The war is finally at an end! Darth Vader has brought peace and security to the galaxy. The infamous Separatist Council lay slain on Mustafar along with the duplicitous Jedi and their ruined temple on Coruscant. The Galactic Senate thundered in approval of its new Emperor and accepted their role in governing the First Galactic Empire.
Finally, the Supreme Chancellor — who’d long-since earned the adoration of the galaxy — was free to rule and mold the Galaxy as he saw fit. With no Senate to over-rule him and no bureaucracy to navigate, he was free to save the galaxy from the dangers of rebellious republics.
The treacherous villain Yoda, barely escaped with his life after failing to complete Mace Windu’s assassination attempt. From victorious solitude on Mustafar, Darth Vader and R2-D2 plot a course into old Confederated space, but are interrupted by the sudden arrival of a glimmering chrome-plated, modified Naboo star skiff.
Padmé, the name breathes out between his lips.
His lungs betray his mind to speak for his heart. But his heart is not what it once was, was it?
What are you doing here? He pounds a fist to the console, crunching metal-on-metal. A lift-door slides shut in response, faster than gravity, ostensibly closing that random corridor forever. He looks down at the clenched fist, watches the clicking intricacies of the robotic mechanism that has only ever been an encumbering reminder of his lost former appendage.
He’s angry, he’s always been angry. It’s so readily available, it’s so simple. Like a blaster with a perfectly-tuned sight: just point and boom, instant destruction. You don’t survive a life of sacrifice and servitude (and slavery) without cultivating an aptitude for the baser instincts.
But anger is not what draws Anakin to the Dark Side.
It was not the thunderous roar of the Krayt that called him from the Light. It was the serpent within that coiled around his heart, that strangled his breath, and forced his hand. Illusive and menacing, ever-present, nameless but intimately familiar, a beast that only grew the more he gave-in to it.
Anakin knew better than to feed it; Vader does not know how to stop.
A cloud descends with the shimmering cruiser, he watches it and only hopes he can remember Anakin well enough. Darth Vader dons the mask of the noble, the husband, the father, the orphan, the hero, the victim.
--Beep, Boop, Chirp--
R2-D2 crows in recognition of C-3PO’s flying style in the approach, and chirps excitedly all the way to the landing platform, leading the way…
With a heaving grunt, Obi-Wan leans forward and shoulders his old apprentice into the very corner of the grav-skiff they commandeered for their duel. He’s heavier and has leverage, pressing downward with his sizzling cerulean lightsaber that whines mournfully as it slides along its brother-blade. Anakin bends backward under the strain, but already is coiling like a spring, preparing to retaliate.
The white-hot confluence of the blue lightsabers flashes then disappears, leaving a blinding dark emptiness where it burned brightly moments before.
Before he can lash out, Obi-Wan is gone. The fallen apprentice straightens up at the shocking relief, hands out at his side to re-balance the shifting skiff beneath his feet.
He looks up, lifts his lightsaber to his side and watches as his old master arches gracefully through the air. The back-flip carries Obi-Wan to a lava sand hillside. He lands and pirouettes like a Galloan Wind Dancer, kicking up a cloud of ashy soot around him.
When he turns to face his old apprentice again, he almost bows. I’ve always hated him.
“It’s over Anakin,” Obi-Wan crows, “I have the high-ground.”
Why’s he smiling?
“You shouldn’t underestimate my powers,” he says it, but wishes he hadn’t. It wasn’t right, wasn’t what he meant to say, but he’s scattered, unsure and raging with confidence.
This fight had taken more from his old master than it had from him, hadn’t it?
He can do it. He’s done harder.
He braces to leap, prepares for Obi-Wan to say something dumb like: “Don’t try it…” but he doesn’t.
Not this time…
“I never have!” Obi-Wan’s painful grin evaporates like the sweat from his brow. Suddenly, the leap doesn’t seem warranted.
He straightens, ever-so-slightly, but clear enough to invite Obi-Wan to continue. “I’ve never underestimated you, Anakin.”
“That name, no longer has any meaning…”
“Indulge me then,” he shrugs, flirting dangerously with oblivion. He’s never seen his old master so honest, so… unmeasured. “You’ve been the chosen one since before I met you. You were already the one to bring balance to the force before you’d ever taken your first lesson. I’ve believed in you, revered you, respected you, since even before we shook hands. Since before I took you on as my Padawan.”
“I’m not interested in another lesson,” he seethes and prepares to leap again.
“I know, old friend,” the Jedi powers down his lightsaber and pleads with his palms open, “you deserve better than this. Better than the Order and its rules. Better than me, better even than Qui-Gon. I never saw it before, I was so caught up in fulfilling some damned prophecy, but we only changed the terms of your enslavement.”
His tension recedes rapidly, his grip slacks on his lightsaber. He gapes at the admission. Is this a dream? A feeling, unfamiliar, begins to corrode the grasp of the serpent strangling his heart.
He could breath again, just a little.
“I know, I am too.”
“What is there left for me?” the skiff beneath him shifts as it bumps into shore beneath Obi-Wan’s feet.
“Padmé needs you, she needs both of us now, more than ever.”
“I failed her.”
“Your child needs his father.”
“His father…” he drops to his knees, implants himself into the hot sand of the hillside and drops his head to his chest. Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber goes dormant, lying still and disregarded at his side. The Force releases him entirely and breathlessly he manages, “Obi-Wan, help me.”
“I’m so sorry, Anakin,” Obi-Wan drops to his side, clutches him and chokes out, “I’ve failed you.” He clicks a pair of mag-binders around Anakin’s hands — more ceremonious than anything — but the message is sent.
“No, Ben,” the glimmer in his eye is that of the old Anakin just after a thrilling dogfight, “this is just the beginning.”
This is the first installment of a WIP with a very fanboy concept. A Fracture in the fate of the Galaxy occurs when Obi-Wan strikes Darth Vader down on Mustafar. Fractured Galaxy endeavors to change that one, singular moment and chase it to the original trilogy and beyond. In weekly installments, delve deeper into this alternate universe with characters both familiar and original, and learn just how different (and indeed the same) the Galaxy would be!
-Leo Charles M.