Star Wars: Infinities – The Apprentice
By: Christopher W. Blaine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations contained in this story are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only and are ©2002 by George Lucas. This story (pertaining to this chapter and all subsequent chapters) is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in any form, except hard printouts for personal enjoyment, without the express permission of the author.
He still clings to the hope that he can survive.
Darth Maul swung again, crimson fire striking the edge of the shaft above his prey's head, sending a shower of sparks down to cause further discomfort. He enjoyed toying with the little padawan apprentice who was hanging by his fingertips, dangling over certain doom. He was not worthy of a death by combat, not like the old master had been. Even Darth Maul had heard about the martial prowess of Qui-Gon Jinn.
The younger one, Obi-Wan was his name, had kept trying to horn in on the battle. Maul had dispatched him, sending the padawan tumbling away from one of the skywalks where the battle had raged. But like an annoying insect, he had returned just as Maul struck the killing blow on Qui-Gon Jinn.
The Sith Lord had felt the utter sadness and anger coming from Obi-Wan, but it was a jumble of unfocused, childish emotions. It was not the deep burning hatred for all those who were not of the Sith. It was not the fury that gave Darth Maul his power, his control over the dark side of the Force.
While Obi-Wan had demonstrated some skill when he had fought Maul, in the end he was no match for the Sith. The apprentice of Qui-Gon Jinn had managed to cut the dark Jedi's double-bladed lightsaber in half, but it did not render it useless. Now the padawan was ready to fall to certain death. Maul could tell by looking at the young man's face that he was exhausted. It only proved to Maul that the Jedi were weak. It was the weakness of the Jedi that had poisoned the galaxy and brought chaos where there should be order. Through the plan of his master, Maul knew that order would soon be restored and he would take his rightful place as one of the leaders of the galaxy.
So focused on his own thoughts, he almost did not sense the sudden pull on the Force. Maul was mildly impressed as Obi-Wan found the courage to make one final stand. Having lost his own weapon, the young Jedi was trying to use the Force to pull the deactivated lightsaber of Qui-Gon Jinn to him. Maul's senses reached out and he detected Obi-Wan's leap straight into the air. Without thinking, the Sith plunged his weapon forward, catching the Jedi in the midsection. Without removing his gaze from the apprentice, he called upon the dark side to halt his leap instantly so that he seemed to be suspended on the end of the energy blade.
Qui-Gon Jinn's silent weapon nearly halted in mid-flight, but Maul caught it with his mind and flew it to his own outstretched hand. Obi-Wan's expression of horror filled Maul's blackened soul with joy as he pulled the lightsaber away, the smell of burnt meat in the air. For a single instant, their eyes met and the padawan seemed to acknowledge that Maul was the master of the day. Maul grinned, ruined teeth exposed in a feral snarl as his adversary took his last breath and then fell, unceremoniously, away into the darkness of infinity.
That was the difference between apprentice and master. Desperation led to fear and fear was something the Jedi did not understand. In comparison to the Sith, the Jedi were all padawan learners. From Master Yoda to the corpse that was now striking solid ground deep beneath the Naboo capital of Theed.
Maul deactivated his weapon, examined it and then tossed it down the shaft after the corpse of Obi-Wan. He still held Qui-Gon Jinn's weapon and he looked it over as well. Without so much as a second glace, he threw it away. It was tainted with the disorder of the Jedi Knights and was by no means a fit weapon for a Sith. Maul would simply have to make himself a new weapon.
Turning quickly, he exited the chamber and moved through the passageways until he found exit from the castle. A short jog took him to the speeder bike he had "borrowed" and fifteen minutes afterwards, he was racing away from Naboo and heading back to Coruscant.
"Severe is this problem, at work is the dark side," Master Yoda said, his eyes closed in concentration. Mace Windu, fellow Jedi Master and council member nodded slowly, his eyes betraying the sadness he currently felt.
"It is obvious that we are dealing with the Sith. Qui-Gon was a master swordsman and Obi-Wan was a fine apprentice." His bottom lip trembled as he pulled the Force to him to help calm the raging tsunami of emotions swirling within him. He had been given the unenviable task of going to Naboo to claim the bodies of the two Jedi. Perhaps it was the saddest duty one had to perform as a member of the Jedi Council, the claiming of the dead. Still, it had been his duty as both a Jedi Master and as a friend to the two fallen warriors.
He had noted with some small relief that Qui-Gon had appeared serene, showing that he had accepted his fate as a true Jedi. All of that passed when he had laid eyes upon the corpse of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The young apprentice was broken and battered, barely recognizable as being human. The only part of his body that had appeared unaffected had been his face, which had revealed the horror, and fear he had felt as he had passed this life.
"If alive the Sith are, hidden from view they will be," Yoda commented as he stood up. "Vigilant the Jedi must be, always on the look out for the dark side."
"It must have been the same person who attacked them on Tatooine. We should have seen this," Mace said. It was obvious that he felt somewhat responsible for what had happened to the Jedi on Naboo. Qui-Gon had brought them evidence of a dark Jedi and the council had not taken a proactive stance, but instead worried about the situation concerning the Trade Federation's embargo of Naboo.
It was become something of a dark joke among the Jedi, how seemingly innocent decisions were having dire results. Normally, a Jedi could tap into the Force and gain guidance about the future. Lately, it seemed as if there were some sort of interference, as if someone were purposely jamming the reception so to speak.
"Clouded is the future," Yoda offered, but Mace was not comforted. "Where is the boy, young Skywalker?"
Mace suddenly felt his spirits life slightly. "Are we to train him? I know the council had already voted on the issue, but given the circumstances..."
Yoda stopped and leaned against his gnarled cane. "Stand the decision does, train him we shall not. His bond to Qui-Gin is severed, too much pain for one so young."
"What if he is the Chosen One?" Mace asked. Qui-Gon had been completely convinced that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One, a prophesized Force-talented person who would bring balance to the Force. The problem was that no Jedi knew exactly what that balance was supposed to be. Was it an equalization of the light and dark sides, or was it something else entirely? "Can we afford to leave him untrained with the potential he has?"
"Untrained a minor problem he may be; trained from this point on, more likely to become something more," Yoda answered matter-of-factly.
Mace pursed his lips, wondering if he should push the argument. He had respected Qui-Gon, considered him a close friend and ally, and though he understood Yoda's fears, he didn't feel right about just ignoring his dead comrade's feelings. "So, you are of the mind that if we try to start training him at his advanced age, we could cause more harm than good?"
"Betray you, your feelings do," Yoda said as they walked along. Mace did not reply but looked out a large window at the myriad of vehicles, hovercraft and personal spacecraft that raced through the skies above the Jedi Temple. "Only a Jedi of Qui-Gon's temperament could train the boy; perhaps even Obi-Wan if survived he had."
"What about Master Dooku? He trained Qui-Gon; he certainly could train the boy," Mace asked, hope in his voice.
Yoda sighed. "In politics is Dooku more interested in. Accept a new apprentice he will not."
Mace was beside himself with shock. Dooku had left the Order, but he was still technically a Jedi Master. Surely even he could be made to see how important the lad was? "Will this day ever end?"
"Dark day for the Jedi this is," Yoda mumbled as they slowly made their way down the passageway.
Anakin slowly ate the bowl of nerf stew with fresh rysil bread, his head down as he did so. He was self-conscious and clumsy in his new surroundings. He was experiencing the first real bit of kindness since he had left Naboo and he was unskilled in the ways of showing gratitude.
After the battle against the Trade Federation, Anakin had been saddened to learn of the deaths of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Eventually he came to understand that the life of a Jedi Knight was dangerous and like pod-racing, there was always the chance that you would face somebody better than you. His logic, however, did little to dull the pain in his heart. Too many things, none of them good, were happening to him.
He had tried to stay on Naboo, but Queen Amidala had told him that he was the responsibility of the Jedi Council and had to be returned to their care now that his guardians were dead. He had pleaded with her and somehow, though he did not understand why, he had felt her heart breaking as she had ordered him placed onto a ship heading to Coruscant.
Hero or not, he was still only a child.
Once he had returned and appeared before the Council, they informed him that he would not be trained, that there were no masters capable of properly educating someone of his age. He had asked to be returned to his mother, but the Jedi would never send someone into slavery, willing or not.
Instead they had dumped him into an orphanage on Coruscant's lower levels. Rigid discipline was the only contact he would receive from the adults who administered the facility. Anakin tried his best to fit in but failed miserably. He was different from the other children and they knew it. One of the other orphans discovered that Anakin had been considered for Jedi training and that led to the rest of the children maintaining considerable distance from him for fear of his abilities, what few he had.
He had made several requests to communicate with the Naboo embassy, which the head of the orphanage had dismissed with a crack to the hindquarters. Anakin had felt his anger begin to simmer behind his eyes and he began to question what he had done to deserve to be ripped away from his mother and dropped into this hell.
Determined to find a way out of the orphanage, Anakin had managed to capture and reprogram one of the few house-cleaning droids to send a short message to Chancellor Palpatine, whom Anakin knew was from Naboo and might relay his problems to the Queen.
The response he received was far different from what he expected.
Looking up, he brushed back his sandy brown hair and regarded the man who had become his rescuer. Tall with regal features, he reminded Anakin of a king of some ancient land that his mother had told him about in his bedtime stories. When he had seen the way all of the staff at the orphanage had acted when the man appeared, Anakin knew this was a man of power.
Anakin did not understand the Force, even though Qui-Gon had tried to explain it to him, but he was sure that the funny feeling he had whenever the man spoke was their mutual Forces interacting. "Is your meal satisfactory tonight, young Anakin?"
Anakin nodded and wiped his mouth. "Yes, sir."
The man smiled and rubbed his neatly trimmed beard. Streaks of white going though it were the only indication of the man's age. "Such manners. Your mother raised you well, Anakin."
"Count Dooku?" Anakin started as he dipped his bread. "Have you looked into freeing my mother?"
Dooku picked up his glass of wine and sniffed it before taking a sip. "You must understand, Anakin; Tatooine does not have a formal government…it is mostly under the control of the Hutts."
"The Hutts don't like to be pushed around," Anakin said sadly.
Dooku smiled genuinely. "If only the Jedi Council had your worldly wisdom. You are quite correct; it will take time and I cannot guarantee the end result."
Anakin nodded. When he realized that Count Dooku was a Jedi, he had hoped to convince him to lead an attack on Tatooine that would free all of the slaves. The older man had looked at him with sympathetic eyes and laid a firm hand on his shoulder. "It is not your time yet, Anakin. However, if you come with me and do as I say, I promise you that one day you will have the power to make all of your dreams come true."
He finished eating and wiped his mouth. "Sir, why can't I go to the Jedi Temple to train?"
Dooku seemed to take some time to come up with his answer and when he spoke, it was slowly and even toned. "Anakin, do you remember how I told you that I trained Qui-Gon? Did you ever notice how he…resisted the suggestions of the Council? I left the Order for the same reasons that prevented Qui-Gon from advancing to the Council. We both began to realize that the Council had become corrupt.
"Over the years, the Jedi have become bogged down in debating and making speeches, allowing petty prejudices dictate how they would and would not act. Surely you realize that it would only take a few Jedi to liberate the slaves of your homeworld, yet they refuse to do it! They instead concern themselves with the whims of the politicians, of the bureaucrats! "
Dooku stood up and threw back his cape, exposing his curved-handled lightsaber. "They allow so much misery and then they complain that there aren't enough of them to possibly look into every situation that arises…"
"And then they turn me down for training," Anakin said, a sudden fire in his eyes.
Dooku nodded. "Yes, Anakin, and do you know why? Qui-Gon knew why; that's why he said he would train you regardless of the Council's decision! They were jealous of your potential, young Skywalker. You were a direct threat to their power over the Republic! It made me sick to see how they would make a decision for one reason, then use that reason as a defense for inaction! So, I left the Order so that I could pursue not only a political solution to what I saw as a political problem, but to see truth in the Force."
Anakin nodded, totally captivated by Dooku's speech. It all made sense to him. It was the only explanation as to why they had sent him away. It may have even been the reason why Qui-Gon was dead now. The sudden realization made the boy's eyes water. "Sir…did they kill Qui-Gon because of me?"
Dooku turned so that the boy could not see his grin, his smile of knowing that he was pulling the lad straight into his clutches. How easy it had been, thanks in part to the shortsightedness of the Council. Fools, he thought. "Are you sure you want the truth, Anakin?"
The boy stood up and wiped his nose on his sleeve. He was radiating strongly in the Force, but was not adept enough to know he was letting his feelings flow freely. The boy was now an open book to the former Jedi Master. "Please, sir…if he was killed because of me…"
Dooku turned, his face ashen. "Yes. Yes. Yes, a thousand times, yes," he said, dropping to one knee and grabbing Anakin by both shoulders. "But you must remember that he died for a cause. He believed in you."
"Obi-Wan didn't seem so sure," the boy remarked. The tears were coming freely now and Dooku sent tendrils through the Force to coax the boy more to his point of view. When he touched the boy in that way, he was nearly overwhelmed by the sheer power that the child possessed.
"Oh, he knew, but he was young as well and did not want to immediately give up his place with his master." He waited a few moments and as expected, Anakin wanted to know how they died.
Dooku released him and reached for a napkin to let the boy dry his tears. "You must learn to be strong Anakin, if you are to become the warrior you want to be." He stood up and allowed Anakin to compose himself. It had taken a little longer than his master had thought it would, but the boy's natural curiosity was now drawing him closer to Dooku. Sideous had commented that Anakin Skywalker would gravitate towards any father figure very easily.
"As I was not there, I cannot tell you exactly what happened, but I can guess. Very few Jedi would have the ability to defeat Qui-Gon with a lightsaber, let alone Qui-Gon and his able apprentice."
Anakin looked up. "The dark man?" On Naboo during the battle with the Trade Federation Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had gone off to confront a man cloaked in black that had suddenly appeared. It had been the same man that had attacked them on Tatooine. "Was he the one that killed them?"
Dooku shook his head. "No; do not let appearances taint your judgment. That was the mistake the Council made about you. The man you saw was an emissary of my master who was seeking to warn Qui-Gon. On Tatooine, he mistakenly thought that Qui-Gon was kidnapping the Naboo queen. My master sent him to Naboo to protect the queen and that drew him once again into combat with Qui-Gon. They did not battle long and Lord Maul, that was my master's emissary's name, left them alive and well with an offer to join us. They refused unfortunately."
Anakin wanted to say something, because he had always assumed that the man was trying to kill Queen Amidala, the object of Anakin's affections. "He wasn't trying to kill her then?"
Dooku smiled and began to lead Anakin out of the dining chamber, past the servant droids and into the passageway. "No; on the contrary, Maul was extremely concerned about the queen and you also. You see, the two of you are kindred spirits."
"What does that mean?' Anakin asked as they walked towards a large door that had two guards standing at it. It was a room that Anakin had not been permitted to enter.
"It means that you and he are alike, that you have similar interests and desires." At the door they stopped and one of the guards shouldered his weapon, turned to a keypad and entered a code to open it. "Lord Maul is a warrior of great skill. He desires an apprentice."
The door opened slowly to reveal a dark chamber illuminated only by small glow lamps on the walls. They entered it and moved towards the center. They stopped over a large symbol painted in dull fluorescent paint allowing it to glow slightly. Anakin looked around the room, squinting in the dim light and saw that the walls were covered with strange markings. His mind went into overdrive as he tried to see if there was a pattern to them, much how he saw the wiring of a droid when he tried to repair it.
His concentration was halted as he felt a presence enter the chamber from the opposite wall where a secret door opened. It was almost as if a living shadow were moving towards him and his senses were suddenly alive. A switch had been turned on inside of him and Anakin instinctively knew that it was the Force calling to him.
Darth Maul stopped just in front of Dooku and Anakin. His hood was down, allowing the young boy to finally see him up close and personal. The Sith Lord inhaled deeply. "You stand on the threshold of greatness, young Skywalker…"
Anakin could only nod as he studied the nightmarish face of the dark warrior. Dooku reassured Anakin with a fatherly pat on the shoulder. Maul gave the older man a quick glance and the Count obediently removed his hand. There could only by two, master and apprentice and Dooku was neither now.
"You are very powerful, young Skywalker, I can feel it," Maul began, his voice sending shivers through the boy. "Tell me, does my visage frighten you?"
Anakin put on his best sabbac face, but it failed. Maintaining an even tone, he tried to sound more mature than he was. The question reminded him of his testing with the Jedi Council. There, they had seen his power and still refused to train him. "I'm scared, but I'm also angry. I think I'm more angry than scared."
Maul smirked. "Good, you acknowledge your fear and that is the first step to controlling it. That is what will separate you from the Jedi. The Jedi suppress fear while the Sith control it."
"Master Qui-Gon said that the Sith were evil," Anakin remarked.
"So he was taught to believe and yet here is his master, bringing you to me in order to show you the true path to greatness."
Dooku bowed his head to Maul. He then spoke to Anakin. "Listen well, Anakin, for now you will be trained in the ways of war and power, skills necessary to bring order to the galaxy."
Anakin nodded. "And then I can free my mother?"
Dooku was interrupted by Maul. "When you complete your training, you will be able to do anything you want."