A Grievous Secret on Koriba
It seemed like Obi-Wan and Anakin had just returned from their mission on Zygerria when they were summoned to the Jedi Temple briefing room to be assigned yet another task. The war with the Separatists was dragging on and Jedi in active duty were finding themselves on distant systems more than they were home at the Temple these days. The two Jedi walked side-by-side down a grand corridor musing idly about what this mission may entail. As they passed a lecture hall, Anakin’s Padawan exited her physics class and fell in beside her Master. As usual, she could hardly keep the bounce out of her step.
“How was class, Snips?” asked Anakin with a smirk. He remembered them as dull and uninteresting and far too easy.
She wrinkled her nose. “It was boring, Master. We only just learned what you taught me last week. Are we going another mission?” she added excitedly.
“Obi-Wan and I are,” he answered, grinning at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan grinned back. “Indeed we are, Ahsoka. You shall be invited as well, depending on your current academic marks.”
Quick as lightning, she whipped out her data pad and brandished her list of grades in front of her Master hopefully. It was straight A’s down the page.
Anakin eyed the impressive list of grade marks critically.
“Hmm, I don’t know Snips. You have an A- in Galactic Politics,” he said casting a sideways glance to the Master who often taught the course.
Obi-Wan smiled ruefully. “Yes, she has an A- in my class because she spends more time daydreaming about the battle maneuvers that you two cook up during study hours than she does listening to my lecture.”
“Ahsoka, is this true?” Anakin queried his Padawan with a hint of reproach.
Embarrassed, Ahsoka cast her eyes down toward her feet as she glumly admitted “Yes, Master. It’s true.”
Anakin's false reproach swelled to pride. He smiled and nudged her playfully. “That’s my Padawan.”
Realizing that Master Skywalker and Master Kenobi were toying with her, Ahsoka beamed with joy. She was going on the mission after all! With a hoot of delight, she did a quick front somersault as they walked, landing lightly on her feet.
“Easy Snips. Not in the corridors.” said Anakin as the three continued along to the brief.
Obi-Wan quietly regarded the Master-Padawan team beside him. They reminded him so much of a younger version of himself and Anakin that it was uncanny. And yet he and Anakin were so close in age that it was almost as though Ahsoka was mentored by and devoted to the approval of both of the Jedi Masters. It was usually Ahsoka, her Master, and her Master’s Master- the three of them made an impressive team and were often summoned to missions as such.
However, his silent tranquility was gradually being interrupted by a tension and foreboding in the Force that was emanating from beyond the closed briefing room doors. It tugged at his conscious thoughts, nagging them for attention.
“I feel it too,” said Anakin sensing Obi-Wan's disquiet.
“Feel what?” chimed Ahsoka. “Is it bad? Has something happened?”
“Never fear, Snips. You can’t ever go wrong with this old man and me by your side. Especially me,” Anakin said with a conceited laugh.
Ignoring Anakin’s haughtiness, Obi-Wan spoke to the apprentice. “Stay sharp and stay focused. Let us see what delightful adventure the Republic has in store for us today.”
The doors to the briefing room slid open and Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka stepped into the circular room that was awash in the bluish-white light of a hologram message. Masters Yoda and Mace Windu were standing at the large circular table solemnly waiting for the Jedi who were assigned to this emergent mission. Obi-Wan bowed in respect as he stood next to Mace. They were soon joined by the tall graceful form of Jedi Master Aayla Secura. Her face was a mask of composure but her twin head tails were twitching in agitation. She bowed as the other Jedi did the same to her.
“What has happened, Master?” Aayla asked Yoda in her thick Rylothi accent as she bowed to him. “And what can we do to help?”
Yoda looked up at Mace as a silent command for him to begin briefing his peers.
Mace did so. “It’s General Grievous on the Koriba system. He’s been collecting leverage for land to build more droid factories.”
Mace solemnly played the message that had been paused in its first second of transmission.
The message that played before the six Jedi was a graphic one. In it, General Grievous and a platoon of destroyer droids violently stormed the royal palace of Koriba. The King and Queen, with help from a throng of surrounding servants, were settling their four young children to bed when suddenly the roof and wall of the nursery exploded. The Queen shrieked, shielding her children as the King drew his sword and advanced on Grievous while shouting for aid from his Royal Guards. But the guards were too late. The ruthless company of droids wasted no time in stunning the King and his wife, killing the servants and snatching up the four crying young children from their small beds. The fourth and youngest child, Grievous lifted by the leg and held up to the security camera’s lens.
Ahsoka gasped in fright for the tiny prince and edged a few inches toward her master. Without taking his eyes off the message, Obi-Wan placed a steady calming hand on her bare shoulder.
Grievous began to address the viewers of the hologram, his raspy, garbled voice
sputtering in wrath.
“I don’t appreciate having the fruits of my victory stolen out from under me. Nor do I appreciate the hours of overhaul I required after facing you Jedi scum in combat. This time you won’t be so lucky.”
He let out a hacking cough and cruelly raised the child higher and closer to the viewers, shaking him roughly.
“I now have in my possession the filthy offspring of the Royal family that governs this system. Either the system surrenders its lands and people to me, or these Royal brats will suffer.” He laughed menacingly, raised the crying young child high with one of his metal claws and released him to the forces of gravity. The holo cut out just as the child was let go, his look of innocent terror frozen in the moment for all to see.
“No!” Ahsoka breathed, near to tears. She casted her eyes sadly away as Obi-Wan and Anakin glanced determinedly at each other.
“A bold stroke, even for Grievous,” Obi-Wan commented sadly. “But the illustrious General and I are old friends. I’m sure we can persuade him to relinquish the Royal hostages.”
“I agree,” growled Anakin by his side, fists clenched. “When do we leave?”
“Patience,” began Yoda softly. “More complicated this mission will be than it seems. Shrouded in darkness, Koriba is and clarity regarding the system’s Separatist involvement, the Force has not yet provided me.”
Mace spoke up ominously. “Yoda is right. There may be something even more devious at work on Koriba though we do not know the extent of it.”
Obi-Wan folded his arms and stroked his beard pensively. “Koriban Royal policy gives cessions to political enemies that have any member of the Royal family in hostile custody. Grievous knows that as long as he holds the royal children alive, Koriba will bend to his will.”
“Exactly,” agreed Mace, his hands clasped beneath the small of his back. “We need to regain control of the hostages if we are going to get any aid from the People’s Army of Koriba in expelling Grievous and the Separatist presence from the system.”
Anakin crossed his arms and furrowed his brow. “So what you’re saying is that as long as Grievous has the hostages, Koribans will allow him to build droid factories on their system?”
“Not only that, but the Koribans will be forced to work as slaves on their own home planet and forced to aid the Separatist cause in any way that they can be useful. They are an ancient and noble race, fervently dedicated to the preservation of the Royal blood. They will do anything for their King and his kin” added Obi-Wan.
“So what are we waiting for? Let’s go get the hostages back from that droid filth!” exclaimed Anakin sneering at the hologram and motioning toward the door.
“What we are waiting for, Master Skywalker, is detailed instructions from our elders,” replied Aayla sternly to Anakin’s intended rhetorical question.
He glared at her as a natural response, but softened his features and turned obediently back to Yoda. He like Aayla well enough to heed her words and she was right: he would have to obey orders, no matter how stupid and superfluous they may seem.
Mace extended an arm and held out a holodisc to Obi-Wan. “These are the details of your mission,” he said. “You get yourselves in to Grievous’ post, rescue the younglings, and get yourselves out. Bring the children back to the Temple. If you notice any other Separatist involvement on Koriba, take note.”
“Lightly you must tread on this shrouded system,” added Yoda. “Your priority, the younglings are but cautious and vigilant you must remain.”
“Your shuttle awaits you in Hangar 3, Docking Bay 94. May the Force be with all of you,” Mace said with a bow of his head.
Obi-Wan, and Aayla bowed back in respect and the team turned to exit the chamber. Abruptly remembering her courtesies, Ahsoka ran back into the room to give the elder Masters a hasty bow before running to the door to rejoin her own Master.
Yoda and Mace remained at the table looking somberly into the menacing holographic face of the droid general. Mace felt a sharp pang of regret.
Ever sensitive to the ebb and flow of the Living Force in the Jedi around him, Yoda noticed that the purple outline of Mace’s robust Force presence was restive.
“Had more to say during the brief did you, Master Windu?” said Yoda peering up mystically at the tall Jedi Master.
Mace blinked slowly and exhaled, trying to release his concern into the Force.
“Master Yoda, I feel that somehow Obi-Wan is in greater jeopardy than the others. I can almost sense that he will be confronted with making a great sacrifice, but not clearly. I know you can feel it too. Why didn’t we warn him?”
“Irrepressible is the bond between Obi-Wan and his former Padawan. We must trust the Force to let the events unfold, and trust in Obi-Wan’s companions to rectify the extra danger there may be. Trust always, in the Force, Master Windu.”
“Yes, Master,” said Mace and he exited the chamber to meditate in his own quarters.
Yoda’s gaze followed him out before he too settled down to meditate on the floor near a great window.
As their small Republic shuttle sped toward the Koriba system, Anakin quizzed his apprentice in the passenger hold. Aayla and Obi-Wan were up in the cockpit and sat in the pilot and co-pilot seat respectively. A dark premonition tugged at Obi-Wan’s psyche, but sensing it was personal, he quickly shrugged it aside to ponder the assignment. He could sense that Aayla was concentrating on the mission as well, but decided that the quiet was a good opportunity to speak privately with her.
“Aayla,” Obi-Wan began, “I have been avoiding thanking you for a great favor your have done for me in recent months...” He faltered, too ashamed to come out with it.
Already though, she knew. “You want to thank me helping Anakin to safety after our crash on the Lurmen’s system but you are too abashed to admit your strong attachment to him.”
Obi-Wan blushed realizing that Aayla had nailed it on the head. Females could be so perceptive! It’s as if he had his emotions written all over the front of his tunic.
Aayla placed a reassuring hand on his knee and looked into his grey eyes.
“Obi-Wan, all of us have our attachments, especially to those we teach, but you and Young Skywalker are different. Where as Jedi used to look at you and see Master and Padawan, now we see two brothers. I think you have done an honorable job training him and I think it healthy for you to finally address your gratitude for his safety.”
Relieved, Obi-Wan put his hand over his heart and looked her in the eyes. “Thank you, Aayla Secura, for helping Anakin when I was not there to aid him. You led the entire team to safety and a planet to victory over the Separatists and I am forever grateful for your unyielding compassion and dedication to protecting others.”
She smiled warmly, “And I, Obi-Wan, am forever grateful for your friendship and council. You were my rock when my own Padawan lost her life those years ago and the reason I didn’t leave the Jedi Order. I am simply returning the favor.”
The two shared another moment of silent gratitude and respect toward each other before Anakin and Ahsoka burst loudly into the cockpit arguing about the fine details of the mission and which of them had committed it better to memory.
“No, Master, it says that the Koriban atmosphere will supply us with 1.122 % of the gravitational force on Coruscant,” argued Ahsoka.
“Ahh Snips you’ve been slacking! It's 1.121%. You need to step up your game,” contested Anakin.
Obi-Wan turned around and loudly cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt your excessive feuding, but we are thirty minutes from Koriba. Once you two have settled down, the four of us are going to recap the mission once more together. Besides, you’re both incorrect. It’s 1.120%.”
In the pilot’s seat, Aayla sighed. Would their banter never cease? She truly doubted it as she began the landing sequence.
“Well, I was closer”, said Anakin to his Padawan defiantly as he hovered over the co-pilot seat where Obi-Wan was sitting, one leg crossed over the other.
“Move over, Old Man. Let the professional pilots handle the landing sequence,” teased Anakin.
"You go right ahead, Master Pilot," said Obi-Wan dryly and making a theatric gesture toward the co-pilot's seat. He had a mind to join Ahsoka in the rear of the cockpit as Anakin strapped himself in next to Aayla. Anakin was indeed the better pilot but Obi-Wan had a way of boosting Ahsoka’s confidence before dangerous missions.
Obi-Wan very much liked Ahsoka. He found that he was taken with her because he saw in her the same desire to please her great Master that he had experienced when he was a young Padawan to the legendary Qui-Gon Jinn.
As he spoke to her, again Obi-Wan experienced the convoluted, dark premonition. But as quickly as it came, it was gone and he buried it under the encouraging words he was speaking to Anakin's apprentice.
The ship made a swift descent and a neat landing. The Jedi inventoried their gear, gathered around the display of the holodisc once more and solidified their plan of action.
Obi-Wan opened the discussion. “According to Bothan-acquired intelligence, Grievous and the droids in his command have set up camp on the side of this small mountain that lies just beside the capital city and the Royal Palace itself. We must infiltrate the compound unseen. There are several escape hatches but only one that will grant us access. It’s here.”
Obi-Wan pointed to the small opening on the compound’s retaining wall that was illuminated in green on the hologram. “The others in red are decoys. Throw no droid-poppers or charges of any sort into these hatches for the passages bend downward and they will emerge from an open pipe by your feet.”
“Now that’s just wrong,” muttered Anakin. Aayla looked disgusted at this defense tactic as well. A point-blank droid-popper blast wouldn’t do any of the Jedi lasting harm but it would leave them stunned for several minutes. An actual charge point-blank… Aayla shuddered to think about it.
“Indeed,” agreed Obi-Wan. He continued. “We will break up into pairs and circle around the bottom of the mountain undetected and meet at this hatch. Aayla and I will travel east from our shuttle. Anakin, you and Ahsoka will travel west. With alacrity, we can rendezvous in the brush surrounding the hatch within twenty-five standard minutes of the departure. Once near the hatch, Anakin and I will enter the compound. I will scout the immediate area inside and give the signal for Aayla and Ahsoka to join us.”
Obi-Wan looked at Anakin. “Anakin, this is where we need your technical expertise. You must get the nearest console, hack into the system and locate the younglings. When you’ve done that, we will regroup, retrieve the hostages together then proceed through the old mining tunnels inside the mountain. All eight of us will emerge on the other side of the mountain via tunnel shaft, embark on our shuttle and retreat safely to Coruscant. Does anyone disagree or have anything more to add?”
Ahsoka spoke up. “Master, are we each taking one youngling to run with? Or will one of us grab two so another can scout ahead to the compound exit and through the tunnels?”
“Excellent question, Padawan,” said Aayla looking to Anakin and Obi-Wan. “It may depend on our fatigue and whether or not we have pursuers.”
“Don’t worry,” boasted Anakin to the group, “I’ll have that system hacked so fast, Grievous won’t know what hit him until after we’ve made the jump to hyperspace.”
“Right,” conceded Obi-Wan, inwardly reminded himself that a little extra audacity would be helpful to their cause. “And remember, the young ones will be frightened, maltreated and possibly injured, but we must get them to safety. They may even mistake you for another foe. Recall that our main goal here is to get them out of captivity. We can attend to their hurts and fears afterward.”
“Agreed,” said Aayla. “The aft cabin on this shuttle has been made up for the young ones to rest. There is food, water and a first aid kit should they need it.”
The thought of the innocent young royals trapped, neglected and hurt made Ahsoka remorseful. Sensing her consternation, Anakin gently chided her through their bond in the Force. His blazing blue Force particles soothed her stormy green ones, reminding the young Jedi apprentice to turn trepidation to determination.
“Excellent. Without any further ado, are we ready?” asked Obi-Wan.
“Let’s do this!” shouted Anakin enthusiastically as he launched himself westward. “Snips, you’re already behind!” he called over his shoulder.
His Padawan darted eagerly after him. They headed west toward the setting suns and ran to the tree line for cover and vanished within the wood.
“We should be off as well,” Obi-Wan said to Aayla. “If he beats us to the entrance hatch, I will never hear the end of it.”
Aayla nodded and leapt after Obi-Wan and the two Masters headed east.
Anakin cast one backward glance to Obi-Wan before he and his apprentice penetrated the tree line.
“What is it?” whispered Ahsoka. She detected that he was uncertain about something. His blue aura of Force particles burned like fire and molten magma around his corporeal form as he jogged, but she still sensed that something was nagging him.
“Nothing. Stay vigilant.” Anakin could feel something amiss within the Force. It would have to wait though. The young hostages needed rescuing.
On opposite trajectories, the Jedi pairs traveled swiftly and silently around the small mountain to Grievous’ compound. They bounded through trees, over boulders and through piles of sticks and dry leaves without making a sound and without being seen by enemies. After twenty-five minutes, they watched each other emerge in the trees on either side of the small hatch. By now, it was getting dark and the droids on patrol were activating their headlamps.
They stayed hidden and used hand signals to coordinate their next move. Obi-Wan made fist and gave the indication to approach the hatch. Anakin ignited his blue lightsaber, easily searing a large circle in the hatch as Obi-Wan used the Force to silence any sound the procedure may have caused. Then he deftly leapt through the smoldering opening and into the small dank corridor below.
Almost immediately, he felt the nagging sensation that something was wrong. Again, he determined it had mostly to do with him, so he pushed the feeling aside and focused on sensing everything about the immediate vicinities. There was no danger too close other a patrol of two droids heading in a direction opposite their own. He sensed a computer console, not far from where he stood. He signaled for the rest to join him.
One by one, Anakin, Ahsoka and Aayla followed Obi-Wan through the hatch and into the passage below. Anakin, crept up to Obi-Wan, tapped him on the shoulder and Obi-Wan pointed him in the direction of the nearest mainframe console.
Anakin, who was unusually gifted at sensing machines, felt the compound teaming with them. He felt hundreds of metal bodies at work and millions of amperes flowing and splitting and flowing again. He repeated the signal to Obi-Wan in accordance with protocol and approached the console. The three other Jedi followed him so that they could provide cover from different angles as Anakin hacked.
Anakin pulled the cover panel off of the console and went to work. Prodding the circuits carefully, he delved into the computer, expertly breaking and making new connections that would allow him access to any information about the compound that he wanted. Within minutes, he had located the files that held the information regarding the hostages. He hacked into them easily and committed the information to memory. But before exiting, he noticed a file that was more heavily encrypted. What information could be more vital than the location of the hostages? Challenge accepted, he thought. He was making progress with decoding the heavily protected files when suddenly his metallic arm connected with live current and shocked him.
“Sith!” he growled, pulling his arm back sharply and resisting the urge the punch the computer and smash it to pieces.
Obi-Wan was at his side instantly. “What’s happened? Are you alright?”
“Fine,” Anakin assured Obi-Wan as he stood shaking out his arm. The shock had left an uncomfortable tingling sensation from the tips of his prosthetic fingers to the top of his shoulder. But it would be a quick fix and it could definitely wait. That’s not what troubled him. “Obi-Wan, there is something in here that they really don’t want anyone to know. Even I couldn’t break in.”
Aayla and Ahsoka cocked their heads slightly so they could listen better to Anakin’s words from where they stood at their protective posts.
Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully. Was this fact at all connected with the foreboding he had felt? He let it slide for now. “Are you sure your arm is alright? Were you able to locate the younglings?”
“Yes, I think so and yes I found the younglings. Follow me.” Anakin disappeared around the corner into and his companions followed him.
Deep within the confines of his compound, General Grievous sat in his chambers awaiting instruction from his superior. Instead, the hologram of a droid flickered to life on his desk.
“What now?” bellowed General Grievous to the Technical Droid. “Make it quick.”
The droid spoke as ordered in its dull monotone. “Apologies sir, but there has been an attempt to breach our most encrypted files.”
“Were they successful?” barked Grievous.
“Negative, sir. Cathodic protection prevented them from accessing-”
Not caring for the technical details of the thwarted breach, Grievous dismissed the droid while it was in mid-sentence with the smash of his metal fist on a button. Then he let out and deep malevolent laugh. So they came after all, he thought darkly and laughed some more. Chances are it was the Skywalker brat who did the hacking. And where there is Skywalker, there is sure to be Kenobi.
Then the hologram of Count Dooku flickered to life on his desk and this time Grievous sat up straight and bowed his head in respect.
“What news of Republic intervention, Grievous?” demanded Dooku getting right down to the point and eyeing the droid general disdainfully.
“They are here, my lord,” reported Grievous proudly.
“That was fast. What do they know?” questioned Dooku, skeptical that Grievous could provide anything helpful.
“Nothing of importance. I will contain them until you arrive.”
“Very well, Grievous. I shall be there within two standard days. Do what you will but keep them alive.”
“Yes, my lord” replied Grievous failing to hide his excitement.
“Almost there” signaled Anakin to his Padawan. She was doing well. Ahsoka hadn’t made a peep since they entered the compound and her high stamina was allowing her to keep up with the Jedi Masters. If the Force had been kind enough to bless Ahsoka with a rare spell of silence, it was bound to help them complete this mission unscathed. Or would it?
Another brief flicker of danger slithered its way through Anakin’s thoughts. He glanced back at Ahsoka again, then to Obi-Wan and to Aayla. Everyone seemed fine thus far. The only thing that was really bothering him was the tingling in his arm. It had intensified since the initial shock. He gave it a shake and oddly it seemed to almost feel lighter than it usually did.
No time to think about it though, one more level and two more corridors and they would be within the prisoner holding cells and undoubtedly faced with more security obstacles.
Anakin finally came to a halt in front of a circular steel door. As his Padawan skidded to avoid colliding into his hip, Obi-Wan and Aayla immediately took protective stance on either side of him.
For the second time today and hopefully the last, Anakin reached for the panel of a computer with intentions to hack into it. But as Anakin curled his fingers around the transparisteel frame, something was undeniably wrong. The fingers on his right hand did not want to respond and he had to concentrate very hard to even get them to twitch. Movement evaded him until eventually he couldn’t get his arm to respond at all. Kriff.
“I can’t open it,” Anakin confessed dully. “My right arm shorted out. Its useless.”
“What do you mean useless?” whispered Aayla apprehensively.
“Useless as in I can’t use it,” replied Anakin annoyed. Why were they always relying on him to do the technical tasks anyway?
Ahsoka’s eyes widened in fear and she bent to try to give comfort to her Master.
Anakin looked away from her shamefully but let her probe his malfunctioning arm nonetheless. This was something he had never wanted his Padawan to see. He feared it would be a reminder to her that her Master was permanently handicapped and had once been critically defeated in combat.
Obi-Wan reacted quickly. “It’s alright Anakin, we’ll improvise. I’ll give it a shot.”
Obi-Wan and Anakin swapped places immediately and Obi-Wan removed the panel and began to manipulate the circuits inside. As Anakin took up a protective stance, he felt awkward and unbalanced. The Force wasn’t flowing through him like it usually did and it made him feel ungainly and nauseated.
“Master?” pleaded Ahsoka with worry in her widened blue eyes.
“It’s fine Ahsoka, I’ll fix it later. I have another arm don’t I?”
Indeed Anakin did have another arm, but he still felt wrong. The only thing that he disliked about his false arm was that it served as a reminder of a great mistake he had made. Other than that, he had grown accustomed to it and even learned to allow his own Force presence to flow through it. Now, the false limb hung loosely at his side and all the Force strength that usually flowed throughout it had to be sloppily diverted. And what was worse, the suggestion of danger swirling within the Force had returned and wasn’t quick to dissipate.
Luckily, Obi-Wan was making progress. With a faint hiss, an opening in the ceiling was exposed.
“Here! I opened a vent. Ahsoka! Come quickly! You’re the only one small enough to fit. Can you go in and carefully lower the younglings down to us?”
“Yes, Master!” She looked at Anakin, and as soon as he nodded his faith in her she concentrated and bounded up into the small opening.
Crawling high in within the ceiling, Ahsoka approached the cell containing the four young hostages. Her comlink blinked and she acknowledged. It was her Master.
“Ahsoka, do you see the hostages?” muttered the hushed, deliberate voice of her Master.
She peered down through a vent hole and saw four small children cuddled in a pile together on the floor. There were two boys and two girls. They looked healthy enough, but the room was drenched in sorrow and fear. Ahsoka felt a pang of sympathy for them. They probably have no idea why they were brought here or whether or not their parents were still alive.
“Yes, Master I see them. I’m about to make contact, I’ll be right there.”
Outside, Anakin was pacing impatiently. While Aayla whispered to Obi-Wan. “This is where her youth comes to our great advantage.”
“Yes, I am certainly glad that she is built so small. Anakin would not have fit at her age,” Obi-Wan agreed.
“Not only that, but the younglings will be less fearful of her. All they have known so far in this chaotic mess are droids and adults who failed to protect them. Ahsoka will have a way with them, you’ll see.”
Now that makes perfect sense, thought Obi-Wan as he was once again grateful that the council had selected a member of the more sensitive and perceptive sex to join them on this mission.
Anakin, who was still pacing impatiently, buzzed Ahsoka again. He wore his comlink on his right wrist but had to use his left to hold it up to his face. It made him angry.
“Ahsoka, what’s your status? You’re taking forever in there.”
Aayla glanced at Anakin. “Anakin, give her time. This is a delicate situation.”
“Well this delicate situation is taking too long. We need to get to the tunnels before we’re discovered.”
Inside the prison, Ahsoka used a piece of chord from her belt to slowly lower herself down into the middle of the holding cell. The eldest, she guessed was around six. The next two oldest were identical twins boy and girl about five, and another boy around four. The youngest three children were frightened and clinging to the eldest girl, who was silently regarding Ahsoka with striking yellow eyes.
Before Ahsoka could say anything, the eldest princess disentangled herself from her siblings and rushed Ahsoka, smiling from ear to ear and embracing her in the biggest hug her tiny arms could manage.
“I knew you were coming!” the princess exclaimed fiercely. “I knew it!”
Completely taken aback, Ahsoka finally found her voice. “Yes you were right! And there are three more of us waiting outside. Follow me! We are taking you to safety!”
Ahsoka climbed back into the opening as one by one the eldest coaxed her siblings to the long dangling cord. The young princess skillfully tied harnesses so that Ahsoka could pull them each up one at a time
At last, the six year old was tying her own harness. But when Ahsoka went to pull, the girl took a graceful leap up to the vent, making the strain on Ahsoka incredibly less than the others, despite her larger size. Interesting, thought Ahsoka. She smiled and beckoned the princes and princesses to follow her through the ducting.
Anakin’s comlink blinked, but he had already had his finger on the button to receive it.
“Master I’m on my way. I’ve got all four of them. Two males and two females. They’re scared but in good health. I think one of them might be-“
He cut her off before she could finish.
"-OK Good work, Snips, just hurry up.” The Force was whispering to him over and over again. Something huge was terribly amiss. The sooner they got out of here the better.
At long last, Ahsoka reappeared and carefully lowered the hostages down to the Jedi Masters. Aayla did the receiving as Obi-Wan and Anakin stood watch with their lightsabers activated.
They regrouped and encircled the younglings, ready to divvy them up and make their escape.
Dejectedly, Anakin admitted to the others “I don’t think I’ll be able to carry a youngling while wielding my lightsaber.”
Before Obi-Wan could reorganize the plan, the six year old spoke up. “Sir, is it your arm? I’m strong, I can hold onto your back.”
Not a bad idea, thought Anakin. He wouldn’t be bringing up the rear of the pack and exposing the young one to blaster fire, but he could travel in front or in the center and still use his weapon. As he was about to crouch down to facilitate the young girl’s mount, she nimbly jumped up on his back and clenched her arms around his neck with and iron yet gentle grip.
“Comfy?” asked Obi-Wan, a question for Anakin as well as the princess.
“I’m good,” said Anakin.
“Yes, Master Jedi,” said the girl.
Ahsoka collected the youngest and smallest boy, while Obi-Wan and Aayla each lifted a twin. They ran off toward the tunnels to make their escape to the backside of the mountain from whence they came.
The tunnels were short distance away. The Jedi hurried along with the younglings in custody, determined to carry them to safety.
“Just around this corner!” yelled Obi-Wan. Ahsoka was hot on his heels, followed by Anakin then Aayla.
But as Obi-Wan rounded the corner, he was hit with the same sensation he had felt before. And what he saw before him confirmed a great danger. The supposedly small ancient opening to the tunnels was in reality huge and recently constructed. A set of colossal, shiny steel doors loomed before the group of surprised Jedi.
Suddenly, blaster fire erupted from the direction which they came. The Jedi were able to parry the bolts but were now trapped between an advancing platoon of battle droids and the massive doors. Unexpectedly, the doors slowly began to open with a loud clank and a hydraulic hiss. Obi-Wan and Anakin’s foreboding came to fruition.
Inside the doors were droids upon droids upon droids. Droids in every stage of design and construction. Everything from molten metal being poured to completed battle droids hanging ready to be shipped. Koriba’s mysterious Separatist presence finally reared its ugly head in the form of the largest droid factory any of the Jedi had ever seen. The old mine shafts had been excavated and the shell of the mountain was now housing mechanical production lines that would produce hundreds of thousands of battle droids and super battle droids for the Separatist cause.
Obi-Wan’s stomach twisted and he held the princess under his arm more tightly. How could the Jedi not have sensed this? With all their aptitude for espionage, how did the Bothans overlook this? It matters not, whispered the Force. You must get them out of here.
“Keep moving!” Exclaimed Obi-Wan to the group. He ran deeper into the factory, navigating them around vats of liquid steel and blocking blaster bolts with his lightsaber.
The others followed until finally they reached a retaining wall in rear or the facility. Each of the Jedi looked around desperately and brainstormed for ideas.
All this machinery and chemical and fumes, with hope of humanoid factory slaves to work nearby, thought Anakin, there must be a …
“Up in the corner!” he shouted “An exhaust vent!”
The other three Jedi cast their glances upward to the vent that provided their only chance of escape. It looked as though they could use the abundant conveyor belts and scaffolding to climb and bound their way up to it.
And so they went, under fire, leaping and swinging and blocking blaster bolts all the way.
When they were about half way up, Obi-Wan reached out with his senses to take stock of his companions and their charges. They were doing well. It was just…
Anakin, your arm! Obi-Wan felt a surge of guilt as he remembered that Anakin had no use of his right arm but had to swing and jump and climb with the child all the same. He sensed that Anakin felt unbalanced, and sent him powerful energy surges through the force to help center his friend.
Anakin accepted the help eagerly. He felt disoriented, but he pressed on determinedly.
It was then that the booming voice of a deadly foe was broadcasted throughout the factory for all to hear.
“Welcome! Welcome to my new factory!” sputtered the voice of General Grievous from a control location unbeknownst to the Jedi. “You didn’t think escape was going to be that simple did you?”
“Actually we did” shouted Obi-Wan dryly in reply. “Show yourself, Grievous. I’m sure we can work something out.”
Grievous laughed darkly. “Ah, The Negotiator! I think not. The time for trades and cessions has passed. I have one proposition only. Run and run quickly you Jedi fools, so that I can test my new weapons!”
Abruptly, the broadcast ended and a violent explosion boomed against the face of the wall they were climbing, taking out chunks of scaffolding that they had just utilized.
“Come on!” shouted Obi-Wan to the Jedi, as he continued to lead them upwards. The enemy’s fire intensified.
Explosions and broken scaffolding rained down upon the ascending Jedi and yet they climbed higher. As they went, an entire arsenal of prototypal and upgraded Separatist weapons was launched at them. This barrage included clusters of bomblets, canisters of burning acid, long metal spears laced with amperes of electric current, and new higher calibers of conventional blaster fire in an array of colors.
One canister of highly caustic acid whizzed toward Aayla but she somersaulted sideways to avoid a direct hit. The acid splattered on her neck and back as she shielded the prince she was carrying. She cried out in pain, but didn’t falter.
Three spears hissed past Ahsoka so close that she had felt the warmth of the voltage that flowed within them.
Anakin was frustrated, unstable and exhausted. He left arm was quickly growing tired and sweat was rolling off of him in sheets. But as ever, the little princess clung on with her steely grip and even whispered him words of encouragement as he went. Was she truly whispering to him? Or was he imagining it? His train of thought was interrupted when a bomb came flying at him. He turned his body squarely toward the bomb in order to shield his charge and sliced into it with his lightsaber as it approached. The tiny lethal bomblets and shrapnel that erupted from it struck him deeply in many places. But it was not enough to stop him.
Finally the exhaust vent came into view along with the ambient light of the rising suns beyond the wall of the mountain. But as the four Jedi were nearing the last ledge, it was shelled and fell heavily to the factory floor below. The gap between the ledge on which the Jedi stood and the vent that led to their freedom was now substantial. Even if they were well-rested and not carrying hostages, the hurdle would be a challenge.
As he contemplated the leap, a conclusive revelation came to Obi-Wan through the Force. It sang to him of his duty to protect the others. This is it, he thought. This is where I must not falter. He made up his mind and rallied the others.
“Ahsoka!” called Obi-Wan “Give the Prince to me, make the jump, run ahead and ready the shuttle!”
Ahsoka hesitated and looked to Anakin.
“Do as your told, Padawan!” shouted Anakin through the heavy fire. “Fire up the shuttle and bring her down easy!”
Reluctantly Ahsoka surrendered her Prince to the embrace of Master Kenobi. Then she gathered the Force around her, she ran, she jumped…
Anakin held his breath as his young Padawan soared through the air. He raised his arm and gave her a generous push within the Force. Aayla and Obi-Wan did the same and Ahsoka soared in a long arc, landing lightly on the highest platform, looking back toward her Master with delight and then disappearing beyond the vent.
“Aayla! You’re next!” shouted Obi-Wan. “Anakin and I will assist you and then we need you to pull!”
Not immediately understanding what Obi-Wan had meant, Aayla’s Force presence swelled and she ran with her youngling and leaped…
Obi-Wan and Anakin Force-pushed her and she made it to the landing as well. She hurried the Prince to the vent and pushed him out before she quickly returned to the ledge. Looking down toward her companions beneath her, she squared her stance and found her center.
Anakin and Obi-Wan’s strength was almost depleted. They had already overexerted themselves and were becoming more drained by the second. Anakin, who was gritting his teeth against the pain in his arm and deep wounds, was barely able to stand. Obi-Wan had faith in him nonetheless.
“Anakin! Go!” shouted Obi-Wan knowing that Anakin needed to get out of here now. He was on the verge of collapse and would need the Force power of Obi-Wan below him and Aayla above him to make the jump.
“Who put you in charge Obi-Wan!” shouted Anakin in rebuttal. “I can push you if you jump before me!”
“Respect your elders, my Padawan! Go!” Obi-Wan shouted in return.
Anakin had a bad feeling about this. He cast a disdainful look at his best friend before he gathered his remaining and sparse control of the Force. Then he too ran and leaped…
Above him, Aayla was yanking on him with every bit of strength in the Force that she could muster. Below, Obi-Wan was pushing on him, so fiercely determined and deep in concentration that he didn’t notice the blaster bolt that struck the inside of his left thigh.
At long last, Anakin and his youngling landed safely on the platform, collapsing roughly into Aayla’s outstretched arms. She steadied him in a rough hug. The princess adroitly slid off of his back then leaped through the vent and out of sight to find Ahsoka and her brother.
As Obi-Wan emerged from his deep concentration he gasped and staggered under the pain of the blaster hole in his left thigh. He tried to quell it but couldn’t spare the energy. I just have to be in range, thought Obi-Wan,
“Obi-Wan! Come on!” shouted Aayla and Anakin from above.
Obi-Wan knew that Anakin would be upset with the events about to unfold. Upset, but alive and on his way to safety. Obi-Wan took comfort in this knowledge as he ran, his thigh screaming in pain, and leapt off the edge. He soared higher and higher until the apex of his trajectory came and went. He could feel the desperate efforts of Anakin and Aayla Force-pulling him toward them, but they were already drained from all the other feats of the day. Obi-Wan was falling short.
Eyes closed in concentration, Anakin felt the triumph within Obi-Wan’s heart and assumed the best possible outcome. But what he saw when he opened his eyes and lowered his arm made him frantically cry out in horror.
Obi-Wan had fallen short and in a bad way. In their state of extreme fatigue, Aayla and Anakin hadn't been able to supply enough Force power to draw him over. In addition, Obi-Wan had abandoned his efforts to reach the platform. Instead, he had sacrificed the last of his energy and concentration to toss the children safely into Aayla’s open arms.
Anakin was safe. Ahsoka and Aayla were safe and the younglings were soon to be on their way to Coruscant. For a sparse moment, Obi-Wan was triumphantly euphoric as he guided the younglings safely into the arms of Aayla. The Jedi would be able to finish their mission, destroy the droid factory and free Koriba from Separatist control. Anakin would go on to help win the war, sit on the Jedi council and ultimately live up to his prophecy. The thought brought Obi-Wan great peace.
He closed his eyes, expecting to continue the long descent to the factory floor. But almost as soon as he tossed the children to safety and felt his brief moment of harmony, something sharp slammed against his upper chest, crushing the wind out of him and ramming him against the wall. He grunted loudly in pain.
Anakin had heard the awful grunt. Terrified, he ran to the edge and looked over to find his Master and best friend skewered through the right shoulder by one of Grievous’ foul electric spears. Obi-Wan was pinned cruelly to the wall, his body dangling in agonizing pain, his hands clutching desperately at the shaft of the weapon that held him so pitilessly against the forces of gravity.
“Obi-Wan!” yelled Anakin in fear and frenzy. He lowered himself to the edge of the platform and tried with one outstretched arm to reach his best friend. But it was no use. Even if he could reach him, Obi-Wan was pinned so forcefully to the wall that it would take Force strength to pull the spear out.
Obi-Wan glanced up sadly into Anakin’s eyes and was about to tell him to run, when electric current surged through the spear and racked his entire body with voltage. Instead, Obi-Wan’s mouth formed into a silent scream. His back arched backward as his and muscles were sent into violent and crippling spasms.
Anakin was shouting something at him but he couldn’t hear or see. He could only feel the searing heat of the power surge and the painful spasms of his muscles. He couldn’t even breathe.
“We have to go, Anakin!” shouted Aayla with the roar of their shuttle behind her. “Ahsoka is being followed! We have to go now!”
Anakin ignored her and kept trying to reach Obi-Wan. If he could just reach the shaft of the spear...
“Anakin come on! It’s what he would want,” shouted Aayla again to Anakin. “Think of the mission!”
Kriff the mission, thought Anakin angrily as he ignored Aayla’s pleas yet again. In a wild attempt to grab the spear, he flung his arm out fruitlessly. The tips of his fingers grazed the shaft.
Aayla watched in terror as Anakin too was violently electrocuted after making brief contact with the spear. Luckily, in a sudden plague of muscle spasms, his hand was jerked away from the power source. He slumped unconsciously, the upper half of his body dangling dangerously over edge of the platform.
Determined not to lose two Jedi to this mission, Aayla lunged at Anakin’s legs and pulled him away from the edge. She then gathered him up in her arms and dragged him to the vent.
Ahsoka had the shuttle hovering a few inches from the opening. She was waiting anxiously at the side port and quickly reacted to help Master Secura hoist Anakin’s limp and bleeding form up into the aircraft.
Airborne fire from some unseen Separatist patrol craft rocked the shuttle violently, putting the younglings and the mission in grave danger. Aayla jumped inside the shuttle and sealed the blast doors as Ahsoka ran to the cockpit.
Anakin lay unconscious on the deck of the ship as Aayla buckled a harness around the two of them and began trying to determine the severity of his electrocution.
With large tears welling up in her eyes, Ahsoka activated the hyper drive. The shuttle sped swiftly away from Koriba, unmistakably absent of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The current flowing through the spear embedded in Obi-Wan’s shoulder and chest finally ran its course. But it was several minutes before he could make sense of what was happening and why he was in so much pain. His muscles ached from the violent spasms they were subjected too, and the spear was gradually ripping a larger hole in him as gravity was pulling his body downward. Then he heard a noise.
Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank.
Footsteps? Obi-Wan strained his ears and listened to the heavy metallic footsteps that were approaching on the platform above him.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
A large being had walked to the edge and was peering down at him. Obi-Wan heard a maniacal laugh followed by a choking cough. The Good General has come to welcome me personally, he thought.
“General Kenobi! So good to see you again!” exclaimed Grievous from above. “How do you like my new toys?”
“They’re. Just. Wonderful,” grunted Obi-Wan agonizingly, with a raspy voice that barely resembled his own. He was clutching at the spear embedded in his body, hoping that if he was able to pull himself up, he could relieve some of the strain on the terrible wound. His efforts made little to no difference.
“I’m glad you think so! You have had only just sampled the yields of my new factory but you will see more shortly,” stated Grievous before his tone darkened. “Your sniveling, sanctimonious scum friends escaped. Once again you have impeded my promotion within the Separatist organization, Kenobi, and for that I would kill you where you pathetically hang. Lucky for you, the Count wants you for himself.”
Count Dooku? Not optimal circumstances, thought Obi-Wan, but at least Anakin and the group were able to escape! A small bit of pride for Anakin, Ahsoka and Aayla swelled within him and a weary smile creased his lips.
Enraged to see Obi-Wan smiling, Grievous reached down with a long clawed hand and slowly twisted the shaft of the spear embedded in him. Obi-Wan’s smile was quickly contorted with torment. He desperately tried to hold the spear in place but it was no use, he didn’t have the strength to counter Grievous’ torque.
“Not smiling now, are you?” said Grievous with a cough. “The Count may not even recognize you by the time he arrives.”
What to do, what to do, thought Obi-Wan trying to reach out with his senses and explore his options. I can’t stay here like this and I certainly don’t want to accompany Grievous. How high up am I? Will the fall kill me? If I do end up dying, it may be a better fate. Think, Kenobi, think… what would Anakin do? What would Qui-Gon have done?
Suddenly, Obi-Wan made up his mind and sprung into action. Grievous was still cruelly rotating the spear shaft, but instead of trying to counter the torque, Obi-Wan rotated his hands and enhanced it while pressing it outwardly. The combined forces were enough for Obi-Wan to pull the spearhead out of the wall and out of his flesh.
The maneuver only took a split second, and before Grievous recovered from his surprise and realized what had happened, The Negotiator was already falling swiftly away from him down toward the floor of the factory below.
“After him!” snarled Grievous, enraged. “Find him and bring him to me. He won’t get far. I want him alive!”
Coughing and hacking, the droid general sauntered back into the shadows of his compound to let his minions do his dirty work. Several droids immediately began traveling downward to retrieve the prisoner who had temporarily evaded them.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan was falling. Down, down, down he went. Ten meters, twenty meters thirty meters, he lost track but he knew he would need to conjure up some semblance of a landing. Gathering the Force, he tried to angle his body toward a platform of scaffolding that was closer than the floor. He was able to get the upper half of his body to hit the platform. But his head and chest crashed against the metal surface, leaving him dazed, breathless and unable to hang on. He slid off the platform and again descended to the floor beneath. He landed badly. As his legs crumpled beneath him, his head hit the floor and he blacked out.
After a few moments, Obi-Wan blearily came to, and immediately almost wished he hadn’t. The fall had left him such excruciating pain that he was unable to think or to summon the Force to his aid.
Another moment went by and his ability to focus began returning slightly. He took basic inventory of his injuries. His head swam and his vision blurred. It felt like there were daggers sticking the bones of his leg but couldn’t tell which leg or which bones. As he rolled over onto his stomach to try to rise, his ribs protested. He tried to raise his shoulders and use the wall to rise up, but the one with the gaping hole in it would not budge more than an inch, making it impossible for him to stand and walk away from this. But I can still crawl.
As quickly as he could manage, Obi-Wan half crawled and half dragged himself toward a hiding place the he had not yet decided on. How badly he needed respite. How badly he just wanted to close his eyes and lay down. But Obi-Wan knew that if he lay down now, he would not be getting up again. Ever.
He distracted himself from his pains by pondering what sort of hiding spot he would need. The factory was vast and full of plenty of places to visually conceal a human being. The hiding place would need to be shielded with metal or chemicals because Grievous had retained his impeccable sense of smell from his pre-cyborg days as a fierce warrior. It also needed to be near a source of heat so that if droids were using thermal imaging to find him, his body heat would blend in.
Once in hiding, his options were limited. If droids weren’t able to find him for a long time, he could wait idly until he was able to heal himself enough to put up a fight. But the healing process could take weeks and would be near impossible without water or nourishment and proper care. His best bet was to hole up for now and either attempt an escape in a few hours, or wait for a Force sensitive being to sense his presence and extract him. Whether the first Force sensitive being to find him would be a fellow Jedi or Count Dooku, Obi-Wan could not be certain. But these were the best odds could make for himself.
After a painful few minutes that seemed like hours, Obi-Wan hid behind a steam shaft inside the mold of a Super Battle Droid chest plate. With agony and great difficulty, he hoisted and rolled himself inside the metal casing. Before he could even consider healing, he promptly slid deeply into oblivion.
Finally, after ten minutes of laying unconscious, Anakin began to stir. Ahsoka, who had been holding his hand, watched as his eyes twitched and felt his Force presence begin to slowly emerge from where it had been temporarily dormant.
Ahsoka called up to the Jedi in the pilot seat. “Master Aayla! He’s waking!” She cradled his head gently in her lap as Aayla activated the shuttle’s autopilot and joined Ahsoka.
“Master? Master Anakin? Can you hear me?” spoke Ahsoka softly into his ears and into his heart.
Anakin slowly became aware of where he was. It was a hard flat surface. His muscles ached. He felt dazed, disoriented and unbelievably exhausted. His left arm was outstretched and his left hand was being squeezed by his Padawan. He squeezed hers in return. His right arm…
He slowly opened his eyes and gazed up into the concerned faces of Ahsoka and Aayla Secura. His vision was blurry as he lifted his head to look around. His right arm was neatly folded across his chest but he only felt the weight of it there as if it was a foreign object that had been placed on top of him. As he went to rub the throbbing temples of his skull, he remembered that his right arm was useless. In a rush of memory, his bleary mind began to recount the events of the mission.
Space travel, computer hacking, a nasty shock to his hand, younglings, running, droids, a droid factory, Obi-Wan…
“Obi-Wan…” said Anakin abruptly sitting all the way up. “Obi-Wan!” he said again as he stood up ignoring the pains of his body and the soothing words from the other Jedi.
“We left Obi-Wan to die!” He shouted, allowing rage and sorrow and regret to engulf him like a flame. He paced angrily around the cockpit. “We need to go back! Turn this ship around Aayla, we’re going back!” He was panting with rage and pounded his fist against the bulkhead of the shuttle so hard that it left a large dent.
“Anakin, calm yourself!” said Aayla, horrified at his outburst.
He raged on. “We need to go back. It’s because of Obi-Wan that we got away safely and we left him in that Sithly factory to die! Turn the ship around now!”
Anger was burning like molten lava deep within his dark blue eyes. Frightened, Aayla backed away from him and shielded the Padawan from his rage, but Ahsoka mustered the courage to sidestep Aayla and approach him.
“Easy, Master! Please calm down and reach out with your feelings,” she pleaded. “I’ve been reaching out with mine just like you taught me! And I can sense him! I can sense Master Obi-Wan!”
Her words seemed to reach him. Anakin finally stopped his pacing and slowly sat down in a seat. He took several deep calming breaths and closed his eyes. He called out longingly into the Force.
Obi-Wan, where are you?
At first there was silence, but before long Anakin’s powerful Force connection was transcending space-time, scouring the Koriban system for any sign of Obi-Wan’s life Force. He found it there in the factory where they had left him.
I’m coming back for you Master, I promise.
Exhaling in a sigh deep relief, Anakin opened his eyes.
“Snips, you were right. He’s alive. He’s not well, but he’s alive.”
He looked in to the Twi’lek woman’s eyes. “Aayla, I can’t leave him. You and Ahsoka do what you must but I’m going back for him. I’m not going to make it all the way to Coruscant without going insane. I must find him and bring him home or at least try.”
“There is no try, Anakin,” she rebuked. “Stretch out with your feelings and sense where we are headed. Did you really think we were going to give up on him that easily? Honestly Anakin, you think you’re the only one who cares, when really you’re one of many!”
Aayla was unhappy with Anakin for setting such a bad example for Ahsoka, but she knew that the trauma of the past day and the act of being helpless to aid his best friend was taking its toll on him inside and out.
Anakin pondered her words silently. She was right, and his anger was not going to bring Obi-Wan back to him. He had to calm himself and focus on what he needed to do, instead of what they had done.
“Aayla, you’re right and I’m sorry. Come here, Snips” he beckoned her closer to him and he knelt down to meet her at eye level.
“You know that how I acted was wrong. As Jedi, we need to control our emotions and never let them govern our actions. You know I get upset when the Old Man gets hurt, and I’m sure you can imagine how I feel right now. We are supposed to turn to the Force and let it guide us but today I needed you to guide me first. I am lucky to have you as a Padawan, Ahsoka. And once in while, like today, I find myself following your example.”
A tear fell down Ahsoka cheek, carving a neat line in the dust and grime left on her face from Koriba. “I am scared for him too,” she said. “Just like I was on Geonosis when you comforted me.”
He pulled her into an embrace. It was exactly what they both needed at that moment in time.
As they pulled away he place a hand on her shoulder. “We are going to find him, Snips. I can’t do it on my own, are you with me?”
“Always, Master,” Ahsoka promised.
“Good,” said Anakin rising to his feet. “Aayla, can you drop us off somewhere we can find good transport back to Koriba?”
Aayla looked Anakin up and down, her eyes lingering on his slack and useless arm. “Anakin, no offense, but you aren’t at full capacity right now.”
Anakin looked ashamed. It was true. He was unbalanced and battered and bereft of the use of his dominant arm.
“Which is why,” Aayla continued, “I am taking you two somewhere where you can recruit backup. She pointed to a speck on the holoscreen that was directly in their path.
“Buckle up for landing, Master,” said Ahsoka. “You and I are taking a detour to Kamino.”
Anakin felt a sliver of hope pass through him. “Sounds great, Snips. Let’s see what Rex and the boys are up to.”
The Kamino system was abundant with strong communications signals. Anakin, Aayla and Ahsoka would be able to contact the Temple. They would even be able to do a live feed meeting with the Jedi Council.
Commander Cody, Captain Rex and 501st Battalion of Clones were currently stationed on Kamino to receive fresh recruits and complete an annual training cycle. They were used to accompanying General Kenobi and General Skywalker into battle and subsequently saw a lot of action and regularly took heavy losses.
Just having finished his morning training session, Cody was surprised to receive a transmission on his comlink from General Skywalker.
“Commander Cody, this is Skywalker. Come in.”
“Roger, this is Cody. Sir, welcome to our humble abode. What can I do for you, General?”
“Cody, General Secura and my Padawan are here with me and we need your help. Can you and Rex meet us at the Republic base in the transmission room? It’s urgent.”
“Roger that, sir. Captain Rex and I will be there in two mikes.”
“This is Skywalker, roger, out.”
“What was that about?” asked Rex to Cody when he had spotted the commander on his comlink for a substantial amount of time.
“Captain, you’re just the man I wanted to see. Muster the 501st in the hangar immediately and then come with me to the Republic transmission room. General Skywalker has requested our presence there.”
“Yes, sir,” obeyed Rex, apprehensive about the reason for General Skywalker’s unannounced visit.
On Coruscant, an emergency Jedi Council meeting was called and once the members were assembled, a holotransmission from Kamino featuring Anakin, Aayla, Ahsoka, Cody and Rex flickered to life in the center of the room.
Aayla began with the report of recent events. “Greetings Masters and thank you for receiving us on such short notice. We successfully extracted the Royal Koriban hostages from General Grievous but were obliged to leave Master Kenobi behind in the process. Furthermore, while on Koriba, we discovered that the mountain adjacent to the capital city has been transformed into the largest droid factory known to the Republic. We beseech the council to assign a task force to strike Koriba and neutralize the droid factory.”
Anakin spoke up. “In addition, we sense that Obi-Wan is still alive. We’ve already recruited the 501st to aid us in extracting him.”
The Jedi vote was unanimous and the Yoda spoke the final words. “Deploy a Task Force to Koriba Admiral Yularen will. Master Secura, return to the Temple with the hostages you shall. With the 501st, leave Master Skywalker and his Padawan. Rescue Obi-Wan they must before the air strike on the factory. Be with you the Force will.”
The Masters of the Council bowed their respects and the holotransmission ended.
On Kamino, Aayla was getting ready to deliver the young hostages to Coruscant.
“May the Force be with you Anakin and you Ahsoka. I know that you will bring Obi-Wan home to us safely,” said Aayla as she boarded the shuttle containing the sleeping younglings.
“May the Force be with you too, Master Secura,” called Ahsoka. “Safe travels to Coruscant. If you need any help with flying, I’m sure the oldest princess will be happy to help.”
Anakin regarded Aayla thoughtfully. “Thank you for everything Aayla. Be safe,” he said and added “And careful with those younglings. They were expensive!”
Aayla’s shuttle headed for Coruscant as Anakin and Ahsoka boarded a shuttle with Cody and Rex. After they had mad the jump to hyperspace and were on their way back to Koriba, two clones approached Anakin where he sat in the cargo hold.
“Trapper reporting as ordered, sir!”
“Switch reporting as ordered, sir!” said the Clones at attention.
Anakin was confused. “I didn’t order anybody to report. What can I do for you?”
Trapper shifted uncomfortably on his feet. “I am the medic, sir. Your Padawan said that you required attention.”
“Did she now?” said Anakin glaring across the cargo hold at Ahsoka. She caught his eye and nervously shifted behind Cody, shielding herself from his view.
“So, Trapper you’re the medic. That makes you what, Switch, his body guard?” asked Anakin sarcastically to the clones before him.
“I’m the electrician, sir,” he stated blandly.
Thinking about how he needed every advantage if he wanted to help Obi-Wan, Anakin sighed and stood up. “Let’s get this over with.”
The three men walked to the rear of the cargo hold where there was a small private room for dressing and administering medical care.
Anakin sat down in the examination chair. Before the two clones began their inspection, there was a knock at the door.
“General Skywalker, is there a problem sir?” asked the muffled and concerned voice of Rex from without.
“You can come in, Rex,” replied Anakin. “And shut the door behind you.”
Rex did as he was told and stood next to Anakin as Trapper placed a hypospray to his neck and began to clean shrapnel out of his wounds. Switch was standing next to Trapper uncomfortably not sure what to do.
“If you’re wondering why you’re here, Switch, it’s the right arm,” hinted Anakin with amusement. Clones could be so awkward sometimes.
He turned to the clone Captain. “There’s no problem Rex, I just figured I’d get patched up before we rescue Obi-Wan or else he’ll be mad that I didn’t,” explained Anakin.
Rex watched silently as large pieces of shrapnel were removed from several of the General’s bodily wounds. Trapper wasted no time in disinfecting the deep wounds and covering them with clean bacta pads. The clone captain eyed the lethal pieces of shrapnel warily.
“That looks advanced. Is that what we’re up against these days, sir?” said Rex.
“Sorry, Rex, but yes. Grievous has been building new weapons. When we go in there to get Obi-Wan, expect the unexpected.”
Switch unbuckled and removed the black leather glove that Anakin wore on his right hand so that he could examine the prosthesis beneath. He did not like what he saw. The circuits in Anakin’s arm were warped and melted and singed in several places. The whole aperture was useless and a couple voltage tests told Switch that the entire thing would need to be replaced. Worst of all, the organic flesh and bone supporting to the prosthesis were charred and oozing fluid.
“I see you took a zap, sir,” observed Switch. “How long were you out?”
“About ten minutes, I’m told,” admitted Anakin. “That was the second time. The first one went quick. Just felt minor.”
“Is that when the trouble started?” queried Switch. “Tingling? Pain? Loss of function?”
“Yes,” Anakin answered truthfully.
“To me, looks like you were a victim of Cathodic Protection. I’m afraid you’ll need a replacement.”
“Makes sense,” said Anakin as he thought to himself Cathodic what? He would definitely be doing some research on that later. “It’s going to have to wait though. What do you recommend in the meantime?”
“Immobilize the arm,” ordered Trapper before Switch could answer. “Use a sling from the medical kit. Any more movement of the limb will cause more damage to the General’s remaining organic tissue.”
As Trapper finished cleaning Anakin’s wounds, Switch reapplied the leather glove and neatly tucked his arm across his chest in a tight black sling. Trapper then approached with an injection capsule.
“Leave it out,” said Anakin to Trapper. “I need to keep the Force close. Pain suppressants can sometimes make it more difficult to do so.”
“Roger that, sir. We’re finished here then,” said Trapper cleaning up his kit.
Rex acknowledged a message he had received and approached Anakin. “Fifteen minutes until touchdown. We’re ready for our briefing, sir.”
Anakin hoisted himself out of the chair and walked with Rex back to the cargo hold where his Padawan and the eager Clones were awaiting instruction.
This time the plan would involve creating their own entrance into the side of the mountain with a series of controlled explosions. The pilots and their shuttles would remain on standby at the point of entry. The Jedi and the team of clone infantry would infiltrate the structure and fight their way toward Obi-Wan’s location. Anakin and Ahsoka would retrieve him and the clones would escort them all back to the shuttles in time to leave the area before the air strike.
The plan was a simple enough and the Clones were competent in their ability to execute it. The men did their last minute mental and physical preparations for or the mission, but their mood was somber. Every member of this mission felt personally indebted to General Kenobi in some way. Therefore, they could not fail him.
Within Grievous’ droid factory, two bounty droids were busy scanning for clues of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s whereabouts. They soon discovered a dried puddle and trail of some sort of liquid.
“Hydraulic fluid?” asked one of the droid as the other bent down to analyze a sample of it.
“Negative. The substance is organic. Blood of a human.”
The two droids followed the trail of blood to where Obi-Wan lay unconscious in his place of hiding.
With a painful jolt, Obi-Wan Kenobi was conscious again.
He peeled his eyes opened painfully. With horror, he realized that he was not inside the droid molding anymore. He then saw General Grievous loaming over him. “A for effort, Master Jedi, but we found you in very little time thanks to the trail of blood you left for us.”
Obi-Wan was dazed and delirious and began drifting away again.
“Oh no you don’t Kenobi,” growled Grievous. He gave Obi-Wan a solid kick to the stomach and the Jedi found himself once again being yanked from blissful unawareness.
Obi-Wan grunted. How could he have been so foolish in leaving a trail of his own blood for them to find? How, in the name of all that is Force sensitive, was he going to escape Grievous this time? His attention was redirected as the droid general brutally backhanded his face with a crushing blow. Hanging limply from the grip of two droids, Obi-Wan cracked a swollen eye open to see blood from his nose and mouth splattering the floor. He spat out a tooth. Grievous then gave him another kick that was so vicious, it tore Obi-Wan from the droids’ grasp and sent him tumbling meters away. He tried desperately to rise and defend himself, but it was futile. Within moments he was lifted again and dragged by the two battle droids to a turbolift. Helplessly, Obi-Wan wondered where he was being taken.
* * *
As the shuttle carrying Anakin, Ahsoka and the clone troopers neared the face of the small Koriban Mountain, Anakin felt a sinister presence within the Force nearby. He gasped.
“Ahsoka!” he called out to his Padawan above the roar of the jet engines. “Change of plans! We have company!”
Ahsoka looked at him intensely. “Who is it master?” she asked.
“Dooku,” growled Anakin back to her with a look on his face that was so hateful that Ahsoka was momentarily frightened. “I can sense him. Here’s here and he wants Obi-Wan.”
“Rex! Change of plans!” he called over his comlink. “Count Dooku’s here for Obi-Wan. I will go for Dooku, and while I have him distracted you and Ahsoka will collect Obi-Wan and lead him to our shuttles. The rest of the men will provide continuous cover fire.”
“Roger that, sir,” said Rex as he began spreading the word throughout the company.
“Master!” said Ahsoka directly to Anakin hoping only he would hear her words. “Please don’t be angry with me, but I don’t want you go after Dooku alone!”
Anakin regarded his Padawan critically. Her thoughts hung heavily over the fact that he was injured and hadn’t had time to recover from their mission only hours before. She feared that in his vulnerable state, he would fall, and she wouldn’t be there to protect him.
“Don’t worry about me Ahsoka. I need you to help Rex find Obi-Wan. I am the only one who can divert Dooku and you and Rex are the only two I trust with Obi-Wan’s life. I must go after Dooku alone. You will do your part, Padawan, and I will do mine. Obi-Wan is depending on us.”
“Yes, Master,” replied Ahsoka realizing that at much as she disliked the plan, Anakin was right. She gathered the Force around her and prepared herself for the task at hand.
Anakin watched his Padawan begin to focus and then did the same. Calling on the Force to guide him, he sought balance, strength and guidance towards Obi-Wan’s Force signature. He knew that it was soon to be near Dooku’s. They were now in a race against the clock.
Hold out a little longer, Obi-Wan. We’re almost there. This is almost over. Hang on.
The shuttles landed swiftly and without conflict. As the Jedi and clones disembarked, charges were carefully placed in a cluster on the side of the mountain. “Fire in the hole!” called one of the clones before a controlled explosion was set off and a cloud of dust appeared.
The dust dissipated to reveal a neat circular breach in the side of the mountain and the droid factory within. Anakin, Ahsoka and the Clones poured in immediately, lightsabers and blasters raised at the ready.
* * *
Obi-Wan raised his throbbing head to see the back of Grievous cape billowing out in front of him as he hung limply in the grasp of the droids. He was being dragged along down a curved corridor until they came to a halt in front of the entranceway to a large, dimly lit chamber.
Grievous knocked, disappeared into the chamber and reappeared. “Our honored guest is ready for you,” he sneered. Then, without warning, the droid general violently lifted Obi-Wan and flung him headfirst into the chamber and sealed the door behind him.
The dark form of Count Dooku watched calmly as the battered bleeding form of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi skidded to a halt at his feet. The Jedi looked up at him with glazed over eyes.
“Dooku,” he winced in pain, “to what do I owe the pleasure?” He clumsily reached for his lightsaber, but the Count sent it arcing away into the darkness with a lazy flick of his wrist.
“The pleasure,” began Dooku darkly, “is all mine.” He Force-flipped Obi-Wan onto his back and began circling around him slowly like a shark did its prey.
Obi-Wan tried to rise and escape, but Dooku sent a vicious strike of Force lighting into him that left him groaning and gasping.
“Good,” said Dooku still circling him coolly. “You remain defiant even in the face of sure failure. You will do well for us.”
He sent another painful burst of Force lightening into Obi-Wan’s body but this time for longer. When the lightening searing through his mind and body finally ebbed, Obi-Wan realized what was going on here. Dooku would torture him physically and spiritually until Obi-Wan begged for death and pleaded to be saved from the pain by any means, even if it meant embracing the power of the dark side. Dooku was grooming him to be the next member of the Sith.
I will never, thought Obi-Wan. I will never give in. I am a Jedi and I will stay true to the Light. I will never give in.
Again and again Dooku struck Obi-Wan with the devastating power of his Force lightning. The pain was getting worse, like the spear through his shoulder over and over again but everywhere on his body. His mind felt like it was being pierced by daggers as his attempts to use the Force as a shield were thwarted as easily as ripping paper. He still would not give in. He clung to the light side and accepted death.
This is it, thought Dooku. This is where Obi-Wan Kenobi either joins us, or dies. As he centered himself and dealt the final blow, he was surprised and infuriated to see it ricocheting away harmlessly from where it was intended to strike.
“Skywalker,” growled Dooku in disgust.
Anakin Skywalker had materialized out of nowhere and now stood protectively over the unconscious form of Obi-Wan Kenobi. In his hand, he held a blue lightsaber that blazed as brightly in the darkness as his presence did in the Force. In his eyes, he held pure, unyielding anger.
“So we meet again,” said Dooku looking Anakin up and down in abhorrence, his eyes lingering for a moment on the black sling and the arm within. “I see you’re still healing from the last time you dared challenge me,” he mocked.
Anakin didn’t take the bait. “You’ve failed, Dooku. You’ve failed to capture more than one Jedi and you’ve failed to recruit my Master to the dark side. But this time, I will make you pay for all the pain you’ve caused.”
Anakin leaped into the air and somersaulted, putting all his weight and rage behind his blade as is collided with Dooku’s. He continued the offensive, clashing his lightsaber viciously and driving Dooku harder and farther away from Obi-Wan’s prone form.
Ahsoka and Rex slipped into the chamber unseen, collected Obi-Wan and his lightsaber between them, and stole out into the hallway to make the escape.
Anakin knew that they had safely taken Obi-Wan away, but his rage would not let him stop attacking Dooku. He wanted to kill him. He needed to kill him. Blue reigned down upon red as the two parried and lunged and the duel continued.
Meanwhile, Rex and Ahsoka had gotten Obi-Wan aboard the shuttle. Medics converged and took him away.
“Where’s General Skywalker?” shouted the pilot from the cockpit. “The air strike commences in sixty seconds. Don’t tell me he’s still in there!”
“We’re going to have to pick him up!” replied Ahsoka leaping into the co-pilot’s seat and feeling warnings through the Force that Obi-Wan and Anakin were both slipping away.
* * *
All of Anakin’s thoughts and energies were now centered on killing Dooku. The man who had stolen his arm, the man whose fault it was that he would never fully feel the touch of his wife’s soft skin under his fingertips, the man who had tortured his best friend. He must make him pay.
Dooku realized that Anakin had become more skillful through the years and as the duel raged on, became fearful of his raw and untamed power. As he went to retreat, the Sith Lord was lifted off the ground by an invisible force that was slowly crushing his trachea.
Anakin was choking Dooku and so focused that he didn’t notice the shuttle canon fire that blasted a hole in the wall right next to him. Nor did he see the Republic shuttle full of clones that hovered outside of it. All he could concentrate on was the fact that he was finally crushing the life out of Count Dooku and it felt good. Nothing else mattered.
“General Skywalker!” called Captain Rex from the shuttle, “Come quickly sir, the air strike is on its way!”
A fleet of Republic cruisers materialized in the sky above, their weapons glowing as they charged to full capacity.
Anakin didn’t move and continued to choke the Count.
“Master!” pleaded Ahsoka as she forced her way to the side port. “Master, please stop! You’re the only one who can save Obi-Wan!”
Anakin reluctantly released his hold on Dooku. Then, to Ahsoka’s immense relief, he soared gracefully out of the opening and onto the Republic shuttle.
As the shuttle sped off, Republic cannon fire rained down on the mountain, destroying the droid factory within.
The moment her Master was aboard the shuttle, Ahsoka lead him instantly to the back of the shuttle where Obi-Wan was lain out on the floor, a circle of on looking clones surrounding him.
“Out of my way!” growled Anakin as he knelt and took his place by Obi-Wan’s side. Oh Sith, but he looked awful. He was cataleptic, bleeding heavily and damaged inside as well as out. His face was swollen and lacerated. His extremities were severely fractured and stuck out at odd angles.
“Obi-Wan, you never do anything half way do you?” Anakin said. He placed his hand on Obi-Wan’s chest and probed deeply within the Force to see where the most damage was. Anakin’s heart sank. Obi-Wan was barely clinging on to life.
“You think I would let you go that easily, Master?” Anakin closed his eyes, gathered the Force around himself and around Obi-Wan and attempted to resuscitate him. “Come on Obi-Wan,” he said within the Force. “Let me in.” The second part of Obi-Wan’s rescue mission had begun. His life was now in the hands of his former apprentice.
Ahsoka knelt silently next to her master, ready to help in any way that she could. Clones were anxiously gathered around the Jedi, watching silently and hoping desperately that General Kenobi could be saved. Two clone medics stood poised and ready to spring back into action, but knew that for now, they were out of their depth.
Fervently wishing that a Master Jedi Healer was present, Anakin desperately continued to try to make contact with Obi-Wan’s Force signature and invite it back from the abyss in which it hid. Obi-Wan’s body was running out of time, and Anakin wouldn’t be able to support it if Obi-Wan’s spirit didn’t have the will to survive.
“Obi-Wan,” he called into the swirling nothingness. “Come back to me!”
Probing with extreme sensitivity, Anakin finally felt a slight pulse of a Force signature. He fiercely honed in on it, wrapping his own Force strength around it and flushing it with hope and light and strength.
Obi-Wan’s Force signature stirred as Anakin fed it with his own energies.
Ahsoka watched in awe as her Master concentrated and an immense surge of Force energy swelled within the shuttle. It was unlike anything she had ever seen or felt. It was so much… power.
Finally, after long moments, General Kenobi’s chest jerked and then began to rise and fall naturally. Anakin opened his eyes and let out a sigh of relief.
“He’s back,” he said to Ahsoka.
Tears of joy streamed down her face and the Clones cheered.
“He’s not out of danger yet though. I need to stay with him. How long until we reach the Jedi Temple?”
“Four standard hours, Master,” supplied Ahsoka.
Anakin nodded and placed his hand back on Obi-Wan’s. “He needs you too, Padawan. Can you help?”
Ahsoka quickly knelt down too and began to concentrate on Master Obi-Wan, helping Anakin to keep him alive until they reached the Temple.
* * *
In four hours’ time, Anakin felt an armored hand on his shoulder. “General Skywalker, we’ve arrived. Healers are on the way, sir.”
Anakin looked up at Rex with exhausted eyes and then coaxed his Padawan beside him out of her trance. Thank the Force, he thought. He had poured everything he had left into Obi-Wan and was relieved to finally be able to place him in the care of the experts. By his side, Ahsoka had done the same.
The shuttle landed at the Jedi Temple and a team of Master Healers jogged up the ramp. Anakin watched as they collected Obi-Wan on a stretcher and shouted to each other urgently. He followed them down the ramp and across the landing pad toward the entrance of the Temple. There were Jedi crowded on either side of them, craning their necks and probing with their feelings to see how Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was faring. As he walked, a healer caught up to Anakin and placed her hand on his shoulder.
“You’ve done all you can do. Come with me now, Anakin,” she said kindly.
He ignored her and roughly shrugged her hand off his shoulder without a word. As he continued to follow Obi-Wan’s entourage of Healers, his vision becoming a narrow tunnel in which he could only see the stretcher carrying his friend.
The healer put her hand back onto his shoulder. Before he could shrug it off again, another healer put his hand on the back of Anakin’s neck.
Anakin tried to angrily protest, but felt his world darkening and his knees buckling.
“It’s OK now, Master,” he heard his apprentice whisper into his mind before he succumbed.
Ahsoka watched as the Healers placed her Master on a hover stretcher and silently fell in step behind them as they pushed her master the rest of the way to the Halls of Healing.
Ahsoka woke with a start as the door to the waiting room at the Healer’s Wing slammed behind a Master Healer who had just exited the room where her Master lay. She had fallen asleep sitting in a chair, her head lolling over to the side. The Coruscant sky was dark beyond the large window and she could see the lights of the bustling city life. Suddenly remembering herself, she called out to the departing Healer.
“Master Catya! Please! Wait!” she called as she ran up to the Master Healer. “How is Master Skywalker, may I see him now?”
The Healer stopped and gave Ahsoka a permeating look. “You should be resting, child. Has anyone looked at those scrapes on your face yet?”
“Please, Master! I promise I will get looked at after I see Master Skywalker!” said Ahsoka.
The Master Healer sighed and spoke softly. “Sit down, Padawan, let me explain something to you before you see your Master again.”
Ahsoka walked with Master Catya back to the sitting area and reluctantly took a seat.
The Master Healer began. “Your Master is doing well, Padawan, there is nothing of concern to do with his overall heath. He is actually in very good health, all things considered. Just very…” -Master Catya searched for a polite word- “perturbed with the medical staff for keeping him against his wishes. It’s his arm, child, the one he lost those years ago. He’s lost even more of it after the electrocution he suffered. Three more inches of his arm had to be amputated. I’m sorry, Padawan.”
Ahsoka looked down to the floor. “Oh no,” she whimpered, “how terrible. He never let on that it was that bad.”
“No, Padawan, I imagine he wouldn’t. Everything will be fine though. The Jedi Healers have done their work and prepared him for surgery. The droids will take care of the rest. After the surgery, he will go through a period of adjustment with his new prosthetic, but he will recover.”
Ahsoka sniffed and choked back a tear.
“Fear not for your Master, Padawan. He is strong. He will overcome this injury you will see. For now though, in the absence of his former Master, you will be permitted to accompany him through the rest of the procedure. Send him soothing energies and help take his mind off of the pain. May the Force be with you, Ahsoka.”
“Thank you Master Catya,” said Ahsoka. She then stood up, swallowed her grief, and opened the doors to her Master’s operating room.
As she stepped inside, she made careful observations. Anakin was awake, and he was agitated. He lay strapped down on an operating table cursing in Huttese at the droids who were preparing their tools in the corner. But when he noticed Ahsoka enter the room and sit down by his side, he was noticeably relieved.
“Snips, thank the Force! Can you believe they’ve strapped me down and given me suppressants? I don’t see why this has to be done now! I should be with Obi-Wan while he’s- OW!”
A med droid had injected him at the site where the new aperture would be installed. Then it was joined by three other droids holding various metal tools and converging on where his new arm would be.
“Master, Obi-Wan is doing fine, I think it’s best that you get this taken care of first.”
The droids began. Anakin groaned in pain and turned his head away from them and concentrated instead on Ahsoka.
“I’m here, Master. Concentrate on my words and this will be over soon. These are the best med droids in the whole galaxy. After this we’ll go straight to see Master Obi-Wan.”
“Sounds good,” Anakin said, holding back grunts of pain and gritting his teeth. “How’s my fearless Padawan faring?”
“I’m fine, Master, I’m just so...”
She searched for the words. “Sorry that you had to lose even more of what you have already lost! I promise Master, you are still the best Master a Padawan could ask for!” She found herself near to tears again.
The droids were almost finished their work.
Anakin lifted her chin up so to that he could meet her gaze. “Don’t take pity on me, Padawan. Ever,” he said solemnly. Then his toned lightened. “Instead take pity on all of the foes who have yet to meet your Master.”
Ahsoka allowed herself a small laugh and was very glad to know that the trauma had not negatively affected Anakin’s psyche. It was very strange, but he seemed to be at peace with the incident, and even excited. Excited? That couldn’t be right, any Jedi would shudder at the idea of more of their organic tissue being lost forever and replaced with machinery.
Before she could linger on the odd thought any longer, the droids were finished.
“Sir, the surgery is complete,” said the head droid in a monotone. “We just need to run a diagnostic and check for dexterity and mobility.” They released Anakin’s from his binds, allowing him to sit up as they probed the new piece of equipment. Finally, after sticking all of his new fingers and his palm with a needle, the declared their work finished and permitted him to leave.
Anakin all but ran out of the operating room and deeper into the Healer’s Wing where the intensive care patients were treated. Ahsoka hurried along in his wake.
Anakin and Ahsoka watched from the observation deck as Obi-Wan was removed from a large bacta tank and laid on a clean white bed. Several droids converged on him to dress his wounds, make sure that the broken bones they had set were still in place, and then cast the broken bones in a lightweight rigid material. The gaping hole in his shoulder had to be flushed with extra medicines and then packed with bacta soaked gauze.
Anakin stood watching intently with his arms folded, his new one gleamed silver in artificial light of the ward. He sent waves of strength down to his unconscious Master below. The Jedi Healers in the room, felt him doing so and responded through the Force with encouragement. He ignored them. He didn’t need they’re encouragement and permission to help his own Master to recover.
Then, after over an hour of three Healers’ meditation and application of Force-induced medical treatment, Obi-Wan was transferred to a room where he could recuperate and see guests. Anakin and Ahsoka were allowed to finally be reunited with Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan was placed in a large clean room that had been painted a soothing color of blue. A large window graced the wall adjacent to his bed, but the curtains were drawn tight to make the room as quiet and calming as possible. The wounded Jedi Master was laid out on a bed in a set of clean clothes from the Healer’s wing. His legs were splinted and elevated and his right arm was casted and tightly bound his chest. His face was pail, but was no longer a ruin of lacerations and bruises. Only faint purple marks and pink lines remained there.
As they pulled two chairs up within arm’s length of Obi-Wan’s bed, Ahsoka, probed her Master’s feelings deeply and then out of respect, decided to ask Anakin a question. “Do you want to be alone with him when he wakes, Master?”
Anakin looked at her, impressed with her insight, and thought for a moment. “There was a time, Padawan, when I would have said yes. But you were the one who felt Obi-Wan was still alive when I was too angry about leaving him to do so,” he said appraisingly. “Stay with us, Padawan. But you can leave the meditating to me.” He patted his lap invitingly.
Ahsoka smiled broadly, happy that that she could stay, but suddenly she was aware of how exhausted she was. She laid her head down on her Master’s lap, curled up on her chair and quickly fell into a dreamless sleep.
Anakin looked at Obi-Wan’s unconscious face and prone form one last time before beginning a deep trance. “You did it, Master, he thought. You didn’t turn. Now heal and rest and I will be with you when you wake. And with you always.”
Just as the orange light of the Coruscant sun began emerging over the horizon, Anakin felt Obi-Wan’s Force presence begin to stir from its deep slumber. He gently nudged Ahsoka awake, and within a minute was able to feel her strength pouring into Obi-Wan as well.
Obi-Wan slowly opened his eyes for the first time since Dooku had been torturing him. He blinked and looked into the eyes of his former apprentice.
“Anakin,” he whispered, his throat dry. “Why did you let me drink so much last night?”
Anakin smiled. “Master, it was two for one last night at the Cantina. You just couldn’t be stopped.”
Obi-Wan grinned at the joke. “Actually, the way I’m feeling, a stiff drink might just be the thing I need right now.” His humor faded as the past events began to dawn on him. “How’s your arm? Are the younglings on Coruscant? How did you find me? Where’s Aayla? What of Koriba?”
“That, Master Kenobi, is none of your concern at the moment,” said Master Healer Vokara Ché as she glided into the room. She had undoubtedly sensed Obi-Wan’s return to consciousness from her office. “For now, all you need to focus on is healing. You may no longer be in critical condition, but your injuries are extensive.”
“Yeah, Obi-Wan,” added Anakin. “You really did a number on yourself this time.”
Obi-Wan blushed. “Did I?” he said embarrassed and looking down at the casts and bandages that adorned his entire body.
“Indeed, you did,” said Master Vokara Ché. “So rest up and call if you need anything when you wake up.”
Before Obi-Wan could protest, the Master Healer placed a head on his forehead and sent him into a deep Healing slumber.
Then she turned her sharp gaze on Anakin and Ahsoka. “Now out with you two. Padawan, you need medical attention and rest, report to the front desk. Skywalker, you need rest and you can see Master Kenobi later tonight if you wish. I expect he’ll have other visitors.”
Grudgingly, Anakin left the room, ushering Ahsoka to seek medical attention as he did. He made sure that her cuts and scrapes and bruises were minor before they both headed to their living quarters to get some rest.
“He’ll be Ok, now, Master,” said Ahsoka suddenly as they ascended the Jedi Temple levels to the dormitories.
“Yes, Snips,” replied Anakin. “He made it this time. Now get some rest, young one, I’ll wake you for supper.”
After he saw Ahsoka to her room, he sought his own, pondering the words that he had just said to his Padawan. He made it… this time. But there would be a next time. And there would even be a time for Padmé and maybe a time for Ahsoka too. No, he thought ferociously to himself, I will become powerful enough to prevent it. One day I will rewrite all the rules of the Living Force.
Obi-Wan did not fully awake again until the next morning. And when he did, he found a pair of bright yellow eyes gleaming at him from a chair in the corner. He recognized those eyes at once.
“Princess, it’s good to see you again, young one. Are you well?”
“I am, Master. Much better than you it would seem. I am so very sorry you were hurt badly, but grateful for your sacrifice. Master Aayla was able to bring my siblings and me to Coruscant safely,” she replied, quite eloquently for a six-year-old.
“Princess, I can assure you that the sacrifice I made was no greater than the one that your mother and father make everyday as leaders and protectors of your noble people,” he said tenderly.
“Thank you, Master. And Master? With, respect I’m not ‘Princess’ anymore, I’m a Padawan.”
Obi-Wan looked at her appraisingly and felt the Force energies radiating from her. “So you are, Padawan,” he said brightly. “And who are you Padawan to?”
“That would be me,” said the tall Twi’lek woman who had just entered the room holding three cups of tea.
“Aayla,” breathed Obi-Wan, elated and proud that she had taken another Padawan. “It is so good to see you. Congratulations on your new apprentice. I am so happy for you.”
“I appreciate it, Obi-Wan. I have you to thank for giving me to courage to do so again after all these years.”
The three shared a cup of tea and an hour of conversation as the sunlight bathed the room in a warm orange glow. Aayla spoke of how after the air strike and after confirmation that the Princes and Princess would return to Koriba unscathed, the King and Queen rallied their armies against the remaining droids in the royal city. After an almost bloodless battle, the Separatists were completely expelled from the planet. As to Dooku’s whereabouts, she could not say.
They departed around midday, leaving Obi-Wan in good spirits despite the large amount of pain he was in. The afternoon brought more visitors including Luminara Unduli, Mace Windu, Ahsoka, Ki-Adi-Mundi, some of the students from his class, and his beloved Satine Kryze, Duchess of Mandalore. Even Master Yoda stopped by for a visit, but as a result of Obi-Wan’s exhaustion and Yoda’s sleep suggestion, it was an abbreviated one.
Anakin returned for a visit later that night. The two embarked on a valiant attempt to break Obi-Wan out of the Healer’s Wing, but it was thwarted by none other than Master Vokara Ché herself. She was unable to hide her annoyance with the two men, but conceded to allowing Obi-Wan to check out of the Healer’s Wing on the morrow. Both Master Ché and Anakin agreed that Obi-Wan would stay with his former apprentice for another week or so, while he was still recovering.
This gave Obi-Wan and Anakin time to mull over the events that unfolded on Koriba.
“How do you think the Separatists were able to cloak that massive factory from us, Obi-Wan?” asked Anakin as they ate supper on the fourth night. “I mean, even Yoda didn’t know about it!”
“I wish I knew,” said Obi-Wan trying to cut his tauntaun meat with one hand. His right shoulder was still immobilized so that his ghastly spear wound could properly heal. “It would seem that the Separatists are becoming experts on the subject.”
Anakin looked up and saw him struggling with the tough meat, trying to use both a knife and fork at the same time with one hand. “Obi-Wan give me your plate. You could just ask you know. You don’t have to always be so stubborn. You look like I did back on Koriba.”
Obi-Wan was not expecting Anakin to mention his own injury that he had sustained. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about your injury, but wanted to do so privately. How is your arm truly, Anakin?” asked Obi-Wan, giving Anakin a searching and concerned look.
Anakin took a long sip of joga fruit wine and flexed the fingers on his artificial arm in front the both of them. He had made a sleek leather glove to replace the last one, as the new one needed to be longer to conceal the entire length of the silver aperture. “Truthfully Obi-Wan, it’s good. I know Jedi have always feared loss of limb because it would mean loss of midichlorians, but I can make the Force flow through it just as strongly as it once did my human arm. Sometimes I think it even flows better now.” Anakin chuckled. “Maybe I should just get all of my limbs replaced with machinery,” he laughed sarcastically.
“Anakin,’” said Obi-Wan appalled. “That’s not funny.”
“Obi-Wan, I was only joking,” Anakin assured him as he pushed the plate of neatly cut up meat back to his Master across the table. “Of course I don’t wish I was half machine, I just want you to realize that I’m fine, and now keener than ever to be the greatest Jedi the Order has ever known. Plus, I’m not the one who was impaled and then fell twenty stories.”
“It was only fourteen, and I certainly look much better than I did four days ago don’t I?” asked Obi-Wan.
“Definitely, but after that incident on Koriba, I’ve never seen you look worse,” replied Anakin taking another sip of wine. “Frankly, Old Man, you looked like you’d be drinking your meals for the rest of your life. And that shoulder! A womp rat could have jumped through it without touching the sides!”
Obi-Wan scowled. “Oh don’t be so dramatic. I’ve seen you in a few compromising positions as well, Padawan. Besides, I’m healing up just fine. I’ll be fit in time for our next mission.”
“Just keep telling yourself that, Obi-Wan,” replied Anakin. “You need to take it slow. We’ll start with council meetings and work our way up to briefings. Then once you get your casts removed, Master Ché said you can try light exercise.”
“Sounds invigorating,” said Obi-Wan frowning. He wished his body would just heal already. Even these past four days were torturous.
After they had finished supper, Anakin helped Obi-Wan wash up and lay down in the spare bed in his antechamber. It was a slow process, but Obi-Wan was gaining some of his energy and dexterity back.
Anakin washed up too and lay down on his own large bed.
“Goodnight, Master,” he said to Obi-Wan before drifting to sleep.
“Goodnight, Anakin. Thank you,” responded Obi-Wan.
“Oh and Obi-Wan?”
“That’s three you owe me now.”
Obi-Wan scowled in the darkness. “Do shut up, Anakin.”