TITLE: Death's Shade
AUTHOR: Susan Zell
DISCLAIMER: All characters from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" series are the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilms Animation Ltd. No profit has been made by this venture. I've merely borrowed the characters to tell a small tale of "in between". All toys will be returned to their rightful place in the toy box at the conclusion of playtime, none the worse for wear. (Okay, so the Obi-wan doll may be a little damaged. I'm a little rough with him.)
SUMMARY: A devious plot by the enemy is initiated that could wipe out the Jedi without firing a weapon, leaving Obi-wan Kenobi fighting for his last breath as Anakin races to save him.
TIMELINE: Just before the Battle of Christophsis. Pre Ahsoka.
SPOILERS: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Theatrical Release; Blue Shadow Virus
RATINGS: PG-13, Non-slash.
TYPE: Hurt/Comfort, Action/Adventure,
APOLOGIES: I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV; Nor am I a SW fanatic with factual nuances at my beck and call; therefore, all discrepancies be it SW jargon/lore/etc or medical diagnoses are my own.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have to thank George Lucas for bringing Star Wars back into my life when I thought it was a journey long since finished. I was a fan back in the early days of Han and Luke, but never of the prequels. Way too many special effects and not enough character development. I never liked Anakin very much in the films. He went from brat to bastard all too quickly with little explanation. However, I give props to the television series for making Anakin Skywalker a likable character for the first time with much more depth than was ever given him in the films. That being said I'm more an Obi-wan fan, but I do love the father/son/brother relationship between Obi-wan and Anakin and how it plays out against the backdrop of the Clone Wars. So my stories will evolve around that. Hopefully I've treated both characters with the respect they are due.
INVITE: Feel free to visit me at Izzy Productions, Ltd., my blog where videos, stories, and stuff will be posted. It's still in development but it will cover a wide range of obsessions…I mean hobbies… like Warcraft, Star Wars, various Television, etc. The link is in the author's bio.
Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak. Sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
Warring Separatist and Republic forces rip the galaxy into splintering sections. Forces struggle at the ends of the galaxy, waiting for reinforcements. Information on enemy ship movements and supplies to move the war machines are in heavy demand.
Desperate to halt additional construction on new Separatist battle ships, Generals Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker lead a covert action to shut down a grinding war machine factory, information given to them by trusted sources.
A Sprung Trap
The shipyard factory was small in comparison to the majority of deep space plants that littered the galaxy. Constructed of three concentric rings that went from smallest on top to the largest on the bottom, they all spun in opposite directions of each other, and should have encircled any number of large vehicles. Though at present only a small frigate listed precariously in its protection. The small size of the station made the job of the two Jedi racing toward it that much easier to find their objective within. Their silent approach heralded only by an occasional flare of their jetpacks correcting their course as they all but glided to a small hatch set in the hull of the outer most concourse.
Obi-wan Kenobi glanced at his compatriot whose quiet scowl behind the glass face plate confirmed that things seemed amiss to him as well. Anakin Skywalker pointed to a hanger bay that should have held a fleet of Separatists vessels and gun ships. Instead they saw only scraps of discarded metal and piles of dusty boxes. There were no docked ships, no bustle of factory drones outside the various docking bays. The hunk of metal looked dead.
Their informant had impressed upon the Council that Jedi would be needed to infiltrate the facility and bring it to its knees. But from the looks of the dead factory an ailing mynok could have done the job just as easily. Could the intel have been that wrong, Obi-wan wondered? Or was there more going on here than meets the eye?
Obi-wan sent Anakin the hand signal for "trap". A curt nod was the response as Anakin pointed at a remote hatch set against the side of the station. It too was unguarded. They maneuvered carefully to the side and attached themselves as Anakin worked the controls to bypass security and access the hatch.
Cold dark eyes watched the two figures come closer. Asajj Ventress hissed with pleasure as she recognized the two Jedi the Republic had sent against her. The two most troublesome. She kept her mental shields firmly in place lest they sense her presence too soon. Her thin smile deepened at the knowledge that one of them would be her prize test subject. It didn't matter to her which one, because to make one suffer, made them both suffer equally.
Jedi professed to have no emotional bonds, but these two reeked of sentiment. Their bond leaked from their very cores. Most Jedi at this stage had long since severed that Master/Padawan bond due to the dangers it posed. She scoffed at how they continued to remain a team when most others separated early on to prevent such a thing. Though a part of her admitted they made a formidable pair as they were, which vexed her at every turn. Sith long since knew that extreme emotions gave them strength and power unimaginable, though it inevitably led to the Dark Side. Still Kenobi and Skywalker seemed to walk the narrow path between detachment and friendship without falling to either side.
Tonight, however, she would sever that bond, and the aftermath of that break would be a wonder to behold. She made final adjustments to her weaponry and slipped into the shadows to await their arrival. Ventress demanded a front row seat to the spectacle.
Obi-wan and Anakin removed their space suits and hid them behind a panel. The bearded Jedi enjoyed the freedom from the confining space suit, rolling his shoulders and adjusting his ivory tunic. Obi-wan opened his mind to the Force sending it scattering along the halls, but he sensed nothing nearby.
"All's quiet," remarked his companion beside him, scanning the empty hallway.
"Too much so." Obi-wan rose to his feet, reaching for the lightsaber at his hip. He didn't ignite it, but the weight of his weapon was comforting in his grasp. "Either the factory has shut down early or…"
"It's a trap," finished his former Padawan.
"Exactly." Obi-wan strode down the corridor. "Best not keep them waiting."
Anakin grinned. There were times his Master loved a good fight as much as he did. Most Jedi at the Council didn't realize that about him. High General Kenobi came by his title of "The Negotiator" via diplomacy rather than battle, but his skill with the Force and saber were daunting. Not as impressive as his own, of course. Obi-wan had mentioned often how Anakin's skills rapidly surpassed everyone's expectations, but it didn't lessen the fact that Obi-wan Kenobi was an eager and skilled warrior in his own right.
Shadows lingered long and dark as the energy in the station seemed to be powered down. The two Jedi proceeded carefully. Despite expecting a trap, it would be far too easy to spring a deadly one. However, they met no opposition. The station appeared deserted.
They passed numerous closed doors and they methodically searched them but saw nothing but scraps and aging debris. No one had been here in a very long time. As they came to the last door on the hallway, Obi-wan motioned Anakin to the side as he palmed open the lock. The door whoosed open. They peered in. This one appeared to be a lab of some sort. Dozens of vials and bottles filled with various liquids lined numerous shelves. Equipment covered the tables. It at least showed signs of being used recently.
"I thought the intel said this was a ship repair factory," remarked Obi-wan.
"That's what the brochure read. Though you know druids." Anakin shrugged, picking up one of the vials and eyeing it closely. "Should we take some samples with us?"
Obi-wan shook his head. "Radio Commander Cody. Tell him to land his men and start a sweep of this area. They can confiscate the samples. It will give us a clearer idea of what is going on here. We'll move on to the next section."
Anakin complied and soon heard the rumble of the gun ships approaching to dock. Then he followed after his former Jedi Master.
The next section of the station was just as dark as the last and it seemed almost as empty until both Jedi drew up short, each sensing the same thing.
"We're not alone." Obi-wan's lightsaber ignited in a blue glow; his Padawan's a second later.
"I know that presence," Anakin snarled.
A pale blur rushed them from a side alcove. A red glow of a Sith lightsaber arced toward them.
"Ventress!" Obi-wan shouted, as his lightsaber blocked her swing, the whoosh of the sweeping blade replaced with the sputtering crackle as the two energy weapons met.
Her slanted eyes narrowed further, almost purring she shoved him back and quickly swung her blade to deflect Skywalker's attack. "I am very pleased to see you both. You have made a boring assignment most enjoyable."
"The pleasure's all ours, Ventress. Trust us," exclaimed Anakin. He struggled to keep the assassin's attention on him in order to give Obi-wan the opening he needed, but Ventress was too clever to fall for such a simple ruse. Somersaulting twice, she force leapt out of their reach for the moment.
"Some thing's not right, Anakin," Obi-wan noted. It took a second to discover what was out of the ordinary. Ventress was renowned for duel wielding, however this time she carried only one lightsaber with her.
Anakin quickly picked up on it also. "So, Ventress, lose your other saber? Tsk tsk."
"What would Dooku say?" Obi-wan countered.
"Just makes our job that much easier, right Obi-wan?"
His Master paused, alarm bells ringing clearly in his head. Something was amiss by design not accident. He was about to caution his former Padawan, but Ventress wasted no time in continuing the fight.
The Lady Assassin merely smiled cruelly at them. "I need only one lightsaber to sever you both to pieces." Their playful banter during battles infuriated her the most. She bounded toward them again; her plan was to draw one of them near her. All she need do was place one in peril and the other would come within her range to strike. Count Dooku was correct in that with only one lightsaber they quickly became overconfident. Especially Skywalker. He was impetuous and could easily be fanned into aggression. She decided on her target.
Her blade spun and struck, forcing Skywalker to the defensive. But even so, Skywalker would not yield to her attack. He turned the tables quickly, his saber humming with power and slamming against hers again and again, till her arms ached. Kenobi circled behind her and she struggled to keep them both in line of sight.
Kenobi darted quickly out of her vision, sticking to her blind side. But a Jedi or a Sith did not need eyes to sense danger. Her blade arced back and forth in a blur, in front and behind to cover both Jedi's attack.
With a manic spin, she swept her saber low to force Kenobi back. He leapt easily over it and came down toward her from above. Rolling to her left away from him, she force slammed Skywalker into a wall. Her blade swung again to Kenobi as he landed on his feet and brought his saber to bear against hers. The blades screamed at the contact, power and force arcing into a sharp, snapping hiss. The glow of their blades illuminated their faces. Ventress wore a mask of rage, while only Obi-wan's furrowed brow showed his intensity. She swung her other arm at his face. He saw her blow coming and shoved her away from him.
Ventress used the momentum to hit the wall behind her feet first and sail over Kenobi to land near the stunned Skywalker.
Anakin was just rising to his feet but managed to bring his saber up to protect himself. To his frustration, her blow drove him to his knees again. Stars still danced in Anakin's eyes; his head had connected a bit too hard with the wall. He wasn't out of commission but he needed breathing room.
"A little help here," he asked Obi-wan.
Ventress used the Force to slam Anakin's head again against the wall. With her foot she kicked his lightsaber out of his hand. Dazed, Anakin reached out blindly with the Force, trying to shove her away, missed, and then desperately searched for his saber.
Obi-wan raced toward them. He saw Ventress smile as she looked at him, her blade still descending on the unarmed Anakin. Why would she take her eyes off of her intended target, he wondered?
Using a two handed grip to lend more strength, Obi-wan's blade made it under hers, preventing the killing stroke, but only just. Oddly, the woman did not seem upset by the failure. Instead, her other hand slapped him on the back, gripping his shoulder hard and with the Force behind it, tossed him to the side where he slid across the floor. There was a stab of pain in his shoulder from her damn long nails.
The young Jedi shook his head to clear it and force called his saber back to his hand. Then sprang to assist Obi-wan who was up again and swinging blow after blow to drive her away from Anakin.
Ventress continued to back up under their assault. Her smile drove Anakin to near madness. He wanted to wipe that smug expression from her. Her reserves were waning; he could feel it. Just a bit more and they would have her.
Booted feet were heard in the hallway outside.
"Give up, Ventress," commanded Obi-wan. "Our reinforcements have arrived. There's no way out."
"Sorry, Master Kenobi. But I have other plans." She shoved them both back with the Force but they leaped away on their own accord, and then quickly surged forward again. As they rushed her she hit a button on her belt and the top of the room exploded directly above them. The force of the blast shoved both Jedi to the ground amid flaming debris. Ventress jumped toward them and then leapt into the air, disappearing through the smoking opening above.
"After her!" shouted Anakin. Shoving aside the wreckage with a wave of his hand, he gained his feet more quickly than Obi-wan, leaping up toward the opening in the ceiling.
Still on one knee, the room spun a bit around Obi-wan and he lifted a hand to his head in order to stop it. Had he been hit by debris? He thought he had deflected it all. But something was wrong. His chest was as if a vise had grabbed it, and no matter how hard he tried to call upon the energies of the Force to ease his discomfort, the symptoms remained. A hand was at his elbow.
"Easy, Sir." It was Commander Cody. The 501st stood behind him, armed to the teeth.
"I'm fine. Let's get after her." However, Obi-wan didn't shove aside his trooper's hand as he gained his feet unsteadily. There was no time to waste.
The clones fired the rockets in their jetpacks and they soared up after Anakin, Obi-wan at their lead.
The Jedi used the walls of the shaft above them to bound from side to side, ascending as quickly as the clones. But it took all of Obi-wan's concentration to do what had always come so naturally, his head pounding fiercely, his mouth bone dry. A few minutes later, they emerged at the top into a large multi layered hanger. Ventress was just ahead of them aiming for the top most platform, three stories up. A ship most likely waited for her.
"Hurry," Anakin shouted, desperate not to lose her. He Force leapt from the bottom platform up to the next level, a miraculous leap of over two hundred feet.
Obi-wan was right behind him and he called on the Force to propel him after his student. It should have been an easy distance for him to clear. But suddenly it wasn't. The immense well of energy he normally called upon diminished abruptly. His leap fell short. Flinging out his arms as far as they could reach, he just managed to grasp the edge of the platform, but with no true grip. He slid downward. Hands scrabbled for purchase but every muscle seemed useless. Tiny sparks flared in his vision. He tried to call out but his lungs refused to draw breath as the vise intensified. Unimaginable pain flared everywhere, and he fell, his body plummeting past the clone troopers behind him.
Captain Lock saw him and veered toward the flailing Jedi, barely catching the General's shoulders. Together they made the next platform and Lock eased him gently to the platform. Kenobi shuddered in his grasp, as if trying to draw in air into his lungs. "I've got you, Sir."
Anakin sensed the pain surging in his Master and he hesitated, turning back.
Obi-wan waved a weak hand at him, urging him away. "Go! Stop her!"
Anakin obeyed the curt words of his mentor and raced toward the next platform. Ventress would not escape this time. The rest of the squad supported him, close on his heels.
Obi-wan watched his pupil become a diminutive speck and then his strength gave out and he slumped to the ground. Everything around him turned a gray shade.
Captain Lock could hear blasters firing now and the roar of a ship starting up. But he didn't turn to see how the battle was faring. Something was wrong with General Kenobi even though he saw no visible wounds. Jedi wore no armor, which he thought was just plain ludicrous in a war zone. No tunic or flowing robe was going to protect them from weapon's fire. They were still flesh and blood despite their hocus pocus powers. He opened his commlink. "I need a medical transport at these coordinates. General Kenobi is down. You'll be coming in hot." Lock knew the battle wasn't yet over, but he knew something serious was wrong with the General.
The Jedi Master had turned onto his back, one hand at his throat desperate to find way to bring air back into his lungs. The other clung to Lock's armor. His chest struggled to expand. He couldn't catch his breath. Kenobi was drenched in sweat and his lips were turning slowly blue.
Lock felt the rush of heated exhaust as the Separatist ship flew out of the hanger and through the force field shield. He was just thankful the damn filthy assassin didn't blow the shield as she fled or they all would have been sucked out into space.
Suddenly, General Skywalker alighted next to them.
"What happened?" Skywalker's disappointment over losing Ventress was quickly overshadowed by his concern for General Kenobi. He grabbed the flailing Jedi's shoulders trying to still his convulsive motions. Kenobi switched his grip to his former Padawan, trying to speak but not finding enough breath to do so.
"I don't know, sir. One minute he seemed fine, the next he was falling."
Kenobi clutched his friend's forearms, clipped words coming out like short gasps. "…can't…. breathe…"
Anakin tried to use the force to soothe Obi-wan's distress. Maybe if he relaxed he could get a bit more air. The minute he touched Obi-wan's shields however he sensed something was not right. The Force that usually flared so bright in his Master was almost gray in color and flickering madly. Anakin was not adept at healing but he used the Force to check Obi-wan's lungs and airway. There was a slight inflammation but nothing to cause this kind of reaction. He should be able to breathe, enough to survive anyway. But he wasn't.
"I've got a medical transport on the way," Lock informed him.
"He's not going to last." Anakin scanned the huddle of troopers surrounding them, forming a perimeter. "Anyone have a rebreather?" Lieutenant Rex slapped a secondary breather into his outstretched hand. Placing the device over Obi-wan's mouth, he activated it.
He turned his full attention to his Master. "Obi-wan listen to me. Relax. Let me past your shields." He could muscle his way in past the barriers the anguished man had unconsciously erected, but that would be damaging to both of them.
"Easy, Master. Just keep breathing." Anakin tried again to slip past Kenobi's shields. This time it was far easier. He wasn't sure if they just fell or Obi-wan intentionally dropped them. "Just keep listening to me."
"You can breathe. Your lungs are clear, Master. Just keep concentrating on me."
Anakin rolled Obi-wan over a bit and saw no blood on his back. Perhaps he had been hit by debris when the ceiling fell. "I don't see anything. Where?"
The troopers wondered who the Jedi was talking to.
Grabbing hold of the tunic's collar, he yanked down the cloth to expose Obi-wan's bare skin. Then Anakin saw it, a raised welt high on the left shoulder. "Damn it!" A pinprick was set deep within a small, inflamed circle of red, angry and hot. "He's been poisoned!"