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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Saga Dagobah (post-ROTS, Obi-Wan et al., dark AU) - REPOST

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by GuerreStellari, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    For people that think Star Wars should be crazy, dark, and weird. A freaky reimagining of all your favorite characters and the A New Hope storyline. Obi-Wan protagonist. Lots of weird meta-references. Of all the fanfic I've ever written, I'm most proud of this.

    Enjoy!

    Title: Dagobah
    Author: GuerreStellari
    Characters: Obi-Wan, everyone, + 1 OC junkie
    Time Period: Post-ROTS, ANH
    Summary: A sequel to my other dark AU, Starting Again. Luke and Uncle Owen are dead, the Empire is growing in power, and Obi-Wan is a meddlesome old crank. Welcome to a much more morally ambiguous and freaky Lucasverse! To be enjoyed with coffee, acid hip hop, and dim lighting.
    Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. This is a re-post (it was posted on the boards here in 2006ish). I haven't been in fanfic for a long while, though I sometimes think about coming back to this, since it was just so fun.

    #

    PROLOGUE

    Bail Organa smoothed down his hair as he looked in the mirror. Everything was vibrating slightly as the shuttle glided into the Chandrilan vessel's port. One of the net droids rattled in its frame.

    Senator Mon Mothma had only left a cryptic message for him: "Come see me. Urgent." with a list of coordinates for hyperspace exit and entry points. After several jumps in hyperspace, Bail's cruiser dropped into a strange, unfamiliar space. They weren't near a solar system, and the cruiser computers only called this patch of the galaxy generic Wild Space. Whatever Mon Mothma wanted to show Bail, it was clear she wanted to show it to him in utmost privacy - far from the Empire's prying eyes.

    Bail suspected this meeting had something to do with the recent civil unrest in the Mid-Rim planets. He had just learned of a possible terrorist explosion in a planet called Chiu-Wai. Not an important planet, it had previously been notable only in its mediocrity. Now, however, hordes of media droids were descending on the world after a mysterious attack had killed over one hundred people. The Empire had been very quick to credit this recent tragedy on the growing Rebellion, but Bail and Mon Mothma knew it hadn't been Rebellion work. At least, they hadn't ordered it.

    Suddenly, Bail felt incredibly tired. The pressure of maintaining appearances and concealing his links to the Rebel Alliance, and the difficulty in keeping control of a radically heterogeneous group of organizations united only by their common enemy - these things took their toll on days like today. Bail wondered if Mon Mothma would tell him that the explosion had been a Rebellion offshoot or, worse still, whether she had ordered it without his consent. The Rebel Alliance Senators had a tacit agreement to only take action by consensus, but Bail knew Mon Mothma - she was headstrong, independent, and militant.

    The shuttle landed.

    As the landing ramp descended, Bail practiced his politician's indifferent face. Mon Mothma was waiting to greet him at the ramp's edge. She looked uncharacteristically unkempt. Droids were already rolling forward, ready to refuel his shuttle and unload it of its luggage.

    "Senator Mon Mothma," Bail said.

    "Bail," she said, dropping immediately into the informal. "I'm sorry for the haphazard coordinates. This was the safest place I could find for now."

    "Tell me."

    "I... Just follow me, please."

    Bail raised an eyebrow. Without another word, Mon Mothma turned and walked, Bail swiftly following.

    *

    The man's arm was gone. That was the first thing Bail noticed.

    They were staring at a fuzzy security monitor into one of the vessel's prison cells. Lines of static periodically wiped through the image. A small number in the screen's corner displayed the time, temperature and cell number. The unknown prisoner was sitting, back straight, holding his wounded arm in his remaining hand. A medical droid had placed a cap on the stump, and Bail could see the blinking light from the cap. The man was bearded, and his hair seemed gray or white. It was difficult to tell in the low-resolution.

    "Recognize him?" Mon Mothma asked. She was peering over Bail's shoulder, watching the man on the monitor intently.

    "No. Should I?"

    Mon Mothma tapped something into a nearby keyboard. The screen's corner display suddenly changed to read: O.W. KENOBI, HUMAN, MALE, AGE 47...

    After reading the name, Bail almost reeled. A great warmth swept through his body and he felt his stomach drop. He stared again at the monitor, squinting, but there was no recognition. What did this mean? He thought of a million solutions, a million explanations to what he was seeing. None of them fit.

    "But..." he began feebly, "how could someone obtain his DNA records? That would require - and I thought these prison cell scanners picked up the entire organism, so what part of Kenobi - I..."

    "It's not an impostor, Bail, it's him," Mon Mothma said. "I've run all the tests. Believe me. You're looking at the real Kenobi."

    *
    She stood over him, watching him sleep. She watched his chest rise in shallow inhalations. She could see the pulse in his neck.

    "Oh, Obi-Wan..." she sighed.

    Had it been so many years? She almost couldn't believe it was him. His hair had gone a shocked white, darkening only towards the back. He had lost weight, giving his cheekbones sharp relief. And the lines in his face were etched deeply. He looked permanently exhausted, many years older.

    Mon Mothma remembered those days on Coruscant, so long ago, before the Empire, during those interminable wars. She remembered Obi-Wan's gait then, his striding self-assurance. The confidence and grace he exhibited. He had been the last person to call her by her private name, Mila. Yes, she had had other lovers after him, but he had been the last she had really trusted, had really felt vulnerable towards. She could still remember the screaming grief in those dark days after the Temple fell, when the Emperor consolidated his power, and everything changed. She could still remember crying over her lost loved ones - and one, especially: her Obi-Wan.

    And now? She could hardly reconcile this old madman to the young, handsome general of ten years ago.

    "What has the galaxy done to us?" she asked. She sat on the cell's block-like bed, finding a small space by him, and, after hesitating a moment, she brushed his forehead with her fingers. Her touch was light; he didn't wake.

    "Obi-Wan Kenobi," she said again. "Who would have thought I would find you again? I thought you were dead. Oh, how I grieved for you. It's almost offensive to have you back again. It renders all that time crying... so silly." She smirked. Adding some pressure, she stroked his forehead, brushing the hair away in rhythmic strokes. "And now where will I put you?"

    He stirred lightly. Then, waking, he jerked away from her touch in one violent spasm.

    "Who's there?" he barked.

    Everything fell into place: Mon Mothma knew his voice intimately. Her stomach lurched.

    "It's all right, Master Kenobi," she said evenly. "You're safe here. We've found you."

    "Who is it? Who are you?" he asked again, and his blind eyes roved wildly about the room. He was cradling his injured arm against his body; protecting it. "Speak!"

    "Please calm yourself, Master Kenobi - "

    "I'm not 'Master Kenobi' - don't call me that!"

    Mon Mothma paused, unsure how to take this. "Very well. Obi-Wan. Please don't become agitated. You know me well. I am Mon Mothma."

    He was still tense - she could sense the energy in him like a coiled spring - and his eyes locked onto the middle distance between them; the space where her voice came from.

    "Senator... Mon Mothma?" he repeated.

    "Yes." Feeling somewhat foolish, she added, "You called me Mila once."

    He was quiet for a very long time. He didn't relax, but sat, half-rising, curled against his amputated arm. Emotions played on his face, and Mon Mothma waited. Eventually, he said, "I don't believe you."

    "Obi-Wan..." she reached out, but he flinched at her touch.

    "Don't! Don't do that! Stop it. Please."

    "Obi-Wan, I understand your confusion. If you prefer, I can bring in a biometric identification reader..."

    "No - no. I don't want - no technology. None of that." He moved clumsily into a sitting position, away from her, leaning against the wall, pushing himself into it. She saw him wince with pain at moving the arm. "I want you to... tell me. If you are Mon Mothma, then you can prove it without need of any technological apparatus. Those vile things. Tell me this: what - what is my private name?"

    "Your private name was Ben." She smiled, mirthless. "But it appears you've gone public with it these days."

    He paused again. "I knew you as Mila. I did. It's true." He relaxed, still cautious, and spoke softly. "I'm pleased to find you well."

    "Thank you," she said. "I am glad to see you too. And I apologize for the cell... Bail Organa is here. He knows nothing. Yet. I will tell him soon, then we can move you to the guest quarters. But first, I want you to tell me - Obi-Wan... Ben. What is it that you've done? Why did I find you on Chiu Mai?"

    "So this is the Empire's new interrogation technique?" Obi-Wan interrupted, his voice acid with loathing. "Send you to disarm me? Well, you can tell Vader that he needn't bother with the pleasantries. We can begin immediately with the - with whatever tortures he enjoys nowadays. I'm not answering anything to you, Senator."

    "No - Obi-Wan, you've misunderstood - "

    "Please don't bother, Senator. It's true - I cared for you once, I did, and I appreciate you doing this. It must have been difficult for you. But I'd rather not waste time."

    She reached for his shoulder, but he jerked away.

    "Ben, listen to me. We are no friends of the Empire."

    "You're an Imperial Senator!"

    "But surely you've heard of the Rebellion?"

    Obi-Wan said nothing, but she could tell he was listening. She continued, "At present, we are just an ad hoc alliance - local governments, militias, trade unions... We are building what support we can. It is all isolated incidents at present, and I suspect we won't be able to move much beyond guerrilla warfare, should it come to open engagement. Obviously, Bail and I, our involvement is secret. And we believe there are more Rebel Senators in Coruscant - however, for the sake of protection, as you can imagine, we are often unaware of each other. But we have Rebel cells throughout the government, in each Rim. We are working to end this tyranny, and end it soon."

    It felt strange to be speaking so plainly, so openly, about something which was so hidden within her life. The Rebellion was embedded into her mentality these days - it informed her actions both political and private - but it was something which, at its root, was taboo, secret, hushed. Speaking of it to Obi-Wan, here, felt both bizarre and liberating. She told herself that this was Obi-Wan Kenobi and therefore he could be trusted, but nonetheless she found herself tingling with anxiety: the first rule of the Rebellion is you do not talk about the Rebellion.

    Obi-Wan said nothing. Eventually, Mon Mothma added, "Ben. You must believe me."

    "I do..." he murmured. "It's been days since Chiu Mai. If you had been... legitimate Empire... you're right. I would have been in Vader's hands by now."

    Mon Mothma exhaled. "Good. You understand. Now you must help me understand. Because if the Jedi are alive - if there are others, and if this - if what happened on Chiu Mai was a Jedi operation - "

    "No!" Obi-Wan exclaimed. He inhaled shakily. "No. That - that was not... Jedi."

    "But the Jedi, if they're still out there, they could help - "

    "I know nothing of them. They're probably all dead by now."

    "But... " Mon Mothma paused. She put her hand on Obi-Wan's; for the first time, he did not move away, but sat, slouched and grim. "Ben. We have much to say. Please tell me: what has happened to you?"

    "Nothing. I have met with what I have justly deserved."

    *

    Lying back was not an option: it sent blood streaming furiously to his head, his broken eyes and half an arm. Pain seized him and, drowning in it, he would sit back up, gasping. The only comfort was to huddle in on the arm, and to lean against the wall, falling asleep like that. He wished the cell's bed was near the corner, but there was no way to move it. Occasionally, a droid would enter - Obi-Wan recognized it by the sound of its mechanical hisses and whirs - and it would place something warm and needle-like against his good arm. Then he would slip into a numb bliss, sleeping well.

    It was difficult to tell dreams from reality these days. Everything was dark; and his eyes, seeing nothing, began to invent images, coloring his consciousness with vivid colors, swirling forms, hallucinations. Privately, he despaired.

    Mon Mothma has been living in hope, he thought. She builds and builds these Rebellions and alliances, she thinks that the Empire is capable of being overthrown. Obi-Wan felt a dark weight press against his chest: but what does she know of the Empire? What does she understand of the tortured, mutilated Force which drives its political and military gains? A Rebellion is nothing.

    She had sounded so alive. Her voice was the same voice which used to greet him in the mornings, which whispered into his ear and sent warm gusts against his cheek.

    But the memory of Mon Mothma as Mila, of their relationship, only shamed Obi-Wan now. He had been so weak, so un-Jedi, in those days. The Clone Wars had made humans of both Anakin and Obi-Wan; it had toppled their inner authority, it had exposed their weaknesses, cowardices and needs. Obi-Wan remembered his nights in the Coruscant lower levels, when he wandered for hours, or stopped to have a drink, or sat on park benches and mused privately. All that time, neglecting his meditation, his training. He remembered Mila's embraces, her advance and his relenting: what could he have done? He had been weak.

    And now, in another moment of weakness, here they were.

    *

    "I want to know where Beru Lars is."

    Bail Organa frowned. Obi-Wan Kenobi was staring at a spot on Bail's chest, just above the heart. It was making Bail uncomfortable.

    "Master Kenobi - "

    "Please don't call me that. I have already told you - that title is inappropriate now."

    "I... fine. Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan: I already told you. Beru has been transferred to a secure location. I can't let you or anyone else know of her whereabouts. I understand that you care for her..."

    At this, Obi-Wan shifted in his seat, his eyes flickering back and forth. Bail continued:
    "...I do as well. I value her as a relative of the Skywalkers, and as a victim in - in the Imperial agenda. That's why I am going to take some serious measures to ensure that she is no longer threatened."

    "And this means isolating her? Imprisoning her in the location of your choice?"

    "She's hardly imprisoned, Master - "

    "You know, I saw this often during the Clone Wars. Unfortunate and unwanted people disappeared, presumably 'for their own safety'. You've become truly... Imperial in your manner, Senator Organa."

    Bail sighed. His eyes drifted to Obi-Wan's right arm; it ended just below the elbow. He was holding it against him, favoring his left side as he sat. Bail closed his eyes, thinking of Leia. He thought of his wife - the nights at the window, screaming - the ulcers eating away at his insides - the constant threat of exposure as a Rebel...

    "I'm sorry," Obi-Wan said, startling Bail out of his reverie. The Jedi was covering his face with his left hand, and his voice was softer. "I've become impatient as an old man. Forgive me."

    "I understand," Bail said. "You spent several months with Beru, when you fled from Tatooine. You must have grown close."

    "Yes, we did. I miss her."

    "Not a very characteristic Jedi emotion," Bail ventured.

    "I'm not sure it would be appropriate anymore to even call me a Jedi, Senator Organa."

    "Obi-Wan, as I said, we are no friends of the Empire - "

    "I don't mean that as a political argument. I mean that... really. I don't... practice anymore."

    Bail swallowed, unsure of how to continue. "I see." He fumbled for a moment before changing tack: "Are your new quarters comfortable?"

    "Yes, thank you..."

    "And Mon Mothma has discussed with you our plan?"

    "Yes, though, as with Beru, I would appreciate being informed of my 'safe house' location as well."
    "Please trust us on this, Obi-Wan," Bail said. "Trust me. We'll be in close contact with you from now on. It's just that - at present, with the Empire conducting political purges so aggressively - you're - "

    "An enormous liability," Obi-Wan finished. "Yes, I know."

    "You're also a war hero," Bail said, stern. "You're a light in the darkness for many people. You represent the old order, and you represent hope - "

    "Please," Obi-Wan raised his hand. "Please, stop. You're misattributing so much..."

    "I'm only telling you of what your political value is, Obi-Wan. I'm not judging you personally. Nor am I endorsing this perspective on you."

    Obi-Wan raised his eyes, almost meeting Bail's.

    "To be honest," Bail continued, "I don't entirely understand you, and I think you're a very great risk. What happened in Chiu Mai - it was... horrible."

    "Yes, it was," Obi-Wan whispered.

    "But you have enormous political capital within the Rebellion, and Mon Mothma and I intend to use it. When," Bail pushed his chair back, standing, "the time is right. And that time is not now."

    He rounded the table, and touched Obi-Wan on the shoulder. The Jedi flinched slightly, and his eyes roamed the room.

    "You had better prepare for your journey. Your shuttle departs in an hour."

    #
     
  2. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 1

    Author's Notes: References to Herman Hesse's http://www.amazon.com/Siddhartha-Hermann-Hesse/dp/0553208845]Siddhartha[/url]: 'Clever, you are...', 'I sit. I think...'

    #

    I am a frog. I am a bog. I am a swamp, and ideas seep into me, sticky and sweet and sublime and sticky.

    I jump. I fall into things. I am a frog, my legs bend in three places.

    I see the moon in my sleep: she sings to me and tells me secrets of the galaxy, and what's outside of the galaxy. I fly through the vacuum, and I know where you are, brother, and I miss you and I will see you soon.

    I am green like a frog, croaky like Master Yoda. I am pink. My pinkies curl and they are strong. The line of my biceps is sharp. I am strong and getting stronger and stronger and soon the strongest I will be...

    *

    "I sensed something strange, Master."

    "Mmm. I too, Padawan."

    "Is it him? Is it my father coming?"

    "No, not yet. But it is a new chapter in my teachings to you. Hope you will learn from it, I do. Sincerely!"

    "I try to learn from everything, Master. Not just your teachings."

    "Mmm! Clever, you are, Padawan! But beware of too much cleverness."

    "I try to beware of everything, Master. Especially things from myself."

    "Ho ho ho! What Master Mundi would have thought of you, I don't know! He too, big fan of verbal acrobatics. Eh! Cheeky one, you are!"

    "Master! I am not cheeky!"

    *

    The pain in his arm wakes him, and the first thing he notices is the smell: hydrogen sulfide, rotten carcasses, over-sweet vegetation. When he fumbles for the controls, the shuttle hatch opens and lets steaming heat inside. Obi-Wan nearly retches with disgust, but he breathes shallowly and gathers his things, feeling his way outside of the shuttle with his good arm.

    The ground is soft and yielding. Roots snake across it, causing him to stumble. Something caws overhead: Obi-Wan practices judging the distance of things like the medical droid taught him. For one terrible moment, he thinks of just sitting down and waiting for death. I am blind! He wants to scream it to the new planet, scream it to the predators and villains and bad memories: I am blind! I am blind! I have been punished for my sins!

    But he pushes on, smothering his thoughts and focusing on pure survival. Bail Organa and Mon Mothma had warned him of this planet: it wasn't hostile, per se, they had said, but it was uncomfortable. They had programmed the shuttle's landing coordinates.

    "No one ever visits it," Bail had said. "You'll be safe here."

    Struggling through the thick forest, Obi-Wan adjusts his pack and pulls his wounded arm closer. Feeling the ground, he finds a mossy stick and pulls it from the weeds. Leaning against the stick, poking forward, he pushes on.

    *

    She sees him by the bog.

    *

    He hears something by the bog.

    An eruption, like a belch, and something wet splashes onto his thigh. He feels forward with the stick, tracing the edge of the swampy water, and then he hears something else: the rustling of vegetation and a snap of leaves. And breathing - mammalian - human - child breaths.

    Obi-Wan stills.

    "Hello," a voice says.

    In one movement, Obi-Wan pulls the blaster from his pack and points. Inwardly, he wonders if shooting with his left hand, blind, would be effective in any way at all.

    "Oh!" It is a girl's voice. Thin and small. "Put that away - I don't mean any harm!"

    "I was told no humans lived on this planet. What are you doing here?"

    "I live here."

    "You live here? With your family?"

    "No, I do work here with my master."

    "And what work do you do with your master?"

    "I sit. I think. I wait."

    "You're... Jedi?"

    "In theory."

    Obi-Wan feels something surge within him; through the broken pieces of himself, through the space where the Force used to be. It burns, and he coughs. And then - something bright and infinite pierces through the darkness of his sight; a realization - and he asks, voice breaking, "...Leia?"

    "Master Kenobi."

    Without meaning to, Obi-Wan wavers on his feet, his knees lose their strength and he crumbles into the soft, wet earth. In an instant, Leia is at his side - she is touching him gently on the right shoulder, and he feels her small hands. This child is eight years old, he realizes, and he begins to laugh, sobbing, tears thickening everything. He can hardly breathe, and he takes great choking gasps between sobs, between barking laughs.

    "You're alive! You - you speak like an adult!" he bursts, holding the ground to keep from falling forward. His elbows tremble. Leia is by him, small and warm and child-like, but kind, a pure kindness, and she is wiping his face with her other hand.

    "I know - everyone says so. I hardly understand what that means." She keeps wiping at his cheek, and he pushes her hand away, and she says, "And you're blind."

    Obi-Wan just cries harder, shaking his head. He can't answer.

    "I'm sorry. I'm sorry about your arm. I'm sorry about everything, Master Kenobi," she says, earnest.

    "Who - who is your master?"

    "It is Master Yoda."

    And Obi-Wan falls forward into the moss, the mud, and he grasps his head with his remaining hand and sobs.

    *

    "Now you see!" Yoda says. "How annoying it is, when a room to scale, it is not. Temple seats for human bums. Temple stairways for human legs. Anthrocentric galaxy, this is! Discrimination! And Empire - eh! Worst racists, speciesists, in a long time. Losing ground among liberals, they are. Small political victories, we can celebrate. Eh!"

    Yoda's hut. Obi-Wan is rubbing the sore spot on his skull, and he feels the low ceiling with his hand, testing its height. He can barely do more than sit in a slumped, huddling crouch. Earlier, he had bumped his wounded arm against a too-close wall and had let out, inadvertently, a wail of pain.

    Yoda shuffles nearby, banging something metallic. Leia is sitting next to Obi-Wan, her knee pressing into his. He can hear her even, deep breathing - it is meditation time, and apparently the ruckus these two old, reunited Jedi are raising doesn't disturb her.

    The sound of Yoda's grunts and breaths come closer, and he drags something into Obi-Wan's legs.

    "Soup bowl here," Yoda instructs. "Hot, it will be! Very hot! Touch the bowl, don't!"

    "Yes, Master," Obi-Wan says.

    Yoda returns a moment later and places something on the stool; plonk. Obi-Wan feels one weathered, three-fingered hand touch his, handing him a wooden spoon.

    "Now, eat! Space travel nauseous makes you, this I know. Vomit, you did?"

    "No, thankfully no, Master Yoda."

    "Eh! Ho! Remember, I do, how you hated flying. Heh heh! 'Master Kenobi, hates flying, he does! Beware! Sit next to him on long flights, do not!' Heh heh! Old Temple jokes, I remember. Good to eat after flying, eh! You agree, yes?"

    The soup is hot, and Obi-Wan blows carefully in the direction he thinks the spoon is going. Eating blind was an unexpected difficulty. He dips forward, bumping the spoon against the stool before finding the bowl again.

    Yoda returns now and there are rustles; Obi-Wan can imagine him sitting, arranging his legs, finding a small space to fit himself into. Two old hands reach out and touch Obi-Wan's injured arm, causing him to jerk unexpectedly. Hot soup lands on his hand, and he hisses at the burn.

    "No, I - Master Yoda, please. It's healing."

    "Your hand is gone, Master Kenobi," Yoda says, blunt.

    "Yes, I am aware." A surge of anger.

    "So good to see you, it is. Like cool breeze in hot weather," Yoda says. Obi-Wan blinks at the change of tone. He had forgotten what Master Yoda was like. "This arm, no good. You need two good arms, Master."

    "I am accepting this state of affairs, Master Yoda. It was a consequence of my actions."

    "Mmm. Yes - from everything, to everything, even in the vacuums of space. Always such a good philosopher, you were, Master Kenobi! Heh! Good fun! Mmm. Tired, you are? Better to eat now, sleep a lot, eh. Tomorrow - training begins!"

    "Training?" Obi-Wan asks, finding the spoon and guiding it cautiously to his mouth.

    "Teach Leia alone, I cannot. Your help, I am requesting."

    "Master Yoda..." Obi-Wan hesitates, feeling the presence of Leia to his other side, sitting in her silent contemplation. "I'd like to speak with you about this. Privately."

    "Don't bother, hears everything anyway, she can. Very cheeky!"

    "Master... you... it must be obvious to you, my - my connection to the Force - "

    "Quiet, it is, mmm. Broken, yes! Strong words like 'suicide', heh. But to be mended, it will. Worry not. I will mend. New Obi-Wan, you will be! More powerful, you will become!"

    "I... Master Yoda, I am requesting not to - I would prefer - "

    "Eh! No choice. Big planet, three people, boring it will be. Teach, you must!"

    "But surely - my history with the Skywalkers, Master, I - my failures... Anakin - " Obi-Wan can barely say the name, he hasn't said it in so long, and he looks away, searching the darkness, looking for a hiding place. He pulls his right arm into his ribs.

    "Leia! Wake up!" Yoda suddenly yells. There is a soft sound of something hitting cloth, a body, and Leia makes a squawk of pain.

    "Master!" she cries. "You interrupted me!"

    "Describe me, Padawan."

    She sighs. "Master Yoda is nine hundred years old. He is from an unknown planet in an unknown system. There have been two Jedi from his world. He is the longest-serving Council member in Jedi history. He is renowned for the Bo technique and, during the Age of the Republic, acquired a galactic reputation in epistemological discussion. He is - "

    "Yes, enough, enough, heh, good. Now describe yourself, Padawan."

    She sighs again. "'Cheeky'."

    "Listening, you are, Master Kenobi?"

    "I am listening, Master Yoda."

    "Students defining teacher, they cannot. Only describe teacher, they can. Students' failures, students'. Students' achievements, students'. Sun shines on land, plants do not grow. Sun's fault, it is?"

    "No, Master."

    "Plants' fault?"

    "No, no."

    "'Fault' good term is it?"

    "No - it doesn't appear to be. In this context."

    "Heh! Master Kenobi, the great relativist, heh heh! Good fun! Listen," he raps Obi-Wan's wounded arm, causing the latter to hiss. "Roles, we have, Master Kenobi. Yours was an ugly role. For that, I am sorry. But new role you have now: teaching Leia Skywalker, you must. You will. Very good role it will be, heh! Legends we will become! Eh! Ho!"

    #
     
  3. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 2
    Author's Notes: Reference to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/]Good[/url] Will Hunting's 'lottery ticket'.

    I am the son and heir
    oh, of nothing in particular.
    You shut your mouth
    how can you say
    I go about things the wrong way?

    - The Smiths


    #

    "You know then, that he's your father?"

    "Bail Organa is the father I love. Vader is the father I hate." She speaks slowly. "I must kill Vader. When Vader is dead, Anakin Skywalker will be free."

    Obi-Wan feels something cold crawl down his spine, illuminating it with fear and horror. As if sensing this, Leia asks, "Do you agree? Do you agree that I should kill Vader?"

    Obi-Wan thinks of Mustafar. He thinks of fire, burning flesh, severed limbs, screams and the mercy of death. He shakes his head, clearing it of the images. These days, he sees everything so clearly in his mind's eye. Clearer than it had ever been back when he lived it. Clearer than it had ever been when he first saw it.

    "Yes. You must."

    *

    "Now three, we are," Yoda says. "Tie-breaker we now have, thanks to you, Master Kenobi. Though I don't know what use we have for your philosophies, heh heh! Slippery one, this Jedi is - beware, Leia! Beware his tricks!"

    They are sitting in the area outside the mud hut. It is just beginning to rain; fat drops crash through the leaves of the forest, they slam against the mossy rocks and send the lizards scurrying. Obi-Wan is finding it hard to hear Yoda and Leia over all this noise; his ears have become clumsy since his sight disappeared. But the medical droids said his other senses would start compensating soon.

    "Good time, it is..." Yoda says, pausing. Obi-Wan can imagine him: peering up into the rain, squinting, thinking. Before concluding, "...good time, for meditation."

    Obi-Wan tries to keep his face blank, but a wave of impatience washes through him. Rain trickles down his neck, along his spine and into his clothes. He hasn't meditated since the days of exile with Beru, since his voyage aboard young Kip's spaceship. It's been months.

    "Hmm, months, it has been, for you, Obi-Wan," Yoda says, and his voice is nearby, on the right.

    "You read my mind," Obi-Wan replies archly.

    "Heh! Easy these days, it is!" Yoda pokes him with in the chest with his stick. "Good meditation will be for you especially. Out of shape, you have become!"

    And then Yoda rustles around, passing to Obi-Wan's left, and sits.

    *

    Obi-Wan experiments with crossing his legs. His knees pop. He adjusts his spine, straightening it. He finds his old position - muscle memory - closes his eyes, and begins to, tentatively, reach inward.

    *

    Breathing.

    *


    Moments of piercing brilliance; the hot bliss of waking up.

    Once long ago, the atoms and molecules and breaths and thoughts that made up Obi-Wan Kenobi were, in the majority, part of another being: Obi-Wan sees her now. He feels her three knees and the beat of her two hearts, and, if he looks up, the sun is shining, burning through her fur. He realizes that, in this moment, she sees him back: that she is looking into her future, their shared future, and the shared existence of all beings. Shared molecules and shared matter, and everyone is the dust of the same stars, the same supernovae bursting with matter - with stuff - and lighting up the darkness.

    Obi-Wan feels the pull back within himself, he tumbles back into the present, and then he falls past it, sliding forward. Years fly rapidly, the stars streamline into a glide like the tunnels of hyperspace, and Obi-Wan sees an old galaxy post-Jedi, post-war, post-anything he knows or understands. He sees the pieces of himself, pieces that have traveled and transformed through vegetative processes and digestive tracts and organic compounds, through a thousand billion cycles, and have now - by luck, or chance, or the Force, or a transcendent divinity - reassembled themselves into a conscious thing, not a doing or a nothing, but a being.

    And that thing - which Obi-Wan can't define or recognize, and which frightens him and frightens his ancestral, previous life, the ancient female thing with fur - is looking back at him, and looking back at both of them now. And beyond the future thing and beyond the past thing, there are more - more lives, more beings - all linked together with the one strand of consciousness -

    There is a story in a religion of a man who, waking up, perceived his previous lives, first one, two, then exponentially, a hundred, a million... The same threatens to happen to Obi-Wan, and he can just feel it all slipping away beneath his feet, his knees, revealing the interconnected tangle that is the conscious Universe, the fact that they are all part of him, and he has lived a million lives before, and will continue to cycle through the suffering and loves of life - life! leave it to the living! for everything is alive! - when -

    Tearing through the brilliance, a dark fury stabs through; it is a flash of black lightning, antimatter rage. It rips his meditation apart, and Obi-Wan, with a jolt, bursts back into this reality - his reality - the reality where everything feels lost, where he is blind and wounded and has only one heart, a broken one, a many-formed failure. His arm suddenly spasms violently - he is sure the phantom limb is forming itself around the stump, and it will curl back to consume the rest of him, eating him alive from the elbow upwards, with fingers like teeth - and he screams.

    He screams, and that's when the air of Dagobah presses in on him and -

    *

    "Oh!"

    Yoda's hut. Obi-Wan rubs the sore spot on his skull; it takes a moment, but then he reorients himself. He is lying down, and he has just jerked forward, hitting his head on the side. A pair of small hands presses his shoulder - it takes him a moment to count five fingers each instead of three, and,

    "Leia?"

    "I feel you, Master Kenobi," she says. "You are better! You're getting much better."

    "What do you feel?" Obi-Wan says. "How long have I been asleep?"

    "You meditated for one hundred hours, not one more, not one less! Then something happened, you woke up and bugs flew away from your eyes and you ripped away all these cobwebs and weeds and dew, a big sparkling cloud of them - it was beautiful! - and then you stood up and went insane and fell over."

    "When was that?"

    "That was last week. You've been sleeping since. Master Kenobi - you're here now! I know you are. You're here! Or, well, something is here. Master Yoda looked very happy last week." She is breathless.

    "I think I'd like to speak with him."

    "Of course. That makes sense. But he's busy now. After you went insane, he brought you here to sleep and then said he needed to go meditate on something. And he hasn't returned since."

    Obi-Wan leans back. A few moments pass, and he feels Leia looking at him.

    "And what about you? Who's been feeding you?"

    "I have."

    "Good girl. You can cook?"

    "Well, no, not really. I've been mostly eating the fungi I find."

    "That might be... somewhat risky," he pushes himself up on one arm. "Well, as you said, I'm here now. I can help you. Let's move some of these things outside, I can barely raise my head in here. And I think it's time for tea."

    *

    A thousand years ago; a previous lifetime, the beginning of the cycle that brought them to Dagobah, before anyone knew that they were crashing towards hell.

    When the suns burned brightly, promising a happy future:

    Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker sit on the couch, staring. Tea cools in sparkling china set against a low table before them. They have just returned from their first unsuccessful mission, and, after debating the merits of the Jedi Order as a quasi-interventionist military hegemony disguised under mystical esotericism, disguised under the promotion of pacifism, and after debating whether they should just quit all this meaningless hypocrisy anyway (they are both young and idealistic), they are left with nothing more to say. Neither is thirsty; they both stare at the tea.

    Except Anakin - young, powerful, adolescent, maturing with leaps, peaks of Force potential - Anakin has something to say. He says:

    "You know, Skywalker is a generic name. It's the name for the slave caste. They give it to all the slaves on Tatooine and, I think, a few other Outer Rim planets too. When I came to the Temple, I thought about giving it up. Taking another name instead. Maybe Jinn. But I don't want to hide who I am. I don't want to pander to prejudices, you know?"

    Obi-Wan Kenobi feels something constrict in his throat. He smiles and nods.

    "Family isn't valued in slavery," Anakin continues. "Obviously. They separate parents from their children, husbands and wives. Women are more vulnerable. I was lucky to have my mother around for as long as I did. She named me Anakin, after a preacher she had heard once. She said this guy - my namesake - was big on pacifism, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, he was big on multiplying mynoks and gathering the banthas, all that, and forgiveness. Big on forgiveness, really big."

    Anakin is a power chord of energy; Force moves through him like electricity through a wire. He is intimidatingly... awake. He looks at Obi-Wan now, piercing him with his eyes. He is not the forgiving sort, Obi-Wan thinks.

    "What was your childhood like?"

    Obi-Wan pauses. He thinks of his parents - wealthy diplomats - he thinks of a family of the cultured elite. Private tutoring, relatives in the military and religious orders, royalty in ancient times. He thinks of the normality of shuttling between luxury homes on different planets; moons with the Kenobi name. In the span of the galaxy, they were not so rich, not so important, but it's funny how even a little relative wealth can convince you of your cosmic magnitude, especially when you're young. And how difficult it is to shed that arrogance, that ingrained snobbery, as an adult. Obi-Wan thinks of care packages at the Temple as a youngling; his father's frequent visits to Coruscant; expensive and complicated toys; judging people by their accents.

    Anakin's accent is dusty, twangy, with rounded Rs and open vowels and those ridiculous diphthongs. It pegs him immediately as low class. His humor is equally plebeian, even for an adolescent: scatological, trashy. It's impossible for Obi-Wan to admire a person with Anakin's background, even if he has the greatest Force potential ever seen; instead, this poor boy with a winning lottery ticket just baffles him. The galaxy works in mysterious ways.

    Anakin is still looking at Obi-Wan, so Obi-Wan pretends to ponder the question and finally replies, "My childhood? Hmm. Sterile."


    #
     
  4. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 3
    Author's Notes
    : Reference to acy0p_pI2ls[/media] Radiohead song. Also, welcome back to one of my favorite characters!

    There isn't much that I feel I need
    A solid soul and the blood I bleed
    But with a little girl, and by my spouse,
    I only want a proper house.

    - Animal Collective

    I was afraid, I'd eat your brains
    I was afraid, I'd eat your brains
    Cause I'm evil.
    Cause I'm evil.
    I'm a confident liar.
    Had my head in the oven
    so you'd know where I'll be.

    - The National

    #

    The currents of the Dark Side move strongly through Dagobah. It hides them well, even as it eats away at them.

    It's been two years since Obi-Wan arrived. Leia is ten years old. She's growing up, but Yoda and Obi-Wan - they're aging.

    Obi-Wan thinks this as he crouches beside Leia, his knees cracking and his lower back pulsing with a dull ache. The aches of the elderly. The old shuttle's insides are half-exposed to the humid, smelly air. They have to work quickly if they intend to recover the main power drive, or else the materials will warp in this moisture. Obi-Wan asks for a particular wrench, and Leia sends it to him on a wave of air; it lands evenly in his open palm. She is crouching on top of the shuttle, clipping through some wires and removing spare parts.

    "Leia. Leia!"

    "Yes, Master Kenobi?" Her voice travels through the murky stillness; Dagobah is quiet this afternoon. Only the nearby swamp bubbles and croaks.

    "Please finish with your dallying up there and help me remove this power converter."

    "Just a minute, Master Kenobi! I'll be down in a sec!"

    "More like a parsec..." Obi-Wan grumbles.

    "Heard that, I did!"

    There's some noise of buzzing electricity, a thump, and then Leia's presence appears just beside Obi-Wan, on his right. She takes the wrench from his hand and winds it up again into the converter's gear teeth. She grunts with the effort. Obi-Wan sits back, giving her space.

    "Be mindful of the silicon chip on the back - if we get dirt on that..."

    "Yes, Master." There's a click, a screech of the converter sliding out of its holdings, and then Leia says, "Oof."

    The crunch of footsteps approaching, and Obi-Wan senses Leia sitting down heavily beside him. There is the crinkle of wrappers, and the sound of chewing.

    "Master," Leia says between bites, "I think - two droids, maximum. If we cannibalize more of the life support systems, we can probably get a processor as well."

    "Good, good."

    "I've found some good cables for your hand, as well, really sensitive - "

    "No."

    "But Master - "

    "We've already discussed this. Thank you, but no, Leia."

    "Master Yoda says - "

    "Padawan."

    Her voice drops. "I'm sorry, Master." She takes another bite, and raises her voice again: "Nice to work, it is! I enjoy this."

    "I too," Obi-Wan smiles. "I used to tinker quite a bit at the Temple. When I was your age, it was my favorite pastime."

    "Tell me about the Temple, Master."

    "What do you want to know?"

    "Everyday things. Boring things."

    Obi-Wan smiles again. "Right. Well."

    *

    Carpets everywhere. Firm, tight knitting, and midnight droids that came in to shampoo and vacuum the carpets. Every Wednesday, the third dormitory floor carpets were shampooed at midnight. The third dorm floor was where all human Council members used to sleep.

    Late night walks through skyscraper hallways, the constant stream of warbling lights viewed from floor-to-ceiling windows; Coruscanti traffic was horrible. But, from the Temple, everything was silent. Meditation rooms with three-sixty windows, shutters that you pulled down to block the worst of the light. Meditation cushions - round, square, flat or tall - and meditation benches. Maroon, navy blue, gray. A muted, soothing palette. Such a contrast to the garish advertisements outside.

    Daytime: late afternoon sunlight illuminating the motes as they danced in the air. Caretaker droids dusting, cleaning, swiping. Air humidifiers for human comfort and no regard for the moister species; yes, I suppose it was anthrocentric in those days. Young children playing games in the hallways, hushed by their instructors. Anakin Skywalker walking by, and the oohs and aahs: he was a hero, a celebrity. He was well-loved.

    Very charismatic, especially after the scar.

    Mondays were tea with Master Ki-Adi Mundi, discussing political problems on Mid-Rim worlds, delighting in a shared love of the Coruscanti Restoration. Occasional televised debates on philosophical issues, held in the main hall - ha ha, no one really watched those! except maybe the Coruscant University Philosophy and Religion departments - no one watched except when Anakin appeared, and then it became a media event. Anakin, the great absolutist, with his clarity and his certainty. There is right, and there is wrong. There is Jedi, and there is Sith.

    Anakin managed to turn every one of those debates into an opportunity for wartime propaganda. There is right, there is wrong: there is the Republic, and there are the Separatists. It was as clear a division as night and day, as where I end and you begin...

    *

    "Visiting Beru again, you were this morning."

    Yoda says this without preamble. He is raising and dropping rocks into the swamp, using only the air, his thoughts, hidden molecules.

    "It was actually Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Master Yoda," Obi-Wan says. He is doing a handstand, holding himself up with his good arm. His muscles tremble with the effort.

    Yoda snorts; his laugh is laced with contempt. "Heh! Master Qui-Gon. Don't bother, Master Kenobi. Ignore him. Qui-Gon it is not. Dark Side in that cave, dangerous it is. Learn nothing from it, you will."

    "We can learn from our weaknesses," Obi-Wan says through clenched teeth.

    "Hmm. But what lessons do our weaknesses teach us?"

    *

    "'This is the Temple I will establish once I destroy the Sith.'" Obi-Wan snorts. "'It is good to be confident. Master Yoda says so.'"

    Beru's brow furrows. She is holding his right hand in hers, gently, the fingers barely touching. Sparks.

    "That's how she speaks these days," Obi-Wan continues. "She has no sense of scale, no idea... Such arrogance. And all our hopes lie with her. We are surely doomed."

    At this, Beru throws her head back and laughs. Despite himself, it coaxes a smirk from Obi-Wan. Cold light filters through the various openings in the cave, illuminating the gnarled roots of ancient trees; it reminds Obi-Wan of the blue-green serenity under Utapau's deepest lakes. The moment in the grotto when he saw Qui-Gon Jinn, or thought he did, before he kicked his arms and legs through frigid water and resurfaced to find a completely different galaxy.

    Beru is wearing what she always wears: Tatooine peasant clothes. The sand of that poor planet still clings to the creases in the fabric, the creases beside her eyes. Obi-Wan loves her smile. He wants her to do it again.

    "You think this is funny?" he asks.

    "I think you worry too much," Beru says. "You always have."

    "With good cause. See our state."

    "We're alive, Ben. That's all that matters. We made it off Tatooine and we're safe now. You did it, you saved us."

    "One thing I did," Obi-Wan shakes his head. "And I'm not even sure it merits any admiration... it's been over two years, and I've sensed nothing of Kip."

    Beru frowns; her clear, blue eyes cloud over. Obi-Wan can't bear to see it, can't bear to acknowledge his responsibility in their mutual suffering, and the lost Kip, so he turns to look at the pond lilies drifting over the water. A blind, albino lizard crawls into an opening, hiding itself.

    An electric current, spasming up his right hand and into his elbow, startles him. He looks back at Beru.

    "Touch my face, Ben. Use your bad hand."

    "My dear..." Obi-Wan sighs. "Don't ask me to do that."

    She gives his right hand another squeeze, and the electricity jolts up to his shoulder.

    "You feel that, don't you?" she asks.

    "Yes."

    "And we both know this isn't real. Like, not really real."

    "Not in the conventional sense, no."

    "Oh, but, Ben, every day I wait for this. I worry so much it'll just stop one day." She takes his face in her hands. "I forgive you for everything that happened, everything that's still eating you up inside. Kip would have forgiven you too. You know what he was like. I understand so much now, and everything's changed so much... for both of us. It's made me understand a lot of things - you, especially. And I think we should just - enjoy this. Whatever it is. I love you, Ben. I loved you when we left Tatooine."

    Later, he is breathing in the smell of the skin of her neck, and she keeps shifting under him. "Stop that. Your beard scratches." He drags his chin across her clavicle, and she slaps him on the shoulder. The light of Dagobah is fading, Obi-Wan can feel pin pricks in his right arm. Soon, everything will be dark again.

    "I should go soon," Beru says. "It's almost morning here."

    "And it's almost night here," Obi-Wan says.

    "Goodbye, Ben."

    "Goodbye, Beru."

    #
     
  5. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 4
    Author's Notes
    : Vague references to an old Zen story about http://www.kwanumzen.org/pzc/newsletter/v09n10-1997-oct.html]killing[/url] the Buddha.
    Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.
    - http://killingthebuddha.com/manifesto/]Killing[/url] the Buddha magazine's manifesto


    #

    They all visit the cave. They all hate and love and fear the cave.

    When Yoda comes back from the cave one day, he mutters something that neither Obi-Wan nor Leia catches, and then he hobbles off into the forest. They don't see him again for three months, and, after finally returning, frail but with fiery eyes, he says something vague about the third eye. Then he sits down on the knitted pillow and asks, "Tea is coming?"

    When Leia returns from the cave one day, she flings herself into Obi-Wan's arms and sobs about the miserable stupid awful people. She sobs about the cruelty of families and why parents can't let their children go, not really ever, and why do stars have to pull in entire systems when they die? And she sobs that she's scared, and she'll be scared forever, and she killed people in the cave, and she was so good at killing, a terrible talent, she never wants to kill anything ever again.

    Obi-Wan sits by the cave, and he thinks of Beru. He sits on a tree stump, crosses his legs and strokes his beard, leaning forward with a frown. He thinks of Beru's touch on the inside of his thigh. He thinks of the shy smiles when they first met, the horrible grief when Luke and Owen died, and the tenderness and frustrations between them. His heart feels tight in his chest, and he thinks of Beru now. He feels jealous for the ground she walks on, the insects she bats away, the people she greets. She forgives him every time they meet in the cave, and with every meeting, his longing increases. It's maddening.

    *

    "Tell me where you are."

    "You know I can't!"

    "Can't? Or you won't?"

    "Can't - can't, can't, can't." Tears stream down Beru's cheeks; she wipes her nose. "Ben, I try to - I want to - but something's not letting me."

    "Can you describe it? The thing stopping you, or where you are?"

    She laughs through her tears. "Nothing! I just can't do anything about it! Please trust me. You have to believe me: I'm safe, and that's all that matters."

    "What about Senator Organa? Is he with you? Are you on Alderaan? Coruscant? Somewhere else?"

    "Stop it! Stop!" and then she screams, shrill and electric, an unholy sound, and Obi-Wan is terrified.

    *

    "Tell me about Tatooine."

    Yoda and Leia are sitting inside the hut. Obi-Wan is outside of it, leaning into the window. The smoke from Yoda's stove is rolling softly out of the hut, into Obi-Wan's face, and Leia is preparing the bowls, spoons and rug to sit on. It is her meal today, she gathered the herbs, vegetables, she found some edible snails and crushed them into their shells. Yoda disapproved of the snails, but generally everything is fine, and the smell is enticing and different. Obi-Wan keeps having to swallow. Leia's processor is also up and running, and so now their clothes are slightly cleaner, the hut a little more hygienic.

    "In a storytelling mood again?" Obi-Wan asks with a smile.

    "Yes, but non-fiction, please."

    "Are you implying I fabricate?"

    "Heh heh!" Yoda's voice travels from the other room. "Slippery, he is! Everything true, from a certain point of view. Oh ho ho ho!"

    "I'm just making a request, Master Kenobi," Leia says evenly, but Obi-Wan can sense the mischief in her gaze.

    "Fine. What do you want to know about Tatooine?"

    "Everything that's been far too boring to tell anyone else."

    *

    Tatooine is a racist, classist, sexist, lawless, hierarchical, wretched hive of ignorance and poverty. Slavery of humans is widespread, and the climate and terrain are far too harsh for even the ugliest of species. They have a terrible waste management problem. It is ruled by a mafia of power-hungry and amoral Hutts, who exploit and enslave the local population to toil in foul and illegal industries - drugs, arms, prostitution. Its only favorable aspect is its remoteness - thus sparing the rest of the galaxy the misfortune of ever having to step foot onto its filthy, dry, dead soil.

    The suns regularly burn away any vegetation, and, on the rare event that it rains - as it did my last night there - the ignorant locals rejoice with whoops and vomiting and the ground transforms itself from the usual clinging dust to a bog of mud and slime. The air in the cities - small, decrepit congregations of dilapidated huts and general decay - reeks of ozone, and the average lifespan is under fifty years. Literacy is negligible.

    The Skywalker caste has been the historical underclass of Tatooine, used and oppressed by the various transitory rulers - the Hutts being the most recent. It was an unexpected place to find the scion of a Jedi Renaissance - and, indeed, we were terribly wrong on that one...

    But there is an occasional, harsh beauty to the land, much like the perverted aesthetics of violence. It is spare and open. The rolling dunes are beautiful to see - from the air. And, planetside, the dual dawn and binary sunset are perhaps the only moments of the day when everything on Tatooine is not completely horrible.

    *

    A binary sunset.

    Beru arrives in the landspeeder, and she drops her bags of groceries when she sees the charred remains of her home, her family. Obi-Wan sits numbly on a strip of corrugated iron - something that was ripped apart and thrown aside by Imperial stormtroopers, those mindless predators - and it takes him a moment to remember what he should be doing. Beru's heaving sobs wake him up from it, and he stands quickly, going to her and turning her around, away from the scene to face the spare, open lands of the desert. He holds her in his arms. The light glows pink, orange, mauve - a sea of pastels, like a painting in a dentist's office. Soothing, bland. Beautiful. Like Beru.

    A wind rustles their hair, it carries the burning smell to them. "You cannot stay here, Beru..." he murmurs into her skull, pressing his nose. "They'll come for you next - they are relentless."

    Beru is shaking, her hands hover over his. "Luke... Owen was..."

    Obi-Wan's life has been a series of befores and afters. He has had a number of days where everything changed, his life was upended and the galaxy seemed to invert himself. This day is one of those days.

    *

    In the early morning, when the fogs of Dagobah still haven't lifted, Obi-Wan enters Yoda's hut, takes the older Jedi's lightsaber, and walks towards the cave.

    There are several entrances to the cave. The easiest is the one from above, near the large, sticky tree. From there, Obi-Wan sits against the roots and slides into the opening - he lands on the slippery stones and steadies himself against the wall. The stalactites from further inside drip into unseen ponds. An animal croaks weakly, and a gust of air from above - carrying a metallic smell - rustles Obi-Wan's tunic. A creeping sensation makes the hair on his neck straighten.

    Beru.

    Her footsteps are cautious as she navigates through the wet terrain, he hears her exclaim softly after a plop - her foot stepping into the water accidentally. She stops before him, just out of arm's length. He can see her, and she is holding her hands together - it's something she does when she's nervous. Meanwhile, his right arm is burning. The fingers feel thick. They've already formed; he is complete again.

    "How are you?" he asks.

    "I'm okay," she says. "A little tired. I didn't think I'd be here now. How are you?"

    "I'm well." His knees feel weak, so he crouches down. The earth is damp. It soils his clothes. "I have an idea."

    She doesn't say anything, so he continues, "About this."

    "What's the idea?" she whispers. She pushes her fingers into her palm, a knuckle cracks.

    "I want to try something. With you." His voice is trembling, so he swallows and says quickly. "I don't think it will hurt."

    "What is it?"

    Obi-Wan closes his eyes. Poor, brave Beru. Marvelous understatement of a human Beru. His precious, gentle Beru. His, his, his.

    He doesn't say anything more, but unclips the lightsaber from his belt. The blade shimmers forward in his right hand. He can see the snaps and pops as drops of moisture fall onto it. He looks once at Beru, and she meets his eyes, going pale.

    "Ben, you think - "

    "My dear. I'm not sure what will happen," he says evenly. "But I believe this is something we must do. We've both recognized that this isn't natural. There's something sinister at work here, and I intend to end it. We cannot let this overpower us, Beru."

    "But - wait, this isn't very fair, why do I have to be the test subject?"

    Obi-Wan almost smiles. "There is something amiss here. On this planet. And I'm not sure you are - "

    Beru starts crying. She covers her face with her hands.

    "This is because I can't tell you where I am, isn't it? You don't think I'm me!"

    "Stop that," Obi-Wan orders, but he's staring at the pond lilies again. He feels cowardly. "Stop doing that right now."

    "I'm scared, Ben! We don't know what'll happen! What if I die - if I really die? Don't do it, Ben!"

    "I don't think we should delay." He steps hesitantly into the beginning stance, opening his arms and holding the lightsaber above him. Soresu; a defensive combat style. Something that preserves strength. "Please trust me, Beru."

    "No, no, no - don't do it, don't do it - "

    "We cannot indulge ourselves. These are machinations of the Dark - "

    "Don't, Ben! Don't! Don't! I'm begging you!"

    "I understand your fear, but we must - "

    And just then, Beru lets out a piercing, high-pitched scream, a wail from somewhere beyond Dagobah, from another solar system, a galaxy widening apart, and Obi-Wan brings the blade down without thinking, an instinctive slash, more out of startled fear than any plan. He cuts the noise short, and suddenly, all is quiet, and Beru's body lies in a heap at Obi-Wan's feet. Her expression lingers for a moment, and then the morning fogs descend into the cave, choking him with their intense moisture.

    His right arm removes itself, evaporating with mist and dropping the lightsaber. His eyes turn off. And he surfaces, gasping and broken again.

    *

    "A distracted sit, that was. Hmm. Your practice, all around the place it is, Master Kenobi. You are grasping for something. Tell me, hmm: what are you looking for?"

    Obi-Wan opens his eyes. His head swims. He's been dizzy since the last day in the cave - that was three weeks ago. He can sense Yoda looking at him. Their afternoon meditation has just ended. Leia is slowly moving out of her meditation position, pulling her legs forward and lowering herself to the ground.

    "I think I may have committed a... grievous act, Master Yoda," Obi-Wan hears himself confess. "I struck down a loved one."

    "In the cave?" Leia asks. Her voice has fear in it.

    "Yes," he whispers.

    Yoda gives a protracted hmmmmm and then says nothing else for the rest of the day. Obi-Wan and Leia speak in murmurs, as if embarrassed, and they shuffle away from the meditation pasture, to the hut, shuffling around the tea kettle, the log they sit on. Eventually, Yoda sends some private message to Leia, because she stiffens, going quiet, and then says to him, "Yes, Master."

    She disappears into the hut. Outside, Obi-Wan is massaging the stump of his right arm with his left hand. The humid air of Dagobah is causing the skin to blister. Yoda hovers by him, poking his walking stick into the mud. It makes wet sucking sounds.

    Leia returns. She is holding something. A flush of dark energy washes through Obi-Wan, causing his back to straighten and his heart to pound.

    "You didn't want it, Master," Leia says, "but Master Yoda and I insist. Take it."

    The metal is cool and dotted with moisture. The gears shift noisily. The open end is an array of hair-thin wires, waving gently in the air, alert and intelligent. The other end is a rounded stump, though the gears shift to produce a claw. Obi-Wan feels it with his hand: the claw is just the size and shape for a lightsaber to fit into.

    He frowns. "This is the sort of thing General Grievous used."

    "No pun intended," Leia says. After a moment, while Obi-Wan inspects the mechanized claw further, she adds, "Try it."

    She steps forward and, moving carefully, attaches it to his stump. The wires and tendrils float strangely, hovering over his skin before delving in, burrowing themselves into his muscle. He hisses, and feels the warm compression as the machine closes in, securing itself.

    "Comfortable?" Leia asks.

    "Not really," Obi-Wan says, and he's embarrassed by how choked his voice is. His phantom right hand is crushed, pressed into his elbow, up into his shoulder. "I don't have enough space."

    "Test it out. Use it. You'll see."

    Tentatively, Obi-Wan sends a signal in the metal attachment's direction - the claw twitches, sliding suddenly around. The wires, edging against his nerve endings, send sparks and he feels a jolt in his human elbow. With another thought, the claw opens, and his arms nearly jumps with the electric feeling.

    "Master, your lightsaber?"

    Obi-Wan notices the lightsaber's presence hovering on the edge of his consciousness. He cautiously calls it forward and - with some clumsiness - catches it in the claw. There is a whir, and the claw integrates with the lightsaber hilt. He ignites the sword, feeling its heat radiating onto his skin. The claw spins inward and outward rings, and the lightsaber hums a steady beat as it slices through the air. There is an echo of Qui-Gon's voice: Like waves on the shore.

    General Grievous had been organic once, a living, breathing thing. At the end of his life, he was nothing but a pair of rotten, congested lungs, a brain wrapped in metal casing and hungry eyes staring at the world. His artificial limbs spread out from him, insect-like, and the lightsabers windmilled around his old, real heart. Obi-Wan remembers the ease with which he had killed him - the only problem was pinning him down, chasing him around Utapau's caves while he scurried and scrambled. It had been like killing a large, evasive, armored cockroach, and Obi-Wan remembers the disgust and pity he had felt when he smelled the decay in him, when he heard his guttural coughs and watched his fiery death.

    "Do you like it?" Leia asks.

    Obi-Wan can feel Yoda's eyes on him.

    "I'm very grateful, Padawan."

    *

    That night, he dreams of bugs crawling out of eye sockets. He dreams of eyes burning up, shooting sparks through a white mask, and a body falling into a heap on the ground. He wakes to find a slug dragging its way across his neck and into his beard. The night air is heavy. He removes the slug and stands.

    The claw is resting against a box. Obi-Wan's sleeping roll is already soaked with the ground's moisture, his pillow is damp.

    Obi-Wan walks to the cave.

    *

    She's there, waiting for him.

    She looks both frightened and relieved to see him, and they collapse into each other's arms without a word or greeting. He runs his real, live, right hand fingers through her hair, and she pulls him against her. Here, he isn't halved, or mechanical, or dying slowly, or narrowly Jedi - here, he is whole and human. He can see.

    The weight of the past month, the terror of waiting and not knowing, dissolves, and he almost cries from the relief. She holds his head in her hands and kisses his hair. And then she does what she always does, and forgives him for everything: for Luke and Owen, for the Empire, for Anakin Skywalker, for the swim in Utapau while the children in the Temple died, for the flight from Tatooine, for the loss of Kip, for the disaster that was Chiu-Mai and the separation and the loneliness and the mysteries that are never solved. She forgives him for the test and the lightsaber and the month of torturous waiting. He begs her to stop. Please stop, Beru. Please, please stop saying that.

    This is the Dark Side, he says. This is a dark fantasy, and they should be wallowing in guilt right now, not rejoicing at their selfishness. They are weak, indulging themselves, and they're probably damning the entire galaxy to another thousand-year reign of Sith and horror, and they should -

    She runs her hand over his face, and, when she brushes his eyes, he goes blind. When she touches them again, he can see. He stops talking, stunned.

    "A thousand decisions brought us here, Ben," she says. "I don't regret a single one of them. And every day, I'm going to choose to be here. You do what you want, and let the galaxy do what it does."

    Obi-Wan feels a tremor of fear ripple through his insides. But she smells like Beru and looks like Beru and feels like Beru, and she is resting her head gorgeously against his right arm - what utter simplicity in her pleasures! - and she is running her fingers against his shoulder. He thinks of all those months on Kip's ship, when he had slept on the floor, dreaming of her. He thinks of her plain dignity, and his sins.

    "Beru, I'm yours. I'm absolutely yours."

    ***
     
  6. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 5

    Author's Notes
    : Okay, I have no idea where this came from. But I do know that I started with the intention of adapting http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087544/]Nausicaa[/url] and the Valley of the Wind for Star Wars. This just happened instead. The "Long Walk" is a taken from the idea of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkabout]Walkabout[/url]. References to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ToshirĊ_Mifune]Toshiro[/url] Mifune, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai]Katsushika[/url] Hokusai and the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushan_Empire]Kushan[/url] Empire.

    A lovely Saturday night alone,
    Full of films and baking pies.
    Not cotton swabs and bloody lies.
    I'll pay you back in plastic eyes.
    You are the blood
    Flowing through my fingers
    All through the soil
    Through those trees.

    - Buck 65, Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti


    #

    Leia's story:

    Her first memories are when she was six months old, and she was presented to the people of Alderaan in its formal naming ceremony. Guided by the constellations' movements and the hour of her birth (all fabricated by Bail), she was recognized ceremonially as Princess Leia Mifune Hokusai Kushan Organa the Illustrious, Her Most Revered Highness, the Huntress Incarnate.

    They made a big fuss, and celebrated for an entire week, and carved patterns into the wheat fields and built mounds of grass sculptures in her likeness. Leia just remembers lying in her foster mother's arms, thinking the whole thing was ridiculous and arbitrary anyway.

    When she was growing up, people were always saying she was "too early". She walked too soon, spoke too soon, started reading and writing before any of the tutors expected her to. A rumor spread throughout Aldera City that she was possessed, like maybe a a small godling or a cursed demon, because no Alderaanian child had ever been that precocious. But Father and Mother never paid much attention to either Leia's hungry mind and wide-ranging thoughts, her tendency to use words like perambulation when all she really meant was she had taken a walk, or the crazy rumors. They loved her as she was on the outside, a little girl, cuddling her and tickling her in her pajamas, washing her hair and threading flowers through it as it dried. They brought in a small army of tutors, each an expert in her or his field, and these women and men taught Leia about everything from astrophysics to the poetry of the High Aldera period. Leia found everything too slow, too easy, but she soon learned to stop mentioning it - there just wasn't anything faster.

    She started exhibiting her Force potential at three years, when she could pop balloons from across the room. Then there were months of the elements at play: setting fire to birthday cakes, bringing windstorms to the Aldera farmers, breathing underwater. Her parents, for the first time, became frightened. And it was Leia's idea, at six, that she should find one of the renegade Jedi - she knew they existed somewhere, it just made sense on a primal level - and learn to control her powers. She approached her father first, knowing of his connection with the Jedi Temple before the Fall.

    "No. Absolutely not. It's too dangerous."

    "Father, you know my potential - I don't. You saw what adult Jedi could do in the days of the Republic. Free me! Give me that freedom!"

    "No - I can't believe I'm even arguing with a six-year-old - !"

    "Don't use my age as some arbitrary measure of validation. Judge my argument on its own merits, please."

    Bail's eyes were veiled. "Even if I do let you go now..."

    "So you were planning to send me?"

    "We knew we were always... borrowing you. This will pain your mother very much."

    "It is my curse," Leia said, looking down at the scuffed marble floor of her bedroom. "That I should bring pain to my mothers."

    "Don't say that!" Bail said, his voice growing strained. He opened his arms and she ran into him; they embraced. "Don't ever say that!"

    You've brought us nothing but joy, Bail always said. You've been a light in these dark times. We have always been so proud, and so fortunate. Remember us, Leia Organa. Remember us as your true parents - the parents of your heart.

    *

    Alderaan is a matriarchal society and when girls come of age - counted as the day of their first menstruation - they are encouraged to take the rite of passage known as the Long Walk. The Long Walk begins from home and lasts for one year. In that year, the girls leave the cities and explore the vast, rolling lands of rural Alderaan. They see the ancient, petrified insect mounds - remnants of Alderaan's primordial civilizations - and they carve new paths in the tall grasses.

    Leia tells Yoda and Obi-Wan all this one day. Dagobah reeks, and speaking of Alderaan feel almost inappropriate, vulgarized, by being resurrected here. This is an un-Alderaan. But Leia says, "I have to do it. I have to take the Long Walk. I want to assert my adulthood."

    "Assert your Alderaanian heritage, more like," Obi-Wan says, stroking his beard.

    Leia's eyes flash. "And this is a bad thing?"

    "Calm, Padawan. Master Kenobi is right. Attached you are, to ideas on identity, to a place you feel is special," Yoda puts in. "Patriotism, heh! A tricky balance, hmm, this request makes us think. I sense a great rebellion in you."

    "The Long Walk will calm me. It will teach me discipline."

    "And I sense a great negotiator in you," Obi-Wan says. "It doesn't take a Jedi Master to see it. You want to break off from us, from our authority. Your diplomacy is hiding something else."

    "Pot calling the kettle black, sir."

    "Poorly played, Padawan. We're talking about your desire to perform an old cultural rite. We're not talking about me."

    There is silence. Obi-Wan just shrugs and crosses his arms. He can feel Leia's stare burning into him. Finally, Yoda raises his head.

    "Go, Padawan. Satisfy your desires. I sense left you would have anyway, and conflict do I not seek. So early in our game. Go, and hope do I that you return to us with new things learned."

    Leia's smile is heartbreakingly joyful. "I will, Master Yoda! Thank you! Thank you, Master Kenobi!"

    *

    A year passes.

    *

    When Leia returns, she is accompanied by a small furry object which sits on her shoulder and purrs. She calls it Satellite, or Sat, for short.

    When Leia returns, she is twenty feet tall.

    Obi-Wan is scavenging for something to eat in the underbrush, far from their camp, sweating through his old Mustafar tunic and reigniting all the old smells of lava and betrayal (or maybe he imagines that? his senses have been overcompensating wildly these days), when he hears movement from the north. A low, rhythmic roar. He can feel it in his molars, compressing his temples and pounding into his head. It takes him a moment to identify the sound as footsteps, and they are coming from something very large. When the trees groan with weight and leaves snap away, he hears something even more disturbing: the steady inhalations and exhalations of oversized, unmistakably human lungs.

    He addresses the large presence. "Who is this?"

    "LEIA."

    The power of her voice nearly sends him stumbling back into the mud. His knees shake, startled birds caw with fright, and the air begins to move agitatedly, ruffling his hair.

    "Leia, what... what's all this then?" he asks, sounding more high-pitched and teacherly than he intends. "What's happened to you?"

    "COME FORWARD, OBI-WAN, I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU."

    He covers his ears with his right shoulder and left hand. The enormous being shifts and the ground nearly slips into a crater. Obi-Wan staggers.

    "My title for you is 'Master Kenobi', Padawan," he mutters.

    "OH, YES. SORRY! I'VE FORGOTTEN MUCH OF WHAT YOU TAUGHT ME. BUT I WILL QUICKLY REMEMBER IT. AND I HAVE LEARNED MANY NEW THINGS."

    "Oh? Good, I suppose. It sounds your culturally-fulfilling walk was... satisfying."

    "VERY. NOW PLEASE COME FORWARD, MASTER KENOBI. I WANT TO SHOW YOU A NEW TRICK."

    Reluctantly, and still covering his ears, Obi-Wan approaches the Big Leia. A paw twice the size of his head comes slamming down, knocking him to his knees.

    "OH, SORRY AGAIN. I AM NOT USED TO THIS SIZE. SO MAGNIFICENT! SO UNENCUMBERED!"

    "Yes... you'll have to tell me about the size issue later. Now, what is it exactly you want to show me?"

    The hand returns, applying pressure to his face, nearly smothering him, and then Leia says, "THIS."

    When the hand moves away, Obi-Wan -

    "SEE?"

    Dagobah jumps and blurs with lines of static, it is a monochromatic gray, but it is there, vibrating before him in all its visual glory. Instinctively, Obi-Wan claws at his eyes with his good hand: he blinks, tears start, but the image remains. It is there, sitting in front of him. He can see the mud soaking into his knees. He looks up, and sees the Big Leia, her head reaching to the branches of the trees. And she is smiling down at him, an enormous row of teeth that tremble with pixelated light.

    "Oh, Leia..." Obi-Wan breathes. "What have you done?"

    "CONSIDER IT A GIFT, MASTER KENOBI. FOR EVERYTHING YOU TAUGHT ME."

    "But... I don't understand. This is no Force technique."

    "DOORS WITHIN DOORS, I HAVE FOLLOWED THE CORRIDORS WITHIN AND EMERGED INTO A GREATER DEPTH."

    "What... in the name of all that is sacred are you going on about?"

    The visual looks analog, like from a poor computer, a security camera's footage. Obi-Wan's mind races, but the Big Leia is already moving through the forest towards Yoda's camp. Unused to having sight again, Obi-Wan makes his clumsy way after her.

    *

    By the time they reach the camp, she has already shrunk to a more reasonable ten feet. She trails her hands against the vegetation around her, and Obi-Wan thinks he can see sparks jumping from her fingertips. By now, his stomach is knotted and he feels a great pain in the stump of his right arm. He holds it against him, trying to protect it from - whatever.

    Yoda appears from the hut as a small blur; Obi-Wan blinks, trying to clear the image. It remains indistinct.

    "Oh," Yoda says. "Leia Skywalker. Back you are."

    "HELLO, MASTER YODA! PLEASE DON'T CALL ME BY THAT SLAVE NAME. I AM AN ORGANA."

    Everything vibrates and a pack of lizards scurries away. Obi-Wan grabs a nearby rock ledge to steady himself, but Yoda stands firmly, feet apart. He just stares upward. Leia shrinks again to the sound of trees groaning or a star fighter imploding. She now looms over them, seven feet tall.

    "Happy you are?"

    "YES? Uh, of course I am." The question throws her. She deflates. Six feet three inches.

    "Very Alderaanian you are now," Yoda continues. "Heh."

    Five feet ten.

    "Greet Master Obi-Wan, you did?"

    Hovering, still five feet ten.

    "She did, Master Yoda," Obi-Wan says. He comes by, meeting Leia's gaze with his own, and stands by Yoda.

    "Always you are trying to fix broken things," Yoda says, addressing Leia. "Always, always."

    Five feet five. "Is that a bad thing?"

    A few moments, as if it's a good question. Yoda hesitates. Then he laughs, "Oh ho ho! No, very good thing! Happy to have you back, we are! Lonely, we were. Boring, this Master Obi-Wan can be sometimes."

    Leia smiles cautiously.

    "Yes, I'd say we were becoming rather stir crazy," Obi-Wan adds. "We could do with a bit of your youthful exuberance around again, young Leia."

    *

    "Dangerous, she has become."

    The edge of the cave. Soft whorls of moist air. Obi-Wan stands, pacing, trying to shake the electric feeling out of his stump. Yoda sits on a fallen tree trunk, poking at the mud with his walking stick. When Obi-Wan paces near the cave's opening, his vision darkens. Beru. He wonders what mysteries -

    "Losing her, we are. This is very, very bad."

    "You should not have let her go on the walk," Obi-Wan says.

    "Heh! Always so comfortable with casting blame you are."

    "Well, what do we do with her now?"

    "Hmmm. Not sure." Yoda shakes his head. Then, he adds softly, "Great fear do I feel..."

    "If she flees from us - she might - "

    "She will be the Emperor's."

    Obi-Wan stops pacing. He feels tired. He remembers a joke his grandfather once made: When we flew starships, it was uphill both ways. The universe is starting to feel infinitely uphill.

    "Master Yoda," Obi-Wan begins, "you know of the prophecies. And you are wise. Is this... the fall of the Order, the end of the Jedi, is this what is to happen? Perhaps we are fighting against a greater tide?"

    "Heh! How convenient! Why not sit and wait, heh? Inevitable, it is, hmm? Slippery thoughts, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Responsibilities, we still have, always will have. We cannot let Leia go."

    "Responsibilities to play a futile role?"

    "Hmm. 'Futile', perhaps, too strong a word."

    Obi-Wan sits. The ground is damp. "I sense hidden depths in her. I sense a darkness. And she is very powerful. Almost frighteningly so..."

    "Mmm."
    "If she is to be the next Sith, we must stand in her way. Do whatever we can."

    "Defeat her, you could?" Yoda asks suddenly. He is peering at Obi-Wan, with the same accusatory curiosity that he had in the Temple, after the genocide, before Mustafar. So long ago.

    Obi-Wan looks away. "As I defeated Anakin?"

    "Kill her, we must," Yoda says, "if she is Sith... Kill her, you could?"

    Obi-Wan snorts. "I could try..."

    "No!" Yoda stamps the ground with his stick. For the first time in years, Obi-Wan hears genuine anger. A desperate fury, almost. "No! Do, or do not! There is no 'try'!"

    #
     
  7. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    <3 <3 <3

    So happy to see this again.

    Your writing is so amazing that I'd enjoy returning to it over and over even if you never finish this story (which I very much hope you do!). So much compressed feeling, so intensely elliptical.

    I think this is the only trip!fic I've come across (and I've read a fair few!) that has all that, oozing heart and entrails as well as cleverness and inventiveness. I can *smell* the blood of it, like I'm dissecting sheep heart in biology class.
     
  8. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    Cael-Fenton - That is maybe the nicest review I've ever received for my writing. BLUSH. Thanks!

    CHAPTER 6
    Author's Notes
    : Obvious (I hope!) references to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and general wuxia-ness. Plot arrives!

    "Oh, oh, oh, watching the planets,
    oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
    oh, oh, oh, watching the planets align.
    Yes, yes, yes, killing the ego,
    yes, yes, yes, alright,
    yes, yes, yes, killing the ego tonight.
    No, no, no, I got no secrets,
    No, no, no, no, no,
    No, no, no, I got no secrets to hide.

    - The Flaming Lips


    #

    For six years, Leia visits the forests of Dagobah and returns enlarged - twenty feet, fifteen feet, once over fifty feet, so that her footsteps rumble like miniature earthquakes throughout the land. She calls them "growth spurts", though she always shrinks under Yoda's gaze.

    For six years, Yoda meditates, growing smaller. He hunches over his bowls of soup. His white hair falls out in clumps. He grows impatient.

    For six years, Obi-Wan retreats to the cave: there, he finds Beru's warm arms and the delicate brush of her eyelashes against his cheeks. There, he is clean.

    *

    Snap!

    A branch crashes through the leaves, scattering moldy wood everywhere. Obi-Wan's lightsaber roars as he plunges it forward again - Leia drops away on the wind and he slices through another trunk. When she reappears, she is standing high up on the leaves, knees bent and eyes intense. She sends another whip of vine to crack inches from Obi-Wan's face; it feels like a slap of air against his eyes. And she is moving too fast for him: she is, at best, a blur of static rushing through the trees.

    The blur that is Yoda sits calmly to the side, watching them.

    With a groan, Obi-Wan powers down his lightsaber and pulls the claw into his arm. He leaps into the trees after her, struggling to keep himself light enough to stay afloat. He feels old and slow. Meanwhile, Leia soars ahead of him. Behind her, the Force forms a web of green, blocking him, tripping his legs and wrapping around his arms. With a single, frustrated push, he blasts the vines away.

    He sees Leia below him now, plunging downwards towards the ground. Diving headfirst, he reignites his lightsaber. He can see her lightsaber ahead: a smear of light, charging through the forest.

    A rush of adrenaline awakens his nerves, making his fingers tremble, his veins jump. He meets Leia's blade before he reaches the ground: the lightsabers crackle. His strength is enough; Leia staggers backward. Pushing herself off of a nearby tree, she spins towards him, lightsaber aloft and a rain of wood chips advancing before her. They slice through Obi-Wan, and he has a moment to exclaim, "Oh! Damn sloppy, Leia!" before she brings her blade down on him - he meets it with his; another crash of sound.

    "Tired, Master?" Leia smiles, inches from his face. He can feel sweat stinging the new scratches on his face.

    "Your soresu is untidy," he huffs. She frowns at the insult, and it gives him an opening: he sends a spray of sparks against her. She falls back, clutching her face with a shriek.

    Sprinting forward, Obi-Wan windmills the lightsaber over his head - "Done with Grievous, Master?" Anakin asked once. "Oh yes, he was all pompous windmills and such. What a mechanical spectacle." - and brings the razor of energy down to Leia's neck. She stops him just by her jugular - he can see the black mark, his scorching touch on her teenage neck - and then, in the moment when he regrets the burn, she sends him flying on a gust of energy: he slams into a tree, smashing his skull with a crack. His vision jumps and scrambles and -

    "Enough that is," Yoda's voice. "For today."

    *

    "Easy, easy!"

    "Sorry," Beru's voice. Her fingers against his hairline. The smell of iron; blood. "There's not much I can do with just leaves and moss, you know."

    "Just - stop touching it. Please."

    She does. And he lies back again. Kip's spaceship feels cold. Three years ago, they found the broken hull with the familiar prayer markings. Obi-Wan decided never to question why this particular spaceship was in this particular cave. He feels Kip's presence behind them, but the boy is never there.

    Man, Obi-Wan corrects himself. He would have been a young man now.

    Anyway, it's a relief from the damp, smelly air of Dagobah outside. At least here, everything is familiar. They are lying in their old bed.

    Obi-Wan's things - things he was sure he had removed from the spaceship on Chiu-Mai, the day Kip had dumped them, that horrible day - are lying in their usual orderly piles by the corner. Everything is as it was, preserved and untouched. A museum of their relationship.

    Except Obi-Wan is blind again, and his fickle right arm has disappeared. Ever since Leia gave him the black and white blurs in his waking hours, she stole away his fantasy in the cave. Beru doesn't seem to mind.

    "She doesn't stop," Obi-Wan says. "She doesn't hold back."

    "Is that bad?"

    "Not necessarily. Anakin sometimes held back - so... his - his full powers sometimes came as a surprise. It's better that, with Leia, nothing is hidden."

    "You're so cold towards her. So... strategic."

    "What?" Obi-Wan sits up on his elbow. He can feel Beru's warmth by him. But there's a strangeness to it, unplaceable. "What do you mean?"

    "It's your big problem, Ben. You're always plotting. With everyone. Trying to find a way to... use them."

    "What in the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"

    "Hmm. Guess I hit a sore spot."

    Obi-Wan lets the wave of anger pass through him, evaporating into the air. Then he falls back into the pillow. "I'm altogether sore today." This earns him a gust of sympathy from Beru. And - is that Kip at the door? "And perhaps you're right. She must sense my cynicism towards her. She never seems to slaughter Yoda with the same... relish."

    "Yoda's a bit more experienced than you too, though." A boy's voice. Kip's?

    "Kip?" Obi-Wan arches his neck.

    "I'm here, Ben," Beru's voice. "Just me."

    "Oh..." Obi-Wan covers his face. "Beru."

    "Yoda's really old," Beru continues. "He knows what he's doing."

    "I know, I know - the Greater Yoda Mind and all that. Well, I had my position for a reason too, you know. I don't appreciate my feats being minimized."

    "I know, dear. You're one of the best."

    "But Yoda is the best. That's what you're implying?"

    "Actually, I think Leia is. Right now."

    "You know, I - what - Beru, you could at least pretend to be more Beru-like in here. The Beru I knew was much less... opinionated!"

    "Everything changes, Ben. Including me. You know that, Ben."

    "But that's the problem. You don't change. Where's all your white hair, then? Ten years have done nothing!"

    "So?"

    "So let's just say I'm still unsure about who, or what, I am having this affair with."

    "Does it matter?"

    "When you question my role as a Jedi Master, yes!"

    "Don't be so insecure." This is not Beru. Where is Beru? The Kip-feeling hovers closer. Obi-Wan pulls the blanket up, covering himself up to the waist, at least. "You were Jedi Master Politics for a reason."

    "Foul stuff, Beru. Foul, foul stuff."

    "Oh, come on. Loosen up, Master."

    Another hand takes him by the shoulder. A strange touch. Obi-Wan jumps. "'Master'?"

    Two more hands appear - they grab him by the abdomen. A hand on his thigh. A hand on his forehead, pulling his head back and reopening the gash that Leia left. Hands at his ankles and wrists. Sweaty palms, slippery fingers, lightsaber hilt callouses. Children's fingers. Teenage thumbs.

    "What? Beru, I - "

    A hand appears on his throat, pushing his windpipe up into his skull.

    "You were one of the best, Master Kenobi. One of the best!"

    "Nnrgh!"

    "You taught us well. I took three stormtroopers down with me. Three of the bastards!"

    In a flash: Obi-Wan's vision returns. And it's the Jedi Temple's security camera: smears of blue, a bright pixelated mess. A lightning slaughter. The children of the Temple, killing and being killed. They hover around him now, and they are made up of only hands. Arms push from their eye sockets, out of their ears, they have fingers for hair. They walk on hands. And they are pulling, grabbing, choking him - the bed, Kip's ship, Beru, are gone, submerged in this flesh-colored sea of limbs.

    There are faces in the camera footage: Beru, Kip, Luke, Anakin. They all the same thing: "We're coming! We're coming for you, Obi-Wan Kenobi!"

    *

    "Tea, Master Kenobi?"

    Leia's grown - her natural height matches Obi-Wan's, and she walks with the regal grace of a dancer. Shoulders thrown back, neck and spine straight, a proud chest. She knows who she is. And today: she is in one of her rare, compassionate moods. Obi-Wan guesses she feels guilty for the spray of wood chips from earlier. It still hurts Obi-Wan's face to make any sort of expressions.

    "What? Oh, yes. Thank you."

    A steaming mug appears by his side, and he picks it up gingerly with the claw and blows. Leia comes to sit by him. At night, the stars above Dagobah shine brilliantly, piercing through the haze of the atmosphere. Obi-Wan and Leia are bathed in gray starlight. She shimmers.

    "Can't sleep?" Leia asks.

    "I could ask the same of you," Obi-Wan says, concentrating on the tea.

    "Me? Well, I only sleep about three hours a night anyway."

    "You're a very strange human, Leia Organa," Obi-Wan says after a moment.

    "You mean I'm an efficient one. But, as you always tell me, you're changing the subject."

    Obi-Wan smiles wryly. "You would have made a better Jedi Master Politics than me, young one."

    "I suppose so. Stop deflecting. Why are you up? This isn't your pattern."

    "Cruel beast..." Obi-Wan looks at his feet. With his human hand, he rubs at his beard, feeling the unruly mess. He dreams of showers. "It was nothing, Padawan. A bad trip, as the glitterstim people say."

    "Nice comparison. You should really stop going there," Leia says. "Master Yoda's right. The Dark Side is... strong in there."

    "Spare me the lecture... I shan't be going there for a long while indeed. It's given me a proper fright tonight."

    They sit in silence. Obi-Wan feels a tremor run through his ribcage, making him shudder. The tea sloshes dangerously close to the rim. Leia sits on the ground, cross-legged, peering up at the night sky. She looks pensive.

    "The Empire is coming here."

    "Oh?"

    "I sense it. A decision has been taken. They'll be here soon."

    Obi-Wan rubs his forehead absently, fingering the cuts. He waits a moment before asking, "And are you ready?"

    "Very," she says. And her face breaks into a wild-eyed smile, bright as the stars.

    *

    At dawn, a spaceship roars through the sky above them - awakening the animals of the forest and sending flocks of birds into flight.

    At noon, Leia disappears.

    At one o'clock, shortly after Yoda and Obi-Wan's lunch, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma are standing before the hut, dressed in jungle camouflage and slipping in the mud. Bail's hair has a dusting of white by the temples, but Mon Mothma's remains the fiery ginger of her youth. They prostrate themselves before the two Jedi Masters in the old style: three times, kneeling in the mud and touching their forehead to the earth. When they rise, Bail's heel skids forward. Mon Mothma catches his elbow and smiles.

    "It's a relief to find you two well," she says, eyes on Obi-Wan.

    "But seek us, you do not," Yoda harrumphs.

    "That's partly true - where is my daughter?" Bail asks.

    "The 'partly' being that we did also come to meet you. We bring news," Mon Mothma continues for Bail. "Bad news, I'm afraid. We've just received reports that the Empire is on its way here. I don't know how they've discovered it, but... We've come to evacuate you three. That is," she hesitates, hearing Yoda's snort of contemptuous laughter, "if you wish it."

    "And speaking of 'three'..." Bail picks up. "Our planetary sensors picked up some... bizarre readings earlier. Hundreds of humanoid life-forms, scattered in both hemispheres."

    "Mmmm," Yoda says, as if he knows exactly what Bail is talking about. Obi-Wan frowns, puzzled.

    "Have you met these, uh, I'm assuming, visitors? Tribals, maybe?"

    "Jedi they are," Yoda says. "Not tribal."

    "'Jedi'?" Obi-Wan asks, looking down at Yoda in surprise. "What? Master Yoda, I haven't sensed any - "

    "Haven't sensed much for several years, you have!" Yoda snaps.

    Bail and Mon Mothma avert their eyes, embarrassed. Obi-Wan gapes, silent, before shutting his mouth. A wind rustles the trees - there is a far-off boom.

    "Well, we should begin evac. The Empire will be here in a few hours - do you have anything you'd like to bring?" Mon Mothma asks.

    "And where is Leia?" Bail asks again, peering around the old campsite.

    "Senator Organa," Obi-Wan begins, "do you have a scanner on you?"

    "Yes, of course."

    "Perhaps we should, uh, see about these 'Jedi' to which my good Master Yoda refers." Obi-Wan's claw spins, unexpectedly. He wills it to stop. "If they are Jedi... or Jedi sympathetic, then we may want to evacuate them as well. Master?"

    "Mmmm," Yoda says, looking away. "See little, you do, even with new eyes. What a waste."

    "Master...!" Obi-Wan begins.

    Bail coughs, interrupting him. "Here you are, Master Kenobi. Looks like they're coming this way."

    And there they are: tiny white human-like figures, moving across the planet's surface. Each moves with identical, purposeful strides, and Obi-Wan blinks, trying as always to clear his vision. He can't tell if it's his own eyes or Bail's scanner, but the technology is inconsistent - the figures growing and shrinking in size and moving altogether too fast, speeding across the planet. The bright figures are congregating on their small patch of territory, here in the northern hemisphere. They'll be here soon too.

    A wash of anxiety; Obi-Wan looks again at Yoda, desperately now, but the older Jedi is avoiding his gaze, looking past Mon Mothma's legs - southwards. Another boom.

    "How many ships did you bring?" Obi-Wan asks.

    "We have one cruiser, and we are carrying some patrol fighters as well. Please, Master Kenobi, can you call Leia? We must move quickly."

    "Actually, Senator Organa, I think I've just understood what Master Yoda - "

    "I'M HERE, FATHER."

    The ground cracks open, a hawk screams, and they all look up. And there - in the sky - looms the Great Leia. She towers above the treeline, brushing the clouds out of her eyes. Mists obscure much of her torso. The forest bends and sways around her, bowing as if in servitude. Obi-Wan's knees wobble with the uneven ground and Mon Mothma tumbles forward.

    "By the Great Huntress...!" Bail gasps.

    "See you now, Master Kenobi?" Yoda asks, looking back and up at Obi-Wan. "Clear enough, is it?"

    "BEHOLD!" the Great Leia bellows. "I HAVE COME BEFORE YOU TO LIBERATE THE GALAXY FROM THE TYRANNY OF THE EMPIRE. AND I HAVE AWAKENED THE LANDS AND SEAS AND SKIES OF DAGOBAH. BEHOLD MY MANY FORMS!"

    "Leia, child...!" Bail sobs. He staggers forward, but Mon Mothma pulls him back.

    Yoda hobbles towards the Leia. Stretching out his hand, he calls his lightsaber from within the hut. And then he looks up at Obi-Wan.

    "Decided then, you have, my old Padawan?" Yoda asks.

    "DON'T FORCE ME TO ADHERE TO YOUR FALSE DICHOTOMIES, MASTER YODA. I AM CHOOSING MY OWN PATH. IT IS THE THIRD WAY."

    "Even when leads it to darkness? When wrong it is?"

    "'WRONG'... ONLY FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW, MASTER."

    Yoda looks at Obi-Wan accusingly. "Heard that, you did?"

    "I - I never..." Obi-Wan stammers.

    "I HAVE NO WISH TO FIGHT YOU, MASTER YODA. WE NEED NOT SETTLE THIS WITH THE OLD METHODS."

    "What 'old methods'?" Bail asks desperately.

    "Leia!" Obi-Wan calls. The great being's eyes turn to him. He fights the urge to shrink. "Leia, think of your father - !"

    "I AM THINKING VERY MUCH SO OF HIM. BAIL ORGANA, YOU ARE THE FATHER OF MY HEART. BUT ANAKIN SKYWALKER IS MY TRUE FATHER, AND HE IS MY GOAL."

    "Let you proceed in this, we cannot," Yoda says sternly. "Perversion, this is!"

    "TO WHAT OTHER END DID YOU TRAIN ME?"

    "But there are methods... ways of doing things!" Obi-Wan yells.

    "ALL TO THE SAME END. AND THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS - DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT ONCE, MASTER KENOBI?"

    "I didn't mean it that way!" Obi-Wan shouts desperately.

    "Argue further, we will not," Yoda says. He looks at Obi-Wan and offers him the lightsaber. "Fail again, we cannot."

    The skin along his spine tingles. Obi-Wan can feel a burn building in his legs, his stomach and chest. And he senses the tides of the Force, pushing him forward. He takes the lightsaber from Yoda, accepting it into his claw, and takes two steps forward. Leia's shins gleam palely among the towering trees. She has stopped moving, but the booms continue - far off, coming from the north, south, east and west. The birds of Dagobah fly in agitated patterns, circling her abdomen.

    "APPROACH NO FURTHER, MASTER KENOBI," Leia roars. "I SENSE YOUR STRATEGIES."

    "Wait, what's happening?" Bail asks, struggling away from Mon Mothma's grasp. "What are you doing?"

    "The worst has come to pass," Yoda shakes his head. "Too much Skywalker, there is in her."

    "Too much - ? What are you talking - !"

    Obi-Wan ignites the lightsaber, gives it a tentative spin. Mon Mothma gasps loudly. Bail screams something. And Leia speaks again,
    "CONSIDER WHAT YOU ARE DOING, MASTER KENOBI. I AM FAMILIAR WITH YOUR LIMITS."

    "And I yours. You've played a dangerous game, Leia," Obi-Wan says, striding forward. At the edge of the treeline, he falls into the opening stance - feeling ridiculous in front of this giant - and closes his eyes, reaching out into the tendrils of the Force playing at his consciousness. He grabs a few, pulls himself forward with them. "You heard what Master Yoda said. We cannot let you continue along this path."

    With a glide, he soars up into the trees, lightsaber held above his head. The enormous thing that is the Great Leia fills into every corner, pushing against the trees and knocking aside the boulders. He flies further, reaching above the trees - he can just hear Bail Organa's wails of anguish in the distance - and he meets Leia's enormous eyes. They burn in the black and white of his vision; white pupils, alive and penetrating.

    The Great Leia opens her mouth, an oversized yawn, and a stream of pixels comes charging out - the rush of the Force pushes Obi-Wan away, sending him hurtling back across the treetops. He can just see other figures moving in the distance, rustling the forests, and he thinks he recognizes them, before he falls below, back into the shady undergrowth. The Leia lumbers past him as he tumbles, heading further towards the campsite.

    "Wait!"

    He slams into the ground, shoulder-first. When he scrambles back into a standing position, he sees the Great Leia moving in huge strides towards the hut, just beyond the clearing. Yoda stands before Bail and Mon Mothma, looking upward, waiting. Obi-Wan sprints forward -
    And then he sees her. A normal-sized Leia, sprinting forward in parallel to him, flashing between the Great Leia's legs, coming from the northeast, lightsaber ignited.

    "Leia!" he calls, and she stops, staring at him from afar. She hovers for a moment before continuing her run to the hut. "Leia!"

    Running forward, Obi-Wan chases after the two Leias, feeling dizzy and absurd. He breaks the tree line, coming out into the clearing - Mon Mothma and Bail Organa are yelling something, but their screams are indistinct; Yoda is flying upwards, heading towards the Great Leia's face - and Obi-Wan is about to engage the smaller Leia when something burns past his right ear. He whirls around - another shot of blaster fire singes his tunic.

    "Bail, stop it!" Mon Mothma's voice.

    A lightsaber. It crackles above, and Obi-Wan has just enough time to match it with his. Leia's eyes gleam with singular clarity. Her expression - Obi-Wan feels a wave of nausea - and then a blaster bolt breaks their sabers apart.

    "Kenobi, stop!"

    "This is not your daughter, Bail!" Obi-Wan barks. "Neither of them!"

    A boulder crashes into the ground beside them, sending a wave of earth rolling under them. The Great Leia's booming laughter. A scattered whirlwind of Force energy, uprooting the plants and scattering the animals. There is a crack of lightning from above. Leia turns and runs towards the bog. Obi-Wan chases, skids to a stop - the bog boils, and a tear in the earth is filling fast with the sludge - Leia's lightsaber slices at his midsection. He jumps away. Muscle memory: the earlier sparring session has now come alive.

    "Leia! Think about what you're doing!"

    In response, Leia sends a wall of Force energy against him, knocking him off his feet. As he scrambles to get up, she strides forward: "Do you fear me, Master Kenobi? I am a Skywalker, after all."

    "Damned scourge of the galaxy!" Obi-Wan bellows, spittle flying. He pushes himself to his feet with a frustrated roar - a blaster bolt clips his sleeve.

    "Bail, stop!" Mon Mothma yells.

    "Kenobi!"

    The Great Leia screams - screams - and Dagobah splits further apart, trees splay outwards in strings of agonized wood. Obi-Wan and Leia both collapse onto their knees, clutching at their ears. Blood drowning the inner ear. A terrible shrill ring. Another blaster bolt, wild and muted, sprays by.

    Leia back up again, moving purposefully forward. Her lips form the words, Ready, Master Kenobi?

    I came for you. We are coming for you!

    "WE ARE COMING, MASTER YODA! YOU CANNOT STOP US."

    Movement in the trees. Beyond Leia's shoulder: Obi-Wan swallows the vomit pushing up his esophagos. Dozens of Leias, hundreds of them. All sizes, smiling sinister, laughing, yelling, sprinting forward, floating on the leaves, surfing the air. And pulling in the matter of Dagobah with them - sucking the stones, the gnarled roots, the mud into this one spot; a tornado of mess. The Great Leia, the largest of all, swings forward with her arm - Yoda hangs in the trees, bending the branches backwards before whipping himself forward. Mon Mothma and Bail running towards Obi-Wan. A blaster shot.

    "Oh, Leia, what have you done?" Obi-Wan asks, but the winds carry his words away. He slides backwards as another minor earthquake pulls the mud out from under him. Leia closes her eyes with a frown; she stretches out her hand towards the hut. Obi-Wan follows the direction with his gaze and sees the hut starting to crack and crumble inwardly. Earthenware pieces hover in the air before shooting towards them, towards Obi-Wan, Bail and Mon Mothma.

    "Bail, Mila!" Obi-Wan yells.

    The debris from flies past them, something hits Mon Mothma and she staggers, falling face-first in the mud. Bail aims and shoots another blast - Leia brings her lightsaber down, aiming for Obi-Wan's neck - the Great Leia gives a whoop - and the blaster fire slams into Obi-Wan's hip. He staggers onto his side with a grunt. There is a mechanized wail - another ship flies low over the trees.

    "See? FATHER, SEE ME?"

    Obi-Wan pushes himself away with his good leg, dragging his body away from Leia. She approaches slowly, raises her lightsaber above her. The other Leias are overrunning the hut, sprinting towards the landing pads of the ships.

    "Take off," Bail's voice, screaming. "Take off now, that is an order!"

    "SEE WHAT THEY TAUGHT ME, FATHER? THIS IS CALLED SAI CHA."

    "Damned, bloody plague!" Obi-Wan spits, the pain searing through him. "We should have left your lot to rot in the desert!"

    "SAI CHA IS FOR THE HEAD, FATHER."

    There is a cry. Obi-Wan holds his lightsaber in front of him, defensive, protecting his neck, and he sees, between the chopping lightsaber flares, the small figure of Yoda tumbling back to the ground. The Great Leia raises her arms, punches a starfighter. Its hull crumples inward. Another roar. Lightning.

    The world spins. Obi-Wan struggles to keep his claw forward, keep the lightsaber spinning, an umbrella of protection, while the planet crumbles around him and the pain in his hip radiates up his spine and into his brain. The blaster fire moves away from him - something streaks past Leia's face, just as she is approaching Obi-Wan, and she turns. Bail - Bail running in from the right.

    "FATHER?"

    Another blaster shot, aimed for her gut. She jumps away.

    "STOP, FATHER, STOP!"

    "Stop, Bail!" Obi-Wan screams hoarsely.

    But Bail fires again. Leia deflects it with her lightsaber, the bolt ricochets back, burying itself in Bail's stomach. He falls with a cry.

    "FATHER!"

    More fighters in the air. A rain of blaster fire now, machine guns. Leias everywhere. The original Leia runs away from Obi-Wan, sprinting towards Bail, and Obi-Wan has just enough time to see the forest toppling forward, bending like waves on the grass, before -

    *

    " - nobi."

    A disconnected electricity. Something powering through him. Fire in his hip that crackles and pops. Ears buzzing. And a terrible energy.

    Obi-Wan Kenobi jolts forward with a gasp.

    "Stimulants. We need you here now." Mon Mothma - Mila - in a body cast. Blood streaming from a gash on her cheekbone. Lights flickering. White walls.

    The space cruiser.

    "Get up." He hears her words before seeing the lips form them. He straightens, swings his legs out of the bed.

    "What's happening?" His own voice - rough, echoing loudly in his ears. Proper enunciation. The cruiser lurches forward. The movement causes his body to flare alive, like a burst of current. The Force - scrambling. "Where's the cockpit?"

    "Follow me."

    They stride through hallways of nervous technicians slipping in oil spills. A vent breaks. It sends a stream of vapor into the corridor. A crash. The sounds of a battle. The sound of metal things breaking.

    They reach the cockpit. Outside the windows: warbling lights speed past each other.

    "Imagine the worst," Mon Mothma says, "and then multiply it."

    In front of them: a cluttered, chaotic orbit. Deep cracks in the planet of Dagobah. Spaceships lurching sideways as gravitational pulls become erratic. The Empire.

    "The Leias have taken all our fighters," Mon Mothma says. "And they're... look."

    An Imperial TIE fighter comes shrieking past, spinning on a strange axis, as if thrown by a child. A Star Destroyer spits bolts of light in random arrays. Implosions.

    "Is that - can she...? I didn't know the Force worked in... a vacuum?" Mon Mothma's voice trembles. It takes a moment for Obi-Wan to find his.

    "We need to get out of here." Obi-Wan feels like his molars are vibrating. "Now."

    "But - Bail is still - "

    "Now, Senator. Now."

    #
     
  9. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 7

    When I'm feeling lazy, it's probably because
    I'm saving all my energy to pick up
    when you move into my airspace
    you move into my airspace.
    And something's coming over me,
    I see you in the doorway
    I can't control the part of me that swells up when you move into my airspace
    you move into my airspace.
    But each night, I bury my love around you.
    Oh each night, I bury my love around you.
    You're linked to my innocence.
    This isn't you yet.
    What you thought was such a conquest.
    Your hair is so pretty and red.
    Baby, baby, you're really the best!

    -Interpol


    #

    The stimulants wear off after exactly six hours. They are still in hyperspace. Mon Mothma crumples dramatically in the middle of the command center, sending her aides into a flutter of agitation.

    "Senator!" they shriek. "Senator!"

    They drag her to the med ward and place her in a special bed for back injuries.

    Obi-Wan lasts a little longer. He manages to get a haircut and a full report on the damages incurred during the battle over Dagobah. The statistics waft before him, sounding like esoteric formulae: X divided by N equals Y dead. Missing: Yoda, Bail, Leia the Terrible. He feels light, like there's a spring in his step or the ship has low gravity, and he feels no pain. He remembers visiting a low-gravity moon with Beru and Kip, years ago.

    He spends forty minutes in the shower, exploring the damage on his person and methodically cleaning the stump of his right arm. When the water beats down against the blaster burn on his hip, he feels nothing, so he takes advantage and cleans it thoroughly.

    Dressed in a new, clean tunic, he sits cross-legged in the middle of his room and meditates. In this drugged state, his brain feels dislodged, trembling away from him. The form of Qui-Gon Jinn, looking exasperated and like he wants to say something, vibrates in his lower consciousness before disappearing. After a while of even breathing and stillness, things calm. And then the darkness takes him.

    *

    He wakes some time later, lying awkwardly on the side where he fell. When he tries to move, the hip burn gives him a jolt and he cries out. He tries to move again and it's no use:

    "Help? Help!"

    The door slides open and a guardsman appears. Teenage, oversized Adam's apple, acne. Nameplate reads: D. RALTER. He helps Obi-Wan to his feet. Obi-Wan hisses, leaning heavily.

    "Med's packed, sir," the guardsman says. "But I can get you something. What do you need, sir?"

    "Anything. Drugs. A cane."

    An hour later and the throbbing in his head, as well as the spiking roar of his hip, have both been muted. He limps roughly down the hallway, unaccostumed to the cane, and finds the Med Ward. A group of medics are huddled over the front desk, murmuring busily. When they see Obi-Wan, they grow silent.

    "I'm looking for the Senator," he says. Do they recognize him? Their eyes are wide, mouths shut in thin lines.

    "Yes, sir," a woman says. She walks Obi-Wan down the corridor, to the first room. He hurries after her, grimacing from the hip.

    Inside, a machine beeps softly, ticking away the heartbeats and exhalations of the wounded woman. Mon Mothma lies on her stomach, her back a mess of tubing. Obi-Wan can see that her eyes are open: staring at the wall. When the door slides shut, they flicker back to Obi-Wan and the nurse.

    "Ah, hello."

    "Senator," Obi-Wan nods formally.

    "Thank you, Nurse."

    Understanding, the nurse nods once and disappears. Obi-Wan approaches the bed, pulling a chair with him and carefully lowers himself into the seat. Mon Mothma's eyes are shut now, and her face is pale. He waits. A wall of sympathetic pain stands between them in the Force. Obi-Wan can practically taste the metallic painkillers Mon Mothma is taking. Eventually, her eyes open.

    "B-Ben."

    "You'll be fine, Mila..." He takes her hand.

    She rolls her eyes playfully. "Yes, I know that. I'm not an idiot, you know. H-How are you?"

    He shrugs.

    "How m-many hours have we...?"

    "I have no idea."

    Mon Mothma nods once.

    Her voice shivers from the pain. "You know... I - I always stood for... religious tolerance, Ben... But m - maybe the liberals are right..."

    "Rest, Mila, please," Obi-Wan says, averting his eyes. He keeps pressing the claw into his kneecap, wanting to wipe at the sweat which is collecting under the machinery. "Don't tire yourself."

    "L-Let me finish, you... you old fool..."

    "Please, Mila. You don't want to say something you'll later regret..." Obi-Wan attempts lamely. He knows what's coming.

    Mon Mothma snorts with cold laughter.

    "I-I won't... and you need to hear this... as soon as possible, so, now... Kenobi: if the Jedi are wreaking just as much destruction as the so-called Sith these days, all the in the name of your a-all-powerful, all-knowing Force, I d-don't see why the liberals aren't right. The - The word 'fundamentalist' is coming up..."

    "Mila..."

    "Maybe... once, before the w-wars, you weren't... but it's w-what remains of the Jedi now."

    "We are not terrorists, Mothma."

    "Do you - do you know what... I see? I see... a group of radicalized reactionaries... a d-deposed elite using violence and terror to p-promote their narrow view of the galaxy..."

    Obi-Wan stands, the blood suddenly roaring in his ears. Mon Mothma arches her neck slowly. When she sees him on his feet, she stops speaking. Her eyes are sympathetic. But it's too late. Obi-Wan's heart is pounding, the claw is spinning ludicrously at his hip, and there is something painful and wrong burning up within his heart.

    "I'm sorry, Ben. I really am."

    "This is your conclusion then? Have you always thought this?"

    "I... always... flirted with the idea. But it was... what I saw with Leia Organa that... has convinced me."

    "Well, you're a fool! An ignorant, limited fool!"

    He's just grappling with his cane and about to leave when Mon Mothma calls after him: "Who's the more foolish, Obi-Wan? The fool, or the fool who follows her?"

    *

    Mon Mothma was in Hanna, Chandrila, for the Annual World Debates when she heard of Dooku's defeat. The audience chamber of the massive Hanna City Hall erupted into unashamed cheering when the news filtered through, and Mon Mothma allowed herself a smile. The Fifth Clone War was over.

    Or rather, it was almost over. According to galactic treaties and conventions, an official surrender would require Dooku's remaining forces to return from their Outer Rim campaigns to cyber-sign the new peace treaty. News from the Outer Rim could take as long as three days to reach Coruscant, and so now the galaxy would have to wait for three Coruscant days to pass for the war to officially close. Most Senators agreed, however, that surrender would be swift and unconditional - Dooku's already-waning popularity among the Separatists had taken a nose dive with the shambolic conclusion of the Fourth Clone War, and many planets had reverted back to the Republic, or turned independent, since then. It was only a matter of crushing the remaining forces of rebellion before order and peace could be permanently restored.

    Three days of limbo did not, however, mean that Mon Mothma was free of her duties.

    She flew to Coruscant immediately, showering and eating in-flight, and arrived in the Senate with a new package deal for reconstruction contracts for war-affected areas. The deal outlined that Chandrila planetary engineers would lead the reconstruction efforts, hence ensuring a sizable income for her homeworld for the next fifty years. It had taken three years and nearly two Clone Wars to get the Chandrila-favored deal through, and Mon Mothma now felt that strange sense of anticlimax that came with all long-awaited things. She was tired, worldlagged and yet restless: she had worked for nearly twenty hours, meeting with stakeholders and ascertaining a smooth passage of the package once Senate reconvened, and now she could do nothing more except wait for the official surrender to arrive.

    She returned to her apartments in the Chandrilan Quarter of Coruscant at the world's dawn. Her internal clock was convinced it was lunchtime, however, and so she ordered a meal from her kitchen droids while en route. She wanted a taste of home, and gave special instruction to prepare the equivalent of autumnal Chandrilan fare. It would be expensive - most of the fresh vegetables from Coruscant were imported from its agricultural moons - but it was worth it. On a whim, she also ordered a bottle of Bornean - it was a little early for it, but she decided it was a good enough occasion for a toast.

    As her travel shuttle glided gently into the apartment complex, the image of a droid flashed up on her monitors.

    "Greetings, Senator," the droid said. "Welcome back to Coruscant."

    "Thank you, TG16. Messages?"

    "Senator. You have..." the droid paused, tallying, "three million, six thousand, five hundred and twenty-seven unread messages."

    "Thank you, TG16. Eliminate all spam, please, and move all Senate-sents to the appropriate folders. I'd like you to unscramble them and give them a quick glance. Prioritize them according to my preferences, and I'll read those this afternoon. Any urgents?"

    "Eliminated, Senator: one thousand, four hundred and eleven messages remaining. One thousand, three hundred and nineteen have been moved to Senate files, marked for future reading. No urgents, Senator."

    "Understood. Prepare for my arrival."

    "Yes, Senator; preferred home settings being loaded..."

    The shuttle slowly drifted down onto the penthouse landing pad and, in the same moment, its ramp descended with a soft hiss. Mon Mothma's house droid, TG16, was standing at the pad's rim to greet her. Meanwhile, the terrace garden sprang to life, filling the landing area with smells of home: herbs, spices and flowers of Chandrila.

    Mon Mothma walked into her apartment's towering atrium, reminding herself again why she always set her Coruscant home's temperature settings so low.

    "Home computer, raise temperature by four degrees, please. No, three."

    "Senator," the walls buzzed. Warmth permeated.

    Entering the first living room, with its walls of windows overlooking a new Coruscant day, Mon Mothma almost felt satisfied. She was about to collapse leisurely into one of her divans when she spotted a movement up ahead. Her heart skipped a beat - she had been the victim of three assassination attempts in the past year - and she had only a moment to curse the lax security measures. Controlling the tremor in her voice, she called out,

    "TG16 - !"

    "Senator."

    It was a rasping human voice behind her. But there was something familiar about it. She spun around and came face to face with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    "Master Kenobi!" she exclaimed, feeling a particularly informal sense of annoyance.

    He was clutching his throat. He looked older than the last time she had seen him, only a few months ago. There was more gray in his hair. He waved his hand to her, gesturing feebly to his throat and to the windows.

    "No - need. We've - privacy." His voice was a struggling wheeze. "I - closed the cams."

    She immediately let her formality slide away. "Obi-Wan! You know I don't like surprises. Even yours."

    He laughed breathlessly, and then winced. "Please - don't make me laugh."

    They embraced. After a lengthy kiss, she broke away to study his face. She tried to mask her concern, but he noticed anyway.

    "Dooku..." he began, motioning to his throat.

    "Yes, I heard. Is it painful? You look terrible."

    "You, too - tired."

    "I am tired. Tell me what happened with Dooku."

    He made a gesture of helplessness. She laughed.

    "All right, then, show me."

    He made another face. They had an unwritten rule to keep telepathy and telekinesis to a minimum. Keep reminders of who they were - a Senator and a Jedi - to a minimum. But Obi-Wan seemed tired, and so he made another gesture. Suddenly Mon Mothma saw clearly the face of Dooku, she felt the searing trail of lightsabers, the crackling snaps as they crashed together. She felt her throat constrict. And then she saw General Anakin Skywalker's face, twisted in anger, arriving from the left. The visualization ended just as General Skywalker moved to intercept Dooku and she began to panic, choking.

    She blinked once: she was back on Coruscant.

    She kissed Obi-Wan again.

    "They've used nanomedical implants, I presume?" she asked.

    He nodded.

    "And the regeneration of the vocal chords should take, what, twelve hours? Sixteen?"

    He shrugged.

    "Well, then. A brief respite for us from your usual sermons."

    He feigned a hurt look. It made her laugh.

    Impulsively, she stroked his cheek. "I apologize, my dear Ben. It's such a comfort to see you again. Come to the bedroom."

    Later, they lay together in the bed, the windows dimmed to a dull orange. Obi-Wan had fallen into a spent, exhausted sleep an hour ago, and Mon Mothma was lying against him, her head on his chest. Idly listening to his heartbeat, she thought about the days ahead: after the peace treaty, the inevitable discussions about aid packages would begin. Who pays, how much, why should they pay... Senator Krak from Oorty would no doubt declare that no aid packages should be given, as punishment for all the havoc wreaked by the "Separatist scum". This would provoke the Mid-Rim Moderates into uncomfortable murmurs, and Palpatine would, once again, play the part of peacemaker. They would pump money into the victims, and Senator Organa would probably make a fuss when the Imperial core military was strengthened, yet again. Mon Mothma wondered if Palpatine would be able to siphon away the militarists' funds given Dooku's demise - it seemed that the final threat was extinguished. Perhaps this truly was the final Clone War...

    With a startled snort, Obi-Wan jerked awake. Mon Mothma quickly lifted her head - his movement had been so sudden and violent that he knocked the alarm clock off the bedside table. The clock landed with a thump.

    "Obi-Wan," she said.

    "What...?" His voice was hoarse, but stronger than before. He relaxed. "I'm sorry. I didn't sleep well."

    "You slept like the dead." She kissed his shoulder. "The nanomeds are fast, too: you're sounding more human already."

    "Feeling more human, too."

    "For how long do I have you?"

    "As long as you want me." He smiled.

    "By which you mean, until tomorrow?"

    "Tonight. I have some affairs at the Temple. But then I'm yours - I can return tomorrow morning. How long will you stay in Coruscant?"

    "Not long. After the Senate reconvenes, I'll need to return to Chandrila to meet with our world ministers."

    "I understand." He sounded resigned. "I'd like to rest here until this evening, Mila. Is that alright?"

    "You know you don't have to ask."

    Obi-Wan grinned. "Sorry. Habit."

    *

    Obi-Wan Kenobi meditated. As the waves of Force consciousness moved within his greater Mind, he allowed several nerve signals to float up from his sore legs and itchy throat. The Rattatak days, one of his thoughts appeared, bubbling up from the lower mind, have just ruined my legs. And this damn throat... The damn cruelty of Dooku and Asajj Ventress, those damned, evil villains...

    Ventress was a cue to which his entire body and lower mind would respond. She had been his greatest teacher in the Force, since the Rattatak days - when Ventress had captured and tortured him - had implanted in his frail human form a thousand new weaknesses, a million new hurdles to his quest to rise above human reality and finally, above reality's Reality itself. To the state of being which Yoda occupied. Now, however, Obi-Wan was stuck in the "human hole" - he was a sufferer - and he no longer felt like the master of his dimension, as he had in his Padawan days. He no longer even felt on the path to become one.

    Obi-Wan felt his thoughts darken. Nerve signals continued: scars sent flares. His legs hurt. His throat hurt. Life was difficult. The Force around him was hurting. He watched this pain pass within his mind, through his being, and he inhaled and exhaled. He dreamed of higher things. He dreamed of infinity: but it was a vague concept today.

    A renegade, all-too-human thought slipped past his training and defenses: I am an unworthy Jedi. I am a bad man.

    Immediately, in the flash of a synapse, there came a response:

    "You are a worthy Jedi, and a good man."

    That was the Yoda-Mind.

    "The reason we appointed you Jedi Master Politics," the Yoda-Mind continued, "is because you are the most resilient among us. Your practice has not been harmed, but rather strengthened, in the face of many obstacles. Where others falter, your Jedi powers are honed in suffering. You have learned much, and you will continue to learn. Do not lose hope, Obi-Wan. I believe in you."

    Obi-Wan almost smiled. They said the Yoda-Mind always told you what you wanted to hear.

    "That's also true, from a certain point of view," the Yoda-Mind responded.

    Obi-Wan laughed. The spell of darkness was broken. Gingerly, he drifted away from the deep meditative states and returned to conventional consciousness.

    He really couldn't be blamed, after all. The Jedi Master Politics was a difficult position: at heart, the Jedi were relativists, and the Jedi Master Politics was the ultimate relativist. Yet living with relativism was tricky: it was a labyrinth without beginning or end, and it was easy to get lost and stay lost.

    For example, living as a "good Jedi" became difficult when definitions of "good" could be so radically different from world to world. Fundamental cultural laws within the Jedi dogma - vegetarianism, celibacy, abstention from intoxicants, abstention from killing - had to be regularly violated by the Jedi Master Politics, who traveled to cultures where the killing of "lesser" life forms or the use of intoxicants were encouraged and dubbed "good". In Boz Pity, a ritual slaughter of one of the "lesser" life forms (yet something with a limbic system, importantly, and therefore the ability to feel fear and pain) is required to inaugurate discussions with the king. Among the Bawa tribes of Dashmir, a chemical stimulant is used to induce hallucinations in visiting diplomats: it is a rite of passage for all ambassadors to Dashmir, including the Jedi Master Politics.

    The Jedi Master Politics had to dirty his hands with these primitive, non-Jedi behaviors. He had to engage, completely and unreservedly, in acts which he had been trained to scorn. He was a Jedi living as a non-Jedi. It was hard.

    Things were doubly difficult, Obi-Wan considered, since Obi-Wan was, by nature, a rigid and inflexible man. As a young padawan, he had focused his training on the Bo sect: the conservative orthodoxy which had culturally dominated the Jedi for so long. As a Bo Jedi, Obi-Wan's affinities were towards minimalism - any he room he occupied, for example, was devoid of furniture - and rule-following. After much behavioral training, Obi-Wan had accepted the position of Jedi Master Politics and begun to revolutionize his mentality: he became a rule-breaker. But every broken rule jarred against his sensitivities. Every broken rule broke his heart, which lived for rules. It hurt him. He was resilient, yes, but he was inflexible and so he suffered more often than another would have in his place. It was only his ability to heal faster and stay on course that gave him this position.

    The irony, of course, was that the rule-obsessed Obi-Wan knew he wasn't right, that the rules weren't enough - weren't even really the point. He knew that the Bo philosophy was limited by its history, like a caged spirit. Obi-Wan intellectually recognized that innovation was the characteristic of progress: that creativity and radical thinking could shock a Jedi's greater Mind into a higher state of being. He knew that Anakin Skywalker - who embodied this loose, unregulated philosophy - was more talented than he was and was, in all likelihood, destined for greater things. Obi-Wan the man resented Anakin for this, but Obi-Wan the Jedi accepted it as an inevitable reality. Obi-Wan had a position in life: not to lead, not to innovate, not to revolutionize. His position was to manage. And his Jedi training and his Bo affinities meant that he managed well: averting civil wars, facilitating diplomatic relations, negotiating with wartime enemies. The only problem was that, while he managed well, it was painful for him to do.

    He was like a caged spirit, forever waiting to be released. Wanting freedom. But, unlike the caged spirit, Obi-Wan sometimes doubted he would be able to move beyond the cage even if the bars came down, doubted he could truly live with freedom.

    Sometimes he doubted he would ever attain a Yoda-Mind level of consciousness. Sometimes he worried that he didn't even want it. That, in reality, he feared it.

    Finished with his meditation and daily quota of ruminations, he stood.

    *

    "You've got that look about you."

    "What look?"

    "That foul look. Would you like to talk about it?"

    "Wouldn't that be breaking the rules?"

    "These silly rules! We can't always pretend the outside world doesn't exist. And you know as well as I do that the line between being a Jedi and being a man is thin, Obi-Wan, and often blurred. All I'm saying is that I'm here if you need me."

    "Leave it, Mila. You know I loathe this brand of pop psychology..."

    "Well, then. May I suggest something? I think the 'rules' by which we so studiously abide are a way to minimize your guilt."

    "Oh, please. You're not going to provoke me into an argument."

    "I don't want to. I just want to say it: your guilt is needless. You are a Jedi living in non-Jedi times, with non-Jedi people and their non-Jedi problems. You've taken a non-Jedi comfort because, behind all of your desperate Jedi pretense, you're just a man. Like any other."

    "Mila..."

    "Am I wrong?"

    "Fine. Is this what you want to hear? Yes, you're right. You always are. Yes, during the war, I've been more man than Jedi. But the war's finished now. Did you know the Council will most likely retire the Jedi Master Politics position? What then? When I must retreat back to my temple? Are you proposing I abandon my non-Jedi comforts and leave you too? Is that what you want?"

    "Are you proposing this is eternal?"

    Obi-Wan said nothing, too hurt to speak. Mon Mothma knelt by where he was sitting. She placed a hand on his arm.

    "Oh, Ben. It doesn't matter what we want. I thought the Jedi understood that better than everyone."

    Obi-Wan exhaled, nodded.

    "I just don't want to see you suffer," Mon Mothma said softly.

    He placed his hand on top of hers. "I'm afraid we're born for it."

    *

    They had begun seeing each other during the first Clone War. Obi-Wan had just been appointed Jedi Master Politics, the new position; he still had the energy and idealism of a man who thought he was right, morally good.

    Mon Mothma had been representing the Mid-Rim Moderates during that period, and she and Obi-Wan had spent many late nights in the Senate offices, discussing first her role within the Senate and, later, the history of the Senate itself. Informally, Mon Mothma had become Obi-Wan's teacher in all matters political. She quickly noticed two things: first, that the Jedi histories of non-Jedi affairs were hopelessly skewed towards the spiritual and often quite lacking in basic socio-cultural facts, and, second, that Obi-Wan was a very intelligent, very strict man. When Mon Mothma would make an off-hand comment about a particular system's Neo-Frankist leanings, Obi-Wan would go back to his temple, read everything ever written on Neo-Frankism, and return for the next meeting loaded with questions on the philosophy's minutiae. He absorbed knowledge. And he worked tirelessly, powering forward through the hours of study, seemingly immune to the normal ups and downs of human energy. Did the man even sleep? she sometimes wondered. She even wondered if he was human at all, or if Jedi breeding or nanotech-evolution programs had battered the normal humanity out of Obi-Wan. He never smiled. He rarely blinked. He was strange, she concluded, even for a Jedi.

    But months of war and interminable missions began to crack Obi-Wan, so that, with every return to Coruscant, he would come back a little more human, a little more understandable.

    He started making jokes; his sense of humor was bitter and dry, and Mon Mothma's shocked laughter at his comments sometimes earned her a twinkling smirk in return. Eventually, they stopped meeting for official purposes. They started to have lunch together, and their conversation swept far and wide, away from politics, towards the past, towards culture and their occasional frailties. Once Obi-Wan called her his "dear friend", and Mon Mothma felt a surprising warmth in her gut. She was almost too embarrassed to admit it, but she knew: she was falling for him.

    The affection between them grew. They joked. Mon Mothma no longer felt inhibited about nudging his knee or brushing his hand. In meetings, they maintained the rigid formality, but, during their increasingly private lunches, they let their guard down.

    It was Mon Mothma who initiated their relationship. Obi-Wan had been visiting her apartments one evening, fresh from failed negotiations over a civil war in Dashmir. His mood had been grim, and he had texted her as soon as he had broken atmosphere in Coruscant: "Back. Would like to discuss with you." Earlier that week, the former Jedi, Dooku, had aligned himself with the Separatists, sending shock waves throughout galactic politics. Meanwhile Jedi Master Military, Anakin Skywalker, had become embroiled in yet another scandal - this time regarding the alleged pregnancy of an unnamed politician. The old regime was crumbling, Mon Mothma could tell, and she had wondered if a post-Jedi galaxy was desirable or not.

    When she had received his message, part of her had been elated, part anxious. A Jedi was the last person she wanted to be seen with, so soon after Dooku's defection and the Skywalker smear campaign.

    She sent Obi-Wan an encoded message back: "Come to my apartments. Take a stealth pod." And she had turned off her home security network.

    When he had arrived, they had kissed each other on the cheek, as friends, as colleagues. They had sat on the divan facing the window, a little too close, their knees almost touching. The lights of nighttime Coruscant glittered in silence. Obi-Wan had been agitated: he had rambled anxiously about the Dashmiri civil wars, Dooku, Skywalker. He had constantly peppered his rant with, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but..." and "Oh, this is very unbecoming of a Jedi," and a dozen other platitudes. Mon Mothma had poured tea for both of them, but Obi-Wan had eventually asked for Corellian gin.

    Downing the sharp blue liquid in one quick swallow, he had exhaled wearily. And, with a wry smile, he had said, "They toast peace with this on Dashmir. I was quite looking forward to having some before I left."

    Mon Mothma had chuckled. "I don't know how you can stand it. I find it intolerably sweet."

    "Yet you have it in your home?"

    "Only for entertaining unwanted visitors. You'll notice the bottle was full."

    Obi-Wan had laughed.

    After a moment of silence, he had sat forward. "I will need to go to the Temple and begin my reports."

    "Now?"

    "Well - tomorrow. But it's late. I'm sorry for disturbing you at this hour."

    "It's no trouble, Obi-Wan. You know I enjoy your company." She had smiled.

    "And I enjoy yours." He had smiled back.

    Without thinking, she had moved forward and taken his face in her hands. She had seen only his shocked expression before she kissed him. He had done nothing - neither raised his arms nor returned the kiss nor moved away.

    And that, she remembered with a smile, was the beginning of that.


    *

    They fall out of hyperspace and into a limitless dark. They are hovering near the edges of Wild Space, where the galaxy ends and the vacuum begins. The territory of pirates and political prisoners, Obi-Wan thinks. He sits lopsided in the chair by the windows. The crew hustle around him as they make their usual scans and adjustments. But the oppressive silence is obvious enough: there is no one here. There is no one in any direction for millions of lightyears. Only the tendrils of ghosts: the scent of Asajj Ventress' prison, the oily slick of Mustafar's factories, the glittering, dilated pupils of Kipson Mataa. That is their only welcome here.

    "I sometimes dreamed about us. White hair, canes, star-gazing..."

    Obi-Wan looks up at the voice. Mon Mothma stands over him, tall and commanding. She grips a cane in her right hand. A flush of color has returned to her cheeks. For a treacherous moment, Obi-Wan feels something like warmth spark in the pit of his stomach. But that is swallowed away.

    "Are you trying to be clever?" he asks.

    "Hmm," she says. "Still in a terrible mood, I see."

    She sits carefully in the opposite chair.

    "I've come to make a bargain with you," she says. "You're not going to like it."

    "I can imagine..."

    "Forgive me for not being delicate. But I've spoken with my officers, and this is what we've come up with. Be happy you have a choice at all. The options for you now are: if you choose to pursue your 'extremist Jedi agenda' - their words, Ben - name the system, any system, and we will arrange safe passage for you there. And that will, I hope, be the last we hear from each other."

    Obi-Wan stares, heavy.

    "If, however, you accept a more... well, secular approach, perhaps issuing a formal statement declaring your abandonment of an antiquated religious order, I believe you would have quite an influential position amongst the anti-Imperial factions. At least, the right. I've convinced the officers here at least that Master Yoda was behind it all - "

    "Master Yoda!" Obi-Wan exclaims, shrill.

    "Be quiet! Yes. They're all convinced he was the drive behind Leia, behind even Anakin Skywalker. And they believe that you were honor-bound... according to some old Jedi custom... to follow his orders. They know nothing, obviously, of the Chiu Mai Massacre..."

    "Oh, no..." Obi-Wan covers his eyes with his hand.

    "Be grateful. This is a much better outcome than can be expected and it is - I want you to understand - thanks to me. I saved you, Obi-Wan. I have saved you on more than one occasion. And I am, at the moment, your only advocate. Probably anywhere. So be thankful you're in my possession at the moment. Anyway, I can't promise anything yet, but I imagine you could capitalize on your Clone Wars celebrity to become - "

    "Jedi Master Politics?" Obi-Wan spits.

    "I believe they're called Political Advisors now. Or General."

    Obi-Wan says nothing. For several beats, Mon Mothma waits, watching him. Then, she inches forward and lowers her voice.

    "Don't cling, Ben. It's the first law of your religion, isn't it? And I respect your difficulties, I really do. But times have changed. The galaxy is modernizing rapidly. The Rebel fight has galvanized so many worlds... the Empire was, one could say, the perfect catalyst for a great many changes, long overdue. There are worlds, Ben," her eyes glow, "worlds where slavery is being eradicated. Where poverty, malnutrition, oppression... are all losing ground. And worker's rights, gender equality, democracy - people are waking up to these things. The Empire is laying the groundwork - building the schools, laying down the roads, literally giving us the infrastructure - but the Rebellion is giving us the way forward! When that tyranny ends, Ben, the worlds will come alive! Once it's overthrown, there'll be a brighter future - far brighter than anything from the Old Republic - for all of us. And we'll have the Empire, and the Rebellion, of course, to thank for that. This was Bail's dream, Ben, and it is mine. It's many people's."

    Another moment passes.

    "You're not saying anything."

    Obi-Wan exhales slowly. "What if the Empire wins?" he asks.

    "It won't. We have better military minds. And we're patient."

    "The Emperor... Vader... they are more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

    "Perhaps. But we don't intend to challenge those two particular individuals to a duel."

    "But, you would need someone who can... neutralize them. They are the head of the beast."

    "I have no need for magicians, Ben. And neither does the Rebellion. You may think it 'uncivilized', but the age of the light sword has passed and the age of blaster power is in. Your Temple didn't last very long to blaster fire, as I recall." She stops there, with an expression of embarrassment on her face. The blushing excitement which colored her cheeks as she spoke of a glorious new future burns again now, with shame.

    Obi-Wan looks away. He rifles through his pockets and finds the bottle of painkillers. Keeping his face down, he takes three.

    "I'm sorry. That was cruel."

    "But it was true," Obi-Wan says, still not looking up. "You've been in and around the galaxy for years, while I was rotting away on Dagobah. I suppose it's just difficult to accept when you've become obsolete."

    A hand appears on his knee and gives it a squeeze. Looking up, he sees Mon Mothma giving him an intent look.

    "Let's speak privately," she says. "Come to my rooms, Ben."

    Obi-Wan smiles. "You must be joking."

    "Not at all! Why would I joke?"

    "Well, you must think I'm easier than I appear."

    "This isn't a transaction." Mon Mothma's eyes glow with - something. Obi-Wan feels a heat rising up his neck. "You forget I'm also your friend."

    "My only friend in the galaxy?" Obi-Wan smirks.

    "Perhaps. At the moment."

    Obi-Wan barks a laugh. She waits. He sobers.

    "You're testing me already? Think I'll shed my Jedi robes so quickly?" Inadvertently, he is pulling at the tunic, wrapping himself more tightly. When he notices it, he wills himself to stop. Mon Mothma is grinning enigmatically.

    "I know you like women," she whispers. "And you know I like men."

    "Yes, I also like rare Chandrilan steaks and Corellian ale and some of the holo programs. That doesn't mean I indulge every vulgar appetite."

    "Some 'vulgar appetites' can be quite healthy."

    "Not this one."

    "Fine," Mon Mothma raises her hands. "I don't want to be overly solicitous. Let me know what you decide. We've already prepared the statement, should it be of any use."

    Obi-Wan snorts. "You lot are confident..."

    "Can you blame us?" Mon Mothma smiles. "We're revolutionaries."

    #
     
  10. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    CHAPTER 8
    Author's Notes
    : Stole a scene from Hemingway's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Have_and_Have_Not]To[/url] Have and Have Not and a line from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sun_Also_Rises]The[/url] Sun Also Rises. Also featuring my all-time favorite line from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407362/]Battlestar[/url] Galactica ("prehensile claws"), some unexpected references to the Bolsheviks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clockwork_Orange]A[/url] Clockwork Orange ("http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellpatke/en4241/nadsat%20dictionary.htm]grazzy[/url] pyahnitsa" = "soiled drunk") and my all-time favorite moment from Evita ("I am only a simple woman...!"). WARNING for general horror, long absences of our favorite Kenobi and Tarkin unexpectedly threatening to steal the show. I reckon I'll lose all my readers with this chapter, but, well, it HAD TO BE WRITTEN.

    Don't know how I survived
    The crew all was chewed alive
    I must have slipped between his teeth
    But, oh! What providence! What divine intelligence!
    That you should survive
    As well as me
    It gives my heart
    Great joy
    To see your eyes fill with fear
    So lean in close
    And I will whisper
    The last words you'll hear
    Ohh Ohhhhh

    - The Decemberists

    #

    The hustler saddles up next to Kipson Mataa in the REBELZ RULZ bar. Kip hates Rebel bars. Apart from the awful names, they're full of idealists, radicals, anarchists and other people of a political orientation. Conversations tend to revolve around brave new futures, ways in which the Empire is evil, ways in which the Senate is a weak puppet-government, old Rebel philosopher's books and, of course, the Cause. It makes Kip's head hurt. Actually, that's not true. It makes his intestines hurt.

    Almost ten years ago, Kip's legs blew off in an explosion. It was an idealist that did it. A bloody Rebel terrorist, crazy on his anti-Imperial agenda, who didn't bother to think about all the innocent bystanders - people who probably didn't give a flying ship about who was in power in Coruscant, so long as their salaries came through - when he launched his detonator.

    Or so Kip tells himself. He tries not to think about it, and an ample supply of glitterstim, skyrock, punch, painkillers and alcohol have worn down the edges of his memory until it's just a blunt, round object: the source of his frustration, pain and annoyance.

    Sometimes, the prostitutes make a good point. If you're such a Rebel-hater, they ask as they unbutton Kip's shirt and hide any surprise at the scars lining what remains of his torso, why did I find you in a Rebel bar?

    Because Rebel bars, in the current stellarpolitical situation, are the most lucrative markets for a smuggler such as Kip. Under their bourgeoise intellectual student movement veneer, they are veritable hubs of all sorts of goodies for baddies - drugs, guns, losers. Desperate people, and their desperate, sweaty money. Kip would love it, if he could remember what feeling in love felt like. If the Rebellion has given the galaxy anything, it's not just a bunch of snot-nosed wannabe Frankistas. It's a wonderfully efficient and organized criminal underworld.

    Anyway, the hustler.

    The hustler smells like whiskey and looks like he's little over twenty. A young pup. His hair is still buzzed short, which gives him away as an Imperial runaway. He would be cute, if he wasn't being so obvious.

    "Those are some nice tattoos, buddy," he slurs with a smile, pointing at the patterns on Kip's neck.

    "Thanks, young man," Kip says. He knocks back another shot of Corellian.

    "Oh ho," the kid says. "Corellian stuff, huh?"

    "You're Corellian?" Kip asks, bored.

    "And proud of it!" The young man turns around, sticks out his butt and points to his pants. A red stripe runs down his thigh. "Check these suckers out. Know what they are?"

    "Impressive," Kip drones.

    "Yeah, I think so too," the kid grins.

    There's something about this kid that reminds Kip of himself when he was young. Cheeky, over-confident, stupid. Before skyrock withered away chunks of his brain, and before the Idealist blew away chunks of his body. Kip doesn't remember much of his dad - except that he liked him - but he's starting to feel a Dad-like warmth for this posturing, preening fool.

    "What's your name, stupid?" Kip asks.

    The kid peps up to see Kip paying some real attention to him. He cocks his head back, unbuttoning his shirt's top two buttons and pretending to shake the heat out of it.

    "Well, everyone calls me Han," the kid says. "So I guess you can call me Han too. And, oh yeah, also, I'm Solo."

    "Okay."

    "No, I mean, I mean I'm solo. Like, a pun, get it? And it looks like you're solo too, big guy."

    "I'm only big because I'm walking on stilts, Call Me Han." Kip motions for the bartender to refill his glass. Someone in a nearby booth cracks a joke and the entire corner erupts in laughter. Someone is playing a revolutionary song on the keyboard by the door.

    Han's eyes are wide now as they travel drunkenly down Kip's torso, past his mechanical hips and towards his grimy, metallic thighs. "Oh, ships. Wow."

    "Still want to take me upstairs?" Kip asks, smirking.

    Kip has to give Han credit, because Han doesn't miss a beat. "Sure. There's tons of stuff a couple young bucks like us could try. I've got a book in my bag."

    Kip laughs, despite himself.

    "Say, what's your name, anyway? You can lie if you want. Whatever. We're all 'comrades' here, right?"

    "This 'comrade''s not a Rebel, kid. And you can call me by my real name, Mataa."

    "Sure thing, Comrade Mataa. Want another drink?"

    "You buying?"

    "Well, no, actually, I'm selling, but I'll buy you a drink, yeah."

    Kip laughs again. He can feel the scars at his throat, from where he injects the skyrock, stretch. It's a weird feeling. He guesses he doesn't laugh that often. And Han is practically glowing at the attention.

    "So, not a Rebel, huh? Just here for the fun?"

    "You could say so."

    "Yeah, me too. These kids," Han jerks his head in the direction of the crowded booth, "they're wild, you know. They want to engineer coups, free the slaves, hug aliens, hell, have kids with aliens. It's pretty filthy."

    "You don't agree?" Kip asks.

    "Hey, who am I to judge? The love of my life is a seven-foot wookiee who could pull your arms out easier than you can sneeze. Which, I'm thinking, would be a bad idea for you. Say, why don't you buy some shiny legs for yourself?"

    Kip shrugs. "Blow all my money on drugs. Easier that way."

    "Well," Han sighs, "it's probably better that way too, Comrade."

    "Which brings us to the crux of our problem: I'm in no condition to pay you. So, you should probably find some other mark."

    "Oh! Ow! That hurts!" Han feigns a blaster bolt to the chest. "You really know how to burn a guy. What makes you think I'm in it for the cash?"

    "Because your buzz cut says you need money to get off this junkheap, and fast. Let me guess: three weeks ago?"

    "Two. My hair grows fast. And yeah, all right, all right," Han puts up his hands. "You got me. I'm," he mimics Frank's Inner Rim accent, "an 'Eemperialeest scum dawg'. Right here. Want to set me on fire now? Turn me in to Comrade Jokes-A-Lot over there?"

    "Not at all. I'm just saying I can't help you, kid. Maybe you shouldn't waste your time, especially if you've got STs on your behind."

    "Fair enough. But a brother can talk to a brother, right?"

    Kip smiles. "Sure. Talk on, brother. What got you kicked out? Nookie with a wookiee?"

    "Hey," Han frowns, "please don't mock our love. Which is platonic, to spare you the nightmares. And, if you must know, I just happened to disagree with His Royal Imperialness on certain matters of inter-species relations. Chewie's like a brother to me. My best buddy. My main man. Well, wookiee. Mataa, you know what they did to Kashyyyk two years ago?"

    "I can guess."

    "Yeah, I bet you can. So now you know. I'm a scummy Imperial scumbucket scum. A real scummy guy. And even worse: an idealist! And you? You look pretty filthy yourself."

    "Thanks. I traffic."

    "No kidding," Han says, sarcastic. "One could never tell. May I ask what you move?"

    "You can probably guess."

    "Yeah, I probably can. And how's that going? Got any heat lately from my former colleagues?"

    "Not in this neck of the vacuum. Though, if you're really interested, I'm heading to a big old Rebel rendezvous tomorrow morning. Kessel spice. Very exciting."

    "Kessel?" Han asks, skeptical.

    "Did the Run in twelve parsecs, if you can believe it."

    "I can't. I can believe my Chewbacca's vegetarian sooner than that."

    "Wish I could help you see the light."

    "Well..." Han shifts his weight. Kip feels his head swim. "If you're looking for a shipmate... Or, okay, two... We come as a pair."

    Kip nearly falls off his legs from laughing so hard. Han puts a hand on his shoulder to steady him. In a flash, Kip's blaster is drawn - and, to his surprise, he finds another blaster nozzle sitting inches from his face. Han's hand is steady, his eyes intense. The bar goes quiet.

    "Is that as fast as you get?" Kip asks with a smile.

    "No." Han swallows. "But I'm drunk."

    There is a long pause. Someone stumbles accidentally against the keyboard, a shrill C minor reverberates through the tense silence. Finally, Kip drops his gun. Murmurs begin, tentative and cautious.

    "Me too," he says. "I probably would have just nicked your ear."

    Han holds his blaster a moment longer, before dropping it with a shrug and lopsided grin. "Anywhere but the face is fine." He puts his blaster back in the holster and sticks out his hand. "So. New shipmates?"

    Kip stares at the hand.

    "I speak Dashmiri," Han says. "May eternal blessings be upon he who flies the eternal skies, and blah blah."

    Kip raises an eyebrow.

    "You can kill me on the way, if you want."

    "What about your furry friend?"

    "Well... he'll still rip your arms out, I guess."

    "And this is a good idea for me?"

    "Hey, I'm charming. Cut me some slack. I just want to go see the big, bad Rebels for myself. Hell, maybe I'll sign up." Han's eyes twinkle. "You wouldn't believe what a wookiee-lover can do in the bedroom."

    "Oh, gods. I thought you said it was all platonic?"

    Han just smiles.

    "That's filthy!" Kip chokes out.

    "See?" Han flashes his rogueish grin again, jutting out his hip, in his element. "I can make you laugh. You look like you need it."

    Kip doesn't necessarily remember this sort of thing being a bad idea. But he doesn't remember much of anything these days. But it's true: Han is pretty, funny and seemingly desperate. Kip hasn't seen this Chewbacca character, but a wookiee is a wookiee is a wookiee, and Dashmir and Kashyyyk are - technically, at least - on friendly terms. It would be nice to have some company for the long jump to the Rebel basestation...

    *

    "Oh, Ben. Yes, Ben."

    "Mila, Mila..."

    "I knew you'd come. You're transparent."

    "Please... not now."

    "Oh!"

    "Nnf."

    "Yes, yes, keep it there. Put the stump there."

    "Wait. Wait, wait."

    "Ben!"

    "Well?"

    "Oh, how I missed you."

    "I'm not a young man anymore."

    "You were wonderful! The ship moved, believe me."

    "Why is it I can never understand when you're teasing me?"

    "I usually am. But it's always with affection, dear."

    "'Affection'! What a word!"

    "Mock if you like. The truth is the truth: I want to help you."

    "One of the galaxy's most dangerous phrases..."

    "And one of your old favorites. Have you decided then?"

    "Yes. I suppose I have."

    "Good."

    *

    Blue-green tendrils. Something burning in the pit of everything. Smokey flavors. Alderaanian insectoids from the northern hemisphere burn away their bodies, leaving behind charred husks, and they emerge stronger and more powerful. I have many, many children. You are all my children. The queen bee sits on her throne in Aldera City, courtiers buzz around her, wings beating. A trail of slime on the smooth marble. In other cultures, males are powerful, but in our culture, they serve. Queen Bee is beautiful and so, so sad. Our children leave us and multiply, they carve new trails in the tall grasses of the southern islands. Aldera, Leia, my sweet Aldera.

    No, you can't turn off my brain, it is mine.

    *

    The first thing Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin notices is the smell.

    There's something coming down the corridor, and he can feel the tang of it in his nostrils. He sighs irritably. Probably another non-human laborer. Economics says driving these wretched beasts to their deaths is preferable to hiring human workers. They have nimble hands, they are easily cowed, and so on. But if Tarkin could put a price on odors, they would be the most expensive things in this Oversector.
    A stormtrooper arrives at a running pace. He skids to a halt on seeing Tarkin and salutes.

    "This manner is hardly becoming of the standard decorum of your rank, Trooper," Tarkin huffs.

    "Apologies, sir. We've had a break-in. Sectors three and seventy-six are compromised."

    "'Compromised'? Do you mean to say we've been boarded?"

    "We're running diagnostics now, sir."

    "Sweet heavens, man. You had better tell me it's a mynok caught in the ventilation system."

    "Yes, sir. A report will be available soon, sir. Shall I sound the alarm, sir?"

    "And have everyone troop down into their little holes? No, thank you. We can afford to lose a few of the rank beasts. Might be an improvement on the foul stench aboard."

    "Yes, sir."

    The second thing Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin notices is that he never saw her coming.

    Then again, neither did the trooper. Before he had finished his final 'sir', a hand had appeared, the flash of knife, a gurgling spray, and the trooper was dead, collapsed in a heap at their feet. And before Tarkin stands:

    "Leia the Terrible..." he breathes, eyes widening.

    "I AM ONLY ORGANA THESE DAYS." She is a swollen ten feet tall, and growing fast. Her shoulders and head press against the ceiling. Her arms are ripping out of their sleeves. The knife begins to look puny in these constant changes of scale.

    "So you are. I heard you had been resurrected. Dagobah, was it?" The smell is permeating their corridor. It makes his nostrils arch.

    "COME WITH ME."

    Another two young women materialize - Tarkin is appalled to see that they are Leia and Leia again. They take him by the arms and push a blaster into his ribs. Something cold chills the inside of his uniform; an icy sweat.

    "These are... your friends?" he asks, pleased to hear his usual disinterested drawl. His heart is pounding.

    He earns a blow to the stomach for his question.

    "DO NOT MOCK WHAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I AM SEEKING MY FATHER."

    "I see..." They are maneuvering him into the conference room. The doors slide shut, sealing themselves off. This is Vader's usual audience chamber, but it is empty now. The audio system has been deactivated; the standard when Vader is offstation. It is also soundproof, another detail ensured by Vader and Palpatine. The Leias throw Tarkin into one of the over-plush seats which the other admirals use. He has just a moment to touch his face and find dots of warm blood there before the large Leia yelps and his limbs go rigid, fingers frozen into two prehensile claws. He feels absurd.

    "THEY TOLD ME YOU WERE GRAND MOFF OF THIS OVERSECTOR," all three Leias speak at once now. "SO THIS IS THE 'DEATH STAR'? WE EXPECTED A GAS GIANT. NO MATTER. THEY SAY YOU ARE THIRD IN LINE. WHERE IS MY FATHER?"

    "Nngh," Tarkin chokes. His windpipe is closing. His vision swims. More Leias appear. They crawl out from under the table, squeeze between the seams in the walls, poke out from the overhead vent.

    "SPEAK, GRAND MOFF. FOR THE LAST TIME."

    His windpipe suddenly clears. He doubles forward, gasping. Vomit threatens to roar up his esophagus, but he swallows it away. "All reports confirmed... Bail Organa died on Dagobah. Surely, you knew that?"

    Something crackles then, and he realizes it's his body. He feels himself jolt and spasm violently, flopping away from the chair. Amid the pain and confusion, a strange thought leaps in: images of the fish markets on Eriadu. Fishermen pulling in nets full of wriggling, glistening things, with their dead, liquid eyes and stupid, gaping mouths. His forehead slams unexpectedly against the smooth black table; he has a moment to see the smudge of sweaty oil before he is catapulted onto the floor.

    Whatever it is, it stops.

    He lies there, muscles trembling. His uniform is soaked.

    "Ch-charming..." he gasps. "To the l-last..."

    "I MEANT VADER."

    "Oh... y-yes, of course..." He is drooling, so he collects his energy and spits into the carpet. Vader, Father? He's becoming confused. And his arms feel like jelly, but he manages to raise his lolling head to face a veritable crowd of Leias. They all stare at him like, well, a lot of teenagers.

    "V-Vader. Yes, I s-see..."
    "WE WERE TOLD HE USES THIS SO-CALLED 'DEATH STAR' AS HIS BASESTATION. SO WHERE IS HE?"

    "It w-would be unwise of... L-Lord Vader to inform... m-me of all h-his m-movements..." Tarkin says, working desperately against his thick, slow tongue. "D-Don't you ag-agree?"

    "WE GROW TIRED OF ASKING THIS," all the Leias say, "SO THIS WILL BE THE LAST TIME. WHERE IS VADER?"

    "D-Don't waste your t-time, my girl... You'd b-best kill me and b-be off."

    It's the last thing Tarkin says before his head cracks open and everything goes dark.

    *

    When the hustler saddles up to Kipson Mataa's side in the Rebel base station's night club, he nearly punches him in the face.

    The Liberty station is normally empty, but today it seems everyone and their mother has arrived for the great unveiling of some important political la-di-doh. Kip just thinks that he is absolutely, unalterably toasted. The kid-wookiee combination, after dutifully tending to Kip's ship and Kip's manly needs for the duration of the hyperspace jump, then promptly turned nightmarish, with lots of roaring, threats, blasters and, now, many bruises, one loose tooth and one stolen ship.

    Kip seethes. He can still see the kid - Solo - standing with that cocky grin on his face. Kip's knuckles itch when he thinks of that grin.

    "Looks like that skyrock burned out more than your memory, big guy," Solo said with a laugh. "Looks like you're missing some plain sense."

    "Solo, I swear," Kip said, dragging himself forward on his torso. The wookiee was dangling his legs over him, shooting sparks onto the tarmac. "I swear I will kill you when I meet you again."

    "Okay, that sounds fine," Solo said. "You might want to write it down somewhere so you don't, uh, you know, forget."

    Admittedly, Kip doesn't remember anymore what Solo looks like, but he clings to the descriptive words he used to himself: jaw, short, shiny, young, pretty, stupid. It's the same way he clings to the words he uses to describe the man who blew off his legs: beard, short, skinny, old.

    Admittedly, there are a lot of shiny, young, pretty stupid boys and bearded, short, skinny, old men, and so this system of blunt descriptives hasn't helped much in the past. But it gives him something to work with.

    *

    When Tarkin wakes up, the first thing he notices is the smell.

    But this time it permeates the tiles against which he is lying and it threatens to unregulate his entire digestive system, which is anxiously working to keep still. He is lying in a pretzel heap at the floor of - one of the prison cells, he presumes - and he wonders, for a moment, if he is paralyzed. But an experimental twitch of the fingers dispels that hypothesis, as well as awakening all of his nerve endings. The pain is too acute to do anything but bear it, but, once it lessens enough, he lets loose an animal howl.

    "You'll feel better if you keep quiet."

    A girl's voice. Oh, heavens.

    "The longer we think you're unconscious, the longer you can rest. No! Where is the main energy converter? Who designed this junkpile? Keep moving."

    Tarkin adjusts his head cautiously, smearing saliva and sweat against the floor.

    "A-Are you speaking with me...?"

    "We are speaking with several people at the moment," the girl's voice says. "Father, please don't do that. You'll make it worse."

    "Oh. So... you've f-found Lord Vader t-too then?" Tarkin asks, staring at a corner of the room and congratulating himself on keeping up with the Terrible's games. If he mumbles, he can feel a loosened molar threatening to dislodge itself. He wonders how big his molars are and how beaten his windpipe is; would he choke?

    The sound of footsteps. A Leia appears; this one is normal-sized. She crouches down to sit on her heels and stares at Tarkin with a look of child-like interest.

    "No. I'm speaking with Senator Organa, the father of my heart."

    "Y-Yes, certainly..." Tarkin's eyes flutter shut. Keeping up with this girl, he thinks lethargically, is exhausting.

    "Would you like to meet him? I want those coordinates now!"

    "B-Bail? Oh, we've met..." Tarkin mutters. "Coruscant... years ago..."

    The sound of liquid moving, sloshing around in something. Tarkin cracks an eye open to see something enormous, like a bacta tank, floating into view. It settles tentatively on the ground before him, next to Leia. Inside, there is the figure of a twitching, intubated man. It takes a moment for Tarkin's vision to clear, but then he sees: it is Bail Organa, greenish and eyes rolling everywhere. Mouth gaping like a fish. The tank is grimy, with worn tubing and spare wires trailing against the floor, collecting dust bunnies. It looks do-it-yourself. So that was the smell.
    "G-Good heavens, girl..." Tarkin whispers. "You've pickled your father...?"

    "Please don't say that," Leia says. Her eyes well up with tears. "You don't understand how much pain he's in. THEN NAME THE SYSTEM! I'm such a terrible person. Awful! So awful!"

    "Hush, hush..." Tarkin soothes. "I-I'm sure there are w-worse young p-people..."

    "He wouldn't have made it if we didn't put him in the tank. I put the tubes in. We don't think he's infected with anything. Just a blaster! MOVE ALL THE TIE FIGHTERS OUT OF G THROUGH M BAYS, FLY THEM IN STANDARD FORMATION. I tried... I tried to use the healing teachings that Master Kenobi taught me, but, I don't know..."

    "Kenobi?" Tarkin asks.

    "He was one of my masters in the Force. WE ARE LEAVING!"

    "Oh, y-yes... Jedi... surely, he must be dead by now?"

    "No. No. He's not," Leia says, enigmatic. "YOU WILL FIND THIS BATTLE STATION IS FULLY OPERATIONAL, LORD VADER."

    "V-Vader?" Tarkin feels a throb in his skull. He wonders if the wiring can be tied to anything, but then remembers that he designed the cells himself. He is a prisoner, there is no escape. But maybe if he took one of the wires and pulled it around, he could block oxygen off just long enough to...

    "DON'T BOTHER THINKING THAT, WILHUFF TARKIN."

    "Oh?"

    "YOU SHALL BE OF SOME USE YET. DO YOU HEAR THIS, VADER? SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE TO YOUR PLAYTHING, FATHER?"

    'Plaything'? "L-Leia... is, eh, Vader on the line? May I s-speak with His Lordship?"

    Something electric. Vibrations in the world; and Tarkin just thinks: death, death, death, death -

    "WE ARE NOT A MESSAGING SERVICE, IGNORANT FOOL!"

    *

    Obi-Wan Kenobi is pleasantly inebriated by the time the festivities end, and his new uniform is starting to feel tight around the stomach. When he catches a glance of himself in one of the food platters, he sees that that his face looks dark. Leia the Terrible's plastic vision for him is colorblind, but he guesses he's flushed.

    Mon Mothma, meanwhile, maneuvers him around the room, presenting him to the various officers and Rebel elite. Most are starstruck to see him, and they congratulate him and welcome him and make quickly-aborted prostrations and heap awed praise on him for feats which either weren't entirely his doing or which happened twenty years ago or which have been obviously exaggerated for effect. He takes it all in stride, smiling and toasting the great Rebel Alliance which will give way to a secular, democratic, free galaxy, and the hollow feeling in his chest gets progressively dulled as the Corellian gin flows and the politicians - many of whom Kenobi recognizes from when they were interns or aides in Coruscant a generation ago - laugh and laugh.

    "The cane was a nice touch," Mon Mothma whispers in a rare moment of privacy. They are standing by the buffet, where caterers have overloaded each table with delicacies. Everyone is preparing for their grand exit into the main hall, where thousands of anxious Rebels and Rebel sympathizers wait. Obi-Wan has no idea how they could have imported all these food things into this bizarre, unknown station, and he is too embarrassed to imagine how much it costs.

    "The Chandrilan steaks were a better one," he smiles. Secular men eat secular meat, he thinks. "You Rebels treat yourselves well, it seems."

    "'We' Rebels, Comrade."

    "Yes, of course." He leans over dizzily, steals another toothpicked steak-skewer and pops it into his mouth. "Happy that you've got your prize then?"

    "Meaning: you?" she smiles, edging towards salaciousness.

    "Meaning: sole influence and control over the bright, new government-in-making. I seem to be meeting only underlings in your presence."

    "Oh, please, Obi-Wan," Mon Mothma throws her head back to laugh. "We're all equal in the revolution."

    "Spare me the propaganda!" Obi-Wan groans. "I'm already feeling unsteady."

    "Fine. Then let's say I trust myself most of all, so, yes, I'm pleased that it's only me up here."

    "And Bail?"

    Mon Mothma sobers. "I miss him terribly."

    "Politically?"

    "Oh, now you're being cruel. How much have you had to drink? Come on, we've still got all the adoring plebeians to contend with outside. Ready for the battle?"

    Outside, the grand hall and corridors are flush with screaming crowds. He hears his name being chanted amidst the others - OBI-WAN KENOBI, THE JEDI SAINT! - and old HoloNet reels are being projected on the enormous walls, showing a younger, handsomer Jedi Kenobi speaking at the Senate, descending from his starfighter, exiting the Jedi Temple. Images from another life, Obi-Wan is almost as entranced by them as the people are: he can't believe that he, this man, is in some long, complicated, uninterrupted stream, related to that man. Anakin Skywalker is also there in the reel footage: but they've cropped him out so only the tendrils of his hair and Jedi robes are visible, back in the days when Kenobi and Skywalker stood shoulder to shoulder.

    Archival HoloNet footage shows vertiginous shots of screaming crowds, and it has a dizzying effect to see the physical crowd below its digital projection. Obi-Wan nearly leans too far forward, but catches himself and gives a short wave. This provokes a spasmodic roar, an almost delirious howl of joy, and the sheer intensity makes the animal in Obi-Wan laugh out loud.

    Mon Mothma is taking the microphone at center stage. She raises her fists in the Rebel salute; the crowds scream their response, thousands of fists are raised.

    "I AM ONLY A SIMPLE WOMAN," Mon Mothma begins, her voice reverberating around the cavernous hall. "WHO LIVES TO SERVE THE ALLIANCE IN ITS NOBLE CRUSADE TO RESCUE ITS PEOPLE AGAINST THE EVIL EMPIRE. REBELS! MY COMRADES! OBI-WAN KENOBI IS EVERYTHING. HE IS THE SOUL, THE NERVE, THE HOPE AND THE REALITY OF THIS REBELLION!"

    The roar reaches a fever pitch; the digital projections are shaking from all the energy in the room.

    "BUT..." Mon Mothma raises her finger. "BUT... REMEMBER THIS! WE ARE ALL SOLDIERS OF JUSTICE IN THIS MIGHTY REBELLION. AND WHEN THEY FIRE THOSE CANNONS, WHEN THE CROWD SINGS OF GLORY, IT IS NOT JUST FOR KENOBI, BUT FOR ALL OF US! FOR ALL OF US!"

    But the crowd is chanting again: KENOBI. MOTHMA. KENOBI. MOTHMA.

    Mon Mothma steps aside and Obi-Wan finds himself at the microphone. He waves again and the crowds cheer. The lights are blinding him, spreading everything out in a pixelated blur of light. He takes the microphone, and speaks:

    "COMRADES OF LIBERTY! COMRADES OF LIBERTY!" His voice is larger, prouder and more emotive than he has ever heard it. "WE ARE ALL REBELS NOW, FIGHTING AGAINST OUR COMMON ENEMY. REACHING FOR OUR COMMON GOALS. OUR INDEPENDENCE. OUR DIGNITY. OUR PRIDE! LET THE GALAXY KNOW THAT OUR GREAT ALLIANCE... IS AWAKENING. AND THAT ITS HEART BEATS IN THE HUMBLE BODY OF OBI-WAN KENOBI, AND OUR LEADER AND GUIDE, SENATOR MON MOTHMA!"

    In that moment, something cuts through the noise of the sound system and the crowds. It sears through every ear, burning every drum. A sound both hollow and full of feeling; something hungry and fierce and raging. Like the deepest horn, like a planet cracking in half. It cripples the people, every species is subject to it, and the Rebel crowds fall into a writhing heap of seizing limbs. On stage, Obi-Wan and Mon Mothma both clasp their ears, falling to the ground; from somewhere, they are screaming too, but nothing can be heard except the terrible, hideous noise -

    - a noise that moves through Wilhuff Tarkin in waves, so that he pulls himself further into a fetal position, wishing only for death -

    - a noise that nearly snaps Leia the Terrible back into herself. Every Leia of every size begins to dissolve into glittering dust, and the original Leia, the single and pure one, wants to cry or scream or laugh or something, but can only focus on -

    - the noise, which presses into the madness of Bail Organa's scrambled, confused consciousness, giving him a single moment of clarity amid tubing and medications and artificial enhancements -

    - a noise which spreads throughout Coruscant, which turns off every television and silences every bar, which derails subways and sends hover cars crashing into lower streams -

    - a noise that ruffles through the grasses of Alderaan, cracking apart the ancient insect mounds and ruffling the hair of Beru Lars, as she drops her equipment and sees her husband fall to the ground -

    - a noise that bubbles through the swamps of Dagobah, drowning the world -

    - a noise that forces Darth Vader to, for the first time since Mustafar, rip his helmet off in public, unmasking himself to the shocked Imperial officers and crew on the Star Destroyer deck, who are all bent double, holding onto each other. He rips it off to get some relief, but finds that the noise is not coming from within, but from outside -

    - a noise that interrupts Han Solo as he unbuttons Lando Calrissian's shirt while Chewbacca steals the latter's credits and bags and ID cards from the other room -

    - a noise that causes Commander Akbar's skull to split and bleed -

    - a noise that Obi-Wan Kenobi, through the haze of alcohol and sheer wall of sound, recognizes with horror before everything falls silent again.

    *

    "Are your ears still ringing?"

    Mon Mothma falls back into the pillows, looking sleepy and good-humored. Obi-Wan inches closer to her, fearful of closing his eyes.

    "What? Oh, hmm, no. That's stopped."

    "Good. I've still got a bit of a buzz in the left one." She sticks her finger in and shakes.

    If Obi-Wan closes his eyes, he can see the siren call from Qui-Gon Jinn. It's red, urgent, blinking. He's probably just drunk. He ignores it. The low buzzing continues. After the Noise of Death, as people are now calling it, battle stations were announced and the hall emptied in minutes. But after scans and armed cannons and alert stations, nothing was found. Not a trace of anything in the deep space beyond the windows. Sound doesn't travel through a vacuum, which means it came from somewhere within the ship. They stripped every room, took apart tubing and electrical wiring and ventilation shafts. And they have found nothing.

    Now: Mon Mothma's bedroom. Obi-Wan feels the skin on his chest growing prickly. His stomach roils.

    "Yes, hmm. Strange, that?"

    "Even stranger. I've got some reports from the scouts - they heard it too. They said they heard it as far as Boz Pity. Twelve systems away, Ben. And the comm department is saying it had nothing to do with our audio system or wireless."

    "Seems someone broke something in the great vast nothingness outside."

    Two arms slip around his torso. A head on his shoulder.

    "Ben, I'm properly spooked."

    "Oh, ha. Hmm. Why? What could, uh, I mean, surely it's nothing."

    "You're terrified."

    "Ha! Yes, well. Uh. It was quite disruptive. Loud."

    She props herself up on her elbows to inspect his face from only an inch away. He avoids eye contact. The pillow, the sheets, everything sinking.

    "Ben, are you hiding something? Your fear feels... familiar. Was this a Jedi thing?"

    "I wouldn't... be so sure. It could be any number of phenomena."

    Mon Mothma hisses an oath in her native Chandrilan. "Tell me what it is, Ben. What happened in the hall?"

    "I... have no idea."

    "You're lying."

    "I - no. I - please, Mila, let me through. I think I'm going to be sick."

    *

    He just needs some air.

    The corridors are empty now, the lights dimmed. The station is still technically on alert. Obi-Wan's footsteps echo up and down the deserted hallway. He pulls his robe tightly around himself, walking hurriedly - somewhere. With every blink, he sees Master Jinn. And the red of Qui-Gon's anxiety is piercing through the monochromatics of Obi-Wan's eyes. It is insistent, following him everywhere. He begins to feel desperate.

    No. No, no. No.

    The Yoda-Mind always tells you what you want to hear.

    You're the most adaptable, the most resilient of all of us, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You were born for this.

    Obi-Wan resist the urge to claw at his eyes, and so he drags his hand through his hair, pulling harshly. The cosmetics people gave him a haircut before his big unveiling earlier that day. He is still finding stray hair bits in his collar. Itchy. And the red of Qui-Gon - there it is.

    Thankfully, someone appears in the hallway. Obi-Wan nearly cries from relief, and he smiles warmly at the young man as he limps past. The man's legs are thin and metallic. His torso is bulky, his neck thick and his face sweaty. His dark hair is disheveled, and there are tattoos by his temple. He looks positively lower class, but Obi-Wan is desperate. Anyone will do.

    "Oh!" the young man says. "You're the hero."

    "Excuse me?" Obi-Wan asks with a smile.

    "The saint... the... Clone Wars. General Kenobi."

    "'General Kenobi'..." Obi-Wan repeats. "Now that's a phrase I've not heard in a long time. A long time."

    "Tell me about it. Out for a walk, sir?"

    "You could say so. Away from the chaos and confusion."

    The young man's eyes squint. He cocks his head quizzically. "You know, you sound so familiar up close."

    "HoloNet?" Obi-Wan guesses. "Though you must have been just a child when I..."

    "My parents didn't watch the HoloNet."

    "Oh?"

    "Planet independents, you know."

    "Let me guess... Herdessa."

    "Close. Dashmir."

    "Dashmir!" Obi-Wan smiles. "A fine planet, that. I knew a young man from it. Younger than you. He was a pilot. Oh, but he would have been about your age now, I suppose."

    "Oh?" The young man approaches. His legs squeak. "What's his name? Maybe I know him."

    Obi-Wan laughs. "Kip. Kip Mataa." He sobers. "Poor lad. He died many years ago. Drugs, you know."

    "Kip Mataa..." the young man smiles. There's a long pause, in which the man's smile never falters, and then he says, "Oh, he's not dead. Not yet."

    "You knew him?"

    "Of course I know him." Something itches at the level of Obi-Wan's knuckles, but he's too late to react; the blow lands squarely on his stomach. He falls back with a cry, and a metal boot crashes into his ribs. The young man's face appears, inches from his own. "He's me, you grazzy pyahnitsa."

    "Kip! Good heavens!" Obi-Wan exclaims, shrill, and he has just enough time to dodge another metal leg, which comes crashing down towards his neck. He scrambles back into a standing position and charges Kip, knocking the younger man off his legs. Something hits him in the back of the shoulder, he cries out, and then they're both back up again; Obi-Wan pulls a wall of Force into himself and blasts Kip with it, the power of it topples both of them.

    Then Kip is there, pulling at his hair and dragging him back up. Obi-Wan twists out of his grip, uses one of the old martial locks and forces Kip around, pinning his arms behind him.

    "If you even are Kipson Mataa... the young man I knew," Obi-Wan says, breathing harshly, "never used violence as a means of expression."

    "As I remember," Kip huffs, "I did make one strong statement using violence."

    "When you left Beru and I on Chiu Mai?"

    "When I punched you in the head."

    Obi-Wan smirks and, in that moment, receives a sharp blow to the temple. Kip's torso can turn itself around unnaturally on the mechanical legs, and the blow is unexpected. It sends Obi-Wan reeling.

    "Kip!" Obi-Wan exclaims, clutching his head.

    "It wouldn't look good for me to beat up an old man," Kip says. "Especially the resurrected saint himself."

    Obi-Wan can feel the ragged tatters of hate which Kip dresses his thoughts in. They itch like the stray hairs. They pull at him, and Qui-Gon's red is getting louder. The throbbing in Obi-Wan's temple makes it hard to think straight.

    "Kip, my lad... there's been a terrible misunderstanding. All these years..."

    "Shut up!"

    "But you must let me explain - !" Obi-Wan's eyes travel inadvertently down to Kip's legs. They are well-worn, uneven. "The things which happened..."

    "I don't remember much, 'Inokeb'," Kip spits, "but I remember one thing: you did this to me."

    "What? No, goodness, I couldn't have - "

    "You did this. And now that I've found you, you'll pay. You'll pay for me, for these, but you'll pay especially for Beru."

    "Beru? What - Beru! You've seen her?"

    "She's dead, you old strakh. You cooked her up yourself. All those years ago on good old Chiu Mai."

    "No, no, I didn't... Don't say such things..."

    There are footsteps from down the hallway, a group of people arriving. Kip stares at Obi-Wan for a moment. "I will kill you one day."

    "Kip, please let me explain - let's talk - we must - "

    The crewpeople pass between Obi-Wan and Kip, forcing both to drop into a casual demeanor. The people salute and bow before Obi-Wan, and then continue on, buried in work. And just as Obi-Wan is about to open his mouth again, Kip is gone - his legs lurching him forward, the metal scrape and whine reverberating down, long past Obi-Wan has lost sight of him.

    #
     
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  11. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2003
    And that's all there is, folks! Not sure when I'll pick this up, but, oh gosh. Maybe. MAYBE.
     
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  12. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    MAYBE IS GOOD!! This brightened my day so much! The fic has every reason to be considered a gem, go you!! I have no problem 'hearing' Sir Alec's cultured tones.
     
  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Just out of a day of binge-reading this story. Can we say "probably" instead of "maybe"? Please? Pretty please?
     
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  14. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Heh, looking at it again, I'm not sure it's completely flattering to have one's writing likened to sheep entrails :p

    The gushiness was entirely intended though. And you reward it by writing stuff which is so depressing so that I feel compelled to go cheer myself up with truckloads of mush after reading it!

    To frame my thoughts more articulately:
    Obi-Wan's always been the most relatable character in the Saga for me. He's the eyes through which I see the Skywalkers. But in the films, he's also something to aspire towards rather than something I can fully recognise myself in, because he's so very, you know, Obi-Wan --- noble, self-sacrificing, principled, with almost unbelievable strength of character. I think the emotional heft and pith of this series lies in how frail and broken you make him, while still keeping him totally Obi-Wan. So many writers who render his fragility and humanity well do so at the expense of his indefinable Obi-Wan-ness. I don't even know how to express what that is, or how you managed to convey it so precisely with how fundamentally damaged he is here, but you do --- so, I'm in awe!
     
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