Disclaimer: We do not own any of the Star Wars franchise.

Author's Note: This story was posted for a while but was shelved for plot reworking. Now we've brought it back. Enjoy!


A vicious wind kicked up suddenly, throwing clouds of fine red sand into the air that obscured much of the blinding Genosian sunlight. The Jedi was uncertain whether he should be grateful or angry over the sudden change in weather; the dust clouds would certainly veil him from the eyes of his pursuers, but nothing could hinder the bonds between him and them created by the Force. He cursed loudly as the wind buffeted him, ripping at his dark cloak. If only he had stayed an apprentice of the Sith Lord for a while longer! He might have then earned the respect he believed he deserved. His master would not have betrayed him, and he would not now be fleeing from Sideous' new apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. The bitter thoughts ate at him as he fought against the wind, forcing himself forward with the power of the Force. He soon came to the bottom of the Spire, a towering pinnacle of red stone that was hollowed out for use as a base. He barked an unintelligible order at the pair of Genosians standing guard at the entrance, and they stepped aside in obedience. He brushed past them, all too aware of the thrum of approaching transport ships behind him.

He was a dead man, he knew. Betrayed on all sides, first by his order and then by his master, he was trapped by the inevitability that fate had predestined for him. He was going to die; he acknowledged the fact in his mind, but his human instinct for preservation prevailed over his feelings. He took the lift to the highest chamber in the tower, the landing bay where his starcruiser was docked, intending to flee. Before he could reach his ship, of course, the impudent Skywalker confronted him. Filled with anger and frustration, he willingly accepted the challenge, his red lightsaber blazing into readiness. Count Dooku would not back down from a fight.

After a few moments of heated combat, he succeeded in disabling the boy and would have killed him. Had it not been for Master Yoda's interference, Dooku would have ended Skywalker's life, and inadvertently saved the galaxy from greater strife than it was currently experiencing. But fate was against him again; Yoda fought and matched Dooku's power, forcing the renegade to flee. He sprinted to his ship, threw himself into the cockpit, and used the Force to activate all systems as he fastened his safety harness. The landing gear folded into the belly of the craft, thrusters roaring to life as the vessel shot forward into the dust-filled sky.

Leaving Skywalker in the hands of a skillful medic, Yoda directed a number of Republic troopers to pursue Dooku into the atmosphere.

"Escape, he must not!" he insisted. But Dooku had a head start, and the Republic gunships were meant for transport and heavy fire; they could not match the speed of Dooku's cruiser. Within moments, the target craft was out of sight and radar detection. The clone piloting the lead ship was apologetic as he addressed Yoda. "We've lost him, sir."

The little Jedi's expression was serene despite the situation, as if he could see a peaceful moment in the future. "Worry not; escape for a time, he may. But revealed he will be in due time. Forever, one cannot hide."

The starcruiser glinted dully in the light of brilliant nebulae, its sole passenger unwilling to relax just yet. There was no sign that he was being pursued by the Republic forces, but the last thing he wanted was to be caught off guard. He did, however, ease his white-knuckled hands off the controls, allowing an R4 unit to autopilot. His hands freed, he wiped cold sweat from his brow, sighing as relief washed over him. He sensed the connection between him and the Jedi was severed, or at least inhibited by the growing distance between them. They would not be able to locate him easily, now that he had managed to escape their clutches once again. His freedom would not last forever, he knew; his fate had been revealed to him in dreams, and he knew that death at the hands of Skywalker was inevitable. But he could delay the arrival of death, or at least make an attempt to delay it…he found himself wishing that he could consult his former apprentice in these matters. Despite his inferiority in age, Qui-gon Jinn had always been a remarkable source of wisdom for Dooku. It was only too bad that he could not have seen the trouble in Jedi orthodoxy, as Dooku had. The two had gone their separate ways, and despite Jinn's skills in combat and the Force, he had been killed while serving the will of the Jedi.

Dooku considered these thoughts bitterly, blaming the Jedi Order for the terrible turn his life had taken. It was reasonable, to accuse them. It was their fault, after all, that Qui-gon had died, that he himself had been marked a traitor, that the dark-hearted Skywalker had been trained in the ways of the Force. There was something ominous about the young knight that Dooku sensed. Fear. Hate. Pain. Feelings very similar to his own, feelings that had drawn him into serving the emperor. But these feelings led only to betrayal, and betrayal lead to enlightenment. He could sense treachery growing in Skywalker's heart. The boy's mentor, blinded by the laws and traditions of the Order, did not. Even Master Yoda, who could sense Skywalker's fear, was oblivious to the darker creature that the boy was becoming. Imagine, the old master, blind to something so obvious! Perhaps it was Dooku's connection with the Dark Side that allowed him to see its manifestation in Skywalker so easily. And the Jedi, loyal and honorable to a fault, could not tolerate the other side, and so could not detect it. They could not even detect the Dark Emperor, who walked among them daily! The mere idea made Dooku laugh, amused by the irony. Someday, perhaps someday soon, all will be revealed. Then the foolish Jedi would see the depth of their naiveté, and by then it would already be too late for them to do anything. Ah, what he would give to be there when it happened. But that would mean risking his life at the hands of both the Jedi Order and the Emperor. And that, Dooku thought, was not something he was willing to give. He let his thoughts continue to wander, gazing absently out the forward viewscreen as the ship cruised through space without a destination. Blazing stars spangled the endless blackness of space, glowing clouds of brilliant gases swirling in a dance of gravitational pull. It was all beautiful, Dooku thought appreciatively. It was the first time in a long time that he had considered something for its appearance, but the idea came surprisingly easily. He realized he wanted to think of things appreciatively, and he realized he wanted a new life. A fresh start. Perhaps, if he could reestablish himself in some other planetary system, he could have a new identity and live free of the Jedi Order and the Republic indefinitely. Perhaps he could find some backwater world…Tatooine, for instance, or something along the galaxy's Outer Rim. He could work with his hands, build a new home. It wouldn't be as fancy as his former estates, but…

A chirping alert broke him from his daydreaming, his eyes locking on the stream of text scrolling across one of the monitors.

SPACIAL ANOMALY DETECTED.

ABNORMAL ENERGY FLUX AT 354.465.477

PRESENT HEADING WILL RESULT IN INTERSECTING WITH ANOMALY.

COMPENSATING

COMPENSATING

COURSE ADJUST UNSUCCESSFUL

INTERSECTION WITH ANOMALY IN 7…6…

Dooku cursed, slamming the console as if the impact would force the R4 unit into cooperation. His eyes flicked to the viewscreen, widening as a brilliant field of rippling energy filled the screen. His eyes snapped shut of their own accord, but his vision was filled with the dull red of light seeping through his eyelids. High-pitched sirens and alarms filled his hearing, and he clamped his hands over his ears, helpless to do anything else as his vessel was enveloped by the field of light.

There was no shaking or screeching of metal to suggest damage, but the alerts were still going off when Dooku sensed the disappearance of the blinding brightness and pulled his hands from his ears. Breathing deeply to assure himself he was still alive, he tapped commands on the console before him, speaking to the R4 unit.

"Status report."

LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS…NORMAL

SCANNING CAPABILITIES…NORMAL

COMMUNICATIONS…NORMAL

WEAPONS SYSTEMS…NORMAL

NAVIGATION…PENDING

STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY…STABLE

FORCEFIELDS…STABLE

FLIGHT CONTROL…OFFLINE

Dooku swore again, cursing his foul luck. "I may escape, only to die anyway!" He pressed several keys, muting the alerts. "Might as well die in silence."

He sat back in his chair, allowing his eyes to finally look at the viewscreen. The stars he was seeing were unfamiliar, strange. Whatever the spacial anomaly had done, it might have also changed his location, like some kind of wormhole. An eddy in space, perhaps. He was no astrophysical theorist, but he knew strange things happened in the ether of deep space. And teleportation was by far the least strange. He considered this as he typed commands furiously into the console, urging the R4 unit to make specific repairs. If he could just get the flight controls back online…

A brilliant flash made him look up, and he paused in sheer wonderment. Three planets, nothing more than dark, circular silhouettes, eclipsed a white sun. They were each identical in size and shape, and as Dooku watched, he realised that two of the planets orbited the third. "A triploid system," he murmured to himself, partially pleased that he knew of such things. He was displeased, however, to find that his vessel was changing course; caught in the presumably massive gravity well of the triploid planetary system, his ship slowed, stopped, then reversed until it was careening toward the center planet.

It was better than getting pulled into the sun, Dooku conceded, but without flight controls, it would be suicide.

"R4, do we still have shields?"

AFFIRMATIVE.

ATMOSPHERIC REENTRY ENABLED

"What about flight control?"

NEGATIVE.

FLIGHT CONTROLS…OFFLINE

"I suppose we'll have to make the best of it, then." Dooku took hold of his lightsaber and unfastened his harness, one of his hands clenching the armrest of his seat as the ship's hull began to glow red. The vessel entered the center planet's atmosphere, already beginning to blaze against the air resistance.

"Give me a distance countdown!" Dooku shouted over the roaring reverberations that were shaking his ship. The R4 unit chirped weakly, transferring its subroutines into the ship itself before its housing was burned away. A counter appeared on the monitor, ticking off the metres as the ship fell toward the surface.

40000

35000

30000

25000

20000

15000

10000

5000

2500

1000

Dooku activated his lightsaber and slashed through the hull above him; the metal tore away, and he was ripped through the gaping hole by a rush of air. His ship, now a blazing hulk, fell for another several seconds, streaking a long trail of smoke behind it. It struck the earth with a thunderous impact, scoring a long gully that was littered with smoldering debris. Dooku only had a few moments to appreciate this sight; he was falling only slightly slower than the ship had; taking hold of his cloak, he managed to slow his descent appreciatively, but not enough to escape injury. The ground rose up to meet him all too soon, and he crashed into the gritty earth with a snap and a groan, landing ungracefully amidst the melted remains of his ship. He lay bleeding on the ground, slipping into unconsciousness, unaware of his injuries and the grey-bearded man who found the injured stranger and bought him home.