Spoilers: Tiny one for Rogue Planet.
Rating: PG (some violence)
Archive: Yes if you like, please ask.
Feedback: Always welcomed, Siobhancl2@aol.com
Timeframe: This story takes place when Obi-Wan is about 20 years old.
Summary: A trip to the farside of Coruscant turns out to be more than the two Jedi bargained for.
Disclaimer: All of these characters 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.
It was a boring job. He had known it would be when he had accepted the position with the Planetary Shield Maintenance Corp., but the pay was decent and his family had been moved planetside so at least he could see them more often now. Bort reached over and flipped the switch that rotated his view of the planetary shields of Coruscant. The triple layer of thin plates of energy caught the mid day sun, reflecting it back out into space in a brilliant haze of color. No lights blinked on his console, why would they. He had worked here 5 years now and nothing more than an occasional meteorite had ever interrupted the long slow days. Besides the latest Lift Wing Race was about to be broadcast on the underground network that had made all such illegal races a growing popular sport.
He turned his attention to the tiny view screen mounted next to his station and adjusted the volume. Propping his feet against the console of monitors at his disposal, he tipped his seat back and watched as the first round of racers dove gracefully from the upper level platform and headed to the bottom of the pit. His large feet neatly covered the small monitor that tracked Shield 1502, he never saw when the shield was impacted by a shower of scrap metal, shorting out the shield and tearing a hole through the layers below it and the intricate weather control system that protected the planet. He never noticed the frantic blinking of the red warning light. In fact it would be a good hour before Bort realized his mistake and notified the service teams docked on the orbiting maintenance station. The break in the shielding caused the system that maintained weather control to malfunction leaving the planet vulnerable to radical weather shifts. As clouds quickly began to gather over a city that never saw severe storms Bort in Shield Maintenance Division 1 cheered on his favored flyer.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Qui-Gon frowned, his eyes searching the skies overhead as a chill wind caught at his robe and whipped his hair away from his shoulders. He shifted in the large warm robe he wore pulling it tightly about him.
//Master what is it?// Obi-Wan, his apprentice stood a few feet away separated from his Teacher by the Chancellor and his entourage. They were on the far side of Coruscant waiting on a shuttle platform with a large delegation of senators and their aides. They had attended the yearly Rotunda; it was comprised of a weeklong series of debates and lectures wherein any new motions or laws that affected the planet were reviewed and ratified. Each year a team representing the Jedi Temple attended, this year the lot had fallen to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
//I don’t know Padawan. Coruscant is protected by a weather control system we shouldn’t be experiencing any changes in the atmosphere. I believe the temperature is dropping also.//
The young Jedi lowered his eyes from the growing gray canopy of clouds above them and sought out his Master over the heads of the men standing around him.
//Do you think there is something wrong with the system?//
//Perhaps.// Qui-Gon tore his own gaze away from the approaching storm. The crowds had started to stir and the already over crowded platform became precariously smaller as people, shifted trying to move closer to the docking ramp as they waited for the approaching shuttle. High winds began to buffet the small group huddling near the edge. //We need to get these people settled down quickly, watch yourself Padawan//
With a nod Obi-Wan moved to the back of the crowd and began trying to calm people. Chancellor Vallorum standing near the Master had noted the silent interchange between the Jedi.
“Crowd control?” He smiled at Qui-Gon before gazing to the ever darkening sky above them.
“Something like that Chancellor.” The Jedi Master returned the slight smile as a peal of thunder broke across the clouds. The sound level on the platform increased as the panic scaled higher. Subconsciously Qui-Gon began counting off the seconds. He didn’t have long to wait.
The Chancellor turned to one of his guards and with a small motion of his head sent the man to help the young Jedi calm the people at the back of the platform who had begun to press in even closer as the shuttle extended its docking ramp to the elevated platform.
The Chancellors guard had just reached Obi-Wan’s side when the dark sky was rent in half as a bolt of lighting seared the space above the waiting crowd. The apprentice could smell the acrid scent of the electricity as it burnt through the air and haze that covered this part of the planet-city. The waves of fear and panic that coursed around him in the force were overwhelming and he reinforced his shields to keep his mind at ease. Nodding in acknowledgement of the Guard, Obi-Wan stepped back to the catwalk that connected the platform to the interweaving buildings of the Senate House where the Rotunda had taken place.
//Yes Master, things are fine//
//I’m not so sure//
Obi-Wan left the warning unanswered and followed the Chancellors guard to a small knot of people who were obviously upset and escalating the panic around them.
“We have to get on that transport.” A small portly man was stubbornly yelling at the Guard as the apprentice approached.
“Calm down sir, everyone will get on the transport.” Obi-Wan attempted to allay the fears of the worried man but his panic had set off repercussions in the Force that moved in waves through the crowd.
The Guard reached for his blaster as more people began to shout and press forward. The young Jedi was relieved as he watched the taller man thumb the weapon over to stun. He talked to the crowd with a deep booming voice raising his weapon so that everyone nearby could see it. He seemed to be having a calming effect on the people they were dealing with and Obi-Wan thought they just might make it out of this with no problems.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
//Master I think we have things under con…// Thunder boomed around them drowning out the sound of the crowd. A flare of electricity hit the lighting rod on the roof behind them sending sparks into the tangle of people below as rain began to pour from the dark low sky. The boarding ramp on the shuttle flashed green and with the ease in pressure the crowds to the back began to push forward uncontrolled in an attempt to get into the safety of the waiting craft. The press of the people caught the apprentice and the Guard unaware. The motion of the crowd pushed into the Guard causing him to loose his footing and slip beneath the crush. His blaster was kicked from his hand and in his attempt to keep his grip on it the trigger was depressed. The blast from the weapon hit the Padawan directly in the chest and slammed him back to the edge of the catwalk.
“OBI-WAN!” Qui-Gon standing near the loading ramp had watched as the stun bolt had accidentally hit his student. With horror he saw the young man collapse unconscious and fall backwards off the narrow walk. Trying to move against the waves of people flowing into the shuttle was impossible and the increasingly loud peals of thunder only added to the chaos and panic. Chancellor Vallorum at the opening of the shuttle had been helping people into the waiting transport and had not seen what had become of the young Jedi. Moving quickly down the ramp into the pelting rain he reached out and pulled the Jedi Master with him back into the interior of the aircraft.
“We have to go, the shuttle is in danger sitting here.” He shouted over a sharp crack of lighting.
“No, Obi-Wan! He went over the side.” His voice, drowned out by the torrents of rain that pelted down on the tarmac and ripped from the ears of the Chancellor by the high winds was lost on the other. Strong hands gripped his robe and pulled him into the safety and warmth of the interior of the shuttle forcing him down into a seat near the pilots cabin.
“No, you don’t understand. Obi-Wan fell off the catwalk. I have to go back for him, he was unconscious!”
“Its true.” A winded and bruised guard walked up to the Chancellor and reported to him what had happened. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. My gun was set on stun. But…”
Nodding in understanding, Vallorum rested a large hand on the guards shoulder and turned to the pilots.
“We need to go back. We lost a passenger.” The sound of the docking clamps could be heard disengaging, the vibration of their release felt through the floor of the ship.
“Nothing doing. Flight control is grounding all further flights. I have clearance to drop you off at Candella Square because the weather over there isn't as severe as it is here. But we have to leave now.” A flash of light seared across the transparisteel canopy momentarily blinding the occupants. “That’s why! Now sit down. I have to get us out of here before we get hit ourselves!” The pilot dropped the small craft below the platform and swung to the left avoiding another shaft of electricity and sped away from the landing platform heading west to his designated drop off.
Qui-Gon sat in his seat stunned. The Chancellor had fallen back into the unoccupied one next to him as the pilot had narrowly missed the last lightning strike.
The Jedi Master only nodded grimly. Candella Square was only a fifteen minute walk from the Temple he could borrow a shuttle when he got back and return for Obi-Wan. His mind was racing ahead of him through possibilities and outcomes. With sudden clarity and focus Qui-Gon completely shut down the world around him. He calmed his thoughts and quieted his heart and mind. There it was, the Force; he entered the slipstream of light and warmth and centered himself in the flow of energy and life that comprised it.
//Padawan, I am coming back for you are you all right?// Stillness. Quiet. There was no answer. But there was a presence. Slight, unfocused but still he recognized it; his student was alive, unresponsive but alive. It would have to be enough for now. With little effort the Jedi Master kept up a constant stream of contact to the silent life sign of his padawan. Opening his eyes he found the Chancellor calmly watching him. A slight sympathetic smile graced the thin lips.
“Is he alright?”
“I don’t know. He isn't responsive.”
A nod of acknowledgment was all that passed between them before the gray-blue eyes looked back out the small portal beside the elder Statesman.
Rough hands jerked him onto his back searching through his robe as it was hastily removed from him. Rain pelted his upturned face but consciousness was slow in coming. Grunts and whispered curses faded into his sense of awareness.
“What’s this?” An unknown voice questioned as he felt his lightsaber being lifted from his belt. Before his mind realized what his body was doing Obi-Wan heaved himself up grabbing the casing of his weapon and jerking it back from his assailant.
“No!” With a gasp the human shape fell away from him following several already retreating dark shadows into the recesses of the lower level. He lay there for seconds staring into the darkness breathing heavily, his mind trying to catch up with the automatic response of his body.
"Wait." His voice cracked as he called out in a whisper into the darkness. Shakily he looked around his surroundings. His head was pounding, he couldn’t think. What was he doing here, where was here? He was wet, cold and this place wasn’t home. A sharp crack of thunder caused the disoriented padawan to start. The sounds of retro thrusters resounded in his ears. Shielding his eyes from the pouring rain he looked above him into the storm wracked sky. High overhead he could make out the shape of the landing platform and the catwalk he had been on only moments ago. He watched as the shuttle he had been waiting for moved away from the docking area, narrowly missing a bolt of lightning and sped off heading west.
"No wait." He reached his hand out to the receding craft, his heart lurching as he watched the ship depart. He had been left behind. He remembered everything now; the crowds on the platform, the guard, the blaster bolt. The bolt! Fumbling, he looked down to his chest and fingered the slightly burnt area on his tunic where the energy blast had hit him. He closed his eyes in relief as his mind ran over what the implications of being hit by a full charged weapon would have been. His body had begun to ache and the rain had quickly seeped through his clothing after his robe had been stolen.
Gingerly he tried to gain his footing but slipped on the canvas flooring beneath him. No it wasn’t the floor. He was sitting on in the middle of a tangle of cloth that had once been a makeshift tented roof. The fabric stretched above the third level, had caught him when he had slipped off the catwalk and broken his fall keeping him in one piece when he landed on the hard permacrete walk. The shift in his position brought on a wave of dizziness. Sitting quickly back down he rested his head in hands until the world stopped shifting beneath him. When he raised his head again there was blood on his arm trailing down the tracks the rain was making on his skin and darkening the sleeves of his tunic where it was catching in bright pools and splotches. 'That'll never wash out', the thought struck him as odd as he tried to find the source of the bleeding. He seemed fine, he frowned involuntarily as he concentrated and found himself wincing in pain with the slight expression. Reaching up he touched his left temple and probed the open wound he found there. His eyebrow was split and the gash ran back diagonally up into his hairline. That would account for the blood and the dizziness. He needed to stop the bleeding and he needed to get out of the rain.
Looking around him for shelter he saw that he was on an unused catwalk on a sublevel of Coruscant. How far had he fallen? Looking up again at the empty docking platform he thought he could make out at least three different levels He shifted away from the edge of the walkway and pressed against the duracrete wall behind him, using an overhanging catwalk for protection from the steady downpour. His ankle was throbbing and it wasn’t supporting his weight well.
He took the hem of his tunic and ripped a length of cloth from the edge. Folding it in a long strip he wrapped it around his head to stop the bleeding from the cut on his temple, wiping the blood and water out of his eyes to clear his vision. He checked his ankle gently with his hands, it only seemed twisted but the bone inside could be fractured, he wasn’t sure.
He had been so preoccupied with his surroundings and the ache and pains his body was reporting that he had forgotten to attempt to contact his master.
//Padawan?// the worried question pressed through the bond searching him out.
"Master!" His words echoed loudly in his ears in the eerily quiet darkness of the lower level. Recentering himself he contacted the older Jedi through the force. //Master! Where are you? Are you all right?//
//Obi-Wan! I am here. We are headed for Candella Square. The shuttle pilot wont turn back, the storm on your side of the planet is too severe. I am going to get a shuttle and come back for you myself Padawan. Chancellor Vallorum has offered me his. Are you hurt?//
//Yes Master a little//
//A little? Padawan how far down are you?//
//Three maybe four levels.//
//Obi-Wan listen to me, you need to make your way out of there if at all possible young one. It isn’t safe there. If you are injured too badly then you need to find a place to hide and I will come for you.//
The younger Jedi tested his ankle again. It was painful standing on it but with the aid of the force he damped the pain down and steadied himself. //Yes Master I will work my way to the top. I think I can make it.//
//Very well Padawan, keep safe. I will return for you. Don’t loose contact with me.//
//Yes Master. And oh, uhm I lost my robe I am afraid.//
//Its alright Obi-Wan we'll get you a new one.// Warmth and relief flooded the bond as the Masters side went silent and the younger Jedi was left to the task of making his way to the surface of the city planet.
Reattaching his lightsaber to his belt he limped his way along the curved walkway deeper into the darkness of the sublevel looking for a way out.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Qui-Gon turned to the Chancellor seated next to him. "He's alright."
The statesman was watching him curiously, trying to hide a smile that tugged at his lips. "Yes I can tell."
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow in question, and smiled back.
"Its not often you are having a conversation with someone and they immediately stop speaking and beginning smiling to themselves."
Qui-Gon laughed softly. "My deepest apologies Chancellor. I did not mean to ignore you."
"Of course not, its alright. He is okay then?"
Worry flashed across the face of the master, "He said he was hurt, he didn’t say how badly."
Vallorum nodded, "My shuttle will be waiting when we land, it is at your disposal."
"Sorry gentlemen, but no one will be going anywhere." The Pilot turned in his seat glancing back over his shoulder at the Jedi Master and the Chancellor. "We just got word from weather control that the system has gone down. Seems there was a breach in the shielding that collapsed the control stations. Storms are breaking out all over the planet. Transportation has been grounded until further notice. You won't be going back there today."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan had traveled little distance since contacting his Master. There was a deep pain in his ankle that he couldn’t damp down anymore and the ache in his head and back distracted him.
He moved along the wall searching for stairs or abandoned lift tubes, any path that might lead him a level up and a level closer to safety and his Master. Coming to a darkened wood patched door he pushed the entryway in and stumbled into the interior. The darkness wrapped him in an eerie silence; the inky blackness of the room was almost palpable. His steps were loud and resounded oddly in the space around him. On instinct he removed his lightsaber and thumbed it on. The snap hiss of light sent small unseen creatures scurrying for cover. In the blue glow of his blade Obi-Wan stared out across the expanse of a now deserted amphitheater. The once elegant chairs and decorations had long since been removed and only the permacrete stairs and steps framing the central theater remained. The stage was concave, located in the center of the building ringed by ledges and rows of stone. At first glance, Obi-Wan thought the room had been long forgotten but upon closer inspection he noticed areas in the large open space where there was no dust on the floor. A dark thick substance on the ground attracted his attention. Bending down he touched the black stain rolling the liquid between his fingers and bringing them up to smell the matter. Oil - fresh, and freshly used by the slightly burnt ozone smell to it. He quickly wiped his fingers on his pants and turned to leave when the sound of laughter froze his steps and raised the hair on the back of his neck.
"What do we have here?" A bodiless voice called out across the amphitheater, "Is that a Jedi we see?"
"Looks the like to me." Another voice answered from the shadows to his left. “But what would a Jedi be doing down here?”
From the pit of the stage a swoop hovered into view. Presumably through the lower entrances that would allow the cast onto the stage unimpeded, Obi-Wan concluded. His lightsaber’s soft glow did not illuminate the room enough to make out the rider of the swoop. Another bike floated out from the darkness of the upper ledge where it had been hidden in the shadows. Within moments the young Jedi counted seven vehicles in his immediate range.
"Outsiders aren’t welcome here." The voice from the center bike on the stage spoke again. "This is Wraith territory. If you're not a Wraith you don’t get out." No one spoke, no one moved. "Well, you don’t get out alive anyway." A snicker from behind him to his right caused the apprentice to start and turn back towards the door he had come through. A compact heavily modified swoop sat in the doorway. The nose of the machine had been altered, the alumniplast of the body had been sculpted into the shape of a skull and it was ridden by a young human with dark hair and eyes as black as the room they were in. He had a length of chain in his hand that he began twirling, slowly at first and increasing in speed as he locked eyes with Obi-Wan. His arms were tattooed with bands of letters, huttese that the young Jedi could barely make out.
It wasn’t doing him any good standing here, no one had made a move on him so far so he might as well take the initiative. Gathering his courage and pulling the force to him the apprentice stood his ground and brought his weapon up into a relaxed posture. "I am just passing through. I am on my way to the upper levels. I got lost, that’s all. I am sorry I interrupted you. I'll just be leaving." Refocusing his attention on the blocked door he eyed the obstruction still seated in the doorway. The boy on the bike was smiling fiercely, slowing shaking his head. Steeling himself for a fight the young Jedi shifted his stance threw his force awareness out behind him and moved his lightsaber in front of him.
"I don’t want any trouble." His words were slow and enunciated. The feelings flowing back to him from the others in the room were malevolent, filled with dark glee for they were going to do to him.
"But we do." The swoop rider in front of him said softly his voice floating to Obi-Wan over the sound of his vehicle. He revved the swoops ion repulsorlift engine depressing the right rudder pedal while gripping the handles of the bike. He stood the machine on end swinging it fully into the auditorium and straightening it quickly out, its airfoils pointing towards the apprentice. The stunt was rewarded with whoops and yells from his compatriots positioned about the room.
When the attack came, the sound was deafening. The ion engines roared to life around the Jedi and the swoops advanced on him in one huge way. Reaching out to the force Obi-Wan threw himself into the air executing a perfect back flip that landed him several steps down closer to the center of the amphitheater. Adjusting for the trajectory of their prey, the swoops cut their forward motion and swung their bikes around before colliding mid-flight. The rider of the skull swoop looped back in the length of chain he had moments before hurled at the escaping padawan and shot down the steep steps in pursuit.
Two swoops headed down the landings towards the Jedi their ion engines screaming over the permacrete stairs. The skull swoop swept in behind them coming in lower and taking the descent at a slower rate. The chain in the youth’s hand began to sing as he twirled it faster and faster over his head. Obi-Wan eyed them carefully testing the force. He braced his stance and calmed himself waiting until the right moment. Letting his lightsaber fall to his side he gave the illusion of being unprepared trying to get his attackers off balanced and overconfident. Apparently it worked. The lead vehicles accelerated, egging each other on with whistles and shouts. Obi-Wan sensed two more bikes pressing towards him from behind. As the riders converged on him Obi relaxed, deactivating his saber he dropped to the ground at the last possible moment and rolled down the last few ledges to stand in the middle of the stage. The abrupt darkness threw the lead riders off and at the speed they were moving the large bikes were unable to adjust their trajectory. A huge explosion rocked the building as the swoops collided bringing a shower of permacrete down and blinding the occupants. Obi-Wan was knocked to his knees by the intensity of the blast and covered his eyes to shield them from the brilliant burst of light.
When the dust cleared and the young Jedi's eyes readjusted to the darkness once more he counted three swoops in a tangle strewn on the upper landings. Two of the riders had survived, thrown from their vehicles but definitely out of the fight. Enraged the leader of the swoop gang rushed the stage attempting to run the apprentice over, crushing him beneath the vehicles repulsorlifts. Obi-Wan was ready for the attack. 'Anger makes you vulnerable', his Master's lesson ran through his mind, 'If you can anger your opponent into attacking you, you can disarm him easily. His anger will make him reckless.'
Obi-Wan widened his stance turning to the side to give his attacker a smaller target and focused his attention down to the approaching swoop. The rider was older than he by about ten years, rage contorted his face and bitterness emanated from him. Centering his body on the vehicle, the rider kicked his foot peg down shifting the bike into an accelerated drop decent. It was just what the apprentice was hoping for, the speed and angle of the craft were perfect. As the bike came up on him he simply sidestepped and spun bringing his lightsaber up vertically cleaving off the handles of the swoop. Without the angle and pitch gearshifts the bike spun wildly out of control impacting with the far wall before the rider could disembark.
Obi-Wan had been watching the spinning bike, not concentrating on the rest of them and was taken off guard when the skull swoop swung around behind him knocking him flat to the stage. Stunned he rolled to his left out from under the repulsor engines and leapt to his feet. Another bike sheared in low from an overhead vector causing him to duck. He raised his saber to strike at the bottom of the passing swoop intending to disable the vehicle, but he had forgotten to keep track of the skull swoop. The chain that his attacker had been twirling wrapped painfully around his wrist tightening until the muscles were forced open and he lost his grip on his lightsaber. It fell with a hiss into a puddle over the lip of the stage. Sparking blue and white it flared and died, smoke drifted from the darkened casing as the mechanisms inside shorted out. The room was again plunged into darkness but not before Obi-Wan was jerked roughly from his feet and hauled painfully up the steps by the man on the swoop. He couldn’t get his feet under him and the bike was moving too fast for him to keep up with. His head impacted sharply against one of the landings sending stars swirling into his vision, an edge of another step bit into his back causing him to cry out. His wrist felt like it was going to be torn from his arm and he didn’t know how much more beating he could take.
Suddenly the swoop stopped. Obi-Wan lay on his back his wrist and arm stretched painfully over his head chained to the bike, which had paused one level up from his resting place. He was breathing heavily and he couldn’t tell if the dark before his eyes was really the room or just him loosing consciousness. He was fairly sure his shoulder and wrist were dislocated and his head was spinning from hitting the landings unprotected.
"Anybody see the Jedi?" a gruff voice barked from the other side of the amphitheater.
"Yeah." The softer voice of his captor called out. "Give me a light I think I have him on my chain."
A glow lamp was lit across the way casting warm soft shadows about. Obi-Wan squinted in the low light and turned away from it.
"Well, look'it there. I was right." The dark eyes watched him unemotionally. "Ready for another ride, Jedi?" The smile bestowed on the apprentice was slight and evil. He had one chance to escape his tormentor and one chance only. With every ounce of strength he drew the force to him and pushed down all the pain that his body was screaming at him. Slowly standing to his feet he awkwardly faced the boy on the bike.
"We don’t have to do this." He had to try.
"Oh yes we do." The answer was as dead as the eyes. "That was my brother on that swoop." He indicated the smoldering wreck of the gang leader crushed against the wall of the amphitheater. "The fun is over."
Gripping the handles the youth stood on the foot pegs of the bike gunning the engine to a deafening roar. Obi-Wan collected his thoughts and threw his fears away. Drawing on the force he was vaguely aware of Qui-Gon in the maelstrom of light and sound questioning his whereabouts. Shutting out all the exterior noises and sounds and damping down the touch of his master he drew the power to him. As the young man threw the bike into gear Obi-Wan flicked his good hand up palm outward and flung the youth off the bike with a wall of pure power gathered by the force. The dark haired boy hit the wall of the amphitheater hard and slid to the ground unconscious. With no rider the kill switch on the swoop activated and the bike dropped soundlessly to the floor.
Painfully, slowly, Obi-Wan unwrapped the length of chain from around his wounded wrist. The metal had cut through the soft skin to the bone in places and he couldn’t feel his fingers. Nothing in his right arm would respond at all. He dropped the offending chain to the ground and turned back to look into the expanse of the large room. With a flick of his good wrist he brought his lightsaber flying into his grasp. The apprentice glanced over the charred casing briefly before locking eyes with the remaining swoop riders. There were three swoops with riders left. They hovered cautiously on the rim of the amphitheater across the way from him.
“I am leaving now.” It was a statement, it was a challenge and it tolerated no arguments. The apprentice did not move. Finally the man on the swoop to his left nodded slightly and the young Jedi limped slowly towards the door he had entered. Before leaving he stopped momentarily on the threshold and looked back to the unconscious youth that he had force-thrown from his bike. “I am sorry.” The words were whispered but in the circle of the theater they resounded loudly. Without further delay he walked back out onto the dark avenue he had been on and continued to move deeper into the core of the planet.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Making sure he was well away from the abandoned amphitheater Obi-Wan collapsed in a recess set into the side of the dark hallway. He had no idea where he was, he could no longer keep the pain down with the force and the chill of the rain and the storms overhead had finally overcome him.
The small recess he had found was in the shape of a rounded out cylinder as if something had core drilled straight down through the metal of the surrounding buildings and stopped at this level. There was trash and refuse littering the perimeter, blown into the concave by the winds that often scoured the lower levels. He found an old tarp and pulled it over his body in an attempt to stop the shivering. Curling into a tight ball and resting his wounded arm and wrist tightly against his chest he closed his eyes wearily and tipped his aching head back against the cool wall behind him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The sound of his Masters voice through their bond brought him startlingly awake. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep but the damage his body had sustained was too much and the shock of the trauma and stress had taken its toll on him.
//Obi-Wan I have been trying to contact you. Where are you? What’s going on? You were in trouble.//
//Sorry Master I fell asleep.//
Qui-Gon Jinn stopped pacing the length of the corridor outside the temple’s docking bays. The weariness and the pain in his Padawan’s voice alarmed him.
Choosing his words carefully he questioned his Padawan further, he knew that Obi-Wan would attempt to hide any injuries he might have so that his Master would not worry. //Young one, why did you fall asleep?//
//Well, in all truth it is nighttime isn’t it Master?//
The sarcastic humor in the statement flowed through the bond and despite his worry, the Jedi Master found himself shaking his head and smiling. //Yes Obi-Wan as a matter of fact it is nighttime but that does not account for what I hear in your voice. And do not think to attempt to damp down on our bond my apprentice or you will regret it when I get you back here.//
Now the laughter echoed through the young Jedi’s connection, //Oh, heaven forbid more lectures from the great Jedi Master about ‘when I was a young padawan…’//
//Yes and just for that I might even think up something worse like allowing Master Ploon to borrow you for a few days so you can help clean out his Tarses pens!// The teasing lightened the subject but Qui-Gon was not letting it go. //Obi-Wan, tell me Padawan, I need to know; how are you doing?//
The silence in between the question and the response heightened the older Jedi’s worry. If Obi-Wan were really okay he would have simply answered straight forth, he could only conclude that his Padawan's injuries were severe enough for him to want to hide them from his master.
He felt his apprentice sigh and could tell when he gathered his courage to continue, // I am hurt Master. And I do not know if I can make it to the upper level. I wasn’t injured too badly in the fall although I think I must have fractured my ankle, its swelling and I am afraid to remove it from the boot in case I cant get my shoe back on//
//There is more?//
//Yes// again the weariness. //I was caught by a swoop gang. My right arm and shoulder are dislocated and my wrist is badly damaged. My lightsaber fell into a puddle in the fight and shorted out. But….//
//Obi-Wan, tell me.//
//I had to kill two of the riders. I didn’t want to Master, I had no choice.//
Sorrow filtered through the bond to the large Jedi, unshielded, unbidden. Resting his head in his hands Qui-Gon leaned tiredly against the wall. He ran his fingers quickly back through his hair in frustration before crossing his arms tightly over his chest. His padawan was hurt, forced to defend himself and kill another human and because of a storm he had been unable to come to his aide. Helplessness; it was not an emotion he valued.
//Master are you on your way back?// The question Qui-Gon had been dreading.
He had tried, had been trying all day and night to convince someone to let him go back to find Obi-Wan. But the storms had increased throughout the day causing chaos and stopping all transportation and blocking many forms of communication. The Council had rejected his request for a shuttle until the storms abated. There were some places in the city under complete blackouts while the worst storm in recorded history raged planet wide. Reports were promising that systems would be back on line tomorrow and that weather control would be reinstituted by late tomorrow evening. Although smaller cells and high winds were forecasts for several weeks to come the majority of the severe weather would be back under control in the next few days. He didn’t have days, he had hours.
//Yes Obi-Wan I am coming. Hold on my Padawan and I will be there shortly.//
Master Yoda had always told the Jedi that he had one of the most stubborn wills when he put his mind to a task and that will kicked in full force as a plan came to his mind. He turned back down the hallway and headed for the living quarters, midnight or not he was getting a shuttle and returning for his apprentice and he knew just who to ask for help.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The brief contact with his Master had bolstered the young Jedi’s spirits. His body was still in no better shape, but his will to continue had returned. Night on the lower levels was even darker than normal. With the storm still raging little light was afforded to the sublevels, even the light that was normally refracted from the planetary shielding was blocked here below by the structures built overhead. Obi-Wan stood cautiously testing his ankle and wincing at the sharp shooting pain that coursed through him when he put the slightest weight on it. He pressed himself up with his good leg using the wall behind him for balance. As he slid to a standing position his back slammed into a hard metal bar set into the building behind him. Balancing on one foot he turned to face the back of the recess and searched the wall with his good hand. His fingers traced a metal bar and on a hunch he reached above the bar into the darkness. Yes, there was another one about a half a foot higher. He must be in a maintenance shaft. The vertical access ways ran throughout the city giving repair teams quicker response time. It would take him one level up.
Carefully balancing on one foot he used the force to help pull himself up to the first rung. Gripping a rung above his head and resting his chin on the rung in front of his face he found he could easily remain on the shaft ladder and pull himself up, one slow painful rung at a time. His right arm was useless and his ankle still wouldn’t take any weight on it. The shaft was dark, he couldn’t see the top of the passage from his viewpoint and so he simply continued one hand up pulling the weight of his body to the next rung and relaxing in between after he got his footing.
The climb was long and his body was at the end of his resources. It felt like he had been climbing this way forever.
“How deep can one level be?”, he ground out the words as he pulled himself yet again higher. A skittering sound echoed in the tunnel stopping as he righted himself on the next rung, getting his balance back again. He strained his ears into the silence listening for a repeat of the strange metallic scratching he had heard. The resonance of his own breathing, labored and strained, was loud in his ears and seemed to block out everything else. He leaned out over the drop behind him trying to see below into the darkness for any shape or shadow of bulk but the black inkiness gave way no secrets.
“Great. I’m hearing things.” The whisper funneled through the circular duct and as if in response the sound of movement could be heard just below him. Biting back a curse and wishing for his lightsaber he reached quickly above his head and pushed up to gain the higher ground. A rush of air blew up from below and the sound of his pursuer escalated. Something from below was on its way up and it was heading for him. He searched with the force hoping desperately to find a sentient mind behind the clicking sound so rapidly approaching but found only the instinctual response pattern of a lower lifeform; a lower lifeform that was hungry and he had become the prey.
In his haste he panicked, the darkness and the confines of the maintenance bore closed in on him. His foot slid beneath him and he slipped backwards, his dislocated arm catching on a rung and wrenching him to a stop. His cry of pain echoed through the cylinder that had become his prison stopping his attacker momentarily. Trying to calm his beating heart and his suddenly claustrophobic thoughts he moved his feet in the darkness until he found the closest rung and stood precariously on it, waiting in the silence hoping beyond all hope that whatever was in the shaft with him had lost its' appetite.
An appendage touched his leg, feeling him, testing. He tensed against the foreign touch and held his breath. The alien below him convinced he was edible shot a sharp single retractable claw into his calf and began to pull the apprentice backwards.
A Bore Spider! The image shot into the Jedi’s mind. He had heard of them, well who hadn’t, but he had never come face to face with one. Of course, how could he be so stupid? Bore spiders lived on the lower levels, they made their homes in abandoned maintenance shafts or lift tubes. The arachnids were large, known to grow to a diameter of 7 feet, foot tip to foot tip. Scavengers, they consisted on anything and everything they could find from refuse to any living creature foolish enough to cross their paths. They were quick, able to fold their nine multi-jointed legs to fit any space their bodies could wedge into. Their only known enemies lay far below and never ventured up past the last lower thirty levels. A bore spider at this level would have no opposition. Each foot tip was armed with a retractable claw like blade that the creatures used to dissect its’ food before eating. The mouth and prehensile appendages of a bore spider were small and the most vulnerable part of the creatures' anatomy. Armored with scale like plates that were actually an exoskeleton bone growth the only soft part of the creature was the mouth directly below a set of bioptic eyes that could see in all the spectrums of light, or even the lack thereof.
The bore spiders claw was accompanied by several more that grasped at the apprentices waist catching in the cloth of his tunic and hooking onto his belt. He clawed frantically at the rungs, trying to kick at his assailant as he was methodically pulled towards the large insect. In desperation he hugged the rung before his face with his bad arm and pulled his lightsaber off of his belt. He could hear the clacking of the spider’s prehensile appendages and knew he didn’t have long before it began to tear him apart. Leaning out he used the force to give himself a mental picture of the spider’s position below him. With the little knowledge he had of the creatures he estimated where the soft exposed flesh surrounding the eyes of the beast would be.
The spider had begun to clamber over the lower part of the young Jedi and had just reached his waist watching him in the dark through small black eyes. With no predators on this level the creature had no reason to be afraid of the catch he had just made and as it raised a clawed foot, Obi-Wan struck.
The apprentice threw all his weight and every ounce of the force he could collect straight into the face of the predator bringing his lightsaber down in a forceful blow directly between the creature’s eyes. A high-pitched scream sounded through the shaft reverberating and echoing through the vertical passageway. Obi-Wan turned back to the rungs hiding his face against his damaged arm and grasping the metal bars, desperately trying to keep his footing as the monster pulled its' legs in to protect its now damaged eyes and began to fall backwards out of the shaft. Several claws still hooked into the padawans clothing ripped jagged gashes in the soft cloth and the skin underneath but Obi-Wan did not release his hold on the bars beneath him.
Moments after he heard the spider hit the bottom of the shaft he still clung to the bars gasping for breath between sobs of fear and relief. His back and his left calf were on fire from where the insect’s feet had torn into him and his dislocated arm felt like it had been completely ripped from his shoulder. Fighting the fear and claustrophobia he untangled himself from the rungs and began his ascent again. He didn’t want to wait to see if he had killed or incapacitated the spider, he had to get out and he had to do it now.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Someone was beating on his door. It was the middle of the night and someone in the temple was banging loudly on the entrance to his living quarters.
Mace Windu almost fell out of bed as he made his way to the door of his apartment.
“This had better be good.” Muttering to himself he stumbled to the living area and tripped over a pillow on the floor.
“JUST A MINUTE!” The sleep clumsy Jedi yelled as the pounding resumed in earnest.
“Mace! Get up!” The muffled voice of Qui-Gon Jinn could be heard accentuating each pound he made on the door.
Windu jerked the door open gruffly standing in the door way with his bedspread caught up around his waist he glared at his friend, throwing his fist against the mechanism that brought the porch lights up.
Qui-Gon winced in the sudden brightness and pushed his way into the others house.
“What do you want? Do you know what time it is?” Mace watched as Jinn moved around the apartment turning on lights and gathering the Jedi’s clothing. He threw the garments at his friend and stared at him.
“Get dressed I need your help.”
“Oh no! I have seen that look before my friend and you are planning trouble. Whatever you have done, want to do or are thinking of doing I want no part of it!” The dark Jedi dropped the clothing into an armchair and raised his hands to ward off the other. “The last time you looked like that I ended up on preschool duty for weeks I am NOT teaching finger painting to five year olds ever again. I don’t care how much hair I don’t have, my head is not a canvas. No way, you are on your own.”
Qui-Gon’s gaze softened and dropped, his voice was soft and worried, “No Mace its Obi-Wan. He’s trapped on the opposite side of Coruscant and I can’t get a shuttle or a shuttle pilot to go with me back there.”
Immediately serious Mace watched his friend carefully, “Did you ask the Council for help?”
“Yes.” The response was agitated, there was more. “They wont let me go back with any of the Temple shuttles. It’s the ……”, helplessly he raised his hand to the window indicating the still unabated storm outside. “…the damn storm.” The tall Jedi collapsed onto the couch across from his friend his head in his hands.
Unsure of what to say Mace looked between the distraught Jedi and the storm outside.
“He’s hurt Mace and he’s on the lower levels.”, the muffled voice was resigned. Raising his head and piercing his friend with a pleading look he continued, “I need your help. You’re an ace shuttle flyer. This little weather cell shouldn’t give someone with your abilities any trouble at all.”
Still caught in indecision, Windu ran through all the possibilities and ramifications of going against a direct order of the Council.
“Please.” The pleading in his friends voice tipped the argument and he grabbed his garments from the chair where he had dropped them.
“Alright Jinn, I’ll help you.” He looked back out the window as a bright streak of lightning ripped the dark sky soundlessly. “The storm might have lessened a bit. The tricky part will be explaining it to the Council when we get back.”
“Leave that to me. I will assume full responsibility for any disciplinary consequences the Council may come up with.”
“Oh you got it! If you think they will go for that.” Mace laughed as he walked back into his sleeping chambers to change.
“They will when we come back safely with Obi-Wan. They will my friend you’ll see.” Qui-Gon turned to the small window set into the building watching the rain trail in odd patterns down the pane and reached out to his Padawan once again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The soft brush of his Master startled the young Jedi. He had stopped once again, resting his weary body in the darkness of the maintenance passage.
//Master….// He could hear Qui-Gon’s questions, feel his worry but his strength was waning, he only hoped he could make it out of the shaft to the level above.
//No…energy. Can’t talk.// He let his head fall forward onto his hand gripping the rung before his face and wiped the sweat out of his eyes. //Have to….keep going.// With that last burst of energy he cut the link to his Master and concentrated on moving up. He could still hear his Master through their bond and feel his touch but he could no longer answered him back.
There was cool air seeping from somewhere up above caressing his sweat drenched face, refreshing him slightly. He had to be close to the exit now. The thought drove him forward
Within moments his hand hit a metal obstruction above his head; the access portal. He had made it, now he only needed to activate the release mechanism and he would be free of the shaft. The mechanism was simple, a large circular ring bisected with metal bars perpendicular to one another. One only had to turn the large metal wheel and force the hatch open. Normally the task would have been an easy one, but with only one good hand and balancing most of his weight on one foot it seemed insurmountable. He tested the circle with his hand tensing against its counterweight, it didn’t move. He was too close, had come too far, he just couldn’t give up now. Hooking his damaged arm around the rungs once more he reached to his waist for his lightsaber. Wedging the metal cylinder between the bracing ‘x’ of the wheel he used the weapon as leverage and slowly began turning the large mechanism counterclockwise. Metal scraped on metal as the apprentice kept up the pressure on the hatch. Seconds passed before the lid to the shaft clicked and popped a fraction out of place. It was open. The young Jedi tucked his head to his chest and pressed his shoulders against the access door forcing the plate up and open. Cool air rushed into the vacuum of space below him and he pulled himself out onto a paved walkway one level below the surface.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Mace we have to go now!” Qui-Gon threw the door to Mace's sleeping quarters open grabbing the Jedi and pushing him towards the door.
“Alright, hang on! Wait a second will you?” The dark Jedi jerked away from his friend, “I do have to finish dressing.” He growled, tucking the layers of his tunic into place. Qui-Gon watched impatiently as he buckled his utility belt and reached for his robe.
“Fine, you’re dressed.” He grabbed his friend by his tunic sleeve and hauled him out the door.
“What is up with you? Tell me what’s going on.” Mace stopped in the middle of the darkened hallway outside the shuttle bay. “What happened to Obi-Wan?”
“He fell off a catwalk onto one of the sublevels. He was hurt and attacked by a swoop gang.” The Jedi Master looked out from under the overhang of the hallway into the dark night, “Something else must have happened Mace, he stopped communicating with me.”
“Alright, alright. We're going. Just give me a minute to deactivate the sentry droid and we’ll find a ship and go get him.” Mace pressed the worried Jedi back against an ornamental column in the walkway and placed his palm on the door scanner. “Wait here.”
“Authorized.” The metallic sentry voice intoned as the doors slid silently open. “State your business Jedi Windu.”
Mace quickly stepped through the doors and began to pry the faceplate off the wall that protected the wiring of the door and the sentry on the other side of the bay. “Not much tonight 3BX, just here for a little stargazing that’s all.”
“All transports have been locked down for the night until further notice. You…are…nooottt…aaaalllllloooowwweed…..” the voice of the sentry slowed and stopped the blinking lights of the mechanized alarm system went dead as Mace pulled wires from their sockets and left them neatly hanging so they could easily be reconnected in the morning when their theft had been discovered.
Qui-Gon was watching him, leaning around the parted doors and staring at his friend as he made short work of the computer in the panel.
“Where’d you learn how to do that?”
A cocky smile crept over the others face, “What do you think I did all those times I got put on detention and they made me work in the labs cleaning up at night? Lots of parts and pieces left out that an innocent young man can get into.”
“Jinn, do you want my help?” The Jedi, raised an eyebrow in threat. Silencing his comments and trying to hide his smile Qui-Gon bowed slightly and swept his hand before him gesturing for the other to proceed.
“All right then.” Eyeing the darkened hangar bay Mace spotted what he was looking for, a small four seater Collor X-50 sat near the bay opening, ramp extended. It was an open invitation for a quick getaway. “There.” He whispered pointing out the craft. Jinn nodded and ran silently behind his friend into the waiting craft.
Mace ran to the cockpit throwing the small shuttle through preflight as quickly as its' systems would allow. Qui-Gon was securing the ramp and hatch when he spotted two sentries enter the bay.
“We’ve been discovered! Hurry up.” He shoved the doors closed and slammed the locks in place entering the manual override commands on the keypad next to the exit. “Mace!”
“I know! I know! Quit telling me and get up here. NOW!” The Jedi strapped himself into the pilots seat and not waiting on the other, kicked in the thrusters levitating the craft off the floor and shooting it out the open bay doors.
Qui-Gon stumbled into the forward cabin, “Thanks for the warning.”
“Oh you’d rather deal with security?” his friend shot back testily glancing quickly out of the corner of his eyes at the other. “What is it with you and shuttles Qui-Gon? First you destroy how many shuttles and now you’ve got me stealing you more? The Council is never going to let you have anything again, ever. You know that don’t you? Missing shuttles, missing Padawans.”
Exasperated the Master turned and pierced him with a glare, “This is not funny Mace. I fail to see the humor.”
“Jinn come on if you don’t loosen up you’re going to have heart failure before we reach the kid. That won’t do him any good now will it?” Mace glanced at him seriously, noting the strain in his friends face and the circles under his eyes. “When was the last time you slept?”
“About two days ago.” Qui-Gon leaned back in his seat and focused on the rain swept view out the transparisteel canopy. “I’m just worried about him. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
“Its okay. I understand, if the roles were reversed, I would probably be pushing you out of the pilots seat and trying to fly the shuttle myself.” Mace tried a small smile again.
This time it worked, “Yes you probably would be at that!” The Jedi Master's laughter filled the cockpit as the tension in the small quarters began to lighten.
“Hey why don’t you notify the authorities that Obi-Wan is missing. Maybe they can find him before we get there.”
“Good thinking Mace.” Qui-Gon reached for the comm unit and requested Coruscant security control sector 19, the last place he had been with his apprentice.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan pulled himself up onto the cold went pavement, kicking the hatch shut with his foot. He lay on the cool stone catching his breathing and collecting himself.
“One of those nights eh?” A gruff laughing voice startled him. Lifting his head he watched an old pilot shamble off into the distance.
“Why don’t you guys ever pass out somewhere convenient?” A set of stiletto heeled boots passed within inches of his face giving him a soft kick as they moved by. The sharp toe of the boot caught a gash on the young apprentice's side and he moaned softly.
“Hey, leave the drunks alone Casci.” He had no energy to move or argue and so he ignored the statement.
“Yeah?! We’ll why don’t you move him out of the way then Chahd. Would be nice if people could walk on the walkway!”
“Yeah whatever.” Strong rough hands caught the apprentice under his shoulders and turned him over. The movement and pull on his dislocated arm caused the young Jedi to cry out involuntarily as he was picked up and drug from the center of the avenue.
“Hey easy. Just gotta get you out of the way before you get stepped on.” Green eyes looked down into his own. “You okay there?”
Obi-Wan started to reply as the man set him gently down in an alley that swept back into a small cul-de-sac. He propped the young Jedi against the wall and eyed him carefully. “You don’t look so good.”
The apprentice smiled slightly, “I don’t feel so good. Where am I?”
The bouncer looked back to his station briefly, eyeing customers who were entering the establishment he worked for. “You are on sublevel two, outside the Hungry Gornt. Tell you what, you stay here and I’ll have the cook bring you something to drink and eat maybe. Okay?”
“Thanks. But I’m not drunk.”
“No, but kid you got in some hell of a fight.” The employee glanced up again frowning. “Speaking of a fight… Look I gotta get back to work, stay out of the way for a bit and I’ll be right back.”
Obi-Wan leaned around the corner looking to what had captured the man’s attention. There was a small crowd of humans and aliens surrounding two very drunk pilots. The situation looked to get out of hand quickly.
“Alright.” The wounded apprentice agreed, but Chahd had already moved past him back into the street, walking slowly towards the group crowded at the front of the bar.
Obi-Wan sat back against the wall behind him. There was a ringing in his ears and oddly enough he found he couldn’t feel most of his body anymore, strangely it just didn’t hurt. He concluded he was probably going into shock but he didn’t have the energy to do anything about it. From his hidden vantage point he could tell that he had surfaced in the nighttime entertainment district of sublevel two. Garish neon signs beckoned customers to try their wares and scores of people walked the artificially lit boulevard. Most of the patrons were pilots or crews of the ships that had been caught beneath the planetary shields, grounded for the night until the weather calmed and they were given clearance to lift. The delays had brought on short tempers and the abundance of alcohol in this district did not help the unstable situation. Fights were bound to erupt in such an environment.
The young Jedi rested his head on his knees and closed his eyes briefly, intending to just rest. He was listening absently to the heated discussion outside the Hungry Gornt that Chahd had gone to mediate. The voices escalated and the crowd was encouraging them on. A shove here, a curse there and the argument became a brawl. Chahd moved out of the center of the fight, wrestling his way to the front of the building and typed a code into a small keypad near the entryway alerting security that he had a fight out of control. A drunken patron lunged for the bouncer smashing him squarely in the jaw and dragging the unwilling employee back into the melee.
He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, he hadn’t meant for any of this to happen. He had been listening to the fight and his exhaustion had lulled him into the depths of a peaceful rest. But it was broken violently as a security officer jerked the young Jedi roughly to his feet. Obi-Wan cried out in pain and surprise. There were lights flashing all over in the street. Squad cars littered the boulevard and transports were being loaded with the drunk and inebriated fighters. He saw Chahd being pushed into one such vehicle. The officer in charge locked the ramp behind the men and thumped the side of the transport as it lifted up and headed for the upper level.
Obi-Wan tried to explain to the security officer that had found him in the alley who he was, but the guard whipped him around and secured his arms painfully behind his back. Determined not to cry out again the young Jedi bit his lip as tears of pain tracked down his cheeks.
“What’s this?” His lightsaber was jerked from his belt and tossed into a cart with other assorted paraphernalia and miscellaneous weaponry.
“No.” Obi-Wan watched as the weapons were removed to another vehicle and limped forward as he was dragged to a waiting transport. His head was pushed down as he was loaded into the rear of the carrier to avoid hitting the rim of the doorway and he was shoved into a seat. He was seated next to a large unconscious man that looked as though he had lost a fight badly somewhere too. The security shuttle lifted off and Obi-Wan tried to balance himself from falling over. The unconscious man on his left was not so lucky, sliding over onto the Jedi and effectively pinning him beneath his bulk. There was only one good thing about the whole situation he thought to himself darkly, at last he was going to reach the upper level.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The duty officer had had a long day and the cart full of weapons that were just delivered to his department did not excite him at all. With an irritated sigh he signed in the cache and looked it over. Something odd caught his eye and he snatched a burnt metal cylinder from the pile of blasters.
“Who brought this in?” He demanded of the guard who had delivered the weapons.
“I think they just brought a load in from sublevel 2, sector 19 sir, bar fight.”
The duty officer grabbed the metal tube and ran for the door. “Get that Jedi on the line that just commed in, I think we found his missing Padawan.” He yelled over his shoulder at the confused patrol officer.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The cell was dark, dirty and it smelled, packed full of all sorts of lifeforms waiting for placement in other cells as room became available. Obi-Wan slid gingerly down the wall and pressed himself into a corner of the small concrete room. The binders had not been removed from his hands and the metal bit deeply into his already wounded wrist. Few others in the cell paid him any attention and the young Jedi pulled into himself and let the tears roll down his cheeks.
He was startled when the cell door opened and guards pushed their way into the melee of prisoners. Obi-Wan lifted his head and watched them, they were searching for someone. He recognized one of the guards as the security officer who had taken him into custody. The man’s eyes lighted on him and he moved towards the young Jedi.
“This is him.” He turned to the duty officer who moved into the students vision and squatted down in front of him. “This belong to you?” The man pulled Obi-Wan’s lightsaber from behind him and held it up to the apprentice.
“Yes. Its mine.” The young mans voice was soft and thick with pain. His eyes fluttered shut momentarily as he held his breath waiting for the latest wave of pain to pass.
“What’s your name son.”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi, sir.”
Turning sharply and standing to his feet the officer gestured to two of the guards behind him, “Bring him up to level one. Place him in one of the waiting rooms and get a medic in there.”
The men helped him stand to his feet and hustled him out of the cell. “Gently.” Growled the duty officer as he watched the young man wince in pain as he was removed from the detention area.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“I thought you knew how to fly these things!” Qui-Gon gripped the arms of the seat and tensed as the shuttle dropped out from underneath them, loosing altitude rapidly.
“Its not me,” Mace ground out, whipping the controls around and banking the small craft into a uplifting current of air. “Its these storm cells. We keep hitting pockets of air, I can’t see air like that!”
“Just get us to the Senate Rotunda in one piece please. I want to start searching for Obi-Wan there.” The Jedi Master closed his eyes as the craft sheered up and over a catwalk that had appeared in the viewscreen from out of nowhere.
“Darn rain. Sorry about that.” The pilot glanced at his occupant and couldn’t help smiling. “Air sick?”
Qui-Gon was about to snap back at the Jedi when the comm light flashed green on the board before him. He quickly threw the switch and answered the incoming call.
“This is Qui-Gon Jinn.”
“Jedi Master Jinn, the Duty Officer would like to inform you that we have located your Padawan. He is in a waiting room on level 14 of Sector 19’s lockup facility. Seems they found him outside a bar where they broke up a brawl. We will have someone waiting for you when you land. Docking Bay 14c is still available for landings.”
“Thank you. Thank you very much, we are on our way.”
He glanced at his friend who was watching him smiling. “Told you it’d work out alright.” Relieved Qui-Gon glanced out the forward viewport just in time to see the underneath of a landing platform directly in their flight path.
“MACE!!” The pilots eyes grew wide as he flipped the craft on its side and dove beneath the floating pad shooting out and up on the other side. The Jedi Master slowly turned and speared his friend with and icy glare.
“What? We’re okay.” Mace looked over at him.
Qui-Gon pointed ahead through the forward plate, “You keep your eyes that way and maybe we’ll actually be okay.”
“I’m flying, I’m flying. Hey look over there!” The dark Jedi pointed through the sheeting rain to the Security detention building of Sector 19.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan had been brought to a waiting room in the large detention facility. There were a couple of chairs, a sink and a cot against the far wall. The guards had simply brought him in and left, no words, no instructions, he had no idea what was going on and they hadn’t removed the painful binders from his wrists. He stood in the middle of the room for a few minutes, confusion chasing fears around in his mind before his weariness took over. Moving to the small cot he lay down on his left side and sunk into the thin mattress, resting in the small comfort it afforded him. Within minutes the lost Padawan was sound asleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Qui-Gon entered the small waiting room ushered in by the Duty Officer. Obi-Wan lay on a cot against the far wall. He was soaked and dirty. His tunic was shredded and red stains were spreading from several cuts he had sustained. The young man was asleep.
“Obi-Wan?” The Jedi Master moved over to the sleeping form and knelt in front of him. When the youth didn’t waken, he gently placed one large hand on his Padawan’s head and closed his eyes. Pressing the apprentice into a deeper sleep the Jedi started to move his the younger man when he noticed the binders. “Why is he in binders?” He turned on the Duty Officer who still stood in the doorway.
Surprised the man moved forward, leaning over the young Jedi to see his hands cuffed tightly behind him. “I’m sorry. I don’t know they should have been removed.” Quickly removing a key from his pocket he pressed Obi-Wan down onto his stomach making his hands more accessible and unlocked the metal rings. As they fell away Qui-Gon caught his breath in a sharp hiss. The young man’s right wrist was bloodied and bruised, the lacerations deep and exposed. Carefully the large Jedi moved his apprentice's arms into a more comfortable position, gently examining the wounds for broken bones. The young jedi moaned softly at the slight touch causing the Master to withdraw.
“What happened to him?” The Officer asked quietly.
“He had a run in with a swoop gang. But I have no idea what made these gashes on his back and leg, they look like claw marks to me." He ran his hands lightly over Obi-Wan's back and moved the young man's leg where the spider had originally pierced him, inspecting the gashes and cuts. The claw marks were deep and jagged. The original puncture was red and swelling, it looked like it might already be infected.
Obi-Wan stirred, the hands on his body and the pain from his wounds bringing him back to consciousness. Qui-Gon immediately knelt back on the ground near his head. Green-blue eyes watched him blearily. He blinked slowly and reached out to the man in front of him; was he hallucinating, was he real. The older Jedi caught the hand reaching for him and drew it gently to his chest.
“Master?” The soft question started the Jedi Masters heart.
He brushed Obi-Wan’s hair out of his eyes and rested his free hand on the youths forehead. “Yes Padawan. I am here.” He smiled gently at the confused apprentice. “What happened to you young one, how did you get the claw marks on your back. It's important we know, they look like they are getting infected.”
The student nodded slowly, he tightened his grip on Qui-Gon’s hand as the pain seeped back through his tired mind. “Padawan?”, the Jedi Master watched his apprentice worriedly.
Obi-Wan swallowed hard shaking his head in answer, “It was a bore spider Master. I think I killed it.”
“A bore spider?” The Duty Officer moved quickly to an intercom next to the entry of the small room. “Tell the medic to bring antibiotics with him, we have a victim of a bore spider attack.” Qui-Gon was watching the officer. “Their poison isn’t deadly but it can make you very sick. We need to get him some medication before the infection spreads much further.” Qui-Gon nodded and turned back to Obi-Wan. The hand in his own had gone limp as the student had succumbed once more to sleep.
The Jedi Master stood, “We will need to leave here immediately. He needs medical attention and we have the proper facilities back at the Temple.”
The head of the detention area shook his head sadly, “All transportation has been grounded. We can’t authorize your shuttle to go back out there until morning. The flight you made was illegal, you’ll have to wait here until we have clearance.”
Resigned Qui-Gon sighed and walked back to the small cot. He turned as the officer started to leave, “Thank you for your help and for finding my Padawan, I owe you a debt of gratitude.”
“If you need anything else don’t hesitate to call me.”
The Jedi Master gently moved his student, shifting the wounded body so that he could sit on the narrow sleep couch. He wrapped his Padawan in his own robe and carefully rested Obi-Wan’s head in the cradle of his strong arms stroking the spiky soft hair. A tap sounded on the door and Mace stepped in followed by a medic.
Without disturbing the Jedi Master or moving the wounded man, the medic dressed the visible wounds of the young Jedi resting in his arms. He bandaged the badly damaged wrist and the cut on the youth's temple and cleaned the gashes on his back and leg. At the teachers prompting the medic removed Obi-Wan’s right boot to reveal the swollen twisted ankle. He quickly applied a soft brace and an ice pack and proceeded to remove a dermal injector explaining the antibiotics and pain relievers that had been loaded into the small medical gun. He placed the tip of the injector against the youth’s neck and depressed the trigger. A small sigh escaped Obi-Wan’s lips and he relaxed even further into his Masters embrace.
Mace who had quietly sat by during the whole procedure thanked the medic and soundlessly closed the door behind him reseating himself across from the master and apprentice team. Qui-Gon met his eyes not speaking. Neither said anything for a very long time, the patter of rain on the plastacrete walls created a soothing sound in the small waiting room.
“We can’t leave tonight.”
Mace looked back at his friend, “I know. They told me.” He waited for a heartbeat before continuing, “They gave me a ticket.”
“What?” Qui-Gon’s head snapped up, “For what?”
“Illegal use of transportation during a mandatory grounding of all flights.” He read the yellow slip of paper and held it towards the other so he could see it.
“How much is it for?”
Mace turned it back towards himself reading the fine print, “Says a hundred credits.”
“A hundred?” Qui-Gon raised his eyebrows for clarification, Mace just nodded staring him down. The Jedi master drew back and watched his friend through slitted eyes, “And I suppose you want me to pay it?”
“Well…”, still the open faced innocent stare.
Obi-Wan shifted in his master’s arms drawing his attention back down to the young upturned face that leaned into his chest. “Gladly.”, came the preoccupied response. “I will pay it gladly.”, He said softly, stroking the young mans hair and soothing his troubled dreams.
* * * * * * * ** * * * * * *
Morning found the storms tapered back and the three Jedi sound asleep in the room they had been given. Mace was sprawled in an uncomfortable plastic chair, mouth open, snoring soundly. Sometime in the night Qui-Gon had shifted to lean against the wall behind him drawing his student with him and holding him tightly against his chest. The Duty Officer stood in the doorway smiling at the scene before him, he almost hated to wake them, but they had been given clearance to leave and he wanted to make sure they took this window of opportunity before the storms came back in force.
He tapped the dark Jedi closest to him causing the sleeping man to start awake. “Wha…what? I’m awake, I’m awake!”
The sound woke the other Jedi who stirred to life lifting his head from its resting place and focusing on the man in the doorway. “Good morning. Are we cleared to leave?”
“Yes you are and I suggest you get a move on it. The storms have lessened for a bit but I don’t know how long the weather will hold.” He watched as the young man on the cot sleepily opened brilliant blue green eyes and looked around the room fastening his gaze on the older Jedi who held him. “Not to mention the fact that a very upset green looking Jedi was on my vidcom this morning wanting to know your whereabouts.”
“Yoda.” Both older Jedi chimed in together. “We’re in trouble.” Sighed the Jedi Master.
“Oh no, you’re in trouble. Not me!” Mace pointed back at his friend, “You are the one who is going to do all the explaining. We had an agreement.”
“No, no. You are not weaseling out on this Jinn.”
“Master?” Obi-Wan was trying to follow the conversation and not fully understanding.
“Its all right Padawan. There is nothing to worry about.”
“Oh no.” Mace’s sarcastic mutterings were easily heard by the rooms’ occupants, “He wakes me up middle of the night. Lets steal a ship he’s says. No problem he says. Nope. None at all. I'll take care of everything he says. Yeah right.”
The Duty Officer cleared his throat and gazed questioningly at the dark Jedi, who realized just what he had confessed to and sheepishly looked across the room at his accomplice.
“Nice going Mace. Now let us leave before you do any more damage.” Qui-Gon glared at him and gently began to help Obi-Wan sit up. The young man was stiff and slightly feverish from the infection his body was fighting. He stood to his feet awkwardly favoring his ankle and leaned against his Master for support.
Mace held the door open as the three of them exited. Moving to the other side of the limping Padawan, he wrapped his arm around Obi-Wan careful of his dislocated shoulder and helped the pair walk to the shuttle.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The ride back to the temple had been uneventful and the weather had held until after their landing. The looks on the faces of the council members and the security waiting for them was another matter altogether. But when Obi-Wan was helped down the ramp by his Master they had softened. There would be disciplinary actions but the safety and health of the Padawan had become paramount as the extent of his injuries were made known.
Now Qui-Gon restlessly paced outside the doors to the room that Obi-Wan had been taken to in the healer’s wing. No one had told him anything and the waiting was beginning to get on his nerves. A short sharp cry of pain filtered through the doors. It was enough. He pushed through the entry way and past the assistants who were trying to restrict his access. Whatever they were doing, his Padawan was in pain and no one would tell him a thing. He pressed up to the bed next to Obi-Wan glaring at the head healer and glancing quickly down at the wounded young man. One of the healers assistants was gently placing Obi-Wan’s injured arm across his chest and binding it in place there.
“Master Jinn you need to leave.”
The tall Jedi stood his ground glancing briefly at the healer before returning his gaze to his student.
“Its alright Master, it was dislocated like I thought it might be.” Obi-Wan looked tired. There were dark circles under his eyes and unshed tears brimming their sea green depths. “They had to set it. It was rather painful.” His wrist was swathed in bacta and bandages and his ankle was slightly elevated, propped on pillows and wrapped tightly.
The Jedi Master looked to the head healer indignantly. A contest of wills ensued, and it ended only when the Healer relented sighing in frustration. “Alright you may stay. I do not want him up or excited do you hear me?” Without waiting for an answer the older man continued, “His ankle was fractured, we have administered a bone knitter. He has several lacerations on his back and left lower calf and his immune system is fighting an infection from the bore spider attack.” Looking back at the Padawan and scowling he lectured more, “You need a lot of rest. You are dehydrated young man. You *will* be staying here over night possibly more than that and I want no arguments from you.” He gazed between the two silent men, “If you stay out of my way," he pointed at Qui-Gon, "and you follow my instructions, your Master may stay." He finished his sentence staring hard at the apprentice, "Otherwise I *will* see him denied access do I make myself clear?”
Both Jedi nodded in agreement watching as the elderly healer walked out, taking his assistants with him.
Qui-Gon turned back to his apprentice. “How do you feel Obi-Wan?”
“Horrible.” The smile that lit the young face contradicted the ache that he felt in his body. “I thought I was hallucinating when I saw you in the detention center.”
The Jedi Master laughed lightly and leaned over the wounded jedi, “What a night you had my padawan. Tell me how did you ever defeat that bore spider?”
“Well I had my lightsaber, but it was…” at the recollection of his lost weapon the student started, “I lost it Master! They took it from me when I was arrested.” He fell back against the pillows wincing with the shift in position. “Oh well, it had burnt out anyway. I am not sure it was fixable.”
Smiling Qui-Gon reached to the back of his belt and removed a shiny cylinder. The mauve activation button on the side practically glimmered in the soft lighting of the medical bay. Obi-Wan’s face lit up at the sight of his saber. “But how? Did you?”
“No it wasn’t me. It was actually Mace. I think he felt sorry for you and wanted to help. He brought it to me this morning.”
The apprentice held the weapon in his good hand relaxing back onto the bed. He was just about to speak when the door opened again. A young female healer walked in, a syringe in her hand. “He has to sleep now. Healer Talran’s orders.”
Qui-Gon raised his hand and stopped her as she reached the Padawans beside. “Please, allow me.” He placed one large hand over Obi-Wan’s heart and with the other he covered the Padawans eyes and forehead. “He’s already had too much pain for one day.” The Jedi Master could feel his student release his breath and relax, safe in the presence of his Master. With a nod of understand she turned to leave offering no argument.
Qui-Gon removed his hand from his Padawan’s face. The apprentice’s eyes remained closed but a smile formed on his lips, “Thank you Master.”
“You are welcome my Padawan. Now young one you are going to rest.” He placed his hand back on the youth’s forehead and pressed into his consciousness through the force, damping out all else around them and wrapping the wounded student in warmth and peace. Obi-Wan allowed all his shields to fall and followed his Master down into the stillness of sleep. As the darkness enfolded him, he realized that the lack of light did not frighten him any longer and with the last bit of willpower he had he whispered softly, “Yes Master. Goodnight.”
//Sleep well Padawan// He was still aiding Obi-Wan into a healing trance when he heard the door open again.
“I already told you I would handle this.” Without turning around he quietly but forcefully dismissed the guest.
“Will you now? So sure are you?” The gravely voice of Master Yoda caused him to start and turn around breaking the connection with his Padawan.
“Master Yoda! I am sorry I thought you were…” Obi-Wan stirred and Qui-Gon turned back to him quickly re-establishing their bond and soothing the troubled sleep of the young man. Hooking a nearby chair with his foot he pulled it within reach and sat down next to the bed, placing his hand over the young man's heart.
“Yes, thought wrong you did. Come to talk to you about the other night I have.” The Council member walked closer.
“Yes Master,” obediently replied the preoccupied Jedi. He wasn’t in a mood for this, he knew he had been wrong and would accept whatever punishment was necessary but he did not want to discuss it now.
“Reckless you were. Disobeyed a direct order I think.”
“Use good judgment you did not.”
“Stole a shuttle, broke laws you did. Endangered the lives of others.”
“Listening to me you are not!”
“Yes Master.” Qui-Gon was watching the sleeping form of his Padawan completely blocking out the older Jedi. The statements demanded answers but his thoughts were disturbed and he wished only for some quiet time alone with Obi-Wan. The force flowed from the teacher to the student and as the one aided the other, the Master began to grow tired himself. Peace and rest beckoned him, it had been a stressful two days and the presence of his Padawan in the force drew him down into sleep himself.
Master Yoda observed all this, his irritation lessening slightly. Quietly he padded up next to the Jedi Master and touched him. Qui-Gon stirred and looked down at the diminutive Jedi.
“I am sorry Master Yoda, it’s just that…” The elder Jedi silenced him with a wave of his hand.
“Sorry do not be.” He sighed as he looked from student to teacher, “Understand what you did I do. Talk with the Council I will. Drop the charges they will. If roles were reversed the same would I do.”
Qui-Gon smiled tiredly. “Thank you Master Yoda.”
“Hmmm. Rest you need I think.”
Before the Jedi Master could respond Obi-Wan shifted slightly moving the fingers of his injured hand to touch the ones of Qui-Gon’s that rested over the youth’s heart.
Yoda smiled back at the Jedi, “Rest you will get I think. Leave you now I will. Heal faster both of you will without my presence.” The Jedi council member turned and walked quietly out the door leaving the two to their much needed rest.
There would be time for talking and stories and settling the score with Mace later, but sleep beckoned him now. Resting his head on the edge of the bed the Jedi Master fell into a deep dreamless sleep, content to relax in the heartbeat that pulsed beneath his fingers.