OMD

Chapter 37

Location: Mustafar

The molten lava seeping from the rocky ground sent hot vapors to rise up around Anakin and Darth Vader. The two men squared off and circled around each other like deadly predators. Each waited with anticipation for the other to strike. However, Vader took his time. He was amused by the folly of the Blackswans to dare attempt to produce a clone of his former-self. They did not know that he could not be so easily replaced for he was the true Chosen One. He only had a destiny.

Brazenly, Vader de-activated his lightsaber and stared at the re-born Jedi boldly and said, "You are nothing more than Obi-Wan's pawn. You are a cheap imitation. You are nothing but an annoyance."

Anakin was mad. He couldn't believe how arrogant this Sith version of him could be. He narrowed his brow and lunged forward with his blue lightsaber drawn, but in his anger he missed. Vader laughed at the clumsy swing.

"Haha, you are weak, clone. My blood may flow through your veins, but you are no Jedi."

Anakin narrowed his brow and said, "I am a Jedi! And I'm not weak. You're the one who is weak. You fell to the Dark Side. You failed!"

Anakin then moved to attack again, but this time Vader ignited his blade and the two clashed in a blaze of sparks. In a test of strength, the two foes pulled their lightsabers close to their chest and locked their gaze. Stormy blue orbs meet the vacant glare of the black mask. Vader's breath was labored, but his hatred was strong. With the power of the Force, he shoved Anakin away easily and onto the hot ground. Anakin nearly touched the edge of a fiery lake with his right hand. He pulled it back just in time, but the hot ground burned the skin on his palm. He hissed in pain, but managed to leap back up with the aid of the Force.

"Impressive," stated Vader coldly. "But you are still no match for me, clone."

Anakin raised up his chest and moved to face the Sith again. He said, "I may be a clone, but at least I'm still a man. You. You are nothing more than a rotting corpse inside a machine."

Vader was enraged. What did this clone know about anything? He did not live though his hardship and pain. He had never known what it was like to be betrayed by everyone he had ever known and loved. He raised his hand and put Anakin in a Force-choke. He began to squeeze Anakin's throat with a venous hate. Anakin started to choke and felt himself being left off the ground.

The Sith strode closer to his prey and began to tighten his grip. He was determined to crush this doppelganger like an insect. Yet, with sheer will alone Anakin managed to left his hand and dispel Vader's hold. He then suddenly fell to the ground in a heap. Anakin began to cough and wheeze.

"Impossible," stated the Sith. "You are not strong enough to break free."

The re-born Jedi stumbled back to his feet. He grabbed his lightsaber from off the ground and met Vader's gaze. He said, "I am strong. I'm stronger than you think. My Master taught me well."

Intrigued, the Sith said, "Master? You mean that fool, Obi-Wan?"

"No. I mean my new master, Thrice." replied Anakin with confidence. He then felt for the first time proud to be she-warrior's disciple because he realized that she had taught him well. She had been preparing him for this battle from the start.

Vader began to laugh. "You mean the witch? The one that has enchanted Obi-Wan? Do you mean to tell me she has enchanted you too?"

Anakin narrowed his brow. He was both revolted. He wasn't attracted to Thrice. He was half convinced that she was some kind of witch as well. Sometimes he wondered if Obi-Wan was really under some kind of spell. Yet, at the same time he also felt pity towards his evil-self because he didn't understand. Vader didn't know about the portal Thrice made to the After-Life or the lessons she spent training him in the woods.

"No, Thrice is as good as any Jedi. She brought me here. She brought me to you. She knew that I had to be the one to defeat you. It's my destiny."

A wave of lava began to crash again the rocks. The silhouette forms of the two men were visible against the red rocky rain. It was only the Force alone that protected them from being boiled alive from the blazing heat. Yet in the madness of the fight, Anakin felt a true sense of self. He and he alone had to combat his own evil. He was the embodiment of the Force unbalanced. He and Vader were two of the same whole. Anakin understood now that he was both the Darkness and the Light. He was both Sith and Jedi. And if he wished to restore balance to the Force than he had to first find balance within himself.

Then, with a surge, Anakin swiftly sliced through Vader's prosthetic leg. The Sith roared back in pain. He did not expect his clone to possess so much skill. He fell to his knees. Anakin towered over him and knew that the battle had been won. There was no escape. Their battle had brought them to the edge of a cliff overlooking a lava pool below. The hot air stirred the wind and flashed a red light across their faces.

"M-Mercy," pleaded the Sith.

Anakin frowned down at Vader. He could hardly believe his ears. He was disgusted by the sight of his evil-self. He impassively said, "I thought Sith don't believe in mercy?"

Vader panted under his mask and replied, "Yes, but the Jedi do and you are a Jedi."

In response, Anakin knew that Vader was right. The Jedi do believe in mercy. He de-activated his blue lightsaber and bent down to give him a hand. However, it was then that Vader made his move. He treacherously reached up and seized Anakin by the arm and picked him up over his head with his superior cyborg strength.

Amused, he began to laugh and said, "Yes, and mercy will be your downfall, clone."

Vader then threw Anakin into the lava pool below. Anakin didn't have time to react. He was heading head first into the molten pool. Anakin tried desperately to grab onto the rocks on the cliff on his descent, but none of his attempts took hold. He was falling to his doom. The Light had betrayed him. His kindness had been his downfall and now he would never be able to truly redeem himself. He had failed. His evil-self would live on and continue to plunge the universe into darkness and hate. This battle had been his last chance and he had blown it because he was foolish enough to succumb to pity and was instead handed deceit.

"Gotcha!"

Anakin was amazed. Someone had caught mid-air with the Force. He gasped and turned to see Luke standing a ledge by the cliff. His hand was out stretched and his hair was matted down against his scalp with sweat from the intense heat.

"Luke! What the hell are you doing here?"

The young Jedi smiled and said, "Saving you, of course. What does it look like I'm doing?"

Anakin began to laugh. He had never been so glad to see Obi-Wan's new Padawan in his life. He silently thanked the Force and took back all his doubts about the Light. It could only have been the Force that sent Luke to save him just in the nick of time.

"Great. Think you could pull me in. It's kind of hot up here."

"Ok, but don't move. I've only moved trees before today."

Luke smirked at Anakin's troubling look. He knew the other Jedi thought he was green. He then took a deep breath and began to move his hand slowly to guide Anakin down safely towards the ledge. He didn't release him until he was safely on the ground. Anakin was relieved. He marched up to Luke and patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks, Luke. How did you know I was here?"

Luke sheepishly looked away and replied, "Uh, it wasn't my idea. It was Leia's. She saw you, Thrice and Ben leave and she wanted to tag along. She knew you three were up to no good."

In response, the reborn-Jedi narrowed his brow. He turned to his younger companion and said, "Wait. You brought the princess here?"

"She made me!" shouted the teen. "I couldn't let her go on her own. Somebody had to make sure she was safe."

Anakin narrowed his brow. He sternly said, "That was a foolish move. This is a dangerous place."

He then started to head away from the cliff and towards the molten plains. He had to make sure Luke and Leia were safe. He could not afford to have them harmed while he battled with Vader. Anakin silent swore to himself that he would see no more Jedi slain at the hands of the Sith.

"Where is she?" asked the reborn-Jedi.

"She's back at that old landing pad by the geo-plant. Why?"

Anakin wasted no time and began to walk up the ledge towards the plant. "You have to get out of here. It isn't safe."

Luke narrowed his brow at Anakin's abrupt behavior, but followed him anyway. "Ok, but what about that man you were fighting?"

"You will not escape me!" rasped Darth Vader.

Then, as fast as lightening Vader struck. He used to Force to catch up to his prey and resumed his duel with Anakin. Meanwhile, Luke was amazed. He thought Vader was dead. He thought Thrice kept Vader as a lab experience for Lord Blackswan, but instead he was alive. Yet, the bewildered teen wasted no time and intervened. He tried to help Anakin fight back the Sith. Together they tried to drive Vader back so he would not force them back on the ledge of the cliff. However, Vader proved to be too strong. He easily spotted Luke as a weakness and forced his attention on him. He felt that the Force was strong in the boy and might prove dangerous in the future. He would put an end to him while he was still just a nuance.

Violently, Vader turned his attention to the boy. He shoved Luke back and he landed deadly close to a stream of lava and with the Force he pushed his head closer the molten ground.

"AAA!" shouted Luke as he tried to pry himself free.

"Let him go, you coward!" roared Anakin.

In response, Vader was deeply pleased. He was glad he was able to turn the tables towards his advantage. The boy was the prefect pawn again his more agile and able clone.

"You are pitiful. Look how your sympathies have betrayed you. You're feelings make you weak. It is your heart that is your undoing, clone. You should embrace the Dark Side as I did. Then perhaps you might pose a match for me."

Anakin narrowed his brow. He had to be careful. He couldn't risk Vader killing Obi-Wan's new apprentice. Luke had potential. He couldn't let the Sith rob him of his future because he was helping him. Anakin what he had to do. The reborn-Jedi de-activated his lightsaber and tossed it onto the ground and slowly approached the Sith with his palms raised.

"No. I surrender. Let him go."

Vader was counting on such weakness. He knew that his clone was not as strong as him. He relented and released the whelp. The boy was interesting, but hardly a threat. Luke gasped in relief was Vader's hold and backed away from the lava. He then swiftly grabbed his lightsaber and prepared to duel again, but quickly snapped at him to stop.

"No, Luke. I must deal with Vader alone."

Vader laughed and towered over his double with glee. He said, "You are a poor clone. You are still a slave to the Light. When will you learn as I did that the Darkness is all you need."

Anakin looked up and met Vader's dark gaze through his helmet. He knew what it was like to live hidden from the Light. To be forever enclosed in darkness and hate. Hate had been the only thing keeping him alive since Padme's death and he vowed that he would never betray her memory again. Suddenly, Anakin felt determined. Suddenly, he felt a surge of power to keep fighting on. He could not fail. He could not betray his Angel again. Anakin knew he couldn't surrender. Surrender meant defeat and besides, it wasn't the warrior way.

"No!" shouted the reborn-Jedi. "You're the one who is a slave. And I'll never surrender. I'll never betray Padme's memory again. I'd rather die than turn. You're the one that has to learn. You're the one who is afraid!"

Outraged, Vader cried, "You fool! What do you know of fear?"

Anakin narrowed his brow and said, "I know everything you know. I'm not just a clone. I have your memories too. I remember everything you ever did."

In a flash, Anakin summoned his lightsaber from off the ground and lunged at the Sith. The two sabers clashed in a violent explosion of light. Red sparked dangerously against blue and lit their faces. Vader could see the hatred in his double's eyes and beamed.

"So, you hate me?"

"YES!" roared the reborn-Jedi with rage.

"Then, your path of Darkness is fated."

Anakin shook his head in denial and stated, "No. You had a choice! You ruined everything!"

The reborn-Jedi than made a reckless leap towards his foe. He was so angry he felt his blood boil. Anakin could not think of a worse enemy than himself. Nothing matter. All that matter was that Vader be erased. However, Vader relished Anakin's rage. He took advantage of his hate and swiftly chopped off his right hand.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" screamed Anakin in pain.

"No!" shouted Luke.

The teen quickly moved to save his friend, but Vader used the Force to knock him away. Luke was still too inexperience to battle the Sith alone. There was now nothing stopping Vader from killing him. Meanwhile, Anakin cried out in pain and desperately tried to get to his feet, but Vader had him pinned under his blade.

He laughed wickedly over him and said, "You may have my memories, clone, but you are still weak. Now you will learn that there can only be one Chosen One."

Vader then raised his red lightsaber and prepared to end his doppelganger once and for all, but out of nowhere laser-shot was fired and hit the Sith right in the chest. Vader roared in agony and stumbled back. He gasped and looked up and saw Princess Leia standing on top of a hill holding a blaster in her hand.

"Don't even move," order the Princess. "One more step and you're dead meat."

"Foolish, child. You don't stand a chance again me."

Leia smiled and hopped down from the hill and over towards Anakin. It gave the reborn-Jedi time to get to his feet. His right arm had been cauterized by the lightsaber and wasn't bleeding, but the smell of burnt flesh brought back bad memories.

"Leia," rasped Anakin. "Be careful."

Boldly, the rebel-princess said, "Don't worry. I got this. You go help Luke."

"No," warned the reborn-Jedi, but it was too late. Vader had already used the Force to pull the blaster right out from her hand and into the lava pit. He then seized Leia by the throat and began strangling her with his bare robotic hands.

Leia gasped and desperately tried to claw her way free, but he was too strong. She couldn't breathe and she was fading fast. Anakin then lunged at Vader with a roar.

"LET HER GO!"

Vader was knocked off balance and fell into the lava stream. The molten rock quickly ate away at his metal armor and seeped down to his skin. He screamed in horror and was quickly swept away by the fiery stream. Leia closed her eyes and turned away. She couldn't bear to see Vader perish so horribly. Meanwhile, Luke had recovered from his attack and quickly held Leia as she buried her face into his shoulder.

"It's over," declared Luke.

Luke rubbed the Princess' back in comfort, but he noticed that Anakin looked both pensive and sad. He didn't know the details of his fight with Vader, but knew that it was personal and had something to do with clones. Meanwhile, Anakin stood looking at the molten stream and watched the lava swirl at the spot where Vader had disappeared under the waves. For him it would never be over. He knew all too well that there was barely any difference between him and his dark twin.

Silently, Anakin then turned to find Luke and Leia's ship. The two teens quickly followed their friend up the rocky hills. Luke caught up to Anakin and said, "Listen, I know you're Darth Vader's clone."

"WHAT!" exclaimed the Princess. "You're Darth Vader's clone? No. Wait. That explains why Master Yoda and Lord Blackswan don't trust you. Hey! Where are you going?"

Anakin replied, "Back to Rebel Base. I'm taking you two back and then I'm going after the Emperor alone."

Luke said, "You can't do it alone. You'll be killed."

Anakin said, "I have to. The Emperor and I have a history. It's about time I pay him a visit."

"No!" shouted the teen. "That's crazy. Even if you are a Jedi. You're still don't stand a chance against the entire Empire. What are you going to do? Knock on his door?"

The reborn-Jedi stood at the top of a rocky hill and smirked down on his young friend and said, "Something like that" before heading towards the ship.

XXX

TBC

XXX

Author's Note: Sorry for the long delay. I had a death in my family.

Shakespeare, Hamlet:

To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;