Chapter 27

The bomber dodged through the streets, always managing to be well ahead of the Jedi Master pursuing him.  Obi-Wan was careful, running fast and thinking faster, trying to predict where his target would go next.  Finally the man made his mistake: he turned onto a bridge over the river, into a quieter part of the city with fewer people on the streets and far more tangled, dim lanes.  The Jedi slowed to a walk, catching his breath and turning to the Force to find the bomber.  Crashing through a flimsy door off an alleyway, the fugitive raced up a flight of stairs to the steep roof of the building.  Frightened now – would he ever get away?  – he slithered along the roof tiles to the brink, gathered up his strength, and jumped to the next roof, and the next.  Patiently, Obi-Wan followed the man, tracing his footsteps exactly and waiting until he tired.  It didn’t take long.  The tall, dark bomber stopped on the parapet of a flat, eighth-floor roof, bent almost double, trying to breathe.  He had been limping for the last few blocks, having twisted his ankle in a treacherously invisible line of guttering, and it was child’s play for the Jedi to catch him.

“Who are you?  What did you do?”  Obi-Wan grabbed the fugitive roughly by the wrists, determined to find out, above all, why.

“Just a minute.  Just a minute.  Can’t breathe.”  He looked up to see who his captor was.  “Never thought I’d see you again, Ginger Narshala.  You don’t remember me, though, do you?”

“No.  And I don’t appreciate being called Ginger.  What’s in that spaceport?”

The bomber made a vague, uncertain gesture toward the ground.  “Ships.  Beings, I suppose.  How the green Wild Space should I know?  Do you remember me now?  Will it help you remember if I use the nickname Bruck Chun gave you?  Oafy-Wan?  I’m Azor Vareng.  Hero N’Cai’s little brother!  Ki-Adi… whatever.  He kicked me out.  Tragedy of a lifetime.  You know, I always thought you’d be tossed before me.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Sure.”  Azor shrugged.  “Sure I’m drunk.  In my business, Ginger, it helps to be half-gone.  That way the gear’s certain to work – hells, if I can’t figure out how to disarm it, how can anybody?”  He reached out deftly and snatched Obi-Wan’s lightsaber from his belt.  “Always wanted a new one of these.  Greatest credentials in the Galaxy – pity you can’t fake them.”  Wearily, as if bored with the game, he tossed the saber aside, where it hit the parapet with an unpleasant cracking sound.  “What a shame.”  Azor reached out waveringly in the Force and picked up the saber, examining it with meticulous care before handing it ceremoniously back to Obi-Wan.  “The activation switch broke.  Now the odds… are even.”

“How do you disarm the bomb?”  There couldn’t be many minutes left.  Obi-Wan knew Nasriel would keep trying until the device blew up in her face.  “How?”

“I told you, Ginger, I don’t know.  The guy says set an unbreakable one in the Steujan spaceport, he pays well, so I set it.  Why?  Who’ve you got down there?”

“My Padawan.”  Obi-Wan didn’t like telling Azor Vareng anything – he did remember the man, only too well.  After Azor was dismissed from the Order for killing another Padawan with a full-powered saber on the training floors, then trying to excuse himself for the death, everybody, including his own brother N’Cai, had fervently hoped that he had gone away for good.  “Nasriel Threeb.  Your brother’s former Padawan.”

For the first time, Azor showed an interest in the conversation.  “N’Cai’s dead?  Well, Naraz… whatshername… will be soon too.  Two dead Jedi.  Today is just getting better and better.  Let’s make it three.”  He reached into his sleeve, drawing out a long, wickedly serrated knife.  “Uneven odds, Ginger, because I always hated you anyway, Jedi Too-Wonderful Kenobi.”

The fight that followed was more even than Azor had hoped.  Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting with a broken lightsaber was very nearly a match for Azor Vareng fighting with a dagger, but not quite.  By the end of it all, only a few of Azor’s haphazard attacks had been effective, and the slight pain from the scratches merely deepened Obi-Wan’s resolve.  He would defeat the former Jedi… or die trying.  Although he rather hoped it wouldn’t come to that.  Vareng turned to look out over the city for a moment or two, and then lashed out suddenly, leaving Obi-Wan no time to dodge and only a second to deflect the blow with the hilt of his lightsaber.  Surprisingly loud in the stillness, the dagger clattered to the ground, eight stories below.

Azor followed it path with his eyes.  “Didn’t hit anybody.  What a shame.  Waste of a good knife, Ginger.”  He added thoughtfully, “I liked you once, looked up to you, sort of.  Pity you didn’t deserve it.  But now I’ve got the chance to correct my mistake.”  Drawing a smaller dagger apparently out of thin air, he remained perfectly still, not making a sound, but his lips moved as if he were praying – or counting down.  When Azor finally reached the end of his count, he looked straight at his opponent, a delighted smile on his thin lips, and whispered, “Now.”  Even from a mile away, Obi-Wan heard the explosion, and saw the spaceport crumble, almost in slow motion, in on itself.  But before the cloud of dust had cleared, Azor’s dagger was already too close for comfort.  “I know it’s a cliché, Ginger, but… die, Jedi.”

No!  No!  I will not.”  Up went the saber hilt, blocking the strike and ending barely a centimeter from Azor’s chest.  Obi-Wan’s fingers played tensely over the broken switch, but even he was surprised when the beam of blue light shirred from the hilt, transfixing Azor Vareng just above the heart.  Automatically, he withdrew the blade, deactivating the saber as he did so.

“You’re right, Ginger.  You won’t die.  Yet.”  Azor Vareng saluted casually, and, in stepping backwards, away from Obi-Wan, stumbled off the side of the roof.  Obi-Wan didn’t see him hit the pavement below – he was already running swiftly over the tiles of the roofs, back toward the spaceport.

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About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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