Obi-Wan sensed the shot before it was quite fired, and he was in motion in the same breath that the shot ricocheted off the permacrete under their feet. He darted right; Anakin and Ahsoka to the left, coming under cover.
"Any idea where that shot came from?" he flung out, although he already knew where the sniper was. It was Ahsoka's sharp eyes that caught movement from above and the padawan dutifully pointed out the location to the two masters.
Obi-Wan risked an upward glance. Focus, he told himself. One wrong move could spell disaster. "All right, here's the plan…" As he directed Anakin and Ahsoka, he nearly smiled at his Anakin's familiar confidence. The moment passed and the three of them sprang into action, 'sabers humming as they Force-leaped from ledge to ledge in pursuit of the now-fleeing sniper.
He'd sent Anakin to flank from the right, and he could sense his former padawan's presence keeping pace with him from some distance away, intent on pinning their target between their combined lightsabers. It had been a calculated choice; there was only one true reason he'd wanted Anakin up here with him, and Ahsoka down below.
The timing had to be perfect.
Almost as one, both Jedi ducked behind cover; the sniper had paused to loose a volley of shots to discourage his pursuers. Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and reached into the Force; he knew exactly where the sniper was relative to his position but he wanted to be assured of Anakin's position.
"I've lost him!" Anakin's frustrated voice came over their comlink. "Obi-Wan! Do you have anything?"
Kenobi pressed his back against the small pressure tank he'd taken refuge behind, closing his eyes briefly as he centered himself; this was it. I'm sorry, Anakin. He couldn't help the regretful thought as he took a deep breath and stepped calmly out into the open, turning to face the hired killer.
The blaster bolt caught him in the chest, hard, and Obi-Wan cried out briefly as it unbalanced him, sending him tumbling over the ledge into freefall to the level below, where he knew Ahsoka to be. There were a few old crates of tammin wood in the alleyway; he hit them just as he used a bare touch of the Force to keep the fall itself from causing injury. Still, he landed somewhat roughly, face down and partly hidden from view.
Anakin's voice, called anxiously from above; his former padawan's fear a near-palpable thing in the Force. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, tuning it out.
"I've got him! Go!" Ahsoka shouted to her master, sending Anakin after the shooter.
Obi-Wan bit down on the tiny injector tucked against his cheek earlier in the evening, releasing the potent drug within. He willed it to work as quickly as he'd been told it would; everything hung on the next few minutes.
He'd barely done so when the crates were shoved aside with the Force, and Ahsoka knelt beside him. "Master Obi-Wan?" she said softly, shakily. Her concern was nearly as strong as Anakin's, and when he didn't respond, Ahsoka very carefully turned him over.
The blaster bolt had put a good dent into the light blast-armor breastplate he'd worn beneath his tunic, already making it a little hard to breathe. Obi-Wan released what he hoped was a convincingly painful moan as Ahsoka shifted him onto his back.
The first wave of dizziness hit so hard that Obi-Wan couldn't help but gasp and he felt Ahsoka's worry increase tenfold. He didn't resist, just let the drug take its course. He could feel his heartbeat begin to slow, and knowing it would take a little persuasion for Anakin's padawan, he opened his eyes with a flutter of lashes. Peering out from intentionally half-lidded eyes, he was a little surprised with how far away everything already seemed.
"'So..ka," he whispered; breathing already constricted by the damaged breastplate now also being influenced by the vitals suppressant he'd taken on the orders of the Council. Tano's face wavered in his vision and he blinked.
"Don't try to talk, Master," Ahsoka urged. "Master Anakin and I will take care of you; you just have to…to hold on…" The words came out in a panicked rush.
Obi-Wan didn't resist the natural impulse to try to get more air into increasingly uncooperative lungs with a difficult, open-mouthed inhalation that Ahsoka correctly interpreted; as if from a distance he felt her get an arm beneath him, lifting him a bit and bracing him against her leg for support. He looked at her blearily; black spots beginning to appear in his vision and a brief, sharp ache as the suppressant threw his heart out of rhythm. The stasis it was supposed to put him into would soon descend and he briefly thought of Anakin; in the Force he could sense a sharp crest of frustration from his former padawan.
The sniper gave him the slip, Obi-Wan realized a little hazily, and he closed his eyes, willing the process to be complete before Anakin arrived. This could still go…so wrong… He needed Anakin to believe. And he needed Ahsoka to sell it.
Ahsoka's hand brushed against his face; and a sound of distress left her throat. Obi-Wan managed with some effort to open his eyes again; unconsciousness finally beckoning as his breaths grew weaker. "No, Master Obi-Wan," she whispered, shaking her head; her blue eyes large and frightened. "No, don't go."
He couldn't help it; compassion prompting Obi-Wan to comfort her.
"N…no…d…death," he stammered, fighting for just enough air to speak the familiar precept. "Th…th…"
"There is the Force," Ahsoka completed for him, swallowing hard.
Obi-Wan managed to dredge up the sallowest of smiles for a brief moment as the darkness crowded in on his vision and on the periphery of his senses, he felt his heart stutter.
He never felt his head fall back limply against Ahsoka's arm, never felt his last breath brush against her chin, nor heard her call his name in desperation, or felt her seek a pulse at his throat with trembling fingers.
His lifeless body cradled in Ahsoka's arms, nestled in perfect metabolic stasis, Obi-Wan was completely unaware of the frantic approach of his former padawan.
Insensate, he never heard the gale-wind in the Force echoing Anakin's shock and grief, nor knew it when his friend gathered his body from Ahsoka and cried out his name in utter anguish.
As far as the universe was concerned, Obi-Wan Kenobi was dead.
Lost to them, he could not sense the grim satisfaction of his assumed killer, nor see the light of anger kindled in Anakin's smoldering blue eyes.
Ahsoka Tano, walking alongside Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, had to admit to a bit of amusement at the conversation between her Master and Master Kenobi regarding a Council session. Certainly Council meetings, even emergency ones, could be about as exciting as watching tuka grass growing, but Master Anakin's restlessness was nearly legendary among her fellow padawans.
She couldn't help the comment about training younglings…the teasing remark coming out as easily as breathing but by now her Master was familiar with her sense of humor and Anakin simply rebuffed the idea as crazy.
The first shot from high above startled her. Way to focus on the moment, Tano, she chided herself as she crouched behind cover with Master Anakin.
"Any idea where that shot came from?" Master Obi-Wan called out, and Ahsoka looked up, hoping to make up for her prior inattention.
"A sniper!" she pointed upward, directing her masters' gazes to the exact spot where the sniper was located. "I see him up there." Just that quickly, Master Kenobi took charge of the situation.
"All right, here's the plan: Anakin, you flank him on the right. Ahsoka, you cover the lower streets. I'm going after him."
With a nod, Obi-Wan signaled them in and Ahsoka ignited her lightsaber, the green blade almost eerie in the dusk-light of Coruscant. Charging in with her masters, she used the Force to leap straight up onto a foothold on the building, working her way toward one of the surrounding street levels with an intention of blocking a means of escape as the two Jedi masters continued the ascent in pursuit of the shooter.
Senses alert, she stretched out into the Force, waiting as she sensed her master's effort through their training bond. Anakin put on a burst of speed as he ran to the right, hoping to help Obi-Wan trap the sniper. She looked upward in anticipation, expecting perhaps a speeder or a swoop hurtling down at any moment in a bid to escape.
"I've lost him! Obi-Wan! Do you have anything?" Master Anakin's tone was frustrated and tense over the comlink, and Ahsoka briefly bit her lip.
If they'd lost their quarry, the youngling thing would be the last joke she cracked today…maybe for a few days.
Suddenly she heard a shot, and a sharp cry of pain; Ahsoka jerked her head skyward again just in time to see Master Obi-Wan stumble backward over the edge of the ledge he'd been on, and she gasped as he plummeted helplessly toward her. She winced sharply as the Jedi Master landed hard, first on a pair of crates before flopping over onto the even harder permacrete surface, face down.
"Obi-Wan!" Barely between one breath and the next, she heard Anakin's agonized shout from the ledge above, and even from here Ahsoka could tell how worried he was. It was like a siren call through the Force, but she also knew that the only one even close enough to bring down Obi-Wan's attacker was her master.
"I've got him! Go!" Ahsoka shouted back, and there was just the briefest of hesitations before Anakin turned away in continuing pursuit. She felt his determination increase exponentially; he didn't intend to let this slime get away from them.
Ahsoka had no time to dwell on it; Master Obi-Wan needed her. Turning toward the fallen Jedi Master, she raised her hands and moved the broken crates aside with an impatient shove through the Force. Hurrying to his side, Ahsoka knelt down beside him. He's too still, her mind told her and she pushed the thought aside as she laid her hand gently upon Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Master Obi-Wan?" she called tentatively.
There was no answer. Checking carefully to be sure moving him wouldn't cause more damage, Ahsoka gently rolled Obi-Wan onto his back. The way the ginger head lolled with the motion, accompanied by a weak, awful-sounding moan, was frightening, but at least he was still alive.
Her eyes went next to the charred tunics where Master Kenobi had been hit; she didn't want to think about the damage done to the fragile flesh and bone beneath. His breathing was erratic and shallow, and she knew instinctively this was more than bad. She reached for the blackened cloth, knowing she needed to find out just how bad.
Ahsoka's intentions were derailed when Obi-Wan choked out a harsh gasp and suddenly his eyelids fluttered partly open, revealing dazed blue-grey eyes. Gradually, he directed his unfocused gaze to her, and Ahsoka tried to give him a reassuring smile.
Obi-Wan's whisper was so faint that Ahsoka nearly missed it; at the same time, she was grateful that he was cognizant enough to know she was there. He blinked sluggishly up at her and she felt her throat constrict.
"Don't try to talk, Master," she urged, knowing the effort to speak was taking strength he didn't have to spare. "Master Anakin and I will take care of you; you just have to…to hold on…" Please hold on, she thought desperately. She threw a glance up over her shoulder toward the balcony where she'd last seen Anakin. Hurry, Master.
She looked back down just as Obi-Wan struggled to take a deeper breath, and her alarm only increased at the nearly airless gasps shuddering through the wounded chest. As quickly as she dared, but as gently as she could, Ahsoka lifted the weakening Jedi Master, using her leg as a support in a bid to ease the awful rasping breaths.
The dazed blue eyes slipped closed and Ahsoka froze; a wholly involuntary whimper choking her throat despite her lessons against attachments. This couldn't be right! Obi-Wan's face was so pale; even his lips seemed bloodless and Ahsoka wished she had some real training in Jedi healing techniques. Maybe she could at least ease the pain. She reached up and brushed back a damp lock of ginger hair away from a cool and clammy forehead, and gathered her concentration.
It was broken a second later as she realized Obi-Wan had reopened his eyes and was looking directly at her. He was still dazed, but there was intent behind his effort, and Ahsoka's eyes widened as she understood he meant to say goodbye. "No, Master Obi-Wan," she pleaded. "No, don't go."
Obi-Wan swallowed weakly, marshalling what was left of his strength as he gazed up at her. "N…no…d..Death," he recited to her, the whispered words somehow tender. "Th…th…" he lacked the breath to finish the reminder of the Code that was their lifeblood as Jedi.
"There is the Force." Understanding his attempt to comfort her, Ahsoka completed the recitation in an effort to return the favor. She saw she had his understanding as well, as a brief, weak smile touched pallid features. The smile faded as familiar blue-grey irises disappeared behind dropped eyelids; the ginger head fell back against her. Obi-Wan exhaled.
He didn't inhale.
"Master Obi-Wan!" Ahsoka exclaimed, but even as she pressed the fingers of her free hand to his neck, she knew he was gone. She thought, maybe, she had felt the last pair of beats as his heart stilled.
Ahsoka's eyes filled briefly but the tears refused to fall. Her free hand, however, moved almost of its own volition to stroke ginger hair away from his forehead, although Master Kenobi was beyond needing any such comfort now.
She sensed her master's approach before he'd actually arrived; Anakin's rushed steps reaching her ears a moment later. At first Ahsoka didn't look up, too heavy-hearted. He must have sensed it in her; his voice was taut and anxious.
"How is he?"
Ahsoka brushed her hand one last time along the high cheekbone, and finally lifted her gaze to her master, and again the blue eyes filled with her sadness. Understanding broke over Anakin's face as he stumbled forward, falling to his knees beside her. "Obi-Wan?" he called out quietly but urgently first, not believing it could be true. "Obi-Wan! Obi-Wan!"
Ahsoka closed her eyes and let a tear fall as Anakin's cry became a desperate plea, and then a pained shout as he realized it was true. His former master, his best friend…was gone. She bowed her head in respect to the Jedi, the Master that Obi-Wan had been, as Anakin's grief and anger stormed out into the Force around them.
"So what's the big rush?" Anakin asked as he crossed the transport bay, walking between Obi-Wan and Snips. Obi-Wan had been contacted by the Jedi Temple, and the next thing he knew, the first break they'd had in kriffin' knew how long was cut short.
"The Jedi Council has called an emergency meeting," Obi-Wan informed him, calmly as ever. Anakin rolled his eyes and then frowned.
"Ahh…I can see it now," he replied blandly, shoulders slumping. "Another long, boring debate."
Obi-Wan declined to comment on his lack of enthusiasm, for once, but Snips was quick to jump in with a remark of her own.
"Would you rather they call you in to train younglings?"
His Padawan had a rather amused smirk on her face, and Anakin scowled.
"Ha. Are you crazy?"
The first shot came down between him and Obi-Wan, just barely missing his former Master, and Anakin jerked sharply, trading a brief scowl with Obi-Wan before they scattered. Anakin followed Snips to cover at the left of the transport's boarding ramp; Obi-Wan going to the right as more shots rained down from above, ricocheting off the permacrete and various shipping containers.
"Any idea where that shot came from?" Obi-Wan's inquiry had them all looking upward for the shooter, but it was Ahsoka's quick eyes that spotted him first. Good going, Snips.
"All right, here's the plan…" Obi-Wan directed, and Anakin shifted his attention to his former master. "Anakin, you flank him on the right." He acknowledged the order with a firm nod, and Obi-Wan continued, "Ahsoka, you cover the lower streets. I'm going after him."
It never occurred to Anakin to question his Master's judgment on this one; it seemed clear enough to him that Obi-Wan intended to trap this sniper between the two of them, with Anakin's padawan down below to discourage any escape attempts. Snips could hold her own in a fight if it came to that, but it wouldn't be difficult for either of them to get back and lend her a hand, if it did.
Obi-Wan ignited his 'saber, and so did Anakin and his Padawan; they rose up nearly as one and charged the sniper's position, lightsabers humming as they ran. The sniper broke position and ran as they covered the distance between them and the building from which he'd fired.
Snips kept pace with Obi-Wan; Anakin lagged a step or two behind, just until Snips made her way into a lower alleyway. Anakin picked up his pace, called on the Force, and leapt up to the first balcony he found on the building to the right of the sniper's original firing position.
On his left, Anakin could sense Obi-Wan also jumping from point to point, ledges and balconies on the way up to the roof where their shooter had been located just scant moments ago. Calling on the Force once again, he leapt the final—somewhat considerable—distance from the last available balcony, flipping over as he landed on the roof, and then paused briefly behind cover, peering cautiously outward.
Glancing left, Anakin noted that Obi-Wan had gained the roof of the sniper's building and was cautiously moving along cover there as well. Obi-Wan had no sooner peered around the corner than the sniper fired off a volley of shots; three in Obi-Wan's direction and four in Anakin's, forcing the Jedi Master to duck back and Anakin to dodge aside.
Now he's just making me kriffin' mad, Anakin grumbled as the sniper broke cover to run again, and Anakin leaped up to give chase; at his left he caught sight of Obi-Wan also racing nimbly along the rooftop after their target.
Down below, Snips was keeping pace with them and he could sense her concentration. Ahsoka could be more stubborn than either him or Master Obi-Wan at times, and while it could be a pain to deal with, other times it came in handy.
The foot-chase suddenly came to a halt as Anakin lost sight of the sniper; he pulled up short as he realized he'd lost sight of Obi-Wan as well. Boshuda, he cursed mentally. A pincer wouldn't work that well without both sides moving in concert to spring the trap. Bringing up his wrist comlink, Anakin called out, "I've lost him! Obi-Wan! Do you have anything?"
There was a long pause; Anakin frowned sharply as he turned about, blue eyes seeking any hint of Obi-Wan or their quarry. Below, he knew Snips was waiting, watchful but he didn't sense the sniper had tried to escape that way. He was still up here…somewhere. He lifted his comlink close again, intending to contact Obi-Wan once more, when the sound of a shot arrested his attention, followed closely by a loud cry from Obi-Wan.
Master! The thought was instinctive, natural as breathing; despite the usual practice of dissolving the master/apprentice bond after a padawan reached knighthood, there was still a lingering closeness between them. Although Anakin couldn't see the actual hit from his vantage point, he could sense Obi-Wan's sudden shock, a punch of pain as the blaster bolt drilled into his chest.
Anakin was already in motion even as he sensed Obi-Wan drop over the side of the building; his heart squeezed in his chest as he realized he wasn't going to be fast enough to try to catch Obi-Wan before he hit the ground, and the fall could be as deadly as the blaster wound.
Reaching the rail of the nearest overlooking balcony, Anakin's breath caught in his throat as he was just in time to see Obi-Wan collide harshly with a stack of crates before dropping to the permacrete in a boneless heap.
No! "Obi-Wan!" he shouted, hands gripping the railing in preparation for the trip down, he had to save Obi-Wan. Suddenly he was aware of Snips, just steps away from his fallen former Master, and she looked directly up at him.
"I've got him!" she shouted back at him. "Go!"
Anakin hesitated just a moment, dread tightening his stomach. Obi-Wan was undoubtedly badly hurt, but Snips was right. She was closer and could help Obi-Wan faster, and it was up to him to capture Obi-Wan's…to capture the shooter.
Spinning around just that fast, he ran. You're gonna regret this, sleemo, Anakin vowed as he caught sight of the sniper fleeing ahead of him. Gathering the Force around him, he leaped from one building to the other, focused completely on getting to that sniper.
He felt a spike of worry from his Padawan; he nearly stopped and turned back, but the sniper wasn't far ahead of him now…he could catch him. He would catch him. Master Obi-Wan deserved no less.
Hurry, Master. Snips, again, and Anakin swallowed convulsively even as he pressed on; Obi-Wan was in trouble, he could tell, although the lingering remnants of their bond together were eerily silent. That almost frightened him more than the mental image of Obi-Wan landing on those crates.
Just ahead, the sniper had managed to jump atop a speeder bike, kicking it into motion before Anakin could quite catch up; the assassin dropping a vapor grenade to cover his escape. Anakin put on a burst of speed, intending to break through the fine smoke-like vapor.
When he did, there was no sign of the sniper, anywhere. Anakin grimaced unhappily. Realizing there was nothing more he could accomplish here, he wheeled around and headed back the way he'd come; Obi-Wan needed help, and no insult to his apprentice, Snips was no healer. Of course, neither was he, but he pushed that thought aside as he ran.
Finally reaching the little alley-way that his former master had landed in so abruptly, Anakin called on the Force, leaping down from ledge to balcony to ledge until he dropped onto the permacrete pavement. He rushed down the alley, feeling his heart constrict a little at the sight that met his eyes.
Snips was supporting Obi-Wan in her arms; his former master's body limp and unresponsive, eyes closed in a face that was waxy pale. Dread spread its icy fingers through him as he took the last few steps, looking down at them. "How is he?" he demanded anxiously, trying to keep the fear from bleeding into his voice.
The moment Snips raised her head to look up at him burned its way into his mind; he knew. Tears pooled in her eyes but Anakin refused to believe it. "Obi-Wan?" he called hesitantly as he knelt. The silence that answered was frightening. "Obi-Wan?" He called again, hands going to his master's shoulders, lifting a little as if to rouse the Jedi. Obi-Wan's head only lolled slightly. "Obi-Wan!"
A familiar pain settled deep into his heart as truth impressed itself on him, and Anakin shook his head. No, not Master Obi-Wan! Snips allowed a few tears. Anakin shook his head again and drew Obi-Wan from her arms, cradling the stilled body against his chest, his head bowing in grief and loss.
I'll get him, Master, Anakin promised Obi-Wan silently. I swear the creep that did this to you is gonna pay for it.
"Master," Snips finally spoke, her hand going to Anakin's shoulder consolingly. "Let's take Master Obi-Wan home."
Anakin nodded wordlessly; there was nothing more to be done, here. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master, teacher, mentor, and friend…was gone.