The main force is up in The Negotiator , far enough away not to draw the attention of nearby forces, but close enough to back them up if they find themselves in trouble. There’s a small group of the 212th at a temporary base on the planet, and the unit General Kenobi leads is with Cody as they hunt for the artifact which brought them here.
It was General Windu who told them there was something abnormal on Seshura. Naturally, it was Cody’s general who drew the short straw for this mission. The goal is to grab the artifact before the Separtist base on this planet does enough recon to realize there’s something worth having. There are rumors Dooku is already on his way, and Cody wants to be far away before he makes it here.
If everything goes well, they’ll grab the artifact and leave with no one the wiser. If things go very well, this artifact is some kind of weapon they can use to turn the tide of the war.
Because nothing ever goes well, Cody’s general plucks the orb off its pedestal, and a blindingly white light flares from the sphere. Cody isn’t the only brother cursing as he blinks and waits for his sight to return. Something rolls into his boot, and he bends down and picks up his general’s lightsaber. He clips it to his belt with a practiced ease.
When his vision clears, he curses even louder, because standing where his general had been is a smaller, younger, human. Cody isn’t good with human ages, he and his brothers grew on a different scale than standard humans, but the boy in front of him is far younger than his general should be.
His reddish-blonde hair falls into his eyes, longer than the buzz Cody would expect from a padawan but not nearly as long as the general wears it now. He’s slight, his shoulders hunched to make himself even smaller, and there’s a sharpness to his features he shouldn’t have. Young humans should be padded with fat, but this boy is thin as if he’s malnourished. Part of it, Cody is sure, is from the oversized tunics he’s now in, but it isn’t simply that.
“Commander?” York, one of their best recon troopers, asks through the bucket comm. “Is that--”
A glance around the temple they’re in shows no sign of Cody’s general which means Cody’s in charge. He clears his throat, and the boy’s gaze snaps up, seeming to catalogue his surroundings for the first time. His eyes are a bright, intelligent blue, and they note Cody’s armor, his weapon, and then the brother next to him and the one next to him.
The boy notices the orb in his hand and tilts his head as if he isn’t sure how it got there. He holds it out toward Cody. “If this is yours, I meant no offense.”
His voice is soft in a way his body isn’t, higher than General Kenobi’s. He still has the rich curl of his accent, but there’s something guarded about his words as if he isn’t sure he should offer them. It’s different than General Kenobi who could speak for hours and never say anything at all. Why thank you , General Kenobi said once when Cody told him so.
He doesn’t want this boy to be his general, but the signs all point to it being the case. The boy is still holding the orb out, and Cody doesn’t want to touch it, but they need to bring it back to the Temple to study. This is not the super weapon they were hoping for. And if General Kenobi is now out of commission, they’ll have a new host of problems to deal with.
Packrat pops the top of his right shoulder pauldron, revealing a hidden storage container. “You can put it in here, kid.”
“Kid” scowls at the name. “You didn’t answer my question.” His eyes are on Packrat, waiting for any kind of sudden movement, but he’s talking to Cody. “Is this yours?”
“It doesn’t belong to any of us here, but we came here looking for it. We’d like to take it with us.”
For starters, I think it turned my adult Jedi into a child, and I want to know how to reverse it. Also, if Dooku realized what this could do, he would weaponize it . Cody imagines the top leaders in the GAR turned into children and wishes he hadn’t. “We want to study it.”
The boy hesitates for a moment. His gaze flicks to the orb, to the pedestal it rested on and then to the brothers. “Why am I holding it?”
He doesn’t remember. Cody’s small spark of hope fizzles out. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“Fighting.” Fear flickers at the corners of the boy’s eyes as he takes stock of the armor and weapons. Still, he puts on a brave front, standing taller as if he’d take them all on if he needed to. “Are you reinforcements?”
“I’m not sure I follow.” It’s a difficult balance, telling the truth while trying not to spook his maybe-Jedi.
The boy tucks the orb closer to himself. “Who do you fight for, the Melida or the Daan?”
“The who?” Womp asks.
The boy takes a step backward toward the stairs which lead deeper into the Temple. General Kenobi warned them of venturing too deep, that this temple was inhabited by guardians who never left, choosing to weave their Force signatures through the very stone which made the temple. Womp made a crack about ghosts and they’ve all been on edge ever since.
Cody doesn’t want to chase this boy through a haunted Jedi temple.
The boy’s foot catches on a dip in the stone floor and he wobbles. As he recovers his balance, he looks around. His suspicion melts into confusion and then back to suspicion. “This isn’t where I was.”
“It isn’t.” Cody takes a knee and, after a moment of deliberation, removes his helmet. The boy stares at his face, maybe it’s the scar, for a long moment. “What you’re holding in your hand is some kind of artifact. When you touched it, it changed you.”
“Changed me how?”
“Your name is Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
The boy’s eyes widen, shock leaking into the air around him. He doesn’t have the discipline or control of General Kenobi. Cody knew, in theory, his general had once been a child, but he assumed he’d always been unflappable, adult or otherwise. “Before you touched the orb, you were in your thirties. And now you’re a youngling.”
The boy stares at the orb in his hands. Disbelief is thick in the air, but given how early Jedi begin their training, Cody isn’t surprised when the boy-- Obi-Wan --comes to terms with the fact that it’s a possibility. Cody tries to place himself in Obi-Wan’s boots and then decides thought exercises are better left to someone else. His general is now a boy, and it’s Cody’s responsibility to protect him. It might actually be easier than when he’s an adult. Children, especially Jedi children, are supposed to be obedient, right?
“I am Obi-Wan Kenobi.” He turns the orb over in his hands. The outsides are so dark they’re almost back, but at the core of it, the orb is dark, heated red, the last ember of a fire. “You haven’t told me who you are.”
“You’re a soldier?”
“I’m the Commander of the 212th Attack Battalion.”
“You...fight for the Young?”
Just as Obi-Wan’s baffled by an attack battalion, Cody has no idea who these people are; the Melida, the Daan, the young. What kind of trouble did his general land himself in as a child? And why has Cody never heard of it? General Kenobi would wistfully talk about the days when Jedi were diplomats. He never mentioned a war.
“We fight for you,” Marshall says.
“But we aren’t on Melida/Daan?”
“We’re on Seshura,” Cody answers.
Obi-Wan doesn’t look any more enlightened. “Because it’s been...twenty years since I was this.” Obi-Wan gestures to himself. “Have I been at war this whole time?”
He looks exhausted, an expression Cody’s all too familiar with. But there’s no beard for Obi-Wan to hide behind, no Jedi stoicism to use as a shield. Cody wants to draw him into a hug or wrap him in blankets and put him into bed. Neither would be appropriate.
“You’re at war?” Marshall asks.
Obi-Wan glances at Marshall and then at the orb in his hands. He seems to come to some kind of decision, because he sheds his fear and takes charge. “If our mission was to retrieve this object, we should complete our mission.” He looks to Packrat and his open pauldron. “How secure is your storage space? Are you at risk of experiencing the same effect as me?”
“I--” Packrat pauses. “I’m not sure, General.”
Obi-Wan’s eyebrows climb upward. “General?”
Cody gives Packrat a look which promises him a blistering lecture lately as well as punishment duty. “You are our general. Or, your older self is.”
“I assume given the extenuating circumstances, you are now the commanding officer?” Obi-Wan asks. At Cody’s nod, he continues. “I shall carry the artifact until I can find a safe way to transport it. Where are we set up?”
“Our base is two days out from here,” Cody answers. It’s closer to the Sep base than he’d like, but they didn’t have a lot of options.
“We were a scouting team?” Obi-Wan looks down at his clothes. They hang loose and too big from his frame, but a twist here, a tie there, and he manages something functional even if it looks odd.
“We’re a small, specialized team,” Cody explains. “There are hostiles and civilians on the planet. We were hoping to get in and out without trouble.”
Obi-Wan ducks his head but not before Coyd sees the flush of shame on his cheeks. “I apologize for compromising the plan.”
Cody could give him a list of the times General Kenobi karked up worse than this, but the bowed head tells him not to. For all the bravery the boy is projecting, there’s a fragility to him, and Cody won’t be the one to break him. “Improvisation is good for us.”
Womp’s laughter filters through his helmet and Cody glares at him, a reminder that Cody has two days to think of an appropriate punishment for pissing him off. Cody’s general is a child, there’s Seppies in spitting distance, and Dooku himself is en route to the planet. Now isn’t the time for jokes.
“York and Marshall, I want you on point. Womp, Packrat, and Gusher, you take the rear. Obi-Wan, you and I are in the middle.”
“I can hold my own.” The boy’s spine straightens, a flicker of anger in his gaze, and Cody’s reminded this boy one day grows into his general. And then the boy’s gaze strays to Cody’s belt. “You could give me a blaster.”
Cody gestures to the orb nestled in the extra folds of Obi-Wan’s tunics. “You’re protecting the objective.”
Obi-Wan nods and doesn’t put up further protest. Cody files it away to puzzle over later. For now, he puts his helmet back on and switches to the private comm. “Keep your senses sharp. Nothing else is happening to our general.”
“Yes, sir,” his brothers respond.
As they head out of the temple, Cody comms Wooley and tells him to hail The Negotiator. “We need back-up. I want The Negotiator headed our way. And find out what other Jedi are in the area. Preferably one who knew General Kenobi as a youngling. Full report to follow.”
“Yes, sir,” Wooley says.
They walk for hours at a steady pace. Cody has to check on his charge every few steps, afraid he’s disappeared while Cody wasn’t paying attention. His mini-general is silent, more shadow than boy. He doesn't ask questions, doesn’t talk, doesn’t even complain. He keeps pace with them even though he’s younger and smaller and shouldn’t have that kind of endurance.
Then again, Jedi live abnormal lives. Maybe the padawans are as hardy as the knights and masters. Cody’s main experience with younger Jedi is Commander Tano, and she’s certainly special. Livelier than Obi-Wan appears to be, but maybe his general was reserved as a child. He’s certainly outgrown that trait.
His general is generous to a fault and outgoing, always taking time to check in with his men, to talk to them and remember what they say. Even people he doesn’t like, senators at those pointless parties and Seppies in the middle of battle, he’s talking, smiling, flirting, tossing insults around. He’s always putting himself out there in some way or another.
But Obi-Wan keeps to himself. He’s alert, aware of their surroundings, and he listens to the brothers as they talk quietly amongst themselves, but he doesn’t offer up anything on his own. Cody doesn’t push, because even for a Jedi, this must be an odd situation.
There’s still enough daylight to push further when Cody stops them to set up camp. They could keep going, but he’d rather the safety of a good campsite than shave an hour or two off their trip. He calls a halt and, before his little Jedi can grow offended, he says, “This is the best defensive position we’ve seen so far. I want camp set up and watches determined.”
“Where are you going?” Obi-Wan.
“There’s vegetation which is edible and small animals which should be easy enough to catch. I want to save our rations if I can.” In case something else goes wrong.
“I’m good with plants. My m--I read a lot.” Confident at the beginning, he stares at the ground by the end.
“I want you and Packrat to find a way to transport the orb. Holding it in your hands means you’re at a disadvantage if we’re attacked.”
“Is a fight likely?”
“We’ll keep you out of trouble.” Packrat sits down next to Obi-Wan and takes his helmet off.
Obi-Wan looks at him before he turns to Cody as if remembering what Cody’s face looked like in the temple. He turns to the other brothers, their buckets still on. “Do you all share the same face?”
“We’re clones,” Cody answers. “We’re created from the same template.”
“You were...created.” Obi-Wan stumbles over the word. “For my war?”
“It isn’t your war,” Cody promises. “It’s complicated. We can discuss it over dinner.” He says it both to pacify Obi-Wan and to warn his brothers to keep their mouths shut while he’s gone.
Obi-Wan frowns as if he heard the warning, but he doesn’t press the issue. He turns to Womp instead and asks, “Will you show me how to set up camp? I want to help.”
This, at least, is something both their general and his younger self have in common. Womp waves Obi-Wan over, and they’re setting up tents as Cody and York leave to do some scouting and foraging. They don’t go far in case they need to hurry back, but they’re far enough to speak freely.
“This is fucked, even for us,” York says.
Cody laughs even though it isn’t funny. “At least he’s being cooperative.” He knows the boy is confused. He can see him flickering between clinging to Cody as if afraid of being abandoned and suspicion as if he isn’t quite sure he believes the de-aging story. Cody’s not sure he believes it and he was a witness.
He pats his hip where the general’s lightsaber hangs from its clip. “He hasn’t asked for it.”
“Did you see his hair? No braid.”
No padawan braid, he isn’t fazed at not having a lightsaber. It adds up to a picture which doesn’t make sense. Cody almost wishes General Skywalker was here. He’d give Cody shit for letting his general walk into this mess, but he’d be able to answer Cody’s questions. Now, Cody has to wait until they’re at their base so they can contact a Jedi.
“What do you think it means?” Cody asks.
“General Skywalker was old for a padawan, and he was younger than Obi-Wan is now. We would’ve known if he was late coming to the Order.”
And Commander Tano talked about her Temple upbringing enough for them to hear her and Obi-Wan share memories. He was raised in the Temple from a young age. He was a padawan to Master Jinn, the deceased Jedi who General Kenobi rarely mentions.
“We could ask him,” York says.
“Not yet. I don’t want to spook him when we’re cut off from help and with hostiles on the planet.” The last thing they need is for Obi-Wan to be captured by Seppies.
When they make it back to camp with a decent bounty, Obi-Wan and Gusher are caught in a staring contest. Obi-Wan’s on his feet, hands planted on his hips. Gusher’s eyes are narrowed in frustration which means Obi-Wan’s winning whatever battle of wills they’re having.
Cody notes that the two tents are set up and the solar oven is between them, its battery packs fully charged. “What’s that about?” he asked Marshall.
“Gusher caught the kid limping and asked him to take off his boots.”
“I’m not a kid,” Obi-Wan snaps. He flushes at his outburst and takes a deep breath, visibly centering himself. It’s more obvious than Cody’s general usually is, but his general has twenty plus years of practice on this version of himself. Cody hands the greens to Marshall and the rodents to Gusher. “Help Marshall with dinner. I’ll take this.”
Gusher accepts the change with gratitude. Obi-Wan switches his attention to Cody and tilts his chin up as if he’s preparing for a long fight. Cody, knowing how deep his general’s stubborn streak goes, sits down on the ground. “What hurts?”
“I’m not hurt.”
Cody arches his brow. “I don’t believe that when you’re older either.” He thinks back to today. Did something happen? He was fine--beyond the obvious--in the temple. There were a few trips and stumbles but nothing which should be painful now. But--oh. Cody feels like an idiot. “Show me your feet.”
Cody feels a headache building behind his eyes. “Your boots are too big. You have blisters.”
Even caught out, Obi-Wan doesn’t back down. “I kept up with you.”
Even though it hurt , Cody hears. Muttered swearing behind him tells him his brothers heard the same thing.
Obi-Wan turns toward the sound of the swearing. “That was Mando’a. You’re Mandalorian?” He doesn’t shift backward or react much at all, but the flicker of fear is back in his eyes. Even so, he doesn’t reach for where his lightsaber would hang. “I never asked who we were fighting.”
“The Separatists,” Cody answers, carefully, wondering what’s set off the warning klaxons in Obi-Wan’s head. Mandalore has a reputation for fighting, but Obi-Wan wouldn’t have crossed paths with them. “They’re anti-Republic. They fight primarily with armies of droids.”
Obi-Wan nods as if any of this makes sense to him. “Droids against Mandalorians.” He flexes his hands as if he’s used to having something in them.
Gusher cracks the oven open, and the scent of cooking meat wafts their way. Obi-Wan’s stomach grumbles loudly, and spots of pink dot his cheeks.
“Protein isn’t done yet but there’s green stuff,” Gusher says.
Obi-Wan glances at Cody and then, as if realizing he was looking for permission, bounds over to Gusher without it. He takes the two green sticks Gusher hands him and finds a seat near the oven but not next to any of the brothers. He seems torn between defiance and a desperate need to be one of them. It makes Cody’s head hurt so he can’t even imagine how Obi-Wan feels.
“They’re chewy and kind of tasteless,” Gusher says about the green sticks. “But our general, uh, you I guess, says they’re good for us.”
Obi-Wan nibbles on one end. “Vegetable. It probably has necessary vitamins in it.” He nibbles some more. “And water.” He makes quick work of the first green stick. He lifts the second to his lips and then pauses as he realizes no one else is eating. Guilt creeps over his face.
Cody bites back his sigh and holds his hand out to Gusher for two sticks of his own. Marshall accepts his two and then elbows Packrat. Only once Obi-Wan sees they all have two green sticks does he start on his second.
Cody chews on the vegetable and chews and chews. It doesn’t seem to break down at all. It’s just a stringy clump of plant matter in his cheek. He swallows and takes another bite. Obi-Wan likes the taste of this thing? He eyes the boy and wonders how soon they can do a full medical scan.
Obi-Wan is finished with his green sticks before Cody or his brothers have finished even one of theirs. He sits quietly but sneaks glances at the oven as if wondering when the next part of their dinner will be ready. Cody remembers Obi-Wan’s references to a war, notes the boy’s skinniness, and steels himself before he says, “Gusher, there’s no need to be stingy. Another green thing for each of us.”
“Commander,” Gusher begins, but a look from Cody has him swallowing his protests and handing out another green stick to each of them.
Packrat snaps his in half but doesn’t make any move to eat it. “Is it bad I almost want rations?”
“Fresh vegetables are good for you,” Obi-Wan says, lectures really. It’s a tone Cody’s heard hundreds of times before, usually around General Skywalker but around the brothers too. “I guess you’re all full grown already.”
“I have bad news for you if you think these will make you grow.” Packrat points to Obi-Wan with one half of his stick. “You’re short even when you grow up.”
“General Skywalker likes to rest his elbows on your shoulders.”
“Tell me about him?” Obi-Wan asks, equal parts curiosity and challenge, as if he’s still not sure they aren’t making this whole thing up. “Is he my friend?”
Packrat looks to Cody which means Obi-Wan also looks to Cody. “You trained him. You’re his mentor.”
“Me?” Obi-Wan shakes his head. “No.”
“He leads the 501st,” Cody says. “Our battalions often work together. We’ll probably meet up with him after we got off Seshura.” He itches to be back at the main base where he can get a hold of another Jedi.
The oven pings, and Gusher opens the door. He pulls out the baking tray, and the rodents are cooked, but they’re still undeniably rodent. He doesn’t expect Obi-Wan to complain, but he does expect a grimace or a quip about not having the proper silverware. Instead, the boy eagerly accepts his portion and doesn’t wait for it to cool before tearing off the first bit of meat and sticking it in his mouth.
He makes quick work of his food, and Cody takes a tentative bite of his own, wondering if it tastes better than it looks. It doesn’t. Gusher eyes his rodent and then Obi-Wan as if wondering which one is lying to him. Cody really isn’t liking this picture.
“How long have you been on Melida/Daan?” Cody asks. Long enough for his hair to grow out, long enough to know what it’s like to be hungry.
“Apparently, I’m on Seshura.”
Cody fixes him with a flat, unimpressed look.
“Several months, I think. It’s hard to keep track of time. When do I leave?”
“I don’t know,” Cody admits. It feels like failing a test.
“How long have I known you?”
“This is a long war. Are we winning?”
Their small group falls silent.
“Oh.” Obi-Wan scuffs his boot in the dirt.
“We’re not losing,” York says. “But it’s difficult to tell if we’re making progress.”
Gusher elbows York and glowers at him. Cody would’ve done the same if he was in reach. Their general was once this kid, but it doesn’t mean Obi-Wan is ready to bear the weight of this war.
“I guess every war is like that,” Obi-Wan says, thoughtful. “That’s how it is on Melida/Daan. We win fights, but even when we win, people get hurt and they die. We’re tearing the planet apart and tearing ourselves apart. Even if we win, there might not be anything left.”
Cody isn’t the only one staring at Obi-Wan in a mixture of shock and horror. They finish eating in silence, and when they’re done, Obi-Wan watches as they easily split into clean-up teams. “Can I help?”
“You can let me take a look at your feet.”
All the fight seems to have gone out of him, because Obi-Wan gives a weary nod and pulls his boots off. His feet are covered in blisters, red and painful.
“It’s not so bad,” Obi-Wan says. “I barely even feel it. And after I--uh, rest, they’ll be better.”
Did he cut himself off from referencing a kind of Force healing? Should Cody continue to ignore the obvious and wait for Obi-Wan to mention it? “What about tomorrow when your boots still don’t fit?”
“I won’t hold us back,” Obi-Wan promises.
Packrat rummages through his bag and pulls out an extra set of clothes. “We can stuff his boots to make them fit better.”
“Thank you,” Cody says. “We’ll do it in the morning before we leave. York and Womp, you’re on first watch tonight. Packrat, Marshall, and Gusher, you take the first tent. Obi-Wan, you’re with me.”
“Do I get a watch?”
“I won’t fall asleep when it’s my turn.” There’s something defiant but also vulnerable about his argument. He’s a tangle of contradictions, snarled enough to hurt Cody’s head. “I’m good at sensing danger. I get feelings sometimes.”
“Only bad ones,” Gusher says. They’re all quite familiar with General Kenobi and his ‘I have a bad feeling about this’.
“You need your sleep,” Cody says.
“I’m good with a blaster. Give me one and I’ll prove it.”
It’s the second time he’s asked for a weapon, and Cody’s tempted to give in this time, because his general is notorious for his avoidance of blasters. But Cody won’t put a weapon in the hand of someone he doesn’t know can use it, and he isn’t about to allow target practice when they’re keeping a low profile. “You can show me once we’re on our ship. You aren’t taking watch tonight.”
Obi-Wan crosses his arms over his chest. “Is that an order?”
Their little group falls into uncomfortable silence again. Cody and his general never challenge each other like this. They’re both aware of where the line is and while they’ll sometimes step right to the edge, they never cross it. But Obi-Wan isn’t his general, and he’s desperately afraid and doing a poor job at hiding it.
Obi-Wan grabs his boots and heads for the first tent. “I’m not sharing with you,” he says before he ducks inside.
It’s a petty show of defiance, and it hurts Cody more than he wants to admit. He rubs his forehead. “Packrat, Marshall, Gusher, one of you bunk with me. The other two, keep an eye on him, and be quiet when you switch shifts. I don’t think he’s a deep sleeper.”
Cody spends his watch with most of his attention on his surroundings but the rest worrying over the Obi-Wan problem. Honestly, he isn’t too concerned about the age thing. He’s gotten used to weird Jedi shit. Either this will solve itself on its own or he’ll hand the orb over to the Jedi and they’ll figure out the solution.
What concerns him is his gaps in knowledge of his general’s life. He didn’t know General Kenobi had been mixed up in a war as a child. And he still doesn’t know what to make of the fact that at some point, his general stopped being a Jedi for a while. Is he undercover? Maybe in this war it would be dangerous to be a Jedi and the braid and the lightsaber were too conspicuous.
It doesn’t help that this Obi-Wan is so tight-lipped. His general would keep up a running commentary of nonsense, giving the illusion of communication without telling anything important. Obi-Wan is quiet. He’ll ask the occasional question, he’ll dig his heels in on the strangest battles, but he hasn’t given them any useful information.
Beyond the scattered references to Melida/Daan, Cody doesn’t know anything about him. While he’s on watch, he calls into base.
“It’s about time,” Wooley says. “The Council is riding my ass. Skywalker flipped his shit. He says he suddenly can’t feel General Kenobi through their bond. What happened?”
“He’s alive,” Cody says, because he doesn’t want Wooley to worry. “But weird Jedi shit happened.”
“I asked you to find someone who knew him as a kid. My best guess, he’s more than ten, less than fifteen. With the memories to go with it.”
“Skywalker and The Resolute are already on their way. General Vos too.”
“Fuck.” Cody says. It’s an explosive combination, especially without his general to mediate. He’s heard troubling things about General Vos, and he’s worked with General Skywalker enough to know he doesn’t usually deescalate situations.
“As soon as you’re here, the Council wants to talk to you. Do you know what happened?”
“We found the artifact, he touched the artifact, and now he’s a kid.” Kid doesn’t even begin to explain the half of it. Cody rubs his forehead. “He’s prickly. Suspicious and scared of us at one moment, clinging the next. And that’s not even getting started on his pride.”
“Pride?” Wooley’s surprise comes through clear on the comm.
“I didn’t assign him a watch, and he refused to share a tent with me.”
Wooley sounds like he’s trying to hold back a laugh. “Our general was a sulky teenager? He seemed more like the old soul type.”
There is some of that, but mostly Obi-Wan just seems sad.