The fight, such as it was, was a travesty. An old man who hadn’t seriously trained in sword fighting for close to two decades and the wreckage of a man in a full-body life-support suit. They were like younglings, not even padawans, who had somehow managed to acquire lightsabers. Or possibly like a pair of hopelessly drunk Jedi who should have known better. They were only slightly less likely to harm themselves than each other.
Obi-Wan was so out of shape, he could barely manage to control his breathing for words much less the laughter that kept on trying to bubble up. He missed Anakin, with a sharp pang, fighting this monstrosity his old padawan had turned into: Anakin would have seen the humor. There would have been endless mockery, of course, but he missed that too.
“… now I am the master,” Darth Vader was saying, and it was so ludicrous. Admittedly, it was pretty impressive what he was managing despite the handicap of artificial breathing and hermetically sealed suit. But mastery? No.
“Only a master of evil, Darth,” Obi-Wan voiced the white lie. It hardly mattered what he said to this shadow of a being, Darth wouldn’t believe him if he spoke the truth: Darth had less control now than he’d ever had before, even as a child slave. Darth Vader was master to nothing at all, merely swept along in the power of the dark side, a puppet to external forces.
Obi-Wan had spent two decades meditating on the nature of the Force. His home base had been the deserts of Tatooine, where he could check in on Luke. But he had also traveled widely along the smuggling routes, doing what he could to mitigate the loss of the Jedi Order.
The Jedi Knights might have been a peacekeeping force and the Jedi Agricultural Corp a business to revitalize dying worlds, but those were just the most publicized graduates of the Jedi Order. The Order itself had been established long before those roles, as a sanctuary for the Force sensitive.
No parent with any sense wanted their child to be born with Force sensitivity. That lead to madness and murder. Except that the Jedi Order had offered an alternative. The first Jedi Master had discovered a way to control himself and not be lost to the power of the Force. He had codified his methods and taught them.
The dark side and the light and what it meant to be sensitive to the forces of the universe.
Obi-Wan had traveled along the smuggling paths, from planet to planet, following the call of the Force. He answered the call of devastated mothers and fathers, teachers and healers, siblings and friends, and the few rare sensitives themselves, who knew to ask: How can a child learn to accept the pull of the Force? How can a child survive the pull of the Force?
The Jedi temple had offered a sanctuary and a lifetime of support. Obi-Wan offered them what answers he could and a few hours of training, a few days, sometimes even a few weeks. And then his best wishes and his last warning, “May the Force be with you.” He could never stay long, not with The Empire still searching for stray Jedi to kill. He always returned to the deserts of Tatooine.
In the dry deserts, Obi-Wan had meditated on the ocean of power that was the Force. An ocean of power, pulled by tides of thought and the gravitational forces of every living being. Every living being connected to the force, creating force with their living breath and using it with their actions. It was a connection of push and pull, made safe by their limited access point. It was only the force sensitive who could fully throw themselves into the Force and thus could be pulled under by the rip tides, battered by the waves, crushed by the weight, and drown in the sheer overwhelming power.
Anakin had already been swimming in the Force when he was just a child. It would perhaps have been kinder of them to have left him to dangerous explorations and his inevitable drowning. Instead, they had taken him to the Jedi Temple and tried to teach him the control that might have allowed him to let the Force pass through him and by him. Instead, they had taught him just enough to not drown but not enough to live. The Force had hollowed him out and battered him down, and now he was flotsam in the ocean of the Force, driven this way and that way by the gravitational pull of the strongest power. And Obi-Wan had not been powerful enough as a younger man to be that gravitational pull against the pull of the Emperor. Obi-Wan hadn’t even known he needed to exert that power, and wouldn’t have known how to exert it at the time, even if he had known.
It seemed a needlessly cruel act to try to pull Darth Vader from his course now. Kill him, yes, but pull him off course once more, tumble what was left of him into chaos one more? No.
And yet, what was best for Anakin didn’t really matter at this point, did it? Anakin’s loss or salvation was not the goal here, but the rescue of the Empire as a whole. Now, Obi-Wan could only provide a warning to Anakin that he knew Darth Vader would neither understand nor believe:
“You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Obi-Wan had spent two decades meditating on the Force and the nature of dark and light. In the wars, he had learned more than he ever wanted to know about the ways in which Jedi died: their spirits relaxing into the Force, their consciousness spread like stardust. Sometimes, the greatest of the Jedi even spread out like oil on troubled waters: allowing a time of calm and peace in their wake. He had also learned more than he wanted to know about how the Sith kept their spirits locked tight into balls of rage that continued to fling themselves around in the Force even after death, pounding anything they touched, like rocks that only slowly sank and could still be kicked up by the occasional roiling storm even centuries past their last living breath.
Over the years, he had been increasingly tempted, oh so tempted, to let go of the mortal coil and try his chances at swimming in the ocean of the Force, neither dissolving nor sinking, but surfing the waves in pure spirit form.
Living alone in the desert wastes of Tatoine with the ocean right there, always right there, just waiting for him to fling himself off the precipice of life and cool himself in the chaotic waves of the Force.
He couldn’t, of course. Not while he need still look after Luke.
But now, he was fighting Anakin once more, and there was Luke, reunited with his twin, and his father’s oldest and most loyal droids. Even Chewbacca was there, with worldly knowledge and practical assistance, and Han Solo too for some down and dirty street smarts. They could watch over Luke now.
Because here was Anakin, hopelessly lost in the Emperor’s orbit.
And here was Obi-Wan himself, yearning for the chance to try out his theory of the Force, to bet his life and sanity and spirit all at once on a sure thing that he had never heard of anyone else managing: that perfect balance of the Force.
He couldn’t help but smile.
He brought his lightsaber up into a meditation stance.
It was a sign of how lost Anakin was that he didn’t pause to reassess. His actions were made without any control and he gave Obi-Wan the final countdown to his leap into the Force.