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I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but it’s finally here! The first chapter of Battlefield of the Soul is finally complete. Again, I apologize for the long delay. I really didn’t think it would take nearly as long as it has.

All right, I have to give you a few notes before I post the chapter. First of all, this story proved to be much shorter than I had expected. Mostly, it’s about Dooku and his ideas, Obi-Wan’s struggle for freedom, and Asajj. But the biggest part of the story is Anakin’s fight with Vader, the Dark Side as it exists within himself. It’s more of a gap filler than anything else, because though it’s important, there’s actually not much action. It’s more like a character study, I think. Also, it’s turning out to be much more difficult to write and edit. The scenes from the next installment (which I have already begun to look forward to, and which will involve the utter awepicness of Jango Fett himself!) have proven much easier, for some reason. Normally, when I do a character sketch, it just flows. But now… it’s very frustrating!!!

Okay, on with the show. Just a caveat–mentions of torture in this chapter. Read with discretion. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter I

                “Siri, what are you doing?” Obi-Wan hissed. Siri riffled hurriedly through the papers. Obi-Wan swallowed, hard. Those could be death to both of them if anyone knew what was going on. He had already reported the important things… why did Siri have to make things worse like this? It was maddening. “Someone will come in and see you!” he continued, anxiously glancing around at the walls of Sidious’ makeshift office on Naboo.

                “Don’t worry, Obi-Wan,” Siri said, her voice still in that annoying tone that made her seem to think that she knew so much better than he did.

                She didn’t.

                Obi-Wan hissed out a colorful expletive and snapped, “Siri, get out of here! Sidious is coming!” Any espionage possibilities instantly forgotten, Siri leaped to her feet and dashed from the room.

                She almost collided with Sidious.

                Reflexively, Obi-Wan leaped forward in a sudden attack. “Run, Siri!” he shouted as he grappled with Sidious. The guards stood by, unsure of what to do, as Obi-Wan struggled with their emperor.

                “Get the girl!” Sidious shouted. The guards moved to comply. Obi-Wan Force-pushed them against the wall, a tangle of limbs and gaudy livery.

                By the time they managed to get to their feet, Siri was long gone.

                Obi-Wan managed to press Sidious to the ground, but the Sith wasn’t going to stay down for long. Obi-Wan felt his throat constrict as Sidious gripped him, through the Force. He dangled a few feet above the ground, struggling for breath. Sidious slammed him hard into a wall, then hurled the energy of his anger at the young man. Obi-Wan cried out, writhing, unable to defend himself.

                “So, what did you have to do with this, Korzu?” Obi-Wan struggled to breathe. The Sith lightning came down at him again. “Speak!

 

Obi-Wan came back suddenly to harsh reality, burning agony searing a blazing, white-hot line across his vision. “The girl who escaped… had you seen her before?” Silence. It took Obi-Wan a moment to realize that Xanatos was addressing him. Don’t tell him. he thought. That could lead to giving away everyone’s safety. “Were you involved in her initial escape?” Don’t say anything. Don’t blow your cover. You’re no use to the Council revealed, or dead. If he really wants it, let him fish, and dive, and caper and grovel for it. I still won’t tell. “What role did you have in the escape of queen-elect Amidala?” Still stubborn silence. Xanatos paced the other way. “Who were your accomplices? Did they press you into service?” He walked slowly in an ever-tightening circle around Obi-Wan. “Did you witness the escape? What happened? How did they get past the guards?” A mere hitch in already ragged breathing, unreadable either way. Nothing more. “Why did you help the Jedi Tachi to escape? How did you know her name?” Obi-Wan silently cursed himself. Why had he spoken Siri’s name aloud? But the damage was already done and could not be undone. Do in haste, regret in leisure, the saying went. He had said her name in the heat of the moment, and he was paying for it now. Only one slip in a lifetime. The irony was palpable.

Qui-Gon’s worry seeped into his awareness. Their bond had been allowed to remain in place, due to the unusual circumstances, and the fact that Yoda had declared that their bond was far too strong to break. Obi-Wan sent a wordless reassurance across to him, along with an imperative to calm Siri and tell her not to worry. He would be fine, just as he always had been.

 

Sidious entered. Obi-Wan was too tired, his thoughts too disorganized, his body too weak, to even acknowledge the Sith Lord’s presence. “Well, my Prince,” Sidious said, with a cruel laugh. “Ready to talk, yet?” Obi-Wan raised his head slightly with an effort and stared defiantly into acidic yellow eyes. Liquid fire shot along his veins, melting every thought as it was formed, but he still did not cry out.

The Sundaga Sith Lord, Argwal, leaning over him, overlong, skeletal forefingers pressed against his temples. Obi-Wan shuddered and tried to pull away, but he was too weak, and every movement sent jolts of pain lancing through him. The Sundaga was nominally the head of interior security, but it really was the creature’s innate ability, enhanced by the Force, to tell exactly when to stop, when a single moment longer would kill him. “The pain would stop, if only you would let go of your pride and tell us what happened,” the Sundaga wheedled. Go to your own place, Sith, and I hope you enjoy the company, Obi-Wan thought, but he kept his thoughts to himself. He was too disoriented even to speak.

The blackness swirled up from the depths and swept him off into oblivion.

 

Dooku entered the cell, humming an aria from an opera. He glanced across the room, at the young man who hung in chains in its center. Dooku clicked his tongue in disapproval and disgust. The young man raised his head slowly, painfully, a dull flicker in his gray eyes the only acknowledgement of Dooku’s presence. “So, it comes to this,” Dooku said softly. Obi-Wan said nothing, all his energy focused on just staying conscious. “They tell me that you aided the escape of a Jedi. Why would you do such a thing?” Obi-Wan raised his head to see the hungry expression in Dooku’s dark eyes. He smiled a little, somewhat secret and somewhat mocking. Dooku seized his chin, forcing him to face him. “What have you to gain by your defiance?” Strange green eyes looked deep into his soul.

“What do I have to lose?” the young man replied. Dooku frowned, searching the boy’s curiously ancient eyes. The boy was stubborn, and different. Just along the edges of his Force-presence was a slight tang of something exotic, alien.

 

Time passed, and the questioning passed with it. Even the patience of Sith could be worn out by sheer fortitude. Obi-Wan returned to his ordinary duties, slowly, though it took what seemed like weeks to recover.

Qui-Gon was away on a mission and did not meet with him for a very long time. Things seemed to be going on much as usual, but Obi-Wan could not stifle the feeling of something about to happen. So things went on, time passed in the same way as it always had, but always with the growing feeling of unease.

 

Finally, things came to a head. Ventress had a spat with Luda, a much older initiate of the dark arts. And he himself… had to face Dooku.

 

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t my young philosopher friend.” Dooku’s deep voice echoed throughout the passage. Obi-Wan stopped and drew in a deep breath.

“Lord Tyrannus,” he said, not bothering to turn around. He could practically sense Dooku’s amusement—he was, evidently, the only one with such audacity as to address the Sith Lord by name. The older man smiled.

“Why so formal, all of a sudden? Surely the titles may be dropped among friends, young Kenobi.”

“Perhaps. But perhaps I don’t consider you a friend.” The sharpness in his tone was not lost on Dooku; neither were the implications of its sudden mutation into seriousness. “Why all the sudden interest in my friendship—in me? I’m only a slave. What do you want from me? What’s your ulterior motive?” Obi-Wan carefully stepped sideways, cautiously keeping his distance. Dooku stepped forward, backing him against the wall.

“You are, of course, too astute to miss that,” Dooku noted. “You are capable of avoiding the subject or being direct as you will, wrapping a bitter meaning in honeyed words, deflecting attention among the intelligent, drawing on the ignorant with the promise of nothing at all…” Obi-Wan ignored the stream of words, choosing to get to the point at once.

“Another distraction tactic,” he said shortly, not at all abashed.

“What is your ulterior motive, Obi-Wan?” Dooku asked.

“Survival.” Obi-Wan replied bluntly. Dooku raised an eyebrow.

“Self-preservation—a worthy cause.”

“Why are you here?” Obi-Wan asked, brusquely, half-hoping that this bold affront would deter Dooku from any more words than were absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, he knew that Dooku was too suave and too determined to be distracted by the ploy.

“Perhaps I only wished to have your friendship,” Dooku hedged.

“What if I’m too proud to accept it?” Obi-Wan asked, coldly.

“Then you’ll be far more foolish than I took you for at our first meeting,” Dooku said. Obi-Wan smiled dangerously, thinly, at the veiled insult, as the said hypothetical example was completely possible and more than likely, and they both knew it.

Except, it was not on pride but on principle that Obi-Wan refused Dooku’s friendship.

“Think of me as a fool, then,” he said, still smiling that perilous, thin, feral smile, and walked briskly away.

 

Left behind, Dooku smiled as well, a hungry, predatory smile. He knew very well what he was looking for. The boy was strong in the Force, and as the heir to the throne was in a strategic position—though Kenobi was defiant, he might in the future reconsider. Kenobi’s strong-willed determination was a setback, to be sure, but not a real difficulty. It made the coveted prize all the more desirable. Kenobi would be a pleasure to break. The accomplishment of Dooku’s goal was inevitable.

The young man, in the end, would join him, and together they would overthrow the usurper. And then… then it would resolve itself in the clever game of cat and mouse, in which only one could ever be left alive at the end. If it ended in his own death, Dooku didn’t mind. To train a worthy successor was enough for any Sith, honor and glory to last an eternity. Darth Bane had said it, and it was true.

Kenobi would be his.

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