The large antechamber where the battle had been taking place seemed to stop for a moment. Obi-Wan Kenobi felt his master's pain the moment Darth Maul's lightsaber plunged through his chest. In the confusion of the fighting, Qui-Gon Jinn had been a step too slow and given Maul the opening to strike. As Kenobi turned around he saw his master's body lying on the floor, barely breathing. He could hear Dooku shouting at the troops. What was he saying? They were all transfixed firing their blasters and charging after Maul completely ignoring the hundreds of droids that surrounded them—seemingly oblivious to the real peril that remained—so shocking was the death of a beloved Jedi Master. Obi-Wan managed to take a deep breath and exhaled. He closed his eyes for a moment then trudged forward. Clearly he was no longer a padawan—an apprentice—there was a fire in his eyes now. He turned to Dooku and barked out an order as clearly as he could, never taking his eyes away from the fleeing figure in black that attempted to escape.
"Dooku finish the battle here with the droids…protect Queen Amidala…" Dooku was shocked by the transformation he saw in the Jedi before him.
"Where are you going?" He knew the answer, but something stirred in him urging him to give voice to the question.
"To finish what Qui-Gon started." Without another word he ran down the hallway leaving the Jedi and the troopers to fight off the droids.
Darth Maul's black robes were in tatters, he was bleeding from his side and his mouth—but he would live to fight another day. The young Dark Lord would have to wait for some time before he could make contact again with his master, but he would do so eventually and they would resume their machinations against the Republic. He got a blast door open and ran toward a neighboring docking bay. There was lonely ship waiting for him. Maul walked only a few more paces before he saw the glint of a blue lightsaber pass wildly over his head and slash through the cockpit of the ship. It swung back returning to the hand of its owner.
"You're not getting away Maul." Kenobi's words were sharp and to the point.
"Kenobi…" Maul reached for his belt and clasped the long handle of his weapon. "There is much anger with you. It is not the Jedi way…"
"Neither is murder." He saw the dark hue of the blue lightsaber in Kenobi's hand. Maul saw the look in the Jedi's eyes.
"You are but an apprentice…"
"Not anymore Maul." Obi-Wan brought the tip of his saber to the side of his head and lightly hacked off the long braid of hair that he had worn proudly for the better part of a decade. Maul wiped some of the blood off of his face and turned to face his opponent.
"Very well, Jedi…I will destroy you as I did you master!" Kenobi closed his eyes and charged at Maul leaping up in the air and striking him hard. Before Maul could respond, Obi-Wan spun around and landed a powerful kick squarely in his chest. He struck his saber wildly clenching his teeth and grasping it with both hands using his strength to push Maul back forcibly with each strike. Maul ducked as Kenobi swung his blade to the right striking a column. He smiled and allowed his anger to flow through him as he struck back pushing his hilt hard against Kenobi. He struck with one side of saber and then another. Finally, he jumped up and kicked the Jedi in the face sending Kenobi flying backward. But Obi-Wan quickly rose up and charged back into the fight.
Maul was amazed by the speed of Kenobi's reflexes. He leapt back away from the oncoming Jedi, but Kenobi ran faster and then stopped in his tracks. Cautiously, Darth Maul stayed put and waited. What was the Jedi up to now? Suddenly, a large crate of metal swung in Maul's direction, followed shortly by a piece of stone, and several more pieces of the right section of the wall of the docking bay came tumbling down. Kenobi was fighting with the Force now sending everything he could see in the room flying at Maul. The Dark Lord blocked a few of the pieces but was caught in the back by a stray shard of metal. He extinguished his blade and began running for his life away from the wild Jedi. He ran up a set of stairs toward a darkened control room, the nerve center for this particular bay. Maul hoped Kenobi would not find him.
Obi-Wan exhaled and saw the scene of destruction before him. The anger in him was immense, full of sadness—full of wrath—but it was a just wrath. The anger was not overwhelming his sense of reason or his conscience. He knew where Maul was, he could feel him. He extinguished his lightsaber as he made his way slowly toward the stairwell. Maul could hear Kenobi's steps as he climbed the stairs to the empty control room.
"I sense much fear in you Maul." Kenobi was taunting him now. "Step out of the shadows and fight me!" Darth Maul didn't dare make a single move. He was well-hidden, but Kenobi could sense his presence clearly. He could not hide his Force-signature forever. Kenobi had his back turned toward the Dark Lord's hiding place. Maul quickly ignited his blade and leapt up. Obi-Wan spun around and blocked the shot with a grunt.
"Who's afraid now Kenobi?" They struck each other forcibly. Maul managed to strike Kenobi's arm lightly stinging him, but the Jedi never let his guard down during the fight and pushed him back. He slammed his body against Maul hard sending both of them flying through the window and down three floors below to the ground right beside the hangar overlooking a spectacular cascade of waterfalls. There were a series of rough cliffs stretching down thousands of feet below them.
Maul yelled as he charged at Obi-Wan. They fought perilously close to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the falls with neither one seeming to get the advantage.
Back in the antechamber, the droids had been pushed back and some began to flee as more Republican troop carriers arrived on the surface overwhelming the Federation's droid armies. Bail Organa stood watch over his sister as medical droids approached to assess her condition. Dooku extinguished his lightsaber and ran to the crumpled body of his former padawan who was now lying on the floor. Qui-Gon Jinn attempted to stand up but Dooku urged him to relax.
"Stay down old friend. Don't worry. Medical droids are coming, just stay with me my young apprentice." The last words he said with profound affection as the two looked in each other's eyes. It was clear that Qui-Gon didn't have much time left.
"…Master…it is too late for me…"
"No. Come now…I didn't train you for all that time just for you to give up on me now!" Qui-Gon smiled ever so slightly, his breathing became more labored.
"I will be with her soon…soon…I see her Dooku…soon I will be one with the Force." Dooku looked away. He looked away because he refused to let his former apprentice see even a hint of sadness on his countenance. In all his years of service to the Republic and the Jedi Order he had never cried. The older man sporting a trimmed white beard had seen much in his seventy years of service to the galaxy. Dooku embraced his reputation as a stern duelist and swordsman who never betrayed his true feelings. Qui-Gon spoke up again. "Where is Obi-Wan? I must see him…" Dooku cradled the younger man's body. Dooku whispered his response not realizing that several tears descended down his face as he spoke.
"He is facing Darth Maul." Qui-Gon's eyes widened as he saw his master cry.
"I failed you, I should've seen his feint…I should've…"
"No recriminations, there's no need of that now. Even I would have been fooled by that trick. Remember my padawan, in the heat of battle…"
"…our senses deceived may be…" Qui-Gon completed the well-worn phrase (one among many) that Yoda had drilled into all of them. The two men smiled at each other gravely.
"Rest easy Qui-Gon…rest easy…" Mace Windu walked up to them accompanied by two medical droids who began examining Qui-Gon Jinn. Dooku took the opportunity to see what the aftermath of the day's battle had been. Broken metallic portions of droids were strewn about the hallways and passages of the palace and throne room—Theed Palace was in shambles but still stood proudly as a beacon of hope for the Republic. The Federation was all but trounced by the greater strength of the Jedi and the Republican navy. He walked toward some of the shattered windows and saw several troopers dead on the ground nearby.
Dooku was lost in his thoughts for a moment as he gazed out at the scene outside—a steady stream of ships descending, troopers disembarking, orders being barked out by stern commanders to their men…it was all sickening for the older Jedi Master.
Was this all worth it? One of the finest Jedi Masters the Order had ever produced was lying on the cold floor of the Alderaanian palace dying from his wounds. How had it come to this? There was something unsettling about it all. He stared out and realized that this was the same window that Darth Sidious had smashed through earlier in the battle. Dooku look down at the cliffs and saw nothing, save for a broken breathing mask lying on the grass below the cliffs. He gotten away, he's still alive!
Suddenly Mace Windu tapped Dooku on the shoulder.
"You all right?"
"I'll be fine. How's he?"
"Not good Dooku, the blade went all the way through." Dooku scratched his beard for a moment letting out a frustrated groan.
"And Kenobi, have we heard from him yet?" Mace shook his head.
"Nothing at all."
Darth Maul stood on the precipice of a portion of the docking bay that jutted out over the falls. He clasped the hilt strongly and slashed at Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi blocked him swiftly. They stood there pressing their blades against each other almost wrestling with one another rather than fighting.
"I feel the anger in you…don't hold it back Kenobi!" He hissed again as he struck down hard forcing Obi-Wan down to the floor and training one of the dark red blades against the Jedi's neck. "Use your hatred to destroy me!" Kenobi gripped the hilt of the saber tightly and sent a precise strike down hard against the hilt of the double-bladed lightsaber shattering it. Maul had only one blade to work with as he tried desperately to fight off Kenobi's attacks with little success. Kenobi pushed him closer to the edge of the cliff. Maul kicked him hard but Kenobi grabbed his leg with one hand and pushed it away.
Maul recovered and drew his blade up defensively. Obi-Wan felt himself losing control. He was angry at Maul, bitterly so at the way the Sith Lord had struck down his master. Kenobi closed his eyes and concentrated. Darth Maul saw his opening and lunged forward. The two men sparred for a moment then Kenobi gripped the hilt of his blade with two hands and cut down sideways. Blood spattered forth into his face. Maul felt that he was in a dream. It wasn't possible. He staggered backward closer to the edge. Kenobi extinguished his lightsaber moving closer to Maul. The Dark Lord held his arm close to his waist, trying desperately to hold himself together.
"Don't go back any further…It doesn't have to end this way Maul!" Kenobi shouted out in desperation. Blood came pouring out of Maul's mouth as he started coughing violently. Obi-Wan looked down and saw what his handiwork had done. He had sliced Maul in half cleanly, that was why he was clutching his waist…he was literally trying to keep himself from falling apart. Obi-Wan extended his hand out to Maul. "This is the Jedi way…come with me please…" He was pleading with the Sith Lord, but a part of him realized that it was futile. The Sith only dealt in absolutes. They trusted no one. All they knew was power, greed, bitterness, and hatred. Forgiveness was not a part of their code. Nevertheless, Obi-Wan Kenobi kept his hand extended—hoping against hope that Darth Maul would grab it. Instead, Maul gave him a terrifying look. His eyes were a blaze of yellow and red like fire emanating from the stars above.
"This…is not…over…Kenobi…." He had barely finished saying the words when he fell backward off the cliff and into the wild water below swirling beneath them. Obi-Wan stood by watching the Dark Lord fall down, his legs and waist going one way, his head and torso in a completely different direction bouncing hard against the cliffs before they were obscured totally by the mist.
Obi-Wan bowed his head down in quiet thought trying to regain his composure. He brought the hilt of his blade back down and let it rest on his belt. Kenobi looked up and saw a hundred more Republican ships descending upon the capital city. He breathed out deeply three times. Then he remembered Qui-Gon Jinn. He felt his master's presence. He ran back toward the antechamber hoping that when he arrived his master still lived.
"What is the Queen's condition?" Dooku asked one of the medical droids.
"She will recover from her wounds. She is very fortunate that the blaster missed her vital organs. There will be burn marks and some scarring, but that's all." Dooku nodded his head. Windu called to him.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi has returned!" Dooku walked toward Windu and saw the Jedi running toward them. He had seen better days. He was caked in blood, sweat, and dirt. But he seemed all right.
"He's dead." Dooku's head sank down in a mix of relief and agitation.
"There's no sign of Sidious, I believe he escaped."
"What about Qui-Gon?" Dooku and Mace backed away allowing Obi-Wan to see Qui-Gon Jinn's battered figure lying on the floor. His back was leaning against a ruined column.
"There's no hope for him son…Maul's blade sank in deep…"
"Obi-Wan…" The voice was Qui-Gon Jinn's, but it sounded weak. Kenobi fell to his knees on the ground by his master.
"You have done well my young apprentice." Obi-Wan smiled at him.
"There's not much time for me left…" He tried to move. Obi-Wan held him back.
"You must promise me something. Promise me…"
"Whatever you want Qui-Gon, I'll do it…just tell me." Qui-Gon coughed a bit as he strained to speak.
"Train young Skywalker. I know what you felt initially about him…you were jealous…you resented him. But the truth is that I have never been prouder of you than I have been now. You are not a padawan, you have become a fine Jedi Knight…you will serve the Republic well Obi-Wan. You must train the boy. He is the Chosen One. He will bring balance to the Force." He paused for a moment his eyes widening for moment more. "Train him!" Whatever misgivings Obi-Wan Kenobi had about Anakin Skywalker disappeared completely. A new sense of purpose invigorated the Jedi Knight as he clutched his master's hand.
"I will train him. I promise you that." Qui-Gon Jinn managed to give a small smile before he closed his eyes and let his head slump down to his side. Kenobi stared at his face for a few more moments. Then he turned away. He looked back and saw a profound sight before him. Qui-Gon's physical body rapidly disappeared, leaving behind him only his robe and the belt with his lightsaber to fall gently on the ground. Dooku walked close to Obi-Wan putting his hand on the younger man's shoulders.
"He is one with the Living Force now."
Obi-Wan adjusted his robes as he, Dooku, and Mace Windu moved down the corridors to meet with Queen Amidala and her brother. Padmé smiled from her place with the medical droids. She had many wires and bandages strewn over her shoulder and back with a large droid flanking her.
"It looks worse than it is I promise you that." Obi-Wan smiled at her gently. He had aged somewhat as a result of the battle. His smile seemed to carry more weight and authority. Some news came through Kenobi's comm link. He listened to it dutifully and turned back to the Amidala and her brother.
"Well it looks like the Federation won't be trying a stunt like this anytime soon. The droid armies have been completely destroyed. Most of their fleet has been shattered. You'll be pleased to know that Nute Gunray tried to make a cowardly escape before his flagship blew up. He was apprehended before he made the jump to lightspeed. He will be tried by the Senate directly." Senator Organa stepped forward.
"That's good news Master Jedi." Obi-Wan nodded his head accepting the new title that had recently been bestowed upon him. "What about the Sith Lords, have they been dealt with?"
"I killed Darth Maul by Docking Bay 25, the one overlooking the cliffs and the falls…but Darth Sidious has escaped. We didn't find a body. We did find that mask he was using." Organa looked away not entirely satisfied.
"He must be captured." Dooku stepped forward.
"Senator, he will see justice I can make that promise to you. But he is crafty. I don't think he will put himself in the open again like this. It was a bold step, but a foolish one for him. He's lost this round, now he has to plan his next move." Dooku bowed his head and walked away. Obi-Wan sensed a disturbance in the Force. He excused himself leaving Mace Windu alone with Padmé and Bail Organa.
"Dooku, where are you going?"
"I see nothing escapes your attention Obi-Wan. You take much after your master. He taught you well."
"You're leaving aren't you?" Dooku traced his fingers on the curved hilt of the lightsaber hanging from his side. "Don't tell me you've lost faith? You've seen too much for that to happen."
"I haven't lost faith in the Force. But what I've seen over the last few days has really made me question many things that I took for granted." He paused and lowered his black hood down. "We should've known that Plagueis had an apprentice. We should've foreseen this…we could've foreseen it."
"The future is uncertain Dooku. Yoda always made sure we learned that."
"True enough. But to have someone in our midst…a Sith Lord no less…orchestrating an invasion and delaying the deployment of a relief mission by the Senate…there's something profoundly wrong with that scenario. The Jedi Council has failed and so has the Galactic Senate. We have grown too soft, too comfortable with peace for our own good I fear." He paused for a moment gathering his thoughts before he continued. "So long as Sidious lives we will never be free from the oppression of the Sith. The cloud of the Dark Side hangs over everything for which we have fought and suffered."
"But Dooku we were victorious today, we vanquished the Sith Lords again."
"Obi-wan do not be so naïve. This was a battle, a big one…but still just that...a battle. We may have drawn the Sith out of hiding, but we are no closer to knowing what their true designs are. You were at Korriban, you saw the holocron?" Kenobi nodded his head in agreement. "Then you know that this was a test." A thought occurred to Obi-Wan, he took a deep breath as he spoke.
"By the Force they were testing our response time...how fast the Jedi respond to a crisis, how quickly a fleet can assemble. It all makes sense now, but why?"
"That is the crucial question. And in all our debating about the Sith Lords returning and defending this world against the Federation, we all missed what was right in front of us…they are probing for any weaknesses in our military and political establishment." He paused. "And if you ask me, they have found quite a few especially in the bureaucratic muddle on Coruscant." He moved away suddenly toward a nearby balcony and gazed out at the falls near the docking bay. "I can't be a part of this anymore. I just can't. I hope you understand…" Kenobi moved next to him.
"I do. More than you can possibly imagine." They stayed quiet for a few moments. Then Dooku bowed and took his leave. He turned around for a moment as he raised his hood back up.
"Master Kenobi, take care of your new padawan. He will need a strong master to learn the ways of the Force."
"My new padawan? I don't understand…"
"The Council has determined that Anakin is fit to be trained as Jedi. You can fulfill your promise to Qui-Gon Jinn. Watch over him with great care Obi-Wan." Tears welled up in Kenobi's eyes. He couldn't help but smile as Dooku turned back and walked out of the palace headed to parts unknown.