Gotta apologize first.  This is not a very good story... oh well, so shoot me.


Title: Runaway Train

By: Cassia


Category: Song-fic, Drama, Adventure, H/C, Angst

Rating:  PG

Spoilers: Don't think so.

Disclaimer: All recognizable Star Wars characters are the

exclusive property of George Lucas.  Bant Eerin and Siri may belong to Dave Wolverton, or Jude Watson, or Scholastics... but then we all know that. 

All others belong to me.

I have no official permission to use these characters, and

if you think anyone would pay me to come up with this nonsense, you're worse off than I am.

The song "Runaway Train" whose lyrics I use belongs to Soul Asylum and I'm not getting paid for using that either.

Feedback:  Yes Please! 

Archive: Early Years, Jedi Apprentice and anyone I've given permission to for previous stories.  Others please ask.

Time Frame: 8 years before TMP.  Obi-Wan is 17.


Summary: A terrible attack separates and injures Master and Padawan.  Qui-Gon is shuttled to safety, but Obi-Wan is left behind.  Things go very wrong, leaving Obi-Wan with scars that not even Qui-Gon seems able to heal.


Things bracketed by *'s are *italic*.




-Runaway Train-


      PART ONE:



Call you up in the middle of the night

Like a firefly without a light

You were there like a blowtorch burning

I was a key that could use a little turning



*Beep-beep*, *Beep-beep*, *Beep-beep*...


Groggily, Bant Eerin patted around next to her bed for the offending alarm chrono.  After a moment, her sleepy brain realized that it was not her wake up chime, but her comlink that had dragged her from her dreams.  Glancing at the chrono, which Bant could now remember was on the table across the room (where Master Daria had put it so that the padawan would not just hit the sleep button and doze off again as she had accrued a habit of doing) the Calamarian yawned in irritation.  Who in the world would be calling her at this unheard-of hour of the night?


Dragging herself out of bed, the fifteen-year-old Jedi apprentice fumbled about in the dark for her comlink.


"Padawan Eerin," she answered, trying to keep her voice from sounding too sleepy.


"Bant?" the voice on the other end was soft, sad, lost...


The last remnants of drowsiness fled from Bant's brain like mist fleeing before the dawn and she was suddenly very alert. 


"Obi-Wan?  Obi-Wan where are you?  Everyone's looking for you!  Master Jinn's been worried to death, we all thought you were-"


"Dead," Obi-Wan finished for his friend.  "I know.  Listen to me Bant, please," the young Jedi's voice was strained and Bant thought it sounded like he hadn't slept in days.  "They've got to go on thinking that I'm dead, they can't know, all right?"


"What?!" Bant was incredulous.  "Obi, your Master-"


"Will understand," Obi-Wan said, wishing he could believe that.  "Please Bant, I'm running out of time.  I need your help, but you've got to promise me that you won't tell anyone about this!" Obi-Wan pleaded with his friend.


"I-I can't do that Obi!" Bant was tortured.  "But I want to help you, please Obi, let me help you!"


Obi-Wan sighed.  Bant didn't understand, how could she?  How could anyone...


"Obi?  Obi-Wan are you still there?" Bant's worried voice brought him back from his hopeless reverie.


"Shh, I'm here," he hushed her.  "I need you to tap into the Temple files and find the record of a student named Marc Valar, then transmit it to my 'link," he instructed.


"Okay," Bant agreed, switching her data pad on and up-linking it to the Temple network port in the corner of her room.  "But why?"


"Please just do it Bant, I haven't got time to explain!" Obi-Wan refused to answer.


"At least tell me what's going on!" the Calamarian pleaded.  "Are you in some kind of trouble?  Where are you?"


"The information Bant, I need the information," Obi-Wan said urgently.  He couldn't keep this connection open for long.


"Fine, I've got it," Bant was a little miffed at her friend for all the rush and secrecy.  "Uh, oh," she shook her head.  "Parts of this file are locked and require authorization."


Obi-Wan swore silently.


"I'm sending you the parts that aren't.  You should be receiving it now..." Bant said.


"Got it," Obi-Wan affirmed.  "Thanks Bant."


"Wait!  Obi, please!  You can't leave us this way..." Bant pleaded.


"Bant..." Obi-Wan's voice was full of pain.  "Bant, you are a dear friend, maybe even my best friend... That friendship has meant a lot to me over the years, I just want you to know that."


Obi-Wan's words frightened the younger Jedi.  They sounded much too much like goodbye.


"Obi..." she choked.


"If you are going to tell the others about this, then give a message to Master Qui-Gon for me would you?" Obi-Wan asked.  "Tell him... tell him that he must not try to find me, but that whatever happens, whatever people say, whatever he hears, I have done nothing and *will* do nothing that would shame him, the Jedi, or my training.  Tell him that Bant!" he said earnestly.


"I will Obi, but-"


"Goodbye Bant."  The comlink went dead with a click as Obi-Wan signed off.


"Obi-Wan?  Obi-Wan!" a tear traced down Bant's cheek.  Wiping it away, she hurriedly started getting dressed.


"Bant?  Is something wrong Padawan?" Master Daria knocked on the apprentice's door, awaked by the strong emotions she felt coming from her Padawan.


"Yes, Master," Bant said, quickly opening the door.  "I fear so."



      PART TWO:



So tired that I couldn't even sleep

So many secrets I couldn't keep

Promised myself I wouldn't weep

One more promise I couldn't keep

It seems no one can help me now

I'm in too deep there's no way out




Obi-Wan leaned against the cold stone wall at his back and pushed down the throbbing headache that was working on him as he reviewed the information Bant sent.  Compressing it onto two tiny data chips, Obi-Wan hid one inside the thin, sleeveless shirt that he was almost wearing and slid another into a crack in the wall behind him.  Even if they got him, Yanni would know where to look.


The young Jedi closed his eyes for a moment.  He was so tired, yet he couldn't sleep.  How had this all gone so wrong? 


It had started out so innocently, with a simple mission to a troubled planet... but look where it had landed him now.  Obi-Wan had not slept in almost a week and could not remember the last time he had eaten anything. 


Sitting in an icy sewer with dozens of soldiers combing the streets for him, the seventeen-year-old was beginning to feel at the end of his rope. 


The Lao Tlur had seized power so much faster than anyone had thought possible... even the Jedi had been caught when the trap snapped closed.


Obi-Wan remembered Bant's words: *"Master Jinn's been worried to death..."* Oddly enough those words gave him more comfort than anything could have, because it meant that Qui-Gon was still alive to worry about him, and back on Coruscant no less. 


The apprentice was glad that somehow, his Master had managed to escape the death trap that Li Sao had become.  For the past three weeks, Obi-Wan had thought him dead; killed in the blast that wiped out the other Republic representatives and had very nearly claimed Obi-Wan's life as well.  


Yanni and the other underground workers were the only reason that the young Jedi had survived, and not fallen into the hands of the ruthless Lao.  They had been very kind to him; hiding and protecting the young Jedi like one of their own.  Rations were extremely short, but even if all they had to share was stale water and tubers, they gave it willingly.


After destroying the Republic embassy, murdering the ambassadors and declaring themselves a sovereign presence, the Lao Tlur shut down all interstellar travel, forbidding off-planet flight and trapping the injured padawan on a planet where he had just become a number one enemy of the new government. 


Naturally, Obi-Wan fell in with the resistance movement.  Yanni and her friends nursed him back to health, and after everything they had done for him, he promised to help them as much as he could.


The whole thing reminded Obi-Wan a lot of the time he spent on Melida/Daan, only much more desperate, and this time he hadn't had a choice. 


The Lao Tlur were ruthless and their mission to search out, crush and destroy all opposition was terrifying in both its effectiveness and speed. 


It was becoming terribly clear that there would be no happy ending here.  Last week, the Lao forces discovered resistance headquarters.  They bombed and razed not only them, but the three surrounding cities as well.  Waves of filter-masked soldiers marched in under a heavy cloud of dioxius and shot every living thing in those cities that were not already dead.


Only twelve resistance fighters escaped the carnage, but no one wanted to associate themselves with the rebels now, because the Lao Tlur had shown very clearly their power and speed to destroy. 


The resistance movement crumbled and the handful of remaining freedom fighters became hunted criminals.  Despite all this, they never gave up, yet hope was growing dim as the Lao caught up with and killed them one by one.


Out of the twelve, only Obi-Wan and Yanni were left. 


More than anything else, Obi-Wan wished that Qui-Gon where there, yet he dare not tell anyone back at the Temple what was going on, or Qui-Gon would try to come for him, and the Master would be walking into a trap that Obi-Wan doubted even a Jedi could survive. 


The Republic could not interfere with Li Sao, because the attack on the embassy and murder of the diplomats had been blamed on the resistance movement, which, the Lao Tlur pointed out, they had taken care of.  The Lao also said that they had been elected into power and the people agreed, but then, most would with a blaster pointed at their heads.


Not too many people really believed these lies, but the Republic's hands were at least temporarily tied, and while the Senate debated the issue, the Lao Tlur cemented their ruthless hold on Li Sao.


The Jedi could not become involved without the approval of the Senate, yet Obi-Wan knew that wouldn't stop Qui-Gon.  He only hoped that his message might.  The Padawan was already resigned that he would most likely die here, but he did not want Qui-Gon to as well.


The list of bogus crimes and atrocities that he and Yanni were charged with seemed to grow daily.  If they both died, there would be no one to speak, to defend the innocence of their memories.  Obi-Wan didn't really care about the Lao Tlur's twisted lies, just so long as Qui-Gon knew that even in death, his Padawan had done nothing to shame his training and his order, no matter what they accused and convicted him of.


Obi-Wan's senses told him that the soldiers had left the area immediately outside the sewer grate.  Sliding up and through, the Jedi slid out onto the side street.  He had to get out of this area quickly.  There was a ban on off planet communications and no doubt the Lao had already picked up and traced his call to the Temple.  They would be all over this area in a matter of minutes.


The tramp of boots running in rank down the cross street ahead of him confirmed Obi-Wan's fear.  Doubling back quickly, the teenager tried the other direction, only to find soldiers rounding the corner, even as he turned.  They were inhumanly fast.  Even with their signal tracing abilities, it should have taken them a little longer to find him.  Somehow, Obi-Wan realized he had miscalculated and it was probably going to be fatal. 


Blocking either end of the alley, the soldiers opened up a deadly crossfire that even as the Jedi fended off with his lightsaber, he knew he could not survive for long. 


Shoving the cover back off with the Force, Obi-Wan dropped back into the sewer once more.  Hitting the ground running, Obi-Wan sloshed quickly through the gunk in the pipes as he heard the soldiers dropping down behind him, his bare feet and calves chilled by the icy liquid.


He knew the sewers better than the Lao did, and should have had the advantage, but once again the deadly force proved that it had more surprises up it's sleeve than a holo-magician. 


Suddenly Obi-Wan was confronted with several dozen soldiers before him, blocking his path.  The young Jedi had to slam on the brakes to keep from running into them.


The pursuing Lao caught up with him from behind and the seventeen-year-old was caught in the narrow tunnel between them.


*"How?!"* Obi-Wan wondered for the hundredth time.  *"How did they know where I was going and get there first?"*  It was that ability, and their uncanny knack for finding anyone and anything they were looking for that had made the Lao so unstoppable.  Obi-Wan had finally begun to piece together the answer to that question.  He may have it in his pocket even now, but that didn't do him much good at this point.


"Drop the saber boy," one of the lead soldiers commanded.  "You're ours now."






"He must still be on Li Sao," Qui-Gon said without a doubt. 


"There is no way that he could have gotten out," Mace Windu concurred, making this one of the rare cases where the two Masters actually agreed on something.  "The ship that brought you out was the last one to escape before the Lao Tlur cut Li Sao off from the rest of the galaxy."


Qui-Gon felt a stab of guilt.  True, he had been unconscious at the time and in serious condition, but he still could not get over having left his Padawan behind.  He had never believed that Obi-Wan was dead, but finding out that he was indeed alive was a bit of a shock.


Adi Gallia laid a gentle hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder as if feeling his thoughts.  "It wasn't your fault Qui-Gon," she whispered quietly, for his ears only.


Qui-Gon clipped a nod that said he knew, but it didn't help.


"But why ask for records...? Bant, are you sure he didn't tell you anything else?" Siri, Adi's Padawan pressed the Calamarian girl.


Bant shook her head sadly.  "I told you everything he said.  He wouldn't tell me anything; I got the feeling he didn't have time.  I'm sorry."


"Don't be," Qui-Gon assured.  "You did well in coming to us Bant."


Master Yoda humphed softly and all eyes turned to him.  "Valar's file he wanted?  Perhaps a key to this it holds.  Remember Valar I do," the little green being shook his head gravely.  "One of the few who turned to the dark side, after a Master they were.  Iotarian was he and strong with his mind.  Foresee the future was his gift, always it seems he could tell where and when, happen things would.  Partially natural to his species these traits are, aided by the Force, he was very powerful.  Perhaps too powerful.  The greater the skill, the greater the danger..." Yoda sighed.

"Unknown what became of him, it was..."


"Until now," Qui-Gon finished for him, the pieces snapping into place.  Of course, that explained the way the Lao had been able to predict everyone, even the Jedi, so well and act so accurately...


Yoda nodded. 


"Master, with permission?" Qui-Gon inquired urgently.


Yoda nodded again.  "Interfere with planet we cannot, but if Marc Valar is behind all this, then a Jedi matter it has become, not dictated by the Senate.  He is our responsibility, as is young Kenobi.  Assign several to this mission, we shall."




      PART FOUR:



So many secrets I couldn't keep

Promised myself I wouldn't weep

One more promise I couldn't keep...




Obi-Wan hung, half conscious, from the prison wall.  Since they had found the data chip in his pocket, they had beaten him unmercifully.  The pain all blended into one now as the questions turned into a blur...


A tall man with dark brown hair and jet black eyes strode into the room. 


"Jedi," Marc Valar breathed with a sneer.  Clamping one hand on Obi-Wan's forehead, he grinned evilly.


For a moment, Obi-Wan felt disorientated and ill as the world blurred around him.  Then the room came back into focus only Marc was no longer there.


The door scraped open and Yanni was dragged into the cell; Obi-Wan's heart wrenched.  This was it then.  The Lao Tlur had won. 


They were asking him questions again, but Obi-Wan wouldn't answer, they could kill him, he wouldn't answer...


Then they started on Yanni...


Obi-Wan's breath caught painfully as they wrenched scream after scream from his friend.  His head whirled dizzily.  The resistance was dead, what did it really matter anymore anyway?  There was no one left to betray.


"Stop!  Stop it!" Obi-Wan said, his voice thick with pain.  "Leave her alone, I'll tell you what you want to know..."


When they had all they wanted to know out of him, the Lao smiled wickedly.  "Thanks kid, you've been a real help to us," they said.  Turning, one put a shot right through Yanni's chest.


"Noo!" Obi-Wan screamed in horror, he couldn't believe this!  "I told you what you wanted," he cried.


"Yeah, which makes you useful, but not her," the men laughed and left him, dragging Yanni's body out with them.


"Yanni," Obi-Wan whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks. 


The Dark Jedi grinned as tears slid from beneath the young Padawan's closed eyelids.  Using the natural ability of his species, coupled with his Force power and Jedi training, Valar forced the horrible images upon Obi-Wan's mind, knowing it was just as real to the boy as if it were truly happening.  He had long ago found this one of the best methods of questioning.  It was harder to do with a fellow Jedi, but Obi-Wan was yet a Padawan and in his weakened state, easier to overcome than he would have been otherwise.


The boy had already told Marc what he wanted, now, the twisted Jedi would have a little fun... *"How would you like if your Master came here for a little visit hm?  Maybe you'd like to see him die too..."*


Obi-Wan reacted violently to the images, the scenes that Valar forced upon him, struggling and pulling against his bonds, but it didn't help.  In Valar's twisted world of shadows, nothing could help.


Then, the Padawan stopped struggling and went limp against the wall as if accepting defeat.  It was too much.  Something gave in Obi-Wan's mind and the sobs came uncontrollably.  After a while, they subsided and were replaced by a dead emptiness that crept over Obi-Wan's soul.


Marc Valar smiled cruelly.



      PART FIVE:




Runaway train never going back

Wrong way on a one-way track

Seems like I should be getting somewhere

Somehow I'm neither here or there




Qui-Gon fought his way through the rubble that the Lao Tlur's headquarter building had been reduced too. 


It was almost all over now.  Marc Valar had refused arrest, fought, and the Jedi had been forced to kill him.  When they saw what was going on, the people of Li Sao rose up in mass against the bloody regime.  Without Valar, the soldiers were nowhere near as effective as before and the people of Li Sao had won their freedom back.  Only Higler, Valar's second-in-command had escaped, but everyone was confident that he too would soon be brought to justice.


Now there was only Obi-Wan left to find...


When Qui-Gon finally located his Padawan, Obi-Wan was unresponsive.  The boy was awake and alive, but he simply stared into space and did not seem aware of anything going on around him.  Pulling the apprentice out of the chains that held him; Qui-Gon lifted the boy into his arms. 


Obi-Wan had lost a lot of weight and felt like nothing in the big Jedi's arms.


"Obi-Wan, come back to me," Qui-Gon pleaded, but the Padawan seemed to have closed himself off into a small corner of his own mind and nothing could reach him.


"Valar is dead Padawan," the Master assured as Obi-Wan was settled onto a ship bound for Coruscant.  "The people have ousted the Lao Tlur, the Republic has stepped in to aid the new government with in rebuilding the devastated planet and Li Sao is free again," he whispered, but none of it seemed to be getting through. 


"Oh Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon ran his hand over the boy's forehead.  "What have they done to you?"



      PART SIX:




Can you help me remember how to smile?

Make it somehow all seem worthwhile

How on earth did I get so jaded?

Life's mysteries seem so faded


I can go where no one else can go

I know what no one else knows

Here I am just drowning in the rain

With a ticket for a runaway train


And everything seems cut and dry

Day and night earth and sky

Somehow I just don't believe it





"I'm afraid it doesn't look good Master Jinn," the Healer told him gravely.  "Whatever your Padawan went through, it caused him to withdraw into himself so far that no one can reach him."


Qui-Gon knew.  Not even he could seem to touch the boy.  "But he can come out of it, you said he could come out of it," the Jedi refused to give up hope.


"Yes, but that was two weeks ago.  If he was going to start improving, it should have begun already... Master Jinn, there's no easy way to say this, but if nothing continues to change, you may want to look into institutionalized care."  The Healer was compassionate, but blunt.


"I see, thank you," Qui-Gon said somewhat tightly.  He'd be damned before he let them put Obi-Wan in some stupid institution where he'd be cared for and tended like some kind of plant, or living vegetable!


No matter what the Healer said, Obi-Wan *was* making some progress.  The boy was no longer immobile.  He obeyed, he followed commands, he would sit when he was told to, eat when he was told to, sleep when he was told to... but, Qui-Gon knew, he was simply like a 'droid that would do whatever anyone commanded.  Only Obi-Wan had no built in safety programming.  If someone told him to walk off a cliff, he would.  Qui-Gon had to watch him constantly. 


Somewhere in there, the Jedi Master knew that his apprentice was trapped, or hiding... but no one could reach him.  Qui-Gon didn't know what was wrong, what had caused this, except that Valar must have done something terrible to him.


In a desperate attempt, Qui-Gon had even brought Yanni all the way from Li Sao to Coruscant, hoping that maybe she, having been close to Obi-Wan right before this happened, might be able to reach the young Jedi, but it had not seemed to do any good.


Qui-Gon touched Obi-Wan's face gently.  The boy never smiled anymore.  That was one thing he could not do, even on command.  How Qui-Gon missed his impish smile...


"Just one smile Padawan, just show me that you're in there, please..." Qui-Gon pleaded, but Obi-Wan just stared as if he were looking through the big Jedi.




*"Smile... please..."* a distant echo seemed to reverberate in a small corner of Obi-Wan's mind.  But he couldn't remember how.  Why would he want to?  Why would he want to do anything?  There was nothing but darkness around him; darkness with no way out. 


He lived in a secret place now, a place no one else knew, a place no one but he could go... but it was a lonely place.  Lonely and empty and dead.


Sometimes, it seemed that he would see flashes, images and pictures... sometimes he thought he saw his Master, once he even fancied he heard Yanni calling to him, begging him to answer her, but of course they were all only dreams...


Sometimes he almost tried to reach out, to hold onto the dream, but then burning pain would explode inside him as the memories came rushing back and he would quickly retreat into his empty, painless void once more.  If it gave no comfort, at least it gave no pain. 


He could find no reason for life, yet he kept on living, if this was living.  To him it seemed his life was over, everything was said and done, everything was cut and dried, all of it... yet somewhere, a far corner of his heart didn't quite believe it.






Qui-Gon didn't wish to leave Obi-Wan alone, so he took the boy with as he accompanied Yanni back to the spaceport.  "I'm sorry for dragging you all the way out here for this," he apologized.


"Don't be," the young woman shook her head, her short blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, her brown eyes sad.  "I just wish there was more I could do.  He was a good friend..." tears glistened in her eyes, so she turned away.


Obi-Wan walked silently beside his Master, but you could tell just by looking at his face that there was no one inside the body.


"Excuse me a moment," Yanni said, ducking inside a public 'fresher.  She fancied herself a strong woman, and did not wish to let the Jedi see her cry.


The 'fresher was empty.  Splashing some cold water on her face, Yanni closed her eyes. 


She never saw the figure that moved out of one of the stalls behind her...


Suddenly something tightened around Yanni's neck and she tried to scream, but the choking cord cut off her voice as well as her air. 


Struggling, she tried to grip her attacker so she could flip him, but the fellow behind her knew better than to let her do that.  The world began to go yellow before Yanni's eyes.




Qui-Gon tensed.  Something felt... wrong.


"Yanni?" he called softly, knocking politely on the 'fresher door.


No answer.


The Jedi jiggled the door handle.  It was locked.  "Yanni?" he called again, louder, his concern cementing in his stomach.


This time he thought he heard a muffled thud from the other side of the door.


That was it.  He didn't care if it *was* a ladies 'fresher!  Force-turning the simple lock and pushing the door open Qui-Gon burst in just in time to yank Yanni's attacker off of her before she choked to death. 


Yanni slumped senseless to the ground and Qui-Gon went for his lightsaber. 


"Wouldn't do that if I were you," the man warned as a second fellow entered the 'fresher behind Qui-Gon, this one holding a blaster to Obi-Wan's head.


Qui-Gon recognized now that Yanni's assailant was none other than Higler, the former Lao Tlur's second-in-command himself.  The second fellow who was holding Obi-Wan must have been an aide compatriot of some kind.


"Put the glowy-thing down Jedi, or the boy and the girl die," Higler commanded.


Qui-Gon complied and Higler quickly re-locked the 'fresher door.


"What do you hope to accomplish Higler?" Qui-Gon asked calmly.  "I don't know how you got here, but you'll never get off Coruscant.  You're a wanted man, will killing us change that?"


Higler shook his head.  "Her I would kill for what she and her people did to us!" he nudged Yanni with his boot.  "But now... you dear Jedi are going to get us through the security check and onto a shuttle for the outer rim.  Either that, or both these young people meet their maker today."







Runaway train never going back

Wrong way on a one-way track

Seems like I should be getting somewhere

Somehow I'm neither here or there


Bought a ticket for a runaway train

Like a madman laughing at the rain

Little out of touch, little insane

It's just easier than dealing with the pain




Higler led Obi-Wan with an arm around the boy's waist as if they were friendly with one another, although in truth it was to hide the vibro-shiv that he held pressed against the teenager's side. 


Likewise, his companion pushed the still unconscious Yanni in a repulsor chair, with a concealed blaster trained on her.


Qui-Gon walked slightly in front of them so that they could keep an eye on the Jedi.


As they made their way to the terminals, Qui-Gon tried to figure out what to do.  Of course, besting the two men would be easy, but not while they held two hostages, neither of which could fight back or try to escape...


What Qui-Gon would have given if only Obi-Wan were himself right now...


*"Obi-Wan, please!  I need you!"* he called silently, even though he knew it was no good.




From across the gulf that separated his mind and body, Obi-Wan felt the gentle, familiar tug that had been trying to pull him out for what seemed an eternity.  He resisted as he always did.  It seemed like such a welcome, loving call, yet all it wanted to do was pull him back out into all that pain that waited for him on the other side of the void.  He would not go there.  It was easier to stay here where he was then deal with the horrendous pain that waited for him like a beast laying in wait for it's prey.


But now the tug was different, now it seemed... urgent, desperate... someone *needed* him.


No, Obi-Wan curled up tighter.  He would never go back.  He was no use to anyone.  He had been unable to stop Yanni's death, unable to stop Qui-Gon's death... he was a failure and he couldn't help anybody.




Qui-Gon looked around.  What he needed was a distraction.  Just one moment would be enough...


With a burst of the Force, he sent the meal trays from a repulsor cart tumbling with a bang to the floor.


When the two men looked over, Qui-Gon sprang into action.  Kicking the man holding Yanni's chair in the knees, he sent the blaster flying, then whirled around to grab Higler's vibro-shiv hand. 


Just as he did, a third companion that Qui-Gon could have kicked himself for not noticing disengaged himself from the crowd on their right and fired a blaster straight at Qui-Gon's head. 



      PART NINE:




Runaway train never coming back

Runaway train tearing up the track

Runaway train burning in my faith

Runaway but it always seems the same...




Obi-Wan was dreaming again, but it was a bad dream this time.  He could see Yanni and Qui-Gon, they were in trouble, they were about to be killed...


He tried desperately to pull back.  He couldn't watch that again!  Oh Force why couldn't he just die?!  Why did he have to see this again?!


Yet the scene was still there, seeming to unfold in slow motion before his eyes.  His heart burned, but it was always the same, these dreams... he couldn't stop them...


A hot surge suddenly welled up inside of the apprentice.  He couldn't stand it!  He couldn't!  No matter if this was a dream, he didn't have to live it again!  Maybe he couldn't change what had happened, but at least in his dream he was free to act.  It would hurt, but could it hurt more than watching it happen again?


Plunging out of his dark void, Obi-Wan waded through the ocean of pain that assaulted him, struggling to take control of the nightmare unfolding before him.




Suddenly, Obi-Wan pulled out of Higler's startled grip and pushed Qui-Gon aside.  The blaster bolt passed harmlessly overhead. 


Qui-Gon, surprised, but focused, used the force to rip the blaster out of the third man's hand. 


Higler slashed at Obi-Wan with his shiv but the apprentice turned, caught his arm and twisted it behind his back. 


By now, security was on the scene and the three fugitives were quickly arrested and incarcerated. 


Yanni stirred and began to wake with a moan, rubbing her sore neck.


Qui-Gon turned to Obi-Wan who was breathing hard and looking around as if he were seeing the world for the very first time.


"Obi-Wan?" he said softly, reaching out his hand.


Obi-Wan took the hand and squeezed tightly, as if assuring himself that Qui-Gon really was there. 


The Jedi Master was rewarded with the biggest smile he had ever seen lighting up Obi-Wan's face.


"Master!" Obi-Wan said, unbelievable joy welling up in his heart as he realized that this was no dream he was in now.  Somehow, wonderfully, it was reality! 


Yanni, forgetting her sore throat in the joy of hearing Obi-Wan sound like himself, jumped out of the chair and hugged him. 


Obi-Wan hugged her back, then he hugged Qui-Gon who was a little surprised, but very pleased.


People were staring.  Let them stare.  Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Yanni were much too happy to care.


Suddenly they all started talking at once, stopped and smiled sheepishly.  When they finally got matters all sorted out as to what was, and wasn't reality, Yanni glanced down at her chrono.


"Oh dear, now I've done it!" she said.  "I've missed my shuttle!"


The Jedi smiled at one another. 


"Well then," Qui-Gon said.  "We'll just have to treat you to lunch while you wait for the next shuttle."


"Yes," Obi-Wan grinned.  "And it *won't* be stale water and tubers..."


They all laughed.







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