Star Wars AU Episode I: The Puppet Master

Chapter 20

"Bravo Three, make your run."

"Copy, Bravo Leader."

Deak would not have recognized one craft from another, but one of them did make an attack run against the Trade Federation battleship. Torpedoes streaked across space, exploding in what seemed like a harmless display some distance from the ship itself, burning out against the Federation shielding.

"It's not working!" Deak was quite certain that was the voice of the pilot going by Bravo Three.

"Continue the runs. Bravo Four, proceed."

"Copy, Bravo Leader."

The Naboo fighter had just released its torpedoes when one of the Federation fighters blasted the yellow fighter into a ball of fire and ash.

"Uh-oh," said Deak, as he saw that one of the fighters was now on a course for him.

Desperately, Deak flipped switches and pushed buttons, firing the nose cannon again at the Federation ship that had almost gotten into position. Then he reached for the steering sticks again. "Yes!" Deak wasn't certain what it was he had just done, but he had control of the craft, and moved into a sharp bank to avoid the next Federation fighter.

Then it happened. Before Deak, there was a line of clear vision, unlike the haze that seemed to be sputtering here and there about the Federation ship. Sending torpedoes away, they slid through the faltering shields of the Federation craft.

Round about him, Naboo fighters were falling to Federation fighters, while others sent torpedoes away and managed to destroy Federation fighters.

Deak's torpedoes struck the Federation ship. A moment later, a plume of flame jetted from the former window of the bridge. A ten-count later, the entire rounded center of the craft turned red then white, and then exploded into a ball of blazing ashes.

"Who was that?"

"Oh, kriff," muttered Deak, realizing that he had definitely been caught out where he was not supposed to be. Wonder how much trouble I'll get into.


The red curtain faded. Obi-Wan wasted no time in passing the slender space which had momentarily been his barrier. Pent-up energy led Obi-Wan into a headlong assault against the Sith who had mortally wounded his master. Taking the knowledge that close combat eliminated the advantage of his opponent, Obi-Wan pressed his attack relentlessly.

Iacchus was, at first, taken by surprise by Obi-Wan's rush. Backwards he fell, until the edge of an abyss forced him to retreat no more. Sizzle of lightsabers meeting, the two warriors struggled for advantage, a small error from which stalemate might be averted. The close walls of the chamber echoed the sound of the mighty battle.

I must not ... give in. Anger ... even in victory, I should have failed. I will not fail. Obi-Wan thought of Qui-Gon, wanting even at this last to have the approval of his master, to remain a Jedi until the very end.

Iacchus gained a slight advantage, returning to the attack. Then it was Obi-Wan's advantage. The two fought, moving around the chamber into the nooks, the crash of the lightsabers echoing. They fought on, around the room, past the still form of Qui-Gon on the floor, and into the tangle of vents and protruding tubes.

Steam surrounded them. With a screech, a large metal casing was wrenched from its moorings by the Sith. The heavy metal box careened at Obi-Wan-if he could not best him with the lightsaber, it seemed Iacchus would be content to throw Obi-Wan off balance with this sort of object. Obi-Wan raised a hand, deflecting the path, paying no mind to the resulting crash elsewhere.

Keep your mind in the here and now. Obi-Wan could almost hear Qui-Gon's words in his own mind. Yes, Master.

The battle wore on, and Obi-Wan began to feel the fatigue that had marked the last movements of Qui-Gon in his solo fight.

Be strong. Don't let your fears fill your vision. Qui-Gon's wisdom once more filled Obi-Wan's mind, and he went on the offensive again. Moving swiftly, attack on attack, and then he struck the center of the Sith's double-bladed lightsaber. As one end fizzled into an inert handle, Obi-Wan pressed one attack too far. For, in this moment, Iacchus cast aside the useless piece, evading the blow with which Obi-Wan had meant to end their fight. Head still firmly attached to shoulders, Iacchus moved to attack, the exultation of Obi-Wan fading quickly as he was pressed back, and then one more step, sliding down into the abyss.

The lightsaber fell from his hand, falling until its blue light no longer carried to him. Desperately, Obi-Wan found purchase, his hands gripping a tiny protrusion from the wall of the pit. Above him, Iacchus grinned.

Too far down for the reach of the Sith's lightsaber, Obi-Wan held his position, trying to still his heart, to prepare for what must follow.

Concentrate. There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no chaos; there is harmony. There is no death; there is The Force. Obi-Wan could feel the serenity, the warm bath of the Force. Then he looked up, Iacchus paced around the edge of the pit, slamming his lightsaber blade against the lip of the abyss as though he might thus dislodge Obi-Wan. A surge of anger heated him. Fear, anger, hate, suffering ... these are of the Dark Side. Give in to them, and you are lost; even when you seem to have won. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is The Force.

The Force surrounded him, Obi-Wan could feel it. He vaulted upwards, past the momentarily triumphant Iacchus, Qui-Gon's dropped lightsaber flying into his hand. The green blade ignited. Iacchus turned; the shock and his rage twisted the tattooed lines of his face into a snarl. Before the Sith could act, though-Obi-Wan brought the green blade through the torso of the Sith, the green fire burning away life.

Obi-Wan did not watch his opponent's silent fall, but instead rushed to the side of Qui-Gon.

"Master!"

"Too late, my padawan." Qui-Gon opened his eyes to look at Obi-Wan.

"No!" Obi-Wan felt the violent pain of loss, denied it. I am not ready!

"You must be ready." Qui-Gon's words formed with effort, his face windowing his pain. "You must be the teacher. Promise me, the boy ... You must train him."

Obi-Wan nodded, agreeing without thought. "Yes, Master."

"He is the Chosen One." The words were coming with greater effort, quieting as even this immense struggle was growing too much. "Train him well. He will bring ... balance ..." Qui-Gon's eyes went glassy as he breathed his last.

"Master!" Obi-Wan felt the pain-victory and loss indelibly linked. There is no death; there is the Force. With effort, he reached to close the dead eyes of his master, as the cost of victory sunk into Obi-Wan's mind.


Naiia held on for dear life as Sergeant Merr kept the kaadu racing for the swamp, Federation droids and tanks in pursuit. The standard stayed upright, the droid head bobbing and nodding at the pole end.

A second time, Naiia felt herself being cast unceremoniously to the ground, as Sergeant Merr's kaadu collapsed to the ground, mortally wounded.

"Sergeant Merr!" exclaimed Naiia. This time, she had landed free of the kaadu, but Sergeant Merr was pinned underneath the dying beast.

"Shut up, wet ink!" ordered Sergeant Merr. "Get that standard back up."

"It is!" retorted Naiia, holding the standard upright, the droid head clanging against the top of the pole. "Now, how can I get you outta there?"

"Don't worry about me!"

"But the droids ..." Naiia ducked as blaster fire whizzed past her, and one struck the pole of her staff. "Ow!"

"Then keep moving," said Sergeant Merr, still struggling to remove the dying kaadu from atop him.

Inexplicably, the pursuing droids suddenly developed a case of violent shakes. Pursuing tanks skidded to a halt. Individual STAPs crashed. Some of the battle droids continued shuddering violently in place. Others began running in errant circles. Then, they all stopped.

As three of the retreating Gungans stopped, helping to push the now-dead kaadu from Sergeant Merr, Naiia walked back to one of the battle droids which had, moments ago, been pursuing them.

She gave the droid a poke in the chest, and the machine toppled over.

"They're all dead!" announced Naiia, bewildered by this turn of events.

Getting to his feet, Sergeant Merr looked at the three Gungans, his eyes widening as he recognized them as the ones who had been drinking before the battle.

"Now it's piwony time," said Sergeant Merr. "Come on, wet-ink. You too."


"You are indeed my prisoner," insisted Nute. A tiny quaver of uncertainty was in his voice. My chance to redeem myself, at last. Lord Sidious will forgive me, if I right my failures now. And now is the time. "It is time to put an end to this pointless resistance. Sign the treaty now."

The sound of blasters outside the hallway drew the attention of all as Padmé slipped into the throne. The woman who now stood in the doorway wore the regalia of the Queen of Naboo, amidst the debris of destroyed battle droids.

"We shall sign no treaty, Viceroy!" Her voice rang with imperious authority. "You have lost!"

For a moment, Nute stood, stunned, then he turned sharply. "You six!" He gestured at some of the battle droids. "After her! Bring her to me--the real queen, this time, not a decoy!"

The droids quickly moved to obey orders as the woman ran from the doorway, leaving four of their companions in the throne room.

"Your Queen will not get away with this!" sneered Nute, turning back to the dark-haired handmaiden.

Padmé slumped into the throne, momentarily looking defeated.

"These, you will ..." began Nute.

Padmé seemed to be merely pointing, but the blasts knocked one battle droid, and then another, to the ground. The flurry of shots dropped the four battle droids into scrap as the alarms sounded a renewed wail.

"The doors!" shouted Padmé.

Retrieving the blasters from the defunct battle droids, Naboo guards and Eirtaé armed themselves. Captain Panaka, with his newly achieved weapon, moved to quickly shut the doors. Eirtaé took aim, firing at the locking mechanism.

The reversal had been so sudden that Nute's face still bore a smirk as Rune Haako moved toward him.

"Let us begin again," said Padmé. "Viceroy."

Nute blinked, staring at her for a long moment. "Your Majesty."

"Your occupation has ended."

"Don't be absurd." Nute was not yet ready to yield hope of having redeemed himself. "There are too few of you. Hundreds of droidekas shall soon break in and rescue us."

As though to prove his words, outside the doors, the clank of droids wheeling into place and unfolding could be heard despite the thickness of the blast doors.

"You see?" Nute had regained his smirk. "Rescue is already at hand."

"Before they get through," Padmé informed him evenly, and only now did Nute see the tiny blaster in her hand, "we shall have negotiated a treaty. You will not like the terms, but you will sign it."

Blaster shots knocked at the door as Captain Panaka and his guards moved into a defensive position. Abruptly, however, all went still.

"What's going on?" Captain Panaka sounded as though he suspected this were a trap.

"Check the viewscreens," instructed Padmé.

Captain Panaka did so, bringing the outer screens into focus. A panorama of inert droid bodies littered the landscape.

"As I was saying," said Padmé, "your occupation has ended, Viceroy."



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