The setting of the golden suns on the war-torn world of Thrae
has caused a dark shadow to creep slowly over the ruins of its once proud
capital, Xyshtar City.
In the centre of this crumbling metropolis sits a gigantic stadium; its
vast parking zone once again filled to capacity – albeit this time with Federation
AAT tanks; Republic gun-ships; AT-TE walkers and other such instruments of
destruction – rather than the usual family Hover-Wagons that have varying “Don’t
get too close, Wookie on board,” and “How bad is my piloting?” stickers on the
back window, or the little 2-seater crafts that probably only had one previous
It was certainly a far cry from those days, yet the reason for the parking zone being filled was for the exact same reason as old; two sets of supporters filling the stadium to cheer on their respective teams to victory. It was quite an irony then that at this moment the stadium was now full of beings that were literally the deadliest of enemies who had agreed to “get along” for the occasion, yet in the times of old, the stadium was filled with everyday friends and relatives who had become enemies for the day whilst they supported their respective teams. Either way, it didn’t matter to the stadium’s staff because they were getting paid overtime for being asked to come in on their year off.
Inside the stadium, the atmosphere was electric; partly because the Separatist supporters were ‘buzzing’ with excitement because their team had just gone one-nil in-front on the stroke of half-time; and party because Count Dooku, the Separatist team’s manager for the occasion, had used force-lightning on the Clone trooper who was in goal for the Republic when the referee wasn’t looking. The result was the poor goalkeeper being a little too stunned to stop Poggle the Lesser from tapping the ball into the net from about 6 yards out. This caused a less than favourable reaction from the Republic team’s supporters, with chants of “The referee’s a Rancor!” echoing around the stadium.
This act of un-sportsmanship also caused a less than favourable reaction from Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Republic team’s manager, who was down on the touchline arguing with the crafty Count.
“What the blazes?!” Exclaimed Obi-Wan. “You can’t do that Dooku, it’s cheating!”
Count Dooku turned to face Obi-Wan; his regal face as blank as the Republic team’s score-line.
“Oh come now, Master Kenobi; all’s fair in war and football. It’s not as if any one has died.” The sarcasm was all too apparent in his voice and Obi-Wan knew it, yet choose to ignore it. Instead he just fixed Dooku with a disapproving glance and crossed his arms. Sensing his disgust, Dooku continued, “Besides, don’t think I am not aware of young Skywalker’s little mind trick on the referee earlier on.”
Obi-Wan stared at Dooku with a confused look.
“Mind trick? What are you talking about Dooku? Anakin hasn’t used any mind tricks, I would have sensed it.”
“I assure you he did. It was just after he–” Dooku suddenly stopped mid-sentence and turned his attention to the match. His team had been under constant pressure from their opponents since gaining the lead, and were currently defending too deep for Dooku’s liking. “Push up, you fools!” He shouted, “You’re defending too deep!” This caught the attention of the four Neomodian defenders, who although nodded in acknowledgment, were unable to do so because they were being run ragged by the sheer energy of Anakin Skywalker, and by the pin-point passing of the powerful Chewbacca. Content that his orders were heard, Dooku then turned back to Obi-Wan, who was still waiting for him to further explain his allegation about Anakin cheating. “Now where were we? Oh yes, Skywalker’s mind trick. It was just after he made that dreadful challenge on one of my midfielders. The referee was reaching for his red card when all of a sudden he changed his mind and produced a yellow. Surely even you realise that this referee is too stubborn to suddenly just change his mind, Obi-Wan?”
Obi-Wan uncrossed his arms and shook his head in disagreement. “That was no mind trick Dooku; he was always going for his yellow card. Besides, your midfielder made a meal of it; Anakin barely touched him.”
Count Dooku, still wearing a blank expression, turned back towards the match and just uttered “Of course.” Obi-Wan did likewise.
On the pitch itself,
Anakin had drifted out to the wing and was chasing a ball that Commander Cody,
who was playing at the heart of the Republic team’s defence, cleared after
another Separatist attack had broken down.
As soon as the ball dropped onto the weathered grass about 30 yards
in-front Anakin, the referee blew the whistle for half-time, which was met with
a plethora of boos and jeers from the aggrieved Republican crowd; which was
understandable considering their team manager could not – or more likely would
not – use force-lighting on the opposing goalkeeper if the other team’s striker
had beaten the off-side trap (again) and was bearing down on him. If Dooku was not a Sith Lord hell-bent on
destroying their way of life, they probably would have preferred him as
manager. In fact, the whole Dooku being
a Sith Lord thing probably would not have even affected his chances of being
offered it; just the destruction of the galaxy thing. After all, if Dooku’s Separatists won the war
and the galaxy as they knew it was destroyed, who would they play?
Still, they had the second half to snatch a victory from a foot-balling point of view, so there was the possibility that things might improve on that front at least.
When the Republic’s players entered their
dressing room, Chewbacca, who was the team’s play-maker in midfield, began
barking and kicked the drinks trays over in frustration. This startled a couple of the Clone players,
and even Anakin at first, but Obi-Wan, who was as calm as ever, walked over to
him and said: “Easy Chewbacca; that is supposed to be my job!” Chewbacca just responded with a couple of
grunts and snarls. “Just relax, there’s
plenty of time left for us to win the game.”
“And how are we supposed to do that, Master, when Dooku keeps on cheating?” said Anakin, who was sitting hunched over on one of the benches trying to catch his breath after a hectic first half.
“Simple. You will win if you all keep on playing the way you did in the first half.” Obi-Wan retorted, as he looked about the room. “Dooku’s resorted to cheating because he knows we are far better than they, which reminds me...” Obi-Wan turned to face the shaken Clone goalkeeper. “How are you feeling? Are you able to continue for the second half?”
Before he could reply, one of the other Clones interjected. “If he can’t sir, at least you’ve got about 10,000 replacements at your disposal!” This raised a couple of chuckles from the players, and even Obi-Wan mustered a small smile.
“That won’t be necessary sir, I’m fine.” said the wounded trooper.
“Good. Just try and relax for the time being. Now then, Cody, they’ve managed to elude our off-side trip quite a few times so I just want to go over a few things with you.”
“I’m having trouble understanding it, General. It’s quite confusing.”
As Obi-Wan settled down to talk to Commander Cody, another Clone trooper entered the room and walked straight up to him. Obi-Wan paid the trooper no mind as he once again tried to explain what the offside trap was to the bemusement of his defender.
“Excuse me, sir.” said the trooper without any hint of nerves in his voice for interrupting Obi-Wan’s speech.
“Yes, what is it, private?”
“The Supreme Chancellor has requested to speak to Commander Skywalker, sir.”
This caused Anakin to shift his gaze from the floor to the trooper, then to Obi-Wan and the back to the trooper again. He had a puzzled expression on his sweat-filled face. Obi-Wan just looked miffed that his half-time talk was interrupted, especially because he found leading thousands of clones in battle a lot less daunting that trying to explain the offside trap to them. He just wanted to get it over with.
“Anakin? Did he say what for?”
“No sir, just that it was urgent.”
Obi-Wan looked at Anakin for an explanation, but he just widened his eyes and shrugged his shoulders in uncertainty.
“You best go and see what he wants then.”
“Yes Master.” said Anakin before getting up to leave.
Obi-Wan then turned back to the rest of the team as Anakin and the trooper left the room.
After a brief walk down a long, metallic corridor, Anakin entered the empty communications room and sat at one of the many vacated consoles. There was a little light flashing on the panel so Anakin pressed the switch that was next to it. Suddenly a large holographic image of Chancellor Palpatine appeared in front of him. The Chancellor seemed very pleased to see Anakin, who although was pleased to see him too, was also a little concerned with why Palapatine wanted to see him.
“Hello Anakin.” he said.
“Hello your Excellency. You requested to see me?”
“Yes, yes. I’ve been following your progress throughout the first half and I must say I’ve been most impressed by your display.”
This seemed to confuse Anakin. “You have? How?”
“On 11.38 Galactic FM. It’s only available to subscription holders – and of course myself.” He seemed most pleased with himself as he said those words, and even broke into a little smile. This relaxed Anakin a little.
“I didn’t know it was even being broadcasted, Your Excellency.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t know, Anakin.” His voice was still soft, but had a tone that was a touch more serious than before. Anakin looked on intrigued.
“You have the power within you to win this match. If you would just trust your feelings and let them dictate your actions, then you would see this too.”
“Letting my feelings dictate my actions goes against the Jedi code, Your Grace.”
“Indeed it does. And that is why you are on a losing team,” he paused for a brief moment before continuing. “Use your raw emotions and you will win this match…and a lot more. I can assure you of this.”
Anakin’s confusion was increasing the more Palpatine spoke. He knew that what the Chancellor was saying did go against the Order, but at the same time he felt that it was the right thing to do. There had been glimpses during the first half when he let his emotions get the better of him, and for those few brief moments, the power he felt was completely invigorating; it was the difference between him winning a tackle and coming away with the ball and miss-timing one and being booked; it was the difference between him winning a header and being out-jumped; it was the difference between him scoring a goal and hitting the post. Anakin wanted to win. And more importantly, Palpatine knew it.
“A lot more? What do you mean?”
Palpatine broke into a slightly bigger smile than before. It wasn’t the biggest smile he has ever made, but it was big enough for the reason behind it.
“I believe that the council have again refused you your chance – your right – to take the trials,” Palpatine sensed that this was a touchy subject with Anakin, and one that grated him immensely. He continued “What if I told you that I can get you knighted without ever having to take the trials.”
Anakin’s eyes widened at this revelation. He felt a sense of wonder and confusion.
“That’s impossible. Not even you, in all of your greatness, could influence the council, Your Excellency.”
“I have more influence than you think, Anakin. The wars have seen to that. I feel that our enemies will fear you more if they learn you are a Knight. They already fear you now as a Padawan, and I’m sure that the people who the Jedi have sworn to protect would sleep better at night knowing that you are in a position of authority.”
That reasoning seemed to hold sway with Anakin, and he broke into a little smile. “What do I have to do?”
“Trust your true feelings, regardless if they go against what a Jedi is supposed to feel. Let them dictate your actions and you will emerge powerful and victorious.”
Anakin nodded in agreement, which visibly pleased the Chancellor. “Excellent. Now go and win this match, my friend – for the Republic!”
With that the image of Palpatine faded to nothing. Anakin sat still for a few moments contemplating what the Chancellor had just said. The mere thought of being knighted filled him with pride. Could the Chancellor really influence the council? He thought. He seemed petty sure of himself. After all, it was the Chancellor who arranged this football match. And if he could halt the biggest war the galaxy has witnessed for many a millennia for a 90-minute kick about, then he could surely do something as trivial as have him knighted.
The more Anakin thought about it, the more it sat well with him. All he had to do was act upon his feelings, which wasn’t hard because he had more than enough of them. His thoughts were then interrupted by the sound of the alarm that signalled for the players to come out for the second half. Anakin smiled to himself, now aware of what he had to do. He wanted to win this match; and nothing and no one was going to snatch victory, or his knighthood, away from him. He then got up and left the room to re-join his team-mates.
In the hallway, Anakin saw the rest of his team heading towards the pitch. As he passed their dressing room, Obi-Wan emerged from the inside and walked side-by-side with him.
“What did the Chancellor want?”
“Nothing much, just to offer words of encouragement, Master.” Anakin had a wry smile when he said that word; he genuinely believed that he would not be saying that for much longer, and it felt liberating. Obi-Wan looked at him with a puzzled look.
“Why only offer encouragement to you? It is a team game.”
“I’m not sure Master. Maybe it is because I’m the lone striker and our best bet of getting the goals that will lead us to victory.”
“Remember it is a team game, Anakin. You still need to depend on your team-mates to supply you with opportunities.”
This seemed to rattle Anakin’s cage. “Yeah, well maybe if they did that more often, we wouldn’t be losing.”
This caused Obi-Wan to stop Anakin in his tracks. “We are only losing because of Dooku’s foul play, my young apprentice.”
“I think he has the right idea, if you ask me.”
Obi-Wan looked on disapprovingly. “I hope you’re not implying that we cheat.”
“Well why not?” said Anakin defiantly, “If we have been graced with the powers to win this match, then we should be using them. It’s a waste otherwise.”
“Has Palpatine been filling your head again, Anakin?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve matured so much over the last year, yet every time you return from a meeting with the Chancellor, your arrogance seems to resurface.”
Anakin looked almost insulted, as one probably would if one was called arrogant. Especially if one actually was. “No he doesn’t. He is a good man, and I just happen to agree with a lot of things that he says.”
“And you think cheating is a good thing?”
“Of course not, but I want to win.”
“I want to win too,” Obi-Wan’s voice then softened a touch. “But not by cheating.”
Anakin looked right into Obi-Wan’s humble eyes and felt a mixture of guilt and smugness. Guilt because he genuinely loved this man, and as a result of the Clone Wars, had grown so close to him that he did not like it when they argued; and smugness because he was going to cheat anyway – nothing was going to prevent him from winning the match for Palpatine and being granted a knighthood in return. He was also smug because he knew he could get away with it without Obi-Wan suspecting his true intentions. This was because he had learnt to prevent anyone – including Yoda – from probing any areas of his mind that he wanted to keep secret, such as his marriage to Padme for example. It was a handy technique to possess, especially since he discovered that Padme was rather adventurous in bed and if any of the council ever read that area of his mind during a briefing in the chambers, then there would be quite a few Jedi Masters crossing their legs and shifting uncomfortably in their seats. So Anakin thought it would be best to learn how to mask his true feelings, and it is something that he had mastered since the beginning of the wars.
With his unsporting intentions well and truly hidden from Obi-Wan, he reluctantly nodded in agreement, which brought a smile to his mentor’s face.
“Come on then, my friend. You’ve got some goals to score.”
Anakin raised a wry smile when Obi-Wan turned away from him and they both made their way back into the arena.
The crowd was a lot
calmer as the teams came out for the second half. This was mainly because of the half-time
entertainment that consisted of a “celebrity” penalty shoot-out that included a
Kilmaarian singer, which was odd considering that they are renowned for their
phobia of all things round and basically ball-shaped; an Olsarian actor, who
thought the football was his adulterous ex-wife because her race, the Ryhar, actually
look like footballs, and an actual Ryhar (who wasn’t the Olsaran’s wife, but
was an adulterer), who ended up falling in love with the football. He wasn’t famous either, but he did provide
plenty of entertainment as he tried to score in more ways that one.
So after seeing the sight of one person being forced at gunpoint to kick an object he was scared of; another person being dragged kicking and screaming away from an object he was desperate to kick, and a third person who looked like the object everyone was supposed to kick trying it on with the said object, it was no wonder that the crowd was more high-spirited than earlier on.
As both sets players took up their respective positions, one mischievous member of the Republic crowd threw a spanner onto the pitch which infuriated GT-12, the super battle droid and captain of the Separatist team. So much so that the kick-off had to be delayed by a couple of minutes whilst the offender was escorted out of the stadium by ground staff before GT-12 shot him with his arm laser. Once the referee was satisfied that the offender was safely out harms way (by a cruel twist of fate that the same fan died later on that day as a result of his craft’s engine suddenly exploding because he no longer had a spanner to release the pressure from an over-heated vent), he blew the whistle to begin the second half.
The opening stage of the half was just as frantic as the previous one with the tackles flying in thick and fast, except for Poggle the Lesser, who spent most of his time just flying, much to the annoyance of his opponents, and the referee who told him that he will be sent off if he persisted with it.
As the half wore on,
Anakin was becoming increasingly frustrated with his side’s lack of
opportunities; the attractive football that they had incorporated in the first
half had been replaced by miss-timed passes and genuinely sloppy play. Obi-wan felt Anakin’s frustrations too and
had thought about making a change, but seeing as the only substitutes at his
disposal were a batch of Clones with the same attributes, it did not seem worth
it. He just hoped that the break would
And the break eventually did come on the hour mark, but not in the way Obi-Wan would have liked. As a result of yet another dreadful challenge on one of his team-mates by GT-12, Chewbacca saw red and literally ripped the droid’s arms out from its sockets. He then saw more red in the form of a card because the referee sent him off as a result. This act of savagery almost caused an 11-man, Wookie and insect brawl on the pitch (GT-12 was in no shape to join in), but Anakin managed to calm things down after the referee threatened to abandon the match by instead threatening everyone on the pitch, including his own team-mates, with his lightsabre. He did this because he knew that his knighthood would be in jeopardy if the match was abandoned. It worked and the referee said he would allow play to continue if Chewbacca stopped smashing GT-12 to bits and left the pitch, which he eventually agreed to do.
As the Wookie left the pitch to cheers from his own supporters and barking chants from certain sections of the Separatist crowd, Obi-Wan and Count Dooku were again bickering on the touchline.
“I didn’t realise that you encouraged that sort of behaviour from your players, Master Kenobi! Quiet frankly, I’m shocked.” Dooku taunted.
“That had nothing to do with me, but it would not have happened if that droid you employed in your midfield had of concentrated on kicking the ball instead of kicking my players!”
Dooku looked at Obi-Wan with a mock expression of shock. “It is not I who employ beasts that go around destroying their opponents because they cannot take want they administer! It is lucky for you that I have not taken this outrage to heart and have the match abandoned!” There was something strange within Dooku’s last words that Obi-Wan could not put his finger on. It was almost as if the Count was actually glad that the incident with Chewbacca and GT-12 happened.
Just as Obi-Wan was about to continue on with their argument, the referee jogged over to Count Dooku. “Would you like to bring on a replacement for your droid, Count?”
Dooku just smiled and nodded his head. The manner in which he did brought a concerned look to Obi-Wan’s face.
“OK then, hurry up and send him on so I can restart the game; the crowd and players are getting a little impatient.” With that the referee jogged back towards the centre circle.
Obi-Wan looked at Dooku; his concern growing more and more. “What are you up to, Dooku?”
“You’re just about to find out, Obi-Wan.” Dooku then motioned with his left hand and one of his droid soldiers immediately headed into the tunnel towards the dressing rooms.
Meanwhile, out on the pitch, a very animated Anakin was busy giving instructions to Commander Cody. “I’m going to start drifting out towards the wings from now on, so the first chance you get I want you to bypass the midfield and hit the ball straight out to me.”
“But General Kenobi has ordered us not to play the long ball because it’s not attractive, sir.”
“I want to win this match, Commander, so don’t make me order you to play it my way.” snapped Anakin before softening a touch. “Trust me, this will work. Once we’ve scored a couple of goals, we can go back to our normal game. That way, everyone’s happy.”
“Well, OK sir b…what in the galaxy is that?!” gasped Commander Cody as he pointed towards the tunnel.
“What’s the matter?” responded Anakin.
“You’d better look for yourself, sir.”
The worried look on the Commander’s face caused Anakin to turn around and observe what it was that Cody was pointing at.
The whole stadium fell silent as the sound of heavy footsteps echoed out from the darkened corridors of the player’s tunnel. Whatever was making its way through that tunnel was heavy. And it was big.
Suddenly, Anakin’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open when he saw what emerged from out of the darkness of the tunnel.
Making its way towards Count Dooku was what appeared to be an eight-foot bone-white droid…in a cape! There was something odd about this droid because its head did not quite match the rest of its body, mainly due to it not being made out of metal. In-fact, apart from it being completely covered by a skull-like mask which made it look like some sort of cybernetic witch-doctor, it seemed to be very-much organic.
Either this was one very insecure alien who took cosmetic surgery that extra step too far, or it was one unfortunate robot whose sole wish of being human had a partially deaf – or sadistic – fairy godmother.
As the droid marched over towards Dooku, Obi-Wan took a cautious step back, much to the amusement of the Count.
“You’re not afraid of a mere droid, are you Master Kenobi?”
“What the blazes is it?” asked Obi-Wan.
“He is what will ensure victory for the Separatists; both in this match and for our cause.” replied Dooku, sounding very sure of himself.
Before Obi-Wan could reply, the metallic droid stopped just sort of them both. It was here that Obi-Wan caught a glimpse of its reptile-like eyes for the first time, and instantly hoped it would be the last. He had never felt so much hate from a single being before, and what make it worse was that every ounce of that hate was directed at anything – or anyone – associated with the Republic. But, being a battle-hardened Jedi, he did not let his worries show; instead he matched the droid’s stare for intensity. Although the droid had a mask to hide behind; and Obi-Wan his beard, neither of them took their eyes away from the others for a single second.
This brief optical showdown was interrupted when Dooku barked some orders at the droid. “General Grievous, your task is to sit in midfield and break up any Republic attacks. Make sure that nothing gets through.”
Still staring at Obi-Wan, the droid General responded in a deep, gravelled voice. “As you wish, Count.” With that, he turned away from Obi-Wan and made his way onto the pitch.
Count Dooku watched him go with a smug look upon his face as Obi-Wan motioned for Anakin to drop deeper to help counter the new threat, and although the awe-struck young Jedi nodded in agreement, he had no intentions of doing so. Getting goals was his goal, not taking on an eight-foot killing machine. That was Chewbacca’s job – well it would have been had he not been sent off for taking on a seven-foot killing machine. Instead, Anakin thought he would wing this one in more ways than one.
When the referee blew for the game to begin again, the General wasted no time in making his presence known, for he almost crippled two Republic players as they tried to go past him. The referee wisely judged that he won the ball, much to Anakin’s annoyance. The droid General mockingly imitated licking his finger and motioning the number one to Anakin, which riled him even more.
As time pressed on, the Republic team started to create chances – albeit with one less man – by doing what Anakin suggested, which was bypassing the midfield, and more importantly Grievous, with long-balls straight to the young Jedi. This annoyed Obi-Wan, but even he eventually stopped complaining when he realised it seemed to be working.
In the 75th
minute, Commander Cody launched another ball towards Anakin which was destined
to go out of play had he not cunningly used the force to prevent it from doing
so. As a result, he managed to control
it and unleash a 25-yarder that flew past the Neomodian goalkeeper and into the
top corner of the net. This sent the
Republic crowd delirious with chants of “You’re not singing any more…” which
was aimed at the opposing supporters as Anakin ran towards them kissing his
badge. One over-excited fan even managed
to invade the pitch and was duly arrested. This was partly because
pitch-invasions were frowned upon in Thrae, and partly because he had no
clothes on. As they were taking him away,
he could be heard to be protesting that he was a Mellovian, and his race didn’t
actually wear clothes, which was actually true, but he just could not convince
his arresters otherwise.
Down on the touchline, Obi-Wan shouted out “Game on!” as Dooku looked on in disgust. The Count then told Grievous to man-mark Anakin for the rest of the game, and judging by the look in the droid’s beady yellow eyes, this was one task that he was going to relish.
From the resulting kick-off, the Separatists began to attack and like for much of the first half, Poggle the Lesser managed to beat the Republic’s offside trap once again and found himself bearing down on their goal. Because his touch had been outstanding all game, Anakin knew he had to do something quick before the Geonosian restored the Separatist’s lead. Just as Poggle was about to enter the 18yard box, Anakin gave a slight wave of his hand and used the force to make it look as the striker had over-hit the ball. The Republic keeper was then able to collect the ball quite comfortably, much to Dooku’s and Poggle’s anger.
At the other end of the pitch Anakin was feeling quite pleased with himself when he felt a shadow loom over him, and a chilling voice hiss into his ear “I know what you did, Jedi, and I’ll make sure you’ll regret it.”
Anakin, feeling the extra power that his raw emotions where affording him, did not so much as flinch. Instead of fear, the droid General’s threat was met with a bout of arrogance only Anakin could possess. “I’ll make sure you die before I even begin to think about regretting it, droid.”
The droid general had to use all of his inner will power to prevent itself from tearing Anakin apart there and then. Instead, it just narrowed its eyes at him in sheer hatred and muttered “We’ll see, Jedi. We’ll see.”
Anakin smirked and then suddenly turned to chase another long ball from his defence. This time, he was closely tracked by Grievous, and the powerhouse of a droid managed to slyly lash out at him as they fought for the ball. Anakin fell to the ground clutching his face whilst the General controlled the ball and passed it to one of his defenders, who in-turn kicked it out of play so the Jedi could receive treatment.
At this point, the Republic crowd were shouting “Cheat!” at the General for clobbering their star striker and getting away with it, whilst the Separatist crowd were shouting “Cheat!” at Anakin for supposedly diving.
When Anakin was finally treated, he was left with a deep cut down the right side of his face that was only separated by his eye. His first thoughts were of his hatred towards Grievous and his desire to get even. After that, he just thought of what a cool scar he was going to have.
After a couple of minute’s play, the referee signalled for Anakin to rejoin the game. When he did, Grievous was waiting. “That’s a pretty nasty cut you got there, Skywalker. You want to be more careful.”
Anakin just glared at the General; the hatred that was swelling through him was almost tangible and at that exact moment, there was nothing he would like to do more than to introduce him to his personal friend, the lightsabre. But now was not the time for revenge; he would save that for the tunnel after the match. No, Grievous would keep for the moment; now was the time to take this game by the scruff of the neck and fire his team to victory, and himself to a knighthood.
Over the next
fifteen minutes, each side had created – and squandered – their fair share of
chances, and a draw was looking increasingly likely; not just with regards to
the match, but with the crowd as well because they were all desperate to start
shooting each other. But, as if it was
designed by the Gods themselves (or foreseen by Darth Sidious, which was
probably all the more likely), the moment everyone – apart the Separatists and
people with heart conditions – had been hoping for happened: Anakin was awarded
a penalty in the dying seconds of the match!
It came about through a combination of skill, trickery, and of-course cheating. Like before, Anakin and Grievous were chasing the same ball when then latter decided to make another unsavoury challenge, only this time the former was wise to it and managed to avoid having his leg separated from his body and sent flying into the crowd. As a result, Grievous completely missed Anakin and instead slid off the pitch and into a “Kick Xenophobia out of Football” advertisement hoarding which allowed the Jedi, who smirked at the fallen General, to continue on with the chase unchallenged. Once on the ball, he drifted past two of the Separatist defenders as if they were not there; which to be fair to them both, they did not actually know Anakin was near because he used a mind trick on them. Their confusion allowed him to go one-on-one with the keeper, who ended up bringing him down for the penalty, which was just as well because Anakin’s last touch was terrible.
Back on the touchline, Dooku was absolutely seething with Anakin’s continual use of the force. He was also mad because he never thought of performing that little trick himself when Poggle was trying to go past Commander Cody.
“Looks like that droid General of yours has finally come unstuck, Dooku.” Obi-Wan mused, much to the Count’s displeasure. The blank face that he had worn all game was beginning to show signs of anger and Obi-Wan could not resist rubbing it in.
“He hasn’t scored yet.” was all the Count could muster.
Obi-Wan just looked on with a chuckle.
When Anakin stepped up to place the ball on the spot, the tension within the stadium could be cut with a knife. Nerves were running high and it would require a lot of composure from the young Jedi to score under those circumstances. After a moment or two, Anakin took a deep breath and began his run up. As the crowd, players and managers looked on with baited breath, Anakin struck the ball so hard and accurate that it gave the keeper – and Dooku’s attempts of using the force to send it high over the bar – no chance. 2-1 to the Republic.
Everyone associated with the Republic went absolutely hysterical as Anakin was mobbed by his team-mates. Everyone associated with the Separatists wanted to restart the Clone Wars there and then. All it would have taken was one word from Dooku, but it never came. Instead he turned to face Obi-Wan, who was surprisingly calm, and said “Enjoy your victory while it lasts, Master Kenobi, because it will be your last.”
With that, the referee blew final whistle and the match was over. Count Dooku left the dug-out and disappeared down the players’ tunnel with the sound of a Republic victory ringing in his ears. Obi-Wan watched him leave and simply uttered “Don’t count on it” to himself.
As the players congratulated each other, a delighted Anakin ran over to his Master and they both hugged one another. “Well done, Anakin. I told you that you could do it.” Anakin could not contain his joy. He was absolutely loving the accolade that he was getting; not only from Obi-Wan, but from the crowd as well as they sung “We love you Anakin, we do!”
Suddenly, as both Anakin and Obi-Wan were about to embark on a lap of honour, a Clone trooper who looked a lot like the Clone trooper who interrupted the half-time team talk, interrupted them again. For all they knew he could have been the same one; it was that hard to tell. “Sir, Chancellor Palpatine has requested that Commander Skywalker contact him immediately.” As before, Obi-Wan looked at Anakin with a curious expression; Anakin just looked desperate to take the call. “Go on then, but hurry up: Everyone’s waiting for you”.
“Thank you, Master.” said Anakin. The look on his face was a look that Obi-Wan had never seen on him before, which made him even more curious. Anakin just turned away from his Master and headed towards the same dark tunnel that Dooku disappeared down moments before.