Qui-gon. "Well, excuse me, Masters, but I have a transport to catch back to Coruscant. Until we meet again, Master Jedi." With that said he bowed and left the two Jedi in the hospital room.
Qui-gon could not understand what it was about the Chancellor that bothered him, but there was something to the man. And weeks after he had returned to Coruscant with his new padawan, Anakin, Qui-gon would ponder the feeling he had felt back on Theed. Soon after he was allowed to leave the Temple, he had went to the Senatorial complex and asked to speak with the blue guard named Dukke only to discover that the guard had quit, choosing to leave Coruscant behind. Despite this information, Qui-gon could not help but have his doubts.
Author's Note: Please R&R. I will try to update as frequently as possible, but (because of my life) I can get busy at times, so please be patient. Next Chapter is A Frustrating War. "Dukke/dukke" is Danish for puppet.