Frozen in Time
Archive: Cassia, Telly and Obi you know you can have it! Anyone else please ask.
Feedback: Always welcomed, Siobhancl2@aol.com
Timeframe: This story takes place when Obi-Wan is about 21 years old. Don’t all my stories take place around then, 20, 21 something like that.
Summary: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon assist in a prisoner transfer and get more than they bargained for.
Disclaimer: All of the characters and alien types belong to George Lucas. I am just borrowing them for a little while and I promise to return them unharmed. No money is being made, only lots of fun!
Notes: All conversations bracketed by // are the Jedi talking through their bond. Many thanks to Crissia for help with the sticky parts. Tracy this one is for you!! Thanks for the bunny. (Fro O is Fro no mo.)
Frozen in Time
Obi-Wan stood on the tarmac next to a small heavily armed shuttle using the bulk of the craft to cut the wind that ripped across the open hangar bay. The northern pole of Coruscant was in the middle of summer and here on Northern’s First Base the temperature had reached a high of minus fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. The Padawan rubbed his hands together and blew into them trying to keep his fingers from going numb as tendrils of icy wind wrapped around him, softly coating the black top with flakes of frozen ice. He watched intently as his Master approached the huddle of aircrafts crouched behind him, expectantly waiting word of when they would be on their way. A security detail trailed the older Jedi walking quickly to keep up with the teacher’s long strides. Obi-Wan could feel the seriousness of their mission flood through him from his Master. He hadn’t been told of the specific details other than the fact that Coruscant security had requested the Jedi’s help in escorting a prisoner over the pole.
The man was being relocated from the central district to a more discreet higher security facility due to riots that had broken out as the populace called for his execution. The prisoner, a man named Salan Macalsik, was the leader of an underground organization that had kidnapped children and sold them offplanet to slave traders over the course of ten years time. He was notorious, well known in the larger slave rings and until the past month it was thought that he had been untouchable. A deep cover sting operation involving Coruscant’s Special Investigation team and the cooperation of undercover teens had finally infiltrated the traders confidence and broken the child theft ring wide open. Salan’s men who had escaped arrest had begun sending death threats to the Chancellor who was officiating the trial. And there had been several attempts to break the slaver out of the detention area that he was being kept in. All the news channels had carried up to the minute reports of the story and the prisoner’s location was common knowledge. In an attempt to maintain the peace it had been decided to secretly relocate him. The quickest least traveled route to the security facility he was being transferred to was over Coruscants northern ice covered pole. It was hoped that Salans men would not attempt to follow them. Most craft were not fitted for the severe weather and although the hop across the pole would be quick, without the proper equipment it could be deadly.
So Salan would be moved in the middle of the night and Chancellor Vallorum had called in a favor with Qui-Gon requesting that the Jedi go along as escort detail for extra added protection. Qui-Gon had been at first reluctant to assist. His own distaste of traders paled in comparison to how his Padawan felt about them. It had only been a year ago that Obi-Wan had been captured by a slave trader and exported to an outer rim planet to be auctioned as a slave. He remembered vividly the nightmare they had gone through trying to find and free the young man. In the end Qui-Gon had resorted to attending the auction, bidding on his Padawan and buying the boy back. He was not sure how his apprentice would feel when he discovered the nature of the prisoner they were escorting. In the end he had waited to tell him hoping that he was not making the wrong decision when he agreed to help the Chancellor.
Obi-Wan pulled the hood of his furred parka closer around his face slitting his eyes against the biting flakes of snow.
//Is everything ready Padawan?//
//Yes Master. I have inspected the ships and they are prepped. Will we be leaving soon?//
//Soon Obi-Wan, soon.// Qui-Gon smiled his face only partly visible from beneath his own hooded cold weather coat. The simple piece of clothing was more a long jacket than a coat, the tails of the thinsulated heat trapping fabric hung below the tall Jedi’s knees belting at his waist and falling past his wrists partially covering his gloved fingers.
//Master, who is it we will be transporting?//
//Salan Macalsik// The simple statement caught Obi-Wan off guard and his surprise colored their bond momentarily. He swallowed hard as the information hit him tipping his reasoning off balance. Quickly he reigned in his feelings as anger, fear and revulsion swept past him.
Qui-Gon stepped up near the young man and spoke softly to him as he gestured the men to their respective vehicles, “I am sorry I didn’t tell you earlier Padawan. I was concerned that the knowledge of the prisoner’s identity might distract you. Don’t let your feeling overwhelm you Obi-Wan. Keep your thoughts here and now. In an hour this will be over and we will back at the Temple before evening meditation.”
“Good I think I am going to need it.” The Jedi Master laughed at the mumbled response and withdrew a set of leather gloves from his coat pocket. He grabbed one of Obi-Wan’s smaller hands and slapped the leather gently into the boys upturned palm.
“You left these on the transport.” He smiled into the grateful eyes that looked at him in surprise, “I thought they might come in handy.”
The young man slipped his hands into the insulated gloves and breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the warm soft fabric begin to trap heat inside the leather coverings. “Thank you. I was beginning to think I might come back without fingers.”
“This is no joke Obi-Wan. This is serious. We are not prepared to touch down on the ice fields nor are we equipped to survive on them for very long if the emergency arose.” The tall Jedi lifted his eyes to the horizon letting his gaze sweep the vast gray expanse of the ice sea that lay behind them. Returning his gaze to his apprentice he continued, “The Head of Security believes we will be safe and that we won’t be followed. He is certain that none of Salan’s men are aware of the move. The Chancellor however disagrees with him. He has intimated that there may even be a leak in the top levels of the Security forces. I tend believe the Chancellor. So the possibility that this may be anything less than a simple hop is very possible.”
Obi-Wan nodded, his smile and joking manner lost in his Masters warnings and in the serious protectiveness he felt radiating from the man before him.
“Keep your awareness up. You can’t land on the ice. The top of the fields are only a few feet thick. They wont hold the weight of the aircraft. Under the snow and frozen layers there are myriads of caverns and tunnels. We must get all the way across the pole before we can put down. We will be running on either side of the prisoners transport. The security forces have dispatched a team of light low altitude fighter craft to escort us.”
Qui-Gon hesitated and watched the Jedi before him. The apprentice’s eyes had a far off look and his concentration was elsewhere. “Obi-Wan?”
The voice of his Master brought the Jedi out of his thinking, “I am sorry Master, I really was listening.” He stopped speaking and tested the force again. “It was just something that you said and then there was a spark in the force like a warning but its gone now. I think I am just a little anxious be done with this. It is a bit more than I had originally thought it would be. And..well…in all honesty Master I wish you had told me it was Salan.”
The tall man nodded “I understand Padwan and I am..”, static from the earpiece that he wore interrupted him. He motioned with his hand for a moment as he pressed the piece more solidly against his ear. “Yes Officer Markel this is Jinn.” There was a pause, as he listened intently frowning at the information he was receiving. “Understood. The men and I are ready you may bring him out at any time.”
He returned his attention swiftly to the boy at his side, placing his hands on the young mans back Qui-Gon pushed Obi-Wan towards his shuttle. “We will talk about this more when we get back. I did not intend to upset you at all. But that was Markel, we are leaving now, the departure has been rescheduled and the prisoner is being moved to the transport immediately. Quickly in with you.” He gave the small Jedi a boost into the cockpit of the squat heavily armed vehicle, “We have had little time to prepare. I had hoped to take the men up at least once and do a fast fly over to acquaint everyone with our flight path. It seems however that our plans have been uncovered. Someone has told the media.” He looked up at the face staring down at him from the cockpit and palmed the canopy control closing the transparisteel visor over the Jedi and the occupant compartment.
//It does in fact seem that we have a leak Padawan. Watch yourself//
Obi-Wan smiled down at him and nodded, watching as the older Jedi walked round the back of his craft and climbed into a similar ship all the while calling orders to the others to prepare to leave immediately.
Men scrambled about the tarmac loading into the waiting fighters as a heavy compact vehicle headed towards them from the holding facility. The armored car backed against the rear of the transport docking with the ship. The prisoner and his guards were transferred without being seen by those waiting on the open landing. Several media shuttles streaked by overhead their high-tech surveillance equipment picking up every move that was made on the planets surface.
//Prepare for take off Padawan. You will cover the starboard and I will take the port side.//
Obi-Wan felt the heavy thrumming through his entire body as his assault shuttle trembled slightly and lifted from the ice swept platform following the armored transport into the clear sky.
Fighter ships shot ahead of the caravan chasing the media away from the immediate flight path, clearing the area for the prisoner’s craft to liftoff. Obi-Wan took up his position on the right side of the transport shuttle behind its ventral wing and below the belly of the bulk ship, keeping his Masters vessel in sight at all times.
The winds were hard and moving fast; battering the small ships and setting up a crosswind that caused Obi-Wan’s shuttle to buck and roll with the random flux of the invisible force. The Jedi battled the controls, shifting his attention between the forward veiwport and his position within the armored escort. The icy plains of Coruscant’s northern pole streaked below them, a desolate wind swept shelf of ice and snow. Deep blues and indigos cut the white of new fallen snow indicating the rifts and caves just below the surface of the frozen wasteland spreading like veins beneath its translucent skin. ‘Its like flying over the seas of Calamari’, Obi-Wan thought absently, ‘only the water here doesn’t move.’
//It is beautiful Padawan. But keep your attention here. There is a warning in the force, I just cant..//
Qui-Gon’s words were cut off as the blue charged blast of an ion cannon shook the armored transport and threw the bulk of the craft into Obi-Wan’s path. A dozen small armed craft sped towards them rising out of the curve of the horizon, sheltered from immediate view by the glare of the rising sun. The attacking vessels blasted a path into the armored caravan, throwing the fighters into chaos.
The apprentice juked his shuttled hard right and shifted his trajectory underneath the transports belly. The armored craft shrieked in protest as he cut close beneath the prisoner ship barely escaping colliding with the large ship as the transport lost altitude.
Blaster fire raked the fighter craft around him and a secondary ion blast shook the transport. Blue fingers of electricity raced around the outer hull, chasing the lines of the ship and engulfing the veiwport. Smoke burst from the aft engine and the craft listed heavily as the starboard propulsion blew out.
Obi-Wan joined the firefight weaving a path in between the transports fighter squadron and the rag tag grouping of heavily armed smaller craft that had attacked them from out of nowhere.
//Where did they come from?! Who are they?// Obi-Wan shouted his questions through their bond, keeping his remarks off the intercom that was alive with chatter and cries for help as the squadron regrouped.
//They were waiting for us. Hiding just over the horizon, the curve of Coruscant hid them perfectly. We weren’t prepared. Vallorum was correct there is a leak, I am sure they are Salan’s men. This is what we were hoping to avoid.// Qui-Gon’s ship juked hard left, twisting down and pulling up underneath a ship that had targeted him. The Jedi Master brought his weapons on line and the small attacking craft disappeared in a ball of fire. . A second craft strafed Qui-Gon’s ship from behind as it sped onto the scene, its shots shaking the Jedi’s craft, but impacted harmlessly into the small fighter’s raised shielding. Qui-Gon pushed his ship into an abrupt climb that quickly turned into an inverted flip as he swung around. When his ship righted once more, he was not directly on the tail of the ship that had just attacked him.
Obi-Wan shifted his fighter out of the path of debris, dropping the shuttle into an inverted roll as blaster fire strafed the side of his ship. He twisted the vessel on its wing and charged full speed at his attacker destroying the small cobbled together craft with a quick burst of his blasters. The ball of fire expanded around him as he flew through the empty space that had once been occupied by the other ship.
Looping his fighter back on its trajectory Obi-Wan sped towards the transport that was slowly loosing altitude. A direct hit from an ion cannon caused the huge ship to shudder and drop another hundred meters. It wouldn’t withstand much more. Qui-Gon’s fighter descended with the craft keeping up a steady barrage of protective fire as he tried to clear a path for the shuttle to escape. Critically overheated, one of the outer systems arrays on the armored transport’s hull exploded in a small, contained burst of fire and shrapnel, signaling the dangerous stress of the pounding that the craft was taking.
Qui-Gon, hugging the transport with his own ship at the time of the small explosion jerked his controls to the side just in time to keep his fighter from being caught in the worst of the blast. However, he was unable to escape entirely. The impact made his ship shudder and spin violently sideways as the flying shrapnel and intense plasma waves slammed into the rear right side of his ship. The Jedi Master’s already slightly weakened aft shields buckled ominously as the cockpit systems screamed warnings at him.
Struggling to regain control of the floundering ship, half of Qui-Gon’s thoughts went towards assessing how bad the damage to the transport was and the other half towards the amount of mischief the blast had worked upon his own craft. The transport was still integrally sound, although it wouldn’t take too much more of this pounding. Vaguely Qui-Gon wondered how their attackers would feel if they accidentally blew up the man they were trying to rescue. Qui-Gon’s own ship was not in a very good way. Shielding on fighter craft was never very strong and now his aft deflectors were completely gone. One more good hit back there and he might not survive to worry about whether or not the transport made it through.
//Master, are you all right?// Obi-Wan’s worried voice came to Qui-Gon through the Force.
//Yes Padawan, my aft shields are gone, but she’ll hold. I’m not sure how much longer the same will be true of the transport however,// he added with a touch of concern.
The transport had slowed considerably; the damage it had sustained was painfully obvious. Time was running out. They weren’t far from the edge of the ice plains if they could just get a few more kilometers behind them they could call for back up and theye would be within site of the ground base.
Pre-occupied with the onslaught of attackers in front of him, Qui-Gon missed the craft that was speeding towards his position closing on his flank. A fierce tug in the force warned Obi-Wan and he focused his attention on the approaching threat to his master. Without thinking he disengaged from his position on the opposite side of the transport. . He was too far away and at the wrong angle to shoot the ship down, or engage it before it could open fire upon Qui-Gon’s totally unprotected flank. Yet he knew that Qui-Gon’s fighter would never survive a direct hit to the engines with no shielding to soften the blow. In a swift, desperate maneuver, the apprentice rolled his craft underneath the armored bulk and brought his ship up between Qui-Gon and his attacker shielding his master with his own shuttle and leaving his own vulnerable belly exposed to the enemy as the smuggler opened fire.
Time slowed and seemed to suspend as Qui-Gon realized what was happening and turned shouting to his apprentice through their bond. The youth looked up through the transparent canopy of his shuttle his sea-green eyes locking onto Qui-Gon’s, his gaze steady.
//Obi-Wan!// The shout echoed oddly in the Padawans ears as his perspective on time warped. The ship beneath him shuddered and the panel in front of him exploded in a shower of sparks and metal. His last conscious thought screamed through their bond and his eyes closed on the image of his Master yelling his name.
“Obi-Wan! NO!” Qui-Gon watched in horror as the fighter craft his Padawan was flying seemed to fold in on itself and fall slowly out of the sky, the blasts of laser fire cutting through the armored plating. He turned his attention to the shuttle that had attacked his apprentice. Dark tendrils of anger and hate hazed his vision as his fingers touched the firing triggers. He fought his own battle of emotions as he pinned the smugglers craft in his crosshairs and blasted the shuttle out of the sky.
Qui-Gon tried to repeatedly to raise Obi-Wan on the comm, but there was no response as he circled lower over the smoking wreckage of his Padawans craft. The Jedi Master hailed the mission base at ground control and informed them that Obi-Wan’s shuttle had crashed on the ice shelf. To his relief, it seemed that the craft had crashed on a stable edge of the plain and had missed falling into one of the many caverns that pocked the surface of the ground. His voice sounded clinical and terse as he reported the downed fighter.
“Mark the position with a beacon Airdefense One. We’ll have to send a rescue team in after it.” The static interrupted response filled the cockpit. “You are almost to the 100 meter marker. Will the transport make it? We are sending reinforcements to your position now.”
Qui-Gon had become separated from the main group as he had maintained a holding pattern over Obi-Wan’s position. The reason for this mission rushed back in and he quickly deployed a rescue beacon firing the tracking device into the snow beside the downed ship. In desperation he tried to contact Obi-Wan once more. Now reluctantly shifting his attention back, he watched the firefight from a short distance away as the armored guard quickly began to gain territory on the smugglers raiding party. The advance was too late for the transport, its remaining engine too badly damage, exploded and the ship fell toward the planet surface.
“Airdefense One, what is the transports position?” The question from ground base was repeated and Qui-Gon realized absently that the office had been speaking to him all along. He watched as the last of the attacking shuttles shot away from the immediate area, chased over the edges of the ice plain by the remnants of the armored squadron. He knew they would be back; the downed transport contained something that they wanted. They wouldn’t give up so easily.
“Downed, Ground Base.” Qui-Gon reported the condition of the prisoner’s craft. “The transport just went down. I am heading there to mark it with a beacon. Get the rescue team ready we leave as soon as I touch down. Jinn out.” The Jedi cut the communication and circled the area above Obi-Wan’s crashed shuttle one more time.
//Padawan? Can you hear me Obi-Wan?// His heart dropped when there was no response and thoughts of loosing the boy constricted his heart. “Hang on young one, I’ll be back,” he whispered, his throat seemed to close off and he couldn’t swallow around the lump that had formed there. Closing his eyes, he forced his gaze away and turned his craft from the site of the twisted metal. Speeding towards the position of the transport he released a beacon that impacted near the craft with a cloud of powdery snow. He hoped the two ships were on stable plates of ice; the thought of the shuttles dropping through the upper crust of frozen snow drove shivers of fear through his mind.
As Qui-Gon followed the remains of the armored squadron away from the ice fields he couldn’t help feeling as though he were leaving his heart behind. If landing on the plains had been possible he would have done so even against orders. His mind kept up a steady stream of conversation to his silent apprentice trying to maintain both their hopes. They had to make it back in time he wouldn’t allow failure.
The airstrip that served the ground base on the opposite side of the pole was just in sight. He could see the rescue teams and the equipment being moved out onto the tarmac. Another shuttle touched down just outside the immediate landing zone, Qui-Gon recognized the craft as a Temple transport and wondered who they might have sent and why but was unable to tell from a distance just who was disembarking the vehicle. And then he was out of time to contemplate it as ground control directed him to land and his concentration was consumed with powering down the injured fighter and landing safely.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and saw nothing. Complete blackness surrounded him. He blinked several times trying to focus but there was nothing to focus on. His mind was sluggish and he frowned trying to remember where he was, why there was no light from the common room in their quarters. He was home, wasn’t he? Then why was he so cold? Had his Master left the windows open in the common again?
“Master?”, Surely Qui-Gon would still be awake.
//Master?// There was no response.
It was then that he realized he was sitting, rather leaning against the cold transparisteel veiwport of his fighter craft. The last moments of consciousness rushed through his mind and he jerked upright eliciting a sharp cry as he tried to move. Pain radiated through him causing him to catch his breath, holding it until the ache subsided. The console of his fighter had crushed in against his legs upon impact and held him pinned inside the compartment. Removing his gloves he felt about him, touching the freezing transparisteel canopy and letting his fingers slide over the destroyed components of the ships controls. Contacting anyone was out of the question; his fingers touched the frayed wires of the comm realizing it had been destroyed as well. With his seat shoved under the control panel he was unable to reach his emergency supplies and lights. Panic edged his thoughts and the severity of the situation broke over him, he had crashed on the surface of Coruscant’s northern pole. Qui-Gon’s warnings flooded his mind. “We aren’t prepared to touch down on the ice fields… You can’t land on the ice. The top of the fields are only a few feet thick.” He hoped desperately he was on top of the ice and hadn’t fallen through, they would never find him then.
A spike of panic stabbed into Qui-Gon’s unconscious mind waking the Jedi to the quiet questionings of his Padawan. He sat quickly up in the small tent, startling the man who shared the tight quarters with him.
They had left ground base as quickly as possible earlier that same day. Qui-Gon had let no one rest until the rescue team had been assembled, geared up and headed out across the white tundra. He hadn’t been able to contact Obi-Wan and the silence over their bond had unnerved him to the point of distraction. He was determined to find the boy before nightfall. The goal had been impossible but the Jedi had done everything within his limits to make it happen.
A rescue team of twelve men had been assembled. Six Jedi, including Healer Teran Collran whom Mace had convinced to accompany them and six of Coruscant’s best rescue workers had comprised the expedition. Qui-Gon had been surprised when he met the rescue workers leader. He had demanded to be taken immediately to the person in charge as soon as he landed his fighter and was shocked into silence when he entered the staging hanger and a silver haired female Togarian had rounded on him. She stood from her place where she was bent over a large table studying maps of the surface of the northern pole. Her silver coat of hair glistened in the hangars harsh lighting, rippling with the movement of her muscular body. The Togarians were a wolf like species, a fierce predatory race that had lived in peace with their neighboring systems – rarely were they seen off planet. It was unheard of for a Togarian female to leave the home world. Qui-Gon wondered what events in her life had brought her here to Coruscant.
“Leader I am.” The Togarian towered over the tall Jedi as she stood to full height and approached him. “Who are you?” Her fur bristled and her words were clipped and slurred ending in soft growls. Qui-Gon had stopped his forward movement and silenced his demands as the large pointed face came down eye level with him. He had heard of the Togarian race but had never been privileged to meet one in person. Togarian were mainly isolationists although males of the species would sometimes travel off planet in rare cases.
The cool yellow eyes looked him over and she repeated her question, “Who? My team this is. When ready, I will tell you.”
Mace had entered the hangar at that point and had come to his friends; stepping around the giant alien he had introduced her to the Jedi.
“Jelesh this Qui-Gon.” Turning to his friend he smiled cockily and continued the introductions, “Qui-Gon, meet Jelesh. She leads Coruscants Rescue Operations here at Second Mission Base and she has volunteered to help find your cub.”
Speechless Qui-Gon looked between the two.
Jelesh stepped back and bowed slightly, “Forgive Jelesh.” Her voice was softer and the edge was gone to the tone, “You are the one whose cub is lost. Anger is expected. We will leave at once.”
The expression on the Jedi’s face was priceless and Mace began to laugh. He slapped his friend on the back and explained, “Togarians don’t have words to explain the Master/Padawan relationship. So we used words that Jelesh would understand. Togarians have cubs and they are very protective of them. We simply explained to Jelesh that your cub is missing and probably hurt and she was more than willing to help with the expedition. Jelesh is the best tracker they have.”
“I believe she is.” Qui-Gon nodded politely back at Jelesh. “I thank you for your help.”
Turning to Mace, the Jedi frowned at the Council member. “And so why are you here? And how did you get here so fast?”
“What, you think I’d let you go traipsing around the northern pole without me?” He smiled at the Master sobering immediately when Qui-Gon continued to frown at him, “Okay, I heard someone leaked information about the mission. I knew there’d be trouble. It was all over the news before you even left Northern’s First Base. And well, honestly with you and Obi-Wan on duty I figured between the two of you, someone would be right in the middle of it.” He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “It was a given. So here I am to help. Terith came along being as his Padawan was just knighted and he was feeling a little useless. And I brought that shuttle repair kid, Callab. I thought he might be of help. Oh, and your friend also came too.” He ended the sentence with a grimace and turned towards the rear of the hangar where Healer Collran was calling orders to several of the rescue team members as they packed the medical supplies that would he anticipated needing.
The answer had brought a small smile to the Jedi’s lips and a bark of laughter. Mace had taken over from there and working with Jelesh the twelve of them had set out just before dusk to try to get as far out onto the ice plains as possible.
Now, here in the cold dark huddled in the tent he was sharing with Mace on the edge of the flats, he had finally heard from his Padawan.
Mace’s sleep bag had become unzipped in the night and he had unconsciously moved closer to Qui-Gon for the warmth. When the Jedi had suddenly sat up the council member had been dislodged from his place of heat and woken with a start.
“What? Huh? What is it?” Mace grabbed the edges of his bag and pressed back deeper into them shivering from the cold. “What are you doing? It’s freezing!”
“What? Did you hear something?” The dark Jedi looked quickly around them reaching blindly for his lightsaber.
“I said be quiet.” A bright shaft of light stabbed the council member directly in the face pinning him in place causing him to wince against the assault on his eyes as Qui-Gon continued to explain, “Its Obi-Wan. He’s conscious and talking to me. Give me a minute will you?”
“Fine turn off the light. Geesh, aren’t we grumpy when we get woken up. How is the kid?” Mace lifted a hand to shield his eyes.
“Mace.” Qui-Gon growled at the other as he switched the flashlight off and turned his full attention to the bond he shared with his apprentice. He could hear his friend mumble quietly as he turned over and snuggled back down into the warmth of the subweather sleeping bag.
//Padawan?!// Qui-Gon’s worry echoed through their bond.
//Master!// The relief in the young Jedi’s voice was not lost on the other.
//Are you alright?//
//I don’t know. I’m pinned in. I cant get out, and I cant move very much.//
//You need to stay where you are Obi-Wan. The temperatures have dropped too low, you wouldn’t be able to survive outside the shuttle.//
//Well its not much better in here.// Obi-Wan glanced out through the transparent shield trying to glimpse the moon but the canopy fogged over, the condensation of his breath quickly turning to ice.
//Can you reach your emergency pack? There is a portable heater in there Padawan.//
//I know but I cant get to it. I can’t move around enough. I’m stuck.//
Qui-Gon assessed the information he had been given. He touched the boys mind, trying to get a reading on the youths mental state. Obi-Wan felt the soft inquiry and allowed his Master in.
//Yes, I am afraid. Are you on your way here?//
//We are on the edge of the ice plateau right now. We couldn’t come any closer tonight. We brought sounding equipment to test the depths of the ground but there are too many caverns and tunnels through this area, it would be too easy to fall through in the dark.//
//I’m sorry Obi-Wan//
//No Master it’s okay. Really. I’ll be fine//
Silence fell between them; the open bond a quiet comfort in the darkness.
A question had been dogging Qui-Gon ever since the firefight. //Obi-Wan?//
//Yes Master// humor tinged the bond, //I’m still here//
Qui-Gon laughed softly inside the darkened tent. //Why did you put yourself in such danger Padawan? Why didn’t you just warn me?//
The question cut straight through the apprentice and he answered without thinking, //Master, he would have killed you.//
//He could have killed you Padawan. And now you are wounded.//
There was no reply to the statement so the elder Jedi reached out again, //Young one?//
A sigh echoed through their bond. //I know but it didn’t seem as important at the time. I know I was supposed to be guarding the transport. I know I got out of formation. I know I let my emotions, my fear, rule my decision but … it happened before I could even think. It was just an automatic response.//
Again the silence fell, until Obi-Wan continued, //And I would do it again.//
//I thought I had lost you.//
//I know, I am sorry I scared you.//
Mace yawned and turned over addressing Qui-Gon in the pre-dawn dark, “Are you two through? It’s going to be light soon and you need some rest. Besides I am freezing.”
“Zip your bag up and you’ll be fine.” Qui-Gon flicked the zipper pull as he turned his attention to the prone man.
“Oh.” Mace glanced down to where the metal had tinked against the zipper. “So that’s what the problem is. Well tell the kid goodnight and get some sleep. He’s going to need it too.”
Qui-Gon nodded to himself, Mace had a point. //Obi-Wan, you need to get some rest. We should reach you tomorrow. Can you hold out?//
//Yes Master I will try.//
//Must I quote you Yoda?// The teasing exasperation trickled through to the youth.
With a smile, Obi-Wan sighed leaning his head against the high backed flightchair and closed his eyes. //No Master please spare me! I will *do*, for there is no try.//
//Good night Padawan.//
The answering good night was hesitant, as if reluctant to break the connection, //Good night Master//
Qui-Gon felt the sadness and reached through to his apprentice, flooding the bond with warmth and a sense of nearness. //I’m here and I am not going to leave.//
//Thank you Qui-Gon// Obi-Wan fell silent holding onto the presence of his Master in the Force and closed his eyes. It was cold, too cold and he had begun to shiver uncontrollably. He pulled his parka tighter around himself and tried to get comfortable. But no matter what he did the chill seemed to cut straight through to him. He realized he couldn’t feel his legs and his fingers, even in their gloves, were going numb. The young Jedi tested the bond he shared with his master. The man had finally fallen back to sleep. Slowly, so as not to awaken the sleeping Jedi, Obi-Wan carefully shut down their bond on his side. His body was numb all over and he was unable to move about to keep the blood moving through his extremities. He knew morning wasn’t far away, the sky was just lightening on the horizon but he couldn’t stay awake any longer and he feared the sleep that called him was not simply from exhaustion. He didn’t want his Master to sense him leaving. With one last thought of the older Jedi he sought out the Force; it would be warm there, he would be safe there. He entered the light and comfort of the Force and curling in on himself he finally allowed himself to sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Qui-Gon jerked awake. He tensed, reaching through the bond that had been open last night searching for his apprentice. Silence met his queries. The connection was lost, no closed; every try to contact Obi-Wan was rebuffed.
The cry from the Jedi Master wakened Mace with a start. He sat up looking wildly about them. Seeing no apparent danger he turned to Qui-Gon and immediately silenced his question.
The Jedi turned huge fearful eyes on his friend. His voice was quiet and harsh with emotion, “I can’t feel him. He’s gone.”
“Yes Mace! I spoke with him last night.” The fear turned to anger and he lashed out at his friend. “You were right here.”
“I don’t remember any of that.” Mace searched his sleepy mind for the memories of the night before. “Did I say anything?”
Without waiting Qui-Gon was out of his sleeping bag pulling on his boots and had exited the tent beginning to break the shelter down even as Mace dragged himself out of it.
“Wait! Wait! Hold on!”
Qui-Gon shrugged him off and stormed towards the center of camp rummaging through their supplies. “Where is it?”
Mace ran after him hoping to be able to calm the Jedi down. “Where is what?”
“Where is it?” Qui-Gon rounded on the dark skinned man, demanding an answer, “Give me the sounding equipment I am heading out now.”
There was a desperation to the man that Mace had never seen in him before. He reached out to touch his friend only to have the Jedi Master back away from him.
“I cannot feel him. He must be.. Mace he can’t be. Why can’t I feel him?”
“Speaking of cub?” The sound of the softly slurred words caused Qui-Gon to jump and turn towards the speaker.
Jelesh stood behind the two men. She wore her loaded utility belt and held the sounding equipment in one large paw. “This what you looking for?” She held the box up as the Qui-Gon’s eyes lighted on the instrument.
“Jelesh, Obi-Wan…my cub no longer talks to me.” Qui-Gon tried to explain; he wasn’t sure how much the Togarian knew of his relationship with his Padawan.
She tilted her head slightly and looked past the distraught man to Mace, her eyes glittering in the early morning light. All around them the sounds of a waking camp intruded upon their conversation.
Mace nodded, knowing that she in fact had not understood what Qui-Gon was explaining. “Jelesh, Jedi can speak with their cubs mentally. Qui-Gon spoke with Obi-Wan last night but now the boy doesn’t speak back.”
The Togarian quickly looked at the Jedi Master, her eyes narrowing in thought. “Cub say he was hurt?”
Qui-Gon swallowed hard trying to conceal his emotions and think clearly. “He said he wasn’t sure. He was pinned in and couldn’t move. He said he was very cold.”
Jelesh hissed softly with the new turn of information. “Not good. If your cub was hurt he may not have survived.”
“Thank you Jelesh we know that.” Mace mumbled the words sarcastically under his breath.
The large wolf like creature leaned towards the Council member and hooked her claw in his parka drawing him close to her, “Go get everyone ready we leave now. Eat on the path.”
Mace nodded quickly, carefully disengaging the gleaming black claw from his coat and moving hastily off.
“Mace easy to scare.” Jelesh turned back to Qui-Gon her lips pulled back over her teeth exposing deadly sharp fangs. In a flash the Jedi realized the grimace was actually the Togarians way of smiling and he returned the gesture. She reached towards Qui-Gon and placed her large paw on his back steering him back towards his tent and began talking quietly to him, “Jelesh will help you pack. You can tell stories about Mace, make the time go faster till we leave.”
Nodding his thanks, Qui-Gon allowed himself to be led back towards their sleeping quarters and began to answer the questions that the Togarian politely asked.
It was a half hour later that they had left camp. Jelesh estimated that they had an eight mile walk ahead of them before they would reach Obi-Wan’s shuttle. The transport lay another half mile south west of the fighter. They should reach the shuttle by early afternoon.
The Togarian had taken point, using the sounding equipment to judge the depth and stability of the shallow crust that they crossed. In places she had brought the entire expedition to a halt and rerouted their path charting a safe route around deep underground caverns or chasms that the snow had deceptively covered. The detours took time and with each one Qui-Gon’s patience had grown thin.
At midday Jelesh had forced them to stop for food and water. No amount of coaxing could convince the Jedi to eat. Instead Qui-Gon had walked to the edge of the area Jelesh had indicated was safe and paced, repeatedly trying to contact Obi-Wan. Still there was no answer.
When the break was through Jelesh once again picked up point and began to slowly lead them across what appeared to be a flat expanse of tundra. The small plain was covered sparsely with hardy grass and snow. She halted the group after a few short paces and forcefully explained that they needed to keep in her footprints and not stray from them. She handed Mace a rope and instructed him to tie himself off to her, showing each one of them how to connect themselves to the safety line until they were all secured to the rope. The plain was in actuality a thin false covering of snow and hardy growth that concealed deep chasms and twisting tunnels on either side of a stable ground bridge. They would need to be careful; they would have to go slowly.
An hour later they had almost covered the expanse when one of the team members called out stopping the line of men in their tracks. “Over there! I see something over there!”
Qui-Gon stopped and turned to look in the direction the man was pointing just in time to see the rescue worker take a step to his left.
Jelesh let out a cry of warning as the ground beneath him gave way, splitting open and swallowing him whole. The Togarian threw herself to the ground and dug her claws into the shallow layer of dirt trying to embed her nails into the ice as the earth beneath the men behind her broke and pulled the line of rescuers into its depth.
Qui-Gon found himself pulled off his feet flat on his stomach as the rope around him went taught. Mace grabbed onto Jelesh and dug a vibroaxe out of her pack slamming the bladed head into the ground in an attempt to stop them from being pulled back towards the open hole.
Healer Collran, immediately behind Qui-Gon, turned over onto his back and braced his feet against an old weathered stump stopping their movement with a jarring jerk that caused them all to collapse against the dead tree piling up behind the healer, inches from the chasm opening.
“Help me,” Collran gritted out through his teeth as he tried to pull on the rope and haul the fallen men back to the surface.
“Wait.” Jelesh leaned forward and grabbed the rope with one paw. She had braced her feet on either side of Mace who was leaning with all his might against her desperately holding onto the rope that connected them to the others below. They could hear the men calling for help but the Togarian had cautioned them for a good reason. She pointed to Collran. “You, look over edge and see where men are. See if edge is jagged. Rope will break if it is.” The healer locked eyes with Qui-Gon who scooted up to sit next to him, bracing his own feet against a large rock a few meters from the tree trunk.
“I’ll hold onto you.” Qui-Gon assured the man, “Lie flat on your stomach and stretch out over the ground, it’ll help disperse your weight.” Collran’s eyes shown his hesitancy. “Don’t worry, we wont let you fall.”
With a nod the Healer stretched out and inched forward. He felt Qui-Gon grasp his ankle, the grip of the Jedi was joined by a large paw that encompassed his calf and held on tightly.
“What see you Healer?” Jelesh called to the man.
Collran swallowed hard as he looked down into the dark depths, closing his eyes quickly to fight the feelings of vertigo that overwhelmed him. Directly below the surface dangled the eight men watching him hopefully. “They are all here. It looks like they are all okay.” Calls to the affirmative met his ears and he assured them they would all be safe in a moment as he carefully backed away from the lip of the still crumbling hole.
“The edge seems smooth. But it’s constantly breaking away, I don’t know how long it will hold up.” He worked to catch his breath as moved back to sit next to Qui-Gon.
“Slowly then, or we will loose them. Understand?” Jelesh eyed the men sitting next to her. “Everyone pull at the same time.”
They grabbed the rope and on Jelesh’s command heaved back inching the eight men closer to the surface. The motion was repeated again and again.
After an eternity of straining with the rope, Callab’s head appeared over the lip of the opening. He lurched forward onto the ground and was quickly pulled up by the others. Jelesh positioned him near her and he joined them as they continued pulling the men to the surface.
Five of the rescue team had been accounted for and hauled to safety when the ground rumbled beneath them and the lip of the chasm caved in further. The rope swayed moving back and forth against the rough jagged edges that had been exposed by the new break. A tear formed in the fabric of the line and the twine began to unravel and fray, stretching the safety line to its limits.
“Jelesh! The rope!” Qui-Gon yelled the warning leaning out to grab onto the cord below the new formed cut. Jelesh followed suit and reached for the line as the last stretch of it broke and the three men still fastened to it fell into the depth of the cave below.
The rescue party sat in stunned silence as Qui-Gon retrieved the frayed end of the rope and examined it as though testing the reality of what they had just seen. Mace lunged forward trying to gain the edge of the hole but was restrained by Collran and Qui-Gon.
“No. Don’t Mace.” Qui-Gon pulled his friend back against him, “They are gone.”
A low soft moan sounded behind them and they turned in surprise to watch as Jelesh raised her muzzle to the sky and loosed a low sounded note towards the heavens. The mournful howl echoed across the wasteland reverberating off the ice and carried away on the slight winds that stirred the surface snow. Qui-Gon looked down to the rope in his hands and closed his eyes against the memory – three people. Three men who had come to help him rescue Obi-Wan and now they were gone.
“It’s worse.” The healers voice was soft as he looked slowly around at the men seated near him. “Rasck and Strayth had the provisions. All the provisions and the medical equipment. All we have left is what is in my pack and in Jelesh’s.”
Jelesh pierced him with a hard gaze. “Only enough for one more night, I carry.”
He nodded in understanding. Qui-Gon gripped the man’s sleeve directing the Healer’s attention back towards himself. “What of the medical supplies Teran? Do you have enough to take care of Obi-Wan?”
The healer slipped his pack off over his head and rummaged through the contents naming them off as he verified their presence. “Yes, I have enough. But it won’t last long Jinn and it wont be enough if he’s in bad shape. Jelesh is right we can’t stay out here long.”
“Terith and I have the tents.” Calab spoke up. “And Jehn is carrying some of the food. We’ll be all right. Should we keep going?”
“Are we just going to leave them there?” Collran looked back to the gaping hole in the ground, tears forming in his eyes.
“There isn’t anything we can do.” Mace spoke up finally glancing back towards Jelesh for confirmation. She turned her eyes to the ground and shook her head. Standing slowly up she pointing the sounding equipment back towards the ground in front of them.
“We continue this way,” she growled softly and began to move off causing the others to quickly scramble after her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They reached the area of Obi-Wan’s downed shuttle a half hour later. The group had been somber and quiet the entire last leg of the journey, each one lost in his own thoughts and memories of the men who were no longer with them.
Jelesh brought the team to a halt and turned to Qui-Gon. “You said cub’s craft was here.”
Qui-Gon frowned and turned slowly around trying to place the area from the ground that he had seen from the sky. “Mace do we still have the beacons tracking device?”
Mace rummaged through his pack and pulled out the small unit, flicking it on. Its green homing light flashed wildly and the beeping of the monitor was now a steady drone.
“It was right here. Right?” Qui-Gon looked to Mace.
“It’s still here.” The council member swallowed hard as he realized what had happened.
“It’s below us.”
Qui-Gon ran to the man’s side and grabbed the tracker from his hands scanning the device quickly.
“The shuttle has fallen through the upper crust. He’s below us somewhere.” Mace answered the questioning glance of the Togarian guide.
“No.” Qui-Gon’s hands dropped to his sides as his mind raced through the possibilities. “But it might not be too far down right? Please Jelesh let’s see before we give up on him. I have to know for sure.”
The Togarian watched the Jedi, her eyes passing over the men that stood around her. Mace nodded slightly when she gazed at him and she nodded back. “We try.”
Using the sounder and the tracking equipment they were able to locate the pocket that Obi-Wan had fallen through. It seemed upon first inspection that he had crashed on a stable plate of ice but the impact had weakened the under structure of the frozen plate. When the sun had risen and the temperatures warmed slightly the damaged ice bridge had collapsed beneath the craft dragging it down a good hundred meters into the depths of the chasm.
Qui-Gon edged back from the lip of the opening and looked at the others hopefully. “I can see the fighter. I dropped a glow globe down there. The craft seems to be perched on a shelf. The nose is buried under a slide of snow but the cockpit is clear. We can get to him. Do we have enough rope?”
“Rope we have plenty of.” Callab answered, stepping forward and throwing a huge loop at the Jedi’s feet.
“Then I am going down.” Qui-Gon picked up an end and began to tie himself off, threading the line through his safety gear.
“Everyone else back.” Jelesh motioned them with her hands, passing off the sounder to Callab. “Find safe place stay there.”
Collran and Mace stood their ground as the rest of the team members moved away a safe distance and began to look for a place to set up camp in the event that the rescue operation took longer than planned.
Jelesh finished tying Qui-Gon off, double checking the knots. “Slowly.” She cautioned him, her eyes and tone serious as the Jedi moved to the lip of the fissure.
“Here take these too.” Mace shoved a half dozen glow globes into a sack and slung the pack over Qui-Gon’s head.
Nodding his thanks the Jedi Master stepped onto the lip and leaned back until he was in a sitting position over the opening. Without a word he dropped silently into the dark hole and descended towards the crumpled shuttle.
His feet brushed the vessel and he landed unsteadily on top of the craft. He broke a glow globe open and let the light flood over the ship.
The cockpit was frozen over, the latch sealed shut by the ice that entombed the small shuttle. As he was lowered into the cavern Qui-Gon quickly assessed the situation. The ship had crashed on an underground outcropping. The frozen shelf over looked a deep chasm to the left of the craft and the Jedi Master couldn’t see the bottom in the limited light. He could see the nose of the craft buried under a cascade of frozen boulders; the sides of the ship were wrinkled and pressed in. Spiderwebs of ice laced themselves in patterns on the transparisteel fore shield. His heart dropped as he realized that it would be nearly impossible for his padawan to have survived for so long in the sub zero temperatures. He tried to reach the boy again through their bond but the emptiness still clung to the open connection, no response; no sense of the apprentice in the force at all.
The ice in the dark hollow creaked eerily shifting under his weight, moving slightly as it resettled.
//Padawan I am here hang on.//
“How does it look?” Mace’s voice echoed oddly off the silver and blue walls. “Can you see him?”
“It looks bad” Qui-Gon called back up unhooking himself from the rope and balancing precariously on the roof of the iced over shuttle. “He’s been in this freezing temperature too long.” He took a deep breath to center himself. “Mace I don’t think he’s alive in there.”
“Hang on!” The rope snaked up out of sight. “I am coming down.”
Qui-Gon slid off the steel canopy and hurriedly removed his backpack. He rummaged through the survival gear and pulled out the low heat glow globes he had confiscated from the supplies back at the Temple pressing the lamps into the walls around the perimeter of the ship and casting soft blue shadows into the crevasses of the icy cave.
Mace landed with a muffled thud on the far side of the shuttle. A frown creased his brow and he was shaking his head slightly.
“Don’t say it.” Qui-Gon’s voice echoed off the walls. “Just help me get him out.” He locked eyes with his old friend, “There is a chance.”
“How long has it been since you last had contact with him?”
“I am not giving up. There is a chance. The cold would have lowered his temperature and slowed his internal system down, he could just be in a coma.”
Mace held the Jedi Masters gaze willing him to be realistic.
“Just help me. Please Mace.”
The dark-skinned Jedi pulled a laser torch from his utility belt and slid across the nose of the craft. He pushed the master out of the way and worked slowly on the frozen damaged lock.
“Keep trying to contact him. If he really is alive in there he’s going to need to know that you are coming and you haven’t given up.”
“I have never stopped.” Qui-Gon’s words were whispered, his breath a slight fog as he answered, his mind totally absorbed in reaching his Padawan. “It should have been me.”
“Let’s not go there again.” Mace cautioned him. He set the laser down and pressed his shoulder against the frozen glass pane pressing up with his strength, the shield relented and popped slightly, the internal atmosphere releasing into the cold cavern with a hiss.
Qui-Gon pressed close against his friend as the man pushed the canopy up, forcing its cold hinges to cooperate. Mace stepped aside and allowed the other access to the shuttles interior.
“Obi-Wan?” The young mans face was still. His eyes were closed and the delicate eyelashes were tinged with frost. His slightly parted lips were blue. If Qui-Gon hadn’t known better he would have thought the boy were merely sleeping, his head resting against the back of the pilots chair, his hands folded in his lap, but there was no rise of his chest to indicate life. “Obi-Wan!”
Qui-Gon’s hands were shaking as he quickly removed the oversized gloves he was wearing. He placed his large hands against the cold still face of his Padawan and called desperately through their bond, //Padawan please//
There was no response and no sense of the other through their bond.
“Mace,” The master turned desperately to his friend, “help me get him out. I don’t think he’s breathing.”
The dark Jedi ran back to the opening in the ceiling of the cavern and yelled up to the rescue team requesting blankets and help.
“What’s his status?” Collran called back.
“We don’t think he is breathing.” Mace yelled up grunting under the weight of the blankets as he caught them.
“I am coming down. I need to start his system reheating immediately.”
“Fine.” Mace stumbled back toward his friend as the Jedi called to him again.
He returned to the shuttle to find that Qui-Gon had freed Obi-Wan from his restraints and pulled him out of the cockpit. The Jedi Master was collapsed on the cavern floor holding his Padawan and trying to resuscitate the boy. Tears streamed down his face as he breathed into Obi-Wan filling the apprentice’s chest with air and calling to him to wake up.
Mace pushed his way in and wrapped the Jedi’s body in the thermal blankets activating the automatic sensors in them and initiating the warm up sequence. A soft thud attracted his attention and he saw Collran drop onto the icy platform and run towards the huddled group, a large backpack in his hands.
The Healer shoved the Jedi out of his way. He quickly stripped the apprentice of his cold weather coat, ripped his tunics open and began to compress the youths chest forcing his heart to beat. Every fourth compression he would breathe into Obi-Wans mouth trying to revive the youth. Mace moved in near to help but Collran motioned toward his backpack. The council member grabbed the pack and began to dump the equipment out of it. Qui-Gon sat quietly nearby, watching the Healer intently, willing his apprentice to hang on.
“Those!” Collran pointed toward a pile of large soft gel pads as they fell from his backpack. The pads had tiny dials and readouts set into their fabric. “Those are what I need. They are heat regenerators. They run on a quantum cells. We need to raise his core temperature slowly. If he has a chance at surviving it will be necessary to warm his blood. We don’t have time to take him back to base camp we must do this here.” The small dark haired man looked to the Master. “There is a chance he wont make it. When the body freezes the water in the cells will crystallize...” he let his words die off as Qui-Gon’s eyes dropped to the still body.
“I understand.” The words were soft. “Please do what you must.” The Jedi master watched helplessly as the men worked on the still body of his Padawan. He realized they were doing everything they could to revive the boy but there was one thing no had thought of yet. Closing his eyes he sought the force and attempted to center himself. There was one place he knew he would find Obi-Wan if he could only calm himself enough to concentrate. With clarity the warmth and light of the force snapped around him and he entered the bright weave and dance of light that comprised the power of the force.
Collran talked quickly to Mace instructing him how to set the heating units. The healer watched distractedly as the Jedi began placing the fabric inside the apprentices open shirt against his chest and lower abdomen. He relentlessly sustained the steady rhythm of keeping Obi-Wan’s body functioning, his mind counting out heartbeats and breaths. In between he encouraged the man working with him, “Place them around his ribs, near his stomach and we will need to lift him up and place a few under his back once we get him stabilized.”
With a nod the dark-skinned Jedi obeyed, listening to the Healer talk softly to the unresponsive boy. He glanced at Qui-Gon but the master’s eyes were closed and a frown creased his brow as the man searched the bond he shared with the apprentice and roamed the force looking for any hint of his Padawan’s presence. “Please Obi-Wan.” The tortured pain filled words slipped across the others lips softly reverberating off the cavern walls. Both Healer and Jedi stopped to look at Qui-Gon as the soft utterance was spoken. The Master himself was unaware he had even said the words aloud.
Searching the force for the lifesource he knew so well had never been so difficult for Qui-Gon. He found his own signature in the force easily enough but Obi-Wans was nowhere to be seen. //I will not accept this.// He dove on, driven by a relentlessness he had never known, until something caught his eye. Something pale, barely pulsing with the energy that flowed around them; something familiar.
//OBI-WAN!// It was the Padawans signature in the force and yet he had never seen it so pale. The bright coils of light and life lay in folds on one another barely lit, hardly shimmering with the life of the force. It was true Obi-Wan was dying but he wasn’t dead yet. He knelt beside the ribbons of light and sunk his hands deep into their mass pouring every ounce of strength and energy he could gather from the sweep of the force around them.
Softly as if in a dream he heard a voice talking to him. //Master?// Qui-Gon’s head snapped up and he searched the light around him for the source of the sound.
//Padawan?// The roar of the silence around him flooded his senses.
//Obi-Wan please// Tears formed in his eyes as he wondered briefly if it had just been his imagination.
A hand touched his shoulder and he jumped turning around and coming face to face with his apprentice. A soft blue light barely tinged the edges Obi-Wan’s form and Qui-Gon’s heart skipped a beat as he pondered the meaning of the vision. “Master? What’s wrong? Why are you here?” He asked gently as he looked down at the man. Crouching beside his master he stared into the huge tear filled eyes, “And why are you crying? Shouldn’t we get ready for evening meditation? You did promise we could talk tonight do you remember?”
At the sound of his voice Qui-Gon leapt to his feet and pulled the young man hard against him. “Obi-Wan, my Padawan. I thought I lost you.”
Collran was tiring but his adrenalin was racing, moving frantically he talked quickly, “Mace I cant get him to respond, we are going to loose him. Help me out here, ignore Qui-Gon. I don’t know what he’s doing. I need to stabilize Obi-Wan, now! If we don’t get his heart beating soon it’ll be too late.”
“Damn it Jinn help us out!” Mace moved back next to the Healer and began to work quickly, following the orders that were barked out to him in rapid succession. He knew if they didn’t work fast they would probably loose both Jedi to the force here in the middle of nowhere.
“I don’t understand?” Obi-Wan asked in confusion. He wasn’t sure why he was here. He had no idea why his Master was so upset. “What did I do? What’s happened Master? I know I have been stuck here for a while now. I started out by meditating and then …” His voice dropped off as memories of life outside the warmth of the force flicked in his conscious like the tiny sparks of thought before recollection hits. “Master something is wrong!”
Qui-Gon stepped back from the apprentice, his arms still holding the youth unwilling to let him go. He tried to control his feeling but here in the force this close to his Padawan the bond was too strong and everything flooded into the young man.
“I died?” the question was incredulous.
The master swallowed hard his eyes drinking in the vision of his Padawan alive and well, “Not yet Padawan, but you may. I need you to come back with me. Its not your time yet.” He saw the confusion that still fogged the Obi-Wan’s eyes. “Do you remember where you were before you came here? Do you remember why you were meditating?”
Obi-Wan glanced down letting his thoughts search back through a memory that was foggy and slowed and…cold! It was cold, so cold. He shivered as he returned his gaze to the blue eyes that were watching him so intently. “Yes young one. You are still in that cavern. You came here to escape the cold didn’t you?”
“I need you to come back out now. Healer Collran, Mace and myself are all there, in that cavern. Without your help your body won’t recover. And I am not prepared to loose you yet.” He smiled softly into the huge eyes that stared at him.
“It was so cold and then all of a sudden it started to warm up and when I concentrated on the force I found myself here.”
“I know.” Qui-Gon took the apprentice’s hand in his own. “But I will be there when you return. I am there now. You must trust me Padawan.”
“Yes Master.” The apprentice breathed in deeply once more of the warm air that surrounded him and closed his eyes. His form shimmered and disappeared startling the Jedi. But a bright light on the edge of Qui-Gon’s vision caught his attention and he turned to see Obi-Wan’s signature in the force burning brightly; the colors vivid and alive. Without a second thought he disengaged himself from the force and opened his eyes.
He was in the cold underground cavern once more. Mace and Healer Collran were frantically working on Obi-Wans body trying desperately to resuscitate the cold Padawan. Qui-Gon leaned forward and reached out taking Obi-Wans hand in his own, ignoring the others in the small cave he scooted near the still body and spoke softly into the boys ear.
“Okay Obi-Wan I am here, where are you my Padawan?” He gently patted the hand he held in his own, the cold fingers barely contracted around his hand in a small squeeze just as the Jedi’s chest heaved in a ragged breath of air. “That’s it Obi-Wan. I know it hurts.” Qui-Gon pressed a hand against the boys brow as it furrowed in pain, his breaths coming in ragged coughs, “Stay with me.”
Healer Collran stared at the master speechless. Moments ago they were loosing hope of reviving the Jedi and now all his life signs were stabilizing. His core temperature was well below normal and his system was having a hard time coping with the chill. They would need to get warm fluids in him quickly and there was still the threat of frostbite or lingering damage to the soft tissue from the prolonged exposure to the chilling cold but whatever Qui-Gon was doing it was working; so he gave the man room to operate for a few moments.
Collran pushed the backpack at Qui-Gon, “Reach inside and find that head band in there. You will see a matching cloth collar bring them both out. I want you to place them around Obi-Wan’s forehead and his neck.” He pressed the Jedi gently out of the way and moved in close to the youth, listening to his heart and breathing, checking his vital signs with the limited equipment he had salvaged.
“Gently now!” He barked the command at Mace as the Council member lifted the boy off the ground a few centimeters just enough to press a few heating pads beneath his back.
“He’s so cold.” Mace muttered under his breath.
“Thank you for that observation Mace,” The healer sarcastically bit out at the other, “Now if you will move out of the way I need to calibrate the units to work together. In a few moments we should be able to get some fluids into his system.” He turned to watch as Qui-Gon having retrieved the fabric collar gently fastened it around the boy’s neck. The man’s hands were shaking and he couldn’t get his fingers to work right in the cold.
Collran grabbed the master’s gloves from the cavern floor where he had dropped them and handed them to the upset man. “Put these on and give me some room. I cant have two patients down here I don’t have enough heating pads for the both of you.” A small smile cut the bite in his words as he pushed Qui-Gon away from the still body.
The healer leaned in close to the boy’s head, activating the band around the Jedi’s temples. He slowly turned the temperature higher watching a tiny a readout across a band that covered the apprentices forehead. “Come on Obi-Wan.” His words were whispered and fierce. “Come on.” He held the youths face in his hands as he carefully readjusted the dials.
“Qui-Gon help Mace” the healer whispered to the other, “check the heat pads and increase them by a few degrees, I think he is warming up. We need to get him out of here fast. I can’t treat him like I need to down here, we have to get back to base camp. Close his tunics and fasten his jacket when you are through. Lets try to keep the heat on the inside and not let it out.”
The Jedi nodded and quickly moved to the task. Qui-Gon started to fasten Obi-Wan’s parka when a sound caught Maces attention. It was a muted sound at first but it held a foreboding as though it were something he should be aware of - a warning. He stilled his movements stopping Qui-Gon with a touch and catching the healer’s eyes with a look, cautioning the men with his features to silence.
Collran jumped to his feet as recognition hit him. The ice shelf was breaking away from the wall; the area they were in was collapsing. The sound that Mace couldn’t identify was a fracturing in the ice shelf they were standing on; they only had moments before it would collapse. “Quickly we have to go!” He shouted to the others bringing Qui-Gon’s full concentration on him.
The Master watched as the Healer shoved his medical supplies haphazardly into his backpack and slung the pack over his shoulder. Mace had tied himself off to the rope and climbed atop the shuttle throwing the end of the rope down to Qui-Gon, “Now Jinn! The cavern is collapsing!”
Qui-Gon scooped the still unconscious Padawan into his arms and shifted the boy onto his shoulder. He raced to the edge of the shuttle and reached the rope that Mace had thrown over the side tying it off around his waist and hooking it onto the safety clip on his utility belt. Collran was shouting to the people on the surface for another rope cautioning them to move away from the opening of the cavern. The length of rope fell in a coil near the Healer and he hastily attached it to his own safety rigging.
The crackling noises in the cavern had risen, crescendoing into a rending tearing sound as the ice shelf gave way wrenching free from the cave wall and plummeting into the darkness beneath them. The glow globes were ripped from their places on the wall tumbling into the darkness below following the twisted metal hulk that had once been a shuttle as it raced toward the bottom of the crevasse.
“Hang on!” Mace yelled through the roar, holding desperately to the rope as they swung over emptiness. Snow and ice fell around them pulled down by the shift in the structure of the cavern.
Within seconds the craft reached the jagged bottom of the shaft and exploded, impacting the hard icy floor. Fire raced up the crack in the earth licking the walls and showering the men with shards of ice and metal. Qui-Gon held onto Obi-Wan burying his face in the fur of his Padawans parka, tightening his grip on the boy as their lifeline shifted back and forth swinging crazily under the effects of the explosion.
The ice and snow that followed the path of the exploding craft quickly put the fire out leaving the four Jedi suspended in silence and darkness. Qui-Gon let his breath out in a gasp and sucked in the cold air slowly, not realizing he had been holding his breath the entire time.
“Well that was fun.” Maces voice floated down from above him. “You okay Collran?”
The Healer off to their right shifted slightly, the sounds of his parka crinkling against the rope as he readjusted his position were loud in the stillness. “I think so. Can we please leave now?”
Mace laughed, the sound a relieved expression of the fact that they were all alive. “Hey Jinn, how is Obi-Wan?”
Qui-Gon shifted one hand and reached inside the boys parka letting his hand rest on the Padawans chest. He could feel the heartbeat inside under his fingertips and feel the slight rise of the young mans diaphragm as he breathed. “I think he’s okay. He’s still not conscious though.”
“Good.” The voice in the darkness was Collrans, forced and labored as he slowly climbed up the rope to the top of the cavern. “When he wakes up he will more than likely be in pain. Its best if we can get back to base camp before that happens. Very nice going Jinn. You’ll have to tell me exactly what you did to coax Obi-Wan back when we get to camp.”
“That I will do.” Qui-Gon looked straight up his rope barely making out the form of Mace above him. “Mace, I cant climb and hold onto Obi-Wan. I am going to need help.”
The shadow above him shifted as the Jedi ahead of him turned to glance back down at him, “Are you secure?” The deep voice of his friend echoed down to him.
“Then just stay there and hang on. I’ll climb up to the top and we’ll pull you up.” Within moments the Jedi and his apprentice were alone in the dark cavern.
A small groan escaped Obi-Wan’s lips and he shifted slightly in Qui-Gon’s grasp, one gloved hand catching the back of the masters coat and twisting the fabric in his fist. His breathing became irregular and pained as awareness touched the fringes of his consciousness. The tingling fire burning in his body was brushing through his mind calling him to wake up, begging him to move.
//Master..it hurts// The whisper through the bond was pained and agitated. He struggled slightly causing the older Jedi to tighten his grasp on the youth.
//Obi-Wan I need you to relax young one. In a moment I will put you down but for now you need to be still, I cant hold onto you if you move//
//My body’s on fire!//
“Mace hurry! He’s waking up!” Qui-Gon could hear the muffled sound of voices somewhere above him. His own restlessness echoed through the bond and Obi-Wan moaned softly again. His arms were beginning to burn from holding himself and his Padawan in place; he wasn’t sure how long he could keep the Jedi from struggling against him.
“Hold on Qui-Gon!” The echo of Maces response reverberated around the cave in eerie echoes. “We are going to pull you up now.” The rope he held jerked, growing taunt under his grip and he felt himself edged a foot closer to the top.
Turning his full attention to the youth thrown over his shoulder he shut his eyes and concentrated on their bond as they were slowly pulled to the surface.
//I am right here Obi-Wan. Your body is not on fire it is waking up. We only have a few more minutes before we are safe. Concentrate on me not your body.//
A soft whimper whispered through to him constricting his heart. //Do you hear me Obi-Wan?//
//Yes Master// The boys grasp on their connection tightened and Qui-Gon let him have full access to his thoughts and feelings. He flooded the open bond with peace, using every ounce of the force to wrap the youth in warmth and still the pain in his reawakening body. //My leg.. it hurts a lot. Can you let go of it?//
Qui-Gon shifted his grip on the boy’s body moving his arms higher around the boys thighs. //Which leg Padawan?//
//The left// Obi-Wan tested himself in the force and withdrew in pain tensing under his Masters grip //It’s broken. I can feel it.//
//Okay. I will be more careful we are almost to the top//
//Hurts too much// the words were ground out.
//Then rest, but don’t let go of me. You can’t go back into the force just yet. Healer Collran will want to see that you are awake//
//For a moment then…too tired..//
//Ssshh..its alright. Go ahead. I’ll wake you.// He felt the body in his arms relax. The fist knotted in his coat released its grip and the apprentice fell back into unconsciousness.
Qui-Gon looked up trying to see the entrance to cave, but all he could see was a dark black expanse; night had fallen since they had been in the cavern. He was getting desperate it seemed to be taking forever to reach the top of the chasm. “Mace!”
“Right here Jinn,” the rope stopped moving and Maces voice sounded quietly in his ear, “We got Obi-Wan hang on.” The Padawan’s weight was lifted from his shoulder as several sets of hands grabbed the young man pulling him to safety.
“Be careful with him Mace, his left leg is broken.”
“Damn,” He could hear his friend cursing softly as they handed off the Padawan carrying him away to safety and turned back to help Qui-Gon.
Moments passed before a hand reached back in and caught Jinn’s coat above his left shoulder, the fist grabbed a handful of fabric and pulled hard as the Jedi master was hauled out of the cave. He was walked several feet from the cave opening before he got his feet under him and was able to make out where they were. Mace grabbed him under the arms stabilizing him as he leaned against his friend for support.
“Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon looked around the darkened plateau.
“They’ve taken him to a tent already. And Collran is with him. Come on.” The two walked swiftly toward their makeshift camp.
The group of Jedi and rescuers was huddled about a hundred yards from the opening of the underground cavern, a small fire had been started and food was being prepared. They had tested the depth of the crust surrounding the underground cavern, during Obi-Wan’s rescue, and found the snow and ice packed thick and stable; the perfect place to camp for the night. A small grove of windswept trees sheltered the west side of the camp and the east was protected by a shallow hedge of ice that rose a few meters above the tops of the tents falling off on the opposite side onto another plain of frozen ice.
Heading for base camp was out of the question now that darkness had fallen. The rescue had taken longer than had been expected. Silhouettes of the sleep tents could be seen as they were erected in a circle around the now blazing fire. One tent set away from the others was where Mace directed Qui-Gon.
He threw the flap back and stood aside as the Jedi swiftly entered. Healer Collran was kneeling next to Obi-Wan hooking a warm IV into the boys arm and monitoring his vital signs with the portable equipment that had survived the trip. Heating blankets were piled on the apprentice and tucked around his body. His breathing was even and the flush of warmth tinged his lips and colored his cheeks. Collran motioned the two Jedi in.
“He is awake.”
“I know.” As Qui-Gon moved closer he could see the small form shivering uncontrollably under the warm pile of blankets. “How is he doing? Will he be okay?” The blankets shifted as Obi-Wan became conscious of Qui-Gon’s voice and his hand reached out towards the Master. Sleepy blue green eyes blinked trying to focus in the low light the glow globe afforded.
//Master?// The Jedi took the hand in his own, gently rubbing the cold fingers between his own, warming them in his hands.
“Right here Padawan.” He knelt beside the boy and stared down into the tired eyes that were fastened on him.
“Jinn,” Maces voices interrupted him, “We have another concern.” Qui-Gon noted the tone in his words and looked quickly towards his friend, glancing between the Jedi and the Healer.
“It’s not Obi-Wan.” Collran spoke low and reassuringly, “I think he will recover given time and rest. His leg is broken and I am concerned about it. It hasn’t been set yet; I want his body to warm up first. There may be some frostbite damage. But he’ll be okay, provided we can get back to base camp.”
“There is a chance we wont?” The Jedi raised an eyebrow in question as he turned to his friend standing near the tents entrance.
“Its Salan.” Mace picked up the explanation. “One of our scouts located the downed transport. The Security detail on board was murdered and there was no trace of Salan. Several sets of footprints led away from the craft into the hills not far from here.” He let the ramifications of the situation filter into the Jedi’s mind. “We think he’s out there and that he has made connections with his people. They’ll be attempting to get off the ice shelf. We believe they will come after us if their provisions and supplies have been badly decimated. We have to be on alert until we can get back to base camp and radio out.”
Qui-Gon nodded thoughtfully, absently moving his hand under the cover of blankets piled on his Padawan and letting it rest palm down over the others heart. Smaller fingers settled over his as his apprentice watched the interchange closely.
“What do we do?”
“Nothing,” Collran spoke up. He turned his attention to his patient and gently pressed his thumb and forefinger to Obi-Wan’s temples causing the young man to relax and close his eyes. “You two are to do nothing. Obi-Wan has a broken leg and I am still concerned about his recovery. I can’t give him anything for the pain yet. His body temperature is rising but he needs rest and he needs you to be here with him.”
A shudder ran through the Jedi and he tensed. Qui-Gon refocused his attention on the apprentice as the hand over his jerked spasmodically, tightening around his fingers. Obi-Wan breathed in deeply letting the air out slowly. “It’s the blood warming up and moving into his extremities. It can be rather painful.” Collran explained before the question could be asked. “Massage his arms and legs as the pain comes, it will help the circulation and ease the discomfort. Mace and I will be in the tents on either side of you tonight so if you need anything you have but to call. We will leave you two alone.”
“Get some rest.” Mace smiled at Obi-Wan, “We have to leave at first light, we need to get to base camp by tomorrow afternoon and radio for help.”
“Thank you Mace, Collran.” Qui-Gon nodded at the two men as they left.
Obi-Wan shifted slightly closing his eyes and holding his breath as sparks of pain shot through his legs ands arms. He was trying not to be obvious about the discomfort he was in. As he slowly opened his eyes Qui-Gon came into view. The apprentice knew that look all too well and attempted to smile at the stern face that watched him.
“You are in pain?”
“Obi-Wan you have to tell me or I can’t help you.”
“I know I just didn’t want to be a bother.”
Qui-Gon stared at the shivering young man, “Padawan, have I ever made you think you were a burden to me?”
“No Master,” the blue green eyes dropped from his gaze staring guiltily at the tent flap. He winced, not quite stifling a moan as pain shot through his leg. He moved slightly and cried out as he involuntarily shifted his broken one.
Qui-Gon quickly moved back the heating blankets placing his large hands on the padawan’s leg on either side of the fracture. He wrapped his hands and Obi-Wan’s leg in the warmth of the force and used the flow of the energy to slowly heat the boys leg and calm the contractions in the muscles surrounding the damaged tissue.
Obi-Wan sighed in relief as the tension left his leg and he relaxed into the touch of his Master. “Thank you, that’s good.” The master watched as his Padawan slowly allowed himself to sink back into the pile of blankets that dwarfed him. “Healer Collran couldn’t make the pain stop.”
“Healer Collran hasn’t had a Padawan in years.” Qui-Gon spoke softly, absently massaging the boy’s foot through his thick socks. He watched as the Jedi fought off the sleep that was vying for his tired mind. “It’s okay to sleep Obi-Wan.”
“No.” The Jedi shook his head, “no not yet.”
“And why is that young one?” Qui-Gon smiled at the resistance and carefully pressed waves of rest and thoughts of sleep into the weary mind.
Obi-Wan gave a quiet laugh, “I am old to enough to know what you are doing Master. I just want to stay awake with you for a bit. I was afraid down there that I wouldn’t ever get out or see you again. Finding you in the force surprised me.”
Qui-Gon stopped the gentle ministrations and met the gaze that was locked onto his. “Where else would I be when you needed me?”
The smile that graced Obi-Wans lips grew slowly. “I should have known.” A chill caught him and he shivered uncontrollably. The Jedi Master pulled the blankets back down around the boy’s legs tucking them gently in and moved back towards the head of the bed he lay on. Qui-Gon shifted the younger Jedi slowly into a sitting position and scooted onto the cot pulling the apprentice into his arms.
“Yes, you should have known.” He placed his hand on the Padawans forehead and pressed down with the force, “And you will sleep my Obi-Wan. Your body needs the rest.” He chuckled lightly as the smile slipped slowly from the apprentices face watching as sleep stole his consciousness away, “And I need the rest.” The Master leaned against the tent support behind him, readjusted the warm body in his arms and closed his eyes.
Something was wrong with the silence. Qui-Gon sat very still in the now darkened tent. It wasn’t that it was just quiet, it was still, deathly still as though the night were watching, holding its breath. The still was what had woken him.
Obi-Wan breathed deeply resting soundly within the circle of the Masters arms. He had stopped shivering a while ago and his sleep was untroubled. Again the brush of warning through the force sounded in Qui-Gon. He tensed and listened. The soft crunch of footsteps could barely be heard outside his tent. He reached slowly for his lightsaber, his hand tightening on its metal grip, his thumb brushing the activation switch as the tent flap was lifted and a dark silhouette entered.
A shaft of light stabbed through the darkness blinding him. “Qui-Gon you awake?” Maces deep voice questioned him.
“Mace!” The Jedi hissed back at the intruder shielding his eyes from the bright light, “One of these days you are going to get yourself killed. Yes! I am awake, what is so important?” Obi-Wan shifted in his arms burrowing his face against Qui-Gon’s stomach and mumbling. The Master touched the boy gently and spoke softly to him. Lowering his voice he directed his attention to Mace. “What’s going on?”
“The perimeter alarms were tripped. I think we are going to have company.”
“Alright, give me a minute and I’ll join you outside.” Qui-Gon shifted slowly out from underneath the sleeping boy careful to tuck the warm blankets back in around him. The chill of the night air bit into his skin as he shrugged on his thick parka and laced his boots. His breath hung in a white cloud in the still air. He watched the unconscious Padawan for a brief moment, then placing his hand on the boys forehead, he pressed the youth farther into sleep so he would not waken.
Stepping out into the circle of darkened tents he was met by several members of the rescue team and Jelesh. The Togarian stood in the moonlight her eyes twinkling in the dark light her nose testing the air. She unsheathed her claws and pointed silently towards a small stand of trees.
“There. They are there.” Jelesh’s voice was a low rumble. “Shall I take care of them?” She glanced at Qui-Gon out of the corner of her eye. Collran ran up and pressed in close breathlessly joining the small band of rescuers and Jedi.
“Teran I need you stay here. We can handle this.” Qui-Gon turned to the healer and gently tried to dissuade him.
“I am a Jedi first of all Jinn and..” He was cut off as Jelesh stepped towards him.
“Healer. You are healer.” She brushed his chest with a gleaming claw.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t fight.” He bristled at the slight and stepped back from her.
“You are our *only* healer.” Qui-Gon placed his hand on the man’s shoulder as Jelesh silently began to direct the Jedi into positions around the camp. “I need you to help Obi-Wan. If we loose you, we loose any hope of getting him back safely and who knows what the outcome of tonight will be.” The fire in the man’s eyes had cooled some, but the look that replaced it cut the Jedi. “Teran, you have been my friend for many years now. You are more valuable to us than you know.”
The healer relented, “I understand.” He watched as the team slowly disappeared behind tents or trees attempting to surround their unwanted visitors and catch them unaware. “I will go get ready for any casualties we might sustain.”
Qui-Gon nodded silently and gently pushed the man towards his tent. Mace motioned the Jedi master to him and the two headed towards a snow-covered boulder just outside the perimeter of tents.
“Jelesh is going to flush them out.” Mace leaned in close and whispered in the others ear, his voice barely perceptible.
The Togarian stealthily approached a small knot of trees on the east side of the camp, her form a mere shadow as she crept over the snow and ice. Slowly she edged into the tiny glade. The men in camp held their breath and waited. Mace shifted, his boots grating on the frozen ground, the sound loud in the stillness. Qui-Gon glanced his way but anything he might have said was cut off in an earsplitting scream.
Mace chuckled softly, “I think Jelesh found them.” The underbrush exploded as men bolted into the campground. However the intruders had been more prepared than their prey realized. Several of Salan’s men had scouted the camp out earlier in the day and taken special note of Jelesh. An ambush had been set upwind of the rescue team. At the sound of the disturbance men came rushing down the backside of the small incline that the camp was butted up against trapping the rescuers in the midst of the two waves of intruders. The icy hill had been good a buffer for the chilling breezes that swept the plane but it also acted as a shield for anyone who desired to take them by surprise.
Chaos filled the small area. Mace leapt out from behind their hiding place, his purple saber singing through the cold night air. Qui-Gon raced after him towards a knot of rescuers attempting to defend their supply tent.
In the scuffle the fire was kicked over leaping out of its rock enclosure and catching onto the clothing of one of Salan's mercenaries. As he tried to extinguish the flames that shot up from his parka he was pushed off balance by Terith who kick the man out of the way. He tripped over a tent post and fell into the unoccupied shelter setting the lean-to on fire. The embers burst into the sky scattering flaming bits of cloth around the camp igniting whatever they alighted upon.
Blaster shots ripped the night, as the fight was joined by Salan's backup team. Mace stood his ground near the supply tent deflecting shots, his saber a shield in front of him. Callab, one of the rescue team members stood at his back returning fire on the mercenaries who were using the trees for cover. The Jedi whipped around suddenly throwing Callab to the ground and deflected a bolt that came from their left aimed right at the mans mid-section, it would have caught him unaware. Deftly he sent the shot back at the intruder; the man fell with a cry and didn't move. He jerked Callab to his feet, the rescue worker’s eyes were huge as he breathlessly thanked the Jedi. Mace only nodded and shoved him toward a boulder.
"Get to cover! Watch my back!" The Jedi whirled back into the fray joined by two others. It was obvious the supply tent was Salan's main goal.
Qui-Gon charged at a mercenary that Jelesh had rousted from the trees. He saw the Jedi bearing down him and tried to turn and run for safety but the Togarian burst from the foliage. She lunged at the man and knocked him senseless with one swipe of her paw sending him sprawling onto the ice. A feral grin spread across her face as Qui-Gon skidded to a stop next to the fallen man.
"No more hiding." Her sentence ended with a growl that the Jedi Master had come to understand as a laugh.
The Jedi smiled at her, about to speak, when a cry ripped through the bond he shared with Obi-Wan. Without thinking he turned and ran for the tent where he had left the injured boy. Jelesh watched him her nose twitching as she searched the area with her senses. She barked at Mace who was handing over one of Salan’s men to several of the rescue team. They bound the intruder and seated him near the dying fire next to the others they had taken alive.
Mace turned at the sound of Jelesh’s voice, following her gaze as she pointed to the tent Qui-Gon had just entered. She motioned with her hands and the Jedi took off, rounding the backside of the camp and pacing her as she stealthily crept towards the front of the sleeping area.
Qui-Gon threw back the flap of the tent and entered the small living space. Salan was crouched near the back of their quarters. The man had pulled the Padawan from his bed, his arm wrapped tightly around the boys throat. The apprentice’s face was a mask of pain as he tried to move his broken leg to keep up with the other, his hands gripping the large arm that choked him. The IV had been ripped from his arm, the fluid spreading in a quickly freezing pool on the floor and he had begun to shiver even though completely clothed.
“Back off.” Salan hissed at the Jedi as Qui-Gon stalked into the tent. “You want this boy alive? You let me out of here.” He placed the tip of his blaster to Obi-Wan’s temple and the boy immediately stopped struggling. He wasn’t strong enough to fight his assailant and the pain jarring through his body from his broken leg was cutting him off from the force. Fear ripped through him as he saw Qui-Gon slowly put his hands out to his sides palms up.
“There is no need for that.” He walked forward, his eyes never leaving Salan’s. He had no doubt the man would put a bolt in Obi-Wan, he was desperate enough.
“You know,” Salan taunted looking Obi-Wan over, “this one would still fetch a high price at market, broken leg and all.” He kicked the boy as he drug him backwards causing the young Jedi to cry out. “You let me go and I might let you keep him.” The apprentice tensed in the man’s grip as flashes of Latraides seared through his memory and he fought the images that assaulted him.
Qui-Gon could feel the fear and warring in his Padawan as the boy attempted to calm himself. “There is nowhere for you to go. And you will not be allowed to hurt the boy or take him with you.” He edged his words with the force, “You can let him go now.”
Salan laughed loud and hard, “You think your force words will work on me?” He glared at the Jedi and smacked Obi-Wan hard with the butt of his blaster when the boy tried to pull away. Turning his head to the right he exposed his neck to the Master. A small silver disk blinked with tiny lights just behind his left ear. “Neural implant,” he explained with a smirk, “makes me force resistant. You can’t order me around with your special powers.”
The Jedi master watched as his apprentice breathed slowly in, trying to recover from the blunt blow he had received. His patience had reached its limit. He was about to reach for his lightsaber, timing his moves in his mind; he was certain he could disable the man. He was willing to take the chance; he would not allow the boy to be tormented any longer. A slight shift in the tent fabric behind Salan caught his attention. He quickly glanced back at the slave trader as Mace silently slipped into the tent.
Obi-Wan saw the minor change in his masters expression and relaxed his stance. He knew that something was happening and he wanted to be ready.
“Let’s be reasonable about this Salan. I am sure we can come to an agreement.” Qui-Gon attempted to keep the man’s attention on himself as Mace quietly stood up behind the intruder and took a step toward him and the apprentice. The dark-skinned Jedi threw a quick look at Qui-Gon and moved into action.
//Now Obi-Wan!// The apprentice relaxed totally allowing himself to drop to the floor, surprising his attacker who had a hard time compensating for the shift in weight. Salan moved down with the boy, his attention thrown off, he lost his grip on Obi-Wan and faltered.
Mace was right behind him. The Jedi took advantage of the momentary surprise lunging at the trader and wresting the man’s arm behind his back. His blade descended in front of the mercenaries face and came up just underneath the man’s chin. Salan tensed and shifted his head slightly higher; Mace followed the movement with his lightsaber, wrenching the man’s arm tighter up against his back.
“Doesn’t feel so good now does it?” Mace growled at the smaller man.
He glanced at Qui-Gon who had quickly gathered Obi-Wan to himself pulling the boy into his arms and looking over his broken leg. He was talking softly to the injured Padawan when Jelesh leapt into the tent through the front flap. She crouched in the entry way snarling.
Salan involuntarily jumped back against Mace. Slowly the Togarian moved forward until her muzzle was mere inches from the traders face. In her lowly gravely growl she addressed Qui-Gon, her eyes fixed on the horrified prisoner, “Is cub okay?”
“Yes Jelesh, my cub is fine.” The Jedi Master looked down into Obi-Wan’s questioning face. “Togarians do not understand the Master/Padawan relationship.” He explained looking up at the silver haired female, “They do however understand the relationship of their cubs to themselves.”
Mace continued, “So we explained to Jelesh, that Qui-Gon’s cub was missing and possibly injured.”
“They are fiercely protective of their cubs and she was more than eager to join the rescue team.” The Jedi master finished the explanation for his friend.
Jelesh turned to the Padawan glancing down at the boy and bared her teeth at him. He pressed slightly back against Qui-Gon at the fierce sight.
//It’s Jelesh’s way of smiling young one. Be courteous.//
Obi-Wan smiled back at the Togarian, “Thank you Jelesh.”
Turning back to Salan she wrapped one paw firmly in his jacket and pulled him close to her, “Good thing for you cub is fine.” She snarled softly.
Mace kicked the man forward towards the Togarian and she swiftly locked Salan’s arms behind his back and shoved him outside.
“Come on Padawan,” Qui-Gon stood awkwardly and with Mace’s help assisted the Jedi back into his bed, covering him with blankets and trying to make him comfortable once more. “Mace go get Collran for me will you please?” The Jedi Master sat on the edge of the cot and stared down into the weary blue eyes, “I’d like him to take a look at Obi-Wan.”
“I’m fine Master.” The boys fingers slipped around his hand. “I’m just really tired.”
“I know. But it can’t hurt.” Qui-Gon glanced up at his friend as the Jedi moved the flap to leave, “Thank you Mace. I really appreciate your help with Salan.”
Mace nodded and smiled, “I think Jelesh is going to enjoy having him around even more than we will. Togarians hate slavers, especially those who specialize in child trading.” He stepped out and called back in, “I’ll send Teran right over.”
Teran Collran entered the tent minutes later. “Qui-Gon how is he?”
Qui-Gon sat near the Padawans bed one hand wrapped in the smaller one of his charge, his other hand lay gently on the youth’s chest. “His leg is bad.” Obi-Wan opened his eyes and watched the healer approach as his Master slowly backed off allowing the other in close. “Salan drug him out of bed and hauled him a few feet back in the tent. He’s in some pain.”
Collran crouched down next to Qui-Gon and looked into the sea-green eyes of the apprentice. “Obi-Wan, can I take a look at your leg?” At the apprentice’s approval he pulled back the covers and gently touched the leg near the fracture. Obi-Wan tensed drawing his breath in through clenched teeth as the healer prodded the tender area.
“It needs to be set.” The healer met the worried gaze that was transfixed on him. “Now that you are warmer I will need to tighten the splint also, that’ll help a lot with keeping the bone in its proper place.”
Obi-Wan nodded and slowly let his breath out.
“It’s going to hurt.”
“I know. Go ahead.”
Collran nodded and looked at Qui-Gon. “It will be better if you keep him distracted and help him with the pain.” The master nodded and gently leaned across the young man with his upper body pinning the boy beneath him.
“Just focus on me. Look at me, not at Collran.” Obi-Wan complied swallowing hard. He tensed beneath the master as the healer touched his leg. “Relax”, Qui-Gon’s voice was soft and comforting, “think about something you enjoy.” He took the Obi-Wan’s hand in his own and smiled as the youth let go of some of the tension in his body.
“Well, I really enjoyed being on Ryllis with you.” He smiled at the memory. “That was the most fun I have had in a long time. Seems a like a lifetime ago.”
Collran absently listened as he gently placed his hands on the boy’s leg and waited until the youth continued, engrossing himself in a silly tale of Qui-Gon’s escapade with a local variant of planet life they had discovered. When he felt the boy relax he quickly forcefully twisted the leg, pulling it at the same time in just the right place.
Obi-Wan tensed and arched stifling a cry at the sudden painful movement. Pain spiked through his awareness cutting everything else off. He held his breath waiting for the intensity of the wave to pass, his eyes welling with tears.
Strong hands touched either side of his face and he could hear someone softly asking him to open his eyes. “Its over Obi-Wan. You’re okay. Collran is through.”
His breaths were shallow and rapid and he slowly calmed them as felt the healer gently bracket his broken leg with a rigid gel splint. Nodding he opened his eyes and looked into Qui-Gon’s face, a small smile played across his lips, “Okay that wasn’t so bad.”
Collran covered the Jedi’s leg with the blanket and stood. “You’ll be fine Obi-Wan. There is a splint on your leg now it should help. Tomorrow we’ll get you down to base camp and we can start the healing process. I have bone knitters there.”
The young man nodded and smiled slightly as his breathing evened out.
Mace opened the tent flap and stepped partially into the tent, “Qui-Gon we need some help out here with the prisoners. We are going to be leaving in a few hours and there are some questions about taking them with us. Oh and Teran, we have some wounded that could use attention.”
“Of course.” The healer stood and pressed passed the Jedi at the tent entrance. He stopped before leaving and looked back at his patient, “Obi-Wan if you need anything you call me alright? I’ll be close by.”
“Thank you Healer Collran.” He whispered back.
Qui-Gon looked down into the sea green eyes watching him. “I’ll be okay. Now that Salan’s been captured I’ll be fine.” Obi-Wan tried to reassure the older man, but the Jedi didn’t move, as the emotions warred inside his heart and mind. “I think I’ll just..” Obi-Wans voice trailed off as his gaze shifted behind his master.
Qui-Gon started and turned at the sound of a small growl. Jelesh had entered the tent and was settling herself behind the Jedi Master. Her eyes were dark and intense but they held a softness he had not seen before.
“Jedi is needed outside.” Her gaze drifted to Obi-Wan, “Trouble leaving his cub I think. So Jelesh came to be with cub for a while.” She slowly bared her teeth in a Togarian grin, “This help?”
//Master, I’ll be okay with Jelesh here. I don’t think I can stay awake anyway.// the small hand in his own tightened drawing his attention back to the weary student.
Leaning in close the Jedi gently kissed the apprentice’s forehead, //Alright young one, I’m going to go see if I can help. If you need me you call.//
//Yes master// Obi-Wan was having a hard time staying awake and he let his eyes fall slowly shut.
“Thank you Jelesh,” The Jedi bowed slightly to the Togarian, “I appreciate your help.”
She nodded and touched his arm gently. “Go now.”
With a quick look back at his resting apprentice, Qui-Gon stood and swiftly exited the tent. Jelesh moved forward and tucked the blankets in around the youth. A quiet sound filled the tent as she began to softly hum, the sound a deep musical purr, a lullaby she had learned from her own mother and had never forgotten.
Obi-Wan smiled and opened his eyes to watch her. “Sleep.” She brushed her large hand gently against his face causing him to close his eyes, “Tomorrow we travel.” The Jedi breathed in deeply smelling the rich scent of her coat as she settled in next to him her hand pinning him down under the blankets a comforting weight on his chest. Within moments his breathing was deep and even. Satisfied Jelesh turned down the glow globe and rested her weary eyes, it had already been a long night.
* * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *
It had been decided that the prisoners would be moved down to base camp with the rescuers. Several had been against the idea, wanting instead to strand the slaver and his men in one of the many subterranean caverns and return for them after the group had sent for help. They could be left with enough supplies and thermal blankets to survive for several days they had argued. But the idea had been abandoned as opposing viewpoints had been given. Eventually Jedi wisdom had won out. The prisoners would accompany the rescue team to base camp. Mace, Terith, Callab and Jelesh would escort the prisoners. They would start out an hour ahead of the rest of the team, putting a safe distance between them and the slavers. Qui-Gon, Collran and the rest of the rescue team members would follow bringing the supplies and the injured. Stretchers had been hastily made using the small stand of trees for braces and the tents themselves as slings. Harnesses had been rigged so that the stretchers could be pulled by one or two of the rescuers.
Qui-Gon leaned over Obi-Wan as Collran quickly checked the youth over. He pressed a hypospray against the apprentices neck, “This will help with the pain Obi-Wan.” The padawan winced as the fluid was injected into his body, visibly relaxing as the drugs took over his system.
“He shouldn’t feel a thing, if all goes well.” The Healer addressed the Jedi Master helping him as he slipped the stretchers harness over his head and fastened it off around his waist. “Let me know if he regains consciousness or if you need a reprieve.”
The Jedi nodded and slowly started out after the rest of the team members walking in single file off the ice plain. Collran turned and walked to the back of the slowly moving line of people attending to the wounded and helping where needed.
Jelesh and Mace had left earlier in the morning and as he walked down the sloping plains of ice Qui-Gon had begun to wonder about how they were doing. His team was following in the advance teams tracks, careful to step only where those who had gone before had already stepped. The first team had taken the sounding equipment, a small hand held sonar device that determined the depth of the snow pack beneath their feet, revealing the areas where the ice was treacherously thin and dangerous to walk on. He hadn’t heard from the advance team in some time. Pulling the comm off his belt he switch its frequency to a private setting. Static filtered through the small speaker. Tapping the button on the side of the device he spoke quietly into the microphone.
“Mace? Mace you there?”
Static answered his questions. “Mace, come in.”
A breathless voice answered him this time, “Jinn? Yeah I’m here.”
“Whats going on? You sound like you are out of breath. Is everything alright?” He could hear Jelesh talking in the background. She was excited and her words were fast, becoming slurred and sounding more like the growls and barks that her people used as a language.
“Damn!” Mace swore into the comm. Qui-Gon could tell when he turned away to bark orders to Terith. “Get him up off the ice and keep him warm, we’ll loose him if you cant stop that bloodflow.” Something had definitely gone wrong. He turned back to the microphone and directed his attention back to his friend. “We’ve had some trouble.”
“So I can hear.” Qui-Gon grew serious and halted his forward movement. Collran ran up alongside of him and halted next to him.
“Whats wrong?” The healers’ worried words rushed out as he caught his breath.
“It’s Mace’s team, they’ve encountered trouble. I am trying to find out what.” The comm erupted with sounds. Blaster fire could be heard and Qui-Gon distinctly made out the sound of a lightsaber as Mace dropped his comm shouting to Jelesh to get down. Terith could be heard shouting in the background as some sort of battle ensued ahead of the rescue team.
“MACE!” Qui-Gon shouted into the small microphone. All the sounds coming back through the comlink had gone quiet and there was no response to his questions. “Mace are you alright? Answer me damn it!”
“Mace is alright.” Jelesh’s snarled words came breathlessly through the small device. “Slaver got free and got Callab’s blaster. One moment, I be back.” The link went dead again as Jelesh set the device down.
“Wait..” Qui-Gon was panicked.
“Its okay Qui-Gon.” Maces voice cut in.
“Jelesh said Salan got free.”
“Yes.” The resignation in his friends voice was plain, “I had to kill him Jinn. He shot Callab and almost got Terith. He freed some of his men but they ran ahead of us. Without the sounding equipment they couldn’t know the depth of the ice and four of them fell into a cavern. I can’t even see the bottom of the shaft, they must be dead. Salan came after the sounding equipment, he wounded Jelesh and when he turned the blaster on me…”
The voice fell off on the other end.
“Its alright Mace, you did the right thing. There was nothing else you could have done. Terith is okay?”
“Yes. Callab is bad, Jelesh is wounded and there are only three of Salan’s men left. They’re afraid to move a foot without us and Jelesh has the sounder so they aren’t even considering taking it from her. How long before you reach us?”
Qui-Gon turned his wrist over and activated a small tracker set into the cold weather chrono he wore. The tiny device lit up and began to softly chirp a green dot indicating the advance teams position blinked in the upper corner of the display. “We are still about an hour behind you. Can you hold up there and wait for us?”
Mace cast his eyes to the sky, the sun was set high in the blue canopy, they would have plenty of light to make it to base, “Yeah we’ll stay here and wait for you. Hey pass me to Collran I need his help with Callab.”
“Okay hang on Mace, we’ll be there shortly.” Qui-Gon handed the comm to the healer and reshouldered the stretcher that carried his Padawan. “We need to move faster.”
Teran nodded and began talking to the Jedi through the two-way link as he moved back down the line of people explaining the situation they were walking into and the urgency that the trek home had just taken.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The hike to catch up with the advance team was taking longer than Qui-Gon liked. They had been on the move for two hours before he had contacted Mace and the Jedi was starting to grow tired. They hadn’t slept much the night before and the weight of his Padawan was wearing on his back and shoulders; the harness bit deep into the muscles with each step. He drew in a fresh breath of the Force and concentrated on the footsteps laid down in the snow by the advance team.
A slight hazing edged into his thoughts and he stumbled catching himself quickly before loosing his balance. He moved just to the left of the path and motioned the others behind him to proceed cautioning them to stay within the Togarians large footprints. They couldn’t afford to loose another person.
Qui-Gon breathed in slowly, deeply and relaxed his weary body. The touches of pain flitted around the edges of his consciousness and he tried to pinpoint their origin. Carefully he lay the litter down so as not to disturb his wounded Padawan. Closing his eyes and resting his hands on his knees he allowed the stretchers harnesses to fall to the ground as he concentrated on restoring his body.
The pain touched him again and this time it had a voice.
“Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon turned and looked back to the boy questioningly. The Jedi lay still on the makeshift gurney the hood of his parka hiding his face from the Master.
Qui-Gon quickly walked back to his student’s side and knelt down. The sedative Collran had given Obi-Wan was wearing off. The Jedi Master gently brushed the heavy hood away and touched his Padawan’s clammy skin. He placed his palm against the boy’s forehead and felt the abnormal heat of a fever beneath his fingertips. Obi-Wan’s breathing was shallow and fast and he mumbled softly, trying to move away from Qui-Gon’s touch.
“Obi-Wan, wake up.” He caught the boys face in his hands and held him still talking softly to him. The Jedi’s eyes fluttered and opened trying to focus through the haze that clouded his mind.
“Master?” Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet and rough. Immediately Qui-Gon removed the water bottle from his utility belt and lifted the youth up, helping him to drink slowly from the flask.
“How do you feel young one?”
“Horrible. I ache. Please let me rest.”
“Where do you hurt?” The Jedi Master shifted the apprentice into a sitting position and propped the youth against his chest.
Qui-Gon looked up the line of hikers until he spotted the healer, calling out to the man to get his attention.
Collran moved quickly back towards the two Jedi.
“What’s wrong? What is it?” He kneeled in front of Qui-Gon and touched Obi-Wan gently.
The boy slowly opened his eyes and watched the man in front of him.
“He’s in pain. And I think he has a fever.” Qui-Gon gently tightened his hand around the small hand that had slipped into his.
Collran laughed and leaned in closer to the Jedi, “No you aren’t but you will be.” He ran a quick scan of the boy, testing his presence in the force, checking the splint and making note of the fever that Qui-Gon had told him of. The healer turned his attention to Qui-Gon. “He’ll be alright. You are correct he does have a low-grade fever, possibly an indication of infection. That’s to be expected. We are only a couple of hours from the base camp, he should be okay until we get him there.” He stood slowly to his feet arching his back in a stretch and paced to where he had dropped his backpack. Rummaging through the supplies within he pulled out a hypospray. “I’d like to give him something for the pain and the infection that is setting into his body.”
“No.” The soft answer came from the young man. “I don’t want anymore drugs.”
“Obi-Wan, you need help and the medication is good for you.” Qui-Gon pushed the boys hood out of the way and looked down at the youth.
The apprentice shifted and turned towards his Masters looking up into the blue eyes that watched him carefully. “I can’t reach you through the force, everything is slow and distorted. I hate being sedated. Don’t let him sedate me again. Please Master?”
“Padawan.” Looking into the pain fogged eyes; Qui-Gon knew he couldn’t argue with the sick boy. He sighed and turned to Collran for help. The healer was watching as the chain of hikers disappeared from view, hidden by a bend in the path.
Collran knelt down next to the two Jedi, adjusting the calibrations on the hypospray, “Obi-Wan, will you at least let me give you some antibiotics and a light sedative? I have removed the midicholorian blockers from it. You wont have any trouble reaching your Master through the Force but it will help your body to relax and you wont hurt so much.”
Obi-Wan didn’t answer, his thinking was slowed and he was testing the openness of the bond he shared with the older Jedi. It was fully open and fully accessible; he could feel Qui-Gon’s answering response to his worry.
//It’ll be alright Padawan.//
//If you say so Master//
//I won’t leave, I promise//
The Jedi sighed and nodded. He tipped his head slightly to the right letting his full weight rest against Qui-Gon’s solid chest and relaxed as the Healer pressed the tip of the hypospray to his neck and injected the medication into his blood stream. A warm feeling flooded his senses and he could feel the tension slowly release from his body. His arms and legs grew suddenly heavier and he had the overwhelming desire to rest. For a brief second panic flared through him counteracting the drugs – his body’s response reminded him of how he had felt in the ice cave just before he passed into the Force.
Suddenly he found his face being held by two warm gloved hands. A soft disembodied voice was talking to him as he felt his body laid gently back down on the stretcher and strapped in. His parka was lifted over his head and the warm fur around the edges brushed his cheeks. The panic that surged through him was washed in a flood of peace as the open connection between he and his Master came alive, the man’s voice calmly talking to him.
//Obi-Wan? Are you with me?//
His heartbeat calmed slightly and the fear faded away as he concentrated on the voice that kept talking to him.
//Yes Master I am here.//
//We need to catch up to the others and meet up with Mace, so I will be moving a little more quickly.//
//That’s okay. I’ll be fine, as long as I can hear you and reach you.//
//Its good to hear your voice again too young one.//
A span of silence fell between them. Qui-Gon could sense the youth slipping quietly into a light sleep. The grasp the Padawan had on their open bond was fierce and he didn’t let go even as slipped into rest. The Jedi Master smiled to himself as he trudged along the worn down path; it was good to be able to sense his padawan again and know he was okay.
Collran watched him out of the corner of his eye as he paced the tall Jedi. He couldn’t help the laugh that escaped.
“What?” Qui-Gon frowned in the Healers direction feigning irritation.
“You.” Collran moved ahead of him as the walkway through the ice fields narrowed, “You’re like a kid with a new toy.”
“It feels good to have him back, even if he isn’t well.”
Collran’s eyes took on a far off look as he nodded absently, “Yes I imagine it would feel good at that.”
Qui-Gon didn’t have the opportunity to press the Healer further as the advance team members came into view and the two were immediately preoccupied with helping Mace and the rescuers with their immediate problems. The small field they had stopped in was in shambles. Blaster bolts had scorched the ground and rocks in the immediate area. The wounded were off to one side of the glade receiving treatment and the others were redistributing the equipment so it could be carried out by those not hurt or under the burden of carrying someone who was. The prisoners had been tied up and roped together, Jelesh paced the perimeter around them and not a one of them made so much as an attempt to even look up at the Jedi Master as he approached the rescue team leader.
“Jelesh, you need medical treatment.” Qui-Gon looked the Togarian over noting the deep gash her left arm.
A growl answered his concern and she stopped her pacing in front of him. “We need to move on as soon as the wounded are treated.” She looked up at the position of the sun just above the horizon. “We are out of time and unable to stay out here another night.”
Qui-Gon knew arguing with her would be useless. “How much longer before we get back?”
Bright yellow eyes pierced him with a steady gaze as she answered, “Three quarters of an hour.” She turned her eyes back to the huddle of prisoners and emphasized her words, “*If* we have no more trouble.” A short growl caused the men to cringe slightly under her attention.
The Jedi Master stifled a laugh, “I don’t think you will have any trouble with them any more Jelesh. I’ll go round up everyone else, see if Collran needs any help and maybe we can get started out again in the next five minutes or so.”
True to his word the remainder of the hike back to base had been quiet and uneventful. Obi-Wan had fallen silent a half hour before they reached the terminal, as the fever that had set in was, proving too much for him to battle.
By the time they had reached the tarmac the sun had just set and darkness was creeping quickly across the base stealing what little light remained. Emergency teams and vehicles poured out of the hangar bays and met the remnants of the rescue team on the edge of the airstrip, transporting them quickly back into the base racing the cold and the dark that threatened to overwhelm them. They were exhausted, it had only been three days but to the Jedi it felt as though he had been gone for weeks.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Qui-Gon watched silently as his unconscious Padawan was raised from the bacta tank at Mission Base. Collran was overseeing the young Jedi’s medical treatment at the military station. The healer had been reluctant to return to the Temple until Obi-Wan had been stabilized. Bone knitters had been administered to the apprentices broken leg and he had been sedated for his extended bacta treatment due to the minor frostbite his extremities had sustained. As soon as they had entered the compound, Qui-Gon had been relieved of his student and the apprentice had been whisked away for medical attention. That had been almost two days ago. The healer and the medical technicians on base had kept the Master away and Qui-Gon hadn’t even had a chance to talk to the boy before he was gone from his sight. The Jedi had become extremely upset when he had realized that Collran had given Obi-Wan a force suppressant to help keep the Jedi down and fully at rest until the bacta treatments were complete.
“You had no right!” Qui-Gon approached the Healer as Collran exited the bacta treatment room.
“I know you are upset Qui-Gon..” The Healer was unable to finish his sentence as the tall Jedi stepped in closely.
“No Teran, you have no idea.” His eyes were hard and cold. “It’s been too long since you had a Padawan to understand at all.”
The words found their mark striking through the tough exterior of the smaller man and the pain showed visibly in his eyes as the healer stepped back a pace staring in disbelief at the other.
He swallowed his initial remark and softly answered the Jedi, “Sedating Kenobi was necessary. I am sorry for the discomfort it caused you. The pain from the frostbite and the fracture to his leg was considerable. He wouldn’t stop trying to contact you and I couldn’t get him to relax without fighting him. He was constantly searching for you in the force and we needed him to rest; his body and his mind. Yes I shielded him from you and then I administered the force suppressant when it became apparent that the shielding was not enough. You may see him in a few minutes after we have relocated him to a private room.” Collran dropped his eyes and walked away. He stopped a few steps down the hall, his back still turned to the Jedi. “And Qui-Gon you are correct, it has been a very long time since I have had Jahln with me.” His voice faltered as his thoughts turned to his own Padawan whom he had lost years ago, but he continued, “I miss him very much. But I would have done the same thing to him. Every Padawan that comes in, every wounded Jedi, I treat as if he were my Jahln. So do not speak to me of Padawans Master Jinn, I understand very well how you feel. Now if you will excuse me.”
Collran proceeded to walk away but was stopped again as Qui-Gon laid his hand on the healers shoulder.
“Teran, I am sorry.” Collran turned and pierced the Jedi with eyes that were weary with more than work. “I was out of line. My emotions were out of control. It’s been a very long week. And ..”
The healer stopped the Master with a small nod, raising his hand slightly and cutting off the apology.
Qui-Gon pressed on anyway, “No. I am sorry that I brought up the memory of Jahln. He was a good apprentice and I did not mean to hurt you. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think Obi-Wan would have survived.”
“Qui-Gon, my friend,” Collran touched the Masters chest, “It has been a very long week. And you have had little time to reconcile all that has happened to you and your Padawan. We have been in danger more times in the past few days than is comfortable for me. I don’t believe I have had so much excitement or stress in quite a while. Being separated so much from your student is hard.”
“The silence is hard.”
The Jedi Master nodded and looked to the ground gathering his thoughts. “How long before I can see him?”
“At least another half hour before they will let you in. He needs to be cleaned up, clothed and moved to a more comfortable room. They’ll hook him up to the monitors – precautionary only, and then they will let you see him.”
“So he will be fine, he’ll recover?”
“Yes. He’s healing well.”
Qui-Gon nodded glancing back into the treatment room. A huddle of attendants worked around the gurney that Obi-Wan lay on.
“Feel up to something to eat?” Collrans question cut through the Jedi’s thoughts.
Qui-Gon turned to him in surprise and smiled slightly. “Come to think of it I am hungry. I’d be glad to join you.”
They entered the cafeteria and found Mace deep in an animated conversation with Terith.
“But that’s not how Qui-Gon tells it.” Terith countered the story Mace had been telling.
“What do you mean, that’s not how Qui-Gon tells it?” Mace looked in shock at the other.
“Well the way I heard it was, that it was actually you who landed the transport on Yoda’s shuttle. I thought you were the one driving.”
“What!” Mace feigned disbelief. Unaware that his friend and Collran had just walked up behind him, he continued. “Why you cant believe Jinn, he’s full of..”
The Jedi was stopped as a soft voice sounded closely in his ear, “What am I full of?”
Mace’s eyes went wide and he jumped to his left as Qui-Gon sat down next to him. “Please do finish telling Terith your story. I believe you were about to tell him what I am full of. Oh and while you are at it, why not tell him about the cunja beetle you dropped down my tunic in sight of Master Yoda.” He smiled wickedly at his friend, “But please tell me what I am full of first I’d love to hear this.” Qui-Gon leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand staring into Maces eyes daring him to continue.
Mace looked from his friend to the others seated around the table. Terith was trying hard not to burst out laughing at the feigned innocence marking the dark Jedi’s face.
“Hey how is Obi-Wan doing?” The sorry attempt to turn the conversation did not work as Qui-Gon smacked his friend on the back of the head with his open palm.
“Don’t change the subject! You were telling stories again.”
“Well I wasn’t telling lies.”
“Yes you were.”
“No I was not!”
“Yes you were! I know you, you were!” Qui-Gon turned to Terith and addressed the Jedi, “Don’t believe a word he says. Mace likes to spin a tall tale.”
“I do not! I cant believe you..”
Jelesh stepped up to the table and pushed Mace forcefully over with her large paw moving him away from her, “Yes you do.” She growled softly at him as she seated herself next to the Jedi.
Leaning around the man she addressed Qui-Gon, “In fact he told me about the time that you brought a Tarsmain cub to the Temple. Was very funny story the way he told it.” She turned to the trapped council member and bared her fangs, smiling at the man. “Tell again.”
“Me!” Qui-Gon sputtered, “Me! Why you..”
Mace quickly squeezed out from between the two and raised his hands in a placating gesture, “Now Jinn, it was only a story, you know, help to pass time and all.”
The tall Jedi feinted at his retreating friend, “Just wait till I get you alone.”
Mace grabbed Callab who was unfortunate enough to pass by their table and placed the rescue member between himself and his friend. “Oh look, here’s Callab. I think I’ll walk him to his table.”
But Jelesh was faster, grabbing the mans arm and pulling him down next to her. She took his tray from his hands and placed it on the table before him. “Callab sit here with Jelesh.” She barked in laughter at the look on the council mans face as Qui-Gon started to rise to his feet, pushing back from the table in order to pursue his friend. The dark Jedi was saved by the approach of a medical attendant. Qui-Gon took note of the assistant’s overcoat still stained with the bacta that Obi-Wan had been submerged in.
“Master Jinn,” the attendant addressed the half standing man, “Your apprentice has been moved to his own room and he is asking about you. If you would like I will show you to his room now.”
All jokes forgotten the Master quickly bowed, excused himself and followed the man from the hangar.
Mace watched the retreating form of his friend. “Is Obi-Wan really going to be okay?” He addressed his question to Collran.
The healer nodded absently, “Yes, so is Qui-Gon.”
Jelesh dug her elbow into the Jedi’s side and indicated an open chair across from her. “Tell more stories Jedi.” She smiled at him and watched Terith out of the corner of her eye, “Mace good story teller.”
“Yeah right, you just want to get me into trouble with Jinn.” The council man looked around the room cautiously and reseated himself leaning across the table conspiratorially, “Have I ever told you the story about Jinn and the time he got stuck in an Aldalavian jail?”
Laughter erupted from the far table as the tall Jedi exited the cafeteria walking briskly to keep up with the medical assistant. He glanced quickly back into the room. Who knew what that friend of his was telling the others. But it didn’t matter; he had stories of his own to tell. The words of Master Yoda echoed in his mind, “Revenge is not for the Jedi,” and he smiled to himself. Well then not revenge, but how about returning the favor. As he conjured up the stories he would tell, the man in front of him stopped at a small door and opened it for him, stepping aside so the Jedi could enter.
“No one else will be allowed in for at least twenty four hours, until young Kenobi is fit for more visitors. He needs his rest. See that he gets it.” With that warning the attendant turned and walked away.
Qui-Gon stepped into the warm softly lit room. It was an all too familiar scene. His Padawan lay on the medical bed against the far wall; the slow rise and fall of his chest betraying the state of the boy. Quietly he walked towards the bed and sat down in the chair next to the cot.
With a sigh, he gently took Obi-Wans hand in his own. “Padawan?”
The boy on the bed shifted slightly as the voice of his Master penetrated the drug induced sleep that held him down just below the surface of consciousness.
“I’m here now.”
Obi-Wan tried to respond dragging himself to the surface, his body wouldn’t cooperate quickly enough.
//Slowly young one. I am not going anywhere.//
The Jedi breathed in deeply and commanded his eyes to open. To his surprise they did and he found himself staring up at his Master.
The Jedi stood and leaned over the waking body. A smile crept onto his face as he watched his Padawans eyes open and the boy smiled back up at him.
“How do you feel?” He whispered softly.
“Awful.” Obi-Wan swallowed hard concentrating, “The drugs they give you when you are in the tank are horrible.” He clenched his eyes tightly against the light as the room swam sickeningly. He grasped the older Jedi’s hand that lay comfortingly on his chest.
Qui-Gon tightened his hand around Obi-Wan’s placing his free hand on the apprentice’ss forehead. “I know. They always do the same thing to me.” He kept his voice low and soft.
“I think I am going to be sick.” Obi-Wan lurched into a sitting position supported by his Master who quickly retrieved the small garbage can that sat conveniently within reach.
Qui-Gon gently held the boys shoulders as the youth relived his stomach of its contents. He rubbed his hand softly against the Padawans back as the young man leaned heavily into the older Jedi.
“Oh, that hurts.” Obi-Wan moaned softly holding his stomach. He shifted on the bed as Qui-Gon stood and walked the garbage can around the corner near the refresher. When the Master came back he scooted the Jedi over on the bed and sat down next to him, pulling his long legs up onto the sleep couch.
Obi-Wan curled into the mans lap not even worried about the fact that he might be too old for such comfort. The sound of Qui-Gons heartbeat through his tunic was a welcome rhythm as he lay his head on the older mans chest a reminder of safer days.
Wordlessly Qui-Gon allowed the padawan to find a comfortable position and then wrapped his arms around the small body. “Do you need some water young one?” The quiet question rumbled in softly in Obi-Wan’s ear.
“Yes.” His answer soft but he made no move to sit up. “Is it cold?”
Qui-Gon reached over and touched the jar water left on the nightstand for their use. “Yes very.”
Obi-Wan shivered in his arms. “Then no, I don’t want any. Thank you.”
A small laugh filled the room. “Padawan?”
“I never want to be cold again or have anything cold touch me again. It’s even freezing in the room when they take you out of the bacta tank. No. Thank you but no.”
Qui-Gon smiled at the response. “Shall I see if the Council can send us somewhere warm for our next mission?”
“Absolutely!” Obi-Wan closed his eyes and settled against the man once more, “I mean please master. And only if we can both go okay?”
“Of course Padawan.” The Jedi gently brushed his fingers through the boys hair. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He felt a small comforting tug on their bond as the apprentice touched him through the connection before he fell back to sleep.
With a smile Qui-Gon Jinn rested his head against the cool wall of the medical room and tightened his hold on the body in his arms. A sigh of contentment radiated through the open unconstricted connection and was echoed back with a wave of peace.