Consumed 4/5 (Star Wars, Ani/Obi, 1,618 Words) Fandom: Star Wars Title: "Dust" / Consumed - Part 4 of 5 (1,618 Words) Author:jarkai_fic on LJ / jarkai everywhere else Beta:legolad Theme(s): (For 30_somethings on Insanejournal, Nights: #01, Grave) Pairing/Characters: Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi Rating: Mature - previous part contains character death, violent imagery, and sexual situations Disclaimer/claimer: AU, but heavily influenced by Matthew Stover's adaptation of Revenge of the Sith Critiques: Yes Summary: Sometimes the 'ghost of the past' is more than just a metaphor.
Choking, I watched as Obi-Wan's body convulsed, unable to even scream. She--Padmé--I didn't know anymore. All I knew was that I didn't want to hurt her, but in the instant I hesitated, Obi-Wan's eyes rolled back in his head. His mouth frothed.
Wincing even before my fist landed, I struck at the thing. With a shriek, it stumbled backwards, releasing its hold on my partner. I caught Obi-Wan before he hit the ground and flung him over my shoulder. He moaned a protest, but I ignored it. I would have to risk checking for injuries later. Now all I could do was run. His saber was barely an afterthought.
Obi-Wan clutched tight in my arms, I rushed for the airlock. Almost at once, the knowledge I'd had of these halls meant nothing. Portraits changed, crumbled. Marble gave way, shifting to earthen tunnels.
A creature's call echoed off the rough walls. I came to a stop, head lifted, a cold sweat clinging to my skin. I knew that sound. I turned slowly. Cast by torchlight, the shadow of a Tusken Raider loomed. Another shadow merged with the first, joined by a third, by too many to count. All the silhouettes blended into one.
I took a step, but a shout to my left brought me short. Blindly I tried to go the other way, only to feel one of those beasts grab hold of Obi-Wan's arm and pull.
I gripped him tight around the waist. Obi-Wan's moan was louder this time, his head lolling. "No! You can't have him!"
Its masked face thrust close to mine, the monster jerked Obi-Wan's arm, and I felt it slip from the socket. His cry echoed above the crowd.
I gripped harder, knuckles whitening. "He's mine!"
A blaster bolt exploded over my shoulder. I had to let him go. I bellowed frustration as Obi-Wan slid from my grasp. My saber spun, carving a wide arc through the Tuskens in front of me. I did not care about form or function. Smoking bodies fell in front of me; limbs and heads lay askew in the dim light. Blood splattered my face, its copper tang mixing with the stink of charred flesh. My stomach curdled, but I did not stop until the last body fell in a heap on its companions.
"Obi-Wan!" I threw corpses to the side. "Obi-Wan!"
He was gone. Everyone left in the tunnel was dead.
Hand tacky with blood, I leaned heavily against the wall. Padmé. Now Obi-Wan. I hadn't been fast enough to save either of them.
I stood quickly and wiped angrily at my eyes, my saber still firmly in my fist. A set of tracks led in the opposite direction. I followed, kicking bodies out of the way. This time, it would be too late.
The physics of the place seemed impossible. I groped along by torchlight, all sense of direction lost. Never lifting my eyes from the tracks, I ran face first into an animal hide door, the sort Tuskens used in their huts.
Growling, I threw back the hide. In the center of the low-ceilinged room stood a cross, a figure bound with rope to its crudely-hewn arms. Its head rolled to one side, revealing a dirty face too soft to be Obi-Wan's.
"Ani," it whispered, and the voice was too feminine as well.
I choked. "No."
"Ani," she managed again, louder this time. Hesitation gone, I rushed into the tent. My mother's eyes flicked to mine.
She tried to smile at me. "I knew you'd come. I knew you'd come back for me."
I stroked her cheek once, then set to the ties holding her in place. "Mom, don't--"
"Such a good boy, I knew you would be fast enough." She coughed, bloody spittle spattering my face. My nails broke on the knots. I yanked, but it was no use. The ropes wouldn't budge.
"I love you, my Ani." Another spasm, and her body went limp, so very much like Padmé's.
I slapped at her cheeks frantically. "Mom! Mom, please wake up! Mom--"
I shook her hard. There was no response.
No, not again, not again, not again--
I wailed like the animals that had killed her.
Screams echoed off the ship's rust-eaten walls. I woke face down, right arm limp at my side. Gingerly, I pushed upward, pain shooting throughmy limbs at the tiniest movement. There was no time to give into it. Tongue pinched between my teeth against the urge to cry out, I slammed my shoulder into the bulkhead once, twice. Light exploded behind my eyes as the dislocated shoulder slid back into place. Still, I did not fall. I leaned for a long time, head down, eyes squeezed shut. When I stepped away from the wall, a thick string of slime came with me, connecting me to the rust like a cancerous umbilical.
I brushed it away, grimacing. My saber arm was stiff, but usable. As for my saber itself, I reached for the weapon on my belt and clasped air instead. Gone, probably lost when Padmé--I swallowed, throat tight, hand pressed to the place where her lighting had struck me.
With a deep breath, I willed my muscles to relax again. She may have been many things to Anakin--lover, mother of his children, wife--but she had never been that thing. Whatever had attacked me, it had not been her. Even with petty jealousies taken into account, I refused to believe it. Besides, who could be jealous of the dead?
I turned in a slow circle. "Anakin?"
No response came. Blighted corridors stretched away from me in both directions, leading the Force knew where. I was left in silence, the screams already having stopped.
"Anakin," I whispered again. Once, many years before, my Master had told me about the great maze gardens of Naboo. If lost in them, one need only take the right-hand path over and over. It would unfailingly lead you to the center of the labyrinth, and from there home.
This ship seemed little different from those gardens.
Quietly, hand resting lightly on the wall, I made my way forward. Slime slicked my fingers, but I did not pull away. I was looking for something, anything, a clue. Padmé might not have attacked me, but something had, something that might be in battle with Anakin even now.
In battle. I would not consider anything worse.
I risked corridor after corridor, even braved a turbo lift. On the second floor--how big was this ship?--I came across the bridge, its controls as rust-ravaged and covered with dust as everything else in sight. I brushed a console and pale powder spiraled up into the air, fine as ground opals, shimmering like... Like dew at the center of a rose?
I blinked, remembering how the debris of our team's ARC-170 starfighter had slowly whirled in space, the Nubian ship at the center of its destruction, its shell silver and pristine, glittering with the light of nearby stars.
Something about the Nubian... I could not place it. Shaking my head, I left the bridge, setting off down the corridors again. Soon enough, the hallways opened into a greater room. The light there was softer, flickering. No, not flickering, but pulsing in an even rhythm. Machinery whirred with every beat, but faintly, the great engine that was the ship's heart still barely alive. Alive, but with no one to man it.
I swallowed again, my mouth not dry with grief this time, but with a nameless dread. Reluctantly, I made my way toward the engine, to the place where the ship's designation would be etched. Rust clung to metal like a scab. I rubbed it away as quickly as I could, my hand red as blood by the time every letter had appeared.
Blood pooled in my feet. "The Celeste," I muttered, stepping back as quickly as I could, as if the name had scalded my fingers. It almost had. Hadn't I, like every other Padawan, been burnt by older students with tales of this ghost ship before my first starflight?
I wiped my hand furiously on my robes, not caring about the stains. It was ridiculous, at best a tall tale about a ship that had risked Wild Space without proper precautions and paid the price, but it was no more real than anything else we had seen. Ghosts did not exist. The dead were dead.
As if it defied me, the ship rippled. All at once, the hum of the engine grew louder, constant. The light above me blazed. I raised a hand, shielding my eyes against the glare. When I lowered it again, the rust threaded through the hull had disappeared, replaced by a dull red glow reflected off unblemished metal. I turned, and found myself face to face with a force-field, everything beyond its tinted wall seemingly awash with blood.
Two figures clashed in the scarlet, amidst the towering generators of Theed. The villain's saber was double-ended, and redder still, but its hue was nothing compared to the color of his skin. Set against the man he fought, he might have been a demon.
Crying out, I slammed my fists against the force field. The other combatant spun, his saber the only other shade among the red. As brilliant as it was, as green, I knew that it would soon go out.
The pain in my sword arm meant nothing. "Master!"
But Qui-Gon did not hear me. He did not even glance my way. He only advanced, weapon raised, stepping directly into the battle that would kill him.