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The Shadow Danger

Chapter Text

“Captain,” Qui-Gon Jinn said as they stepped into the cockpit.

“Yes, sir?” Captain Madakor said.

Obi-Wan liked the young captain. They’d originally met on Galidraan – above Galidraan, really – when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had transferred from the half-dead shuttle they’d left Felucia with onto the larger ship after their original shuttle was blown up by Death Watch, along with all their luggage. Obi-Wan had lost so many robes and tunics that way.

Captain Madakor had served with them further during the Yinchorri Uprising, where she’d participated in the Battle of Uhanayih. The entire Jedi contingent had ended up transferring to the Radiant VII after the battle…since two of the cruisers they’d had at the beginning of the mission had already been blown up by the Yinchorri and they’d used the third to plow straight into the Yinchorri base in Uhanayih. Quarters had been a bit cramped with the twelve of them, but Obi-Wan, Siri, and Bultar had unanimously decided to invade the room shared by Garen and K’Kruhk – both of whom had lost their Masters on Yinchorr – and comfort them the best they could, leaving the other rooms to the Masters.

The massive ship was a bit much when it was just her and Qui-Gon puttering around in it as passengers, but they needed the space if it became necessary to bring the Queen to Coruscant. Besides, the big red ship made them look more important, and in this type of negotiations, appearances were everything.

“Tell them we wish to board at once,” her Master instructed.

Captain Madakor immediately reached for the comm. Nute Gunray appeared on the viewscreen, though Obi-Wan knew from experience that he wouldn’t be able to see them from his position.

“With all due respect, the ambassadors from the Supreme Chancellor wish to board immediately,” she told him.

“Yes, of course,” the Neimoidian said. He still sounded just as annoying as he had back on Troiken, nearly seven years before. “As you know, our blockade is perfectly legal, and we’d be happy to receive the ambassadors.”

They were given instructions to board on the Trade Federation flagship, the Saak’ak.

Saak’ak means ‘profiteer’ in Pak Pak,” Obi-Wan told her Master quietly as they landed.

“I’m not surprised,” he replied. “I doubt Nute Gunray has changed much from his attitude on Eriadu, considering he did not change from Troiken to Eriadu.”

“Which means he’s still a cowardly, double-crossing fool who’s still extremely good at covering up his treachery,” Obi-Wan mused.

“Perhaps this time we’ll manage to actually catch him doing something he’s not supposed to and make the charges stick,” her master offered.

“I’m sure that he’d confess if he had two angry Jedi staring at him, but then he’d claim duress, start making accusations against the Jedi Order as a whole, and we’d get yelled at by the Council for starting another diplomatic incident,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“The yelling would be purely for show,” Qui-Gon reassured. “Plo, Depa, Adi, Saesee Tiin, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and Yaddle are all still annoyed at what happened at the Eriadu Summit. Mace, Eeth Koth, and Oppo Rancisis still remember the mess from the Stark Hyperspace War and Gunray’s role in it, so they wouldn’t mind too much either.”

“They would if they had to deal with him even more since we caused a major diplomatic incident,” Obi-Wan reminded him. “And they can’t punish us by putting us on escort duty for the diplomats if we’re in trouble for causing a diplomatic incident, so they’ll simply send us out to the furthest possible planets on missions in the slowest, smallest possible ship. Again. I don’t want to share a bunk with you again.”

Her master chuckled.

“I admit, I also prefer when we have our own rooms. Come now, Padawan. Hoods up. We wouldn’t want the Viceroy to recognize us too soon.”

“Neimoidians aren’t very good about telling humans apart,” Obi-Wan pointed out, but she raised her hood and made sure her outer robe was closed as they disembarked the ship.

They were greeted by a protocol droid once they made it to the exit from the hangar to the rest of the ship.

“I am TC-14 at your service,” the droid said. “This way, please.”

The droid led them to a conference room close to the hangar they’d been landed in. Obi-Wan presumed that they didn’t want the Republic ambassadors to get too close of a look at how the Trade Federation had turned cargo freighters into battle cruisers.

“We are greatly honored by your visit, ambassadors,” the droid said once she led them into the room. “Make yourselves comfortable. My master will be with you shortly.”

They waited until the door was fully closed to lower their hoods and turn away from the camera over the doors so that their lips could not be read. They could talk mentally, but that was a skill they preferred not to advertise, and a pair of ambassadors alone in a room, not saying anything, would be cause for suspicion.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Obi-Wan told her master.

“I don’t sense anything,” Qui-Gon replied.

“It’s not about the mission, Master, it’s something…elsewhere. Elusive,” she said with a frown.

“Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan,” her master soothed. “Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs.”

“But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future,” Obi-Wan said with a small smile. She knew her master would be able to hear the teasing lilt in her voice.

“But not at the expense of the moment,” Qui-Gon finished. “Be mindful of the Living Force, young Padawan.”

“Yes, Master,” Obi-Wan agreed as they walked over to the window overlooking Naboo.   “How do you think the Viceroy will deal with the Chancellor’s demands?”

“As you said earlier, Nute Gunray is a coward. The negotiations will be short,” Qui-Gon said as they looked at the pretty blue-and-green planet below them. It was prettier than Coruscant or the mining planet of Obredaan, which was the last place they’d traveled to on a mission, but not quite so pretty as Alderaan – at least in Obi-Wan’s admittedly biased opinion. She was quite fond of Alderaan and its young heirs apparent.

They sat down at the conference table – Qui-Gon at the foot and Obi-Wan to his left, leaving the head of the table for the Viceroy and his entourage, when the protocol droid returned with drinks. She hoped it wasn’t the preferred tea of the Neimoidians. To most human subspecies, including her own, it tasted like mud.

“Is it in their nature to make us wait this long?” Obi-Wan questioned as the droid handed her a cup of tea. She took a sip and was pleasantly surprised to taste sapir. While not her personal favorite – that was cassius tea, which she’d developed a taste for during their months on Mandalore – it was her Master’s, so it was something she was eminently familiar with.

“No,” her master said. “I sense an unusual amount of fear for something as trivial as this trade dispute.” He took a sip of his own tea as he switched to mental communication. Be on your guard, Padawan. Your bad feeling may be rapidly approaching.

Before they said anything more, two familiar presences – some of the only life-forms on the ship, and the only ones near them – cried out in terror and winked out. Captain Maoi Madakor and Lieutenant Antidar Williams were dead. She and her master were instantly on their feet, lightsabers ignited. The droid dropped their drinks, exclaiming, “Sir!”

There was no immediate attack – until a gas started flowing into the room through the floor vents.

“Dioxis,” her master identified as they turned off their lightsabers.

Obi-Wan took a deep breath. She could see her master doing the same. She hoped that the Trade Federation gravely underestimated them and didn’t leave them here too long. Dioxis would kill most carbon-based lifeforms in moments. While she and her master were both capable of holding their breaths upwards of an hour – a fact they’d learned the last time the party they were supposed to be negotiating with attempted to gas them – it got to be very boring, and meditating while holding your breath was horribly uncomfortable. Letting the Force flow through you when air could not do the same was difficult.

Obi-Wan promised herself to never tell her master that, or he’d send her to meditate in Master Plo Koon’s rooms, which were filled with Dorin gas so that he didn’t have to wear his antiox mask all the time.

Thankfully, the Trade Federation goons were as impatient as they were cowardly. A squadron of battle droids opened the door not five minutes later. They let the protocol droid walk out first.

“Oh!” the droid said upon stepping out of the room. “Excuse me!”

They heard the droid’s footsteps move away.

“Check it out, Corporal,” one of the battle droids said. “We’ll cover you.”

“Roger-roger,” another droid said with the same voice.

On my signal, Qui-Gon told her.

They heard the droid step closer.

Now!

They ignited the lightsabers.

“Uh-oh,” one of the droids said. “Blast them!”

Even with their eyes closed to prevent the dioxis from getting in them, they were easily able to reflect the blaster bolts back at the droids.

Obi-Wan leapt out of the room first, still holding her breath until they were far enough away from the dioxis, coming down immediately upon a battle droid. Her master followed her out, slicing droids in half and deftly avoiding blaster bolts. They took down the majority of the squad in seconds. Obi-Wan reached out a hand – and the Force – and the last three droids crumpled.

“We’ll make our way to the bridge,” Qui-Gon said. “The Council can’t be angry with us for intimidating Gunray when he tried to kill us first.”

“It’s not like it was the first time,” Obi-Wan grumbled, “though he’ll never admit to it.” Her master hummed in agreement as they headed towards the bridge, intermittently slicing battle droids in half as they showed up. While Nute Gunray’s panicked command on Troiken that caused the battle droids to fire on the Jedi was deemed accidental, it had still resulted in the death of Jedi Master Tyvokka. Obi-Wan had been wounded as well, though it wasn’t anything debilitating.

Upon reaching the sealed bridge door, Obi-Wan moved into a protective position while her master began cutting a hole in the door. He’d made it nearly halfway around when they heard the blast doors on the other side clank shut.

Obi-Wan reflected a blaster bolt back at the approaching droid, sending it to the ground, then looked back to see her master shoving his lightsaber hilt-deep into the door.

She remained on guard as he continued forcing their way onto the bridge. A rolling sound heralded the approach of their next enemies.

“Master, destroyers!” she called out as soon as they came into view.

He whirled about just in time to help her deflect blaster bolts from the pair of rolling robotic menaces.

“They have shield generators!” she announced in frustration a second later.

“It’s a standoff,” her master said in frustration. “Let’s go.”

It was simple to reach for the Force to enhance her speed and run to the end of the hall, following at her master’s heels.

We need to find a way off this ship, he told her. There is more going on here than a simple tantrum over a trade dispute.

The vents, she replied. She pulled the cover off with the Force. We should fit.

She felt more than saw her master’s grimace at the tight quarters in the ventilation shaft, which were never kind to his large frame, but he followed her in anyway. They made their way to one of the larger hangars on the ship, in hopes of finding a way off – or at least a way to contact the Chancellor or the Council. Instead, they found a hangar filled with droids and supplies. They made the long jump to the floor of the hangar and crept up behind the supplies to better survey the area.

“Battle droids?” Qui-Gon said in surprise.

“It’s an invasion army,” Obi-Wan said grimly.

“This is an odd play for the Trade Federation,” her master said. “We need to warn the Naboo, and contact Chancellor Valorum. Let’s split up, stow aboard separate ships and meet down on the planet.”

Obi-Wan nodded, then told him cheekily, “You were right about one thing, Master.” He looked over at her. “The negotiations were short,” she pointed out.

She could feel his smile even as he rolled his eyes. He sent her the mental equivalent of a flick to the back of the head as they snuck in opposite directions towards the ships that would transport the battle droids to the surface. It would probably be another round of holding her breath; while the Saak’ak was pressurized and had a breathable atmosphere, it was unlikely that the transport ships would have the same, since they were simply meant to transport the battle droids to the planet’s surface and not meant for long-term – or manned – flight. Thankfully, it would probably be pressurized in order to prevent anything from happening to the equipment.

The ride was less smooth than she hoped. While the ship was pressurized, the navigation droid was apparently faulty, since she ended up landing in a lake and shorting out her lightsaber. A trio of battle droids on STAPs caught sight of her after she’d fished herself out of the lake. She cursed as she reached for her lightsaber, then remembered that it was shorted out. It would take a few more minutes for it to recharge.

She reached for the Force and began running through the swampy terrain. It was only with the Force that she was able to stay ahead of the STAPs.

Obi-Wan dodged around a large tree, took a sharp turn, and doubled-back in the opposite direction, towards where she could sense her Master, though it took the droids several moments to realize that. Another dodge around a tree shortly before the foremost STAP caught up to her reduced her pursuers from three to two.

It only took another minute of running and dodging blaster bolts for her to find her Master.

Incoming! she warned him.

She came around a tree to see her Master standing with another humanoid figure. The droids fired, and her Master automatically ignited his lightsaber and caught the blaster bolts, before reflecting the next batch back at the battle droids, causing their STAPs to explode into shards of hot metal and fall into the swamp.

“Sorry, Master,” Obi-Wan said as she came to a stop next to Qui-Gon. “Our transport took a bit of an unexpected swim. The swamp fried my weapon, but it shouldn’t take too long to recharge.”

“You forgot to turn off the power, didn’t you?” her Master asked pointedly.

“I wasn’t expecting to start off the landing by swimming,” Obi-Wan admitted.

The humanoid – who had fallen to the ground when the STAPs started firing – jumped up and looked at Qui-Gon adoringly.

“Yousa saved my again,” he said. His Force-sense identified the humanoid as a he at least, though some species further split genders, so it was possible she was wrong.

“Who’s this?” she asked her Master.

“A local,” he replied.

Obi-Wan ran through what she’d read about Naboo on their sixteen-day flight to the planet and guessed that this was one of the elusive Gungans. There was very little written about them that she’d been able to find. From what she’d been able to tell, the Gungans were mostly isolated from the human population of Naboo, and the human population knew little about them.

“Let’s get out of here before more droids show up,” her Master continued.

“More?” the Gungan asked. “More, did you spake?” He followed them as they jogged away from the scene of destruction.   “Ex-squeeze me, but da most safest place would be Otoh Gunga city. Tis where I grew up. Tis a hidden city.”

That caused them to pause and look back at him.

“A city?” her Master asked.

“Uh-hah,” the Gungan nodded.

“Can you take us there?” Qui-Gon continued.

“Uh…on second taut, no, not really, no,” the Gungan admitted.

“No?” her Master questioned.

“Is embarrassing,” the Gungan said. “But…my afraid my have been banished. My forgotten. Der Bosses would do terrible things to me, terrible things to me if me going back there.”

“You hear that?” her Master asked, pointing to where they could hear more troop transports crashing their way through the swamp.

The Gungan raised an ear flap and put his hand up to his ear. “Yeah.”

“That is the sound of a thousand terrible things heading this way,” Qui-Gon said, stepping towards the Gungan.

“If they find us,” Obi-Wan continued, stepping towards him as well. The Gungan began backing away. “They will crush us, grind us into tiny pieces, and then blast us into oblivion.”

“Oh,” the Gungan said. “Yousa point is well seen. Dis way! Hurry!”

The Gungan led them unerringly through the thick undergrowth. Obi-Wan’s clothes were mostly dry by the time they reached the edge of a large lake.

“How much farther?” her Master asked.

“Wesa goen underwater, okey-day?” the Gungan said. “My warning you, Gungans no liken outsiders, so don’t ‘spect a warm welcome.”

Obi-Wan pulled her aqua-breather from its home inside her robes.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she quipped. “This hasn’t been our day for warm welcomes.”

The Gungan let out a yell as he jumped up and did an elaborate dive into the water. Obi-Wan glanced at her Master as he put his own aqua-breather in. They followed the Gungan into the water, though they simply waded in instead.

The Gungan poked his head out of the water and smiled at them. “Yousa follow me now, okey-day?”

They didn’t respond, since it was impossible to do so with their rebreathers in, but simply lowered their faces into the water and began to swim.

It wasn’t much different than when Bant had taught her to swim on the Lake Levels of the Temple, though the addition of her cloak was new. However, it wasn’t the first time she’d had to swim in full Jedi attire, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. At least her hair seemed to be staying put. This was meant to be a negotiation mission, not a run-around-like-crazy mission, so she’d done it up a bit fancier than her usual braided crown. She’d proven on multiple missions that that hairstyle could withstand almost anything.

Master? she asked as they continued to follow the Gungan through the water. Does our erstwhile guide have a name?

He introduced himself as Jar Jar Binks, her Master replied. Did you read anything about the Gungans?

They don’t get along well with the Naboo, she told him. I’d be surprised if they have a way to warn the Naboo that doesn’t involve us going there ourselves. They’re a very isolated species. Everything I read barely mentioned them, and there was nearly nothing on their culture. She knew her Master would be able to feel her annoyance with the books.

Well, it’s better than wandering through the swamplands for days on end. From what I could tell, we landed on the opposite side of the planet from the planetary capital.

They crested over an underwater ridge, revealing a large city made up of glowing orange bubbles. It was an incredible sight. Obi-Wan had no idea that the Gungan civilization was this evolved, and she doubted the human population of Naboo knew either.

Jar Jar led them straight to one of the larger bubbles and proceeded to move inside through the membrane. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan followed him. Once inside, they found themselves on a platform that led down to a square surrounded by buildings. Light emanated from the bubble’s walls in a steady glow, brightening the space inside.

“So good bein’ home!” Jar Jar announced, drawing looks from the other Gungans in the area. The shocked looks and murmurs grew in volume as the Gungans noticed the outsiders in their midst. They began to scatter with small cries of alarm.”

“Hey, yousa, stoppa there!” another Gungan ordered, riding up on a two-legged beast and pointing his spear at them.

“Heyo-dalee, Cap’n Tarpals,” Jar Jar greeted. “Mesa back!”

“No again, Jar Jar. Yousa goin’ to da Bosses. Yousa in big doodoo dis time.”

They were surrounded by a pair of guards also on two-legged beasts. One of them shocked Jar Jar with his spear.

They’re apparently electrified, her Master warned. Be on your guard.

The guards took them through the buildings of the city, down several connecting passages, and into a large room that was transparent on all sides. Small glowing fish swam about the outside of the membrane, tiny stars against a darker backdrop. A long, circular bench dominated one end of the room with one section set higher than the rest. All the seats were occupied by Gungan officials in their robes of office, and way was quickly made for the newcomers to come through Gungans already present to conduct other business.

The Gungan occupying the highest seat was a heavyset, squat humanoid so compressed by age and weight that it was impossible to imagine he had ever been as slender as Jar Jar. Folds of skin draped from his body in loose layers, his neck was compressed into his shoulders, and his face bore such a sour look that Jar Jar seemed more than a little cowed as they were motioned forward.

From the wary-to-hostile feel of the room, Obi-Wan was not optimistic about their chances.

“Whosa is dis?” the green Gungan demanded. Unless there was a wide variety of facial structures and head shapes among the Gungans, this one was a different subspecies than their guide.

“Boss Nass, Rep Been, Rep Lyonie, Rep Slarm, Rep Teers,” Captain Tarpals said. “Dey swam to Otoh Gunga, led by Jar Jar Binks.”

That name provoked a reaction. Before the Boss – or Jar Jar – could say anything, her Master stepped forward and bowed.

“I am Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn of the Galactic Republic, serving as an Ambassador of Supreme Chancellor Valorum. With me is my fellow Ambassador, Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Obi-Wan offered her own bow from her protocol-perfect position two steps behind her Master.

“We were sent to Naboo by the Supreme Chancellor in order to negotiate a settlement between the people of Naboo and the Trade Federation, which blockaded the planet from interplanetary travel fifty-three Standard days ago – forty-nine days in the local calendar. Eighteen Standard days ago, Queen Amidala of the Naboo contacted the Supreme Chancellor and informed him of the starvation of the people of Naboo. Due to their suffering, the Supreme Chancellor dispatched us to Naboo sixteen Standard days ago. We arrived at the flagship for the Trade Federation blockade two hours ago, at which time the Trade Federation attempted to kill us and began an invasion of Naboo. Their droids are, as we speak, invading the planet’s surface with plans to attack the Naboo. We wish for your aid in contacting them to warn them of this invasion.”

“Tch-tch-tch-tch-tch,” Boss Nass said. “Yousa cannot bes here. Dis army of mackineeks up dere is new weesong.”

“The droid army is about to attack the Naboo,” her Master said evenly. “We must warn them.”

“Wesa no like da Naboo, tch-tch-tch-tch-tch. Da Naboo tink dey so smarty. Dey tink dere brains so big!”

“Once those droids take control of the surface, they will take control of you,” Obi-Wan said, stepping forward to stand beside her Master.

“Mesa no tink so,” Boss Nass declared. “Dey not know of uss-en.”

“You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle,” Obi-Wan pointed out, hoping to get through the Boss’s prejudice. “Whatever happens to one of you will affect the other; you must understand this.”

“Wesa no carin’ about da Naboo,” Boss Nass insisted.

“Then speed us on our way,” Qui-Gon said, gesturing slightly as he implanted the Force suggestion into his words.

“Wesa gonna speed yousa way,” Boss Nass agreed.

“We could use a transport,” Qui-Gon continued, waving his hand again.

“Wesa give yousa una bongo,” Boss Nass said. “Da speediest way to da Naboo tis going through da planet core. Now go.”

“Thank you for your help,” Qui-Gon said with a bow. Obi-Wan bowed as well. “We leave in peace.”

They’re playing us, Obi-Wan said.

“Master, what’s a bongo?” she asked aloud in order to cover up their mental conversation.

“A transport, I hope,” he replied.

I know. However, there was no deceit in their words. The fastest way to the Naboo is through the planet core, though they do not expect us to survive the journey. I expect it is hazardous.

It’s a good thing that we’re harder to kill than we look, Obi-Wan said.

“Deysa settin’ yousa up,” Jar Jar said as they passed, leaning towards them to pass the information along, though he was restrained by one of the guards. “Goen through de planet core…bad bombin’.” He glanced at the Boss and his council, who were now turning their attention to him. “Any hep here would be hot,” he admitted with a sheepish smile.

Qui-Gon paused, then began to turn back towards the Boss.

“Master, we’re short on time,” Obi-Wan reminded.

“We’ll need a navigator to get us through the planet’s core,” he pointed out. “This Gungan may be of help.” He walked back to the central platform.

Obi-Wan remained behind, mentally resigning herself to another one of her Master’s strays for the near future. Hopefully this one wouldn’t result in her getting shot, stabbed, or covered in slime. Though, she’d already been covered in swamp muck this trip, so she wouldn’t get her hopes up. With any luck, he would leave them once they made it to the Naboo.

“What is to become of Jar Jar Binks here?” Qui-Gon asked.

“Binks broken de nocombackie law. He is to be pune-ished,” Boss Nass said with a somewhat victorious smile.

“He has been a great help to us,” her Master continued. “I hope the punishment will not be too severe.”

“Pounded unto death,” Boss Nass related.

Obi-Wan hid a wince.

“Ouch,” Jar Jar said beside her, ducking his head.

“I saved his life,” Qui-Gon declared. “He owes me what you call a ‘life debt.’ Your gods demand that his life belongs to me now.”

There went any chance of Jar Jar Binks leaving quickly.

“Binks?” Boss Nass questioned. “Yousa haven de lifeplay with dissen hissen?”

“Uh-huh,” Jar Jar said with a nod.

Boss Nass shook his head rapidly, his jowls flapping and saliva flying from his lips.

“Begone wit him!” Boss Nass ordered.

Her Master bowed once more and headed back to them. One of the guards unlocked Jar Jar’s shackles.

“Count me outta dis one,” Jar Jar muttered as he followed them out of the room. “Better dead here den dead in da core. Ye gods! Whatta mesa sayin’?”

Captain Tarpals escorted them out again, and to a smaller bubble attached to the main one. There was a squid-like vehicle inside.

“Dissen de bongo,” Captain Tarpals announced. “It will take yousa through da core and to da Naboo.”

“Thank you for your assistance,” Obi-Wan said with a small bow before moving over to the transport.

It was an ungainly little underwater craft that seemed to consist mostly of an electrical power plant, a guidance system, and passenger seating. It looked somewhat like a species of squid, with flat, swept-ack fins and aft tentacles that appeared that they would rotate in order to propel the craft. Three bubble-canopied passenger compartments were arranged symmetrically, one on each wing and the third forward on the nose.

She knew without having to say anything that her Master would want her to pilot. He’d been having her do it for months whenever they needed to pilot any sort of craft on their own; she was nearly certain that he was testing her adaptability to various types of vessels in preparation for when she would be off on her own during her Knighthood. She knew that her Trials were fast approaching, though Qui-Gon hadn’t explicitly said as such yet. However, she had a number of notable successes in both diplomacy and battle under her belt, and she had been sent on a few short solo missions in recent months – including her latest, the hunt to find Master Anoon Bondara and her former clanmate, Darsha Assant, which had only ended with her finding them dead. Darsha was only a scant few years her senior, and the mission that had ended in her death had been her trial.

“Dis is nutsen,” Jar Jar said as they made their way towards the underwater passages through the core. While it was the fastest way to get to the Naboo that the Gungans could provide – and the best way not to catch the attention of the Trade Federation army – it would still take them over fourteen hours to traverse the passages through the core and reach Theed, which was on the opposite side of the planet.

“Ooh, look, gooberfish!” the Gungan exclaimed.

“Why were you banished, Jar Jar?” Obi-Wan asked, attempting to make conversation. The Gungan didn’t seem to be the criminal type, and he also seemed to be relatively young compared to the other Gungans they’d seen – just past adolescence, if Obi-Wan had to guess.

“Tis a longa tale-o, but a small part of it would be…mesa…clumsy,” Jar Jar admitted.

“You were banished because you were clumsy?” Obi-Wan asked in surprise.

“Yousa mighten be sayin’ dat,” Jar Jar agreed.

Obi-Wan sensed a large lifeform begin to follow them. She mentally passed the information on to her Master, who sent back wordless acknowledgement, though they said nothing aloud. Jar Jar seemed a bit jittery already. They didn’t want to frighten him any more. She did her best to dodge out of the way of the creature as Jar Jar continued his tale.

“Mesa cause maybe one or two-ey little bitty axadentes,” Jar Jar admitted. “You’d say, ‘boom de gasser’, den crashin’ de Boss’s heyblibber, den banished.”

Obi-Wan suspected there was more to the story than that, but before she could ask for clarification, the lifeform pursuing them caught them, grabbing them with its tongue and jolting them to a stop.

“Uh-oh!” Jar Jar exclaimed.

Then the creature pulled them back into its mouth with his tongue.

“Big gooberfish! Huge-o teeth!” Jar Jar panicked.

They were saved when an even larger lifeform – much larger, from the feel of it – grabbed the creature in its mouth, instantly breaking its spine and causing it to release them.

“There’s always a bigger fish,” her Master said mildly.

“Mesa tink we be goin’ back now,” Jar Jar suggested hopefully.

Obi-Wan ignored him and dove towards one of the underwater passageways that would take them deeper into the core.

“Where wesa goin’?” Jar Jar asked an hour later, after Obi-Wan had pressed him for the details of his different ‘axadentes.’

“Don’t worry,” Qui-Gon said. “The Force will guide us.”

“Ohh, maxibig, the Force,” Jar Jar said knowingly. “Well, dat smells stinkowiff.”

Obi-Wan smelled the smoke as well, just before the alarms began going off.

“We’re losing power,” she reported.

“Oh no,” Jar Jar moaned.

The bongo came to rest on the ocean floor as the lights flickered.

“Wesa die in here,” Jar Jar continued.

“Just relax,” Qui-Gon said. “We’re not in trouble yet.”

Obi-Wan flipped open the power panel.

“What yet?” Jar Jar demanded. “Monsters out dere, leakin’ in here, all sinkin’ and no power! When yousa tinkin’ wesa in trouble?”

Obi-Wan sparked one of the wires against another.

“Power’s back,” she announced as the lights came back on. The headlights revealed another large sea creature sitting in front of them. Obi-Wan needed to make a list of these things and give it to Bant. She liked learning about giant sea creatures. She had a degree in marine xenobiology.

Jar Jar, of course, freaked out again.

“Ah! Monsters back!”

Obi-Wan hit the accelerator and pulled the bongo into a sharp turn away from the new creature. She continued speeding away as it pursued them.

Jar Jar was still freaking out.

“Relax,” her Master told Jar Jar, putting a hand on the Gungan’s shoulder. Obi-Wan could feel the Force suggestion that put him to sleep.

“You overdid it,” she pointed out as she guided the bongo through the tunnel. As they approached the end, the head of yet another extremely large sea creature appeared. She would have to time this just right…

She pulled up just in time to sail over the head of the creature and down its spine, just missing its flicking tail as creature number four caught creature number three in its mouth.

Jar Jar woke up a few moments later.

“Head for that outcropping,” her Master instructed.

Obi-Wan knew exactly which one he was talking about. She could feel it too.

It took several more hours before the bongo surfaced in the waterway that ran through the center of Theed.

“This is lovely,” Jar Jar said, looking around the city as Obi-Wan deactivated the forcefield that kept air in and water out.

Unfortunately, it seemed that she had surfaced near a waterfall that was slowly pulling them towards its precipice.

“Get this thing started!” her Master ordered.

Obi-Wan attempted the ignition, only for it to stall out on her again.

“There isn’t enough power!” she reported.

Her Master quickly pulled out his liquid-cable launcher and fired it, embedding the hook in a nearby wall. The bongo slowed and mostly stopped.

Obi-Wan immediately jumped over the side of the bongo and grabbed onto the cord. The liquid cable was not strong enough to pull the bongo away from the waterfall, but it would be enough to get them to shore, as long as they moved quickly enough. Her Master followed her into the water.

By the time she pulled herself up onto the stone bank of the river, their Gungan companion was still in the bongo.

“Come on!” Qui-Gon yelled. “Jar Jar! Move!”

“Mesa comin’, mesa comin’,” he said, clambering out of the bongo and proceeding to fall off of it. It took a moment to realize that his Force presence hadn’t been swept over the waterfall but was instead moving in their direction. The grappling hood chose that moment to fail, detaching the liquid cable from the wall and causing the bongo to plummet over the falls. Jar Jar popped his head up along the bank a moment later. Obi-Wan helped her Master pull the Gungan up, before following her Master up a short set of stairs, past a fountain, and into the city.

“We need to find the Queen,” Qui-Gon instructed as they dodged around a droid patrol. “It appears that the invasion is already complete.”

“At least in the capital,” Obi-Wan agreed. “The palace may not have been taken yet.”

Her Master shook his head.

“I cannot hear any fighting. Nor can I sense it. There is fear permeating the city, but not the same kind of fear that would be caused by active fighting.”

“We’d best hurry before they decide to execute her,” Obi-Wan said.

Her Master nodded and gestured for them to follow him.

They ended up finding the Queen as they wandered around the second story that circled the main courtyard in front of the palace. The Queen, several young women Obi-Wan presumed to be her handmaidens, the Governor of Theed, and many men in the uniform of the Naboo Royal Guard were being marched along by an escort of battle droids.

This way, her Master told her. He led them to a bridge that the group would have to pass under. On my mark, he ordered. Three, two, one, mark!

Obi-Wan copied her Master in jumping from the bridge and igniting her lightsaber. She took out the lead pair of battle droids with a split kick before joining her Master in beheading and/or bisecting battle droids. Her Master took out the last two with a well-placed Force push.

Obi-Wan spun her lightsaber, checking for any additional enemies, before deactivating it and reattaching it to her belt.

“We should leave the streets, Your Highness,” her Master said, gesturing toward the stairway beside them.

The governor wrapped an arm around the Queen’s shoulders and led her after Qui-Gon, followed by her handmaidens.

“Get their weapons,” the lead guardsman ordered.

“Thesa guys bombad,” she heard Jar Jar say.

Obi-Wan continued keeping watch as the guards gathered up the blasters and hurried after the Queen. She followed the last of them, ending up close enough to hear the conversation, but still far back enough that she could keep an eye out for more droid patrols.

“We’re ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor,” Qui-Gon introduced.

“Your negotiations seem to have failed, Ambassador,” the governor said hostilely.

“The negotiations never took place,” her Master countered easily. “It’s urgent that we make contact with the Republic.”

“They’ve knocked out all our communications,” the lead guardsmen revealed.

“Do you have transport?” her Master asked.

“In the main hanger,” the lead guardsman said. “This way!”

Obi-Wan remained in the rearguard position until they made it to the main hanger. They all gathered around the doors.

“There are too many of them!” the lead guardsman said as he peeked inside.

“They won’t be a problem,” Qui-Gon said dismissively. He turned to the Queen. “Your Highness, under the circumstances, I suggest you come to Coruscant with us.”

“Thank you, Ambassador, but my place is with my people,” the Queen said evenly.

“They will kill you if you stay,” Qui-Gon warned.

“They wouldn’t dare,” the Governor said.

“They need her to sign a treaty to make this invasion of theirs legal,” the lead guardsman explained. “They can’t afford to kill her.

“There is something else behind all this, Your Highness. There is no logic behind the Federation’s move here. My feelings tell me they will destroy you,” Qui-Gon said gravely.

“Our only hope is for the Senate to side with us,” the Governor urged. “Senator Palpatine needs your help!”

“Getting past their blockade is impossible,” the lead guardsman objected. “Any attempt to escape will kill us all!”

“Your Highness, I will stay here and do what I can,” the Governor offered. “They will have to retain the Council of Governors in order to remain in control. But you must leave.”

“Either choice presents great danger,” the Queen said, looking over at her handmaidens, “to us all.”

“We are brave, Your Highness,” the closest handmaiden to her said.

“If you want to leave, Your Highness, it must be now,” Qui-Gon said.

“Then I will plead our case to the Senate,” the Queen said firmly, sounding nothing like the teenager Obi-Wan knew she was. “Saché, Yané, remain here with Governor Bibble. Let our people know that I am not abandoning them.”

Two of the handmaidens bowed and moved to flank the governor.

“Be careful, Governor,” the Queen said before following Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan into the hangar. They walked in a column – Qui-Gon in front, Obi-Wan in proper Padawan position two steps behind and to the left, and the rest of the group behind them.

“We’ll need to free those pilots,” the lead guardsman said, hefting his blaster.

Obi-Wan placed a hand on it.

“I’ll deal with that,” she said, angling herself away from the group and towards the huddled group of pilots on the floor. She hoped all of them weren’t coming with them. That would make things cramped.

“Halt,” the battle droid commander at the base of the ramp into the starship ordered.

“I’m Ambassador to the Supreme Chancellor,” her Master said easily as Obi-Wan continued to move towards the pilots, even as she kept an ear out for that situation. “I’m taking these people to Coruscant.”

“Where are you taking them?” the battle droid asked.

“To Coruscant,” Qui-Gon repeated.

“Coruscant? That doesn’t compute…uh…You’re under arrest!” the battle droid said, only to be promptly bisected by her Master.

Obi-Wan started attacking the battle droids surrounding the pilots with another split kick and then continued slicing her way around the circle as her Master ushered the Queen, handmaidens, guardsmen, and Gungan on board the starship.

“Move!” she heard him order.

As soon as she finished with the battle droids around the pilots, she ordered, “Go!”

The pilots jumped to their feet and began to run. Several – eight, if she counted correctly – boarded the starship while the rest headed for the hangar door. Obi-Wan and her Master were the last on board.

“Find someplace for Jar Jar,” Qui-Gon ordered. “Then meet me on the bridge.”

For lack of a better place to put him, Obi-Wan stuck Jar Jar in the droid hold.

“Now, stay here. And keep out of trouble.”

She hoped that would be enough as she headed up to the bridge. She reached the cockpit just as the blockade came into view. It only took moments before the Federation ships started shooting at them, causing an alarm to go off.

“Shield generator’s been hit!” the pilot announced. “Deploying droids!”

Obi-Wan watched on the monitor as four different droids showed up to surround the exterior port of the shield generator. One by one, they were blown away.

“We’re losing droids, fast,” she pointed out.

“If they can’t get the shield generator fixed, we’ll be sitting ducks!” the lead guardsman nearly snarled.

The second-to-last droid was blown away.

“Shields are gone,” the pilot announced.

A moment later, Obi-Wan felt a flare of surprise from him.

“Power’s back,” he announced. “That little droid did it! Right past the main power drive! Deflector shields up at maximum.”

They dodged around the main body of the closest Federation battleship and sailed into open space.

Chapter Text

“There’s not enough power to get us to Coruscant,” the pilot warned. “The hyperdrive is leaking.”

Obi-Wan sat down at the navigation station and began scrolling through nearby-enough planets, searching for something safe enough to take the Queen to. While she didn’t consider it safe, the Force nearly screamed at her upon landing on a specific planet. She could immediately see why.

“We’ll have to land somewhere to refuel and repair the ship,” Qui-Gon observed.

“Here, Master,” she said, pointing at the picture on the screen. “Tatooine. It’s small, out-of-the-way, poor…the Trade Federation has no presence there.” It’s also where Quin and Aayla are currently, and the Force is practically screaming at me to go there. From what I know of their mission, they’re undercover, but will probably be able to help us.

“How can you be sure?” the lead guardsman demanded.

“It’s controlled by the Hutts,” her Master replied evenly.

“You can’t take Her Royal Highness there!” the guardsman protested. “The Hutts are gangsters. If they discovered her…”

“It’d be no different than if we landed on a system controlled by the Federation,” her Master said. “Except the Hutts aren’t looking for her, which gives us the advantage.”

“Even so, it will take us five days to reach Tatooine,” Obi-Wan said calmly. “Which means that we have plenty of time to make a plan to protect the Queen from the Hutts while determining the specifics of the supplies necessary to acquire. Also, it means we have plenty of time for introductions, since we have thus far neglected to do so.”

“We were a bit busy, Padawan mine,” Qui-Gon said.

“But now we are not, Master,” she replied. Their banter seemed to set the pilot and lead guardsman at ease, which was their sole reason for doing it.

Her Master sighed dramatically.

“Very well, Padawan. I am Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, currently serving as an Ambassador of Chancellor Valorum. With me is my Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, currently serving in the same capacity.”

Obi-Wan bowed slightly at her introduction.

“I’m Ric Olié,” the pilot introduced once it didn’t seem the guardsman would say anything. “Commander of the Naboo Royal Space Fighter Corps and Captain of the Queen’s Royal Starship. This is my superior, Captain Quarsh Panaka of the Naboo Royal Security Forces.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances, Captain, Commander, though I regret the circumstances which made it so,” Obi-Wan replied with an easy smile. “If you will excuse us, we must make our introductions to the Queen.”

“I’ll take you there,” the newly introduced Captain Panaka offered. “I’m sure she will want to offer her thanks.”

“No thanks are necessary, Captain,” Qui-Gon brushed off. “It is entirely possible that our position as the Chancellor’s ambassadors is what sparked the invasion when it did.”

“They were already planning to invade,” Obi-Wan said quickly when she saw Captain Panaka’s mouth twist. “We just escalated their timeline. They were obviously not expecting Jedi, which is probably why they attempted to kill us before we began negotiations.”

“Assassination? Of Republic ambassadors?” Panaka demanded as he led them through the ship.

“It would not be the first time,” her Master remarked. “We are rather used to our negotiations going awry.”

“This time we at least made it off the planet,” Obi-Wan said good-humoredly. “That means we probably won’t spend the next year running for our lives and sleeping in trenches while in hiding from the new government that is trying very hard to kill us.”

“That sounds…unpleasant,” Captain Panaka said.

“It was,” Obi-Wan and her Master chorused.

Mandalore had been a mess from beginning to end – well, from two weeks after the beginning. The negotiations between the Death Watch and the New Mandalorians had started out fine…until Death Watch bombed the luncheon in the second week, killing the Duke and Duchess and forcing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to go on the run with the four Kryze children. By the time they left Mandalore, there were only two left. Saren had committed suicide when Satine had marched into the throne room to confront him for joining Death Watch in exchange for the throne. Dionne had died protecting Bo-Katan and Korkie from the last vestiges of Death Watch shortly after the Battle of Sundari.

Captain Panaka led them to a large room that was apparently a throne room and gestured for them to enter. Obi-Wan didn’t know why she was surprised. It wasn’t the first time she’d encountered one on a royal’s personal yacht. Bail and Breha didn’t have one though, and they tended to be her basis for comparisons.

The Queen was sitting on the throne, her three handmaidens arrayed behind her.

“Now that we have the space to breathe, Your Highness, we would like to introduce ourselves properly,” Qui-Gon said with a bow. “I am Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, currently serving as an Ambassador for Chancellor Valorum. With me is Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, currently serving in the same capacity.”

Obi-Wan repeated her bow, though she bowed deeper to the Queen than she had Panaka. Royal protocol was important, and she didn’t yet know enough about this monarch to know how particular she was about following it.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness, though I wish the circumstances were different,” Obi-Wan offered.

“We wish the same, Padawan Kenobi,” the Queen said in the same, even voice.

“The ship was damaged we when ran the blockade,” Captain Panaka reported, stepping into the room with the sole surviving astromech droid at his heels. “It was repaired by this astromech here. It’s an extremely well-put together little droid, Your Highness. Without a doubt, it saved the ship, as well as our lives.”

“It is to be commended,” the Queen said. “What is its number?”

The Captain stepped forward to check.

“R2-D2, Your Highness.”

“Thank you, R2-D2,” the Queen said.

The droid beeped happily in response.

“Padmé,” the Queen said. One of her handmaidens stepped forward to stand beside the droid. If Obi-Wan wasn’t mistaken, it was the same one that had spoken up about their bravery. “Clean this droid up as best you can,” the Queen continued with a small smile. “It deserves our gratitude.”

She turned her face back to Panaka.

“Continue, Captain,” she ordered.

Panaka instead looked over at them.

Qui-Gon stepped forward.

“Your Highness, with your permission, we are heading for a remote planet called Tatooine. It’s in a system far beyond the reach of the Trade Federation. There we will be able to make needed repairs and acquire any additional supplies, then travel on to Coruscant.

“Your Highness, Tatooine is very dangerous. It’s controlled by the Hutt Cartel. I do not agree with the Jedi on this,” Captain Panaka said.

“You must trust my judgment, Your Highness,” Qui-Gon said.

The Queen studied him for a moment. Obi-Wan noticed her eyes flicker to the handmaiden – Padmé – standing by the astromech droid.

“Very well,” the Queen acquiesced. “How long will this take us?”

Obi-Wan took a step forward.

“It will be five days to Tatooine, Your Highness, and another twelve to Coruscant once we depart,” she said.

The Queen frowned.

“Our people are suffering, Master Jedi. They have been suffering for weeks due to the Federation blockade. Is there no way to move faster?”

“Not without risking your safety, Highness,” Qui-Gon replied. “While there are worlds that are nearer to our route, the Trade Federation would find us. They are already looking, and your ship is distinctive.”

The Queen nodded again, though she did not look happy about it.

“Is there anything else of importance? We should like to rest. It has been a trying day.”

“We will need to discuss your security, both on Tatooine and on Coruscant, as well as what you should expect upon reaching Coruscant, but both of those things can wait for the moment, Your Highness,” Qui-Gon said. “However, with your permission, we would like to examine the supplies this ship holds, as well as the parts of the ship that can be accessed while in hyperspace, in order to determine what we will need to acquire once we arrive on Tatooine.”

“Granted,” the Queen said with a nod. “Eirtaé, please show Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi where the supplies are stored. Rabé shall attend me.”

Another of the handmaidens bowed her head and stepped out from behind the throne. The Queen stood from her throne.

“We shall retire to Our chambers,” the Queen said before sweeping past them and out of the room, towards the bow of the ship where her chambers were.

Handmaiden Padmé followed her out, accompanied by the astromech R2-D2.

“What would you like to see first, Masters Jedi?” Handmaiden Eirtaé asked.

Qui-Gon went to assess the supplies the ship was stocked with on the lower deck while Obi-Wan split off from her Master and the handmaiden to chat with the ship’s engineer in the forward hold. She could see Jar Jar speaking with the other handmaiden, Padmé, on the other side of the hold.

“We won’t be able to tell how bad it is until we leave hyper,” the engineer, who had introduced himself as Sen Tarsen, said.

“And the further we push through hyperspace, the worse it will get,” Obi-Wan agreed with a sigh. “If it weren’t so urgent, I would suggest we leave hyperspace immediately, but that has the potential to strand us in deep space. Setting off a distress signal would draw the Trade Federation right to us.”

“Right,” Tarsen agreed. “So we’re pushing on with a hope and a prayer.”

“Indeed,” Obi-Wan agreed. “Is that everything we can check while moving?”

“Looks like it,” Tarsen said, peering at one of his monitors.

“Let me know if you need any assistance before we arrive on Tatooine,” Obi-Wan offered. “I’ve a fair hand and a decent amount of experience with this sort of thing.”

“Thank you, Master Jedi,” Tarsen said, then froze. “Wait. Mistress Jedi? Lady Jedi? What’s the correct way to address you; I don’t want to offend.”

Obi-Wan smiled kindly at him.

“Formally it would be ‘Padawan Kenobi,’ but you may call me Obi-Wan if you wish.”

“Then I’m Sen,” he replied firmly, offering her his hand to shake. She took it easily. “None of this ‘Lieutenant Tarsen’ stuff.”

“As you wish, Sen,” she said. “If you’ll excuse me?”

“Of course,” the engineer said before turning back to his station.

Obi-Wan moved over to where the handmaiden, Padmé was scrubbing down the astromech droid. Jar Jar was sitting next to her.

“My apologies for abandoning you, Jar Jar,” she told the Gungan as she sat down cross-legged on the ground making sure she was in an easy position for the Gungan, handmaiden, and astromech to see her. “We needed to attend the Queen, and then my Master asked me to look over the engineering damage.”

“Nosa worries,” Jar Jar said cheerfully. “Mesa fine. Mesa been talkin’ to Padmé!”

“A pleasure to meet you, Lady Padmé,” Obi-Wan said with a smile. She bowed her head to the handmaiden since she was unable to do a full bow from her position on the floor.

“And you…Padawan Kenobi, I think?” the handmaiden questioned.

“Indeed, but feel free to call me Obi-Wan. That goes for you too, Jar Jar,” she told the Gungan.

“Mesa will, Obi!” he said excitedly.

Obi-Wan sighed inwardly, but allowed the shortening of her name. Most of her crèchemates did it, so it was a name that she’d probably never outgrow.

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about the Jedi,” Padmé said apologetically. “What does ‘Padawan’ mean?”

That she could answer.

“It means ‘learner’ in the Old Jedi dialect,” she told the handmaiden. “It’s used as a title to refer to a Jedi who has not yet achieved the full rank of Jedi Knight – a Knight-in-training, you could say.”

Padmé looked curious, though she kept dutifully scrubbing the astromech droid.

“I didn’t know the Jedi had a language,” she said.

“Most don’t,” Obi-Wan said. “Don’t feel bad about it. Most of us don’t bother learning more than the nouns and commands that are often used in the Temple, though some of us become fluent. Some of our Initiate clans – the groups our children are raised in – are raised to speak it fluently, though they end up forgetting it once they’re older since it’s so rarely spoken.”

“Are Initiate clans bilingual?” Padmé asked.

“Multilingual,” Obi-Wan corrected. “Clans aren’t species-specific, and we usually spend most of a decade in them, so we all end up hyperpolyglots by our teenage years. I grew up speaking Galactic Basic Standard, the Old Dialect – we don’t actually know it’s proper name anymore; it’s been part of the Jedi Order since before there was a Jedi Order, Socorran, Kiffar, Mon Calamarian, Quarrenese, Dressellese, Kuati, Iscerian, Chandrilan, Mirialan, Miralukese, Zabraki, Ryl, Tionese, and Stewjoni. I grew up understanding Whiphid, Anx, and lekku language, though humans can’t speak any of those.”

The handmaiden was wide-eyed.

“Do you speak other languages as well?” she asked.

“I speak around thirty others, though I’m admittedly out of practice for most of them. I can understand Shryiiwook, Pak Pak, Gossam, and Binary, but humans aren’t capable of speaking those languages either. Additionally, I can read Old Galactic Standard, Oldspeak Basic, Old Coruscanti, Old Brentaal, Old Corellian, and Basic Corellian. I can fluently read Old Alderaanian and understand enough to follow along during Alderaanian ceremonies, but I wouldn’t dare to speak it. I’ve also been studying Naboo since we were assigned as ambassadors, but I wouldn’t say I’m fluent quite yet,” Obi-Wan admitted.

“That’s amazing,” Padmé said frankly. “Can all Jedi do that?”

“For the most part,” Obi-Wan said. “Force-users tend to have better memories and we learn languages easier. We also travel all over the galaxy on a regular basis, and those of us with diplomatic specialties have to be good at learning new languages quickly so that we can communicate with the assigned parties.”

“I didn’t know that Jedi had specialties either,” Padmé said. “What does it mean to have a diplomatic specialty?”

“Jedi perform a wide range of missions, but it’s always best to send someone who’s suited for a mission to accomplish it. We tend to specialize in different areas depending on our own talents and proclivities. My Master and I both specialize in high-stakes negotiations, with a secondary specialty in investigation. Since high-stakes negotiations and investigations have the greatest tendency to go wrong, we’re also combat specialists, though that isn’t a specialty, per se. That allows us to be sent on protection missions as well, much like the one we’re currently on for the Queen, though it was originally a diplomatic mission,” Obi-Wan explained.

“How do you know what your specialty is?” Padmé asked.

“We try different things out during our Padawan years,” Obi-Wan said. “Masters and Padawans don’t always have the same specialty. It works out well when they do, of course, but when they don’t a Master will alternate between taking their Padawan on missions for the Padawan’s specialty and their own, or send the Padawan on missions with another Master who shares their specialty. However, during a Padawan’s early years a Master and Padawan always have a variety of missions so that the Padawan’s specialty can be determined. Sometimes Padawans know from the start, but they have to be examined in different environments anyway to make sure.”

“Did you always know that your specialty was negotiations?”

Obi-Wan nodded.

“Almost from the beginning. My first official mission was partially negotiation, partially investigation. I hadn’t quite been a Padawan for a year during my first high-stakes negotiation: the meeting on Troiken that set off the First Battle of Qotile during the Stark Hyperspace War.”

Padmé gaped.

“But you had to have been a girl at the time!”

“I turned fourteen while we were hiding in Mount Avos during the Fourth and Fifth Battles of Qotile,” Obi-Wan said with a small smile. “I was the youngest person there, though only by a month. One of my crèchemates was there as well.”

“I’m fourteen now,” Padmé admitted. “We all are, except Eirtaé, who’s thirteen, and Saché and Yané, who stayed behind since they’re only twelve. Fé stayed behind too, but that was because she hadn’t been at the palace the day the Federation invaded. I hope she’s alright.”

Obi-Wan reached out to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“The Federation won’t dare to outright harm the people of Naboo. They can’t do that without leverage – not without the Queen. She’ll need your support in the coming days. You may be young, and some people may look down on you for that, but that doesn’t mean you’re not just as capable as the so-called ‘adults.’ I’ve noticed that the older people get – especially politicians – the more concerned they seem to be with pontificating instead of what really matters.”

Padmé was quiet for a long minute.

“Thank you, Obi-Wan,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome, Padmé,” Obi-Wan replied gently.

Padmé finished cleaning up the astromech droid.

“All done, I think,” she told it. “What do you think, Artoo?”

The droid whistled at her.

“He says you did an excellent job, and thank you for your help,” Obi-Wan translated.

“Thank you for yours,” Padmé said firmly. “You saved all of our lives.”

Obi-Wan hadn’t known that a droid could look bashful before then.

“Will the Queen require your assistance?” Obi-Wan asked the handmaiden. “I’m certain her attire, while lovely, cannot be comfortable for resting.”

Padmé shook her head.

“She has Rabé with her. She might change when she wakes up, and that might need more than one person, but that outfit is one of the easiest to take on and off, so she’ll probably stick with it or something like it while we’re aboard ship. We made sure that the ship was ready for all of us to travel in case we needed to leave.”

“Would you happen to have a spare set of clothes and a hairbrush – or comb – that I could borrow? I’m afraid my travel kit was destroyed when the Trade Federation blew up our cruiser. I’ve been through a swamp and gone swimming through Naboo’s lake system since then, and I’m sure I smell terrible, so I’d like to shower and send my clothing through the laundry,” Obi-Wan asked with an embarrassed smile.

“Of course!” Padmé said, standing up. “Come with me. I’ll take you to the handmaidens’ room. We have bunks set up in the antechamber to the Queen’s room.”

Padmé led her across the main hold and through the forward hold to the entrance to the Queen’s chambers, which required a passcode at the door that the handmaiden entered quickly. The door opened to reveal a small room filled with four plush bunks, two on each side of the walkway that led to the Queen’s chamber. Padmé immediately went to the set of drawers between the port-side bunks.

“One or two of us always stay in the room with the Queen, in case she needs something during the night. Her bed easily sleeps three, so all of us can easily travel with her with the way her chamber and this antechamber were arranged. It actually feels pretty empty without the others here,” Padmé admitted as she pulled out a large stack of clothes from the middle drawer, then a large bag from the top. “These are Fé’s – she’s about your size, and she won’t mind if you’re borrowing them. You can use them as long as you’d like; I’m sure it’s not pleasant wearing the same clothes for days on end without washing them, especially after they’ve been through a swamp. Her brush and her toiletries are in the bag; if she minds about those, I’ll just buy her new ones.”

Padmé handed her the clothes and bag, then glanced towards the Queen’s chamber.

“Let me see if the Queen is awake,” she said. “If she is, you can use our bathroom instead of the one all the men our using. You’ll be able to take a longer shower that way, and I’m sure ours is nicer anyhow.”

Before Obi-Wan could say anything, the handmaiden had moved over to the door, entered yet another passcode, and stepped inside. She was certainly a small force of nature when she wanted to be.

Padmé poked her head back out a moment later.

“The Queen’s just reading and trying to relax,” she said. “Come on back.”

Obi-Wan entered the Queen’s chambers to find the monarch and the third handmaiden – Rabé, Padmé had said – each holding datapads as they sat in chairs on the far side of the room.

“The refresher’s over here,” Padmé said, pointing out an unobtrusive door. “The Queen’s wardrobe is the door next to it. If you drop the clothes you’re wearing back outside the door, I’ll go put them in the laundry while you’re in the shower.”

Obi-Wan smiled at her.

“Thank you, Padmé. You’re too kind.”

“It is the least we could do, after you rescued us from the Trade Federation,” the Queen spoke up. “Providing access to a refresher is nothing.”

“Still, I thank you, Your Highness,” Obi-Wan said. She bowed to the Queen, who nodded her head in reply and gestured for her to go to the ‘fresher.

“There’s a nightgown in that stack of clothes somewhere, if you’d like to go to sleep once you’re done,” Padmé said helpfully. “You can have one of the spare handmaiden bunks. I’m sure it would be more comfortable than sleeping in the crew bunks with all the men.”

“It would not be the first time,” Obi-Wan said wryly, “but I will gladly accept your offer if Her Highness is in agreement.”

“As I said, it is the least we can do for your aid to us,” the Queen said. “Besides, Padmé is correct. It will be more comfortable for you to sleep with my handmaidens than among the crew.”

Obi-Wan bowed again, before turning and entering the refresher. As she stripped, she reached out mentally towards Qui-Gon.

Master, most of the parts that need to be checked can’t be until we exist hyperspace. Since they may be in a delicate condition, it is too dangerous for us to leave hyperspace now to check them, as that could potentially strand us within easy reach of the Federation, she told him.

Her Master was quick to reply.

That is unfortunate. I have good news at least; the Royal Household was aware that they may need to leave, so the ship is fully stocked with enough supplies to last six months. We will only need to acquire fuel and parts for the ship on Tatooine.

Obi-Wan separated her belt and boots, as well as the array of items she kept inside her tunics and cloak pockets, from the pile of tunics, tabards, trousers, and cloak. She slid the door open a crack and dropped the latter pile outside before sliding it shut again.

The Handmaiden Padmé offered me usage of the Queen’s ‘fresher and one of the spare handmaiden bunks, so I will be spending my time up here instead of with you and the crew, she told her Master. She quickly deposited the items from her pockets – including a waterproof datapad and her aquabreather – into one boot while shoving her belt and lightsaber into the other. I am about to shower. I suggest you do the same. I’m certain we smell like swamp.

She could sense her Master’s amusement as she began the arduous process of unpinning her intricately-braided updo. He wasn’t quite as particular as she was about hygiene.

It wouldn’t be the first time, he said with a mental laugh. Have your shower, dear one. Then get some rest. You need it.

Yes, Master, Obi-Wan replied before closing the connection. She pulled the last of the pins from her hair and began unplaiting the braids. It took a long few minutes, but she was eventually able to stand with her loose hair falling past her knees.

She didn’t take an overly long time in the shower proper, though she did briefly make use of the water supplies to tend to her hair. She didn’t trust that there wasn’t any swamp muck stuck in it. Most of her time in the ‘fresher was spent using a towel to sop up the water from her hair so that it was merely damp as opposed to dripping.

Obi-Wan stepped out of the fresher in the provided white nightgown, towel in hand.

“Where would you like me to put the towel?”

The Queen and all three handmaidens turned to look at her. Someone – Obi-Wan wasn’t sure who, exclaimed, “Your hair is so pretty!”

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure how, but she ended up sitting on the Queen’s massive bed with the three handmaidens cooing over her hair as they brushed it out. The Queen herself had left the room for the ‘fresher.

Obi-Wan closed her eyes and allowed herself to sink into meditation. The feel of someone else brushing her hair was soothing – it was something that she and her crèchemates with longer hair had done for each other as children. Even then, hers had been the longest due to her native culture.

A question from one of handmaidens jarred her from it a few minutes later.

“Your hair is beautiful, but isn’t it hard being a Jedi with such long hair? It seems like it would get in the way when you’re fighting.”

Their voices were similar enough that Obi-Wan couldn’t tell which one of them it was since they were all sitting behind her.

“I normally keep it pinned up all the time when I’m on assignment,” she said. “I started figuring out what would work to keep it up and out of the way without causing too much neck pain when I was still an Initiate. Most female Jedi with hair do keep theirs relatively short, but my native culture requires hair be kept long except under specific circumstances.”

“What circumstances?” the same handmaiden? – Obi-Wan wasn’t sure; their voices were all very similar – asked.

“You don’t have to tell us,” another handmaiden said hurriedly. Obi-Wan was relatively sure that was Padmé.

“I don’t mind,” Obi-Wan said. “My people are the Stewjoni, an extremely reclusive human subspecies. We are known for our unique hair color, as well as our beauty. We also have a few other things that distinguish us from baseline humans and make us, to many, the ideal pleasure slaves. My people eventually developed an extremely powerful planetary defense system in order to protect themselves from enslavement. We were vicious isolationists for several centuries, until the advent of planetary deflector shields. In the modern day, the planet is protected by a planetary deflector shield only penetrable through a small shield gate. All trade is accomplished through orbital space stations. We are still isolationists, though we did elect to join the Republic around the time of my birth. It was during the negotiations that my mother, who had been one of the few Stewjoni to leave Stewjon and was one of those pushing for Stewjon to accept Republic membership, brought me to the Jedi Order.”

“What does that have to do with long hair?” the first handmaiden asked.

“My apologies, I got a bit sidetracked,” Obi-Wan said before continuing her story. “It became a custom, when we were still often enslaved, that a Stewjoni should cut his or her hair upon enslavement, and keep it no longer than shoulder-length as long as they are enslaved. We were often forced to cut it as slaves, as our hair grows twice as fast as baseline humans. It is still the custom that our hair is only cut – more than a general trim anyway – if we are enslaved. Once we are free again, we are allowed to grow our hair once more.”

“Have you ever had to cut your hair?” Padmé asked before immediately backtracking. “I’m sorry. That was rude.”

Obi-Wan waved the apology away.

“I don’t mind answering. I’ve cut my hair twice. The first time was on Bandomeer, where I’d been captured, enslaved, and sent to work in the mines in order to get me out of the way, since I kept investigating suspicious activity in the area. I ended up cutting my hair as short as I could get it; I was still very young and could pass as male as long as my hair was cut. My enslavers hadn’t realized that I was Stewjoni and therefore valuable, so I didn’t want to make it easy for them, nor did I want to make myself a bigger target than I already was,” Obi-Wan explained.

“Why were you a target?” Padmé asked.

“I was young and pretty,” Obi-Wan said with a small shrug. “Neither of those features were often seen on slaves in the mines. The second time I cut my hair, I only cut it to my shoulders because I didn’t have the opportunity to cut it until after we had escaped.”

“Are all Jedi’s lives that exciting, if you’ve already been enslaved twice and you’re only a student?” one of the other handmaidens asked.

Obi-Wan smiled.

“Not quite. As I said, my Master and I specialize in high-stakes diplomacy and investigations. Our mission have a larger chance of going wrong than most. And my Master and I tend to be unluckier than most about our missions turning interesting. I’m told that there’s a curse upon our line; all of us our doomed to have interesting missions more often than not. But we’re also very good at surviving them; my grandmaster is seventy years old and still going on active, interesting missions.”

“What does ‘grandmaster’ mean? Is that a different title from Jedi Master?” Padmé asked.

“There are two versions,” Obi-Wan admitted. “Grand Master – two words – is a title given to the greatest and wisest of the Jedi Masters. It used to be bestowed on multiple people at the same time, if they’d earned it, but it’s been traditional to only bestow it on one person at a time since the Ruusan Reformation. The current Grand Master is Master Yoda. He’s held the title for centuries. The other version – grandmaster, one word – is the Jedi equivalent of grandparent. Qui-Gon Jinn is my master, but his master was Yan Dooku, so Master Dooku is my grandmaster.”

“So Jedi have their own little families,” Padmé said with a small smile. “Does that mean you have brothers and sisters too?”

“We do,” Obi-Wan smiled. “We have our brother and sister Padawans – the other Padawans that our Masters trained – and then we also have our crèchemates, who we grew up with. There’s usually at least a ten-year age gap between Padawan-siblings, so we have a different kind of relationship with them than we do our crèche siblings.”

“Do you have any Padawan-siblings?” the original handmaiden asked eagerly.

“I have one,” Obi-Wan said. “Feemor. He’s quite a bit older than me; he was Knighted before I was born. He’s a Jedi Master now, and recently took his third Padawan. Do any of you have siblings?”

“I have a sister and two brothers,” the first handmaiden said. “My sister is younger, but my brothers are older.”

“Rabé, you’re twins, I don’t think that really counts as her being younger,” the other handmaiden – who must be Eirtaé – said.

“I’m still older,” Rabé said mulishly.

“I have an older sister, Sola,” Padmé said, blocking the impending argument. “She was supposed to get married last month, but they decided to postpone it until after the blockade is over. I hope they’re alright,” she said quietly.

“I hope my siblings are alright too,” Eirtaé said. “I’m the oldest of five,” she explained. “My sister Saché was one of the handmaidens who stayed behind, and we have three younger siblings as well.”

“We are doing everything in our power to help them,” Obi-Wan told them, sending a gentle wave of serenity out through the Force in order to prevent the girls from panicking. They were all so very young. “You should all get some rest. You’ll feel better for it. You’re all probably very close to crashing from the adrenaline rush.”

“You’re probably right,” Padmé admitted. “We’ll rest. You should too. You probably didn’t get a chance since the Trade Federation tried to kill you. I think we’re done brushing your hair out.”

“We’ve been done,” Rabé admitted. “It’s just so pretty we kept playing with it.”

“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said. “If you feel the desire to play with it tomorrow, you’re welcome to it so long as we are not otherwise occupied. I always enjoy learning new hairstyles from different cultures.”

She was curled up into the bunk Padmé had pointed out to her only a few minutes later. She reached out mentally again.

Master?

Yes, Padawan mine?

I just wanted to tell you that I was going to sleep now, Obi-Wan told him.

She felt the Force brush against her forehead in the equivalent of a kiss.

Sleep well, dearheart. I will see you on the morrow, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Master! Don’t jinx us!

She fell asleep to the sound of her Master’s mental chuckles.

The next few days were calm – at least for the Jedi. The Naboo were all anxious and trying not to show it, but it was leaking into the Force and giving them headaches anyway. Her Master coped by spending most of his time in meditation. Obi-Wan assigned herself to keep the Queen and handmaidens occupied and not brooding over their situation. She told them stories, got them to talk about themselves, taught them different variations of card games that she’d learned around the galaxy – anything to keep their minds busy. It wasn’t too difficult; she spent half her life in hyperspace traveling from destination to destination, usually with company. She couldn’t meditate all the time, and she’d finished her lessons years ago. She also introduced them to Satine’s favorite holovid show, The Lost Knight, which was an over-dramatized, historically-questionable depiction of the Jedi Knight-turned-Sith Lord-turned-Jedi Knight known as Revan. Obi-Wan had been surprised at her choice – since part of Revan’s fame was leading the Republic military to defeat the Mandalorians – but Satine defended it by saying that it was culturally accurate in depicting the Mandalorians, included some of the True Mandalorians as the Mandalorians, and that the guy playing Revan was hot.

Obi-Wan was pretty sure that the final reason was the majority of it. Bail and Breha had liked it when she’d introduced it to them a few months previously on Alderaan. Possibly for the same reason.

“Can Jedi really do that?” Eirtaé said after they’d completed the seventh episode, which involved ‘Revan’ and ‘Bastila’ performing insane stunts while jumping through the trees of Kashyyyk.

“Sort of? I can jump those distances, but I wouldn’t try doing a triple backflip while doing it. Or doing one of those ridiculous split-jumps. It might look cool, but it’s not practical,” Obi-Wan admitted.

“Can Jedi really read people’s minds?” Padmé then asked. There had been nothing in the show with the characters reading minds – at least not in this episode; she was pretty sure it happened three episodes further on – so Padmé must have been holding onto that question for a while.

“Strong ones can,” Obi-Wan said truthfully. “It’s not polite, and we’re not supposed to. Normally telepathy is only used for communication purposes. Of course, for those of us who are stronger, it’s hard not to sometimes, but that only extends to surface thoughts. It’s illegal to go deeper.”

“Are you good at it?” Padmé asked.

“Relatively,” she replied. “I can speak with my Master so long as we’re in the same system. I can speak with my crèchemates if we’re within a few hundred kilometers, though some of them I can speak to at further distances. Other Jedi, I’d need to be a lot closer, and non-Force-sensitives I’d have to know them well and be nearby. Skin-to-skin contact usually means I get an emotional impression – that’s one of the reasons Jedi bow instead of shaking hands or any of the other physical greetings. They’re fine among friends, but feeling someone’s lust or greed or hatred when you meet them is unpleasant, to say the least. My shields are strong enough that I won’t pick up any specific thoughts unless something’s happened that weakens my shields.”

“What weakens shields?” the Queen asked.

“Injuries. Extreme emotions. Mental shock. One of my crèchemates died shortly before we came to Coruscant, and that rattled my shields terribly,” Obi-Wan explained.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the Queen said, her expression turning horrified. The handmaidens were in a similar state. “What was her name?”

“Darsha Assant,” Obi-Wan said with a sad smile. “She was a year older than me. The Council sent me to find her after she and her Master went missing. There was an explosion. In the end, all I found were the remains of her lightsaber.”

“And they sent you out on a mission again right afterwards?” Padmé asked, outraged.

“It was a long flight,” Obi-Wan said. “I’ve had plenty of time to meditate on Darsha’s death. She is one with the Force now.”

Darsha wasn’t the first of her crèchemates to be lost – that was Bruck Chun, who had died in the Room of a Thousand Fountains while dueling with her. She wouldn’t take back her actions, not when he’d been in the process of attempting to kill Bant, and had helped Xanatos do so much damage to the Temple, but she still regretted that he had died instead of surrendering. Theen Fida had been the second to die. He’d been Master Tsui Choi’s Padawan, and had died in the Yinchorri Uprising a year before. They’d lost Theen, and two of her other crèchemates, Garen and K’Kruhk, had lost their Masters. It had been a grim journey back to Coruscant, with their entire group of Padawans crowding into one room in an attempt to lessen the pain they were all feeling.

“Why don’t we watch the next episode?” she asked, trying to lighten the mood again. The handmaidens – and Queen – looked hesitant, but they did so anyway.

In retrospect, after as much time as they’d spent together, she was disappointed in herself that it took her four out of the five days it took to travel from Naboo to Tatooine to figure out that the person running around in the Queen’s regalia wasn’t actually the Queen.

She waited until they’d finished the nineteenth episode of The Lost Knight to comment.

“So,” she said casually. “Which one of you is actually the Queen? My guess is Padmé, but I could be wrong.”

She was not in the least bit surprised that the Rabé and Eirtaé’s hands moved to where their hidden blasters were.

Padmé simply sighed.

“How did you figure it out?”

“Most people wouldn’t notice,” Obi-Wan told them. “But I am a Jedi, and I was raised to notice the smallest details. All of you have extremely similar bone structures. Eirtaé is the only one of you who is not brown-haired and brown-eyed, and that can easily be covered up with headdresses and colored contacts. Considering Naboo’s naming customs, it’s nearly impossible for all of you to have names ending in the same accented letter, so it is most likely that you changed them to reflect the Queen’s name and make yourselves more easily interchangeable if the need arose. It’s easier to make someone think that you were simply speaking to another handmaiden instead of the Queen if the names are similar enough.”

“How did you know I’m the Queen?” Padmé asked.

“The others defer to you,” Obi-Wan said. “When we were meeting to discuss ‘the Queen’s’ security arrangement, you stood where she could easily see you, and her eyes would flicker to you when my Master and Captain Panaka started arguing. They were too busy with each other to notice, but I wasn’t. You also tend to take the lead during free time, and the handmaiden in the Queen’s attire always gets a small smile when she orders you to do something.”

“My name is Sabé,” said handmaiden offered.

“It’s her revenge for having to wear the regalia,” Padmé said with a dramatic sigh, though there was a smile on her face.

“Well, know that I know your name, it’s a pleasure to meet your properly, Sabé,” Obi-Wan said, bowing her head to the handmaiden in the Queen’s attire.

“The pleasure is mine, Obi-Wan,” the handmaiden replied. Her voice was higher when she wasn’t speaking as Queen Amidala.

“Am I correct that you all changed your names?” Obi-Wan asked curiously.

“My birth name is Padmé Naberrie,” Padmé said. “I chose Amidala for my regnal name when I ran for Princess of Theed.”

“You’re right that we changed our names to sound more like Padmé,” Sabé said. “Except we legally changed our first names as well. It was to bring us closer together. I was born Tsabin Mantisa.”

“Rhabin Mantisa,” Rabé offered. “We’re twins.”

“Erita Senuri,” Eirtaé said. “We were going to go with Eritaé, until Yané pointed out that saying it quickly just sounded like ‘Eirtaé’.”

“Well, fair’s fair – my birth name would have been Bena Lars, but my mother’s culture is homogenetic, so I was named in the customs of her people instead of being given my father’s name. I’ve only ever used it as an alias though,” Obi-Wan offered.

“You don’t look like a ‘Bena’,” Rabé said dubiously.

“I’ve heard that before,” Obi-Wan said, amused. “Which is why Satine, the only one of my friends who’s had to use the name for an extended period of time, calls me Ben.”

All of the handmaidens stared at her.

“I can see it,” Sabé finally said. “Can we watch the next episode now? I want to see if Revan will take of his shirt again.”

“Fine with me,” Padmé said before ordering the holovid to play.

Chapter Text

They left hyperspace in the Tatoo system the next day.

“That’s it,” Captain Olié said. “Tatooine.”

“There’s a settlement,” Obi-Wan reported as she looked through the scan data. And I’m relatively sure that Quin and Aayla are there, she added so that only her Master could hear.

“Land near the outskirts,” her Master instructed. “We don’t want to attract attention.”

I’m going to take Jar Jar and the droid with me into the town, he told her. Stay here and protect the Queen. Contact Vos. If you must leave to meet him, do not do so until after whatever damning messages the Trade Federation has sent to the Queen arrive.

As soon as they landed, Obi-Wan hurried to help Sen Tarsen examine the hyperdrive to see which parts they truly needed and what they could make do without replacing until they reached Coruscant.

“The hyperdrive generator’s gone, Master,” Obi-Wan reported as soon as Qui-Gon stepped into the main hold, dressed in a simple shirt and poncho over his trousers and boots. “We’ll need a new one.”

“That’ll complicate things,” he said grimly. “Be wary. I sense a disturbance in the Force.”

“I feel it also, Master,” Obi-Wan replied.

“Don’t let them send any transmissions,” Qui-Gon added before heading for the lower deck and the entrance to the ship.

A few minutes later, Padmé walked into the room, dressed in nearly similar attire to what she’d given Obi-Wan to wear.

“I’m going too,” she said firmly. There was a mischievous smile on her face. “The Queen had ordered me to be her eyes and ears.”

“You’re always her eyes and ears, all of you,” Obi-Wan said drily as she wedged the spanner deeper in to the hyperdrive, trying to remove the bad motivator without destroying the rest of the engine.

“But none of us have ever been to Tatooine before,” Padmé said innocently. “Her Highness wishes to know more about the planet.”

“Well, I hope that you can convince my Master of that,” Obi-Wan replied. “You’d best hurry. He and Jar Jar already left.”

Padmé never came back, but Captain Panaka did, so she assumed the disguised Queen got her way. As soon as they were away, but before she felt them reach the settlement, she reached out and knocked lightly on Quinlan’s shields.

You busy? she asked.

Not at the moment, he replied, sounding amused. What are you doing out here? Is your Master here too?

He is, Obi-Wan replied. He’s headed into the city now. We were sent to Naboo to negotiate with the Trade Federation about their blockade. The Trade Federation panicked, tried to kill us, and then invaded Naboo. We rescued the Queen and are in the process of taking her to Coruscant, but our hyperdrive was damaged in the escape. We stopped here for repairs.

She felt Quin’s grimace as she pulled out another piece of the broken motivator.

You’re probably going to have trouble with that. Most places around here don’t accept dataries. However, as I am currently undercover as a very rich Outer Rim merchant, I can provide you with the funds you need in Huttese currency – courtesy of the Jedi Council – if you can help me in return.

She sighed aloud, though not loud enough that anyone noticed.

What do you need, Quin?

Three things: one, we do this subtly enough that no one realizes it was me who gave you the funds. Two, which might be a solution to one, you take Aayla with you when you leave. I’m getting ready to get closer to the Hutts, and I don’t want my thirteen-year-old, Twi’lek Padawan anywhere near those sleemos, especially since they have a habit of forcibly acquiring anyone they like as a slave, he said.

I don’t see a problem with either of those, Obi-Wan replied. What’s the third?

That’s the tough one. There’s a boy – Force-sensitive, ridiculously so. I doubt that the Temple would take him for training, because he’s already nine, but he’s a slave, and you know what happens to Force-sensitive slaves if someone figures it out.

Obi-Wan grimaced. That had been part of their Things-You-Need-To-Know-About-But-Don’t-Want-To-Find-Out-About-Firsthand class as senior Initiates.

So you want us to figure out a way to free him?

I think I already did, Quinlan admitted. And not just him, his mother too. I figured you know a couple planetary rulers well enough that you’d have no problem getting them settled some place.

So what’s the plan? Obi-Wan asked.

There’s a big pod race in two days. The Boonta Eve Classic. It’s the biggest race of the season here on Tatooine. His owner’s a gambler, and he’ll gamble on it. Everyone around here gambles on it, Quin explained.

You want to fix it? Obi-Wan asked incredulously.

Maybe. I don’t know. I just know that the podrace is somehow involved. And you need to get those two free. I don’t know why, but I know they need to be free. Oh look, there’s your Master. Aaand it looks like he’s already figured out the no-credits thing. And he’s already met Anakin. I guess he can sense it too.

Anakin? Obi-Wan asked. She felt…something as she heard the name. The Force was poking her, whispering that this was important, that Anakin was important…whatever ‘Anakin’ was.

The boy. Anakin Skywalker.

Anakin Skywalker. Why did that feel so important? She’d never met him before. As far as she was aware, she had never met any sort of Anakin or Skywalker before.

Obi-Wan felt Quin pause.

There’s a sandstorm coming in. Judging from how far away you feel, your Master and his companions won’t make it back before it hits. I’d warn them.

I will, Obi-Wan replied. Thanks, Quin.

What are friends for? I’ll probably send Aayla out to you tomorrow. She’s hating her job at the moment anyway, since she’s undercover as my slave.

Obi-Wan grimaced.

I’m sorry for both of you.

Yeah, me too. Talk to you later, Obi.

Bye, Quin.

As soon as she withdrew from the conversation, she immediately reached out for her Master.

The junk dealer has the part we need, but is unwilling to accept dataries, her Master said irritably. And based on the stores I saw on board the ship, the only potential tradeable good we had was the Queen’s wardrobe, and I doubt that will be enough for the prices he’s asking.

Then it’s a good thing I have a handle on that, she replied amusedly. In the meantime, there’s a sandstorm coming in. You need to find shelter.

We’ve met a boy who has offered us such until the storm is over, her Master replied. I presume Knight Vos will be assisting us?

Yes, Master. He’s also foisting his Padawan off on us, as he doesn’t want to take a young Twi’lek girl to a Hutt’s palace, Padawan or not, Obi-Wan replied.

Good, good, her Master said absently. But I need to do something about this boy before we leave. He may be a slave, but he is strong in the Force. I want to take him to the Temple to be trained.

Master, he’s too old, Obi-Wan objected.

How do you know that? Qui-Gon grumbled.

Quin already told me about him. Anakin Skywalker, I presume?

Yes. He’s taking us to his house. The storm’s already picking up. Go check on the guards outside, then seal the ship.

Yes, Master.

She put the last piece of the hyperdrive down on the floor and headed outside. As her Master had said, the storm was already picking up. Captain Panaka was already out there.

“This storm will slow them down,” she told him.

“Looks pretty bad,” he agreed. “I’m going to bring everyone inside.”

“Good plan,” Obi-Wan said.

The captain’s commlink went off.

“Panaka,” he said.

“We’re receiving a message from home,” the guard reported.

“We’re on our way,” Panaka said immediately, turning and striding back toward the ship.

Obi-Wan followed him. It was time to see what the Trade Federation was up to.

They watched the transmission in the throne room. It was just Sabé, Rabé, Eirtaé, and Captain Panaka. Sabé was again dressed in the elaborate outfit that the ‘Queen’ had fled Naboo in, and Rabé and Eirtaé were in their brilliant orange robes. Sabé had revealed that it was so that Padmé would have the best chance to flee if they were caught on Tatooine.

The message was from Governor Sio Bibble. It was filled with grim news of starving children and a desperate people.

“The death toll is catastrophic,” he finished. “We must bow to their wishes. You must contact me.”

“It’s a trick,” Obi-Wan told them, rising from her seat as soon as the transmission was complete. “Send no reply. Send no transmissions of any kind. They will use this to attempt to backtrace our signal and find us.”

“How can you be so sure?” Panaka challenged.

The man didn’t seem to like her. She wasn’t sure if it was her age or her gender, though since he served a teenaged queen, she didn’t know why he was throwing stones.

“I’ve seen it before,” Obi-Wan said bluntly. “They will use the transmission to establish a connection trace in order to find the Queen. It will be fastest – for them – if a reply is sent. If no reply is sent, they will be able to establish the trace anyway, but it will take longer to do so. We must simply hope that we have left the planet by then.”

“You are certain that it is a trick?” ‘Queen Amidala’ asked. “That are people are not suffering?”

“Your Highness, I can tell you for certain that it is a trick,” Obi-Wan replied gravely. “I cannot tell you that your people are not suffering. The Trade Federation is not kind to those under its rule, and the entirety of the current leadership is Neimoidian. For the most part, Neimoidians are greedy, cruel, and ruthless. I can assure you that Nute Gunray fits the stereotype. They will enslave your people, though perhaps not in name to avoid reprisals. Food stores were already limited on Naboo due to the blockade, and I doubt the Federation is doing much to aid them. Yes, your people may be starving, but there is nothing that you can do to help them by contacting them. You must continue onward to Coruscant, in order to directly address the Senate. So long as you remain free, your people still have hope. For a populace that has been taken prisoner, that is the most important thing.”

“Hope won’t fill the bellies of starving children,” Captain Panaka said.

“No, but it will remind them that there will be food again,” Obi-Wan replied. “If you will excuse me, Your Highness?”

Sabé nodded and waved her away.

Obi-Wan didn’t go back to her bunk, or even to the main hold. Instead, she went down to the droid bay. With most of its occupants dead and the last off with Qui-Gon in the settlement – Mos Espa, she reminded herself – it was quiet and most would not think to look for her here. Granted, it wasn’t an enormous ship, so it wouldn’t take too long for anyone to find her, but it was still private enough for her purposes.

It didn’t take long to call her Master and reveal the entirety of the message to him. She didn’t quite quote it word-for-word, but she knew she was close.

“It sounds like bait to establish a connection trace,” Qui-Gon said.

“I thought so too,” Obi-Wan told him. “I told them as much. What if it’s true? What if the people are dying?”

Her Master was quiet for a moment.

“Either way, we’re running out of time,” he said. “How is the storm looking over there?”

“Still rolling. According to the local forecasts, it will last well into the night, possibly until after dawn tomorrow,” Obi-Wan replied.

Qui-Gon hummed in reply.

“Have you contact our other friend again, yet?”

“Not yet, Master. I was planning to do so after I contacted you again.”

“Very well. I am off to assist our host with dinner. Let me know if anything else happens, but I trust your judgment, Padawan.”

“Thank you, Master,” Obi-Wan replied before ending the comm call.

She sunk to her knees and allowed herself to sink into a meditative trance, to easier reach for the person she wanted to speak to. While it would be almost as simple as thinking to speak with Quin, he was more likely to be busy during the sandstorm, if he was anyplace with other people. Knowing him, he would be taking advantage of his enforced time indoors. His Padawan, on the other hand, was supposed to be playing a slave girl, which meant she was seen and not heard. Aayla was self-possessed enough to carry on a mental conversation while performing whatever duties she was currently assigned.

In order to find Aayla’s mind when she didn’t know exactly where she was, the easiest thing to do was to follow her connection to Quin, and then follow his to Aayla. The girl would recognize her mental signature; she’d been introduced to their entire clan when Quin had found her on Ryloth as a two-year-old. Even Bruck had met her and held her. Obi-Wan had still been an Initiate then, pleased that little Aayla already knew who her Master would be, and determined that she wouldn’t let Quin put off Choosing his Force-blessed apprentice like her own Master was.

It had taken almost four more years for Qui-Gon Jinn to recognize the Force-blessed partnership that she’d known about since before she came to the Order. She’d had other Masters offer for her, but both she and Master Yoda were determined that Qui-Gon Jinn was her Master. It was Qui-Gon who hadn’t quite agreed, but she’d worn him down eventually.

Her Finder hadn’t been around for that debacle; he’d spent five years on various Outer Rim diplomatic missions and had missed the years of Qui-Gon putting off Choosing her as well as the tumultuous first year of her apprenticeship. He’d assured her later that he never would have let Qui-Gon get away with such behavior. She wasn’t quite sure if he would have been able to manage it. Their line was known for stubbornness, and out-stubborning your Master was apparently a tradition (at least according to Master Yoda). As an Initiate, she was part of the Dragon Clan, all selected for their tenacity. Master Koya, their astronavigation instructor, had said they were all the most hardheaded younglings he’d ever met, and he’d known three previous incarnations of the Dragon Clan.

Her Clan had been very proud of themselves for that accolade.

Obi-Wan knocked on the Twi’lek’s mental doors.

Aayla? she put out. It’s Obi-Wan.

The Padawan’s outer shields lowered.

Hello, Obi-Wan, she greeted. Unlike most Padawans when introduced to their Master’s friends, Aayla had never had any trouble calling them by their first names. Probably because she’d known them since they were themselves prepubescent.

Are you here to keep me from dying of boredom while my Master drinks with the locals? Aayla continued.

I can certainly assist a bit, Obi-Wan replied. What can you tell me about your current assignment?

We’ve been undercover for three weeks now. We actually started out on Nar Shaddaa, and we got to Tatooine last week. We’re tracking a slaving ring that’s been giving Judicial trouble for a few years now. We’re searching for where they take the slaves between capture and auction. We know they go somewhere, we’re just not sure where, Aayla informed her. Master is undercover as a ‘merchant’ looking to expand his business and invest in others. I’m his Twi’lek slave girl. But we need to go to Jabba’s palace to search for clues next, and Jabba has a habit of ‘acquiring’ slaves girls he likes. Master’s being overprotective and doesn’t want me to go with him.

Obi-Wan could hear the whine in the younger Padawan’s voice.

It’s a Master’s prerogative to protect their Padawan, Obi-Wan reminded gently. And while I don’t doubt that you are capable and would survive any challenges you might face, your Master doesn’t want you to have to face certain challenges until you are older.

You mean he doesn’t want me to be raped, Aayla said. I could handle it!

You could, but you shouldn’t have to, Aayla, Obi-Wan told her. It’s not pleasant.

The Twi’lek girl was silent for a moment.

Fine, she grumbled. Master said that he’ll send me with the money in the morning, unless you think it would be better for us to buy the parts ourselves.

Definitely not, Obi-Wan said firmly. That could blow our cover. However, we do need to come up with a way to explain your disappearance. What kind of gambling would your Master prefer to lose?

Well, he already wants you or your Master to gamble on the podrace to save Anakin and his mother, so I guess he can lose me in that as well. He probably shouldn’t lose to whichever of you acquires Anakin and your mother though, Aayla pointed out.

Obi-Wan grimaced internally.

I’ll see if I can convince one of the guardsmen from our crew to do it. I’m just as much slaver-bait as you are in the right circles, and I don’t doubt that some of those circles run on Tatooine.

She could sense Aayla’s confusion, but the younger Padawan didn’t ask.

I’ll see you soon, then, the Padawan said. Do you want me to figure out a way to give the money to Master Qui-Gon tomorrow? I’m a slave; no one will notice if I deliver it.

That sounds like a good plan, Obi-Wan replied. He’s weathering out the sandstorm with Anakin and his family. Do you know where they live?

Obi-Wan, Anakin’s impossible to miss, Aayla said bluntly. He’s like a tiny star. It’s warm and bright…and also really overwhelming if your shields aren’t up to snuff. He’ll have to stay away from the crèche if he goes to the Temple…either that or the younglings will come find him because he’s so shiny.

Obi-Wan let out a laugh that echoed through the empty droid bay.

I can’t wait to see it. Call me if you need anything. Or if you need to talk to my Master. Or have your Master do it. He could do with some mental stretching as well.

She felt Aayla’s giggle, and hoped the girl had managed to keep it internal. The slave masters around her wouldn’t take kindly to a slave laughing at them.

Of course, Obi-Wan. See you soon.

See you soon, Obi-Wan echoed in reply. The connection blocked itself off as Aayla’s mental walls came back into place.

Obi-Wan let her mind retreat back to herself, and then shifted her meditation into a full meditative trance instead, something she hadn’t indulged in since they’d left the Radiant VII. She tended to float when she went into full trances, and there hadn’t been space to do so in her bunk with the handmaidens…nor did she want to scare them. Satine had let out a scream the first time she had seen her in floating meditation, which had then startled her out of floating meditation and caused her to crash to the floor of Aran’yaim…along with everything that had started floating with her. The resulting noise had caused no fewer than a dozen fully armed-and-armored Mandalorians to burst into her bedroom to see what was wrong.

She had taken great care not to go into full meditation when not alone or in the Temple since then.

Meditating was…it wasn’t something she could easily describe. It was immersing herself in the Force, it was overwhelming sensation and it was detachment so that she could see. It was the past, present, and future, all in a single moment. There was no time, no now, no barrier between her consciousness and the life that suffused the entirety of the galaxy. Except…

Something was wrong. There was something dark…coming towards her? To Tatooine? She wasn’t sure. She pulled back slightly, trying to judge time in a place where there was no time. It was imminent, but not looming over her yet. Soon, but not too soon. Not today, and not the next day. She couldn’t get a better grasp of the timeline within this place without time, only a warning of soon.

She watched the dark, and slowly crept closer with her senses, examining it from all angles. She tried to go closer, pushing at it – only to find herself pushed back, and not simply within the Force. The push was strong enough to throw her out of her meditation and physically throw her into the wall before gravity tried to pull her to the floor. She called on the Force in a split-second and stopped her falling body a hair’s-breadth from the ground.

Padawan? her Master’s mind-voice demanded, sounding almost frantic. What happened? Are you alright?

Shaken, but fine. Actually, I think I have bruises; I hit the wall pretty hard.

Why did you hit a wall? Qui-Gon demanded, not sounding appeased in the slightest.

I was meditating. I poked something. It pushed back, which apparently translated into a physical push. And since I tend to float when I’m in deep meditation…

Her Master was quiet for a moment.

Ah, he said. Did you manage to avoid hitting the ground?

Yes. And I didn’t break anything. But I won’t go into a deep trance again until I have someone to anchor for me. And catch me if I poke something again, she added, sensing her Master’s worry.

Thank you, Padawan.

How’s dinner? she asked, quickly changing the subject.

I supplemented it the best I could. These people aren’t given much. And apparently they are embedded with explosive transmitters in order to prevent their escape from slavery, her Master said, a hint of his anger leaking through the bond.

I wonder if it’s a Tatooine thing or a Hutt thing or just an improvement on slaving devices. I’ll have to do some research once we get back to Coruscant.

Good plan, dearheart. Young Anakin has offered to help us with our monetary predicament by racing in the podrace in two days’ time, her Master explained.

Master, Quin can give us the money we need, Obi-Wan protested. There’s no need to leave everything in the hands of a nine-year-old boy!

The problem is that Watto will not sell Shmi and Anakin. Anakin is too valuable; he’s an expert mechanic and a capable podracer as a child, and Toydarians hold family in high esteem, so he will not sell Shmi without Anakin. However, Shmi has said that Watto always bets heavily on the podraces, especially on the usual winner, Sebulba. If he loses badly in the betting, he will be more willing to sell Shmi and Anakin, Qui-Gon explained.

Obi-Wan sighed.

How exactly are you planning on getting the boy to race? she asked.

He’s built his own podracer that Watto does not know about.   I will claim it is my pod, and offer to sponsor Anakin in the race. In exchange, Watto will receive the prize money and we will receive the parts we need.

Obi-Wan sighed again.

I’ll ask Quin to provide the entrance fee. Aayla will deliver the money to the Skywalker residence in the morning.

Thank you, Padawan.

She waited until morning to contact Quin and Aayla with the change of plans. Aayla seemed to share her exasperation, while Quin was practically giggling about her Master’s latest maverick plan.

“At least we have a backup plan in case yours fails, Master,” Obi-Wan told him over the comm after he had arranged for Anakin to race. “Otherwise we’d be stuck here for a very long time.”

“Well, it’s too dangerous to call for help,” Qui-Gon replied, ignoring that Quinlan was perfectly capable of calling for help, since he wouldn’t be going comms-dark until he ventured into the Hutt palaces. “A ship without a power supply isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

He hung up after that, so Obi-Wan went to check over the hyperdrive once more. Sen Tarsen was already there.

“I’ve got a handle on this,” he said, waving her away. “Her Highness was asking for you.”

Obi-Wan thanked him and continued on towards the throne room, where she found the three handmaidens – one in the Queen’s garb – playing cards on the throne room floor.

“We are so bored,” Rabé confessed. “Padmé said we weren’t allowed to watch anymore of The Lost Knight until she came back. Do you have any ideas? You said you spent a lot of time ship-board.”

“Only about half my life,” Obi-Wan confirmed, sitting down next to them. “I haven’t spent very long at all in-Temple since I finished my schooling. I’m either on ships or on missions most of the time.”

“Can you tell us about one of your adventures?” Eirtaé asked. “I’m sure you have excellent stories!”

Obi-Wan let out a short laugh.

“I have a few, yes. What kind of story would you like to hear?”

“How old were you when you went on your first mission?” Sabé asked.

“I was twelve, nearly thirteen,” Obi-Wan said. “Would you like to hear the story?”

“Yes!” the girls exclaimed.

Obi-Wan decided to skip her unofficial first mission before Qui-Gon had accepted her as his Padawan – that would require too much backstory to explain Xanatos, her Master’s bitterness, and her own stubbornness. Instead, she started with the first mission she had been assigned – when she and her Master traveled from Bandomeer to Gala.

“I had just become my Master’s Padawan. We were assigned to travel from Bandomeer to Gala in order to oversee the planet’s transition from a monarchy to an elected government. However, things went a bit wrong en route. However, on the way there, we were highjacked by the brother of a Phindian we’d met on Bandomeer under the pretext of a fuel leak. Paxxi and Guerra brought us to Phindar because Phindar was ruled by an evil Syndicat that used a cruel technology to wipe the minds of any rebel or enemy they got their hands on…”

The story of the Phindar interruption and the Gala mission lasted most of the rest of the day, before Obi-Wan excused herself to answer her comm when her Master called.

“Obi-Wan?” he said.

“Yes, Master?” she replied, moving to an isolated area.

“I need an analysis of this blood sample I’m sending you,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” Obi-Wan said as she quickly flipped on the necessary equipment and plugged her commlink into it.

“I need a midi-chlorian count,” her Master continued.

Obi-Wan waited as the analysis went through.

“The reading’s off the charts,” she said in surprise. “Over twenty thousand. Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high.”

“No Jedi has,” her Master confirmed.

The average Jedi midi-chlorian count was ten thousand. Master Yoda’s was seventeen thousand, if she remembered correctly. She and her master were both considered outliers, at fourteen and thirteen-point-five thousand respectively.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “You’ll probably be able to watch the race from the local Holonet on the ship tomorrow.”

“I’ll see if we can activate it without potentially broadcasting our location,” Obi-Wan said. “Keep me informed, and I’ll coordinate with the others.”

“Very well. Jinn out.”

It didn’t take too much effort to rewire things the next day so they could get an undetectable Holonet connection that they could watch this podrace on.

“I’ve never heard of podracing before,” Sabé said as they all took their seats in the throne room.

“It’s outlawed on most Republic worlds,” Obi-Wan explained. “I’ve seen it on Malastare, but that’s because it is popular amongst the Dugs. Racers tend to complete multiple laps on pitfall-ridden tracks in pods, which are small ground transports wired to large engines. Minimum speeds tend to be around 700 kilometers per hour. The racers themselves tend to be small, with multiple limbs.”

“That sounds insane,” Rabé said as they watched the racers parade onto the track.

“It’s outlawed for a reason,” Obi-Wan said grimly. “It’s practically blood-sport, considering how dangerous it is. But since it masquerades as a race, it isn’t so universally decried.”

The race was just as violent as she expected, though only a few people died in the multitude of crashes. Anakin Skywalker was the first racer to finish, the first human to ever win a podrace as important as the Boonta Eve Classic.

It only took a few more hours for her Master, Padmé, Jar, and R2-D2 to arrive back at the ship with the parts they needed, all loaded onto eopies.

“Hey-do,” Jar Jar greeted her as she strode past the Gungan, guardsmen, and supplies towards her master, who was still seated on an eopie.

“Well, we have all the essential parts we need,” he said. “I’m going back. I’ve some unfinished business.”

“The boy and his mother?” Obi-Wan asked.

“I bet that the boy would win in order to secure his freedom,” Qui-Gon said. “I plan to offer Watto the additional money for his mother.”

“Let me,” Obi-Wan said immediately. “I suspect he will not be too pleased to see you again, and I need to get Aayla. Lieutenant Tarsen is more than capable of installing the hyperdrive. That way Quinlan can provide us with additional currency as well so we have a sufficient enough bribe for Watto to sell the boy’s mother.”

“Very well. I will show you where the shop is, and then you can go fetch Aayla.”

Obi-Wan nodded, then called to one of the guardsmen to help Lieutenant Tarsen install the hyperdrive before mounting the other eopie.

The closer they got to the city, the better a feel she had for where she could find Quin – and presumably, Aayla. It turned out that they were in a cantina only a few doors down from where Watto’s shop was.

“I’m going to return the eopies, then help Ani sell the pod and let him and his mother know that he is free,” her Master said.

“I’ll meet up with Quin and Aayla, and then try to convince Watto to sell the mother – does she have a name?”

“Shmi,” Qui-Gon said. “Shmi Skywalker.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “I’ll try to convince Watto to sell Shmi Skywalker, then have Aayla take me to her house to pick her up. I’m sure Quin can ‘owe’ me enough money to persuade Watto.”

Her Master nodded at her as she slid off her eopie and headed for the cantina Quin and Aayla were in, before glancing down at her clothes and making a detour. The handmaiden-casual clothes she had borrowed wouldn’t do for the role she would need to play. For what she needed, she’d need the spaceport.

It only took fifteen minutes to acquire clothes suitable for the role she’d play, as well as a bag to stuff her old ones in. She found a deserted alley to change and redo her hair into a spacer-passable updo before heading back to the cantina.

She mentally reached for Quin just before she walked in.

What name are you going by at the moment?

Korto Vos, Quin replied instantly.

Your idea of pseudonyms is terrible, Obi-Wan replied as she stepped into the cantina, the haughtiest look she could muster on her face. She marched straight over to the corner where Quin was sprawled at a table with a trio of other rough-looking fellows, ignoring the looks the cantina’s other customers gave her over her cropped shirt and leather pants. Aayla was standing with a cluster of other slaves to the side.

“Korto Vos!” she barked, causing all four occupants to jump, even though she knew that Quin knew she was there. “You owe me money.”

Quin turned to look at her with an obviously fake smile on his face.

“Keni! Darling, it’s been so long! What are you doing here?”

Obi-Wan smiled with faux sweetness.

“I’m here because you ran off the last time we met. You’re a hard man to track down, Korto. You should have known better than to make me hunt you down. That’ll cost you extra.” She looked at the Aqualish sitting at the chair on the end of the booth, caddy-corner to Quin. “Move,” she ordered, moving her hand to the blaster sitting on her hip.

Her lightsaber was stuffed in her boot, where she could easily call it to her hand but it wouldn’t be easily seen.

The Aqualish immediately got up from the chair and moved to squish into the side of the booth across from Quin.

“I assume you have my money, darling?” she nearly purred. I need enough money to convince Watto to sell Shmi Skywalker, she added mentally. Anakin’s already free.

Quin swallowed nervously, though she could sense his amusement at their little act.

“I have most of it. The rest will have to wait until after I’m done here.”

Obi-Wan scoffed at him. “I think not. If you think I trust you, you’re gravely mistaken.”

Quin smiled winningly.

“Not a pass for little ol’ me? We used to be so close. We had so much fun together, remember?” he asked, lowering his voice suggestively.

“I remember you sleeping with that pair of twins the night before our wedding,” Obi-Wan shot back. She could feel Quin resisting the urge to laugh at the addition to their improvisation. “Me not shooting you back then – or any time since – is the only pass you’ll get.”

She turned her head towards the group of slaves and gave them an obvious once-over.

“The blue tail-head’s yours, right?”

“Uh,” Quinlan said, but one of his companions interrupted.

“She is,” the Whiphid said.

“Thank you, darling,” Obi-Wan said. “Here’s what we’ll do, Korto. You’ll give me the money you have, and you’ll give me your little tailhead there. Then we’ll go out separate ways until the next time you decide you need me.”

“I always need you,” Quin protested.

Obi-Wan stood up and leaned over him.

“Flatterer,” she accused, before leaning in and giving him a filthy kiss, putting on a show for Quin’s companions. Behind her, she could sense Aayla’s embarrassment. No one liked seeing their parental figure making out with someone.

Obi-Wan snatched Quin’s coin purse as she pulled away.

“She chipped or just collared?” she asked, jerking her head towards Aayla.

“Collared,” Quin sighed. He slid a remote out of his sleeve and across the table to her. “She’s all yours. If you breed her, let me know. I might want one.”

“I’ll consider it,” Obi-Wan said over her shoulder as she walked away form the table. Happy hunting, she added mentally. May the Force be with you.

And with you, Quin replied. There’s a thousand peggats in that pouch. It should be plenty, so make it count.

I will.

“Girl, you’ll be coming with me,” she told Aayla, barely sparing the ‘slave’ a glance. She heard Aayla’s soft footsteps following her out of the cantina, and she reached out mentally to the girl.

Sorry about the insults. We’re going to have to stay in character until we make it out of town. We’re headed to Watto’s next to try to buy Shmi.

Don’t worry, Aayla replied wryly. I’ve gotten good at pretending to be a beaten-down slave, for all that Master was able to avoid actually raising a hand to me.

It only took a minute to arrive at Watto’s shop. Obi-Wan swept in liked she owned the place.

“You,” she barked at the Toydarian. “Are you Watto?”

“Who’s asking?” he grumbled back.

“Keni Nawibo,” she replied promptly. “I heard you’re in a bit of trouble after the race this morning. I thought I could help.”

“How?” the Toydarian asked suspiciously.

“I deal in sentient product,” Obi-Wan said bluntly. “Here’s how the deal would work: I walk away with your slaves, you walk away with a nice profit.”

“I only have one slave now,” Watto admitted. “The other was freed in the race.”

“Then I’d say you definitely need the money I can offer you – in peggats, of course,” Obi-Wan stated. “I assume the boy who won the race won his freedom with it? What is your remaining slave?”

“Woman,” Watto grunted. “Boy’s mother.”

“How old?” Obi-Wan questioned.

“Twenty-nine.”

“Well within childbearing age then,” Obi-Wan pretended to muse. “Skills?”

“I’m told she was a former housekeeper. She’s decent at cleaning machines, and she can fix most things, though not as much as the boy could,” Watto explained. “It might be more profitable for me to keep her, all things considered…”

“Selling her gives you an instant profit that you can use to recoup your losses, and means you don’t have to pay for slave quarters until you buy more slaves,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“Hmm,” Watto mused. “You’re right about that. I suppose we just need to settle the price.”

“I’m willing to offer you a hundred-fifty peggats for her,” Obi-Wan said, purposefully low-balling it. A slave Shmi’s age would be worth twice that, considering her technical capabilities.

“Bah!” the Toydarian exclaimed. “You’re robbing me! Five!”

“Three,” Obi-Wan countered.

“Four-fifty!”

“Three-fifty,” Obi-Wan stated calmly.

“Four! Final offer!” the Toydarian warned.

“Deal,” Obi-Wan said calmly. She held out her hand, and the Toydarian slapped it. He flew behind the counter and pulled out a transmitter.

“This is Shmi’s,” he said. “Here’s her code at the top – 5BRM3Q87CT1. She’ll recognize it and know I sent you. I can’t close the shop up yet, since we were closed this morning for the race.”

“Here’s your money,” Obi-Wan said, passing over forty ten-peggat chips.

The Toydarian checked the money over, then handed over the transmitter.  

“Her quarters are A672. I’ll be cancelling my rent of them tomorrow, so make sure you’re gone by then.”

Obi-Wan gave him a look.

“I’ll be gone in an hour. I hate this damn planet. Too much sand and heat for me. I’ve only been here an hour and I’m probably going to need bacta for the sunburn I’ll end up with.”

“Should’ve dressed differently then,” Watto said unsympathetically.

“Well, I couldn’t confront my ex looking anything less than my best,” Obi-Wan said with a smirk. “Pleasure doing business with you, Watto. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.”

“Fair fortune to you,” the shopkeeper replied.

“And to you,” Obi-Wan replied, heading out of the shop. Aayla followed her from where she’d been waiting submissively outside the door.

Obi-Wan waited until they were a decent distance down the road before telling Aayla, I don’t actually know how to get to the slave quarter.

Right at the next intersection, Aayla replied.

With the younger padawan’s help, they made it to Shmi Skywalker’s quarters within ten minutes. Obi-Wan knocked on the door, which was answered a moment later by a woman who must be Shmi. There were tear tracks on her face. Qui-Gon and Anakin must have just dressed.

“Let us in, Lady Skywalker,” Obi-Wan ordered imperiously, holding up Shmi’s transmitter.

The woman gasped, bowed her head, and hurriedly let them in. As soon as the door closed behind them, Obi-Wan dropped her haughty demeanor.

“I’m so sorry for my rudeness,” she told the woman. “Let me introduce myself properly: I am Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, and though you know this young woman as Aly, she is actually Padawan Aayla Secura. While Padawan Secura and her mentor were on an unrelated mission, I believe you became acquainted with my mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn. While Qui-Gon was arranging to free Anakin, I stepped in to handle freeing you.”

She offered the woman the transmitter, and Shmi accepted it with a trembling hand.

“I-I’m free?” she asked uncertainly.

“You are,” Obi-Wan said gently. “Now, Watto has ordered that you be out of here by nightfall, so I can give you a few hundred peggats and you can use it and the money Anakin gave you from the pod to attempt to start a new life, or I can take you with us and set you up in a new life on another world we have connections on.”

“I’d like to come with you,” Shmi said immediately. “At least for now. I…I may want to come back someday, but I want to know that Anakin is settled first. Master Jinn seemed to think that Anakin would be a Jedi, but…”

“But it seems too good to be true,” Obi-Wan said gently. “You can come with us. You’ll stay with us until the Council determines whether or not Anakin will be trained as a Jedi, and we’ll get you settled someplace after that. Do you need some help packing?”

“I don’t have much,” Shmi said, already beginning to rush around the small quarters. “Most of these things I’d like to leave for some of the other slaves, if that would be alright. I don’t think I’d need them offworld. I really just need my clothes, some of the things Anakin has made for me, and Threepio.”

“Threepio?” Aayla asked. “The protocol droid Ani built?”

“He built a protocol droid?” Obi-Wan asked in surprise. “From the ground up?”

“He found the broken-down framework in the junkyard,” Shmi said as she stuffed clothing into a bag, “but he did all the coding and wiring himself.”

“That’s incredible,” Obi-Wan said. “Do you need help carrying him?”

“Please,” Shmi said. “He doesn’t have coverings yet, and he moves rather slowly.”

“I’ll get him,” Aayla volunteered, wandering into a different room to fetch the droid. “Probably look better if it’s me anyway, since Obi-Wan’s still pretending to be a snooty off-world slaver,” she called back.

“It worked,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“You kissed my Master,” Aayla called back, the doubt in her voice obvious. “It was gross.”

Obi-Wan rolled her eyes in amusement.

“We were crèchemates, Aayla. You know that crèchemates almost always experiment with each other. That was not the first time I’ve kissed Quinlan Vos, and I doubt it will be the last.”

Aayla wrinkled her nose as she returned to the room with the deactivated protocol droid in her arms.

“Still gross.”

“I’m ready,” Shmi said, closing her bag. “Where are we going?”

“Our ship is in the outskirts,” Obi-Wan said. “If we’re lucky, Qui-Gon will have even thought to inform them we’re coming.”

Of course, since it was her (and their line was cursed it was all Master Yoda’s fault), she started feeling a mass of approaching darkness the closer they got to the ship. She could hear the incoming speeder bike as they got within eyesight of the ship.

“Something’s coming!” she called to Shmi and Aayla, who were lagging a bit behind – Shmi due to lack of proper nutrition and hydration and Aayla due to the incredibly awkward protocol droid burden she was carrying. “Run!”

She looked back to see a dark figure on a speeder bike bearing down on Aayla.

“Aayla! Left!” she ordered. The girl dove left without question, and was just missed by the speeder bike pilot, who flipped off his bike as he reached her, lightsaber igniting as he drove it towards her head. Obi-Wan instantly called her saber to her hand from her boot and met the red blade with her own blue.

“Get to the ship!” she ordered, sensing Aayla’s hesitance to leave her or to engage the Dark Force-wielder. Shmi at least began sprinting for the ship immediately. “Tell them to take off!”

Aayla hesitated a moment more, then ran for the ship with Force-assisted speed.

Obi-Wan attempted to strike at the Darksider, but he parried and attacked instead in an aggressive form.

Juyo, her mind vaguely identified as he continued to strike at her, though she managed to defend herself from every strike. He was pushing her back though. Their rapid movements were kicking up sand, forcing both of them to rely on the Force as opposed to their eyesight for this duel. When they each started tapping into the Force to make their blows even faster and stronger, the sand only worsened.

She ducked under a swipe that would have taken her head off before striking out at his shoulder. He dodged it, and continued striking at her, driving her further and further away from the Queen’s ship, which had just taken off and was starting to fly towards them.

The Darksider flipped over her head in an attempt to catch her off guard, but she managed to catch his blade in time, and then surprised him with a Force push that threw him back long enough for her to jump up onto the boarding ramp as the Queen’s starship continued to fly, leaving Tatooine and the Darksider behind.

She didn’t turn off her lightsaber until the boarding ramp was closed and she had collapsed onto the floor of the droid hold.

Her Master, Aayla, and Shmi came rushing out of the lift the upper deck a moment later.

“Are you all right?” Aayla demanded as all three people fell to their knees beside her.

“I think so,” Obi-Wan replied, breathing heavily after the exertion of a surprise duel against the strongest Darksider she’d ever felt, stronger than Xanatos had ever been.

“What was that?” Shmi asked. “It felt…so dark. And angry. Very angry.”

“I’m not sure,” Obi-Wan prevaricated.

Her Master reached out and laid a hand on her cheek.

“It seems that you are continuing your trouble-magnet streak,” he said with a teasing smile.

“It seems so, Master,” she replied with a small smile, attempting to calm Aayla and Shmi down even as she mentally reached for her Master.

He was a Darksider. Zabrak, I think, though with markings like I’ve never seen before. Master…he was stronger than Xanatos. Well-trained in the Jedi arts, and powerful. My guess is that he was after the Queen.

This changes things, her Master replied grimly. This mission just got more complicated.

He stood and offered her a hand up. Obi-Wan allowed him to pull her to her feet even as he looked over her most recent outfit.

“That’s certainly a change,” he said nonchalantly. “Were you attempting to seduce Watto into freeing Shmi?”

Obi-Wan rolled her eyes.

“No, I was setting myself up as Quinlan’s hot slaver ex he owed money to. I wasn’t going to pull that off in handmaiden clothes. Leather worked much better.”

“You’re sunburned. Badly. And I think the flying sand might have scraped you up as well,” her Master said.

“Is the hyperdrive repaired?” Obi-Wan asked. “If that creature was after the Queen, we need to jump to hyperspace before he can reach his own ship.”

“Lieutenant Tarsen assured me it is,” Qui-Gon said. “I instructed Captain Olié to make the jump as soon as possible.”

No sooner had he said that then the hum of the ship changed as they jumped to hyperspace.

“Well then,” Obi-Wan said with a sigh, “I suppose it’s time to report in to the Queen about our additions. Did you at least warn them I was bringing back Shmi and Aayla?”

“Not yet,” her Master said easily.

Obi-Wan resisted the urge to glare at him.

“We can go do that now, and then you can shower off the sand and heal your sunburn. Not until after the shower, mind. You don’t want to get sand stuck underneath your skin,” he continued blithely.

“I’m just going to go report to the Queen now,” Obi-Wan said. “Aayla, Shmi, have you been introduced yet? And we should probably find Anakin and let him know you’re here.”

“Obi-Wan, you haven’t been introduced to Anakin,” her Master pointed out.

“Well, I suppose I’ll take care of that at some point too,” she sighed.

‘Some point’ turned out to be ten seconds later, when the door to the lift opened again and Anakin came rushing out.

“Mom!” exclaimed the blond boy that Obi-Wan had never met yet had seen a thousand times in her dreams.

He rushed to hug Shmi.

“Aly?” he asked, confused, finally noticing Aayla.

“My proper name is Jedi Padawan Aayla Secura,” Aayla said with a smile for the younger boy. “I was undercover, but our mission was getting too dangerous, so my mentor asked Obi-Wan and Master Qui-Gon to take me back to Coruscant.”

“And for our last introduction: Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Qui-Gon introduced.

“Hi,” the boy said.

She smiled tiredly at him.

“Hello.” She offered him her hand.

“Pleased to meet you!” the boy said excitedly as he took her hand.

Images of herself and the boy – as a boy, an adolescent, a teenager, and a young man flashed through her mind, with her always at his side. He had a Padawan braid through the first several images, until the second-to-last, where the braid was instead in his hands, until he pressed it into hers. The last vision was even shorter than any of the others, a short image of Anakin and an adolescent Togruta with silka beads hanging between her lekku – a Togruta with markings very similar to those of the foundling that Master Plo had brought back shortly after Yinchorr.

“And you,” Obi-Wan replied, hoping to distract everyone else from Anakin’s shock at the vision he had obviously just shared with her. “Why don’t we all go speak to the Queen?”

“What queen?” Shmi asked timidly.

Obi-Wan winced inwardly and felt her Master do the same.

You can field that one, she told him.

“I’m afraid that we may have misled you as to our purpose here…” her Master began as they piled into the lift to the main floor.

The next twelve days were a bit cramped with as many people shoved on the ship as they’d added. Rabé joined Padmé and Sabé in the Queen’s bedchamber, so Obi-Wan ended up sharing the handmaidens’ chamber with Eirtaé, Aayla, Shmi, and sometimes Anakin, when he decided to share with his mother. He’d tried just sleeping in the main room, but the cold of space eventually drove him back to share his mother’s body heat.

Anakin had almost immediately been adopted by the pilot, co-pilot, and engineer, all of whom he could keep up with talking about their chosen trades. When he wasn’t with them, his mother, Aayla, or Padmé, he inevitably sought out Obi-Wan. She wasn’t sure if he knew why he was doing it, if he could recognize the fledgling bond between them that grew every time he sought her out, every time she engaged him in conversation and got him to talk about his feelings, his hopes, his fears, his history. She wasn’t actively encouraging him; she didn’t seek him out, she always allowed him to make the first move, but she didn’t drive him away when he did. She welcomed him, unable to do anything else in the face of her future Padawan’s earnestness.

That being said, there were plenty of times when it was a large group of them gathered, simply because they had nothing better to do and privacy and a ship with this many people was non-existent.

Obi-Wan ended up entertaining the handmaidens, Padawan, and ex-slaves with stories of her adventures as Qui-Gon’s apprentice. Some adventures she skipped entirely (Bandomeer, Melida/Daan, Telos) while others were heavily edited (Mandalore). It was still enough information to keep everyone entertained and relatively calm until the last two days, where her Master finally came out of meditation and they started plotting with the Queen on how to deal with the Senate. For once, Padmé was the one in the Queen’s attire. She didn’t think her Master noticed the switch, and she wasn’t about to enlighten him.

“The largest problem is that there is no verified evidence of the invasion,” Qui-Gon explained to the Queen, her handmaidens, and Captain Panaka.

“Is not your word evidence enough?” the Queen asked.

“For most of the Senators, yes. The problem is that it is not proof, and without proof, many Senators, especially from the Mid- and Outer Rims, will be too hesitant to cross the Trade Federation to vote in your favor with out incontrovertible proof,” Qui-Gon said.

“Additionally, we were dispatched as ambassadors of the Supreme Chancellor, not ambassadors of the Republic or of the Senate,” Obi-Wan added. “Chancellor Valorum hoped that the threat of reprisal would be enough to scare the Federation into compliance. Unfortunately, since we were sent solely on the Chancellor’s authority, our word will be further disputed.”

“Officially, neither we nor the Supreme Chancellor can give your our support. Unofficially, you will have the full weight of the Supreme Chancellor’s office and the Jedi Order behind you,” Qui-Gon finished.

“What can we expect from the Senate?” the Queen asked.

Qui-Gon glanced at her and motioned her forward with his eyes. Obi-Wan stepped forward and began explaining the intricacies of Senate procedure to the somewhat-overwhelmed Queen.

“This is the way it must be?” Padmé asked her quietly, once everyone else was asleep.

“I cannot see another solution,” Obi-Wan replied, equally quiet. “You will face the full Senate, which will not be easy. They too often are focused on themselves and their own sectors instead of acting for the common good, or extending a hand to those in need. And speaking before the Senate is never not terrifying, though I have only spoken to smaller committees, not the full thing.”

“You’ve spoken before the Senate?” Padmé questioned. “Why?”

“Sometimes our missions require us to report directly to this or that committee. The Stark Hyperspace Conflict, the Yinchorri Uprising, because they were massive operations and the committees wanted the reports of everyone involved. As a Padawan, I was mostly ignored both times. I had to speak to the Judiciary, Ethics, and Internal Affairs Committees during the trials of a former senator who had conspired to hurt her own people for fame and fortune. I had to testify in the Supreme Court twice as well, once for the Senator and once for her conspirator. I’ve also been put on trial by the Senate.”

“What happened?” Padmé gasped, though she did her best to muffle it.

“One of my crèchemates, Bruck…he let himself be taken in by a former Jedi who hated us, who was trying to destroy the Temple in revenge. One of our other crèchemates, Bant, had gotten too close to their plan, so he kidnapped her and imprisoned her at the bottom of a pool in the Room of a Thousand Fountains – Bant is Mon Calamari, so she can breathe underwater…but it gets very difficult for them to do so in stressful situations, especially if they’re surface-raised like Bant was. She wasn’t going to last much longer. We…Bruck and I dueled. The Room of a Thousand Fountains is…exactly what it sounds like. Beautiful, but the terrain can be difficult. We were dueling on the slope of the chamber’s central waterfall when he lost his footing and fell. He broke his neck and died, despite my attempts to help him. Unfortunately, his father was a prominent noble from Telos, and demanded I be put on trial for Bruck’s death, despite the Jedi Council already absolving me of it. It was…unpleasant, to say the least, though Bruck’s guilt was eventually proven and I was released without issue.”

“That’s awful,” Padmé said. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”

“It was…terrifying, at the time,” Obi-Wan admitted. “But looking back on it, I’m glad it happened. I was still feeling guilty for Bruck’s death. Yes, my Master and the Council both said I wasn’t guilty, but there were others my age who didn’t agree. I myself didn’t agree. It wasn’t until the trial that the full story came out and everyone accepted that I was innocent – including myself. It’s…it’s a horrible thing, to fight someone you care about. Bruck and I weren’t close at that point – we were rivals and rather disliked each other, but we’d still known each other since infanthood, were connected at a mental level. I mentioned the mental shock that occurred when my crèchemate Darsha died?”

Padmé nodded.

Obi-Wan continued, “It was ten times worse with Bruck. I was right there when it happened, we’d been dueling at the time, and he was the first of our crèchemates to die. It took a long time to forgive myself for not being able to save him.”

Padmé drew her legs up to her chest.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive myself for what’s happening to my people,” she said, almost too softly to hear. “I keep running through scenarios in my mind – what if I had done this, or this, or this? Could I have saved them from the blockade, and the invasion?”

“You cannot focus on the past,” Obi-Wan said gently. “Only the present, and the future. For now, the furthest out you need to plan is when you address the Senate on Coruscant. If I know the Chancellor – and I do – he will do everything in his power to grant you the opportunity to speak as soon as possible. I expect it to be the day after we arrive on Coruscant, no later than the day after that. You will not have much time to prepare.”

“I want to confer with Senator Palpatine before I make any definite plans,” Padmé admitted. “He’s better informed about the current workings of the Senate, and Naboo’s relation to them.”

“Again, don’t let anyone – even him – speak down to you because of your youth, or your gender,” Obi-Wan warned. “I know he officially serves you, but I’ve met too many politicians who treat young rulers who disagree with them like children throwing tantrums. Don’t let his opinions override yours.”

Padmé frowned.

“He’s always been one of my strongest supporters. He was the one who recommended I run against Veruna for the monarchy.”

“Then he may feel you are indebted to him and that should be even more of a reason to listen to him,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “I don’t believe I’ve met the man in more than passing; I’m just not fond of most politicians, though I do believe you’ve made my list of ones I do like.”

That got an actual smile from her. While it wasn’t the first time he’d seen her smile the entire trip – she’d smiled at Anakin a few times in his excited explanations over his droid’s functions – it was still a rare thing.

“I’m glad to make it on what I suspect is a short list,” Padmé teased.

“Indeed it is,” Obi-Wan agreed. “Now, I suggest you get some rest, Your Highness. I expect you’re in for a long day tomorrow. Official greetings are never short.”

Padmé sighed as she rose from her cross-legged position on the throne room floor, which they’d chosen in order to keep their discussion from waking everyone in their quarters.

“You’re probably right. You should probably get some sleep too. I’m sure you’re tired after Anakin and Aayla’s game earlier.”

Obi-Wan stood as well as she laughed. She and Aayla had spent the afternoon teaching Anakin to play push-feather, while everyone else who wasn’t busy watched in fascination at the glimpse of Jedi training. Anakin had picked it up remarkably fast; after only a few hours of play, he was beating Aayla one-out-of-three times, and Aayla had won the Twelve-and-Under push-feather tournament the previous year.

“It wasn’t too tiring. My main job was making sure they didn’t do any damage, and it wasn’t the first time I’ve monitored push-feather. But I will at least go lie down; I’m sure I’ll need to report to the Council tomorrow, and that can be almost as fun as addressing the Senate.”

“Why’s that?” Padmé asked as they left the throne room.

“My master likes to toe the line of what is expected for a Jedi,” Obi-Wan said with a sigh. “He is…very attuned to the Living Force, which can make him seem a bit…erratic, at times.”

“Like trusting our fates to a nine-year-old slave boy we’d just met,” the Queen-in-disguise grumbled under her breath.

“Like that,” Obi-Wan agreed. “And picking up strays, though two of them were my fault this time. It’s better than the last time we were on Alderaan. He adopted a manka cat – or maybe it adopted him – and I couldn’t convince him to leave it behind. He went before the Council with that thing following placidly behind him! And then he just went about his report as if he didn’t have a giant carnivorous cat standing at his shoulder!”

Padmé had to stuff her fist in her mouth to muffle her laugh as they made their way across the forward hold towards the handmaiden quarters.

“What happened to him? Or her? Did he name it?”

“Him. He’s still in the Temple,” Obi-Wan sighed. “Some of the Padawans take rides on him. My Master did name it, but he’s horrible at names, so he just named it ‘Manka.’” I took a poll among the Senior Initiates and they renamed it Brala. Though speaking of strays, would you be willing to allow Anakin and Shmi to stay with your party until we are able to present Anakin to the Jedi Temple or otherwise make arrangements for them?”

“Certainly,” Padmé said immediately. “Anakin’s such a sweet boy, and Shmi’s been very helpful. She’s very good and telling when we’re worried and coming to comfort anyone who needs it. I suppose it’s the mother in her.”

“Hm, that and a higher-than-average Force-sensitivity,” Obi-Wan said. “I don’t think she’s quite to Jedi standard, but still higher than average…much like you are.”

“Me?” Padmé asked in surprise.

“Indeed,” Obi-Wan said with a smile. “The Force is with you, Padmé Naberrie, Queen Amidala. Trust your instincts. They will guide you.”

Padmé took a deep breath and nodded.

“I’ll do my best,” she said, just before they stepped into the handmaidens’ room. “Good-night, Obi-Wan.”

“Good-night, Padmé,” Obi-Wan replied.

They opened the door to the antechamber. Obi-Wan made her way to ‘her’ bunk on silent feet while Padmé continued on to the Queen’s bedroom. She slipped off her borrowed slippers and robe and slid into the bunk. She attempted to meditate for a few minutes before giving it up as a lost cause and slipping into meditation instead. She still had plenty on her mind, even eleven days after her duel with what she and her Master were starting to suspect was a Sith Lord.

Chapter Text

It was still a mostly sleepless night, but drawing on the Force made the side effects negligible, so she was still dressed in properly-pressed Jedi robes and in the cockpit before they came out of hyperspace. Anakin was there as well, at the invitation of Captain Olié, since he had never seen a ship come out of hyperspace before.

“That’s it,” Captain Olié told Anakin. “Coruscant. The entire planet is one big city.”

“It’s so huge,” Anakin breathed.

The Captain glanced back at Obi-Wan. “Where should we head for?”

“I’m transmitting codes to Coruscant Air Control now,” Obi-Wan replied, swiftly typing in the information necessary and sending it to the controllers. She looked at the boy still gaping at the ecumenopolis before explaining, “CorAC is one of the busiest in air controls in the galaxy. It can take days for ships to be given clearance to land. Even for diplomatic vessels – of which there are plenty – it usually takes a few hours. Luckily for us, I have codes for executive-class diplomatic clearance, which means they’ll have us at our landing platform within the hour.”

Anakin, Captain Olié, and Lieutenant Dolphe all stared at her in surprise – though Anakin was probably more surprised about the time it could take than how rare the diplomatic clearance she held was.

“Those are only for the highest levels of government,” Captain Olié gaped at her. “How did you get them?”

“Ambassador’s privilege,” she replied.

Truthfully, most high-level Jedi diplomatic teams had their own executive-class codes in case they needed to bring in people who were already being pursued and couldn’t risk being stuck in Coruscant traffic for days. Additionally, there were Jedi-level codes as well, used specifically for when they were going directly in and out of the Temple district.

“You live here?” Anakin asked in awe.

“For most of my life,” Obi-Wan replied truthfully.   “Though in recent years I’ve spent more time out-Temple than in.”

Anakin was still staring at the city, even as CorAC sent them their flight path.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I get to live here?”

“If the Jedi Council accepts you for training,” Obi-Wan said. “My master and I will argue for it, but sometimes they can be stubborn, especially if my master’s made them mad recently. If you aren’t accepted…well, we’ll still make sure you’re taken care of.”

“You’d be welcome on Naboo,” Captain Olié said. “After what you did to help us, I wouldn’t be surprised if Her Highness offers you and your mom full citizenship and sets you up with a nice place to live.”

“And my master and I have friends in high places on many worlds,” Obi-Wan added. “We would make sure you were taken care of. And if you are accepted into the Order, I will ensure your mother is taken care of.”

“I’m glad,” Anakin said.

“There’s our landing platform,” Captain Olié said.

“Ready to see a starship land from the cockpit, Anakin?” Obi-Wan asked with a smile, moving to rest her hand on her future Padawan’s shoulder.

“There’s Chancellor Valorum’s shuttle,” the captain said, gesturing toward the Senate blue vehicle that the guards in matching robes of Senate blue were disembarking. “And look over there! Senator Palpatine is waiting for us.”

The captain landed with the ease of man who’d been flying his whole life.

“Come quickly, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said. “We need to go disembark with the Queen and the rest of her party.” She explained how things were going to go as they walked. “You and your mother will accompany the Queen for now, since my Master and I must report to the Jedi Council. We will come find you again. You have my word as a Jedi.”

Anakin nodded.

“Okay,” he said, looking down and smoothing out his new tunic.

It wasn’t actually new, though it was new for him. With Padmé’s full support, Obi-Wan, Rabé, and Sabé had used their limited sewing skills to rework Fé’s clothing into new clothing for Shmi, and done the same with some of Yané and Saché’s clothing for Anakin and Aayla. Shmi had protested at the high quality of the clothing, until Obi-Wan had gently told her that if she was going to be accompanying the Queen as a part of her ‘staff,’ she needed to look the part. Anakin hadn’t protested at all, not even about the fact that he was technically wearing girl’s clothes.

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if that was because he honestly didn’t care about such things as gender divides or if he didn’t care because of the intense practicality that seemed integral to the lifestyle of Tatooine slaves.

They paraded out in formal order through the line of Senate Guards. As ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were at the head of the line. She had to resist the urge to walk her usual half-step behind her master, as they were considered equal in rank while both serving as ambassadors. Jar Jar and Aayla walked behind them, Jar Jar as someone sworn to Qui-Gon and Aayla as a Jedi Padawan, hopefully identifiable in her makeshift robes. While they had managed to turn several different matching outfits into a an under-tunic, over-tunic, tabards, and obi, they were still in a medium grey with darker grey trousers instead of typical Jedi browns and tans.

Captain Panaka was behind them as the Queen’s chief of security, and the Queen herself (not really, it was still Sabé, not Padmé) was behind him. Her handmaidens walked in a triangle behind her, followed by Shmi and Anakin, and the rest of the guardsmen followed them.

Their column stopped before the Chancellor and the Naboo Senator. She, her Master, and Aayla bowed in unison, and from what she could see out of the corner of her eye, Jar Jar hastily copied them before they stepped aside for the Queen to process the rest of the way to the Chancellor and Senator.

Sabé only nodded her head lightly to the Chancellor, maintaining the image of an unbowed Queen – imitating Padmé, because that was exactly what Padmé was. Obi-Wan doubted that the young firebrand queen she’d met would ever bow. It wasn’t in her nature. She was just as stubborn as any former member of the Dragon Clan, all of whom were chosen for their tenacity.

“It is a great gift to see you alive, Your Majesty,” the Senator said, though Obi-Wan noticed he didn’t bow to the ‘Queen.’ “With the communications breakdown, we’d been very concerned. I’m anxious to hear your report on the situation. May I present Supreme Chancellor Valorum?”

“Welcome, Your Highness,” the Chancellor said. “It’s an honor to finally meet you in person.”

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure ‘honor’ was the word he really meant, after the comm call he’d received a month ago shaming him for not acting to help the people of Naboo. The Naboo had been suffering under a blockade for seventy-three days now, under invasion for nineteen or twenty, depending on which part of the planet they lived in. Then again, not many people were brave enough to scold the Supreme Chancellor of the entire Galactic Republic. Knowing Valorum, he probably respected her for it.

“Thank you, Supreme Chancellor,” Sabé replied in Queen Amidala’s even tones.

“I must relay to you how distressed everyone is over the current situation. I’ve called for a special session of the Senate to hear your position,” the Chancellor continued.

“I’m grateful for your concern, Chancellor,” Sabé/Amidala replied, before following Palpatine’s lead as he ushered the Queen and her retinue over to the waiting air taxi. Obi-Wan frowned inwardly at it’s open roof, which seemed unfortunate given the fact that the Trade Federation was unscrupulous enough to hire assassins to keep her from speaking.

Once the entire retinue – including Anakin, Shmi, and Jar Jar – was a safe distance away, the Chancellor turned to them and said, “I am glad you are well, my friends. I was worried when we lost contact with the Radiant VII.”

“She was destroyed by the Trade Federation, right before they attempted to gas us to death,” Qui-Gon said grimly. “Captain Madakor and Lieutenant Williams were still aboard.”

“I will ensure their families receive proper compensation,” the Chancellor promised. “Are you available to make your report to me now?”

“I am afraid we must speak to the Jedi Council immediately, Your Honor,” her Master said. “The situation has become much more complicated.”

“I’m free for the rest of the day,” the Chancellor said. “Are you willing to give me a short report while I take you to the Temple?”

Her Master nodded.

“That would be most appreciated.”

The Chancellor led them back into shuttle, the Senate Guards following in their wake.

“My office, I should think,” the Chancellor said, leading them to the back room. When the Senate Guards tried to follow them in, he held up a hand and said, “I believe I am quite safe in the hands of three Jedi. Remain outside.”

Once the door closed behind them, the Chancellor sat at the small desk and flipped a switch on it. “Dampeners,” he explained. “Now, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan I am familiar with, but I don’t believe we’ve been introduced, young one,” he said, smiling towards Aayla, who blushed immediately.

“This is Aayla Secura, Padawan to Knight Quinlan Vos,” Obi-Wan introduced.

Aayla bowed shyly. “Your Excellency,” she murmured.

The Chancellor raised an eyebrow. Obi-Wan decided to explain further.

“We had to make a stop to repair damage that the Queen’s ship incurred while running the blockade,” she said. “Knight Vos and Padawan Secura were already on that planet in the process of completing their own mission. However, their mission was leading them to the Hutt palaces, and Knight Vos did not want to risk Padawan Secura in that situation, so he asked that we return her to the Jedi Temple in his stead.”

“Quite sensible,” the Chancellor said. “Now, my friends, your report?”

Obi-Wan was unsurprised when her Master gestured for her to give it. He really was testing to make sure she was ready for anything once she was Knighted.

She did her best to detail everything from the Radiant VII’s arrival in the Naboo system to their rescue of the Queen and escape through the blockade. She skimmed over the details of their journey to Tatooine – they weren’t relevant – as well as the details of their time on Tatooine, merely saying that it took a few days for the parts to become available due to a local holiday.

Do I mention the Sith? she asked her master as she drew nearer to that part of the report.

Don’t call him a Sith,” he advised. No need to potentially start a panic, though I believe Finis is a bit more discreet than that. It is still a matter for the Council first.

She brushed off her encounter with the strong-darksider-possible-Sith by simply calling him an assassin sent after the Queen.

She was just in time, too, as they arrived at the Temple not a moment later. Thanks to the Chancellor’s status, they were much closer than most guests were allowed to land near the Temple. They offered swift goodbyes to the Chancellor and hopped out of the shuttle and headed for the closest doors to the Temple proper. Her Master was on his comm, demanding to speak with the full Council, as soon as they stepped off the shuttle.

“Do I need to come to the Council?” Aayla asked worriedly.

“That depends,” Obi-Wan replied. “Is your grandmaster in-Temple?”

Aayla’s eyes half-closed as she sought out that bond.

“No,” she said grouchily.

“Then yes, you need to come with us, though you can wait outside. Your Master left you in my car, young one, and you will stay there until he returns or I hand you off to someone else,” she replied firmly.

Aayla slumped slightly, but didn’t argue as they made their way through the Temple’s winding corridors towards the lift that would take them up to the High Council chamber.

Somehow, someway, though probably entirely due to her Master’s ability to become a force of nature if he so chose, the entire Jedi Council was seated in the chamber before they arrived. Aayla stayed outside, though Obi-Wan did pass her wrist-comm off to her and told her to feel free to ask one of her friends to bring her food or a datapad or something.

“You said it was urgent?” Master Windu said as soon as the doors had closed behind them.

Her Master stepped up to the center of the room, and Obi-Wan followed half-a-step behind him, her hands tucked into her robe sleeves.

“It is,” her Master said grimly, tucking his own hands into his sleeves. “As you all know, my Padawan and I were dispatched to the Naboo system at the request of the Supreme Chancellor, in the hopes that we could force a settlement between the Trade Federation and the Naboo. Upon our arrival, we had barely been shown to a conference room when our ship and its crew was destroyed and the room we were in was filled with dioxis. Upon our escape from the room, we attempted to make our way to the bridge to confront the Trade Federation officials directly, but they sealed the blast doors and forced us away with destroyers.

“We made our way to the hangar bays to discover an invasion force preparing to land. We traveled to the planet’s surface aboard separate droid ships, and managed to reunite in the swamps on the opposite side of the planet from the planetary capital. We encountered a native by the name of Jar Jar Binks who swore a life debt to me after I saved his life from one of the droid transports. He took us to one of the Gungan cities, and the Gungans provided us with transportation to Theed, the planetary capital. The droids beat us there, though we did make it in time to rescue the Queen and her party. We made our way to the Queen’s ship and used it to run the blockade. It was damaged in the escape, and we ended up proceeding to Tatooine in order to acquire the parts needed to repair the ship.”

“Why Tatooine?” Master Billaba asked.

“It’s small, out of the way, and has no Federation presence,” Qui-Gon explained. “Additionally, my Padawan knew that one of her crèchemates was there. Knight Vos was able to provide assistance for us, and in return we delivered Padawan Secura back to the Temple, as Knight Vos was preparing to infiltrate the Hutt palaces and did not want to risk his Padawan becoming enslaved by a Hutt. While my Padawan was on her way back with Padawan Secura and another companion, she was attacked by a dark-side Force-user wielding a red lightsaber. She managed to escape the duel via the Queen’s ship flying overhead, but the darksider is still alive. Furthermore, from what I could feel of his presence and my Padawan’s own sense of him, and based on how he was trained in the Jedi arts, my only conclusion can be that it was a Sith Lord.”

“A Sith Lord?” Master Windu asked dubiously.

“Impossible!” Master Mundi said. “The Sith have been extinct for a millennium!”

“Agree with your Master, do you, young Obi-Wan?” Master Yoda asked.

“Yes, Master,” Obi-Wan said. “He felt…it was dark, and cold, yet burning at the same time. He was so very angry. His lightsaber crystals were screaming in pain. It was so hard to fight with all the noise. He was using the dark side, but he felt a hundred times stronger than Xanatos ever did.”

She hated to bring up Xanatos in her Master’s presence, but he was the only Fallen Jedi in nearly three hundred years, and the only one she’d ever faced before. She hesitated, then continued, “I also thought that my attacker’s presence felt familiar. After meditating on it, I believe that the presence was the same one I sensed during my mission to the Undercity before we left for Naboo. I believe that this assassin was responsible for the deaths of Master Bondara and Padawan Assant, and I agree with my master that he must have been a Sith Lord,” she said.

“I do not believe that the Sith could have returned without us knowing,” Master Windu stated.

“Hard to see, the dark side is,” Master Yoda pointed out. “Discover who this assassin is, we must. If right you are, Obi-Wan, already has this assassin killed Jedi. More he will try to kill.”

“You are certain that this assassin was responsible for Master Bondara and Padawan Assant’s deaths?” Master Koon asked.

“Relatively, Master,” Obi-Wan said. “I know I felt the same presence at the warehouse Darsha died in. And…it took me too long to find her. Something was blocking us mentally. We were crèchemates; it shouldn’t have taken me so long to find her, I should have been able to speak with her long before I got anywhere close to her, but I couldn’t. It was just Darsha I couldn’t reach; I could speak to our other crèchemates still in the Temple. I’m not as certain about Master Bondara’s death, but it seems logical to me that he would have tried to stop a Sith pursuing them in order to save his Padawan, only to fall in the attempt.”

The Council was silent for a long few minutes, though the short glances and twitches indicated that they were conversing mentally.

“This attack was with purpose, that is clear, and I agree that the Queen is the target,” Master Windu finally said.

“With the Naboo queen, you must stay, Qui-Gon,” Master Yoda said. “Protect her.”

“We will use all our resources to unravel this mystery and discover the identity of your attacker,” Master Windu continued. “May the Force be with you.”

Obi-Wan bowed alongside her Master, but hesitated at leaving, despite the clear dismissal. She could feel her Master’s determination to stay, his determination to bring up Anakin.

“Master Qui-Gon,” Master Yoda said. “More to say have you?”

“With your permission, my Master,” Qui-Gon said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Yoda gestured for him to go ahead.

“I have encountered a vergence in the Force,” he said simply.

“A vergence, you say?” Master Yoda asked.

“Located around…a person?” Master Windu questioned.

“A boy,” her Master said. “His cells have the highest concentration of midi-chlorians I have seen in a lifeform. It is possible he was conceived by the midi-chlorians.”

The Council members exchanged looks.

“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force,” Master Windu said, looking more shocked than she’d ever seen him. “You believe it’s this boy?”

“I don’t presume…” her Master began, but he was interrupted by Master Yoda.

“But you do,” the Grand Master said. “Revealed, your opinion is.”

“I request the boy be tested, Master,” Qui-Gon said simply.

“Trained as a Jedi, you request for him?” Master Yoda questioned.

“Finding him was the will of the Force,” her Master deflected. “I have no doubt of that.”

The Masters exchanged long looks. Master Windu finally sighed.

“Bring him before us, then.”

They bowed once more before leaving the Council chamber. Aayla was still sitting in the waiting room, though she’d obviously taken Obi-Wan’s advice and acquired both a datapad and a large pile of snacks. She shot up from her lounging position as soon as they entered.

“Where are we going now?” she asked, grabbing at her pile of snacks and stuffing them into a bag with her datapad.

“We’re bringing Anakin before the Council,” Obi-Wan replied. “Which means you get to come with us to fetch him and his mother, and then you get to come back to the waiting room with us while the Council tests him.”

“Sithspit,” Aayla muttered.

“What would your Master say if he heard that?” Qui-Gon asked, sounding amused.

“He’d probably tell me I shouldn’t do it in the Temple and then he’d teach me some better words,” Aayla said after a moment of contemplation as they entered the turbolift.

“You’re…probably right,” Obi-Wan admitted.

They made their way to the nearest Temple speeder bay, waited in the queue to check out a speeder large enough to hold the three of them, Anakin, and Shmi, and then piled in the speeder, with Qui-Gon passing Obi-Wan the starter.

She knew that he was trying to prepare her for being on her own, but this was getting excessive. Thanks to the auto-navigation systems in most speeders, a five-year-old could traverse the skylanes of Coruscant. They weren’t going by the skylanes though. As a Jedi vehicle, they had the right of free travel and didn’t have to follow the skylanes.

It only took ten minutes to get to 500 Republica, where the Queen and her entourage (and Jar Jar, Anakin, and Shmi) were staying in Senator Palpatine’s apartments. It was relatively simple to find the nearest landing platform to their location as well; all she had to do was look for Anakin’s shockingly bright Force signature. Shielding, she decided, would be the first thing she taught him once she had permission. She might not even wait for permission and convince Aayla to do it instead. She’d already complained about how blinding he was.

Once she landed, she reached out for Anakin’s presence, easily available with the rudimentary bond they’d already formed.

Anakin? she said.

She felt his surprise, and a touch of fear.

Obi-Wan? he asked hesitantly.

Yes, it’s me. I apologize for frightening you. Qui-Gon, Aayla, and I are here to take you to the Temple. The Council has agreed to test you. We are waiting for you and your mother at the landing platform nearest your location. Do you think you can find us? she asked.

I can do it! he insisted. Can I go say bye to Padmé?

Of course, she replied, allowing her amusement to pass through the bond as well, along with gladness that he cared so much. We’re not in too much of a hurry.

I’ll try to be fast, Anakin replied. There was a pause, then he asked, Uh, how do we stop talking? Is there a way to hang it up like a comm call?

Obi-Wan did laugh mentally at that.

In a way. I reached out for you, so I’ll be the one to pull away. I can teach you later how to end mental calls on your own.

Wizard! I’ll find Mom and say bye and then I’ll come find you.

I’ll send Aayla to find you if you can’t find us within twenty minutes, she replied. See you soon, Ani.

See you soon.

Obi-Wan pulled back from the ‘call’ and settled into the seater to wait.

“Anakin is finding his mother and saying goodbye to Padmé, and they will then head this way,” she told her Master and Aayla. “If they are not here in twenty minutes, we are to presume they got lost and Aayla can go look for them.”

“Why me?” Aayla asked curiously. There was no whine in her voice, just curiosity.

Obi-Wan smiled at her.

“Practice.”

Anakin and his mother made it to the speeder in ten minutes. Aayla slid into the middle seat in the front row so that Anakin could climb in beside her while Shmi sat in the back next to Qui-Gon.

“Padmé was off on an errand,” Anakin said, looking a little despondent, “but the Queen said that she’d tell her for me. She said that Padmé would be thinking about me, so I guess she’s talked about me some.”

“She has,” Obi-Wan agreed as she lifted the speeder off the landing pad. “She thinks you’re a wonderful boy with an incredible capacity for kindness and a great heart for helping others. Not many people would have done what you did for her, Ani.”

“I was just being nice!” the boy protested.

“There aren’t a lot of nice people in the galaxy though,” Aayla said solemnly. “Even those who are supposed to be nice aren’t always that way.”

“But the Jedi are nice, aren’t they?” Anakin asked.

“Not always,” Obi-Wan admitted. “While Jedi always try to have the best intentions, sometimes they don’t think about how to say what they want to say. They can be harsh when they’re speaking to people. Sometimes they spend too much time paying attention to the Force and not enough time paying attention to people.”

“I thought I was supposed to be the maverick, dear one,” Qui-Gon said from behind her. “When did my good-and-proper Padawan start criticizing the Council?”

“I’m not criticizing!” she protested even as she wove around a skyscraper and dropped down a few lanes of traffic. “I’m simply explaining their normal attitudes. They can be a bit much when you first meet them, especially meeting all of them at once. And they can be a bit scary,” she confided in Anakin and Aayla. “They don’t show much emotion, and their shields are usually strong enough that you can’t feel it either. But despite having the best sabacc faces, they do care. They’re just not very good at showing it sometimes.”

“They’re less scary once you get to know them,” Aayla put in. “I mean, Master Windu’s always kinda scary, but part of that is ‘cause there’s bets going around the Temple about whether or not he knows how to smile. But Master Yoda likes to teach the Initiate classes and play with the younglings.”

“He also likes scheming, whether it’s to get a Master and Padawan together or to play pranks on people. Master Windu is a lot less scary once you’ve seen him dyed pink,” Obi-Wan put in.

“Do I have to see them alone?” Anakin asked tentatively.

“Obi-Wan and I will introduce you to the Council, but for your testing you will be alone,” Qui-Gon said.

“We won’t go far,” Obi-Wan promised. “We’ll stay in the waiting room with Aayla and your mother, unless we send Aayla to fetch dinner.”

Anakin took a deep breath as they landed in the Temple speeder hanger. “Okay. I’m ready.”

It took nearly as long to escort the group to the Council chamber as it did to fly from 500 Republica to the Temple. The Temple was large and, once you left the main public chambers, extremely confusing in its complexity.

They finally arrived in the waiting room.

“Shmi, if you’ll wait here with Aayla, we’ll take Anakin in, introduce him to the Council, and be back out,” Qui-Gon said.

The woman nodded, leaned down to hug her son, whispered, “I believe in you,” and then went to sit on the couch Aayla had already claimed as her own.

They walked into the Council chamber with Anakin between them. Obi-Wan reached for Anakin’s mind once again for rapid-fire introductions, since she doubted the Council would think to make them. They weren’t used to needing to introduce themselves.

From left to right, we have Master Depa Billaba, Master Eeth Koth, Master Yarael Poof, Master Adi Gallia, Master Oppo Rancisis, Master Even Piell, Master Yaddle, Master Saesee Tiin, Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, Master Yoda, Master Mace Windu, and Master Plo Koon. Master Yoda is the Grand Master and one of the eldest of all the Jedi. Master Windu is the current Head of the Order. We’ll be going to the center of the room and turning towards Master Yoda and Master Mace. Once we stop, we’ll bow, she warned.

When they did stop in the center of the Council chamber, he bowed in perfect unison with them.

Good job, Obi-Wan praised.

“Masters, I would like to present Anakin Skywalker of Tatooine as a potential Initiate,” Qui-Gon said.

“Thank you, Master Jinn, Padawan Kenobi,” Master Windu said. “We’ll take it from here.”

They bowed in unison and turned to leave the room. Just before the doors shut, cutting off all mental communication outside the room, Obi-Wan mentally sent, May the Force be with you, Anakin.

The Council was thorough. They spent hours in the waiting room, and they did end up sending Aayla for dinner. She roped two of her friends, twin Padawans Tiplee and Tiplar, into helping her carry up food for everyone. Bultar and Siri, both of whom had Masters on the Council, arrived shortly afterwards, apparently to catch her up on the gossip while they waited for their Masters to be done with the later-than-normal Council session. They settled on the opposite side of the room from where Qui-Gon and Aayla and her friends were telling Shmi about the life Anakin would lead in the Temple.

“They had the funerals for Darsha and Master Bondara a ten-day after you left,” Siri said. “They put the remains of Darsha’s lightsaber that you found in a memorial for fallen Jedi. They sent a bunch of other Jedi – senior Jedi, working in pairs – into the undercity, but no one found any traces of Master Bondara, besides the fact that he’s dead.”

“I’m sorry I missed it,” Obi-Wan replied. “Did the rest of our crèchemates make it?”

“Quin was already off-world at the time,” Bultar said. “You know Aalto won’t come back for anything, not even funerals. The triplets made it, and so did Sona and Zap, but Kayo is off somewhere and couldn’t get back in time.  Bant and Taria were offworld, but they’re both back now.”

“So!” Siri said, clapping her hands together and leaning forward. “Gossip on your mission? I heard it had something to do with the Naboo blockade and the special session of the Senate the Chancellor called for tomorrow.”

Obi-Wan gave her a skeptical look.

“Were you eavesdropping on your Master’s comm calls again?”

“Is it really eavesdropping if she knows I’m listening?” Siri asked in reply. “So…details!”

“I can’t say everything,” she said immediately. “It’s still ongoing. We were sent to Naboo to negotiate a settlement between the Trade Federation and the Naboo at the request of the Chancellor. We had barely arrived on the Trade Federation flagship before they blew up our ship and then tried to gas us. We escaped, made it to Naboo in time to rescue the Queen, and fled the system. The ship was injured in our escape, so we had to make a detour to Tatooine, which is a middle-of-nowhere desert planet that gave me horrible sunburns. Quin and Aayla were on-planet for their own mission, so Quin gave us the money we needed for the parts we needed, and then sent Aayla along with us so that she wasn’t parading in Hutt palaces while disguised as a Twi’lek slave girl.”

Both of her fellow Padawans winced. They understood intimately what Quin was trying to avoid.

“Probably a smart thing,” Bultar said.

Obi-Wan nodded.

“While we were on Tatooine, first Quin and Aayla, and then my master, encountered a boy with the strongest Force presence we’ve ever felt, and the highest midi-chlorian count we’ve ever seen,” she then revealed. “Despite how old he is, the Council is testing him now, to see if they will admit him into the Order.”

“How old is he?” Bultar asked.

“Ignore that! How high was his count?” Siri demanded.

“He’s nine, nearly ten,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I don’t want his count spread around, Siri. You know how difficult children can be when someone’s different, and he’s already going to come in different.”

“I won’t say anything,” Siri swore. “Neither will Bultar. Now, count?”

“Twenty-seven thousand, seven hundred,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “Nearly twice mine.”

Both Siri and Bultar were wide-eyed with shock. If they weren’t Jedi, they’d probably be gaping.

Finally, Siri said, “Well, I suppose that sounds like a good reason to admit him.”

“He’s far too old,” Bultar protested.

“He will be a Jedi,” Obi-Wan said firmly. “I’ve seen it.”

It only took Siri a few seconds to put the pieces together and groan.

“Don’t tell me he’s your future Padawan? The one you’ve been dreaming about all your life?”

“He is,” Obi-Wan said, smiling softly. “I’ve Seen him as mine since I was two years old. I shared a vision with him when he shook my hand, the first time we touched. I saw him throughout his apprenticeship, and I saw him, braidless, with his own future Padawan.” She nodded at Bultar. “I think it was your Master’s latest foundling.”

“Ahsoka?” Bultar asked in surprise.

“If that’s the little Togruta girl he brough in last year,” Obi-Wan replied.

Bultar nodded, but still looked shocked. “She’s already almost four. He’ll have to become a Jedi fast if he’s meant to be her Master.”

The Council room doors opened at that moment.

“That’s my cue,” Obi-Wan said, standing from her seat and brushing off her robes. “Would one of you be willing to return my tray to the refectory? And would either of you be able to watch Aayla until Quin or Master Tholme comes back?”

“I’ve got the tray,” Siri volunteered, picking up the aforementioned item.

“And I’ll make sure that someone is watching Aayla, even if we get called off-world,” Bultar said. “Now go! Best not to keep the Council waiting.”

She joined her Master before walking through the doors, in perfect proper Padawan position, half a step behind him and to his right. It was darker in the room now without the sun’s rays illuminating it. Coruscant was still bright around them, but there was nothing on the same level as the Temple, so the lights of speeders and buildings were much more distant.

They bowed in unison as they came to rest in the center of the room, behind where Anakin stood. He looked back and up at them when they arrived. She allowed her lips to twitch upwards at the sight of him and sent him the mental equivalent of a hug. He smiled brightly at her in return before looking back at the Council members in front of him.

“Correct you were, Qui-Gon,” Master Yoda finally said.

“His cells contain a high concentration of midi-chlorians,” Master Windu agreed.

“The Force is strong with him,” Master Mundi added.

“He’s to be trained, then,” her own Master said.

The Council members exchanged glances with each.

“No,” Master Windu said. “He will not.”

She barely had time to see Anakin look back at them, tears in his eyes, before the vision struck her with the force of a herd of rancors.

…Anakin, screaming over Shmi’s body before being dragged away by the assassin she’d faced on Tatooine…an older Anakin being whipped, even thinner than he already was now, his ribs prominent despite the faint outline of abdominal muscles, as a cruel voice hissed, “Yes, boy! Learn to hate! Your hate makes you strong!”…Anakin being electrocuted, blue lightning arcing around his body until he finally said yes. The lightning stopped, he closed his blue eyes and took a deep breath, and opened yellow ones before reaching his hand out to a cowering humanoid and sending that same lightning out from his own fingers to arch around the prisoner…an adolescent raised a pair of green lightsabers, only to be struck down by a red lightsaber wielded by a yellow-eyed Anakin…

More and more images flashed through her mind – Anakin, tortured; Anakin, dying; Anakin, a Sith. The Jedi were killed, the Jedi were turned, the Jedi were reviled. It was a twisted form of every vision of Anakin she’d seen throughout her life – instead of his Jedi apprenticeship with her, she witnessed his Sith apprentice under a cloaked figure, until he finally struck down the cloaked man and took the Sith Throne for himself.

She saw herself, and Padmé, chained to either side of the throne, forced to be his in a way they were never meant to be. She saw her hair loose from its braids and falling around her like a curtain. She saw herself try to cut it off, only to have her hands bound so she could grasp no kind of blade. She tried to chew it off, only to be gagged. “You are not a slave!” he yelled at her, amber eyes flashing and electricity crackling around his hands. “Then why am I in chains?” she demanded in reply, only to be thrown against a wall hard enough to break her neck.

She saw further, past her own death; he found students, would train them in the dark side, until they tried to overthrow him. Again and again his apprentices tried to kill him, but they could not stand before his power. She didn’t know how many years passed as various apprentices tried to kill him again and again, as teams of Jedi tried to kill him, but she knew that it was more than a normal human would live through. Jedi, as a whole, tended to age slower than the laity, but this was extreme.

He finally died at the hands of a team of uncountable Jedi, forced back by untold numbers and lightsabers standing against him, though less than half lived to the end of the confrontation and none survived the explosion of dark side energy caused by his death, an explosion that continued outward, destroying the planet, destroying the system, destroying everything in its path until there was nothing left but the void.

She came back to herself slowly. There was a warm weight of someone behind her, holding her in a manner that suggested she’d been caught as she collapsed. She could feel small hands – human hands – holding one of her own, while the other was cradled against the rough fabric of Jedi robes and being stroked by a leathery, claw-tipped hand.

“…bi-Wan? Obi-Wan!” she heard Anakin say, sobbing her name. She automatically reached for their bond to send him reassurance – as she wasn’t entirely sure she could talk yet. The psychic use only made the intense headache worse, but Anakin sounded like he was calming down, so it was worth it.

She carefully squeezed his hand.

“Hear us, can you, Obi-Wan?” Master Yoda asked.

Even though he was speaking softly, the noise sent spikes through her brain.

“I can,” she managed to say. “Ow.”

“I’ve never seen one of your visions hit you this hard,” her Master said from behind her – it was his arms she was held in.

“Not since the crèche have her visions hurt her so,” Master Yoda said. “Master Plo, Master Adi – felt that, your Padawans did?”

“They did, though they are also the closest of their group. They are just outside,” Master Plo said.

“Siri says that everyone else on world felt it too,” Master Adi reported. “She says she and Bultar already are feeling the reaction headache, and she suspects their entire clan will. I can feel the echoes as well.”

“As can I,” Master Koon added.

She felt her Master’s grimace through the Force.

“And I,” he said, sounding much more mild than he felt.

Her shields were almost completely obliterated, she suspected, since she was feeling everyone so strongly. She could feel her own headache being echoed back to her through her crèchemates, though she suspected the headache itself was preventing any of them from reaching to speak with her.

“Tell them to shield,” Master Windu ordered.

Obi-Wan belatedly realized she must be broadcasting, and struggled to pull the tattered remains of her shields up to no avail.

A small, clawed hand rested itself on her forehead, and she could feel the world go mercifully silent. Her headache abated slightly, with only her headache and not her headache echoed through twenty other people there.

She finally opened her eyes to see the small, green Master standing over her, hand still on her head.

“Thank you, Grandmaster,” she said quietly. She didn’t often use the title, for all that Yoda was her Great-Grandmaster.

She couldn’t feel him smile, but she could see the corners of his mouth twitch.

“No thanks from you I need, dear Obi-Wan,” he said. “Come, come! A chair, they will bring you, and then your vision you may tell us.”

Siri and Bultar went above and beyond. When the Council doors opened, they levitated in one of the long couches stacked high with pillows. They followed it in, as did Aayla. Once they sat it down behind her, her Master adjusted his grip on her to tuck one arm under her legs – which she still doubted could hold her – before manually lifting her up and setting her on the couch with her back against one of the arms, surrounded by pillows to prop her up. He then took the seat at her foot. Master Yoda clambered up and settled himself on her thighs.

Siri and Bultar each brushed a hand over her hair, checking on her, before heeding the looks they were getting from the Council members and leaving. Aayla dared to give her a quick hug before darting after the.

The doors shut behind them with a resounding thump that pained her still over-sensitive hearing. Everything was still oversensitive, though the Council had been kind enough to darken the windows and dim the lights. She knew several of them also suffered from intense visions on occasion, so she wasn’t surprised they knew how to deal with someone recovering from one.

Anakin finally moved to sit on the floor by the couch, closest to her head, before hesitantly reaching out to take her hand. She immediately offered her own, which prompted a tremulous smile.

“You were there, and then you were gone,” he said quietly, though she was sure everyone heard it in the quiet room. “It was like you were there, giving me a warm hug, and then you’d been blown back and there was a huge wall between us.”

“You have a bond with Skywalker, Padawan Kenobi?” Master Mundi asked sharply, and a bit too loudly. She winced. She suspected one of the other Masters shushed him, because his next question was much quieter. “Forming a bond with a child not yet part of the Order is highly irregular.”

“He’s meant to be my Padawan,” Obi-Wan replied, too tired from the vision’s aftermath to insert the harshness she wanted to into that statement. “I’ve seen it. The bond formed as soon as we met and he shook my hand.”

“Is that what your vision was about?” Master Windu asked. “Skywalker as your apprentice?”

She tried to shake her head, then immediately regretted it when her headache intensified.

“No, Masters. That wasn’t what this vision was about. I first saw Anakin as my apprentice when I was two years old, before I even came to the Order. I’ve dreamt about him ever since, though I didn’t know his name, his age, or where he was in the galaxy.”

“A vision, you and your grandmaster shared, when first he met you,” Yoda said. “Told me of it, he did. Saw you as Qui-Gon’s apprentice, he did, and then with your own apprentice he saw you. The apprentice you saw, young Skywalker is?”

“Yes, Master Yoda,” she replied. She’d told Yoda about some of her dreams as well, when he’d come to the crèche to help her. Her visions had always been strong – when she was little she’d have her entire clan waking up in terror from what she Saw and couldn’t help projecting. This was not the first time Yoda had shielded her from her clanmates. Her dreams about Anakin had always been happier…except in recent years, when instead of seeing him as her apprentice, she’d seen his as a child being abused. She now suspected that she’d been seeing present events instead of future.

“I had another vision of him as my Padawan, when we first shook hands. Anakin saw it as well, much as Master Dooku saw the vision of me as my Master’s Padawan. I saw flashes of his apprenticeship, and then I saw him with his own Padawan. What I saw just now was the complete opposite. I saw what could happen if he doesn’t become a Jedi,” she said. She hated that her voice trembled on the last sentence.

“What did you see, Obi-Wan?” Master Windu asked gently.

She took a deep breath.

“I saw the Sith,” she said.

She heard someone – or possibly multiples someones – draw in a sharp breath, but she didn’t know who it was. She forced herself to continue, involuntarily clutching Anakin’s hand tighter in her own.

“I saw Anakin’s mother, murdered, and Anakin being dragged away by the assassin I faced on Tatooine. I saw Anakin being tortured, being forced to hate, being forced to torture others until he Fell. I saw the Sith Master, though I don’t know who he is – I just saw a cloaked man. I saw him order Anakin to kill. I saw the Jedi Temple in flames. I saw a sweet boy lost to Darkness because we turned him away. I saw myself in chains because our Force-blessed bond was left unfulfilled, and it was twisted into something terrible. I saw myself killed by the Sith. I saw thousands of Jedi die. I saw the galaxy destroyed. I saw every good thing I’ve ever seen perverted. And everything hinged on the fact that the Jedi denied Anakin. I’ve Seen him here. I’ve Seen him as a Jedi, a good Jedi! And I’ve now Seen what will happen if that is denied! Anakin has immense potential, potential to do so much good for the galaxy! But we have already seen that the Dark Side still lurks. The Sith are out there. Is it right to offer up a child with the potential to become the most powerful Jedi we have ever known up to them on a chromium platter?”

The Council members exchanged long looks.

“We will stay our decision for now,” Master Windu finally said. “Young Skywalker’s fate will be decided later. We have much to discuss, and, once your reaction headache abides, we would like you to share your visions with us, Obi-Wan.”

“Remain in your care, the boy will, Qui-Gon,” Master Yoda said. “If meant to be Obi-Wan’s apprentice, he is, then near his future Master he should stay. Come by later, I will, to keep shields up until Obi-Wan herself can.”

“You do not have permission to train the boy, Qui-Gon,” Master Windu said, “except in shielding. Obi-Wan will need it if what I felt of her reaction headache is accurate.”

“Take your Padawan to the Halls, my friend,” Master Plo told her Master. “They will want to check to make sure there are no physical reactions to the psychic shock, besides the headache. They can also check over your other young friend.”

“Siri and Bultar have already gone to the Halls,” Master Adi said. “The rest of their in-Temple clanmates will likely end up there as well with their own psychic headaches. They will want to see her.”

“Yes, Masters,” Qui-Gon said. He stood and bowed to them, helped Anakin off the floor, then picked Obi-Wan up in a cradle carry. Anakin immediately reached up to wrap his hand around her ankle.

She squirmed slightly.

“I can walk, Master,” she protested.

“I really don’t think you can, Padawan,” he replied, before glancing back at the Council.

“We will take care of the couch,” Master Billaba said.

Her Master nodded to them again before carrying her out of the room, Anakin trotting along beside them.

Aayla scrambled out of a chair in the waiting room as they passed through and hurried to join them, a worried look on her face.

“What was that?” she asked once they got in the elevator. “Siri and Bultar both froze, and then clutched their heads in pain.”

“That would be what happens when a member of an extremely close-knit clan with strong mental bonds has a Force vision strong enough to knock her to the floor and mutilate her shields so that she can’t stop herself from broadcasting to her aforementioned extremely close-knit clan,” her Master told the young Twi’lek. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your Master felt something on Tatooine, though I doubt he felt it as strongly as those in-Temple did.”

“Has this happened before?” Aayla asked worriedly. “I don’t remember seeing Master Quinlan hunch over in pain from someone else’s visions before.”

“I’m the only one who’s ever had visions strong enough,” Obi-Wan said. “And I haven’t had one that affected me this much since I was an Initiate, and a young one at that. I once spent three months sleeping in Master Yoda’s room so that he could shield me so that my entire clan didn’t wake up screaming every night. I still woke up screaming every night, which is why I was in Master Yoda’s room instead of him coming to the crèche, but everyone just made me take lots of naps, before they eventually dared to medicate me because I was so sleep deprived.”

“Did it help?” Anakin asked.

“Well, I slept, but that just meant I couldn’t wake up from my visions. They were never clear enough that I knew what was going on – I was also very young at the time though – and all I knew was that whatever I saw completely terrified me. Eventually, the nightmare visions just…stopped. I still had visions that hit me harshly, but those eventually slowed down as well before stopping, except a single isolated incident before now.”

“How old were you when that happened?” Aayla asked.

“Five or so, during those three months,” Obi-Wan said after thinking for a moment. “It took until I was ten or eleven before the regular visions petered out. And the isolated incident happened when I was thirteen, and I haven’t had such a strong vision since.”

She felt her Master frown.

“I don’t remember that.”

“I was on Melida/Daan at the time,” she replied quietly. “Right after you left.”

Her Master flinched in response.

“You were so young!” Aayla said in horror as they got out of the turbolift at the base of the tower. They got several quick looks from the Jedi they passed, since she was still being carried in her Master’s arms like a damsel in distress, but most of them were polite enough not to stare. The same could not be said for a trio of Initiates who watched open-mouthed as they passed, but her Master’s sharp look caused them to scatter.

“It’s not uncommon for children to have stronger visions than they do as adults,” Obi-Wan explained. “For those of us so inclined, we tend to learn to block them out as we get older, though no one’s yet been able to explain why.”

“What was your vision about?” Aayla asked.

Obi-Wan felt Anakin’s hand twitch violently on her leg.

“I’m not to say,” she replied simply. “The future is always in motion, Aayla, and while what I saw could come true, that does not mean it will come true. Additionally, visions are not always clear, so attempting to interpret them alone is often unwise.”

“Yours seemed pretty clear,” Anakin pointed out.

Obi-Wan felt herself wince.

“I am…a rarity, among the Order. My visions, when I can see them clearly, are almost always completely literal. Most people have metaphorical visions – they see something that symbolizes something else – but mine tend to reflect exactly what will – or could happen.”

“I’ve had dreams like that,” Anakin admitted as they entered another turbolift, this one to take them to the floor the Halls of Healing were on. “Both kinds. I dreamt stuff that happened exactly as I dreamt it, and I’ve dreamt stuff that only seemed to mean something when I thought about it later. I dreamt about Gardulla losing Mom and me to Watto, but I just saw a pair of coins falling from one pair of hands to another. But I’ve also had things happen exactly like I dreamed them. I dreamt about you and Master Qui-Gon before I met you.”

“And as you heard, I’ve been dreaming about you for most of my life,” Obi-Wan replied softly, reaching a hand out to run it through the boy’s hair. “They were always my favorite dreams, except when I saw you in pain and I could do nothing.”

Anakin looked bashful, but he didn’t reply since they had arrived at the Halls. Master Vokara Che was waiting for them by the door.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” she said firmly, but quietly. “I hear you are the reason that my Padawan nearly passed out in the middle of inoculating Initiates for the Corellian mumps.”

“Sorry, Master Che,” she said weakly.

“Come on. I’m going to check you over before sending you to the room that the rest of your in-Temple clanmates have been banished to until you’re feeling better. No,” she said as Obi-Wan opened her mouth to speak, “you’re not leaving the Halls until you’re well. None of you are.”

“Are there any Healers available to look over Padawan Secura and young Anakin here?” Qui-Gon asked. “Aayla has just returned to the Temple from Tatooine, while Anakin was a Tatooine slave we freed during our stop there. I doubt he has had any inoculations, or has ever been to a doctor.”

“I don’t want to leave Obi-Wan,” Anakin said mulishly. Obi-Wan felt the grip on her boot tighten.

Master Che eyed the interaction with interest.

“We can look at you right across the way from Padawan Kenobi,” she said firmly. “Come along. Doran! Look over Padawan Secura please! Standard return check, though be a bit more thorough than usual. She was in Hutt space, and you know what kind of missions she and her Master tend to take. Chloris! Come over here!”

Her orders were instantly obeyed. Obi-Wan was laid out on a medical bed by her Master before he lifted Anakin up on to the bed just next to it. She gestured for her Master to stay with Anakin while Master Che looked her over, as Anakin had no experience with Healers and was likely to be nervous. She was just going to lie still until Master Che decided that she was physically healthy and simply suffering from psychic shock and released her to whatever room her clanmates had co-opted.

“I assume muscle weakness, since your Master had to carry you in here, along with that nasty reaction headache I can feel through your shields?” Master Che asked as she began to examine her with the Force.

“Yoda’s shields,” she admitted. “Mine collapsed.”

“That will be a priority once you can think without it hurting,” Master Che replied. She closed her eyes, and Obi-Wan remained silent while the Master Healer looked her over with the Force. “You seem to be otherwise fine,” she finally admitted.

“Does that mean I can leave?” Obi-Wan asked.

“Only as far as that room,” Master Che said, pointing to a door two beds away. “My Elina is already there, as are Padawans Swan, Tachi, Eerin, Damsin, and Raph-Elan. I suspect Muln will join you there as soon as he can get here from orbit, and Reeft from the Senate. Is your little shadow going to want to follow you?”

It took Obi-Wan a second to realize she meant Anakin.

“Yes, probably,” she admitted. “He’s…he’s supposed to be my Padawan. We already have a developing bond, and when he suddenly couldn’t feel me before being able to feel the aftereffects of my vision…”

“Completely understandable,” Master Che said. “I’ll make sure he comes in right after you. Is Padawan Secura with you as well?”

Obi-Wan looked over at Qui-Gon.

“Master?” she asked. “Can you watch Aayla until one of us is allowed out of the Halls?”

“Since I suspect you will be watching Anakin, I don’t mind,” he replied. “I will contact Shmi and the Queen to let them know that Anakin will be remaining here tonight. Aayla can stay in your room while you’re here.”

Obi-Wan sagged in relief.

“Thank you, Master.”

“As soon as your future Padawan is done getting his first round of broad-spec inoculations, you and he can go join your clanmates,” Master Che said. “Either get your Master to carry you again or use a wheelchair, do not walk yourself. Let me or another Healer know if you need anything,” she added before disappearing to the other side of the ward.

Her Master did insist on carrying her into the room where her clanmates were huddled in a blanket-and-pillow pile on the floor. They insisted on placing her at the middle of the huddle, and Anakin clung tightly to her so they wouldn’t be separated. It didn’t take long for them both to fall asleep despite the reaction headache.

Chapter Text

She woke up the next morning to find Garen, Reeft, and K’Kruhk had all arrived during the night and joined their pile. She was also happy to find that her reaction headache and the residual muscle weakness was gone, though she suspected that she wouldn’t be allowed to use the Force for a few days at the least. Yoda was also present, sleeping atop K’Kruhk’s back.

Obi-Wan didn’t get up quite yet; she allowed herself to sink into meditation, surrounded by the warm bodies of her future Padawan and her clanmates. They were just as warm mentally as they were physically; their bonds projecting calm, sleep, and care.

She wasn’t sure how long it took her to rebuild her mental walls. She’d had the practice down to a science when she was younger, but her walls had been thinner then, and she’d never seen the point of reinforcing them when she knew they’d be torn down again. She hadn’t built the walls she had now – or had before yesterday’s vision – until after that last vision on Melida/Daan, when she’d needed strong walls to keep out the emotions of the dying around her. The remains of her walls behind the ones Yoda had set up were nearly destroyed. Using them would be no help. She had to rebuild her walls entirely.

When she finally opened her eyes again, most of her clanmates were awake, as were Anakin and Yoda, who were both sitting in a distant corner with their eyes shut. Yoda’s hand was on Anakin’s forehead. She suspected her great-grandmaster was teaching the newest member of his line to shield.

“Look who’s back in the land of the living!” Garen said cheerily as she sat up. He sat down beside her and wrapped one of his arms around her. “You worried us, Obes. Every member of our clan has called into the Temple. Kayo called in, and he’s supposed to be out-of-contact in Wild Space out past Bakura!”

Obi-Wan winced, and gratefully accepted the plate of food Bant handed her before claiming her other side.

“I’m surprised my reaction headache’s gone, then,” she said. “I’m surprised I’m not Force-blind, honestly.”

“Well, you’ve always been loud when you weren’t trying to be quiet,” Garen pointed out.

“Eat your food,” Bant said, nudging her with an elbow. “Master Che’s not letting you out of here until you’ve had enough calories for her satisfaction.

Obi-Wan dutifully ate a bite of food before complaining, “Master Che is never satisfied with my caloric intake after two different periods of adolescent starvation.”

“She said that if you eat everything on that plate, have strong shields, and no longer have a reaction headache, she’ll let you walk out of here…assuming you can walk,” Bant reported.

“The headache’s gone, the muscle weakness is gone, my shields are rebuilt, and I will do my best to eat everything on this plate,” Obi-Wan said quickly before shoving another bite into her mouth.

“Don’t eat so fast you throw up,” Garen pointed out, before leaning in and whispering, “Reeft’ll help you get rid of the rest of the food if you don’t think you can eat it, but you at least have to try.”

“That I can do,” she agreed.

She was more than halfway through the plate before Elina entered the room and brightened to see her sitting up.

“You’re awake!” the half-Miraluka said as she hurried over. The second-youngest member of their clan was already dressed in her healer’s robes, with her Padawan braid wrapped over her head so it didn’t get in the way when she was working. “Eon and Elitha were worried.”

“Did they call in as well? I thought they were on Riflor?”

Elina tapped her head. “They didn’t comm, but they asked me.”

Elina and her triplets had the strongest tri-bond the Order had ever seen. While Elina had originally been sent to the MedCorps before being taken as a Padawan by Master Che due to her natural ability with Force healing, her triplets, Eon and Elitha, had gone into the AgriCorps since their own version of Force healing was primarily effective on plant life. Despite the distance, they could still easily communicate with each other from half a galaxy away.

“How are they doing on Riflor? I know it was supposed to be a challenge to see if any other plant life could be adapted to Riflor’s…difficulties.”

“I’ll answer if you keep eating,” Elina replied.

Obi-Wan immediately took another bite.

“They’re having an…interesting time,” Elina said. “The mental conversation tends to be irritated swearing interspersed with exclamations of success. The Advozsec think they’re amusing though. Apparently they don’t even have twins, much less triplets, so the fact that both of them were born at once, and there’s a third of them, seems to fascinate them enough that they’re willing to put up with their attempts at growing things. So, who’s your little shadow?”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the fond smile on her face as she glanced over at where Anakin and Yoda seemed to be talking, though their eyes were still closed.

“That would be Anakin Skywalker. Quin found him on Tatooine, Qui-Gon freed him, and I freed his mother.”

“Oh-kay, and why was he clinging to you like a limpet until Yoda convinced him to learn rudimentary shielding – which he only managed by saying that it would make you feel better if he wasn’t so blinding?” Garen asked.

“He’s meant to be my Padawan,” she said simply.

Her surrounding crèchemates – which seemed to be everyone in-Temple but Siri – looked surprised.

“The one you’ve been dreaming about for the past seventeen years?” Taria asked as she handed over a cup of tea.

“That would be Anakin,” Obi-Wan said. She let out a hum of pleasure after taking a sip of the tea. Taria had managed to get her favorite blend of cassius tea.

“So the little sunspot’s your kid then? Well, we’re doomed,” Garen said.

Obi-Wan calmly jabbed her elbow into his side without disturbing her tea.

“Sunspots are dark, Garen,” Bant pointed out. “He’s like a tiny compressed star.”

“He’s been so very brave,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I’m very proud of him.”

As she watched, Anakin’s eyes popped open, as did Yoda’s. Anakin immediately looked over at her, and his eyes widened at seeing her awake. He paused only long enough to say something to Yoda before jumping to his feet and darting across the room to her. She handed her plate to Garen and her tea to Bant just in time for him to crash into her arms.

“I’m alright, Anakin, I’m alright,” she murmured comfortingly, wrapping one arm around his shoulders while she carded her other hand through his hair.

“I’m really glad you’re awake,” he mumbled into her shoulder. “Master Qui-Gon was amazing, and he believed I could win and made sure I was free, but you took care of me since then, and you saved Mom, and Aayla thinks you’re great, and being around you just feels right.”

“That’s probably the bond talking, kiddo,” Garen said. “Let your Master have her hands back so she can finish her meal.

Bant immediately scooted over so that he could sit between her and Obi-Wan. She patted the space.

“Here you are, Anakin. You don’t have to go far.”

Siri re-entered the room with another plate of food.

“I have first-meal for you once you can hold it, kid,” she told him. “And doctor’s orders are you eat it.”

Anakin slowly slid off of her lap into the space Bant had made for him, and Siri handed him the plate before sitting down.

“So, more introductions,” Obi-Wan said. “Everyone, this is Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, these are some of my crèchemates – the people I grew up in a group with as a child. From your left to my right, we have Bant Eerin, Taria Damsin, Elina Chrysolite, Yoshi Raph-Elan, Siri Tachi, Bultar Swan, Reeft, and Garen Muln. The lump of fur in the corner is K’Kruhk.”

“He didn’t get in until a few hours ago, but he came straight here once he and his Master arrived,” Bultar explained.

“Hi,” Anakin said shyly. Obi-Wan could sense how intimidated he was by the group of adults around him. That didn’t stop him from asking his next question. “If this is some of them, does that mean there’s more?”

“Not everyone’s in-Temple, or even Temple-based,” Elina explained. “My triplets, Eon and Elitha, are currently stationed a planet called Riflor, where they’re attempting to help imported plant life grow in order to better feed the local population.”

“Aayla’s Master, Quinlan Vos, is another of our crèchemates,” Obi-Wan added.

“Aalto’s off on Terr’skiar with his Master,” Taria reported. “Sona’s teaching underprivileged children on Taris. Kayo’s off exploring Wild Space, and Zap’s on Ryloth, growing things.”

“Most of us aren’t usually in-Temple at the same time,” Yoshi said. “Pretty much never, actually. It’s a good thing we were this time. If any of us had been on an active mission when that hit…well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.”

Obi-Wan winced.

“How bad was it for all of you?”

“You’re the only one who had to be carried in like a damsel in distress,” Garen said, “but it still felt like being clubbed in the head.”

“I do apologize for that,” Obi-Wan said, ducking her head.

Bant reached around Anakin to lightly cuff her shoulder.

“There’s no need for that. You don’t have control over when the Force gives you visions; no one does. And it’s good to have a reminder that as convenient as our mental web may be, it does have its downsides. Now eat your food.”

Anakin rapidly scarfed down his food – all high-nutrient, high-calorie offerings, she noted, and in portions small enough not to hurt him after a lifetime of malnutrition and dehydration – though she was mostly just poking at the remains of hers.

Her Master poked his head in the door a few minutes later.

“If you’re done,” he said, “the Queen will be addressing the Senate in just over two hours. Master Che is ready for you if you think you can be cleared.”

Obi-Wan immediately shoved her plate toward Reeft, who took it and finished it off for her while she stood up.

“Med check, shower, change, and I can be Senate-ready,” she said. “Anakin too?”

Qui-Gon nodded.

“What about you, Anakin?” she asked.

“I want to come,” he said firmly, before shoveling the last bite of food into his mouth.

“I went out and picked up new clothes for him this morning,” Siri said. “I dropped them by your rooms.”

Qui-Gon held out his hand to Anakin.

“Why don’t I take you to shower and change into said new clothes while Obi-Wan has her med check?”

Anakin looked hesitantly back at Obi-Wan.

“I’m fine, Anakin,” she told him, running a soothing hand down his back. “Go with Qui-Gon. I’ll see you shortly.”

Anakin took a deep breath.

“Okay. What do I do with my plate?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Bant said, whisking the item out of Anakin’s hands so he was free to follow Qui-Gon out the door.

Obi-Wan accompanied them into the main room of the Halls of Healing, where Master Che was waiting for her.

“Any residual headache? Muscle weakness? Dizziness, nausea?” she questioned as soon as she sat down on the cot.

“None of them,” Obi-Wan said. “I feel perfectly fine.”

“And your shields?” Master Che continued.

“Still broken when I woke up, but I spent some time – I don’t know how much – rebuilding them. They’re not quite as strong as they were before, but that’s simply because they haven’t had time to set in yet. I should be fine soon enough.”

Master Che hummed in response before checking her over with the Force. Obi-Wan remained perfectly still, knowing the healer would complain if she didn’t.

“You seem well enough,” Master Che said grudgingly. “But you are under restrictions! You may attend the Senate meeting your charge is addressing. You may not use the Force for the next ten-day for anything beyond mental communication, and you should not use that for distances over a kilometer. Do not engage in lightsaber usage unless someone is actively trying to kill you. No katas, no sparring. Again, wait at least a ten-day. I would prefer to see you again at that point, but I know your schedule depends on your charge. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master Che,” Obi-Wan said obediently.

“Good. Go ready yourself for the Senate,” the Healer ordered before turning away and marching back towards where Obi-Wan knew her office to be.

By the time she made it back to the rooms she shared with Qui-Gon, the refresher was free. The small puddles on the floor were evidence that Anakin had already been through it.

She didn’t allow herself to luxuriate in the Temple’s near-inexhaustible hot water stores, but she did make sure to scrub off the three weeks of being ship-board and three days on a desert planet. It took a bit of time to dry her hair and braid it into one of the fancier styles she used for more formal occasions, but it was simple enough to pull out the set of tunics and robes she kept pristine in her closet for more formal occasions. It wasn’t her most formal set; that was reserved for when their presence was requested at formal parties, but the tunics were still longer than the ones she wore for field-work.

It only took a few minutes to properly wind her tunics, tabards, and obi before fetching a fresh leather belt and the softer leather diplomatic boots she so rarely got the chance to wear.

Her Master knocked on the door as she was finishing securing her belt.

“Ready, Padawan?” he asked.

She clipped her lightsaber to her belt and opened the door.

“Ready, Master.”

“You look pretty,” Anakin blurted out from where he stood next to her Master, dressed in new, clean tunics in dark blue over slate-grey trousers and boots.

“Thank you, Anakin,” she said with a smile, reaching out to tug at the strand of hair behind his ear, where his Padawan braid would eventually be.

To her surprise, Aayla was also waiting in the main room of their chambers.

“The Council said that my Master left me with you, so I can keep following you around until he or Master Tholme get back,” she said. She was also dressed in nicer tunics than normal, and dutifully followed them out the door towards the speeder bay, walking at Anakin’s side.

They reached 500 Republica – where Queen Amidala and her retinue were staying with Senator Palpatine – just in time to meet her as she left for the Senate building.

“We were not expecting to see you today, Masters Jedi,” she said evenly. For once, it was actually Padmé behind the Queen’s elaborate gowns and cosmetics.

“After the assassin my Padawan faced on Tatooine, the Jed Council has elected to assign us as your guards for the foreseeable future,” her Master replied. “We will do our best not to intrude on your privacy, but your safety is necessary to ensure the continued survival of your people.”

The Queen inclined her head slightly, and they joined her retinue. Qui-Gon joined Captain Panaka in front of the rest of the group, Anakin and Aayla filed in behind the pair of handmaidens, and Obi-Wan took the Queen’s left side, as Senator Palpatine was on her right.

She heard Anakin quietly question one of the handmaidens about his mother’s whereabouts, and was informed that she was making sure Jar Jar did not break anything at the Senator’s apartment.

“I do not believe I have made yours or your Master’s acquaintance, Padawan,” Senator Palpatine said.

“Senator, this is Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. The other young ones are Padawan Aayla Secura and their ward, Anakin Skywalker,” the Queen introduced.

Palpatine frowned.

“It was my understanding that the Jedi only took one student at a time,” he said.

“That is correct. Padawan Secura is in my care while her Master continues on a mission that was deemed too dangerous for her to continue on,” Obi-Wan said smoothly.

“You must be close to Knighting yourself if you have a Padawan given into your care,” the Senator said.

Obi-Wan smiled back in reply, the perfect picture of Jedi serenity. She’d been told she was very good at it.

“My Knighting will happen when the Force wills it.”

The ride over to the Senate was uneventful, though she and her Master were both on guard since the Chancellor had again booked an open-air air taxi. They were dropped off within the Senate building itself, in one of the hangar bays allotted for arriving Senators and Senatorial guests. Since the Queen was addressing the Senate, and she had the Chancellor’s favor, they were in one of the ones closer to the main area of the Senate.

The Chancellor was not there to greet them, though it would be improper of him to be, since that would show bias and he was already facing corruption charges, as false as they may be.

Senator Palpatine escorted them directly to the pod for the Chommell sector and left them to wait there while he spoke to a few more Senators before the session opened.

“With your permission, Your Highness,” Obi-Wan asked Padmé quietly, “I would like to speak with a friend in the Senate about organizing relief aid for your people once the blockade has ended.”

She could sense Padmé’s flash of surprise – her shields weren’t set enough to block out the emotions of those she was familiar with – and then pleasure.

“We would be thankful for that assistance, Padawan Kenobi,” Padmé said in the Queen’s even tones.

Obi-Wan bowed to her.

“If you will excuse me?”

The Queen waved her away. Aayla remained in the pod with Qui-Gon and the Queen’s party, but Anakin darted after her.

“You shouldn’t go anywhere alone!” he insisted, fingers grabbing at her cloak almost unconsciously.

She smiled at him.

“I will be fine, Anakin, though I do not mind your company. Come quickly then. We don’t have much time before the session starts.”

Alderaan’s pod was one of those in a prime position, since Alderaan was one of the Core Founders, so there were quite a few individuals clustered on the floor she knew she would be able to find Alderaan’s junior Senator on.

Alderaan was one of the more unusual sectors, since they elected their Senator over a year before they would take office, sending the Senator-to-be with the departing Senator as a junior representative for the in-between year. The junior representative had no voting power that year, but they were allowed to make arguments and allies in the Senate, which was the entire point of their early attendance in the first place.

Bail Antilles the younger – soon to be Bail Organa, Prince Consort – was the current junior representative from Alderaan, with his uncle/distant cousin/some sort of relation Bail Antilles the elder as the senior Senator. Conveniently, he had his future wife, Crown Princess Breha Organa, were both friends of hers. Given they were already both involved in humanitarian causes, she had no doubt that she would be able to convince her old friends to provide aid to the Naboo.

“Representative Antilles!” she called out.

Thankfully, only the younger of the two Antilles senators turned around. He smiled when he saw her and immediately strode over after excusing himself from his conversation with the elder Antilles.

“Obi-Wan,” he greeted, reaching out to take her hand in his. “It’s so good to see you! It’s been far too long.”

“We saw each other two months ago,” she pointed out.

“As I said, far too long,” Bail said with a smile. “May I ask who your young friend is?”

“Bail, this is Anakin Skywalker, currently in mine and my Master’s care. Anakin, this is Representative Bail Antilles of Alderaan, a very dear friend of mine.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, young Skywalker,” Bail said with a friendly smile.

“Do you have a moment, Bail? I’m afraid I didn’t come merely to catch up,” she said.

“Of course,” Bail said, grabbing her elbow and guiding her into an alcove. “What can I do for you?”

“I know you and Breha are involved in several humanitarian causes,” she said, keeping her voice hushed. “I am currently on assignment protecting Queen Amidala of the Naboo, who will be addressing the Senate shortly. Her people are in dire need of relief aid after the Trade Federation blockade, which, if I am counting correctly, is currently on its seventy-fourth day. There is even more to it, which I am sure that Queen Amidala will share shortly, but I wanted to ask if you and Breha would be able to set up relief aid and stage it somewhere that it could be delivered as soon as the blockade is broken.”

“Of course we’ll help,” he said. “I will need to contact Breha first, and probably Queen Amidala as well in order to find out what sort of aid her people will need the most, but we will set something up at the very least.”

“Thank you, Bail,” Obi-Wan said with a smile. “The people of Naboo…they are not being well treated. Much like Alderaan, they are a peaceful people, without any planetary defenses. This has not been easy on them.”

“Did you speak with some of the Naboo? I assume you were dispatched to the planet itself to bring the Queen to Coruscant?”

“Not exactly,” she prevaricated. “I can’t say more yet. Though speaking of, I am still on bodyguard duty, so I must return to the Queen before the session starts.”

“Of course,” Bail said. “Would you like to get lunch when you return?”

“I will if I’m free,” she replied. “And if the Council doesn’t decide to send us off again. But thank you, Bail.”

“Of course,” Bail repeated. “I might be calling you again later for more details. Comm codes still the same?”

“They are,” Obi-Wan replied. “I’ll see you later, Representative Antilles.”

“And you, Padawan Kenobi,” Bail said with a smile and a bow of his head.

Once they were a safe distance away, Anakin asked, “How did you get to know him?”

“We met a few years ago,” she replied. “Alderaan had a five-thousandth anniversary festival in honor of the Great Peace of Alderaan that they requested Jedi presence for. I was recently recovered from an injury I received during a mission that had lasted over the year, so the Council sent my Master and I to the month-long celebration as a way to ease me back into fieldwork. I met Bail then. A few months ago, I helped arrange a marriage between Bail and his long-time, secret girlfriend, Breha Organa. Bail and Breha had been secretly courting since before the first time I was on Naboo, but their families were political enemies, so they could not be publicly involved. However, there was an argument about whether Breha was suited to take the throne of Alderaan after her father, with Bail’s family as the prime alternate candidate. I suggested an arrangement that leaves Breha as the future Queen, with Bail as the future Viceroy and Prince Consort, in addition to the role of Senator, which he will take next year. So, I created a marital alliance that was also a wedding between star-crossed lovers. Bail and Breha have declared that they will eternally be grateful to me for that, so I thought to use a bit of that capital to organize some relief aid for the Naboo.”

“What’s capital?” Anakin asked as they entered the turbolift. Obi-Wan hit the button for the level the Naboo pod was on.

“Capital has a few different meetings, but in this case it’s almost like a favor, or money. Something you can trade in for something else. Does that make sense?”

“I think so,” Anakin said. He wrinkled his nose. “If I do get to be a Jedi, to be your Padawan, I’m going to be really far behind, won’t I?”

“In some ways,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I doubt there are very many Padawans or even Knights with your mechanical or piloting skills though. I suspect that will translate to a few other subjects once you connect the dots – math, engineering, and such. In things such as language, literature, and history? Yes, you will be far behind. But I have every faith that you will be able to catch up. And I’ll be right there to help you, of course, and I suspect Aayla will do her best to help as well. She likes you.”

“I’m glad,” Anakin confessed quietly. They exited the turbolift and headed for the nearby Naboo pod. “I like her too. But not like-like! Not like that! I just think she’ll be a great friend.”

“That she will,” Obi-Wan agreed before they rejoined the Queen’s party in the Naboo pod. Senator Palpatine had already returned, so they simply retook their seats and sat quietly, though Obi-Wan kept alert. She doubted that anyone would attempt to murder the Queen within the Senate chamber – that would be going a bit too far, even for the Trade Federation – but nothing was out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, the Chancellor’s pod rose from the floor and Chancellor Valorum opened the Senate session.

“The Chair recognizes the Senator from the Sovereign System of Naboo,” he announced, his voice echoing through the chamber.”

Senator Palpatine stood and directed their pod out into the open air before beginning his introductory speech.

“Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate,” Senator Palpatine began, “a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation.”

“This is outrageous!” Senator Lott Dod of the Trade Federation announced. “I object to the Senator’s statements!”

Vice-Chancellor Mas Amedda and the Chancellor’s Aide, Sei Taria, both began to rise from their seats as Chancellor Valorum declared, “The Chair does not recognize the Senator from the Trade Federation at this time.”

“To state our allegations, I present Queen Amidala, recently elected ruler of the Naboo, who speaks on our behalf,” Senator Palpatine said before returning to his seat.

Obi-Wan frowned inwardly as the Queen rose. She understood pointing out that Amidala was an elected monarch, but pointing out that it was recent automatically undermined her as much as her youth did.

Queen Amidala stood and stepped forward to the front of the pod to address the Senate. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but be proud of the young girl’s bravery.

“Honorable representatives of the Republic,” she said, her voice the flat tones of Queen Amidala. “I come before you under the gravest of circumstances. Naboo’s system has been invaded by force. Invaded…against all laws of the Republic by the droid armies of the Trade…”

She was cut off by Lott Dod – again.

“I object! There is no proof!” the Neimoidian exclaimed. “This is incredible. We recommend a commission be sent to Naboo to ascertain the truth!”

Obi-Wan could see Padmé’s mouth tighten under the thick white makeup.

“Overruled,” Chancellor Valorum said shortly.

Lott Dod looked furious.

“Your Honor, you cannot allow us to be condemned without reasonable observation. It’s against all the rules of procedure,” he pointed out.

The pod containing the Malastare envoy left its dock and entered the fray.

“The Congress of Malastare concurs with the honorable delegate from the Trade Federation,” Senator Aks Moe of Malastare said. “A commission must be appointed!”

Now the Chancellor looked angry.

“The point…” he began, only to be interrupted by the Vice-Chair.

“Excuse me, Chancellor,” the Changrian said, leaning in to whisper something into Valorum’s ear.

“Enter the bureaucrats,” Senator Palpatine told the Queen quietly, but Obi-Wan could just make out his soft words. “The true rulers of the Republic, and on the payroll of the Trade Federation, I might add. This is where Chancellor Valorum’s strength will disappear.”

Padmé looked troubled, despite her heavy makeup. Her frown only deepened when the Chancellor said, “The point is conceded. Section 523A takes precedence here. Queen Amidala of the Naboo, will you defer your motion to allow a commission to explore the validity of your accusations?”

“I will not defer,” the Queen said firmly. “I have come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now. I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” That caused murmurs to rush through the Senate, despite the sound-dampening fields around most of the repulsorpods. The Queen took a deep breath and continued, “If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed. I move for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum’s leadership.”

The Senate was quickly thrown into recess after that. Chancellor Valorum was obviously shocked. Obi-Wan was as well, though she hoped she was better at hiding it. From Senator Palpatine’s words, he had been the one to convince Padmé that the Vote of No Confidence was needed, yet from what she remembered of Senate proceedings over the past several years, Palpatine and Valorum had been allies and possibly even friends.

Go with the Queen back to the Senator’s apartments, her Master told her. Take Anakin and Aayla with you. I am going with Adi to speak with the Chancellor.

She nodded slightly in reply, not wanting to risk mental communication herself so soon after the collapse of her shields.

They hadn’t been back at the Senator’s apartments for more than half an hour when Taria appeared with her Master.

“Queen Amidala,” Jai Maruk said with a bow, Taria bowing in unison with him. “I am Jedi Knight Jai Maruk, and this is my Padawan, Taria Damsin. The Council has assigned us to temporarily take over your protection from Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi while they speak with the Council.”

“The Council seemed fine with allowing me to be without Jedi protection from yesterday afternoon into this morning,” the Queen pointed out.

“That was before it became very clear that you were on Coruscant, Your Highness,” Jai said gravely. He turned to look at Obi-Wan. “Padawan Kenobi, the Council awaits you to speak more of what you spoke of with them yesterday. They have requested that you bring Padawan Secura and Anakin Skywalker with you. Your Master will meet you there.”

“Thank you, Knight Maruk,” Obi-Wan said, offering a bow and a small smile to her Padawan-brother’s first Padawan and her crèchemate. She then turned to Padmé. “By your leave, Your Highness?”

“Of course, Padawan Kenobi,” Padmé said with a regal nod that barely caused the long tails of her headdress to shake.

Obi-Wan bowed to her then gestured for Aayla and Anakin to follow her out to the turbolift that led to the landing platform they’d arrived on.

“Can I drive?” Anakin asked once they reached the speeder.

“While I don’t doubt your capabilities, Anakin, I do doubt your familiarity with Coruscanti traffic laws,” she said with a shake of her head. “Besides, while I doubt the CSF would chase down a labeled Jedi speeder, they would report us, and I don’t want to have to deal with that sort of lecture.”

Anakin’s questions about Coruscant traffic laws, and Obi-Wan prodding Aayla to answer them, took up the rest of their flight to the Temple and the walk to the Council chamber. Her Master was waiting for them.

“Anakin, you and Aayla will stay here in the waiting room until we come out or call for you,” Qui-Gon said. “I apologize, Aayla, but you are primarily here because Anakin is not allowed to wander unaccompanied.”

“That’s okay,” Aayla said with a shrug. “I’m still in-between classes since mine finished before we left on the Tatooine mission and I need my Master or his proxy to sign me up for new ones. I can introduce Anakin to those game shows with the Jedi-level obstacle courses that non-Jedi try to run.”

“Or you could watch a nice, calm documentary on Coruscant traffic laws,” Obi-Wan pointed out with a smile. “You’re up for your speeder license next year, aren’t you?”

“If I’m in-Temple enough to take it,” Aayla said with a groan.

“Well, do as you wish, but if it takes more than a few hours, try to watch something educational,” Qui-Gon said.

“Yes, Master Qui-Gon,” Aayla said before dragging Anakin over to the couch she seemed to have claimed as her favorite.

Qui-Gon reached out a hand to rest it on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, before moving it to her back and walking at her side into the Council chamber. This was meant to be her show, after all.

The Council was already waiting. There was a meditation cushion in the center of the floor, where they would normally stand.

“Master Che has reported that you are physically well, and Master Yoda claims that your mental shields are your own again,” Master Windu said. “Do you feel yourself capable of sharing not only your vision, but your duel with the assassin with the Council?”

“Yes, Masters,” Obi-Wan said.

Master Windu gestured toward the cushion.

“Be seated then, and begin whenever you are ready.”

Obi-Wan took a kneeling position on the cushion, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and projected her memories into the waiting minds of the Council members.

It took hours. They examined her memories through all of her senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and the Force – and often asked her to go over part of a memory again, or a different part, or another.

Her vision was treated with just as much care, though it was more difficult. Parts of the vision were blurry, and despite every technique the Masters recommended, she couldn’t make everything clear.

Master Poof tried to argue that her vision must be metaphorical, but Masters Yoda, Windu, and Yaddle all seemed sure that what she was seeing was actual True-seeing. She believed it was True-seeing. Every vision she’d ever had in her life – that she remembered, at least – had been True-seeing.

By the time they stopped, she had tear tracks running down her face from where she’d cried until she couldn’t at seeing Anakin – sweet Anakin, who was so kind and wanted to do everything he could to help people – turned into a monster at the Sith’s behest.

She was half-collapsed on the floor, and definitely looked less-than-ideal, when the Council finally decided they were done for the night.

Chapter Text

No sooner had they opened the doors when Siri hurried in, a frown on her face.

“Masters, Queen Amidala has decided to return to Naboo. She is waiting for Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi at the landing platform.”

Obi-Wan hurriedly wiped her face on her tabards and rushed to compose herself.

“We will need to repack our bags,” Qui-Gon said.

Siri held out a pair of knapsacks.

“Done. I packed three spare sets of robes for each of you, your field boots, lots of socks and underwear, and the standard field kit plus extras since I know how your missions go,” Siri said as she passed the bags over.

“That’s quite…efficient…of you, Padawan Tachi,” her Master blinked.

“Obi-Wan, I also packed three different card games and a new holo-pad, since you mentioned it was a really long space flight,” Siri added. “I also got Aayla to pack a bag for herself and I packed one for Anakin out of stores, since we weren’t sure if they were going along or not.”

“As I presume young Skywalker’s mother is still with the Naboo contingent, he will accompany you back to Naboo,” Master Windu said. “Padawan Secura will remain here, as Master Saa has offered to watch her until Master Tholme returns the day after tomorrow.”

Siri bowed. “Masters.”

“To Naboo, you must go,” Master Yoda said. “Protect the Queen, you must. Sleep, Obi-Wan must, once in hyperspace.”

That was an order that she would be very willing to give into. No one ever mentioned how exhausting mental review was.

“We’ll send clearance for the Queen’s ship to land at the Temple hangar to pick you up,” Master Windu said. “Grab something to eat and head for the hangar.”

Obi-Wan bowed her head as her Master bowed, then accepted her Master’s hand up to her feet before they hurried out of the Council Tower.

She commed Bail as they walked.

“I’m headed off-planet again, with the Queen,” she told him. “I can ask her about logistics and send them once we’re in hyperspace.”

“No need,” Bail replied, “though thank you for letting me know. I sent a message requesting information to the Queen while we were on recess, and she was kind enough to reply. Breha’s already organizing everything. The majority of the ships will be coming from Alderaan and won’t be there for two ten-days, but we already have some relief supplies based out of colonies that are nearer to Naboo, so they’ll be there much faster. The ships will wait in the Enarc system until the receive word from me that the invasion is over – which means you’ll need to let me know when the invasion is over and Naboo is free, and then we’ll send in the relief ships in.”

“Thank you, Bail,” Obi-Wan said with a sigh of relief. “It’s always a relief to find out there are still good people in the galaxy.”

She could hear the fabric of Bail’s clothes shifting slightly over the comm as he moved. Finally, he replied, “What good is wealth and power if we do not use it for the betterment of the less fortunate? The Naboo need help. Alderaan can provide it. So we will. I’m also currently trying to rally other Senators into pledging their own relief aid – even without confirmation of the invasion, Naboo has been under a blockade for, seventy-four days, I believe you said? That means it will be nearly a hundred before any relief can arrive, so I don’t doubt the Naboo need aid.”

“According to Queen Amidala, they needed aid a month into the blockade,” Obi-Wan said grimly. “I shudder to think of how they’re doing now that we’re past twice that.” They were almost to the landing bay the Queen’s ship had been directed to land in. “I have to go, Bail. I’m about to board the Queen’s ship.”

“Fair travels to you, my friend,” Bail replied. “I’ll see you when you return.”

Obi-Wan clicked her comm off.

Queen Amidala – it was Sabé again, dressed in the same black gown with a fan headdress that she’d worn on the way to Coruscant – was waiting at the base of the ship’s ramp. Padmé, Rabé, Eirtaé, and Shmi surrounded her, the handmaidens again garbed in the bright orange sunset robes, while Shmi was wearing a new gown of deep blue.

“Thank you for agreeing to come, Master Jinn, Padawan Kenobi,” Sabé said.

“Your Highness, it is our pleasure to continue to serve and protect you,” Qui-Gon said with a bow.

“I welcome your help,” Sabé said. “Senator Palpatine fears the Federation means to destroy me.”

That explained why Sabé had already taken over the role of Queen. Even with Jedi protectors, it was better to be safe than sorry.

Her temporary protectors walked past the group over to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.

“Be safe, grandmaster,” Jai told Qui-Gon. “I’ve heard a lot about your current mission, so please be safe.”

“You too,” Taria told Obi-Wan, reaching out to wrap an arm around her in a half-hug. “No more visions! Next time we’ll all probably end up with week-long migraines!”

“I’ll do my best, but you know I have very little control over that,” Obi-Wan said with a tired smile. “Be safe yourself, Taria. Give the others my regards. I’m a bit too mentally worn to do it myself.”

Taria nodded and gave her another hug before gesturing for them to follow the Queen’s party, which had already disappeared up into the ship. Even from outside, she could hear Jar Jar’s excited yell of, “Wesa goin’ home!”,

Obi-Wan waited until the ship was in hyperspace before collecting her borrowed nightgown, visiting the Queen’s refresher to wash her face, and promptly collapsing on ‘her’ bunk and falling asleep. She only awakened the next day when her Master woke her to eat her meals before she fell straight back to sleep. She spent their second and third full days in hyperspace in a meditation so deep that she was barely aware of someone – probably her Master again – forcing ration bars into her mouth while she reworked and rebuilt her shields into a complex formation that she hoped would be enough to both withstand the Sith and give her enough warning of any more incoming visions.

The fourth day in hyperspace, she was awake and aware enough to deal with the worried questions of Padmé, the handmaidens, Anakin, and Shmi. Even some of the ship’s crew looked relieved to see her again after so many days. She took the opportunity to teach the handmaidens and Anakin sabacc. She offered to teach Shmi, but the woman had refused, saying she’d seen too many people gamble their lives – and her life – away. She didn’t mind Anakin learning to play, since Obi-Wan had admitted the main point was teaching them to hide their tells and to read others. To no one’s surprise, the handmaidens were extremely good at hiding their own tells, while not too good at reading others’. Anakin had the opposite problem; he could read the others almost perfectly – probably because he was cheating using the Force, but she could train that out of him later – but he was horrible at hiding his own tells.

Sabacc entertained them for three days, before they switched back to the Holonet and the second season of The Lost Knight.

Her Master eventually caught her up on the plan that had been made while she was still asleep and/or in meditation. Despite the Naboo’s pacificism, the Queen had decided to go to the Gungans for their Grand Army to take out the droids. The rest of the plan was still a work in progress, but both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had military experience – Obi-Wan’s was actually more extensive than Qui-Gon’s on a planetary level, after her months on Melida/Daan. Her Master recognized that and let her take the lead in assisting the Queen in her planning.

“After making contact with the Gungans, the first thing we’ll need to do is make contact with the local resistance,” she stated.

“How can you be so sure there is a local resistance?” Captain Panaka asked.

“Your people may be peaceful, but no one likes being shoved into camps and told what to do,” Obi-Wan said firmly. “There is a resistance. We simply have to find it. I suspect that your handmaidens still on Naboo will be involved, if their temperaments are similar to those here,” she told the Queen – Padmé, this time, since they were safely in hyperspace.

“They are,” she admitted. “They are young though. I would not wish this for them.”

“Would you sit back while your planet was invaded by oppressors?” Obi-Wan challenged.

Padmé only hesitated a moment before admitting, “I would not.”

“And neither would they,” Obi-Wan continued, gentling her tone. “There is a resistance. There are also two Jedi Padawans who were studying at the Royal House of Learning in Theed who I have no doubt are now part of the resistance. My Master and I may be able to locate them, and through them, the resistance.”

“I worry for their fate if the Federation discovers them there,” the Queen said with a frown.

“Considering that the Federation had no qualms at the attempted assassination of two named Republic ambassadors and did destroy a diplomatic ship bearing the colors of diplomatic immunity, I agree,” Obi-Wan said. “But Masters Lo-Jad and Ali-Vor assured me that their Padawans were still alive as of the time we left Coruscant. We shall simply have to trust in the Force.”

“How old are they?” the Queen asked softly.

“Padawan Wezz is fourteen, nearly fifteen, and Padawan I-Kanu is already fifteen,” Obi-Wan said. “And if they are with the resistance, they are not alone. They will survive,” she said, and the truth of it rang in the Force. Sia-Lan Wezz and Rann I-Kanu would survive the Occupation of Naboo. If she wasn’t mistaken, they would survive much more than that.

“Once we have contacted the resistance, what do you propose we do?” Captain Panaka challenged. He wasn’t happy that she was the one leading the briefing. She suspected he wouldn’t be happy if Qui-Gon was leading it either, but he’d probably be less hostile.

“Then our plans become much more fluid,” Obi-Wan said simply. “The Queen has made her overall goal clear: we must capture the Viceroy in order to force him to end the blockade and the invasion. If all goes to plan, the Gungan army will draw out the bulk of the Trade Federation army away from Theed. The resistance groups will coordinate attacks on the Federation strongholds within the city, as well as others around the planet. Our group and any resistance fighters who join us will enter the Palace and capture the Viceroy.”

“And what about that assassin that tried to stop you on Tatooine?” Panaka demanded.

“If he appears again, then we will handle him,” her master said, a tone of finality in his voice that had Panaka clamping his mouth shut.

“We cannot make more concrete plans without first contacting the Gungans and the resistance,” Obi-Wan continued. “Your Highness, do you plan to be part of the team that captures the Viceroy?”

“My handmaidens and I will enter the palace with you,” the Queen said. “There are certain security codes that only I can override. All of us have been combat trained and are capable with both hand-to-hand and a blaster.”

Obi-Wan strongly suspected that Padmé would be dressed as one of the handmaidens while Sabé took the more dangerous role of Queen during the battle.

“Your plans seem quite strategic to me,” the Queen continued. “Do you concur, Captain?”

“I do,” Panaka said grudgingly.

“Then we are dismissed for now,” she said. “As Padawan Kenobi said, there is nothing more we can do until we are on the planet.”

The approach to the planet was much less harrowing than their escape. Obi-Wan made sure to be in the cockpit for it. She’d spent a decent amount of time there, keeping watch over Anakin as he questioned Captain Olié and Lieutenant Dolphe about the workings of the ship. While he had never flown a spacefaring vessel before, his knowledge of all types of machinery was obvious from the speed he picked up the controls.

“The blockade’s gone,” Panaka reported as they approached the planet.

“The war’s over,” Obi-Wan said. “There’s no need for it now.”

“I have one battleship on my scope,” Captain Olié reported.

“The droid control ship,” Obi-Wan said. “Captain, I know I saw fighters in the bay we launched from. If we can make contact with your pilots, do you think they would be willing to fly against the control ship? If the ship is destroyed, then all the battle droids on the planet will be shut down, and our job becomes much easier.”

“Definitely,” the Captain said.

“We should probably hurry,” Panaka pointed out. “They’ve probably spotted us.”

Obi-Wan nodded, calm despite the rising tension.

“We haven’t much time.”

They landed in the swamps, not far from where Obi-Wan had first made landfall during her disastrous trip down on a droid ship. Jar Jar immediately went out to head for Otoh Gunga while everyone else packed supplies into bags so they could leave the ship and depart on foot.

They were just settling into their new camp when Jar Jar burst out of the water.

“Deresa nobody dere,” Jar Jar explained to her, her Master, and Captain Panaka. “Da Gungan city is deserted! Some kinda fight, mesa tinks.”

“Do you think they’ve been taken to the camps?” Obi-Wan asked.

“More likely they were wiped out,” Panaka said grimly.

“Mesa no tink so,” Jar Jar said.

“Do you know where they are, Jar Jar?” Qui-Gon asked.

“When in trouble, Gungans go to sacred place. Mesa show you! Come on, mesa show you!” the Gungan said excitedly.

Hiking through swampy underbrush was not her idea of fun – nor the handmaidens’, if she was reading the disgusted face Eirtaé made correctly – but it did get the further away from the extremely-noticeable, chromium-plated royal starship.

They were intercepted by a Gungan patrol when they were still – by Jar Jar’s estimates – a kilometer out from where the Gungans would camp.

“Heyo-dalee, Captain Tarpals,” Jar Jar said with a wave.

“Binks!” the lead Gungan groaned. “Noah gain!”

“Wesa comen to see da boss,” Jar Jar said firmly, with a level of gravitas Obi-Wan hadn’t known the Gungan could project.

Captain Tarpals sighed, but his patrol still surrounded their party and escorted them further towards the Gungans. They gained a lot of stares from the Gungan refugees as they proceeded into the camp. The murmurs only grew louder the further they went.

“Your Honor,” Captain Tarpals called out as they approached the ruins. “Queen Amidala of the Naboo.”

Jar Jar waved hesitantly, probably remembering that he’d almost been executed the last time he’d been in Boss Nass’ presence.

“Uh, hello dere de big Boss Nass, Your Honor,” Jar Jar said.

“Jar Jar Binks,” Boss Nass said in a low voice that was almost a growl. “Who’s da ussen others?” he asked as he gestured at their group.

“I am Queen Amidala of the Naboo,” Sabé said in the Queen’s even tones as she stepped forward. “I come before you in peace.”

“Ah, Naboo biggun. Yousa bringen da machineeks. Yousa all bombad,” Boss Nass said angrily.

“We have searched you out because we wish to form an alliance,” Sabé continued, obviously reciting a speech Padmé had given her.

“Your Honor,” Padmé interrupted, shouldering around Sabé to stand at the front of the group.

Boss Nass let out several clicks. “Whosa dis?” he demanded.

“I am Queen Amidala,” Padmé revealed, to the shock of everyone but the handmaidens, Captain Panaka, and Obi-Wan herself. The pilots and guardsmen instantly began murmuring to one another.

You knew? Her Master questioned.

It was obvious, she replied, smiling at him slightly before turning her attention back to Padmé’s speech.

“This is my decoy, my protection, my loyal bodyguard,” she said, looking back at Sabé. She turned back to Boss Nass. “I am sorry for my deception, but it was necessary to protect myself. Although we do not always agree, Your Honor, our two great societies have always lived in peace.”

Boss Nass made an agreeing noise.

Padmé continued, “The Trade Federation has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. If we do not act quickly, all will be lost forever. I ask you to help us. No, I beg you to help us,” she said, falling to her knees. “We are your humble servants.”

The rest of the party instantly copied her, kneeling down on the damp ground.

“Our fate is in your hands,” Padmé concluded.

“Hmmm,” Boss Nass said. There was a long moment of tense silence before the Gungan let out a laugh. “Yousa no tinken’ yousa greater dan da Gungans? Mesa lika dis. Maybe wesa being friends.”

Boss Nass shook his head rapidly, his jowls flapping and saliva flying from his lips. It must have been some signal of agreement, because the rest of the Gungans in the clearing began letting out whoops and cheers.

They were quickly drawn into planning after that.

“I will go with Captain Panaka into the city, in order to find the local resistance,” her Master told her. “I want you to remain here and assist the Queen and the Gungans with their planning.”

“Master, I have experience with guerilla warfare, not an all-out battle like the Gungans will be facing,” Obi-Wan pointed out.

“You weren’t asleep during the Stark Hyperspace War. You’ll be fine. Keep an eye on Anakin and Shmi,” he told her. “Oh, and happy birthday, Padawan,” he added, tossing her a small package before darting off to join Captain Panaka.

Obi-Wan mentally counted the days.

“Oh,” she said in realization. It was her birthday. She was twenty-one now, which meant she was of legal age in any human-Standard culture. She unwrapped the small package as she made her way back over to where Padmé was conferring with Boss Nass and the Gungan generals.

Inside was a large, golden crystal on what appeared to be a simple chain, which on closer inspection was actually made of beskar.

“That’s lovely,” Padmé said as she joined the group. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gem like that before.”

“It’s a Solari crystal,” Obi-Wan said. “They can be used to make lightsabers, but they’re also considered relatively rare gems. They’re only found on Sacorria and Rhen Var, if I remember correctly.”

She reached around her neck and hooked the necklace on before tucking the crystal inside her robes.

“Now, where were we?”

It only took a day for resistance leaders to begin trickling in to the base camp they had sent up on the outskirts of the Naboo swamp nearest Theed, but it took three more for everyone to arrive. Obi-Wan spent those three days frantically discussing the varied resistance movements with their leaders and compiling the information they all had so that it was in one place for the Queen to consult.

The morning of their sixth day on-planet, five since meeting with the Gungans, everyone gathered for the briefing on how they were planning to take back Theed. It was also the day that Boss Nass revoked Jar Jar’s banishment and promoted him to General, which Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a reward or a way to get rid of him.

“As many of the resistance leaders as could make are here, Your Highness,” Captain Panaka reported as he came in with the last group, which included his wife, Captain Mariek Panaka. “They sent representatives from their cells if they themselves could not make it. The Federation army is much larger than we thought, and much stronger. Your Highness, this is a battle I do not think we can win,” he warned.

“The battle is a diversion,” Padmé said calmly, but firmly. “The Gungans must draw the droid army away from the cities. Artoo?”

The astromech projected an image of Theed before them and highlighted the route Amidala traced.

“We can enter the city using the secret passages on the waterfall side. Once we get to the main entrance, Captain Panaka will create a diversion. Then we will enter the palace and capture the Viceroy. Without the Viceroy, they will be lost, and confused. Padawan Kenobi?”

“Nute Gunray is a coward, and has proved that he is willing to do almost anything to save his own skin on multiple occasions,” Obi-Wan said. “He will give the order for the droids to stand down, unless he thinks he can still be ‘rescued.’”

“The Viceroy will be well-guarded,” her Master pointed out.

“The difficulty will be getting into the throne room,” Captain Panaka said, glancing at Padmé. “Once we’re inside, we shouldn’t have a problem.”

Padmé nodded slightly. They obviously had some sort of plan or stash that involved the throne room. Considering Gunray’s arrogance, it was the most likely place to find him, even in the midst of a battle.

“There is a possibility with this diversion that many Gungans will be killed,” Qui-Gon said.

“We have a plan which should immobilize the droid army,” Padmé stated. “At Padawan Kenobi’s recommendation, we will send what pilots we have to knock out the droid control ship orbiting the planet. Many of our pilots have already been freed from the camps, and they will meet us in Theed to take control of their starfighters.”

“A well-conceived plan. However, there is great risk. The weapons on your fighters may not penetrate the shields. There is an even bigger danger if the Viceroy escapes; he will return with another droid army,” Qui-Gon said, searching for every potential flaw in the plan.

“Padawans Wezz and I-Kanu, along with other members of the Naboo Underground under Lucos Dannt, have volunteered to disable every ship in Theed in order to prevent the Viceroy from escaping,” Obi-Wan explained. “The resistance cells have been finding and labelling every ship in the city, including the one the Viceroy normally uses, which will be the first on their disabling list. While the Underground teams have enough ion grenades to temporarily disable every ship in the city, the Padawans have personally volunteered to destroy the Viceroy’s personal ship, along with any other Federation ship they come across.”

“I do not trust that the Viceroy does not have a way of escaping we will not find,” Padmé said. “So we must not fail to get the Viceroy. Everything depends on it.”

The next morning began early. The plan was for the Gungan army to begin leaving the swamp at dawn, so that they would be massed enough for notice by the time the Viceroy was awake. The parties entering Theed had to be at the city by the time the droids started leaving so they could begin making their way through the tunnels on the waterfall side.

The tunnels were dusty and clearly unused by the Federation.

“We’ll have to send people through here once we’ve won,” said Asha, one of the Resistance leaders and a former servant in the Palace.

“I’m promoting you once we’ve won, so you can be in charge of that,” Padmé told her.

The Queen and her handmaidens were all in their matching battle-robes, with the exception of Sabé, who had spent the past several days in the Queen’s white face paint and even more elaborate battle robes and headdress. Each was armed with at least one blaster and several power packs, and Obi-Wan suspected they all had at least one more blaster hidden.

They waited just inside the tunnel until they received the comm signal that meant the droid army had engaged the Gungans.

From there, they slipped out of the tunnel as quietly as possible and made their way around the central courtyard. Padmé and Captain Panaka were each leading their own groups to either side of the courtyard. Captain Panaka had Rabé, Sabé, and the larger group of guardsmen, while Padmé, Eirtaé, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin traveled with the smaller group of guardsmen and the group of pilots. They didn’t have the ‘Queen’ after all, and two Jedi were worth just as much as all of the guardsmen, so Padmé was safe enough.

Anakin’s inclusion was one that Obi-Wan wasn’t happy about, but something she simply knew had to happen, the same way she’d known that Anakin Skywalker was important in the first place. There were no full-fledged visions – thank the Force, she didn’t think she could handle another so soon after the last – but her instincts prodded her until she made sure that Anakin would be with their party.

Of everyone that had traveled on the Queen’s cruiser back to Naboo, Shmi was the only one who wasn’t part of those entering the palace complex. The former slave had instead elected to join one of the underground medical centers to treat the wounded that were bound to come in after the battle. Though she had no formal medical training, she had assisted in the underground surgeries and medical treatments that slaves so often had to suffer through since their masters were almost always unwilling to pay for proper medical care.

“Once we get inside, you find a safe place to hide and stay there,” Qui-Gon knelt down and told Anakin.

“Sure,” the boy agreed.

“Stay there,” Qui-Gon said firmly.

Anakin nodded.

The speeder-mounted turret the NRSF had appropriated came around the corner and fired, knocking out the tank that was in the center of the courtyard and destroying several of the droids that accompanied it.

“There they are!” one of the droids shouted as Panaka’s group – minus Sabé, who was supposed to remain out of sight for as long as possible – burst out and began firing on the troops in the courtyard, drawing them away from hangar entrance. While the hangar was not part of the palace proper, it was part of the plasma refinery complex just next to the palace, which was also where the Naboo Royal Security Forces were headquartered. Their goal was the starfighters in the hangar, as well as the additional weapons in the armory. From there they would take the passages connecting the refinery to the palace and head for the throne room to capture the Viceroy.

Their group slipped around the corner towards where the droids had recently vacated the hangar entrance. While their group was instructed not to fire unless they were engaged, Obi-Wan and her Master did have to deflect a few blaster shots that came too close to their people for comfort.

They stormed into the hangar, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon in the lead with Padmé firing pin-point blaster shots from just behind them.

“Ani, find cover!” Obi-Wan ordered. “Quick!”

The boy darted off to the side and out of the line of fire.

“Get to your ships!” Padmé shouted to the pilots.

The pilots did an excellent job of running to their ships, loading their astromechs, and climbing into their cockpits in the middle of the firefight. Obi-Wan only saw one fall before making it to his ship. She also saw R2-D2 make his way to an empty ship, and then gestured for Anakin to hide in it. It wasn’t a bad plan, she thought as she continued deflecting blaster fire back into the droids.  The starfighter would be impenetrable to the caliber of weapons they were wielding.

Once Captain Panaka and Sabé’s group arrived, having left the courtyard battle to the rest of the resistance, the droids remaining in the hangar were taken care of in short order.

“My guess is that the Viceroy is in the throne room,” Padmé said once the hangar was clear and everyone gathered for her orders.

Captain Panaka nodded.

“Red Group! Blue Group! Everybody this way!” he ordered.

Anakin stood from his position as they headed for the doors.

“Hey! Wait for me!” he exclaimed.

“Anakin, stay where you are,” her Master told him. “You’ll be safe there.”

“But I…” the boy began, but Qui-Gon interrupted him.

“Stay in that cockpit,” he ordered, pointing a lecturing finger at him.

Obi-Wan knew from experience how effective that could be. True enough, Anakin sat back down. Obi-Wan was thankful. She didn’t want Anakin anywhere near a potential Sith assassin.

The doors to the main area of the palace opened as they approached, revealing the black-cloaked Sith assassin Obi-Wan had faced on Tatooine.

The Naboo fighters stopped short.

“We’ll handle this,” Qui-Gon said firmly.

“We’ll take the long way,” Padmé said, a sharp gesture having the entire group clear the way for them to move forwards towards the black-cloaked figure.

The assassin – a Zabrak, judging by the vestigial horns, though she’d never seen a Zabrak with such dark tattoos before – lowered his hood before shrugging off his cloak. Obi-Wan and her Master did the same. Lightsaber duels were always easier without the extra fabric, which was why very few Jedi who primarily took field missions wore long robes.  None of them let their eyes leave their opponent.

The sound of rolling destroyers prefaced blasterfire from the other end of the hangar, but they could not focus on that, as their opponent had drawn his lightsaber, holding its long hilt parallel to the floor, first igniting one red blade, then the other.

Lightstaff, she cursed inwardly. Of course it was a Sith-damned – literally – lightstaff. She and her Master ignited their own blades in response. Obi-Wan reached for her bond with her Master and sent her intention just before she flipped over the Zabrak and attacked him from behind, even as her Master attacked him from the front.

The duel was swift in tempo, all of them drawing on the Force to enhance the speed of their movements. At one point, the Sith kicked out Qui-Gon’s knee, driving him to the ground, and forcing Obi-Wan to go on the offense to push him away from her temporarily fallen master. The Sith grabbed a piece of debris with the Force and threw it at the wall panel behind him, opening the door and backing away further into the palace.

Her Master rejoined her in the fight, and the Sith promptly kicked her in the face, leaving her Master to pursue the Sith into the main area of the plasma refinery complex. They managed to push him back to the edge of one of the platforms where they stood for a long moment, the Sith baring his teeth at them, before Obi-Wan feinted and her Master struck.

The Sith dodged by backflipping to the main walkway across the expanse, so they followed him across, her Master simply jumping while she did a somersault. They locked their sabers with his and continued to drive him back.  They continued pushing him back through the refinery, dancing along the narrow catwalks that criss-crossed the building.

They were fighting alongside one of the plasma shafts when the assassin kicked her off the catwalk and down several levels. She landed wrong on the roll and felt her shoulder pop out of socket as she continued rolling off the catwalk she landed on. She managed to catch herself before falling completely into the abyss, but that still left her hanging by her fingertips above nothingness.

Obi-Wan! her Master shouted, sounding frantic.

I’m fine! Keep going! she replied.

Her lightsaber had not fallen off the catwalk, and was still just out of her reach, so she wasn’t out of the fight yet, even if she was several stories below it.

Above her, she saw her Master knock the assassin off the catwalk they had been on onto another one and then jump down after him, almost managing to stop him if he hadn’t kicked her Master in the face so that he had time to get up. Qui-Gon recovered quickly, and continued pushing the assassin back towards the other end of the complex, where she could see a laser gate separating a room from the rest of the complex.  

She used the Force to pull herself up onto the catwalk she was hanging from, shoved her arm back into its socket, grabbed her lightsaber, and used the Force again to jump up to the catwalk several stories above her head that her Master and the Sith were fighting on. She was still a ways behind them, so she ignited her lightsaber and began to run.

The laser-gate she had seen was apparently a corridor with several, which had disengaged while her Master and the Sith fought their way down the corridor. The gates began to ignite again, separating her Master and the Sith, and forcing her to skid to a halt between the first and second gates.

Her Master disengaged his lightsaber and fell to his knees, sinking into a light meditation. The Sith had disengaged one of his blades, though he was still using the other to poke at the gate. Seeing nothing else she could do, Obi-Wan switched her own blade off as well, though she felt too keyed up to meditate as her Master was.

It was along two minutes before she ignited her lightsaber, aware that the gates were about to open again. Her Master pursued the Sith into the end room, leaving his kneeling position with lightsaber ignited.

She was forced to stop by a laser gate once more, though she made it to the last one, which put her in the perfect position to observe her Master’s duel with the Sith as they danced around what appeared to be a melting pit. She switched her lightsaber off once more, but remained in a ready position.

It also put her in the perfect position to observe as the Sith knocked her master in the head with the hilt of his lightsaber then shoved one of his blades into her Master’s chest.

“Noooo!” she yelled, unable to stop the scream as her Master’s pain shot through their bond before he could block it out. 

The Sith grinned at her as he pulled the blade out of her Master's chest, allowing him to crumple to the floor.  He managed to twist so that he didn't land on his face, though the position his legs ended up in looked awkward.  His lightsaber dropped from unfeeling fingers, rolling a few feet away.

She could tell that he wasn’t dead; their bond was still fluttering weakly, though he lay very still on the melting pit floor. He needed medical attention, and quickly, and even then there was no certainty that he would survive.

The Sith seemed to take Qui-Gon’s death as a given. He was completely ignoring her Master’s body as he strode back and forth in front of the laser-gate that separated them, smirking at her.

Obi-Wan tried to remain calm, tried to draw on the cloak of serenity the Jedi were so known for, but it was not working well. She ignited her lightsaber a third time just before the laser-gate disengaged, even as the Sith ignited his second as well.

This would be the hardest fight of her life.

She ran out into the melting pit room as soon as the gate disengaged, caught one of his blades on hers, countered the other, ducked a head swipe, caught a blade behind her back, and engaged in a quick flurry of blows. They were both moving even faster than they had before.

Obi-Wan spun away from one of the Sith’s blows, giving her a second of breathing room before he spun his lightsaber around and engaged her again.

She countered strikes from each of his blades, jumped over a strike aimed for her feet, and struck high and fast until she was able to cut across the hilt of his lightstaff and kick him back. Unfortunately, she didn’t managed to knock out both blades, but a single blade would be easier to duel against than a lightstaff.

She flipped over him and struck at him, but he caught it on his remaining blade and flipped to his feet as she landed. She struck out at his leg but only managed to singe him. They rapidly exchanged blows again, before he twisted and kicked her in the face for the third time in a half hour. She turned the momentum in to a backflip and caught his next strike on her blade.

He flipped over her next strike, backing up several steps before engaging her again. They continued to fight until Obi-Wan caught him in a saber lock as she pressed down on him, before he surprised her with a Force push that knocked her away and into the melting pit. She managed to catch herself on a protrusion several feet down, but that did her little good when her there was a Sith lord with a lightsaber waiting to kill her as soon as she attempted to jump out.

Her chances were made worse when the Sith kicked her lightsaber into the pit. It barely missed her head, clattering on its way down.

She resisted the urge to curse at him as he smirked down at her. While most of the lightsaber wasn’t important – besides the mantra of a Jedi’s lightsaber being their life – the crystal itself had been a gift after her first lightsaber – crystal included – was destroyed on Mandalore.  She wasn't happy to lose it.

The Sith struck his lightsaber along the edge of the pit, send sparks flying down at her. She ducked her head so they missed her face, but she still felt some hit her hands and shoulders.

What to do, what to do....

Padawan, her Master whispered weakly.  Use mine.

She glanced to the left, where her Master’s body lay, still faintly breathing. His lightsaber lay beside him, where it had rolled out of his hand as he fell. She reached out with the Force and began to pull it to her, then used the Force to leap out of the pit and somersault over the Sith, grabbing the lightsaber as it flew to her. She ignited it and swung when she landed, catching the Sith off guard as her Master’s saber swiped through his midsection.

He stared at her in surprise for a moment before falling into the pit, the last hilt of his lightsaber dropping from his hand as he fell. As she watched, the two halves of his body detached and continued to plummet into the melting pit.

She waited a second longer, just to make sure he wasn’t somehow coming back, before turning off the lightsaber and rushing to kneel at her Master’s side. She cradled his head and pulled it into her lap, resting her other hand on her Master’s cheek. He was still alive, but barely. Their bond was barely flickering now, and his Force presence was getting weaker by the second.

“It’s…it’s too late,” her Master said.

“No,” she cried out with a quick shake of her head. She tried to look down to examine the wound, but he stopped her with a faint shake of his head.

“Obi-Wan,” he said. “You have…done well, dear one. You have done so much as my student…and you have proved yourself…far beyond all expectations.” He reached a shaky hand up to her shoulder, with something small clutched in it.

"Master," she said, holding back a sob.  "Please don't leave me."

I'm sorry, Padawan, he said.   I believe that is no longer in my hands.  I am so very proud of you.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” he continued aloud, his voice growing weaker, “by the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee Jedi, Knight of the Republic.”

He twisted his hand, and her Padawan braid fell. His hand dropped to the floor, the small knife he carried in his belt clattering as his eyes closed and his heart stopped.

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan couldn’t prevent the sobbing as she pressed her forehead to his, hugging him close, hoping beyond all hopes that this was some horrible nightmare, but knowing it to be true as she felt his presence fade into the Force.

She didn’t know how long she lay there until she pulled herself together.

Finally, she pressed a kiss to his forehead and whispered, “Farewell, my Master.”

She began to straighten, only for something to fall off her lap onto the floor. She looked down to see her Padawan braid, nearly five feet of auburn hair double-braided so it appeared half that length. The sight of it on the floor instead of attached to her head caused her tears to begin anew.

This time, she was only drawn out of it by the sound of her commlink beeping.

“Kenobi,” she answered automatically, trying to push the pain out of her voice, even as she purposefully dropped her title.

“Obi-Wan, this is Queen Amidala,” Padmé said, still using her ‘Queen’ voice. “We have captured the Viceroy and the droid control ship has been destroyed. Has the assassin been neutralized?”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan replied quietly, unable to help the sniffle that escaped.

“Are you alright, Obi-Wan?” Padmé said, her voice shifting to sound more like her instead of Queen Amidala. “Do you or Master Jinn require medical attention?”

“I do not require immediate medical attention,” Obi-Wan replied. “Master Jinn…My master is no longer with us. He has become one with the Force.”

The comm was silent for a moment, before Padmé said quietly, “I’m so sorry, Obi-Wan. What do you need?”

She was glad Padmé could be practical. Practicality still seemed out of reach beyond the storm of emotion that she couldn’t seem to disoolve.

“I…I need to contact the Council, and I need to find Anakin and make sure he’s safe, but it doesn’t feel right to leave him here,” she said quietly.

“Where are you?” Padmé asked immediately. “I’ll send a team.”

“We’re…I’m in the plasma refinery complex, in a room with a melting pit behind seven laser-gates; I don’t know more than that, besides that I’m not on the same level I entered the complex on,” Obi-Wan admitted.

She could hear Padmé saying something to someone else, but the sound was muffled enough that she couldn’t tell what.

“I’m sending Sergeant Perosei with Eirtaé to find Anakin,” Padmé told her. “They’ll bring Anakin back to me. I’m sending Lieutenant Camaran and Rabé to find you. They’ll stay with you until a medical team arrives.”

“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“Would you like me to stay on the comm?” Padmé asked.

“No, you have other things to deal with,” Obi-Wan immediately refused. “I’ll…I’ll be fine. Just please let me know when you have Anakin.”

“I will,” Padmé told her.

Obi-Wan ended the comm call before the Queen could try to continue. She had too much to do to be comforting her. She didn’t need comforting. There was no death, there was the Force.

She repeated the mantra several times, but it didn’t help to soothe the gaping hole in her mind where her bond with her Master should be. It didn’t soothe the ache in her heart that someone else she loved, the man who had raised her for half her life, was gone.

By the time Rabé and Lieutenant Camaran arrived, she had arranged her Master in a prone position as opposed to the crumple he had died in. She folded his hands over his chest, wrapped her Padawan braid around them, and knelt at his side, half in meditation, half in mourning.

She opened her eyes once Rabé and the Lieutenant arrived.

“Thank you for coming,” she said quietly, not bothering to hide the tear tracks on her face.

Rabé came to kneel at her side.

“We are so sorry for your loss,” she said quietly as she rested a hand on her shoulder. “Master Jinn was a good man.”

“He was,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “Impulsive, irritating, and amazing stubborn, but a good man nonetheless.”

“I brought a first aid kit,” Rabé said. “We noticed that you didn’t say you weren’t injured.”

“Nothing major,” Obi-Wan said. “I’ll need to make sure nothing in my face is fractured, but that can wait until later. I dislocated my shoulder, but I already put it back into place. Other than that, everything should just be bruises.”

“How did you dislocate your shoulder?” Lieutenant Camaran asked.

“I fell and landed wrong when I rolled,” she said simply.

Rabé looked pale.

“Please do not tell me you fell from one level of the refinery to another!”

“I’m fine?” Obi-Wan offered again. “It’s nothing a healing trance won’t be able to fix.”

“Then why don’t you do that now?” Lieutenant Camaran asked.

Obi-Wan’s eyes were involuntarily drawn to her Master’s body.

“I can’t enter a healing trance until I feel at peace,” she said quietly.

Both of her companions remained silent after that, though Rabé did offer her a handkerchief to dry her face with. Obi-Wan accepted it. It was better than drying her face on her tabards.

After the medical team finally arrived with a stretcher to take her Master’s body to the morgue, Rabé and Lieutenant Camaran escorted her to a comm unit where she could make her calls from. They were kind enough to leave the room afterwards, as she knew some of what she had to say was private.

Her first call was to Bail.

“The blockade is gone, the droids are deactivated, and the Queen has captured Nute Gunray,” she told him. “Are your relief ships ready?”

“The first two groups are already at Enarc. They’ll be there in three hours. The third group should arrive tomorrow,” Bail reported, before frowning. “Are you alright, Obi-Wan?”

“No,” she admitted, “but I have to call the Council.”

“Obi-Wan, what happened?” Bail pressed. “And where’s your braid?”

Obi-Wan closed her eyes in grief.

“My Master’s dead. He Knighted me just before he passed.”

“I’m so sorry, Obi-Wan,” Bail said.

Before he could say more, Obi-Wan said, “I really do need to call the Council now.”

Bail opened his mouth to speak, then shut it and nodded slowly.

“I’m here for you, my dear friend. May the Force be with you.”

“And with you,” Obi-Wan replied before hanging up the call.

She took a deep breath in an attempt to compose herself, then dialed in the codes for contact with the Jedi High Council.

Bultar was the one to answer, as Padawans were almost always the ones to screen the calls before they went through to the High Council.

“My Master felt it already,” she told Obi-Wan before she had a chance to say anything. “I’m patching you through.”

The Jedi High Council appeared in hologram form before her a moment later.

“Masters,” Obi-Wan greeted with a bow. “I regret to inform you of the death of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn at the hands of the Sith assassin I faced on Tatooine.”

“We thank you for your confirmation, Padawan Kenobi,” Master Windu said grimly. “The assassin?”

“Dead, Masters,” Obi-Wan replied, equally grim.

“Hmm,” Yoda said. “Not a Padawan anymore, you are. Knighted you, Master Qui-Gon did?”

Obi-Wan bowed her head and shut her eyes, hoping to keep more tears from leaking out.

“Yes, Master Yoda. It was the last thing he did, before he died. I understand if the Council chooses not to uphold his decision…”

“You have passed your Trials, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Master Windu said.

Obi-Wan jerked back.

“Master?”

“Your Master knew you were ready,” Master Plo said. “He has known for years that you were capable. But in his heart he knew you would be his last Padawan, and he wanted to keep you at his side for a while longer.”

“We will be seeing you in a few days,” Master Windu said, before she could ask what they meant, what Trials she had taken and passed. “Senator Palpatine has been elected Supreme Chancellor, and I do not doubt he will wish to return to his homeworld to offer his congratulations to the Queen in person. We will be traveling with him and will take your full report once we arrive.”

“Yes, Masters,” Obi-Wan said, automatically bowing. “Will you – would someone be able to contact Master Dooku and Master Feemor? I think Master Feemor is on Ukio, but I don’t know about Master Dooku…”

“We will do so, Knight Kenobi,” Master Mundi said before the Councilors ended the comm call.

Obi-Wan felt shaky. While she hadn’t doubted that the Council would take her Master’s dying words as his petition for her Knighthood, she hadn’t expected they would automatically grant her the rank! She hoped she could wheedle a better explanation out of one of them once they arrived.

With the important comm calls finished, she exited the room, almost running straight into Rabé.

“Take me to the Queen,” she said. “I wish to offer my assistance in any way I can.”

Anakin rushed to her as soon as she stepped into the throne room, throwing his arms around her. There were tears in his eyes.

“Master Qui-Gon’s gone, isn’t he?” he asked in a small voice. “I felt him just…disappear.”

“Yes, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said quietly, kneeling so she could better embrace her Padawan-to-be. “He’s gone.”

“The nasty-feeling guy did it? What was he?” Anakin asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know his name,” Obi-Wan said. “I never had the opportunity to ask. But he was a user of the Dark side of the Force, which made him feel so terrible.”

Anakin visibly shivered. “I never want to feel anything like that again.”

“Nor do I, dear one,” Obi-Wan replied. “Now, are you well? Were you injured at all?”

“Not a scratch,” Anakin said firmly. “But you’re not. I can feel you’re hurt.”

He reached up and touched her face, going from her probably-broken nose across to her cheekbone (also probably broken), which was aching from the three different kicks to the face she had taken. Everywhere his hand touched, the pain receded, and she could sense the Force energy moving from him to her in an overpowered and clumsy, but effective, use of Force healing.

She reached up to touch her nose when he was done. It was like it had never been hurt.

“Have you ever done that before, Anakin?” she asked, trying to keep the amazement out of her voice.

Anakin ducked his head.

“Mom broke her finger once, and I helped fix it. And I got hurt a lot when I was working on stuff for Watto, but it always went away really quickly.”

“It’s Force-healing, young one,” Obi-Wan told him, reaching out to tug at the hair that would one day form his Padawan braid. “While you seem to overpower it, and have no finesse whatsoever, you did an excellent job on my face.” The excess energy had helped shore up her own depleted reserves.

“Your shoulder’s hurt too,” Anakin pointed out. “Can I try to fix it?”

Obi-Wan looked him over with the Force. She couldn’t sense any tiredness, except perhaps an adrenaline rush that he would soon come down from.

“You may try,” She allowed.

Anakin reached out and touched the shoulder she had dislocated and then performed to much effort with. The strained tendons and aching muscles relaxed as the pain eased away at Anakin’s touch. Again, he vastly overpowered it, but it was still effective.

She reached out up to squeeze Anakin’s hand when he was done.

“Now that I’m all well, why don’t we ask the Queen what we can do to help?”

Anakin frowned.

“You’re still sad. Not just normal sad; heart-sad, like Amee was when pirates took her mother.”

“It’s grief, Anakin,” Obi-Wan told him with a sad smile. “There’s nothing you can do to heal grief. It takes time to go away.”

Anakin nodded slowly.

“Okay. I want to help you though!”

Obi-Wan smiled at him again, this time a more genuine one.

“Ani, you do that simply by being you. Now, let’s see how we can help the Queen.”

How they could help ended up being advising Padmé for Obi-Wan and running errands for Anakin – alongside a local runner at first, until he felt confident enough in his mental map of the palace complex to run them on his own.

“Has the Viceroy been imprisoned?” she asked quietly when there was a brief lull in the conversation. They were waiting for the Royal Council, who had been freed from the labor camp with the fall of the droid army, to arrive to help further coordinate the rebuilding of the Naboo government.

“He has,” Padmé confirmed. “He and Rune Haako have been confined in one of the upper tower room, with two guards on the door and two inside at all times. The ones inside are unarmed, but skill in hand-to-hand combat.”

“As their current warden, may I have your permission to question them?” Obi-Wan asked.

Padmé looked surprised.

“Why?”

“For the moment, he is in your custody and you have the power to revoke his diplomatic immunity while he is on Naboo due to his actions. As soon as he is in Republic custody, he will be able to call on his position as a shield, so we will never get answers.”

She frowned.

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“I don’t plan on making him incriminate himself,” Obi-Wan said. “I want answers. There was an assassin who wielded a red lightsaber and used the Force who first traced you to Tatooine and then engaged us here. I want to know who he is. I want to know why he was working for – or with – the Trade Federation. There is more at play here than we know, Your Highness, and this may be the only opportunity to get answers. Legally, I cannot question him about the invasion itself, as that could result in self-incrimination, but I can ask about the assassin. I need to know who killed my Master,” she said softly.

Padmé hesitated only a second before nodding decisively.

“Sergeant Perosei, please escort Padawan Kenobi to the prisoners.”

“Knight,” Obi-Wan corrected.

“Excuse me?” Padmé asked.

“It’s Knight Kenobi now,” Obi-Wan said. “My Master Knighted me before his death. The Council confirmed his decision.”

Padmé bowed her head to her.

“Congratulations on your Knighthood, Knight Kenobi,” she said formally. “I only wish that the circumstances could have been better.”

“As do I, Your Highness,” Obi-Wan replied before following Sergeant Perosei out of the throne room.

“We don’t actually have prison cells in the palace,” Sergeant Perosei explained as they walked. “Well, we do, but they haven’t actually been used in nearly eight hundred years, since shortly after this iteration of the palace was built. No one was sure if they still worked, and some of them are also being used as storage, so the Queen decided to lock the greedy bastards up in one of the towers. She figured they’re too gutless to try to escape out the window ten stories up.”

“Most people are smart enough not to do that,” Obi-Wan agreed noncommittally. Ten stories was nothing when you’d done an orbital free-fall onto a sinking pleasure cruiser while your ship was still high enough up that it was out of sensor range.

The room was obvious once they came into view. There were guards on either side of the door.

“Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, here to speak with the prisoners,” Obi-Wan identified herself, sounding more confident about her new title than she felt. “Her Highness has agreed that I can.”

One of the guards nodded.

“Captain Panaka already let us know.”

“Thank you for escorting me, Sergeant,” Obi-Wan told Perosei. “I’ll be able to find my way back from here.”

The sergeant hesitated for a moment, before seeming to make the decision that she was a Jedi and had helped coordinate the entire battle and was therefor not a security risk.

Obi-Wan turned to the guards outside the door.

“It’s my understanding that you two are posted with weapons outside, while two unarmed guards are inside?” she asked.

The same guard as before nodded.

“Yes, ma’am…um, Master Jedi. Garves and Dyal are inside, but they’re both built like fambaas, so they’ll be fine without blasters.”

“I’ll be sending them out here once I am inside,” she stated.

The second guard started.

“Ma’am, that’s a security risk…”

“I am a Jedi Knight, corporal,” she said after a quick glance at his rank bars. “I am more than capable of ensuring that two unarmed Neimoidians stay put in a room that I am also present in.”

She didn’t wait for their reply, but instead used the Force to activate the door and simply strode into the room.

“I will take it from here,” she told the two soldiers inside – Garves and Dyal, who indeed had the bone structure and musculature to be ‘built like fambaas.’ Both of them were more than a head taller than she was. Dyal was tall enough that she doubted she came up to his shoulder and looked like his biceps were as big as her waist.

She had to repeat her Jedi Knight argument, and pat her Master’s lightsaber, in order to get them to leave, but they finally exited the room and left her alone with two grouchy-looking Neimoidians. Granted, Neimoidians were always grouchy-looking, but these two had the emotions to match their faces.

“Nute Gunray and Rune Haako,” she greeted flatly, not bothering to take a seat. She had enough things working against her in the intimidation department that she wasn’t going to give up the height. Both of them were already around a foot taller than she was, and that was without the elaborate headdresses.

“Jedi,” Gunray sneered.

“You’ve certainly wrapped yourselves in a mess this time,” Obi-Wan said idly. “Invading a peaceful system? Attempting to assassinate a sitting monarch? Not even your friends in the Senate will be able to talk your way out of this. Especially not after your actions resulted in the death of a Jedi Master.”

Gunray flinched at that. Haako’s chest began rapidly rising and falling in the manner typical to stressed Neimoidians. Good. He was scared.

“After all,” she continued in the same tone, “the Order hasn’t forgotten when happened on Troiken seven years ago. We might not have said anything about how your actions resulted in Master Tyvokka’s death, not after you so graciously convinced the rest of the Federation to provide ships for the Fifth Battle of Qotile, but that doesn’t mean we forgot about it.” She smiled coldly at him. “And we certainly still remember the Eriadu Trade Summit last year, when you were somehow the only member of the Trade Federation Directorate to survive the Nebula Front’s attacks.”

She wasn’t so certain that the Nebula Front had been behind the attacks now. After all, Gunray wouldn’t have managed to blockade and invade Naboo if he hadn’t had the full support of the now-fully-Neimoidian Directorate. Their original investigation had cleared Gunray of all charges, but now…

Gunray didn’t flinch this time, but Haako did. Interesting.

She smiled coldly at them. Haako’s chest-twitching increased.

“Now, there is a dead Jedi Master killed at the hands of an assassin who, for all intents and purposes, was working on your behalf. More than that, the assassin was using a lightsaber and using the Force, yet has never been part of the Jedi Order. The Jedi are not enemies you want to have.”

“If there is a point to this conversation, you should get to it,” Gunray sniped.

“The Jedi want to know who that being was and where he came from,” Obi-Wan said, continuing to smile her icy smile. “Due to being bisected, and then his corpse falling into a melting pit, he’s a bit unavailable for answers himself.” She patted the lightsaber on her hip for emphasis.

Gunray paled at that.

“What do you want to know?” Haako asked, his chest still fluttering.

While she’d heard the saying about how Neimoidians were the only species with an entire organ devoted to worrying, she’d never seen it happen before. Neimoidian lung pods expanded and contracted convulsively under great stress. The only stressed Neimoidian she’d been around before was Nute Gunray, and he was remarkably stoic for a Neimoidian. He was also slippering, conniving, and remarkably immune to intimidation, though she knew Master Windu had managed it when it came to acquiring ships for the Stark debacle.

“Who was he?” she asked, not allowing the anger she still felt into her voice.

“His name was Darth Maul,” Haako said. “He was supposed to find the Queen and bring her back to sign the treaty.”

Darth Maul. Darth was a Sith title. One more argument she could make for the Council.

“And how did he come to work for you?”

“Say nothing!” Nute Gunray snarled, and for the first time, his chest started moving erratically.

Obi-Wan raised her eyebrows. That was telling. The newly-identified ‘Maul’ – which seemed like an idiotic name for a Sith, who broadcasts their intentions that much? – was not the person they were so scared of. After all, she’d already admitted that he was dead. That meant that they’d had contact with another.

“Who sent him to you?” she asked, projecting calm with the Force. She couldn’t get either of them to talk if they were too terrified of the repercussions.

“No one sent him!” Nute Gunray snapped. He was not as calm as he should be. Of course the Trade Federation was run by the one Neimoidian who wasn’t weak-minded.

She looked over at Haako, who had calmed down considerably. She would only have one opportunity for this to work. It only worked if the person didn’t know she was doing.

“Tell me who sent Darth Maul,” she said, the Force working through her voice and directly on Haako’s mind.

“Darth Sidious,” Haako replied instantly, her mind trick effective.

“You fool!” Gunray nearly bellowed. “Now he will kill us both!”

“Then why not provide more information?” Obi-Wan said. “The more you say, the more willing the Jedi will be to put you in protective custody. Also, even if he does kill you, you will have managed to spite him.”

Haako still looked terrified that he had said anything at all. Gunray seemed to be considering it.

“We don’t know anything else,” Gunray said. “He was powerful and said he would handle the Senate repercussions. We’ve never seen his face, or him in person. He looked human, but he might not be. That’s all we know.”

Obi-Wan tilted her head. He was telling the truth. They really didn’t know anything else besides the name Darth Sidious…which also lay in the category of ridiculous Sith names.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” she said, giving them a still icy smile. “I won’t recommend the courts seek the death penalty when they try you for this.”

She turned and walked out of the room before they could say anymore.

“They’re all yours,” she told the guards still waiting outside. “Make sure neither of them commit suicide. And don’t let Gunray kill Haako.”

Garves and Dyal exchanged looks before hurrying back inside the room.

The talkative door guard gaped at her.

“What did you do?” he asked in shock.

“I received the answers I was looking for,” she said simply. Her comm went off before she could say more.

“Knight Kenobi,” she said. Now that the Council had confirmed her rank, there was no need not to use it, even if it made her uncomfortable.

“The ships from Alderaan have just entered atmo,” Captain Panaka reported. “The Queen asks that you go to meet them. She would like you to oversee the initial docking and unloading, as a deterrent for anyone who might not be thinking clearly.”

“Certainly,” Obi-Wan replied before flicking her comm off. She nodded to the door guards. “Gentlemen,” she said with a nod before heading down the hall.

She found Anakin and took him with her when she went to greet the ships. He had been with Padmé, but Padmé had been distracted by the arrival of not only the Royal Advisory Council, but also her parents and sister, who had been imprisoned in the same camp, and the news that her sister had eloped with her fiancé while in the camp since they didn’t know they would make it out.

They arrived at the Theed Spaceport just as the first ship was touching down. Much to her surprise, the first person off the ship was Princess Breha Organa herself.

“Oh, Obi!” the crown princess of Alderaan said, rushing to her and throwing her arms around her neck as she embraced her. “Bail told me what happened! I’m so sorry, darling!”

Obi-Wan blinked in surprise but managed to return the hug.

“Breha – what are you doing here?”

“I elected to lead Alderaan’s relief efforts to Naboo,” the princess stated. “If that also meant I had the opportunity to see an old friend, it was a mutual success. I am glad that I did! You should not be left alone right now, dearest friend.”

“Breha, I…thank you, my friend.”

Breha smiled at her.

“Of course, dear.”

She finally let go of Obi-Wan and stepped back to meet Anakin.

“I presume this is Anakin Skywalker? Bail mentioned meeting you,” she said, holding out her hand to Anakin with a friendly smile. “I am Breha Organa.”

“I’m Anakin,” the boy admitted, freely shaking the hand the princess offered him.

Breha’s smile only grew at the sign that Anakin had no idea that he was shaking hands with royalty.

“A pleasure, Anakin. How did you meet Obi-Wan?”

“She and…and Master Qui-Gon freed my mom and me and brought me to the Temple,” Anakin explained.

Breha paused to begin shouting orders to the workers offloading the supplies before asking, “Are you to be a Jedi, then?”

“If I get my way, he will,” Obi-Wan said firmly, laying her hand on Anakin’s shoulder. “The Council is…hesitant, since the Order usually only accepts small children, but I’m told I’m stubborn.”

Breha let out a small laugh.

“That you are, my friend. Now, where should we transport these supplies to and how should we arrange them for distribution?”

The supplies were all transported to the Palace so that the local government could directly oversee their distribution. Obi-Wan ended up overseeing the transportation of the supplies, as a Jedi with a lightsaber was a good deterrent for anyone who might think to acquire more than their fair share.

Breha oversaw the distribution of the relief supplies herself. She volunteered, as she had experience with it on other worlds, and Padmé had gladly accepted, though she had sent Sabé – now dressed the same as the rest of the handmaidens, to accompany her.

Despite their early morning, the day did not end into long past midnight, when Breha came to find her and dragged her off to the set of rooms she and her attendants had been allotted, declaring that she was not allowed to be alone tonight.

“I’m so scared, Bre,” Obi-Wan confessed as they lay there in the dark. “I never thought he would die before I had been Knighted for at least a few years. My grandmaster is still alive and running missions. Master Yoda is still alive, and while he doesn’t run missions very often, there are rumors that he does when he gets bored. I know it sounds naïve for me to just assume he would be around, especially considering how dangerous our lives are, but…”

Breha shifted to wrap an arm around her.

“We never expect those we care about to leave us,” she said softly. “But you’re not alone, Obi-Wan. You still have your grandmaster, and Master Yoda, and your crèchemates, and Feemor and his Padawans that I can’t remember the names of…”

“Knight Jai Maruk, Knight Keelyvine Reus, and Padawan Serifa Altunen,” Obi-Wan answered. “Serifa’s new; she’s only been Feemor’s Padawan for a few months.”

“And you have Bail, and me, and Satine and Jango and all your other friends on Mandalore,” Breha continued. “We’re here for you, dear. You’re not alone.”

That sent her into her third round of tears, but Breha seemed content enough to hold her and be cried on until she fell asleep.

The next few days passed in a bustle of relief efforts while the Queen and her advisors attempted to put the planet’s government back together after it had spent forty-two days imprisoned or in exile. The first two days were often interrupted by the funerals they needed or desired to attend; Naboo customs dictated that a body must be cremated within two days in order to return the person’s spirit to the planet’s core. The only funeral Obi-Wan attended was that of Sergeant Ran Tonra, who had accompanied them from Naboo to Coruscant and back and died in the hangar while protecting pilots going to their ships.

Obi-Wan primarily kept working with the relief efforts, though she also made herself available to advise the Queen if she needed it. Padmé didn’t tend to seek her out during the day, but often came to find her in the evenings once they had all officially retired for the night.

Obi-Wan was unsurprised when Breha and Padmé became almost instant friends.

She was surprised again when Bail showed up with another round of relief supplies the day after Breha arrived.

“I told you the third round of supplies was coming,” he said with a cocky smile. “I also managed to organize a larger relief effort, which Fang Zar is currently spearheading among the other Senators,” he reported. “The Senate has already been informed of what happened here, with audiovisual proof of the Federation’s treachery.”

He then proceeded to crush Obi-Wan in another hug.

“We’re here for you, dear friend,” he whispered in her ear.

“Thank you, Bail,” she replied.

While she was nearly certain that her friends had arranged to both be on separate transports as part of the relief effort as an ill-disguised way to spend time together despite their busy schedules, she was still glad they were both here. Having someone else there for her who wasn’t in her charge was a boon. Anakin was wonderful, but still a child in her care. Shmi also tried to help, but it was not difficult to see that the woman was still floundering from being freed after most of her life in slavery. Padmé and her handmaidens had an entire planet to deal and their ages and Obi-Wan’s assignment technically still made them ‘children in her care,’ even if they were adults by Naboo’s standards.

It was later the same day that Bail arrived that she found out how literally Anakin had taken his orders to ‘stay in that cockpit.’

“You what?!” she demanded upon hearing one of the pilots thank Anakin “for doing such a great job blowing up the control ship.”

Anakin looked caught between a mix of sheepish and scared.

The pilot had no such qualms, and simply clapped him on the shoulder.

“This little guy did what none of us could and took out the control ship! He blew that thing up from the inside, soared right out of the main hold before it blew up!”

Obi-Wan felt a flood of emotions – the most she’d felt since her Master died – before squashing them all behind shields at the look on Anakin’s face.

“Ani,” she said, kneeling in front of him. “I’m not angry with you.”

“You felt mad, though!” Anakin said, not looking at her face, his body still stiff from fear.

Obi-Wan felt another flash of anger that anyone, especially her Padawan, would have ingrained fear reactions the moment they felt someone’s anger.

“I’m not angry with you,” Obi-Wan repeated. “I am angry that you were in danger, that you could have been hurt and I didn’t know anything about it. I’m scared because I could have lost you without even knowing you were in danger. And I’m also so very, very proud of you.”

That caused Anakin to look up at her, eyes wide.

“What?”

Obi-Wan smiled at him and reached out to cup his cheek.

“I’m proud of you, Anakin. You saved a lot of lives with your stunt, even if I’m not happy that you put yourself in danger.”

“It wasn’t on purpose!” Anakin protested. “I was trying to use the guns in the ship to get rid of the rolly-droids that were shooting at Padmé, but I didn’t know what the right button was! By the time I found it, I’d already turned the ship on, and there was an autopilot that took me and Artoo up to the battle,” he said sheepishly.

“And why didn’t you leave once Artoo turned the autopilot off?” Obi-Wan asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I was getting shot at. So I was shooting back. And then I might’ve crashed,” he added sheepishly. “…into the hangar.”

Obi-Wan resisted the urge to bury her face in her hands. He wasn’t even officially her Padawan yet and he’d already developed their line’s strain of luck.

“Everything was overheated, and once I got power back, I had to shoot at all the droids shooting at me,” Anakin continued. “And I might’ve fired torpedoes into the main power generator. At least that’s what we think happened.”

The main power generator for a Lucrehulk-class ship should have been nowhere near any of the hangars.

“Anakin,” she asked slowly, “how far into the ship did you crash?”

“A pretty long way?” he replied weakly.

Obi-Wan grabbed his shoulders, looked him over once to make sure he had no injuries, though she knew logically she would have known about any by now, and then pulled him into a hug.

“Again,” she told him, “I am so very proud of you. However, I suspect your mother will agree with me when I say you are grounded for at least a year.”

“What does grounded mean?” Anakin asked once she finally pulled back and stood up.

“It’s a punishment that means a restriction from going out and doing fun things. In your case, it may include actual grounding – meaning no flying-related activities.”

“For a whole year?” Anakin whined, but he didn’t seem too unhappy about it.

“We’ll see about how long the actual grounding lasts, but you will be under some form of prohibition for reckless endangerment of your person for at least a year,” Obi-Wan said firmly.

“What’s prohibition?”

“It means you’re not allowed to do certain things,” Obi-Wan said. “I know you still have errands to run, but do you know where your mother is at the moment? I’ve been meaning to speak with her.”

“She’s been helping the healers,” Anakin reported. “Over in the north wing of the palace.”

“Thank you, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said with a smile. She reached out to tug the hair behind his right ear, where his Padawan would soon be (if she got her way), before patting his back and saying, “Off you go. Someone’s waiting for that message.”

As soon as he scarpered off, Obi-Wan folded her arms into her sleeves and began making her way toward the north wing of the palace.

She found Shmi stripping sheets off a bed that must have been vacated by its patient.

“Dead or discharged?” she asked, nodding to the bed.

“Discharged, thankfully,” the woman said. “We’ve been seeing more and more survivors as the days go on, thanks to the relief supplies.”

There had been next to no medical supplies on the planet after the ninety-six-day blockade/invasion. Shmi’s experience with what most people in the Republic would consider archaic and barbaric medical practices had been invaluable to the doctors in the early days. They had an abundance of injuries to deal with, both from the battle and from the camps.

“I heard that there was a potential outbreak of the Balmorran flu,” Obi-Wan said.

Shmi nodded. “Not potential. Camp Seven had an outbreak and the Trade Federation did nothing to help. Over ten thousand people died there. The relief supplies have helped halt the spread of the disease, but there are still plenty who are still sick.”

“I’ll see what I can do to request aid from the Jedi MedCorp,” Obi-Wan said grimly. “There’s an outpost not too far from here.”

“Any additional medical assistance would be welcome,” Shmi said, stuffing the sheets into a laundry bag. “Is there something I can help you with, Knight Kenobi?”

“I have a few questions for you, if you have a few minutes,” Obi-Wan said.

Shmi glanced around the makeshift wardroom.

“I think that I can step out,” she said.

Shmi ended up guiding her to a nearby sitting room.

“We use this room as a rest space, but since we’ve mostly centralized everything between here and the local hospital, most of the doctors and their assistants have started sleeping at their homes again. You said you have questions?”

Obi-Wan waited until the woman sat down across from her to ask, “Have you thought about what you want to do when this is over?”

Shmi stilled.

“I’m not used to making decisions,” she admitted. “I…I don’t know what I want to do. It depends on Anakin, I suppose.”

“That’s alright,” Obi-Wan said gently. “I just wanted to make sure that you knew you had options, and that I will do my very best to accommodate you in whatever you want to do with your life. Why don’t we make plans: one for if Anakin comes to the Temple for training, and one if he does not?”

“I…I don’t want Anakin to ever have to return to Tatooine,” Shmi said, ducking her head. “He’s too bright for that place. He was meant for far better things.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help her smile.

“That he is,” she agreed. “I can arrange for you to stay here, on Naboo, though I suspect their economy will be in a difficult position for a few years until they can recover from this invasion. I can also arrange for you and Anakin to live on a number of other worlds – Alderaan and any of its colonies, Mandalore, or a variety of other worlds. I could even arrange for you to return to Tatooine, though you said you don’t want Anakin there.”

“You have already freed us,” Shmi said with a worried look. “I do not want to cost you more.”

“Shmi,” Obi-Wan said gently, reaching out to lay a hand on the woman’s clasped ones, “every member of the Order receives a stipend from their Initiate days until the day they die. While the quantity of the stipend varies by both rank and position, we do receive them, though we have little use for them. As a field-Jedi, I personally receive a larger paycheck than someone who spends most of their time not getting shot at. My Master was the same, and he was a field Jedi for fifty years, twenty-seven of those as a Jedi Master. At his death, everything that was his became mine, with the exception of a few personal items. He would be pleased if I used the money to make sure that you are set up to have a good life. I want to do this, Shmi.” Most of the time Jedi stipends went to helping people they ran into who needed it. Qui-Gon usually used some of his to resettle the multitude of strays he attracted, though she still wasn’t sure why he didn’t do the same thing to the manka cat.

“I want Anakin to be able to go to school, to get a good education, to have a good life,” Shmi finally admitted. “If he doesn’t go to the Jedi, I want to raise him somewhere that he can do that. But if he does go to the Jedi…I would like to go back to Tatooine.”

Obi-Wan didn’t try to hide her surprise.

“Tatooine? May I ask why?”

Shmi was quiet for a long moment.

“There are people there who are hurting,” she finally said. “I always did my best to help those who I could. If I am free, I have the opportunity to help even more. Freemen may be more noticeable than slaves, but they also have opportunities that slaves do not, can go places slaves do not, can find information that slaves cannot.”

Obi-Wan was even more surprised at that double meaning.

“You mean to help free them.”

“I mean that Tatooine has been under the control of the Hutts for centuries, and we know how to handle slavery,” Shmi said firmly. “However, I cannot continue to help if I am not there….Anakin was building a scanner, in order to find the slave chips. He was almost done. I believe I can complete it, and replicate it, and then he will have helped free the slaves, just as he always dreamed.”

“You’re a mechanic yourself?” Obi-Wan asked. “You taught Anakin everything he knows?”

Shmi nodded.

“I taught him the basics, at least. He’s far more talented than I am, but I still think I can finish it.”

“I did not mean to imply I doubted your competence,” Obi-Wan said hurriedly. “I was attempting to consider plans for your future. If Anakin comes to the Jedi, I can set you up as a mechanic in a town away from Mos Espa – I assume you want to be away from Mos Espa?”

Shmi nodded.

Obi-Wan said, “I have…some acquaintances, you could say, who are moisture farmers on the edge of the Jundland Wastes. If you don’t mind, I plan to ask them to check up on you.”

“How do you know them?” Shmi questioned.

“My biological father, brother, and grandparents,” Obi-Wan admitted. “We don’t talk very often. The last time I saw them in person was my mother’s funeral, over ten years ago.”

“If they’re anything like you, I’m sure they’ll be wonderful,” Shmi said firmly. “What’s the nearest settlement?”

“Anchorhead, if I remember correctly. It’s a small town, but the nearest larger settlement is Mos Eisley, which I’m told is full of scum and villainy,” Obi-Wan said. “I’ve never visited; my father and brother moved back to the family homestead after my mother died on Ator.”

“A small settlement sounds perfect,” Shmi said. “How old is your brother?”

“He’s five years younger than me, so fifteen or sixteen,” Obi-Wan said, reaching up to grasp the crystal around her neck. She doubted that she’d have good feelings about her birthday anytime in the near future.

“Tatooine if Anakin goes to the Jedi then,” Shmi said, sounding firm for the first time in the conversation. “If he doesn’t, we’ll stay here or go to…Alderaan, you said? That’s one of the Core Worlds, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Obi-Wan nodded. “Anakin has already successfully charmed Bail and Breha, so they will have no problems helping you get settled in if you choose to go to Alderaan.”

“Are they important there? I thought they were rich, since they were bringing the relief supplies,” Shmi said.

Obi-Wan hesitated about revealing her friends’ actual positions. Well, everyone else knew, and Shmi had taken the news of Padmé’s position with aplomb.

“Breha is the current heir to the throne, and Bail is her betrothed, next-in-line for the position of Viceroy, the head of the High Council of Alderaan. He is the current junior representative and Senator-elect of Alderaan as well.”

Shmi looked faint.

“They’re in charge of an entire planet? And not just a small one, an important one?”

Padmé would probably protest the idea of Naboo being unimportant, but in the grand scheme of galactic politics, it was. Alderaan, on the other hand, was a Core Founder and still held a great deal of influence in the galaxy. Ignoring the main planet itself, there were also over a thousand colony worlds that Alderaan still nominally ruled over.

“They will be,” Obi-Wan said. “But they are good people, Bail and Breha, and they try very hard not to let their power go to their heads. They have each other to keep themselves grounded, and I think it’s been working well so far.”

“Anakin would want to stay here,” Shmi said slowly, “but I think it would be better for him to grow up someplace he was not already hailed as a hero. And if I want him to be stable for the rest of his childhood, a place like Naboo, while beautiful, is going to have plenty of issues in the next few years. I don’t want him to deal with that.”

“As soon as we have a definitive answer as to Anakin’s acceptance to the Jedi Temple, I will begin making the arrangements,” Obi-Wan promised.

She could see the tears forming in the corners of Shmi’s eyes.

“Thank you, Obi-Wan,” she said. “You can’t know how much this means to me. But thank you, thank you.”

Obi-Wan stepped forward and embraced them woman, who clung to her as she cried, the fact that she was truly free finally sinking in.

Since Bail and Breha had claimed they didn’t need her assistance with the relief efforts, she returned to the throne room to advise the Queen. The Royal Advisory Council knew Naboo, but they were less clear on how to rebuild after such upheaval. Most of them were still in shock from spending a month in forced labor camps. Two different council members had died in the camps, Lufta Shif from an untreated illness and Kahl Taylos from a droid blaster while trying to escape.

“Our first priority needs to be increasing our defense so that nothing like this can ever happen again,” Captain Panaka insisted. “We need to increase our security forces and weapons capabilities.” He didn’t technically have a seat on the council, but had been included since the entirety of the council was still feeling insecure.

“We can make no decisions of the sort when our economy is still in dangerous straits,” Councilman Vancil, the political and economic advisor, argued. “We must focus on rebuilding and reestablishing trade before we can even consider weaponizing our planet.”

“We have not had war in over eight centuries!” Minister of Culture Ryu Tane fought. “Weaponizing is against everything our planet stands for!”

“There will be no talk of weaponizing until we have rebuilt,” Queen Amidala said firmly. While she had reverted back to her face paint, her clothes were still simpler and shorter than her previous elaborate gowns, closer in appearance to ‘Queen Amidala’s’ battle attire. She was still taking the time to go out into the city every day to see the people, and the simpler attire made sense in a city that was still recovering.

“Our people are sick, are injured, are hungry, and nothing else matters so much as alleviating their suffering,” the Queen continued firmly. “For the moment, they are in no danger. The Trade Federation is crippled without the Viceroy. No one else will dare while the galaxy’s eyes remain on us. I am tabling this discussion until a later date.” She looked around the council, as if daring them to argue with her.

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure how often they had argued with her before, but they presently seemed very unwilling to argue with the monarch who had addressed the entirety of the Galactic Senate, called for the first Vote of No Confidence in over three hundred years, and then proceeded to return to her occupied planet, raised an army, and created a plan that had resulted in the defeat of the droid armies and the capture of the Trade Federation Viceroy.

“Now,” the Queen continued, “we must discuss the status of the off-worlders who have been trapped here for the past few months…”

By the time the Council ended, the Queen had steamrolled her way through treaty terms with the Gungans, plans to celebrate the peace after the arrival of the Coruscant delegation were made, and plans for a memorial to commemorate those who died in the invasion and battle. Arguments then began about the redistribution of the goods that the Trade Federation had stolen from homes and businesses and stored in the palace.

“The only positive is that the Federation was waiting until the Queen legalized their invasion before removing the goods offworld,” Governor Bibble sighed. “We have no way of confirming who any of these items belonged to.”

Obi-Wan caught Sabé’s eye from where she was positioned behind the Queen. She knew the handmaidens had to have some method of signaling Padmé. She was proven right a moment later.

“Knight Kenobi,” the Queen said, “do you have any suggestions?”

Obi-Wan took a controlled breath as everyone’s eyes focused on her.

“Your Highness, while it may take time, the best way to ensure that items are returned to their original owners and not those looking to take advantage of the situation is to have every household submit a list detailing every item missing from their homes and businesses, with as much detail as possible about the missing items. While it will take a great deal of time to sort through the items and the paperwork, it is the least likely to allow for the greedy to take advantage,” she recommended. “If there are items that are contested by multiple people, then someone will need to preside over the cases.”

The Queen nodded slowly. “I see the advantages. For now, that is what will inform the populace we will do. However, we will not accept submissions for at least another ten-day, and we will not begin going through the itemizations until all the items under our care have been catalogued. That will not occur until we have the manpower to devote to such a thing. Thank you, Knight Kenobi, for your assistance.”

Obi-Wan bowed her head as the Queen turned the conversation towards the pollution caused by the battle droids.

It wasn’t until the meeting was over and the Council dismissed that the Queen called out, “Knight Kenobi, please remain for a moment.”

Obi-Wan stopped moving away from her seat and turned back towards the Queen, who said nothing as the Council left the room. She reach up absently to twirl her Padawan braid around her fingers…only to realize that it was no longer there, so she redirected her hand to the crystal pendant still lying beneath her tunics. The Queen finally spoke once the last councilmember had left the room and Yané and Eirtaé had closed the doors behind them.

“Thank you, Obi-Wan,” Padmé said. “You neatly solved a problem that we would have been arguing about for days.”

Obi-Wan bowed her head once more.

“I am glad to be of assistance, Padmé.”

“That’s not why I asked you to stay,” Padmé continued, gesturing for Obi-Wan to move closer. She ended up standing just in front of the Queen’s desk.

“I informed the refinery workers that a corpse ended up in that melting pit before they began actively using it again. They decided it could be an issue and went searching for it.” Her face turned grim. “Obi-Wan, they didn’t find the body.”

Obi-Wan grimaced.

“Someone must have removed it already. The Council hopes to find something that would allow us to track the assassin.”

“Are you certain he is dead?” Padmé asked.

“I cut him in half at the waist,” Obi-Wan told her firmly. “He is dead, Padmé.”

Padmé grimaced slightly at her bluntness, even as she looked down and opened a drawer in her desk.

“Very well then. While the workers did not find the body, they did find this.”

She picked something up out of the drawer and held it out to Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan barely held in her gasp. In the young Queen’s hand was the half-crushed hilt of her lightsaber.

She reached out to take it before flipping her hand over so it faced upwards. She reached out with the Force, and the lightsaber began to disassemble itself. She heard one of the handmaidens gasp.

The hilt of her lightsaber was irreparable. It would need to be fully replaced. That would have to wait until she was back at the temple, even though most of the parts need were common. That didn’t matter to her. She needed to know if her crystal was still intact.

The gem itself was revealed as the components of her lightsaber pulled away, a white jewel that seemed to hold cyan and emerald fire.

“A Corusca gem?” Padmé asked in surprise.

Obi-Wan nodded, a smile creeping on her face as she reached out to pluck the gem out of the air.

“Most Jedi use a certain kind of crystals for their ‘sabers, but there several crystalline jewels that can also serve. My first crystal was destroyed, along with my lightsaber, when I was on Mandalore during the Civil War. A friend gave me this when I was attempting to rebuild my lightsaber so that I would have my most familiar weapon back. I offered to return it afterwards, since I knew how much it was worth, but I was told to keep it and remember Mandalore.”

“I’ve never seen one that color before,” Padmé admitted.

“I’m told it’s very rare,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I’m relatively certain that it’s worth at least a city block on Coruscant, though I’ve never dared to actually get it appraised. I’m not planning on selling it, after all.”

“I can see why,” Sabé said, stepping up to peer over Padmé shoulder at it. “It’s beautiful.”

“It is,” Obi-Wan agreed with a smile. “I will never be able to repay you for returning this to me, Padmé.”

“I will never be able to repay you for helping me take back my home,” Padmé replied evenly. “I guess that makes it even.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

“I suppose it does,” she agreed. “If you’ll excuse me, I want to go make sure this is secured.”

“I plan to leave for the city in an hour,” Padmé replied. “Would you be willing to accompany me?”

“Of course, Your Highness,” Obi-Wan said with a bow.

Chapter Text

It was three days after the return of her lightsaber that more Jedi arrived. Obi-Wan didn’t notice at first; she’d been keeping herself occupied so that she was either too busy or too exhausted to be sad. Padmé had ordered her to take a break after lunch, and she found herself in the library, ghosting through the stacks of datacards and even some paper-and-ink books.

She let her fingers run across the leather bindings. She’d always liked the feel of books. Master Tahl had taught her the pleasure of them, before her death. Stars, it had been six years since New Apsolon now. She’d turned fifteen during their mad rush to find Tahl, just two days before the Master died. She certainly didn’t have much luck with birthdays. Since she’d become a Padawan, she’d spent three birthdays in warzones, two on medical recovery, two on transports, one undercover in a bar, and then the one on New Apsolon.

Of all of them, the two on transports were the calmest, though the one in the bar – her twentieth – had been the most fun; she’d been posing as a smuggler on Corellia while she and her master helped the Green Jedi uncover a smuggling ring that had been evading them for two years. Since she was still supposed to be establishing her cover, all she had to do was drink and flirt and generally have a good time. She’d spent a lot of it talking – and flirting – with a nice newlywed couple named Jonash and Jaina, who had then invited her to join them for the rest of the night.

The good still tended to be overshadowed by the bad – though this one and her fifteenth were the only truly horrible ones. The other two warzones had been on Troiken and Mandalore, but there hadn’t been active battles on those days. Her companions had tried their best to make sure she actually enjoyed her birthday.

“Obi-Wan?” said a familiar voice from the doorway.

She whirled around to see Master Dooku standing behind her.

“Grandmaster,” she whispered, feeling tears prickle in the corner of her eyes.

She wasn’t sure who moved first, but the next thing she knew, she was sobbing in her finder’s arms as he petted her hair. They somehow ended up sitting on one of the plush couches that looked out over the river.

“He-he’s gone, Master. He died in front of me! Right in my arms!” she wept.

“Oh, my foundling,” he said as he held her. “I’m so sorry, dear one. I’m so sorry. I know how hard this is.”

“There’s just a hole where he’s supposed to be, and he’s not!” she cried.

“I know, my dear one. I know,” he replied.

He let her cry, simply sitting them, murmuring platitudes and radiating calm until all her tears were spent and she was merely sniffling.

Her grandmaster was still petting her hair as she curled up there on the couch, her head on his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her.

“Did you know that Yoda was not my first Master?” he finally asked, his voice quiet.

She sniffled as she nodded, knowing he would feel it.

“Your first Master was…Thame Cerulian?” she questioned.

“That’s right,” Dooku said. “He was killed when I was fifteen, only three years after he’d taken me as his Padawan. His former Master, Master Unskette, was grievously injured getting me away. Two of my crèchemates and their Masters also died on that mission. I returned to the Temple alone, heartbroken, and swearing to myself that I would never allow myself to form connections again, because it hurt too much to lose them.”

“That’s when Master Yoda took you as his Padawan?”

“He did,” her grandmaster confirmed. “He was Master Unskette’s Master, long ago. I was the last of the line. He felt obligated, I think. He completed my training, gave me most of my training, which is why I claim him as my Master instead of Master Cerulian.”

“How did you decide to make connections again?” she asked.

“I didn’t,” Dooku admitted. “Not for a long time. I’m afraid Qui-Gon suffered in my care because of it. He always formed attachments as easily as breathing. I told him he shouldn’t. He ignored me, and I’m glad for it. He wouldn’t have been him otherwise. But I didn’t decide to make connections again until I found a tiny little thing while I was supposed to be negotiating Stewjon’s admittance to the Republic. I was attached almost instantly, for all that I’d always sworn not to. You were such a sweet toddler.”

“Didn’t I throw a ball at your crotch when you tried to tell me I wasn’t allowed to bring my stuffed bantha with me?” Obi-Wan asked, trying to resist the urge to smile.

“I said that you were sweet, not that you were good,” her grandmaster grumbled.

Obi-Wan laughed in reply.

They were silent for a long moment, simply staring out the window in front of the couch. It had started to rain. Finally, she said, “I’m surprised you made it here this quickly.”

“Keelyvine and I were on Trigalis. We were able to finish our mission quickly and come straight here.”

“How is Keely doing?” she asked. “I know that Feemor was worried about her, even though he’s been too busy with Serifa lately to worry much.”

“Our Knight Reus continues to work with the same intensity she always has,” Dooku said. “Her help on Trigalis was invaluable.”

“I’m surprised you were there,” Obi-Wan said. “Shadowports aren’t usually your cup of tea.”

“I can play at wealthy and arrogant easily enough, which proved a great distraction for Keelyvine to find the information we needed,” Dooku said. “Her slicing skills are quite impressive.”

“She might want to offer her aid to the Queen then,” Obi-Wan stated. “The Trade Federation did something to the planetary computer systems. Interplanetary communication is still restricted only to the palace comm stations.”

“I believe she already has,” Dooku said. “Princess Organa mentioned the computer woes when we saw her upon landing.”

Obi-Wan sighed in relief.

“That’s one less problem to deal with then.” Keelyvine Reus had never met a problem she couldn’t solve. Her single-mindedness could be frightening at times, but it made her extremely effective when she decided to do something.

“And where would you send me, foundling-mine?” he asked gently.

“To join the medics,” she said promptly. “You’re very good at it, even without being an actual healer, and they need all the help they can get. The Trade Federation didn’t provide any medical aid at all during the forty-three days of occupation, and the Naboo were already low on medical supplies after fifty-three days of a blockade. The relief effort organized by Representative Antilles and Princess Organa helped, but…there’s still people dying, Master.”

Dooku frowned.

“I was told that you had a knack for a particular type of healing. Why do you not join them?”

Obi-Wan sighed, bringing her knees up to her chest.

“You were never told what I had a knack for, were you?”

Dooku shook his head.

“Master Koon simply mentioned that it was of great use during the Stark Hyperspace War.”

“My knack is for triage,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I’m not good with healing otherwise, except with Jedi I can put in a healing trance. But…in triage, I can tell. I know if someone is going to live or not. And if they’re not…I can put them under, so that they’re not in pain, even though they’re never going to wake up again.”

“Euthanasia?” Dooku questioned.

Obi-Wan shook her head.

“No. I…it’s more like a mix of a heavy-duty painkiller and a sedative. I use the Force to block their pain receptors, and then combine it with a sleep command, though I don’t always include that. They still die when their bodies give up…I just make sure that they’re at peace when they do.”

“That is…a horrible gift, dear one,” Dooku said gently. “Did you learn it at Mount Avos?”

“No, on Melida/Daan,” Obi-Wan said heavily. “I just got better at it at during the battles. Anyway, I wouldn’t be of much help now. They’re trying to save lives, and most of the people they see have a decent chance of living. My gift is only useful for lost causes.”

Her grandmaster was silent for a long moment.

“That is…a terrible gift, my foundling.”

She let out a bitter laugh.

“Don’t I know it. I learned it so that those who had already suffered so much didn’t have to anymore. I perfected it because there were no medical supplies to waste on those who were already dying. The Healers in the Halls helped me study my ability after the Stark War. I’ll never be able to use Force healing on others beyond the basics. My own abilities are too hardwired for a single purpose.”

“I suppose I will be thankful that there are other Jedi around to take care of the wounded, while you are sent to hunt down their attackers,” Dooku replied.

“I am good at that,” Obi-Wan admitted, allowing peace to settle back over her.

The calm was interrupted by Anakin bursting through the door of the library.

“Obi-Wan! There’s water falling from the sky! Rabé says it’s called rain, and it happens all the time, but it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever-” He stopped short upon rounding the last shelf of datacards and seeing them on the couch.

“Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

Obi-Wan smiled at him and put her feet on the ground, sitting up straighter as she extended her hand to him.

“Come here, Anakin. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Anakin came closer hesitantly. She’d noticed that he was more comfortable with women than he was men, probably due to the abuse he’d suffered. Shmi had confirmed that they’d both been hurt by men and women in the past, but the women had mostly kept their abuse to words while the men were more physical.

Obi-Wan glanced at Dooku. His eyes were wide. He obviously saw exactly what she had seen upon her first meeting with Anakin.

“Grandmaster, this is Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, this is my Finder and grandmaster, my master’s master, Jedi Master Yan Dooku,” she introduced.

“You found your Padawan?” Dooku asked, finally finding his voice.

“If I get my way,” she said firmly. She was going to get her way. Anakin was going to be her Padawan, whether the Council liked it or not. The Force had already deemed it so, so what was the opinion of mortal beings but something extra? “Anakin and his mother were slaves on Tatooine until recently. Knight Vos found them, Qui-Gon freed Anakin, and I freed his mother.”

“Pleased to meet you!” Anakin said with a smile, hesitancy evaporating with her warm introductions.

“A pleasure to meet you too, young Skywalker,” Dooku said with a regal nod of his head, though Obi-Wan could see the smile teasing at his lips from Anakin’s exuberance. “I have been waiting a long time to do so.”

“Huh?” Anakin asked, looking up at Obi-Wan.

“When Master Dooku first found me as a toddler, the first time he took my hand we shared a vision of me as Qui-Gon’s Padawan,” Obi-Wan told him with a sad smile. “That vision ended with me as a Knight, and with you, Anakin, as my Padawan. Just like the vision that you and I shared when we first touched.”

“Oh. That was normal?” Anakin asked, scrunching up his face.

“It seems to be for me,” Obi-Wan admitted.

“I am sure you will do our line credit,” Dooku told Anakin with a reassuring smile. “Your master certainly has.”

“Thank you, grandmaster,” Obi-Wan said with a pleased smile before turning to Anakin. “You were saying something about the rain?”

Anakin nodded excitedly and pointed towards the window.

“It’s so wizard!” he said. “I know I’ve been running errands in the palace, but I wanted to know if I could go outside in it.”

“Certainly, but not for too long. You can get sick if you stay out in rain too long,” Obi-Wan told him. While not technically true, standing in the rain could increase his chances of something he’d already caught developing, and since he hadn’t had any of his inoculations yet, she didn’t want to take that risk. She glanced over at her grandmaster, who nodded his assent. “In fact, why don’t I go with you? Master Dooku was just about to head over to the north wing anyway.”

“Are you sick?” Anakin asked immediately, looking concerned.

“No, young one,” Dooku said with a small smile. “But I do have healing training, so I am going to assist the doctors.”

Anakin nodded solemnly. “Mom’s there too. I wanted to help, ‘cause I can heal people, but Mom and Obi-Wan said no.”

Dooku immediately looked over at Obi-Wan. She raised a hand and ran it across her formerly-broken cheekbone and nose.

“He healed my injuries from the fight,” she said, not specifying which fight. She knew he knew. “Broken cheekbone and nose.”

“With such prodigious skill, I am surprised you are not already serving with the doctors,” Dooku told Anakin.

“What’s prodigious?” Anakin asked Obi-Wan.

“It means advanced,” she told him, before turning to her grandmaster. “Anakin doesn’t have any of his inoculations. A good portion of those still in medical are there because they are sick, so we weren’t going to risk it.”

“Of course,” Dooku said. He gave a short bow to both of them. “I will take my leave. I will find you later, Obi-Wan. Enjoy the rain, young Skywalker.”

Obi-Wan offered Anakin her hand as her grandmaster left.

“I’m sure you know the fastest way out of here by now. Why don’t you show me?”

Anakin’s answering grin was blinding.

Eight days later heralded the arrival of Jedi Master Feemor Fanye and his Padawan, Serifa Altunen. Despite the nearly twenty-year gap between their apprenticeships, he was still Obi-Wan’s only Padawan-brother, the only person who felt the same way she did at their Master’s death.

“I was worried about you,” he told her as they helped unload the food supplies he and Serifa had brought with them from Ukio. “I knew you’d be with him. I didn’t know if you were okay until the Council called about his passing.”

“I wasn’t with him,” she replied. “If I hadn’t fallen behind…”

“No,” Feemor stopped her. “You don’t do that. Did you stab him with that lightsaber?”

“No,” she admitted grudgingly, knowing where he was going.

“Then this is not your fault,” Feemor said firmly, with the wisdom of a man who had Knighted two Padawans already and was working on his third. Unlike every other member of their line recently, he seemed to have no problems with repeated apprenticeships. Obi-Wan was waiting until he made it through Serifa though. No one tended to make it through three apprentices in their line.

The night before the Council was set to arrive, the whole group of them – Dooku, Feemor, Keelyvine, Serifa, Anakin, and herself ended up in the parlor of the rooms Padmé had insisted she use. Keely had brought some liquor from the shadowport, and the of-age members of their company proceeded to get drunk and trade stories about the man they had cared for. Serifa and Anakin had the fewest stories to share, and the pair of them ended up in a corner, Serifa continuing one of the lessons Aayla had begun teaching Anakin on their way to Coruscant.

The delegation from Coruscant arrived seventeen days after the battle. The Chancellor’s ship landed in the courtyard outside the palace, which had been a pitched battle not long before. He was greeted by a full complement of the Royal Naboo Security Forces, the Queen, her Council, and her handmaidens. Obi-Wan stood to the Queen’s left, with Anakin just behind her. She was in her neatest set of Jedi Robes while Anakin was in one of the sets of clothes Siri had got him on Coruscant. Shmi was asleep after a night shift attending the ill. Nute Gunray and Lott Dod were there as well, ready to be escorted aboard the ship where they would be kept locked in state quarters until the ship returned to Coruscant. Bail and Breha were somewhere in the courtyard as well, but further back since they were there as part of a relief effort and not there on official business.

“Now, Viceroy, you’re going to have to go back to the Senate and explain all this,” Queen Amidala said.

“I think you can kiss your trade franchise goodbye,” Captain Panaka said as he escorted them towards the ship.

Several blue-robed Senate guards were descending from the ship, followed by the new Chancellor and the Jedi Council. Obi-Wan strode forward, Anakin just behind her, to greet the Chancellor. As the reigning monarch on her homeworld, Padmé remained where she was so that they could come to her.

Obi-Wan bowed to the Chancellor. She could feel Anakin bowing as well.

“We are indebted to you, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the new Chancellor said with a smile. “And you, young Skywalker,” he said, looking at Obi-Wan’s future Padawan. “We will watch your career with great interest.”

He laid a hand on Anakin’s shoulder before moving over to the Queen. Obi-Wan bowed to the approaching Council.

“Masters,” she greeted.

“Knight Kenobi,” Master Yoda responded, before gesturing for her to lead them back to where the Chancellor was greeting the Queen.

“…gratulations on your election, Chancellor,” she heard the Queen say.

“Your boldness has saved our people, Your Majesty. It’s you who should be congratulated. Together, we shall bring peace and prosperity to the Republic,” the Chancellor replied. Obi-Wan wondered if Padmé caught how ridiculous that statement was. As a Queen on a minor world, there was very little she could do to affect a state of peace and prosperity across the entire Republic.

There were several more political greetings, including the Naboo Council, Boss Nass, and Bail and Breha, once they finally appeared. The wrinkles on their clothing were barely discernible, though Obi-Wan could tell that they had snuck off at some point after escaping their minders. The Jedi Council also took the opportunity to offer their greetings and congratulations to the Queen.

Finally, the entire group made their way inside the palace. The Queen’s handmaidens escorted the Chancellor and other diplomats to their rooms. Fé offered to escort the Council to their rooms as well, but Master Windu requested a private room where they could meet instead.

Fé ended up showing them to the tower room that Obi-Wan had already set up in preparation for the Council’s arrival. There were twelve chairs set up, with holoprojectors present in case the absent Masters of the Council wished to join. Fé led them there with a bow before heading back toward where they had left the Queen.

“We won’t need Skywalker for this,” Master Windu said before sweeping into the room.

“Go back to the Queen, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said gently. “I’m sure she still has things for you to do.”

Anakin nodded before heading back down the hall. His feet were dragging. Obi-Wan wasn’t surprised he was tired; he’d been running messages for the Queen all morning while everything was set up for the official greeting.

The rest of the Council followed Master Windu into the corner room and took the places they would sit in if they were back in the Council chamber on Coruscant. Obi-Wan entered, closed the door behind her, and moved to the center of the room.

“Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Master Windu said. “While you were field-Knighted instead of going through the typical ceremony, the Council confers upon you the rank of Jedi Knight. The records will show that you were Knighted on the twenty-first day of the fifth month of the Republic year nine-hundred and sixty-eight.” They were using the date Qui-Gon had died. They really were accepting his Knighting of her as legal.

“Thank you, Masters,” Obi-Wan said with a bow, then hesitated before saying, “May I ask why my Knighting is being accepted without my going through the Trials?”

“Five Trials, there are,” Master Yoda said. “Trials of Skill, of Courage, of Spirit, of Insight, and of Flesh. Years ago, told your Master we did, that passed your Trials you had.”

“I beg your pardon, Master?” Obi-Wan said, unable to stop her voice from pitching upwards.

“Mandalore, Knight Kenobi,” Master Adi said, though her voice was gentle. “On Mandalore you faced trials equal or greater to any you could face on Coruscant. Your Skill was proved in battle. Your Courage was proved when you escaped a prison with your charge, despite a Force-suppressing collar and your lack of a lightsaber.”

“Your Insight was proved when you discovered those trying to prevent the treaty, before you knew you need to look,” Master Mundi continued. “Your Trial of the Flesh occurred when the time came for you to leave Mandalore and you did so without pause.”

“Not without pause, Masters,” Obi-Wan admitted. “Leaving Mandalore…leaving then was one of the hardest things I ever did.”

“But leave you did,” Master Yoda pointed out.

“And that is the reason we considered it your Trial,” Master Plo said.

“And my Trial of the Spirit, Masters?”

“Remember, do you, when found you lost in meditation I did?” Master Yoda asked.

“Under the tree outside the Temple,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I was meditating on everything that had happened, and I went deeper than I ever had before…I’ve never gone that deep since. I saw horrible things…but I survived it, even if it took me a long time to find my way out. I wouldn’t have found my way out without you calling me, Master.”

“Your Trial of the Spirit, you completed,” Master Yoda said. “Known since that day, I did, that a Jedi Knight, you would be.”

Obi-Wan felt her eyes widen involuntarily.

“Master Yoda, that happened when my master and I returned to the Temple from Telos. I was thirteen years old.”

“And yet you accomplished what many a decade your elder fail,” Master Billaba said. “Your age did not matter. You faced your worst fears and your innermost demons and survived. There are senior Padawans who came out of their meditative trances screaming or had their minds break. You, young as you were, were fine.”

“I probably would have been crying, if it hadn’t taken me so long to find my way out afterwards,” Obi-Wan admitted.

“Most of us cry,” Master Windu said. “I did.”

Obi-Wan barely had time to blink at that information before the Jedi Master moved on.

“Knight Kenobi, we would like a full accounting of your return to Naboo and the events leading up to your Master’s death.”

Obi-Wan hid her grimace, took a deep breath, and began.

It took hours. The Council – partial though it was – went over her tactics, her decisions, her Master’s decisions – though they had to puzzle over those; her Master wasn’t known as a maverick for nothing – before finally coming to their final duel with the Sith.

This time, when they asked her to show them the memory, she refused.

“Not here,” she said. “Not on Naboo, in an unshielded room, in someplace that isn’t the Jedi Temple.” Not when she could still feel the gaping hole in her mind where her Master should be, not when his death was still too near, when they hadn’t even had his funeral yet.

Thankfully, the Masters left it at that.

“And in the time since then?” Master Windu asked.

“After my Master’s body was removed to the morgue, and I contacted both the Council and the relief effort organized by Representative Antilles, I then asked the Queen for, and was granted, permission to question the Viceroy,” Obi-Wan stated. “Nute Gunray and Rune Haako revealed that the assassin’s name was Darth Maul, and he was there under the command of a man called Darth Sidious.”

“And how did you convince them to reveal this information?” Master Depa asked.

“I reminded the Viceroy that the Order already had a dim view of him after the Stark Hyperspace War,” Obi-Wan said, “and then I pointed out how suspicious his survival on Eriadu was – Haako flinched at that, Masters, which brings me to believe that our investigation then may have been closed prematurely. I then informed them that the assassin had been chopped in half and thrown down a melting pit before asking the assassin’s name. Haako told me that his name was Darth Maul and that he was supposed to find the Queen and bring her back to sign the treaty. Gunray ordered Haako not to answer any more questions after that, and began visibly panicking, which made it clear to me that Maul was sent under someone else’s orders – someone else that Gunray had reason to be afraid of. I projected calm in order to soothe them, though Gunray seemed resistant to it. I used a Force suggestion on Haako, who told me that Darth Sidious sent Darth Maul. With that information revealed, I then convinced Gunray that with that much information already exposed, he needed to give more in order to earn the possibility of Jedi protection. He stated that Sidious was powerful and stated he would handle any Senate repercussions. He was human as far as they knew, but as they never met in person they could not be sure. Gunray said that was all they knew, and I sensed he was telling the truth.”

“Do you believe that Gunray and Haako should have Jedi protection?” Master Plo asked.

Obi-Wan considered it.

“No, Masters,” she said. “Gunray has been responsible for more than one Jedi death, as well as thousands of lives lost between the Stark War and the Naboo invasion. They have not provided information enough to account for Jedi protection. Additionally, so long as the information remains quiet, the Sith will not know we know anything, which means he or she will not know Gunray talked.”

“A valid point, you make,” Master Yoda said. “Enough of Sith, that is. The relief efforts, how go they?”

It didn’t take long to summarize the efforts that had been made by both the Naboo and the Jedi who had arrived. Feemor and Serifa had been working in the fields the Federation armies had destroyed, their talent with plants hastening the growth of the harvest to pre-invasion levels. Keely was still working with the NRSF computer experts. While most of the code the Federation had twisted had been repaired, there were still small bits of code giving them difficulties. Dooku was still holed up the medical wing, helping the sick, though the Balmorran flu epidemic had been halted.

“And now our last order of business,” Master Windu said, giving her a hard look. “The boy.”

“Anakin Skywalker is meant to be my Padawan,” Obi-Wan said firmly, lifting her chin. “The Force has deemed in so. I saw him in my visions, I knew his name, and the bond between us has formed without either of us trying. He is strong in the Force and requires training, both for his own sake and for the sake of the galaxy.”

Master Windu let out a heavy breath.

“What you saw when we decided not to train him must not come to pass,” he said heavily. “But we know it can come to pass, which means we will be keeping a close eye on the pair of you.”

“Masters, I feel that would be unfair to Anakin,” Obi-Wan pointed out, not caring how impudent they probably saw her as being, not when she was defending her tiny slip of a Padawan. “Each and every one of us has the potential to Fall. It is our choices that mean we stay in the Light. Anakin has the potential to Fall, yes, but viewing him with suspicion is not a likely means to avert that; in fact, it will more likely do the opposite. For now, he is just a boy who wants to learn; no more, no less. Anakin should not be treated any differently than any other student, except with regards to his upbringing.”

“You say that he should be treated no differently, but then you say he should in the same sentence, Knight Kenobi,” Master Rancisis pointed out.

“I meant that Anakin should be treated no differently in response to the vision I shared with you, or in response to my Master’s belief that Anakin was the Chosen One. Those mean nothing for a boy, a child. He does not need to know, nor should it matter. I do believe Anakin will need to be treated differently simply because he has not grown up in the Temple, and he will behave differently than a Temple-raised or even a Core-raised youngling. His life has been harder than any of us know. He had seen the worst of the galaxy at the age we were all still crèchelings. After spending the first nine years of his life in slavery, he will need to be treated differently than other younglings and Padawans.”

Master Windu raised an eyebrow.

“And do you have any suggestions for that, Knight Kenobi?”

Obi-Wan hesitated, then simply said, “Patience. I want him to speak with a Mind Healer, and not one only used to dealing with Jedi children. With time, and effort, I hope that the horrors of his childhood can be overcome.”

“Such things should be released into the Force,” Master Mundi said.

“He is a child, Master,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “Jedi younglings are taught to release their fears and anger into the Force at a very young age. Slave children are taught to use their fears to protect themselves, to use their anger as a reason to keep living and not to simply give up. I am certain that Anakin can learn our ways, but it will take time.”

The Council members went silent, but their looks at slight gestures made it clear that they were still communicating.

“We agree with you, Knight Kenobi,” Master Windu finally said. “However, your apprenticeship of Skywalker will have conditions.”

“You will not take him on missions with you until he has built his own lightsaber, and he will complete his classwork up to his age level before being allowed to build one,” Master Mundi said.

“You will still be assigned missions, though we will make sure they are not too frequent, so you are able to spend time in-Temple with your Padawan,” Master Plo said.

“He will not be allowed to leave the Temple without Council permission until after the new year,” Master Mundi said.

“He’s grounded anyway,” Obi-Wan said without thinking, only to immediately face the raised eyebrows of the Council.

“How did you Padawan manage to get himself grounded before you even officially took him as your Padawan?” Master Adi asked, sounding slightly amused.

“My Master decided to bring him with us on the Palace incursion,” Obi-Wan said, trying not to let the frustration enter her voice. “He then told Anakin to hide somewhere during the battle in the hangar. Anakin hid in a starfighter since it was impervious to the blaster bolts flying around. When we left the hangar, my Master told Anakin to ‘stay in that cockpit.’ After my master and I engaged the assassin, Anakin accidentally turned the ship on while attempting to access the fire controls in order to get rid of a trio of destroyers that were harassing the Queen’s party.   After he destroyed the destroyers, the ship’s autopilot then took him up to the space battle against the droid control ship. Anakin somehow managed to crash his fighter through the droid hangar bay and into the bowels of the ship, where the then proceeded to use proton torpedoes to destroy the ship’s main reactor.”

The Council looked almost as shocked as she was sure she had upon hearing the news.

“Although Anakin saved a great many lives by destroying the control ship when he did, as I am told that the Gungan Army had been routed at that point, he still put his life at risk, which is something that I cannot condone at this stage of his life.”

She wasn’t sure what reaction she was expecting, but Master Yoda snorting was not it.

“One to talk, you are,” he said. “On your first mission, to blow yourself up you tried, to save others. Learned your bad habits already, the boy has.”

“I had already been captured and enslaved with a bomb collar around my neck,” Obi-Wan pointed out. “I didn’t put myself in that situation. I was just suggesting a course of action based on the lack of resources we had at the time. Anakin went willingly.”

“Tried to blow yourself up willingly, you did!” Master Yoda scolded. “Important, your life is.”

“Well, then I am simply trying to prevent my Padawan from picking up my bad habits,” Obi-Wan replied.

“Qui-Gon’s defiance, I sense in you,” Yoda said, snorting again. “Need that you did not.”

“I thought it was tradition in our line for the latest generation to out-stubborn their Master?” Obi-Wan asked innocently. “That’s what Master Dooku told me.”

“Dooku just liked to watch Qui-Gon lose to someone, since he usually lost to Qui-Gon,” Master Windu said. “Now, I believe all official Council matters are over, with the exception of your battle with the Sith, Knight Kenobi. Will you please show us to our rooms?” He glanced at the orange sunset outside their window. “It will not be long until the funeral.”

Obi-Wan felt her mouth tighten.

“Indeed, Masters,” she said. “If you will follow me?”

The funeral was a few hours later, in the Theed Funeral Temple. Since the Naboo already traditionally held cremations for their dead, it was easy enough to rearrange the pyre to suit a Jedi funeral. There were more people at the funeral than Obi-Wan expected; apparently, while the Council had traveled with the Chancellor, another ship had brought in the other Jedi from Coruscant who wished to attend the funeral. Jai Maruk and Taria were there, which meant every living member of their lineage was in attendance; Siri and Bultar had come as well, half for Obi-Wan and half because they were following their Masters; Aayla had tagged along with them; Garen had come with his Master, Clee Rhara; Master Tsui Choi and K’Kruhk were in attendance; Jocasta Nu and Sifo-Dyas stood just behind Dooku. Padawans Sia-Lan Wezz and Rann I-Kanu stood at their Masters’ sides, as Lo-Jad and Ali-Vor had accompanied the other Jedi to Naboo. Rael Averross, her Master’s brother-padawan, had appeared as well, though no one was sure when he had arrived. Obi-Wan was surprised and pleased at all those who cared and came to pay their respects.

Obi-Wan, as the chief mourner by Naboo custom, stood on the floor level of the funeral temple, at the center of the pyre. Padmé, in full royal mourning regalia, stood at her left, while Master Dooku stood at her right. Anakin stood behind them, looking through the gap between their shoulders, his mother at his side. Boss Nass stood at Dooku’s right, while the Chancellor and Jar Jar stood at the Queen’s. Naboo’s Royal Council was present, as were the leaders of the Naboo resistance, the handmaidens, and the survivors of their flight to Coruscant and back again. Even Artoo was present, perched on one of the steps beside Captain Olié.

Every Jedi in attendance wore their robes with their hoods up, with the exception of Yoda, whom Obi-Wan had never seen where a hooded robe.

Obi-Wan was the one to light the pyre, though not until she wrapped her Padawan braid around her Master’s hands: since she could not give it to him in the traditional manner, she would make sure her braid burnt with his body on the pyre. As soon as the braid was firmly in his hands, she picked up the torch and touched it to the corner of the pyre.

“There is no death, there is the Force,” she whispered, though the sound carried through the domed building.

“There is no death, there is the Force,” the rest of the Jedi echoed.

She placed the torch in the extinguishing basin and then stepped back to watch the pyre burn in silence.

It wasn’t until the pyre had burned to ash and the mourners had begun silently filing out of the temple that Anakin asked, “What will happen to me now?”

Obi-Wan offered him a sad smile as she reached out to cup his cheek.

“The Council has granted me permission to train you,” she said. “You will be a Jedi, Anakin. I promise.”

He offered her a small smile in return, then reached out to take her hand as they walked out of the funeral temple into the cold night.