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Demons of the Dark 8: The Transformation

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Obi-Wan's figure was almost hidden in the plush chair, betrayed both by the booted feet propped on the table in front of him and the invisible connection between Master and Padawan. Qui-Gon's hand brushed over the recessed panel, increasing the lighting in the small observation room on board his brother's ship. "Obi-Wan, I've been looking for you," he said softly.

Almost mechanically, Obi-Wan answered, "Yes, Master."

Moving into the room, Qui-Gon reached out with the Force, seeking to determine Obi-Wan's mood, gratified that he still had enough control for this small task. His ability to connect with the Force was shaky since his partial transformation into a demon. He was aware that his Padawan was unhappy; though Obi-Wan didn't express his emotions overtly, maintaining a neutral mask on his face, his displeasure with their present course of action was clear to his Master. Qui-Gon leaned over the chair, his hands coming to rest on Obi-Wan's shoulders. The Padawan held a reader on his lap and was idly thumbing through data. "What are you doing, Obi-Wan?"

"Seeking answers in the past, Master. Isn't that what started us on this voyage?"

Regardless of his unhappiness, his Padawan sought to assist Qui-Gon in the search to solve the mystery of his troubled, half-demonic state. Blessing the Force for bringing them together all those years ago, Qui-Gon bent his knees, sliding his arms around Obi-Wan's chest, rubbing his cheek on the fair head of the man who was both his student and beloved. "What do you seek to find?"

"That man - the one who drugged me." Obi-Wan spoke hesitantly, barely able to conjure the face of his kidnapper, feeling again the panic and fear engendered by his kidnapping and even more so by his Master's appearance, his lips curled back to reveal fangs, Obi-Wan had been too dazed and numb to even fight back, incapable of doing anything but trusting in Qui-Gon's goodness. "Do you remember him?"

"Not very well, I'm afraid," Qui-Gon confessed. "Only that - you were beautiful. So vulnerable. So loving. I didn't understand my own passion, the thirst to rip your throat and drink your blood." He cleared his throat. "He seemed very unexceptional next to you."

"Your mother's hair is dark, almost pure black."

"Yes?" Qui-Gon was momentarily befuddled, not understanding the connection between that hellish night and his mother who had fled her home planet of Valon when she was a young woman. "I believe it's called hair dye, Obi-Wan. It's fairly popular in certain societies," he said wryly.

"What if it's not? What if it's natural?"

Making the connection, Qui-Gon said, "Then my silver also is inherited from my father and the Valon age well. Meaning our kidnapper may have been a contemporary of my mother's. Perhaps even a friend or acquaintance."

"It makes sense, doesn't it? That we are seeking someone who remembers when your mother escaped Valon with a ship's officer named Jinn. Someone who would realize a man named Fra-Zon Jinn claiming to be half-Valon would carry the genetic danger of demonism within him."

Not wanting to dampen Obi-Wan's enthusiasm but aware of the practicalities, Qui-Gon felt constrained to point out, "But if my grandfather was a prominent minister of science, there could be dozens of such people. Hundreds. Knowing our enemy's age helps us little."

"Yes," Obi-Wan sighed. "I'd hoped he was a member of the government, someone who might have been pictured in the news reports. I've been looking through your brother's records. He did extensive research on Valon, practically even more than the Senate bureaucrats and the Jedi. But your grandfather seems to have received little attention."

"Presumably they didn't want to advertise government research on the demons problem. Why scare the masses," Qui-Gon said, his cynicism with the actions of self-centered governments at odds with his normal faith in people.

"Yes." Obi-Wan sagged against the back of the chair, his head lolling. "At least it gives me something to do."

"I appreciate your efforts, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon pressed his lips to Obi-Wan's temple. "You are so loyal, Padawan."

"You are my Master," Obi-Wan replied simply. "And my love. Could I do anything else?"

"No, you couldn't." Feeling as if his heart was breaking, overwhelmed by Obi-Wan's love and trust, Qui-Gon's eyelids fluttered shut, holding back the tears. "Not you." He tugged at Obi-Wan's belt, loosening it and his tunics, finding Obi-Wan's nipples with a practiced touch.

"Ah!" Obi-Wan unwillingly exclaimed, his body arching into Qui-Gon's touch. "Master, the keypad on this room isn't locked."

Qui-Gon stopped himself from replying that he didn't care. Fra-Zon's secret, subtle glances of yearning hadn't been lost on him. His own brother desired his padawan. Nothing would please him greater than Fra-Zon walking in and seeing the truth with his own eyes - Obi-Wan belonged to him and no other. But he restrained himself from making the comment, fearing that his jealous rampages might eventually alienate Obi-Wan. "Mother's resting and Fra-Zon is conducting business. The crew won't disturb us," he whispered, his touch caressing the sensitive skin of Obi-Wan's chest.

Squirming in the chair, Obi-Wan yielded with a low moan. "Come here," he pleaded, tugging on Qui-Gon's hair, wanting his Master to move in front of him where they might both caress each other freely.

"No." Qui-Gon refused to yield. "I want to watch your ecstasy."

Obi-Wan gave a sharp cry as Qui-Gon burrowed his hands into his leggings, one hand finding and squeezing his penis. His other hand splayed flat on Obi-Wan's hip, holding him down in the chair.

Qui-Gon's touch was light, but firm; gentle, yet demanding; wondrously exploring and knowing at the same time. Using everything he had learned of what Obi-Wan liked, he stroked the length, caressed the flared tip, and fondled the heavy balls. Drops of pre-ejaculate emerged from the tip and he coated Obi-Wan's penis with them, the creamy fluid sliding slickly in his hand. He first teased Obi-Wan with delicate fondling, then delivered on his promise with a rough, steady stroking.

At the mercy of Qui-Gon's expertise, Obi-Wan was powerless to stop himself from whimpering. Qui-Gon's arms trapped his own down, preventing him from responding. He could only dig his fingers into the chair while staring blankly out the large viewscreen at space, the stars spinning in his head.

A tempest worthy of creating a galaxy exploded within his body as he felt Qui-Gon's sharp fangs pierce the soft skin of his throat. He surrendered gladly, shuddering with both his orgasm and the satisfaction of feeding his Master.

*********

Watching the ship land, Sei-Lona vibrated with a tense excitement as Obi-Wan approached her. "Madame," he said formally, dismayed when she twirled rapidly to face him, obviously startled. The soles of his boots had echoed on the metal plating but Sei-Lona must have been too occupied with her thoughts to hear.

She relaxed as soon as she saw who approached her. "Good morning, Obi-Wan." Concern flashed across her face. "You looked tired, Obi-Wan. Are you ill?"

"No, Madame. I merely had a - bad night." He wasn't sure what family members told each other, but 'Your son exhausted me with his passion and drank my blood' seemed impolitic. The scene in the observation room had merely been the first course of a long night, leaving Obi-Wan satiated and exhausted. Though it was Qui-Gon's decision to return to Valon, Obi-Wan sensed his Master feared the future, needing to imprint himself on Obi-Wan as a form of security. No matter what they faced, they would face it together, united. "But you look excited, Madame. I had not thought you eager to visit your home."

Sighing wistfully, she turned back to the porthole. "I had assumed I never would. I put Valon in a little box in the past. But now that we're so close - I think of the people I loved. The things I enjoyed doing. The beauty of my world. I can talk to them again. Hug them. Walk down my favorite streets and watch the moon rise. So yes, I am eager. Despite my fear for my sons. Can you understand?"

"I believe so, Madame." He stepped closer so that they could both look out the porthole as Valon became larger in the sky. "Qui-Gon and I returned to Astrenji once. It was a beautiful planet and I enjoyed meeting the people. Yet, we were called again because the peace had failed and war had started. I loved the chance to visit Astrenji even as I dreaded the reason."

"Yes," she smiled with relief. "You do understand."

It was Obi-Wan's turn to jump and flinch as huge hands settled on his shoulders. No bootsteps had revealed Qui-Gon's entry. Since his partial transformation, his Master could be uncannily quiet. "Master."

"There is news from the Jedi Council, Obi-Wan."

"Yes, Master?"

Qui-Gon's grip tightened. "Navar has escaped."

"Escaped, Master? But how?" Obi-Wan craned his head back to look at Qui-Gon in shock.

"The extent of his madness was underestimated, I fear. He was being transferred to the healing center on Tesvarl. He mutilated himself in-flight and attacked the healer while she was caring for him, then escaped in a small flyer before anyone knew he was gone."

"I hope he finds some peace," Obi-Wan said sadly, disturbed at the thought of Navar lose in the galaxy. His friend desperately needed the mind healing only the Jedi could give him. By escaping and rejecting their care, Navar might never recover from his psychotic jealousy.

Fra-Zon's smooth voice sounded behind him. "Navar?"

"Padawan Navar Verou," Qui-Gon answered. "He was a friend of Obi-Wan's. He went - insane."

"I didn't realize that was possible for a Jedi," Fra-Zon said mildly, but his pointed glance contradicted his words. Fra-Zon believed certain Jedi were all too susceptible to mental illness.

"Jedi are only human, my brother."

Fra-Zon brushed the answer aside with a shrug. "We need to settle in for landing. We'll be on Valon in a few minutes."

"Valon," Obi-Wan repeated softly. Would it hold the answer to Qui-Gon's unnatural state or be only one more delay in their path?

***********

Delay, Obi-Wan thought ruefully several days later. Delay, delay, and more delay. Delay in pleasant surroundings at least; Qui-Gon's grandfather's home outside town was beautiful. Ashvon Losk had been delighted to see his daughter again, hugging her tight and whispering, "Selona" over and over again. Laughing through her tears, Selona hugged him back, whispering in return, "I never thought to hear that name again."

If he resented his late introduction to his grandsons, he didn't reveal it, embracing them warmly before peering at Qui-Gon's fangs with an inquisitive and somewhat brusque manner. Instructing him to keep his mouth closed for fear of scaring the workers at the space port, Ashvon ushered them to his personal transport, speeding them to his home.

The house was large and sprawling, the opulent symbol of a powerful man who had a long and successful career. It was filled with furnishings of exquisite quality, luxurious rugs, handcrafted furniture, and original artworks. While the Jedi lived simply on Coruscant, they were accustomed to associating with the wealthy. Normally, such an environment would have little impact on Obi-Wan after years of being Qui-Gon's Padawan, negotiating with the rich and elite. But just as before, he found Valon made him uneasy, as if the obvious display of wealth by the Valona was a deliberate ploy to hide the savage side of their nature.

He stripped off his tunics and boots before sinking into a lotus position as the late afternoon sun saturated the garden with warm rays, letting the heat penetrate his skin. Tilting his head back slightly, he closed his eyes and reached for his center, feeling for the life energy of the plants through the Force. Meditating in the sun was becoming his one way of escaping from the rest of the household. The others immediately adjusted to Valona time, sleeping during the day and spending the night hours awake. Perhaps it was childish but for the first time in his life he deliberately attempted to tan, as if he could separate himself as a non-native by the physical mark of the sun.

The Force was there, surrounding him in its embrace, filling him with its energy. He sighed, feeling a sense of extreme contentment that he experienced only while meditating - or after being loved by Qui-Gon, held against his chest.

The noise of feet stopping in front of him interrupted him. Shoes, not boots, and not Selona's light step. "Yes, Fra-Zon?" he asked, still keeping his eyes closed.

"We need to talk, Obi-Wan."

"I don't see that we have anything to discuss, Fra-Zon."

He could hear the slight creak of knees bending - Fra-Zon must have squatted down. While he kept himself in good shape, he did not demonstrate the extreme suppleness of the Jedi.

"How are things in the lab? Is Grandfather going to help at all? I deserve to know."

Obi-Wan sighed, this time unhappily, and opened his eyes. They'd spent the last several nights in the laboratory attached to the house, Ashvon putting Qui-Gon through every medical test that Obi-Wan had ever heard of and a few unfamiliar ones. Fra-Zon and Selona had been examined, but then banished as distracting. Only Obi-Wan was allowed to stay.

And that was only after Qui-Gon's temper flared out of control while being prodded and poked. Once a few instruments went flying, his grandfather reluctantly conceded Obi-Wan's necessary presence to ensure Qui-Gon's calm.

Obi-Wan evaded a direct answer. "It's too soon to tell."

"That's not an answer. You must have some feeling," Fra-Zon pressed.

"Then - no. No, it's not going well at all. Your grandfather has studied the demons for decades, without success. Qui-Gon isn't even a true demon, he's a - hybrid. Your grandfather is fascinated by the scientific marvel. He could study Qui-Gon for the rest of his life without discovering anything helpful." His bitterness seeped through and exaggerated the situation. Ashvon had learned some interesting things; at least, they seemed interesting to him. He made little effort to explain anything to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, muttering over his instruments and his console, frantically making notes.

"I was afraid so. I wanted you to know that I bought restraints."

"Restraints!"

"Restraints. I found a specialty place that designs them for hunters and paid to have them designed for a human and coated with a special alloy. Qui-Gon won't be able to break them, if it comes to the worst."

"It won't." Obi-Wan spoke coldly, fixing Fra-Zon with a hard stare.

Fra-Zon met his stare, not backing down. "You don't know that. He's been out of control several times. We may be in even greater danger now - whoever started this may know we're here. He may try some other way to trigger a full transformation."

"Qui-Gon is a Jedi Master. He won't succumb to the darkness."

Fra-Zon's lips curled into a sneer. "Live in your fantasy, little padawan. I didn't become a successful businessman by ignoring reality. Just remember the restraints when the time comes. They may save our lives." He stood and stalked away abruptly.

Obi-Wan shut his eyes again. The sun was warm and the Force vibrant with energy. He had a few more hours before the rest of the household stirred. He would cherish this time.

********

Even though they conceded their value, few Jedi were fond of Healers and Obi-Wan was not an exception. A trip to the Healers generally signaled a failure of diplomacy. The overall mission might have ultimately successful but violence and bloodshed had occurred.

At least Qui-Gon's grandfather had an office next to his laboratory where Obi-Wan could retreat, taking him away from the medical atmosphere while still allowing Qui-Gon to see him through the glass. The fondness for pictures seemed to be a family trait; the grandfather had as many souvenirs as Selona. Only while hers was tidily displayed in elegant frames, his were piled around the office in an untidy mess, mixed in with research notes and medical journals. He was clearly a man who cared more for his work than neatness. As a distraction, Obi-Wan had steadily worked through the piles, sorting out the pics, looking at the past, studying Selona as she grew up, watching her mother age before disappearing, and attempting to make sense of the various holopics taken at scientific seminars or to commemorate official functions.

Selona peeked in at midnight with a small tray of food, having developed the habit of ensuring that Obi-Wan was fed even if Qui-Gon and her father were too preoccupied to consider such basic needs. Jedi and scientists shared the same trait of becoming so absorbed in their work that all else was a distraction. Obi-Wan smiled, gesturing for her to sit down. She looked nervously toward the glass wall. "Will it be alright?"

"Please, come in," Obi-Wan said, moving a stack off a chair. "Qui-Gon won't mind as long as he can see me. I'm curious about some of the pictures."

"The pictures, yes." Selona wrinkled her nose as she glanced around the room. "Father was never very neat. Mother took care of such things. I should have known this would happen after her death."

"I've been putting them in order. Some of these - " he picked up a stack of five, setting them on her lap, "they seem to be related. Do you know the people?"

Sei-Lona shuffled the holopics. "Yes, these are all people who worked with father on the demons project. I knew them all well. Father often had them to dinner."

"Do you remember their names?"

"I remember most of them, yes." She shuffled through, rattling off names, sometimes only reciting first or last name, others giving personal details she recalled. Obi-Wan listened intently, paying careful attention and committing to memory the information he wanted.

Tilting her head to one side, she asked, "Do you think it would be useful to contact them?"

A soft noise and they both glanced up to see Qui-Gon framed in the doorway. "Mother."

"Qui-Gon. I brought food for Obi-Wan. But I was just leaving." Selona began to rise as Obi-Wan took the pictures from her, placing them on the desk face down.

"I'm sure he appreciates it, Mother, but Grandfather wishes to examine Obi-Wan. Perhaps you could bring it back later?" The polite words were approval for her departure.

"Me? Why?"

"He wants a Jedi as a model. In normal circumstances, we should have the same physical health and reflexes."

Obi-Wan nodded, comprehending that measuring Qui-Gon's increased speed and power in comparison to his own could be useful data. Thanking Selona with a brief bow, he rose and followed Qui-Gon into the lab.

While he obeyed Ashvon's directions and let samples be taken, Obi-Wan's attention was elsewhere, back on the holopics on the desk and on one individual in particular. Almost half a lifetime had made little difference in his appearance. There were the subtle changes of a young man aged to a mature adult, the chest and shoulders more filled out, a slight paunch on the midsection indicating a mostly sedentary life, the hair thinner and receding from the hairline but still dark.

He was one of the youngest in the group. Selona said he was the most junior member of the demons team, newly out of the Valona educational system, hired for his academic excellence and not practical experience. What had been his relationship to Selona and her father? She knew him but seemed to have little personal connection with him. Had he been frustrated, working for years on a project without end? A fiasco with nothing to show for many years of research? Or had he found an end? Performed his own secret research, leading to an answer to a question that no one else in Valona wanted to ask, how to create demons rather than eliminate them? And what twisted dislike made him unleash that research on Selona's family? Was it a grudge against Selona or her father? Or was he merely taking advantage of a happy coincidence, having found a grown man with the correct genetic pattern to use as a test study?

"Raz Taale," Obi-Wan whispered softly. Another few hours and Ashvon would let them go. Qui-Gon would be tired. He would feast on Obi-Wan and cuddle him before falling to sleep. He wouldn't wake when Obi-Wan left the bed, assuming Obi-Wan was destined for the garden and meditation. But today Obi-Wan would head back into town to confront his kidnapper.

To confront the creator of demons.

*********
Obi-Wan's absence disturbed Qui-Gon, eventually waking him. It was odd how easily he had adjusted to having his presence next to him in bed. For so many years, he only viewed the size and shape of Obi-Wan's body as a tool to teach his apprentice to utilize in his role as a Jedi. Qui-Gon labored long to train Obi-Wan to use his size and agility against a larger opponent. Ever conscious of the diversity of races within the universe, he also warned Obi-Wan not to make the mistake of underestimating a smaller opponent, teaching him how to combat even someone of Yoda's height.

Since his demonic transformation, he regarded Obi-Wan's body with new eyes. No longer analytical, his thoughts were lovingly romantic, basely sexual, and fiercely possessive. He could stare at Obi-Wan for hours, studying the flow of his muscles as he moved, the beauty of his face, the elegance of his every gesture. Obi-Wan's size had an unexpected benefit, allowing Qui-Gon to wrap him in his arms and cradle him to his chest as they slept.

Obi-Wan was gone from their bed in one of the guest rooms at his grandfather's house and Qui-Gon's immediate reaction was to get him back. He wanted his knees tucked into the bend of Obi-Wan's, his chest pressed against Obi-Wan's back, his head buried in the longer hair that formed Obi-Wan's knight's tail. Lying under the covers, he ran through a litany of Jedi meditational sayings, the logical side of his mind warring with his possessive. Obi-Wan resisted fully adapting to Valona ways, often rising during the day and spending time in the sunshine, returning after a few hours. Scaring his family merely to find Obi-Wan meditating in the garden or having a bite to eat in the kitchen would be unnecessary and only accentuate their fear.

The time stretched out too long, Qui-Gon's demonic impatience overcoming his Jedi training. He rose and dressed quickly, prowling through the house, sensing by the breathing that his grandfather and brother were still asleep in their beds, alone. His mother was in his grandfather's study, sitting in the chair where Obi-Wan sat while watching his grandfather's perform his annoying array of tests, examining the pictures Obi-Wan had been sorting.

"Do you know where Obi-Wan is?" he asked without saying hello.

She shook her head. "No, I haven't seen him."

Qui-Gon left and resumed his search, becoming frustrated as he could not find any hint of Obi-Wan. The frustration and need rose within him. His mother trailed after him, her nervousness easy to sense in the hesitancy of her steps.

He rounded on her, asking harshly, "Where has he gone?"

She clutched the photos anxiously against her chest, holding them as a shield to defend her from his fury. "Maybe he needed to buy something in the city?"

"He would have told me," Qui-Gon snarled. "He has no reason to hide anything from me." Even as he said it, he wondered if his words were true. Had he driven Obi-Wan away? His eyes fell on the pictures his mother held, making him remember how Obi-Wan had been so absorbed in studying them. "Give those to me."

She handed them over to him and he flipped through rapidly. When one grabbed his attention, he let the others fall to the floor with a clatter. "Who is this man?"

"Raz. Raz Taale." She looked at him with horror in her eyes. "Is he?"

"Yes. He is the man who initiated the change. Obi-Wan saw this picture?"

"I gave him his name. But he asked about all the people. I didn't think anything about it."

Qui-Gon refrained from snapping that of course she didn't realize what information Obi-Wan sought. A Jedi mastered the ability to extract information without alerting the other person to its significance. Such skill could be invaluable during diplomatic negotiations where each party tried to bluff and hide their true intentions. "Who is he?"

"A scientist. He worked with father." In a whisper, "I think he was attracted to me once, but then I met your father… "

"A scientist who researched demons with a reason to hate my father."

Selona wailed, "It was a silly infatuation. It was such a long time ago," but Qui-Gon wasn't listening to her, pounding down the hall toward his grandfather's room. He shook the old man awake, demanding, "Raz Taale. Where does he live?"

Ashvon curled his hands around Qui-Gon's. The sudden shock of being awakened alarmed him but the sight of Qui-Gon's reddened eyes and his lips pulled back to reveal his fangs had him striving for a measure of calm. "Relax, Qui-Gon, relax."

"Raz Taale. Where does he live?"

"You can't go there, Qui-Gon. It wouldn't be good for you to be seen in the city."

Qui-Gon roared, "Where does he live?" The delay at receiving the information infuriated him. His hands clenched, tightening on his grandfather's shoulders until the old man winced in pain.

"Fourth quarter, third street. The House of The Juyre Blossoms."

Qui-Gon freed him, brushing past his mother to dash from the house.

Ashvon scrambled from the bed, listening. He didn't hear any noise from the air car, meaning that Qui-Gon was too enraged to think, heading toward the city on foot. "Wake Fra-Zon," he ordered as he dressed, "and start the air car."

"Did you tell him the truth?"

"I had to. I couldn't risk him killing some innocent stranger. Now get Fra-Zon."

Selona sped toward her son's room, her heart pounding wildly with fear. Fear for Obi-Wan and what he might already have discovered. Fear for Qui-Gon and what he might do when he found Obi-Wan, and what might happen to Qui-Gon if the civil authorities were called. Fear for Fra-Zon and her father, who would have to try to restrain an angry Qui-Gon, and protect Obi-Wan and Raz.

Fear that she was the cause of all this madness.

******

Raz Taale was surprisingly easy to find. If nothing else, the Valona public information system was pleasantly simple to use and informative, listing both his government office and home addresses. The public transportation system was less cooperative. Fearing to waken the sleeping inhabitants of the house by starting the air car, Obi-Wan trekked into town. It was noon before he arrived at the house. He felt the slight beginning of fatigue as he warily approached the pleasant facade. To a trained Jedi, the tiredness was nothing alarming. He could expend his resources for hours, days if necessary, without worrying. But not knowing what he would be confronting, he would have preferred being more refreshed.

Banishing such trivial concerns with a brief meditation, Obi-Wan circled the house. Considering Taale's devious methodology, Obi-Wan didn't hesitate to seek a circumspect method of entry. He found it at the back, an opened window on the second floor. A Force-enhanced leap and an awkward scramble up the last few feet, digging fingers and feet into the wall's rough plaster and he was inside, rolling and crouching, light saber lit and raised. The bedroom was empty, seeming to mock his care.

Light saber defused but the hilt held firmly in his hand, Obi-Wan opened the door onto the hallway. Extending his senses as far as possible, he listened for any signs of another person. He searched the upstairs methodically before descending the stairs, treading lightly to avoid possible creaks.

The first few rooms of the downstairs proved equally empty. A front room for entertaining visitors, a dining area, the kitchen. The next door caused him to hesitate, a tingling warning of the Force making the hair on his neck stand on end. He stopped in front of the closed surface, his left hand resting on the wood as if he would help him see through it to the danger behind.

He palmed the latch and the door slid open. Ducking and rolling, he came again to rest on one knee, lightsaber in front of him, both hands gripping tightly. The room was a laboratory, much like Qui-Gon's grandfather's, filled with equipment, some similar to that used by the Jedi and other pieces unknown to Obi-Wan. Their nemesis was hunched over a microscope examining a sample.

Taale looked up at the rapid entry but did not appear unduly surprised. "Obi-Wan. I was rather expecting I would see you."

Obi-Wan rose, his lightsaber still activated. "I have come to learn why you have harmed Qui-Gon and to demand your help for him."

"My help? Why should I offer my help? Qui-Gon is becoming exactly what I want him to be."

"You have no right to play games with Qui-Gon's life. He's not a toy for your science experiments."

"He is a toy, just as I was a toy for his family. For his grandfather, who used only what he wanted from my research. For his mother, who played with my love."

"You loved Selona," Obi-Wan said slowly. "And resented Ashvon. This is revenge."

The voice of the third man in the room came from behind Obi-Wan, shocking him. "Of course it is about revenge. Revenge and love." Obi-Wan whirled to face the speaker as Navar pushed away from the wall he had been lounging against. "Raz and I are alike. We loved someone who was blind to us and discarded us for another. We understand each other."

Obi-Wan could see the evidence of where Navar had mutilated himself in order to escape, the jagged barely-healed wound angling from his temple and down his cheek, marring his handsomeness. The pain must have intolerable, but the horror of the physical wound could not compare to the madness in his eyes. "Don't do this, Navar."

Smiling mockingly, Navar asked, "Don't do what?" Activating his lightsaber and raising it in front of him, he added, "Don't kill you?"

Projecting Force into his voice, Obi-Wan replied, "You don't want to kill me, Navar. Give me the lightsaber."

Obi-Wan's hopes leaped with Navar's, "I don't want to kill you, Obi-Wan," only to be dashed by his, "But I don't want you to live without me. And I won't let Qui-Gon have you."

Navar sprang, his lightsaber flashing out and down toward Obi-Wan.

******

As Padawan learners, Navar and Obi-Wan were well-matched in training and discipline. Navar was slightly taller, giving him a longer reach, but Obi-Wan was accustomed to sparring with Qui-Gon's even greater height and strength. Conscious of each other's skill, they fought carefully, but aggressively, with sudden bursts of Force-enhanced speed to trick and confuse their opponent.

The laboratory soon proved inadequate to contain the fight. Dancing around tables and equipment was too distracting and gave each of them a chance to use their mental powers to send instruments flying toward the other. Obi-Wan retreated first, back flipping through the door and into the living room, where heavy pieces of furniture were the only possible tools. Navar followed, pressing his attack with a flurry of strikes.

Taale remained in the doorway, watching with a clinical expression, as if the ultimate victor didn't matter to him. The realization that it probably didn't gave Obi-Wan renewed strength to defend himself. Obi-Wan's death would likely cause Qui-Gon's condition to further deteriorate and if Obi-Wan was the victor, Taale was probably already planning other schemes to accelerate Qui-Gon's transformation. Obi-Wan was determined to live and force Taale to help his Master.

Obi-Wan's vicious attack backed Navar against the wall. He ducked under Obi-Wan's lightsaber and tucked himself into a ball, rolling along the ground. In a continual movement, he rose into a flip, continuing to spin head over heels until his booted feet slammed on the front door and he landed outside. Obi-Wan cursed, fearing to bring this battle to the attention of outsiders. But Navar was too dangerous to let him go free. Obi-Wan followed.

The fight was still in progress when Qui-Gon's family arrived, Selona and Ashvon leaping out before Fra-Zon had the car stopped. Several neighbors had emerged from their houses and were watching, exchanging admiring comments. Lightsabers were unknown on Valon and the two Jedi were beautiful, strong young men leaping and twirling in the street, fighting with deadly grace, the slim glowing blades clashing. The neighbors didn't realize the deadliness of the battle, seeing only the acrobatic athleticism, and what was apparently brilliant choreography as each thrust was perfectly executed and met with equal skill. Having been woken in the middle of the rest period, the neighbors were sleepy, but quickly waking up to the unexpected treat regarding the Jedi with no more curiosity than if they were circus performers trying to drum up sales.

Seeing Taale standing by his door, Selona screeched, "You caused this! What have you done to my son?"

"Done? Done what any good scientist would do, Selona. See if I can create the conditions that cause the disease in order to cure it."

Ashvon demanded, "Cause the disease, Raz? Or spread it?"

Taale remained eerily calm as he answered Ashvon's question. "You guessed that, did you? You were always a good scientist."

"And you were always a foolish risk-taker, Raz."

"And you would never take enough risks! You held my work back. Your caution almost destroyed my career. But it doesn't matter now. Your grandson will help me prove my genius. He will become the most powerful being on this planet. He will be impossible to control. Everyone will respect me when I demonstrate the power to create demons."

Fra-Zon had reached them, the four holding their conversation while keeping one eye on Navar and Obi-Wan, still locked in combat. "What do you mean spread it?"

His grandfather answered, "I mean Qui-Gon's tests don't match the information we have on prior demons. He's a mutation. Who is the other man?"

Fra-Zon answered, "A friend of Obi-Wan's."

"A close friend?"

"I don't know. I think so."

Ashvon watched the battle apprehensively, seeing that Obi-Wan was finally gaining the upper hand. The tests on Obi-Wan weren't merely to establish a baseline for Jedi health but because of the disturbing evidence gathered from Qui-Gon's body. Obi-Wan was pressing Navar against a parked aircar, their lightsabers sparking. "Get the chains, Fra-Zon."

"But Qui-Gon's not here yet."

"GET THE CHAINS," he snapped, and Fra-Zon obeyed.

Navar's lightsaber flew from his grip. Obi-Wan stepped back, obviously expecting Navar to concede the fight. Instead, Navar lunged toward Obi-Wan, attempting to grab his lightsaber. Surprised but still reacting with battle instincts, Obi-Wan twisted to one side, his lightsaber swinging in defense. Without Navar's lightsaber to meet it, Obi-Wan's blade continued its stroke, bisecting Navar mid-torso.

Exclamations and cries arose from the neighbors as Navar's body slumped to the ground. Several fled but many stayed, paralyzed with fear and fascination. Obi-Wan dropped to his knees, the hilt of lightsaber falling to the ground by him. He reached out to caress Navar's face, tears shimmering in his eyes. "I am so sorry, Navar. So sorry." His head bowed and everyone waited in appalled silence.

Then Obi-Wan screamed, screamed a loud and ferocious shout of rage, his head tipping back as he howled to the skies, and everyone could see the reddened eyes and the fangs emerging from his mouth.

Ashvon's fear was correct.

Obi-Wan was a demon.

~ The End ~