If At First You Don't Succeed.....
Series: 2/5 Sequel to Who Needs a Vacation
Summary: Pre-TPM. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan try for another vacation away together. Obi-Wan is around 20 years old.
Feedback: Please, to Siobhancl2@aol.com
Disclaimer: Don't own anything or anyone. All the characters and their universe belong to George Lucas. I also have no education whatsoever in Astronomy, Physics, Medicine or Pyrotechnics so all mistakes in any of those areas are completely mine.
Notes: Everything in // // is Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan talking through their bond.
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Obi-Wan never tired of space flight. The starlines expanding into shooting rays of elongated light never ceased to amaze him as he pushed the lever forward that engaged the hyperdrive. The white pinprick stars jumped and became long streaks of multi-colored light that pressed around the small shuttle in varying degrees and speeds capturing his imagination.
Qui-Gon watched his student with hidden amusement and envy; to still be so in awe of the simple things, it must be youth he thought.
"Is it true, Master," questioned Obi-Wan without breaking his gaze on the pulsating lights, "that Ryliss is only habitable for 50 years every millennium?"
"Yes, Padawan, it is true," he replied. "In fact Ryliss only has a couple of more decades before it will become completely uninhabitable again."
Ryliss was their destination. An odd planet within a binary star system and an elliptical orbit that took it a millennium to complete. At this stage in the planets path through the galaxy it was located in, the planet was stable and livable, experiencing the tail end of it's fifty years of prosperity in this millennium before beginning it's glacial period as it reached the farthest point in it's orbit. For the next year and a half the people who had chosen to make Ryliss their temporary home were treated to the rare cosmic event known as "crystal storms". At dusk every evening just as the sun was setting, the orbiting planetary ring of comet fragments would rain down pieces of frozen ice and rock that burned brilliantly upon entry into the stratosphere. Sulfuric compounds and metallic salts found in the comets would ignite into various dazzling colors streaking through the twilight sky. It was said that it resembled a rainbow breaking into a thousand pieces and falling to the ground. In most cases the pieces of ice and other compounds burned up before impacting the planet, but every year there was someone that would actually find a lump of the still burning material. Upon cooling and polishing, the stones took on the translucent beauty of an opalescent diamond or so the tales went. They were known as Ryliss Gems and those that existed were priceless. It was to this planet to witness this phenomenon first hand that Master Qui-Gon Jinn had made arrangements to bring Obi-Wan Kenobi his Padawan apprentice. They had tried several times to get away just the two of them for rest and relaxation and each time they had been disrupted by some unfortunate event. On their last attempt to get away their shuttle had crashed. Mace Windu, a long time friend of Qui-Gon's who sat on the Jedi Council, had been forced to come to their aid that time.
"Do you think we will actually get there?" Obi-Wan tore his gaze away from the view ports to focus on his Master.
"I hope so, Obi-Wan."
"I don't think Master Windu would take kindly to our returning his ship in the same condition we returned Master Yoda's," teased the apprentice.
"Oh really." Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow at the smiling young Jedi. "You think that might be a problem do you?"
"Well, Master, I did hear Master Windu threaten you if we...... how did he put it? 'If we pulled the same sort of stunt', I believe those were his exact words, that he would take it out of your hide." Obi-Wan tried hard to hide the smile that threatened to over take him. "Not one scratch now you hear me?" the young Jedi imitated almost perfectly his Masters long-time friend. Turning back to the console to conceal his laughter he proceeded, "I guess we should be glad that Master Windu doesn't have a walking stick."
"Obi-Wan!" reprimanded the older Jedi barely concealing his own laughter. "I shouldn't think Master Windu would take kindly to being imitated by a Padawan either. Perhaps Master Yoda will lend him that walking stick if you aren't careful."
The laughter of both men filled the cockpit. It looked like it might actually be a good trip after all.
The hours stretched into their flight occupied by conversations and practice in using the force to alter one's perception of time.
Qui-Gon was leaned fully back in the pilots chair eyes closed completely relaxed. Obi-Wan on the other hand was fidgeting unconsciously, running out of patience. He found himself glancing over at his Master again. The starlines, which had so fascinated him hours ago, had lost their appeal. He had decided to go into the back and rearrange something, anything, maybe even start a meal. He was trying to move quietly out of his seat for fear of waking his Master when the older Jedi spoke, surprising him and causing him to fall ungracefully back into his seat eliciting a small laugh from his mentor.
"I was not sleeping. And yes, a meal sounds like a good idea, Padawan." Qui-Gon glanced at him through half open eyes. "Do you need help?"
"No, Master, I believe I can handle it." Obi-Wan smiled, color reddening his cheeks at his awkwardness and being so easily read by the man next to him. Qui-Gon simply nodded and straightened in his chair.
"Don't worry, Obi-Wan, we only have five more hours," teased the older Jedi checking the chronometer. "Perhaps you should meditate on patience when we are through eating though." A smiled tugged at his lips.
"Master...." groaned the apprentice with a small laugh and a glare at his teacher. Passing the aisle between the two stations he had almost cleared the cockpit when an alarm sounded. Returning quickly to his seat he identified the flashing light. "Oh no, not again!"
"What is it, Obi-Wan?"
"Master, it's the hyperdrive."
"Has it shorted out?"
"No, Master, it's going off line." The younger Jedi responded as the craft abruptly reverted to realspace. "It's almost as if....."
"As if we were pulled out of hyperspace by a gravity well," Qui-Gon finished for him, his eyes fixed on a ship hanging ominously off their starboard side..
"Master! That's an Interdictor!"
"Interdictor's are experimental. I had thought the Senate outlawed them."
"Master, there." Obi-Wan pointed to the far side of the monstrous ship. Several smaller snub-nosed fighters swung around the front of the Interdictor heading straight towards them.
"Pirates. Obi-Wan, take us out of here as quickly as possible."
The young Jedi threw himself into the task. Bringing the flight systems up quickly he shoved the small craft into a steep inverted dive looping back on their initial trajectory.
"Head there." Qui-Gon pointed to a small planet with several moons, "Perhaps we can loose them in there."
The ship bucked as the first salvos of laser fire hit their rear deflector shields. "Master, I......" Obi-Wan's words were cut off as one of the fighters cut straight up in front of the view port, nearly sheering off the nose of their craft in an attempt to stop their escape. It took all of the young man's concentration to keep the shuttle on course and remain in his seat. Qui-Gon glanced at him, noticing the difficulty his Padawan was having, reached over and brought Obi-Wan's seat harness down over his head snapping it into place across his lap.
//Thank you, Master// The Padawan didn't even spare a glance as he used every ounce of training to avoid the laser fire coming at them from all directions..
"Shields are down to 40 percent." Qui-Gon called out. Obi-Wan was so focused on escaping the attack that he did not respond as he threw the craft into a diving spin straight at the nearest moon now filling the viewscreen. The older Jedi could feel his student wrap himself in the force, calm his fears and abandon his thoughts into the weave and bend of the force all around them. His movements imperceptible to others aligned him with the power that surged around him; dodging, juking, turning always in tune with the movement and shift of the force. It was as if he had created a bubble of the force around their ship and could sense the decisions being made by their attackers seconds before they happened. Qui-Gon was proud watching his Padawan work, someday the young man would be a great Jedi Knight perhaps even surpassing his Master. Obi-Wan smiled at the emotions flooding the bond he shared with the older Jedi. As the ship bucked under a renewed onslaught from their pursuers Qui-Gon returned his attention to the instrument panels in front of him boosting auxiliary power to the shields and life supports systems, intent on finding a way of escape.
Skimming low into what little atmosphere the closest moon had, Obi-Wan pushed the craft to the limits of its speed. He was hoping to use their combined momentum and the gravity of the lifeless rock below them to sling shot their craft around the other side into free space.
Qui-Gon sensing his intentions brought the hyperdrive back on line and calculated an escape vector. A small jump anywhere would get them out of harms way.
As they rounded the far side of the moon, they were moving at speeds that the shuttle was never created to keep. The older Jedi felt his student shrink the size of the force bubble surrounding their craft in order to hold it together as they reached the height of speed he could coax from it. They had almost reached the point of escape when one of the pirate ships closed on them, firing quad laser cannons into the port engine of the shuttle. The small craft was knocked out of its trajectory, rolling out of control. The console in front Qui-Gon erupted in a shower of sparks and small debris shoving the man back into his seat. Had it not been for his flight harness Qui-Gon would have been thrown from his chair by the blast.
//Master!// Obi-Wan's attention now divided between trying to regain control of the vessel and assessing the seriousness of the injuries to his unconscious teacher.
The craft was out of control, coming in hard, spinning straight toward the moon they had been using as a shield moments earlier. He knew he only had seconds to reverse their motion and speed before the slight gravity of the planet below him became too much to escape. He cut the engines counting down the seconds and then slammed them full into reverse jerking the small craft straight and giving him the precious time he needed to adjust their heading. The vessel edged out into free space and stilled with a violent shudder exhausting the limits of its capability.
"Nice flying, Collor Mark IV." A male voice crackled over the comm. "Stand down and we'll tow you back, resist and we'll vape you."
"We are Jedi, we have nothing you could want," Obi-wan responded desperately.
"Right, and I'm the Supreme Chancellor. Give us a break will you. You have any idea what a brand new Collor Mark IV will fetch on the black market? No tricks now."
Obi-Wan shook his head ignoring the threats he removed his harness, his whole attention focused on his injured Master.
//Master?// he pressed worriedly at the bond that he shared with the other. There was no response. Kneeling next to Qui-Gon's seat he gently lifted his Master's head resting it against the back of the chair. His breath caught in a sharp hiss as he saw the deep cut above the others eye and the burn marks to his face, chest and hands. There was spreading stain of blood high on his left shoulder where a piece of the console had torn through the muscle. Carefully Obi-Wan unbuckled the seat harness that held Qui-Gon in place and pulled the man into his arms. He slowly turned holding the older Jedi against him for fear of hurting him further and lay him down on the deck of the cockpit, cradling his head in his hands.
//Please, Master// there was no response. Working quickly to stop the bleeding Obi-Wan removed his robe and pressed it inside Qui-Gon's tunic holding it tightly to his shoulder. He was breathing, that had to be good the apprentice kept reminding himself and he could still feel his Master through their bond. They were going to be okay, they had to be okay.
So preoccupied was he, that Obi-Wan took no notice of the turn of events out the view port until the pirates voice came back over the comm unit once more.
"You got lucky this time Mark, IV. If I were you I wouldn't visit this quadrant of space again. You won't be so lucky next time. 'Nice day."
Obi-Wan jerked his attention forward. A ship even larger than the Interdictor was rounding the small planet below them, firing on the fleeing snubnose fighters. In moments the pirates all winked out, entering hyperspace. The new ship resembled a Baudo-class star yacht only three times as large with elongated fins that gave it a more organic look.
//Obi-Wan// his Master touched him weakly through the force.
//Master!// The apprentice immediately refocused on the injured man. //Lie still, Master, you've been hurt//
"What happened, Padawan?"
"Sshh, don't talk we'll be okay. I think."
"Collor Mark IV, are you in need of assistance?" the voice over the comm cut off any response Qui-Gon might have had.
"Yes I...we are. My Master's been hurt and I don't think our ship can fly."
"Okay, just hold tight, Mark IV, we'll get a tractor beam on you and pull you in."
Obi-Wan turned back to Qui-Gon. He seated himself carefully next to his Master and pulled him gently into his lap. Keeping up the pressure on the still bleeding wound he touched his forehead to the older Jedi's, mindful of the cut above his left eye. He pulled the force around them filling their bond with peace and healing.
Qui-Gon moved his hand to cover his Padawan's. //It will be all right, Obi-Wan// he could feel the tremors in the young Jedi as the adrenaline began to wear off.
Neither Jedi realized when they had fully docked with the large vessel until the seal on the landing ramp was forced open and a team of medics rushed into the cockpit.
They pushed Obi-Wan aside, pulling Qui-Gon from his Padawan and rushed him out almost as quickly as they had entered. Stunned, Obi-Wan turned to find a hand extended down towards him. A tall guard in a sharp blue military uniform not much older than he helped the young Jedi to his feet and ushered him out following the medics through the hangar into a nearby medical facility.
"Ashrytec." He introduced himself simply. "Your friend will be well taken care of, Kinshasa is the best medic we have on the Shadowed Golan."
"I beg your pardon?" Obi-Wan still confused was trying to see into the small sterile room where they had taken Qui-Gon.
"I'm sorry, where are my manners," the officer replied his brown eyes shining kindly. Placing his hands on Obi-Wan's shoulders he turned the young Jedi to face him. "First your friend will be fine. Secondly welcome. My name is Ashrytec, I am first officer on the Shadowed Golan."
"Your accent, I can't place it."
"No, we are the Alantrayu of Alantrus. I doubt you have ever met any of our people before. We aren't big socializers if you know what I mean."
"I am afraid I don't." Obi-Wan cast a worried look behind him. Laughter drew his attention back. The officer before him was laughing and he didn't find anything funny about the situation at all.
"No offense intended, my friend. You seem very confused......what did you say your name is?"
Immediately embarrassed at his lack of protocol Obi-Wan ducked his head collecting himself. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude..." The other cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"Being attacked by Shalaraider pirates is no small thing. Surviving it is something quite different. Rather unique I'd say. You have every right to be thrown off guard."
The doors leading in from the hangar swooshed open and an entourage of people swept in. The man in the center ringed by guards and attendants, was definitely a dignitary. Obi-Wan had learned some things from his Master and their diplomatic missions together. He bowed low and locked eyes with the gentleman. This man had kind eyes that resembled the guard who had helped him, although they seemed older and tired.
"Administer Jarin, this is one of the Jedi we rescued from the pirates. I am afraid I was just getting his name."
"A Jedi. We have never had the pleasure of entertaining any of your kind. You are welcome here, young Jedi."
Obi-Wan again bowed low taking his cue he replied formally, "I thank you, Administer. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir. My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi and my Master is Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn." Though politics demanded he be respectful, what the young apprentice desperately wanted to do was run into the adjoining room to visually make sure that his Master really was okay. Through their bond he knew the older Jedi was awake, in pain and more than a little worried about his student. As though sensing Obi-Wan's thoughts the elder statesman moved towards the doors of the medical room and pushed them open motioning for the young Jedi to precede him. Forgetting all protocol Obi-Wan stepped quickly into the room crossing to the bed in a few steps.
The head medic looked up, words of reprimand on her lips until she caught a silencing glance from Administer Jarin. Stepping back she gave the worried Jedi space.
//Obi-Wan, is everything okay?//
//Yes, Master, are you okay?// the apprentice leaned over his mentor.
//I will be. Who are our hosts, Obi-Wan?//
Obi-Wan caught himself again, he knew Qui-Gon was going to grill protocol into him until he choked on it after this incident. Too much had happened in the last hour for him to process it correctly. The young Jedi turned to make introductions as Qui-Gon attempted to sit up.
"Don't even think about it!" warned Kinshasa, the feisty medic rounded the bed, glaring at her patient. Administer Jarin moved closer to the injured Jedi so that he was in the line of Qui-Gon's sight.
"Administer Jarin, my Master Qui-Gon Jinn." Obi-Wan stepped back slightly as he made the necessary introductions.
"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Administer. Thank you for your hospitality."
"It is my pleasure, Jedi Knight. We have heard tales on my planet of those with your abilities. I would be honored to be acquainted with you more when you are feeling up to it."
"Of course, Administer" Qui-Gon nodded in deference. "Tell me, how it is you came to find us out here? We were lucky you came along when you did."
"Our ship is on its way to Coruscant. We have decided to join the Senate and wish to align ourselves with others in the galaxy. Our people have been isolated by choice for years now. Our world is in need of things that we can no longer supply. It is time for a new generation to take control and to expand our horizons. We came upon you and your attackers by accident. Our sensors picked up their hyperspace distortion before they were able to pull us back into realspace. Curious we thought to investigate and found you. By monitoring your communications we discovered you to be Jedi. Your apprentice is quite a pilot." A broad smile was bestowed upon Obi-Wan.
The Jedi Knight had started to reply when he was forcefully interrupted by the doctor, "All right, that's enough." She glared at the men around her, pushing her way to the front. "I am still the doctor here and this patient needs rest. Rest, he won't get with all of you hounding him with questions."
"I am quite all right, thank you." Qui-Gon dismissed her.
"I will tell you when you are all right. You need to rest. Sleep would be nice."
"Don't argue with Kinshasa," laughed the Administer, "she always wins. We will take good care of your apprentice. My son will see him to his quarters, he will lack for nothing." Jarin motioned to the first officer standing by the door quietly waiting. Ashrytec stepped forward; he was Administer Jarin's son. No wonder their eyes had the same kind look to them Obi-Wan thought.
//It will be okay, Padawan, don't worry.//
The medic was watching the Jedi through slitted eyes. Noting the family-like bond between the two, she focused her attention on Obi-Wan, "he really needs his rest." The words were kind but there was no room for discussion in her voice. The young Jedi nodded.
"It will be best for both of you." The voice belonged to a man standing to the right and slightly behind the Administer.
"My Advisor, Trok'tu." Introduced Jarin. "I am afraid he is correct and you could use a clean set of clothing also. Have you any on board your shuttle that my crew can get for you?"
Obi-Wan looked down, his tunic was stained with Qui-Gon's blood and his robe lay in a corner on the floor where it had been discarded by the medic teams.
//Go, Padawan, I will be alright.//
The Administer sensing the need for the two to be alone motioned his entourage out to wait in the hall. Only Ashrytec and Kinshasa remained behind. The Padawan blocked everyone out but his Master, there would be time enough for the others later.
//Master, I would rather stay with you.//
//I know. I am proud of you, Padawan, you have done well.// The young Jedi locked his gaze onto his Master as if memorizing every feature. Their bond filled with emotions where words would not suffice.
//Then let me help you as you have always helped me// He placed the palm of his hand against the older Jedi's forehead careful not to touch the bandaged cut. Waves of the force rippled around Qui-Gon flowing over and into him as his Padawan poured peace and calm into his weary mind and body. //Sleep, Master. I need you well soon//
//Be careful, my Padawan. I sense great unease on this ship. Watch yourself, be mindful of the force// Obi-Wan acknowledged his agreement with a small nod of his head as he continued to press down on his Masters consciousness with soothing waves of quiet and rest.
//I will, Master. I promise.//
//And I ......// Qui-Gon's words were cut off as he fell into a deep healing sleep. Obi-Wan hesitated a moment longer assuring himself that the healing energy he was sending had begun to take effect.
"Rest, Qui-Gon." He turned to the doctor who stood quietly behind the bed watching the exchange between Master and Student. "He will sleep now for a while." She simply nodded and began to hook monitoring devices to the resting Jedi.
"I'll let you know if there is any change." She offered quietly then catching herself she grinned playfully at the apprentice. "But I'll just bet you'll know before I will."
Obi-Wan forced a small smile, pressing his emotions deep down inside him, he moved towards the door. Stopping at the threshold he glanced back once at his sleeping Master, then left the medical bay.
The quarters Ashrytec provided for him were elaborate by Jedi standards and Obi-Wan wasted no time making good use of the shower and abundance of towels. One of the crew had brought him a change of clothes and a clean robe, discreetly removing the stained ones he wore previously.
He had only meant to sit down on the resting couch for a minute but a chime at his door brought him abruptly awake.
Suddenly worried, he pressed at the bond he shared with his Master, finding him still sleeping soundly, he moved through the entryway to answer the door.
Ashrytec stood in the doorway leaning back craning his neck to look down the hallway outside Obi-Wan's quarters. The Jedi curious, shot a glance around the doorframe. He just caught a glimpse of a female cadet turning into an adjacent corridor. A devilish look played across the first officer's face as he brought his attention back to Obi-Wan.
"Been trying to catch that ones eye for a bit now." He confided playfully. "I'm not sure what I am doing wrong."
"Have you ever tried speaking to her instead of simply watching her?" Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows questioning his guest.
As though at a loss for words Ashrytec simply stood staring at the Jedi for a heartbeat before breaking out in a warm laugh. "Who said Jedi don't have a sense of humor?"
The man seemed to catch Obi-Wan constantly off guard. "Actually, I thought I'd drop by and see if you would like a tour of the ship. Might help pass the time and take your mind off things."
"That would be nice."
Obi-Wan found the hydroponics lab fascinating. The overgrowth that wrapped the sides of the huge room was in full blossom and bright red and yellow birds darted through the plant life.
"Quetcaloes." Ashrytec indicated the birds. "They keep the insects down. Trust me my friend you don't want to experience an outbreak of cuja beetles on a spaceship." He shuddered in remembrance.
"I'll take your word for it," laughed the young Jedi. It was good to have someone to talk with even if he wasn't following every word the other said. His mind was drifting again, checking the bond between his Master, hoping as he had for the last few hours to find the man awake and responsive.
The ship was huge and quite industrial. Built to be self-sustaining for long periods of flight the Alantrayu had thought of everything and everything came replete with redundant back up systems. His mind wandered back to their initial meeting with Administer Jarin, something had been nagging him about a statement that Ashrytec had made.
"You said your people were not big socializers. What did you mean by that?"
"Oh right, that." The first officer pushed open a door in the far wall motioning Obi-Wan through with a nod of his head. The Jedi stopped at the threshold, catching his breath at the scene before him. The large bay had been turned into an arboretum. In every direction all there was to see were forests and simulated rolling hills bathed in artificial sunlight. A few small, grazing creatures took flight at their entrance. "Alantrayu back up systems at their height, and my Father's pet project. Claims it helps him relax." Ashrytec commented wryly, walking past the stunned apprentice and seating himself next to a small river that disappeared into a grove of purple-leafed trees.
Obi-Wan sat next to him waiting for the man to collect his thoughts.
"Our people were oppressed for years, Obi-Wan, by neighboring planets and raiders like the ones you encountered. We fought back but our technology was far behind theirs for so long. Then one day one of our scientist discovered the ability to vary subspace and wrap an object in it, effectively hiding that object from the naked eye. We developed the basics into a planetary shield and wrapped the entire planet in subspace particles. The particles bend and refract light making it appear that nothing solid exists at that point in space. So one day we simply disappeared."
"Yes, and it would have worked too except for the fact that we have exhausted the limits of our planetary resources. In the time that we have been isolated from the rest of the universe we have improved our technology and unfortunately heightened our xenophobia. My Father's delegation is the first to leave our planet in centuries. He is trying to save us, although there are those who oppose him and his radical viewpoints as they call them. But he is correct, if we don't change we will die."
"I see your problem. I am sure the Senate can help your people establish trade routes and give you aid until you are back on your feet again. But your people will have to learn to deal with many other species. It won't be easy."
"No, I don't believe it will."
They sat for a few minutes listening to the water behind them and the call of the quetcaloes in the trees. Obi-Wan glanced at his host who was lost in his own thoughts.
"Listen, I'm sorry but do you think...." the Jedi hesitated unsure if his request would be denied.
"You want to go see your friend?" Ashyrtec smiled glancing at him knowingly.
"Yes please, if you wouldn't mind showing me the way." Obi-Wan returned the smile relieved.
The first officer took the lead winding them through endless corridors keeping up a friendly banter. Obi-Wan was finally beginning to feel comfortable in the presence of the man he was walking with, given different circumstances he was sure they would have become fast friends.
"Do you really think that the Senate will be able to help our people?"
Obi-Wan started to respond when a sharp knife of pain shot through his mind. He staggered under the weight of the shock, catching himself against the wall of the corridor to keep from falling. It felt as if someone had separated part of his brain from the rest of him. His stomach turned and with a gasp he realized what had happened. The bond with his Master had been abruptly broken, severed. He could no longer feel the presence of the other in his mind. Reaching out he was met with nothing.
//Master!// Nothing. The loss was almost more than he could handle. He couldn't think, he couldn't move. Tears from the pain and the separation threatened to flood his eyes. His Master just couldn't be gone. He realized that Ashrytec was talking to him, gently shaking him. Opening his eyes and taking a shaky breath he focused on the worried officer.
"Obi-Wan, what is it?'
"My Master," the torn apprentice gasped, "I can't feel him, he's...he's gone."
"That can't be. Where would he go."
"No, you don't understand, I would know if he left. All of a sudden he is simply *gone*."
"You don't think....." the question died on the officers lips.
"No I don't." Obi-Wan said forcefully. Then adding quietly, "I can't."
Ashrytec grabbed his elbow and pulled him along the corridor in the direction of the medical bay. "Come on Obi-Wan, we'll find your Master, I promise you."
They rounded the last corner and skidded to a stop inside the small medical bay. The room where Qui-Gon had been only hours earlier was torn apart. An orderly was kneeling next to an unconscious on-call medic and the Jedi Master was no where in sight. Both young men helped the orderly place the injured doctor on the bed that previously had held Qui-Gon.
"What happened here?" Ashrytec's voice demanded an answer.
The orderly's answer was drown in the earsplitting klaxon of a siren as the lights dimmed and turned red. The shipped lurched and an automated voice announced, "Warning! Structural integrity failure imminent."
"What now?!" Obi-Wan followed Ashrytec into the corridor. The officer grabbed the nearest personnel running towards the emergency.
"What happened?" he demanded shouting to be heard over the din of sirens and people.
The tech pushed them back against the wall making way for a large vehicle rushing past them. "It's the back up drives sir. They are off line and powering up. We can't get to them to shut them down, someone's shorted out the circuits to the door mechanisms." Tearing away from the officers' grip the man ran to catch up with the others hurrying to help contain the crisis.
Obi-Wan and Ashrytec ran after the crew into the engine bay. Huge massive steel doors had sealed all access to the drives. The vehicle that had pressed passed them in the corridor was attempting unsuccessfully to force the hinges open.
"What will happen if they can't reach the drives?" Obi-Wan took in the chaos momentarily forgetting his own distress.
"If we can't reach the backup drives and shut them down or bring them on line they will create an energy feedback loop. Without an outlet to channel all that energy we only have a few minutes."
"At best they will blow and only take out the lower levels. Worst case they compromise the ships hull integrity and breach, we break apart." The ship shuddered violently throwing them off balance.
"Tell your men to move back. I can open the doors." Obi-Wan ignored the questioning glance from the man beside him and focused inwardly. He pushed aside the emptiness inside of him that cried out, pushed away the thoughts that tore at his mind begging for answers, pushed away all the outside noise and chaos and found the force. Bright, warm and inviting; he was tempted to merely step off into it, but there were too many people depending on him. He drew it to him, wrapping it around him and saturated his mind with its living energy.
//Be mindful of the force, my Padawan//
//Help you it will//
The voices of his Master and teachers flooded back to him. //Concentrate, Padawan. Remember size matters not// For a moment he thought he could feel his Master lending his support and strength. The force swirled, building around him and in him. Opening his eyes he looked at the doors before him and did not see their massiveness nor the fear in the eyes of those around him as the automated warning system counted down to structural failure. Instead the young Jedi saw the force weaving through and connecting everything on the deck. Raising his hand as if simply gesturing he gripped the doors with the tangible force he could see and moved his arm to the right. The force in response wedged between the doors and exploded horizontally forcing them open as though following the guiding path of his hand.
A rush of humanity flooded through the open portal quickly setting about shutting down the errant drives. Obi-Wan still closely in tune with the force used the power to shunt the drives' excess energy into various systems throughout the ship, automatically deactivating the emergency warning system.
Ashrytec's hand on his shoulder brought him back to the present grounding him and with the rush of reality came the horrible lonely ache from the loss of his Master's touch. He turned haunted eyes toward his new friend. "I have to find him."
"The doors! I don't understand what you did but thank you." The officer's awe was evident.
"Please." Opening the doors and losing his Master had taxed the young Jedi, only one thing occupied his thoughts now. Ashrytec nodded.
"Wait here. Let me make sure everything is under control."
Obi-Wan waited patiently, continually pressing the bond he once shared with his Master, continually feeling nothing. He wondered if he would feel this empty for the rest of his life if his Master were gone. The emptiness had threatened to over taken him when the officer suddenly returned.
"I'm sorry," noticing the worry in the others eyes, "everything is under control now. Come on I know right where to start."
Administer Jarin's quarters were comfortable and spacious. A large portal looked out into space stretching the length of the receiving room. The Administer, his Advisor and the Captain of the ship an older gentleman well worn in his years, listened intently as Jarin's son told his Father the course of events of the last few hours.
The Official traded looks with his Captain who nodded and silently crossed to a console and began programming it.
"This greatly worries me, Ashrytec. Do you know what this means?" The Administer turned troubled eyes on his son.
"Yes, Father. Someone from your opposition is on board. We have a saboteur. But of the disappearance of Obi-Wan's Master, I don't know."
Nodding slowly Jarin turned to Obi-Wan. The apprentice had stood by quietly listening to the recounting, weariness etching lines in a face too young to bear such weight.
"Young Jedi, I believe we may be able to find your Master." Again the weighted glance at the older Captain who looked quickly down when Obi-Wan turned to him.
"Please, if you can help me." Implored the Padawan, not understanding the exchange or the reluctance he felt from the two men.
"Sit." Jarin indicated the chairs in the middle of the room. "Has my son told you of our planetary shield?"
"Yes, sir." Replied Obi-Wan taking a seat opposite the dignitary.
The Administer shifted his gaze out the portal collecting his thoughts. "Our people tried to find other uses for the technology of bending subspace. Some thought that it would have medicinal benefits. If an injured person's mind could be wrapped in subspace while his body was being cared for perhaps the shock to the system could be minimized. For short periods of time it actually seemed to work. For extremely short periods of time only. If a mind is wrapped in subspace for substantial amounts of time the damage is irreparable. An hour proved to be too long an amount of time for a mind to be separated from it's body. While in subspace the individual has no sensory input whatsoever. Sometimes the person under this type of treatment never came back."
Horrified Obi-Wan simply stared at the Administer.
"Father, how come you never told me of this?"
"It was outlawed long before you were ever born Ashrytec. There was no need to tell you. It is a practice that is rarely ever used and never talked about. There are some who would still have access to this information but I never would have thought they would use it."
"Are you saying that my Master's mind has been wrapped in subspace?" Obi-Wan's voice was small when he finally found it.
"No, I am saying from your description that it is a possibility. We can scan the ship for a subspace disruption."
"Why?" Ashrytec shook his head trying to assimilate all the information at once.
"Ashrytec," chided the older man, "you of all people should know, if there is a faction aboard that does not want this alliance with the Galactic Senate, what better way to sabotage a peaceful meeting than by destroying one of it's emissaries."
Jarin turned to the man behind him at the console, "Captain, if you will."
"Please, Captain, move your hands where I can see them.." Trok'tu stepped from the corner where he had been observing the conversation in silence. He lifted a blaster from under his jacket and pointed it at the Administer.
"Don't act so surprised, Administer. What better position to place a saboteur than right under the nose of the intended victim." His face twisted in a vicious sneer. "You and your Master were an unfortunate turn of events, and I apologize, it need not have been this way." The advisor glanced at Obi-Wan.
"Administer, if you turn the ship around I will release the Jedi and we can be on our way. This trip was unnecessary, if you would listen to our people...."
Jarin stood fists clenched at his sides, "If I listen to our people, we will be dead by the end of this decade. You know that as well as I."
Obi-Wan and Ashrytec stood slowly to their feet drawing the Advisor's attention.
"No fast moves. Over there all of you.", Trok'tu motioned the two younger men to move closer to Jarin.
The young Jedi tensed, reaching out with the force he grabbed hold of the blaster in the traitor's hand. In one swift move he jerked the weapon towards himself catching it with his left hand and igniting his lightsaber with right. He stepped in front of the Administer and assumed a defensive posture. "Now we end this; and you will tell me where my Master is." The dangerous edge to his voice demanded a response.
"Maybe I should just let the Jedi cut you in two, we can find his Master with or without you. You did use a subspace field to shield him from his Apprentice didn't you?"
Trok'tu swallowed hard eyes fixed on the blade inches from him. "You are making a big mistake, Administer."
"Yes or no!" barked the official his patience worn thin.
"I've got it." The Captain behind them called out. With the attention drawn away from him he had proceeded with the subspace sweep.
Ashrytec stepped quickly forward, taking custody of Trok'tu and calling for additional security.
"Where?" relief flooded the young Jedi. He deactivated his lightsaber as the first officer handed over the traitor to the guards who entered the room.
"Level three, 14b."
Exchanging a glance, Obi-Wan and Ashrytec ran from the office, a security detail and Administer Jarin in their wake.
"Give me a med team now level three, 14b," cried the first officer into his comlink as they headed for the nearest turbolift.
The room was small. Small and cold thought Obi-Wan as he knelt beside the cot, that held the body of his Master. Ashrytec had forced him to wait, not allowing him to remove the small blinking devices attached to Qui-Gon's temples.
//Master// It was his Master's body but there was no answering through their bond. What if they were too late, it had been over three hours. What if Qui-Gon couldn't find his way back, what if he was lost forever? A hand pushed him firmly aside.
The doctor he had met in the medical-bay knelt beside him.
"Damn, how long?" she questioned Obi-Wan as she carefully looked over the devices..
"Over three hours." The wavering in his voice surprised him.
The medic jerked her head in his direction anger flashing in her eyes. Refocusing her attention back on Qui-Gon she made precise minute adjustments to the mechanisms until the lights slowed and stopped flashing. Removing them from the older Jedi she looked over at Obi-Wan.
"I don't know." She said quietly in answer to the question in the apprentice's eyes. She moved back and gave the young Jedi more room to be near his Master
//Master?// No answer.
//Please, don't go, please, Master. Come back. I need you.// No answer. The grief in Obi-Wan's heart was too much to bear. He lay his head gently on his Master's chest wrapping his arms around the older Jedi and let the tears fall of their own volition.
The despair that washed through Qui-Gon was the first sensation he had felt in too long. The depth of the emotion flooding the bond with his apprentice shocked him. He wasn't sure exactly what had happened; he had only known that one minute he was able to feel Obi-Wan and the next the students presence was absent from his mind. For that matter, he realized that he couldn't feel anything, and he couldn't wake up. It was as if his mind was pressed down, held captive by something he had no strength to fight against and so in self-defense he had surrendered himself into the force to wait. But this emotion tore at his heart. For some reason his Padawan believed that he was gone and he would not allow such pain to destroy the young man that he had come to care for like a son. Drawn by the heartache so close to him he pushed towards consciousness.
So wrapped up in his grief was the young Jedi that he never felt Qui-Gon reach back to him through their bond. The past two days had brought the apprentice to the end of his resources and he had given up completely. The hand that brushed softly into his hair and cradled his head startled him.
He lifted his face to gaze into the clear eyes of his Master, still not comprehending the fact that his teacher was fully back. Seeing the confusion in his students eyes and sensing his sorrow still pulsing through their bond Qui-Gon smiled gently, sending his familiar presence through the bond they shared in the Force. //I am right here, Padawan. It's all right. I'm here.//
//Yes, Master// This time the tears in Obi-Wan's eyes were tears of relief and joy.
"I don't believe it." The doctor moved in next to the reunited Jedi and ran a scanner over Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan moved back slightly to allow her to work but never lost contact with his Master. The mental separation had made it necessary for the physical closeness in order to calm the young Jedi. Qui-Gon sensed this and took his Padawan's hand in his own bringing them in close to his chest until Obi-Wan could feel the beating of the others heart under his fingertips.
//Thank you, Master// the smile in the apprentice's eyes was reflecting in his own.
The doctor had declared Qui-Gon fine and sent him back to his quarters with his relieved apprentice. She chased them out of the medical bay claiming she didn't want to have to deal with the two of them at one time softening her words with a small smile.
Apparently the induced sleep and separation had allowed the Jedi Master the necessary time his body needed to heal. Only the force had saved him from being damaged by the subspace displacement and the care of his Padawan had brought him back.
Administer Jarin had offered to take them to Ryliss when he discovered their disrupted plans for a vacation. He also offered them the full use of his repair crew for their damaged shuttlecraft as an apology for all that had transpired while on board his vessel. When Qui-Gon had declined the Administer had insisted and so repairs had begun on the borrowed shuttle. Both Jedi had thanked them for their generosity and then retired to their room for the remainder of the trip to recuperate.
However there were still a few matters to be taken care of, which was how Qui-Gon Jinn found himself sitting in front of the communications console in their quarters not quite able to convince himself to make the call. He dreaded contacting Coruscant and prayed that Master Yoda would be the one to answer.
"Still there?" teased Obi-Wan toweling the water out of his hair after a long hot shower. He stood just inside the small antechamber, steam wafting out of the adjoining bath. It was good to see the young Jedi smiling even if it was at his expense.
"Yes, as a matter of fact. I was just dialing now." Qui-Gon pretended to take offense at the teasing, not fooling his apprentice in the least.
Qui-Gon put the call through, gritting his teeth as the screen blanked acknowledging it had been received.
Oh damn, just his luck, it was Mace. Behind him Obi-Wan laughed quietly and moved out of range of the viewscreen.
"Oh, Mace, hello! It's good to see you. I need to speak with Master Yoda."
"How's my ship?"
"Your ship? It's here. I'm mean fine." Qui-Gon winced at his slip in words.
"Sort of." Came the soft comment from behind the older Jedi. His Master threw him a dangerous look over his shoulder, but the caution was lost on the Padawan who was thoroughly enjoying seeing his teacher squirm.
//Padawan, you aren't making this any easier//
//Sorry, Master// Silent laughter flooded their bond and Qui-Gon had to work hard to keep from smiling himself.
"What'd he say, Qui-Gon? What do you mean it's there? Where are you?"
"It's okay, Mace, the Alantrayu have graciously agreed to return it to you when they reach Coruscant. Now, is Master Yoda available? There are some things I really need to apprise him of." The attempt to change the topic was not lost on his friend.
"What, who's bringing it back? Jinn, I am warning you, that was a brand new Collor Mark IV. "
"Uh, yes that was part of the problem I'm afraid."
"What did you do to my ship? I knew I never should have let you borrow it."
"Mace. Mace!" Qui-Gon tried to interrupt his friend. "It's still in one piece."
"Sort of." The laughter from behind the Jedi Master was clearly audible this time. Qui-Gon shot his apprentice a desperate glance. "I don't need your help here Obi-Wan," he hissed under his breath.
"Mace, look we've got to go, we have a shuttle to catch and a vacation to take."
"Qui-Gon, you gave me your word."
"Mace, I can't hear you, you're breaking up. We're losing the connection. Tell Master Yoda I will contact him once we make planetside. There is a lot he needs to know. And tell him that an Administer Jarin will be getting into touch with him also."
With his explanation finished Qui-Gon reached over and cut off the call breathing a sigh of relief.
Turning in his chair he faced his Padawan. The young man on the verge of laughing, had a wide-eyed half-horrified look on his face.
"What?" The Jedi Master asked him exasperated. "You were a big help. Did you really want to hear how much trouble we are going to be in when we get back?"
The older Jedi smiled, "I am afraid we are never going to hear the end of this, Obi-Wan. Now hurry and get your things together. We are going to have that vacation because I think it's the last we shall be permitted in sometime."
Obi-Wan stepped back in the bathroom quietly commenting as he collected his belongings, "We had better hope Master Windu doesn't get a hold of Master Yoda's walking stick."
"I heard that, Padawan!" Laughed the older Jedi, "And I think, young one, that this time you may be right."
//Hurry, Obi-Wan, it has started.// Qui-Gon called to his student.
//Coming, Master// Obi-Wan came running out of the small housing unit they were staying in during their vacation. He whipped his robe around him bringing it down over his head as he joined Qui-Gon on the small hill where the older Jedi stood.
"Look," the words were barely a whisper.
Obi-Wan turned his attention to the sky. It still glowed golden from the remnants of the setting sun, which could no longer be seen on the horizon. But it was the sight of what appeared to be falling stars that caught his breath. Bright points of light in all colors of the spectrum fell in burning arcs, dissipating into the air just above the tree line.
"Master...." his voice trailed off in awe.
The two stood side by side for sometime content simply to be with each other watching the light show as the dusk slowly crept on.
//Padawan, here// Qui-Gon reached out suddenly and pulled Obi-Wan in front of him. Leaning over the younger man he pointed low over his shoulder off to the right. His student shook his head trying to follow the intended gaze. The Jedi Master lowered his head to his Padawan's height pressed his temple against Obi-Wan's and gently moved his head with his free hand until their sights were lined up in the same direction. Pointing again, his head still pressed against Obi-Wan's he spoke softly into his ear. "Do you see it now, Padawan?" The sharp intake of air by the young Jedi was his answer. Off to edge of the horizon a large crystal was falling towards the forest burning brightly in the violet hues. "The violet ones are most rare, Obi-Wan," his Master explained. Qui-Gon could feel the awe emanate from his apprentice. When the crystal had finally burned up just above the tree line the younger Jedi turned his attention to Qui-Gon looking over his shoulder and up to catch a glimpse of his Master out of the corner of his eye.
"It was beautiful, Master."
"Yes, it was." The older Jedi smiled warmly down at the young man. Contentment radiated out of his student through the force. The strength of the emotion threatened to overpower him momentarily until his Padawan quietly spoke again.
"I am so glad you are back, Master."
"So am I Obi-Wan, So am I," he replied. They stood that way until night took the light from the sky and only the stars could be seen.
"Do you think we'll find a Ryliss crystal, Master?" Obi-Wan asked as they turned and began walking back to their quarters.
"Padawan, it would not surprise me if you did!" Qui-Gon laughed placing his arm around the young man smiling down into the upturned face.