Rated: PG-13 violence, implicit sex
Summary: Post EPI, Pre-EPII--Obi-Wan and Anakin become increasingly more involved in a planet's tempestuous politics when a dissident invokes the ancient, local custom of 'sanctuary' where the Jedi are temporarily residing. Angst, action, romance. (No spoilers.)
"Much anger in him. Like his father...." ~Yoda
PART ONE ~ SANCTUARY
Moments earlier, Obi-Wan Kenobi had been in a resources room
getting confirmation on an outgoing transport. Now he was all but
trapped in a narrow foyer behind a group of curious tourists.
Patiently and politely he waited and listened as a tour guide began
carefully reciting her memorized speech.
"Aremont's Jedi Cathedral is the last of its kind. The first cornerstone
was laid over a hundred years ago. It was originally built and used
by the Jedi as a place for spiritual retreats. Jedi Masters from all
over the galaxy would come to the cathedral by Ergo's scenic
wooded lake to meditate and connect to the living and unifying Force.
"As decades passed, fewer and fewer Jedi came to Aremont to
train. The area had lost a lot of its aesthetic appeal and was no
longer isolated due to urban development to the south. Over time,
parts of the cathedral fell into a state of disrepair.
"Ten years ago, Aremont's capital city, Ergo, declared the old
cathedral a historical landmark. Shortly afterwards, the cathedral
was purchased from the city and salvaged by Ergo's Historical
Preservation Society, who opened its doors to the public and
turned it into the popular tourists' attraction it is today," the tour
guide concluded. "Now, if you'll all follow me, we'll continue on
to the south spire." She turned and led her group to a new part
of the cathedral.
Obi-Wan and his padawan, Anakin Skywalker, had listened to
that same speech numerous times while residing at the cathedral
for the duration of their assignment on Aremont. Obi-Wan sighed
a little impatiently as the tour group shuffled slowly down the hall.
Standing directly in front of Obi-Wan was an attractive woman
with black-colored skin and large, painted dark gray eyes. She
couldn't have been much over twenty-five, but she was well-dressed
and her long blue-black hair was painstakingly styled with jeweled
beads. Young, but definitely one of Ergo's more prominent and
affluent citizens, the Jedi thought. The woman turned suddenly as
if sensing his scrutiny, saw him, and smiled warmly.
"A real Jedi!" she exclaimed, delighted.
Other tourists suddenly focused their attention on the Jedi, but the
tour guide sternly urged them on. Obi-Wan flattened himself against
the wall and tried to appear as inconspicuous as possible. He
risked instant celebrity status every time he ventured down to
the main floor during business hours.
"Oh, forgive me. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," the
woman quickly apologized. "It's just that I can't believe my good
fortune. Wait until I tell my brother. He'll be so jealous! We've
never had the opportunity to meet a Jedi Knight face to face before.
My brother used to study Jedi fighting techniques and I follow all the
latest news from the Council. I've always admired the Jedi." Her
eyes swept down the length of him and back up again. "Some Jedi
more than others," she murmured to herself with a coquettish grin.
"And here we were all led to believe the Jedi Knights didn't come
to the cathedral anymore." Her smile brightened.
Obi-Wan cocked an eyebrow. "Well, normally, no." He gestured
at the departing tour group and the vendors crowded into the hall.
"It's not really our cathedral anymore."
"A shame," the woman stated, her expression growing somber.
"Aremont would be smart to continue to offer hospitality to Jedi."
Obi-Wan winced internally. He knew a Republic presence was
the last thing Aremont's government wanted now. "That hardly
seems likely...at this point," he replied skeptically.
"Yes, I know," the woman said and sighed heavily. "By the way,
I'm Saloma P'tol," she told him eagerly. "If you aren't doing anything
later, I'm attending a small gathering for dinner tonight and would be
thrilled if you would accompany me."
"My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi," the Jedi replied. "Thank you for
your offer, but we are departing early tomorrow morning and need
to make final preparations." Preparations. He hadn't even told
Anakin they were leaving yet.
Saloma's smile slipped. "Leaving? Didn't you just get here?"
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No. We've been here for quite some
time. We met with the governor and his lieutenants earlier this
week and we made a presentation on behalf of the chancellor at
the final platform just before the elections."
"You weren't scheduled to appear there, were you?" Saloma
questioned. "I would have attended if I had known."
"We should have been, but I get the distinct impression few people
knew we were there. The attendance was poor that day." The Jedi
gnawed his lower lip thoughtfully. "That would explain quite a bit."
Saloma leaned closer to him. "Well, since this is your last night
why not make the most of it? Forget about politics, Obi-Wan.
You don't really have anything to do tonight and I know you want
to come out with me." She paused as something suddenly occurred
to her. "Wait a minute. You keep saying 'we.' Who's 'we'?"
"My padawan, Anakin Skywalker is here with me." Obi-Wan
took a deep breath. She was standing so close to him now, he
could smell her exotic, spicy perfume.
"A padawan? Well, bring him along! I love children!"
Obi-Wan smiled. "Anakin is sixteen. Not exactly a child."
"Oh. You can still bring him. I'm sure he'd enjoy a night out."
"We both would," the Jedi confessed. His eyes locked on hers
and she smiled coyly, making his heart beat a little faster. For a
moment, Obi-Wan was truly tempted, but then shook his head.
"I'm sorry. We can't."
Saloma sighed heavily. "A pity. I would have really enjoyed
getting to know you better." She looked down the hall in the
direction the tour had gone, then turned and faced the Jedi again.
"It was nice meeting you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I only wish I would
have known you were here all this time. I could have met you
sooner. And your padawan." She smiled and started working
her way down the hall, to catch up with the tour group.
"It was very nice meeting you as well," the Jedi responded. He
stood where he was, watching her hurry away and sighed. He
would have liked to have accepted her invitation. He knew he
would have enjoyed her company and Anakin would have relished
a real home-cooked meal for a change. Maybe it would have
improved his demeanor, Obi-Wan thought.
As soon as his path became clear, he skirted around the corner,
heading towards the enormous stone structure's quieter north side.
When he was very young, Obi-Wan had come to the cathedral
with his classmates. It had been a different place then; a serenely
beautiful and spiritual place. The Force's enhanced presence
remained unchanged over the past century, but now it was hard
for the young Jedi Master not to feel some pangs of loss as he
edged his way along the cathedral's corridors clogged with tourists
and souvenir merchants.
Obi-Wan made his way up long winding steps to the second floor,
past many open windows to a narrow hallway shrouded in twilight
shadows. He mentally thanked the setting sun, knowing the crowds
would be heading home soon and the ancient corridors would once
again become silent and serene.
During business hours, the north tower which faced Lake Seasey
had restricted public access and was the only place in the entire
cathedral that was occupied exclusively by Jedi. Its balcony beheld
a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding woods. Anakin
seemed particularly fond of it and went out on the balcony every
chance he could. Obi-Wan knew he would find the young Jedi there
Obi-Wan turned another corner and glided towards the second door on
the left. He paused momentarily and peered in before entering.
Despite the cold outdoor temperature, Anakin was there. He
stared out at the partially frozen lake, appearing to be deeply
submerged in thought. As Obi-Wan drew up beside him, Anakin
glanced his way and sighed.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" Anakin inquired, gesturing slightly towards
the scenery with his hand. "Reminds me of Naboo in a way." His
eyes narrowed and his handsome face contorted in displeasure as
his mind turned to other things. "Doesn't it seem like the harder we
try, the more we fail?"
Obi-Wan folded his arms over his chest, sliding his hands into the
sleeves of his cloak and leaned his elbows on the rough stone ledge
of the balcony's railing. He focused his gaze across the lake to the
fields beyond. He could feel Anakin's disappointment and saw
confusion and anger in his eyes.
"It may seem that way at times," Obi-Wan agreed. "Normally one
fails due to lack of effort--not increased effort." The Jedi Master
looked up at his padawan and frowned. "Don't take our failures
so personally, Anakin. We were sent here to speak to the people
of Aremont on behalf of the Republic. We did, and made a good,
solid presentation. The people chose to secede though. It was their
decision. We did everything we could." He paused and dragged his
hand through his long fair hair, pushing it back, away from his eyes.
"The politics of Aremont are no longer our concern."
Anakin faced Obi-Wan, his steely blue eyes widening. "No longer
our concern? How can you say that?" He shook his head in disbelief.
"And how can you accept what's happened so nonchalantly? Governor
Spiget and his lieutenants twisted the arms of his people to vote against
the chancellor. Now Aremont will no longer be a part of the Republic.
We can't just accept this as fate and give up. The citizens who still
support the Republic may be organizing as we speak. We can't
abandon them. We are supposed to be honorable Jedi. We need
to stay and fight for what we believe in."
"There is little else we can do at this point," Obi-Wan countered.
"We can't pass judgement and denounce the new government like
that just because they want to be independent. It's not the Jedi's
way." The Jedi Master turned away from Anakin and took a
deep steadying breath. The look in Anakin's eyes was unnerving.
"I don't understand," Anakin growled, clearly frustrated. "....Why
would any system want to reject the economic security and lawful
protection the Republic offers them?" Anakin placed his hand on
Obi-Wan's arm and turned him to fully face him. "This is nothing
less than a coup d'etat, carried out behind a thin veil of democracy,"
the younger Jedi whispered angrily. "This is not what the people of
Aremont wanted, you know it and I know it, but we, as mere
ambassadors, have to allow it." Anakin lowered his voice even
further. "A revolution will follow. Of that I am certain." He nodded
for emphasis and released his grip on Obi-Wan's arm.
"There won't be any revolution. This is a peaceful planet."
"That's presently under martial law," Anakin replied. He paused
and visibly struggled to subdue his anger.
Obi-Wan furrowed his brow. "That's just a precaution."
Anakin exhaled forcefully. He massaged his eyes wearily and
licked his dry lips.
"It's our duty to support the citizens of Aremont," the padawan
announced. "This may not be over yet. This could be a way for
us to bring Aremont back to the Republic."
Obi-Wan sighed heavily. "With aggression and bloodshed?"
Irritation edged his tone as he said, "It's over, Padawan. Accept it.
We need to look ahead now."
Stunned, Anakin looked at Obi-Wan and frowned. "So, I'm
assuming we'll be leaving tomorrow after all?"
The older Jedi nodded. "Yes. I've made arrangements for
It'll be very early. You should go and gather your things." Obi-Wan
dropped his eyes and studied the dusting of snow on the balcony's
Anakin took two large steps towards the open doorway, then
paused. Obi-Wan slowly raised his eyes to meet his padawan's.
Anakin suddenly erupted with anger. "You are so unbending and
so....high-minded! You refuse to even consider taking further
action to help these people--to save them from an unethical
dictator who will end up enslaving them. That's all right though
because we made our presentation on behalf of the chancellor
and now, without a backward glance, it's time to scurry back to
Coruscant. After all, that is the way of the Jedi, isn't it? Don't
you see how self-serving and apathetic that makes us look?
Makes all Jedi look?" Anakin paused and lowered his voice.
"Please, Obi-Wan. Let's stay a few more days. Maybe I'm
wrong and there won't be any unrest. Can't we at least stay to
The Jedi Master opened his mouth to speak but promptly
closed it again, reviewing his thoughts before saying something
he'd regret later.
"That's enough, Anakin," he managed in a tremulous voice.
"Our mission is over. When a mission is over, be it a failure
or a success, we move on. We will return to Coruscant and
report to the Council. They will decide if further Jedi intervention
here is necessary."
Anakin cast his eyes down in defeat and bowed stiffly in
acquiescence. Without another word, he turned on his heel
and stalked off the balcony.
It didn't matter that Anakin was right. Or even that Obi-Wan
agreed with him. It was more important for Anakin to learn to
concentrate his efforts on one mission at a time and not get
distracted by a misguided sense of righteousness.
Obi-Wan knew from personal experience what could happen
when a Jedi pursued a cause above and beyond the original
mission based on private principles.
Obi-Wan's entire body slackened with fatigue. He turned and
leaned over the balcony railing, focusing on the lake and the
stark winter scenery, trying to calm his raw nerves. He inhaled
slowly, savoring the scent of ionized air in his nostrils. It would
probably snow again soon.
Clouds were rolling in from the west. The wind was picking up
and turning colder. Obi-Wan absently wrapped his cloak tighter
around his shoulders. He closed his eyes and centered on the
contrasting physical feelings of cold dampness on his face and the
deep warmth of his heavily clothed body. It was then he felt the
Force stirring; swirling darkly around him. He quickly opened his
eyes and straightened slowly.
"Master! Come quickly!" Anakin's distant voice suddenly rang out.
Without hesitation, Obi-Wan raced off the balcony and up the
narrow hall to the stone steps which wound back down to the
first floor and the main sanctum.
Anakin stood at the bottom of the stairs, gazing across the corridor
towards the antechamber where a large group of frightened tourists
stood huddled together against the opposite wall from the great
double doors. Anakin glanced over at Obi-Wan and directed his
master's attention to a commotion just ahead of them.
Armed soldiers filed in, shouting orders not to move in various
languages. The tourists leaned away from the soldiers and began
crying out in alarm. One of the soldiers reached into the midst
of the group and pulled out a well-dressed, dark-skinned woman.
It was Saloma P'tol.
"What do you make of that?" Anakin breathed, addressing
Obi-Wan without taking his eyes off the soldiers and the hapless
woman, who was now the center of everyone's attention.
Obi-Wan shook his head in reply. "I'm not entirely sure.
that woman just an hour or so ago. She was with the tourists."
As one soldier placed binders on Saloma's wrists, an officer
"I am Captain Vrone of the Governor's internal military police force.
Saloma P'tol, your position as Ergo's City Councilwoman has been
subjected to termination under the new jurisdiction. We have been
instructed to escort you to an internment camp in Maerske where
your job skills will be reevaluated and a new occupation will be
found for you that will be more suitable to the needs of our new
"The governor isn't wasting any time is he?" Saloma responded and
lurched away from the soldier, colliding with some of the tourists
along the wall.
"You have no authority!" one of the tourists protested. "She's
going anywhere with you!"
The soldiers seized Saloma's arms and began dragging her towards
"Do not resist," the officer told her. He raised his blaster,
the setting to stun, and waved it menacing in front of her face. "I
would rather not resort to this, but I will if you make me."
Anakin glanced at Obi-Wan and took a step forward. "I've seen
Obi-Wan seized his arm to restrain him. "Careful, we don't want
endanger anyone. Let's just go find out what the situation is." He
released his padawan and took a deep breath.
Together the two Jedi crossed the corridor to the antechamber.
The soldiers saw them approach and immediately went on the
defensive. They raised their weapons and surrounded Saloma as
if protecting her from the Jedi. Captain Vrone stepped up to
"Why are you arresting this woman? What has she done?"
Anakin questioned, staring menacingly down at the captain.
"She is not under arrest," the officer related automatically.
are here to escort her on behalf of Governor Spiget." Vrone
suddenly scowled. "Just who do you think you are? You've no
right to interfere."
Obi-Wan locked his eyes on Saloma. He could sense her
confusion and fear. She gazed back at him pleadingly. Obi-Wan
"My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is Anakin Skywalker. We
are Jedi," he began. "We wish to intercede on behalf of this citizen."
"This does not concern you," Captain Vrone declared.
"Any injustice concerns us," Anakin put in. He moved to stand
"They want to imprison me," Saloma told Anakin. "But I haven't
broken any laws. I am outspoken, that is all." She faced Obi-Wan
again. "I believe they are taking me away because my allegiance
is to Chancellor Palpatine and the Republic. I voted against
secession in the last council meeting."
Obi-Wan faced Captain Vrone. "Why do you come here with a
platoon of soldiers for the apprehension of one woman? Are you
arresting her for her political views?"
"There are others I was ordered to seek out this evening. She
one of many we will be escorting tonight. And I told you, she is not
under arrest," Vrone repeated through clenched teeth.
"Why is she bound like a criminal then?" the tour guide boldly
Captain Vrone considered this, then motioned to his lieutenant to
release Saloma. "It is only procedure, but I am willing to overlook
it in this case." He turned his attention back to Obi-Wan. "I'm
warning you, stay out of this. It's none of your business."
Anakin watched the lieutenant unlock the binders from Saloma's
wrists, then stepped in between her and the soldiers. "Even if this
woman's position was terminated, you still have no authority to take
her to an internment camp," the young Jedi growled. "We are Jedi
Knights! We have every right to intervene on her behalf!"
"Let the woman go!" called one of the tourist.
"Let us all go!" another added. "We haven't done anything either!"
Vrone turned on Anakin. "I don't care who you are. I don't
recognize your authority! I don't have to!" he snapped, pointing a long
crooked finger at the Jedi. "And if you keep harassing my men and
inciting this crowd, I will have you arrested for interfering with an
Obi-Wan quickly moved between Captain Vrone and his padawan.
He glared up at Anakin with a look of warning, then focused his
attention back on the officer.
"We understand you and your soldiers are merely following orders.
But the way in which you have chosen to execute those orders has
created a potentially volatile situation," the Jedi Master pointed out.
"Since Councilwoman P'tol is not under arrest, release her and
let her go about her business. Report back to your superior that
she did not wish such an escort."
Vrone appeared to be ignoring the Jedi. He motioned for the
soldiers to clear the antechamber. Both of the doors were opened
and the soldiers began shoving the tourists out into the gardens.
The captain glared at Obi-Wan and stepped closer to him until he
was face to face with the Jedi. "When I'm given an order by my
superior, I am expected to carry it out," Vrone snarled. Without
warning, he roughly shoved Obi-Wan aside and reached around
Anakin to grab hold of Saloma. "Come with me now or I will
Saloma protested, yanking her arm free. She tried to get away
Vrone, but stumbled, falling at Anakin's feet. Vrone aimed his
blaster at her. The remainder of the tourists cried out in alarm.
Several bolted for the doors, crashing into the soldiers, dragging
half the police force out with them.
Anakin's hand flew to his lightsaber.
"No Anakin!" Obi-Wan commanded, but in all the chaos, one of
the soldiers had already fired and Anakin's blue lightsaber was
activated by the time the blast reached it. Anakin contemptuously
swatted the blast aside, stepping over Saloma, then caught a stun
bolt from Vrone's blaster with a quick slash upwards. Obi-Wan's
saber was activated now, deflecting the few shots fired in automatic
retaliation at Anakin. The frightened tourists screamed. Vrone
ducked a stray blast and whirled around to face his soldiers.
"Cease fire!" Vrone shrieked. "And clear this room at once!"
The soldiers obeyed. They warily lowered their weapons and then
continued pushing the rest of the tourists out as their comrades fought
their way back in.
Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged glances, then simultaneously
deactivated their lightsabers. Obi-Wan reached down and
helped Saloma to her feet.
"You are all under arrest for assault," the captain seethed. "You
have brought this upon yourselves."
Anakin shook his head. "Excuse me, Captain, but WE were the
ones who were assaulted," he pointed out.
"Please," Saloma began breathlessly, addressing Vrone. "Let
them go. They've done nothing. I'll go with you. Just free the Jedi."
"Don't surrender! Claim sanctuary!" the tour guide suddenly
yelled, grabbing the doorframe with her hands to keep from
being pushed out. "You're in a cathedral! In the presence of
two Jedi. To them this sanctum is a spiritual place. Claim your
sanctuary. Even these lawless rebels will recognize that authority."
"Shut up and get out!" Vrone ordered. A soldier grabbed the
guide around her waist and pried her hands from the doorframe.
The room grew eerily silent.
Obi-Wan turned to Saloma. "Sanctuary? What did she mean
"It is a long respected custom here on Aremont," Saloma explained,
speaking quickly. "A condemned person, in a declaration of
innocence or injustice, could flee to the cathedral to seek out any
Jedi in residence for protection against their accusers."
Anakin stepped closer to his master and lowered his voice. "Yes,
I remember reading about it once. When a person seeks sanctuary
within these walls, authorities are not allowed to pursue them, even
if the being in question is actually guilty of a crime." He paused and
turned his attention to Saloma. "You would have to abide here
indefinitely. Until we can sort this out. If you leave, they can
Obi-Wan looked at Saloma. "Is such a custom still viable here?"
"Yes...and I could claim it. I am guilty of supporting the Republic
which is the real reason they want me."
"But not of a crime!" Anakin whispered loudly. "The citizens know
that! They'll support you."
"The citizens will not speak up for me," Saloma told him. "They'll
be too afraid of the consequences."
"If there is a chance however..." Obi-Wan urged.
"There is no chance!" Captain Vrone shouted, interrupting them.
He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "This is a tourists trap!
It is not a hallowed cathedral anymore! You cannot claim sanctuary
Frowning, Anakin shook his head. //He has a point, Master// the
young Jedi relayed telepathically.
Obi-Wan smiled slyly and faced Vrone. "Visitors may come here
out of curiosity, but that does not change the true nature of this place.
It has always been a sacred place for the Jedi, even if we cannot
frequent it as we once did." He stretched out his hands and looked
slowly around the antechamber. "The Force is strong here. It
flows purely within these walls. That is why the Jedi came here.
That is why this cathedral was erected on these grounds."
Captain Vrone motioned to his lieutenant, never taking his eyes off
Obi-Wan. "These people are all under arrest. Bind them and bring
them outside for processing."
Weapons raised, the soldiers hurried to obey and began surrounding
Saloma and the Jedi. Obi-Wan closed his eyes and concentrated,
letting the Force move through him. The double doors suddenly
slammed shut and all the soldier's weapons were yanked from
their grasps, rising into the air high above their heads. Stunned and
silenced, the soldiers slowly backed away. Obi-Wan shuffled the
blasters around once before sending them back into the hands of
The lieutenant licked his lips apprehensively. "They do have a
Sir," he whispered. "As you just saw, their religion is still practiced
here." He leaned closer to Vrone. "Taking them now would not
be wise. A crowd has gathered in the gardens and they are
shouting for the right of sanctuary to be recognized. It's that tour
guide--she is inciting them. Making a spectacle of all this. There is
no way to do this quickly and quietly as the governor instructed.
Our intention is too conspicuous now."
Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged glances. Vrone cursed under
his breath and addressed the Jedi.
"You realize if you accept this woman's claim, you are required to
remain here indefinitely as well?" Vrone informed.
Anakin looked back at Obi-Wan, his eyes pleading. Obi-Wan
inhaled slowly. There was no time to confer with the Jedi Council
on this matter. He already knew what his padawan wanted to do.
He also knew a woman's freedom and possibly her life depended
on his decision. Without another thought, Obi-Wan nodded curtly.
Vrone stared at the Jedi with an incredulous expression. "You
would do this for a woman you don't even know? You would
involve yourselves in this matter to that extent?"
"It is the Jedi's way," Anakin quipped, flashing a smile at Obi-Wan.
"No, I can't allow it," Saloma said, shaking her head, looking from
Obi-Wan to Anakin.
"It is already done," Anakin replied, his heart nearly bursting with
pride for his master. Saloma looked up at him anxiously. Anakin
reached over and placed a large hand on her shoulder. He pulled
her to him. "It'll be all right."
Vrone sighed heavily. He turned to face his soldiers. "Everyone
Now! Arrest that rabble-rouser of a tour guide and disperse that
The soldiers scrambled to obey, reopening the doors and filing
quickly out of the antechamber. Vrone followed without looking back.
Soldiers closed the doors after him and suddenly the antechamber was
Saloma put her hand to her chest to steady her heart's
Obi-Wan exhaled breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and
dragged his hand through his hair.
"I have to contact the Council," he mumbled, more to himself than
Anakin. He stalked off down the corridor and up the stairs that
led to the north tower, his long cloak billowing out behind him.
Saloma looked after him longingly, then sighed heavily and bowed
Anakin walked over to the doors, opened one cautiously and
peered out. It wasn't long before he sealed the door again,
locked it, and then turned to face Saloma. "They're gone.
You're safe now," he consoled. "And we'll stay with you,
I promise. There's no need to be afraid."
Saloma gazed up at the young Jedi. She swallowed hard.
"I'm not afraid," she whispered. "Not for myself, anyway."
She took a deep breath and shook her head ruefully. "There
are others who share my views who will be silenced now.
And not just on Aremont, but all over the galaxy."
Obi-Wan hurriedly relayed the days events to a shimmering
hologram of Yoda which was standing before him on a large
table. He tried to keep his report factual and concise, but his
sense of outrage and injustice soon crept in and made everything
he said seem subjective.
The old Jedi Master's ears rose slightly and his large green eyes
"Obi-Wan," he began. "From you, something like this I would
have never expected ."
Obi-Wan's expression fell. His shoulders slumped under the weight
of Yoda's words.
"Master Yoda, it was my decision to make and I made it. I wasn't
influenced by anything but the situation at hand. Yes, it may have
been impulsive, but I knew full well what would be expected of
Anakin and myself should we become involved. There simply
was no other option for the councilwoman. I would even go so
far as to say the Force moved me to assist her knowing her plight
Yoda began chuckling. His eyes narrowed now and he pointed a
stubby finger at the younger Jedi. "So certain are you, chastisement
I give? On the Force, you place the blame?" He laughed harder.
Obi-Wan straightened, somewhat indignant, and crossed his arms
over his chest. "I take full responsibility for my actions," he responded,
trying to be heard over the little master's hooting laugh.
Yoda immediately sombered. "Responsibility you shall take!"
mushed up his face and scowled. "Committed you are now. See
this through, you must."
Dispirited, Obi-Wan bowed his head. "Master, I truly feel Anakin
and I were meant to help this woman. The circumstances and timing
were too well arranged. That is all I meant by that." He paused and
moistened his lips. "Perhaps this is all just a misunderstanding. Maybe
everyone overreacted. In any case, I will go to the regional governor
tomorrow to speak with him. There are frightening totalitarian overtures
in this action he's taken against his people. I need to discover his true
intentions." Obi-Wan slowly raised his eyes to look at Yoda. "I fear
we may be way over our heads in this planet's politics. Anakin feels a
civil war may be close at hand. I believe he is right."
"Doubt a misunderstanding, I do. The governor, to avoid civil
is trying. Cruelly, perhaps. New, he is. Despotic, maybe. Of your
concern, this is not." Yoda began walking a small circle, his hologram
wandering off the edge of the table and into thin air. "The first Jedi on
Aremont to have such responsibility placed on them, you are not. In
this situation, others have found themselves, but under these
circumstances, the last you may be. Be concerned, with
Councilwoman P'tol only. Her welfare and well-being. Your charge,
she is. Do what you need to protect her, you must. Fight her war,
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak, but the holographic image
of the Jedi Master faded and disappeared. Obi-Wan sighed heavily
and walked out of the room.
Anakin led Saloma to the cathedral's north tower. She looked
around slowly, taking in her new surroundings with every step.
When they came to the balcony overlooking the lake,
she stopped and peered through the doorway curiously. Anakin
paused to wait for her, watching her closely.
Saloma glanced up at him. "Can we go outside for a few minutes?
I'd like to see the view, if you wouldn't mind."
Anakin shook his head. "Not at all."
"I won't be long," Saloma announced, stepping out onto the snow
covered terrace and looking around.
"Do you wish to be left alone? Can I get you anything? Are you
hungry?" Anakin asked her politely.
Shaking her head, Saloma moved to the balcony railing, pushing
back the errant strands of blue-black hair that whipped across her
eyes from the wind.
"I was supposed to go to a dinner party tonight," she began in a
faraway tone of voice. "I had invited Master Kenobi along, did
he tell you? We met earlier in the south foyer."
"No, he didn't mention it," Anakin replied. "But that hardly
surprises me. He's not one for chit chat." Obi-Wan didn't really
try to communicate with him much beyond lecturing, Anakin thought
"Well, it's of no consequence really. He had declined my invitation
because you two were supposed to be leaving early tomorrow."
She paused and sighed. "Now, none of us can go anywhere or do
anything." Saloma turned away from Anakin and rubbed her arms
against the crisp evening air. "For all its beauty, this place is rather
dark and unsettling at night. Too quiet, I guess. Not at all how I'm
used to seeing it." She looked up at Anakin and forced a shaky smile.
Anakin gazed at her sympathetically. He knew she felt just as
awkward and uncertain as he did, but he wasn't sure what to say
or do to make things easier. "We have dried vegetables, and some
caton root in the cellars for soup. I can go make some for you,"
the young Jedi tried again. "Would you like me to brew some tea
Saloma looked away from him. "No, thank you. Don't trouble
yourself. I'm really not hungry. I seemed to have lost my appetite."
"Perhaps later then." Anakin fixed his eyes on her and crossed
balcony over to where she stood. "We should go back inside. It's
getting colder now that the sun has set and it's going to start snowing
any minute now."
"I'm all right, really, Anakin," Saloma said with a warm smile.
actually enjoying the fresh air." She leaned against the railing and
peered out at the heavy gray clouds. "I come to this cathedral as
often as I can. It is very peaceful, very beautiful here. It's one of
my favorite places to go in the city. I've never been up here before
"No, you wouldn't have," Anakin agreed. "They don't bring the
tourists through here. So far, it still belongs to the Jedi. Not in
an official contractual sense, but spiritually. This tower is the
last vestige of true Jedi sanctity. This part of the cathedral hasn't
changed in a hundred standard years."
"You speak so fondly of it," Saloma began. "I was under the
impression this was your first time here."
Anakin lowered his eyes briefly. "It is. That doesn't mean
haven't been affected by it."
Saloma took a deep breath and turned to face Anakin. "I
understand. You don't have to defend your feelings to me. I
believe everyone who comes here is affected. Be they tourist,
"For a soldier, maybe it's the cathedral's history that demands
respect. Maybe it's the tie-in to Jedi lore that the tourists find so
alluring, but for the Jedi it's the Force's presence. The ancient
masters believed it emanated from the lake. The waters are
especially Force-sensitive," Anakin responded. "I come out
here to be closer to its presence. It's peaceful...and pretty."
He glanced up, noticing the snow beginning to fall. "I don't
mind it here at all."
"I'm pleased to hear you feel that way," Obi-Wan quipped,
striding onto the balcony. "We may be here for quite awhile."
He stopped before his padawan and folded his arms across his
chest. "Master Yoda has encouraged us to see this through to a
"And what does a 'satisfactory end' mean?" Saloma addressed
the older Jedi.
"An end in which all parties are satisfied?" Anakin guessed. He
gazed at Obi-Wan with a wary expression.
The Jedi Master turned and looked out into the darkness of the
wooded lake as the falling snow spotted his long mahogany-colored
"Yes. We will try to compromise this situation to a just conclusion,"
Anakin stiffened. "We can't compromise, Obi-Wan. We either
here to protect Saloma or we leave her to rot."
Obi-Wan looked up sharply, his eyes flashing. "Don't trivialize
Anakin. This is not a black or white issue. We know very little of
the facts surrounding the events which transpired here. We have
based everything we have done on a perceived danger which may
not even exist. We acted rashly, but instinctively. There's nothing
wrong with that, but now we need to proceed with eyes and minds
"So, do you have a plan?" Anakin asked, his manner more subdued.
He scooped up a handful of snow from the railing and crushed it
between his fingers until it melted.
Obi-Wan sighed. "Tomorrow, I'll go to meet with Governor Spiget.
It all begins and ends with him."
Anakin nodded once. He placed his hand on Saloma's shoulder
and gently urged her inside. "Let's get you out of this cold and settled
down for the night. Obi-Wan and I will take turns watching."
"I'll take the first watch," Obi-Wan said quietly. "Go, get some
Both of you."
Saloma followed Anakin off the balcony. She glanced back at
Obi-Wan and was stirred by the sight of the Jedi left standing alone
in the snowy darkness. "You go on," she whispered to Anakin.
"I want to speak with your master."
Anakin paused momentarily, studying Saloma with uncertainty. He
didn't want them to discuss matters in his absence. "I can wait..."
"Don't worry, please," Saloma persisted. "I just want to thank
I'll only be a minute. I know my way around, so you don't need to
stay to guide me. Honest, I'll be all right." Before he could protest
further, she hurried back out to the balcony.
Anakin stood and watched her disappear, then finally turned and
ambled down the hall.
The silently falling snow was melting on his skin, numbing his lips,
and prematurely graying his beard. For the most part, however,
Obi-Wan was dry and comfortable and made no motion to
retreat from the inclement weather. He replayed the night's
events in his head, assuring himself that what he and Anakin did
was the only thing they could do. The right thing to do.
*Keep your mind on the here and now* After all these years,
Qui-Gon's gentle scolding was just as clear to Obi-Wan now as
it had been when his master had first spoken it. It was as if
Qui-Gon had never truly gone. His unbidden, but always
appropriate, words of wisdom readily surfaced in Obi-Wan's
mind whenever he needed them.
Obi-Wan wondered briefly if Anakin would recall his words as
readily after he died.
*Keep your mind on the here and now* Qui-Gon's voice echoed.
Obi-Wan grinned. "Yes, Master."
No more thoughts of the past and what might have been; no more
thoughts of the future and what could be....focus on the present.
Right here. Right now.
It was then Obi-Wan sensed her. He turned, slightly startled.
She easily blended into the shadows behind him, but her large
eyes glistened like the jewels in her braided hair as she stepped
"I didn't mean to disturb you," Saloma began. "I hope I wasn't."
Struck by the ghostly elegant image she projected, Obi-Wan
shook his head, unable to find his voice. It suddenly occurred to
him that he would now be existing in extremely close quarters
with this woman for an undetermined amount of time. He wasn't
quite sure how he felt about that. She had stirred up emotions
inside him he'd forgotten he had when they were innocently
making eyes at each other in the foyer. The fascination he sensed
she felt for him now didn't help ease the awkwardness of their
"I just wanted to thank you," Saloma continued, as if to reassure him.
"I know I have placed a great burden on your shoulders and put you
in a tense position with Aremont's new governor." She paused,
waiting, but the Jedi said nothing. "I just want you to know how
grateful I am that you have deemed me worthy of this demonstration
of Jedi valor."
"Well, we couldn't have just stood by and let you be taken away,"
the Jedi mumbled.
"Why not? It's not like you really knew me," Saloma countered.
"I could have been a dangerous criminal trying to avoid justice."
She paused and regarded Obi-Wan thoughtfully. "Did I make
that good of an impression on you in the foyer?"
"It's a Jedi's way," he replied dryly. "Now if you'll excuse me--"
Obi-Wan appeared to be giving her his undivided attention,
but Saloma noticed he seemed ill-at-ease.
"I have disturbed you, haven't I? I'm sorry. I thought perhaps
could talk, it would help to take our minds off our troubles,"
Saloma offered, hopefully. "There's little else to do here. We
can get to know each other better. Which I was hoping to do
tonight anyway, just under different circumstances, if you remember."
"Talk?" Obi-Wan repeated, sounding surprised by such a notion.
"Certainly it can wait until morning. I'm actually trying to keep my
mind ON our troubles. I need to figure out exactly what we need
to do to resolve this issue. I'd rather not be distracted." His
words and tone sounded harsher than he intended, but she was
the last person he wanted around him at the moment. She was
already proving to be a major distraction in more ways than one.
He closed his eyes and took a deep steadying breath. "It's getting
late, Councilwoman. Go try to get some rest."
"I'm sorry," Saloma told him quietly, clearly undaunted by
his dismissal and continued peering up at him with wide, hypnotizing
eyes, expecting him to say something. Or do something. Obi-Wan
noticed the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, encouragingly.
A snowflake settled gracefully on her long eyelashes. He watched
it slowly dissolve into a tiny, perfect sphere of water just before she
blinked it away.
The Jedi cleared his throat brusquely. "Where is Anakin?" Obi-Wan
asked. He looked towards the door expectantly.
Saloma hugged herself in a futile attempt to keep warm. "He's gone
on ahead. I told him I wanted to talk to you. He respected my wishes."
Obi-Wan frowned. Clearly, she had no intention of going back inside
and leaving him in peace to sift through the debris of their predicament.
The Jedi's frown deepened as Saloma's teeth began chattering in the
"Here, take this," Obi-Wan ordered her. He quickly slipped out
cloak and wrapped it tightly around the trembling woman standing before
him who smiled gratefully and seemed to revel in the warmth that now
surrounded her body.
"Oh, thank you! This is marvelous! I love it!" She
hugged the cloak
to her chest and inhaled the pleasant masculine aromas of oiled leathers
and musky linen. She couldn't resist twirling around several times,
feeling like a young girl in her first gown.
Her graceful revolutions caused the snow to swirl up around her in a
shimmering white cyclone. Obi-Wan watched her, mesmerized.
When she stopped spinning, she tottered dizzily towards him. Her
laughter reminded him of windchimes in a summer's breeze.
Tentatively, he reached out a hand to steady her. She stood gazing
up at him with those midnight sky eyes of hers, snowflakes settling
lightly on her blue-black hair.
The Jedi couldn't help but smile back and gently lifted the hood of
the cloak to place it carefully over her hair.
"You're very welcome," he replied softly, genuinely pleased to have
made her so happy so easily. His hands lingered on the cowl as he
studied her finely chiseled features. She possessed a delicate,
exotic beauty that Obi-Wan found irresistibly attractive. He
suddenly felt Saloma's hands delicately cover his. She squeezed
"Thank you...again," Saloma told him. She locked her eyes on
him as she reached up and casually brushed a stray lock of wet
hair away from his eyes with her fingers. "Obi-Wan?" she
whispered. Her full lips were parted slightly, invitingly.
Obi-Wan's heart began to pound inside his chest. He tried
desperately not to let his better judgement be swayed by this
woman whose mere presence kept him prisoner in this dark,
cold tower. But when he looked into her eyes, all rational
thought processes seemed to screech to a halt. He stared back
at her, entirely entranced. She was standing so close to him.
Her mouth seemed mere inches from his. Did she want this too?
He bent slowly to kiss her. "...Yes?"
"Obi-Wan," she breathed, suddenly turning her head to the side.
"Please don't be angry with me. I really didn't want this."
The Jedi straightened sharply and took an involuntary step
backwards as if she had struck him. "I'm not angry with you,"
he declared defensively. "Why would you think that?"
Saloma looked down. "I can tell you are angry. But I don't
blame you. This is quite stressful. The uncertainty of it all
makes things difficult."
"....What?" Confused and a little angry with himself, Obi-Wan
thought she was referring to his insolent and premature attempt to
act on their attraction to each other.
Saloma peered up him curiously for a moment before continuing.
She licked her lips apprehensively before continuing. "I was
hoping you would let me share some of your burden. You
shouldn't have to bear the weight of this entirely on your shoulders.
I want you to know you can count on me to help any way I can."
Now the Jedi realized Saloma was referring to the sanctuary.
Closing his eyes, he paused and inhaled a deep lungful of the cold
night air to clear his head. He mentally chastised himself for letting
his thoughts wander from significant matters.
"If it will make things easier for you, I'll meet with the governor
tomorrow. I'll know if he's telling the truth or not," she concluded
with a self-satisfied smile.
Obi-Wan's eyes widened. "Don't be absurd. You can't," the
Jedi Master said as if addressing a stubborn child. He gestured
out into the darkness with a wave of his hand. "Vrone's soldiers
are out there now. Watching and waiting for opportunity to strike.
They'll take you if you leave here. You know that!"
Shrinking back in dismay, Saloma looked up at him with soft,
misty eyes. Obi-Wan couldn't tell if she was on the verge of
tears or if it was just the melting snow. Either way, his temper
quickly deflated to remorse.
"I didn't mean alone!" the councilwoman snapped back in a
quivering voice before he could utter anything resembling an
apology. "Besides, if I was wearing this, they'd never know it
was me." She grasped the top of the hood of the cloak and
pulled it farther down, concealing her face.
Obi-Wan's temper flared up again. He pushed the hood back,
grasped her chin in his hand and forced her to look up at him.
He shook his head. "Listen to me. You are not to step foot
outside this cathedral, is that understood? I don't care if you are
wearing a Wookie suit."
Saloma's eyes flashed as she yanked her chin away from his hand.
"You don't really expect me to stay confined here, do you?
I can't just stay here! I have a city to run. I have constituents to
support. A lot of citizens depend on me. I might as well go off to
the internment camp if I can't be out among my people."
Obi-Wan couldn't believe his ears. "What?! Do you think
and I have nothing better to do than wait this thing out?" Saloma
spun away from him to leave, but he grabbed her arm and turned
her back around to face him. "I will do everything in my power
to resolve this quickly and to a 'satisfactory end,' Councilwoman.
Until I do, I am responsible for your safety and well-being, and
I'm not going to allow you to jeopardize yourself due
to some half-witted work ethic on your part."
"Try dedication, Master Kenobi!" Saloma shot back, jerking her
arm free. "DEDICATION!"
"I don't care what it is," Obi-Wan said through clenched teeth.
"Oh yeah? Well, all I can say to that is: Just try to stop me."
Obi-Wan was stunned by her defiance. She obviously didn't find
him the least bit intimidating. Somewhere along the way, he had
lost her respect for his authority as well. So, how could he stop
her? Even though she was acting like an errant child, he certainly
couldn't take her over his knee.....
Saloma eyed the Jedi warily, then started edging away from him, as
if she was fearing he was plotting something deviant.
"Very well," Obi-Wan said evenly, struggling to regain control of his
wild emotions. "Since you won't listen to reason, you'll have to give
me back my robe."
Shock and disbelief stared back at the Jedi. "No!" Saloma declared,
clinging to the cloak with all her strength. "You gave it to me."
"You are not leaving this cathedral so hand over my robe," Obi-Wan
"Come and get it," the councilwoman challenged. She teasingly
dodged away from the irked Jedi.
Obi-Wan sprung after her and seized the lapels of the cloak, trying
pry them from her grasp. "Stop acting like a child," he growled. "I'm
in no mood for games."
"Let go of me!" She tried to maintain her hold, turning herself
completely around until her back was crushed against Obi-Wan's
chest, his arms encircling her. She struggled harder to get away
from him, elbowing him sharply in the ribs.
The Jedi cursed, caught off guard. He had underestimated her
strength. She seemed so small and dainty before.
"Councilwoman P'tol, if you wish to retain a molecule of my respect
and what little dignity you may have left, you will surrender my
cloak now!" The thrashing woman in his arms suddenly grew
still, but now she was laughing so hard she could barely stand up straight.
Obi-Wan took a long deep breath, fighting the urge to smile, but
the sweet bell-like peals of her laughter were infectious.
"May the Force be with me, what have I gotten myself into?" he
grumbled teasingly at her and then laughed.
"I was beginning to wonder that myself." Saloma inhaled slowly
and wiped at her watering eyes. "Thank you. I really needed that."
Obi-Wan smiled. "I think I did too".
Saloma suddenly frowned. "Look, I promise, I won't leave the
cathedral." She paused and turned her head to face him, her hands
caressing his. "Don't take your cloak back. I'm so pleased you
gave it to me to wear. It's so soft and warm. It comforts me. It
feels like your arms are around me, holding me...telling me everything
will be all right...."
Saloma's words drilled straight through the Jedi's heart. "My
arms ARE around you," he whispered in her ear. Gazing into her
large, gray eyes, Obi-Wan sighed heavily. His breath billowed
forth like an icy cloud in the crisp night air.
Saloma peered up at him. "But you can't hold me all the time,"
said gently and smiled.
"Then...keep the cloak," Obi-Wan told her in a throaty voice.
comforts you so much..." He paused to swallow down a lump forming in
his throat, "How can I refuse?" He tentatively nuzzled her cheek
and gathered her closer to him. She sighed softly with contentment
and settled back into his arms.
Obi-Wan was immediately aware of how good she felt pressed
so tightly against him. Holding her was intoxicating his blood;
slipping him into a blissful, carefree state of mind,
a dangerous state of mind to be in for a Jedi responsible
for someone's life. He closed his eyes and bit down on his lower lip.
Somewhat reluctantly, he lowered his arms and released her.
Saloma whimpered in protest. "What's the matter?"
The snow creaked under his boots as Obi-Wan quickly crossed
the length of the balcony to put some distance between them. He
shivered, feeling uncomfortably cold minus his cloak...and without
Saloma's warm body reclining against him. He tried hard not to
look in her direction even though he could sense her eyes on him.
"Go inside and have Anakin get you something to eat," the Jedi
ordered in a tone that dared contradiction. "I'll be in...soon."
Saloma buried her hands in the sleeves of the cloak, folding her
arms over her chest. She fixed her gaze on him, her mouth drawn
in a quirky line of indecision. "What's wrong with letting yourself
feel now and then?" she whispered.
The Jedi looked up at her, struck by her curious choice of words.
It was as if she knew the battles his mind fought with his heart.
He cleared his throat.
"You're feeling vulnerable right now. It's very understandable,
it's wrong of me to take advantage of your emotions the way they
are." He paused and slowly looked away from her again. "Go,
I'll be right behind you," Obi-Wan said as if he was close to pleading.
She remained where she was but he refused to look at her. He
knew he'd be lost in her eyes again if he did. Finally she turned away
from him, stalked off towards the doorway, and almost crashed into
Anakin as he was hurrying in.
"Obi-Wan, there is someone at the door. A man--asking for the
councilwoman," Anakin quickly explained.
Obi-Wan finally faced Saloma. "Stay up here. Don't come
until we know for sure it is safe," he told her. He brushed stiffly
past her and headed for the stairs with Anakin at his heels.
"You must let me in, I have to see her!" the man behind the door
was saying. "Just tell me if she's all right then."
Obi-Wan's hand moved to his lightsaber as he motioned for
Anakin to open the door. The snow-covered man all but fell into
the entryway. He hurriedly righted himself and looked around
wildly. Anakin shoved him roughly against the doorframe and
patted him down for concealed weapons. He stepped back and
shook his head at Obi-Wan.
"He's not carrying anything," the young Jedi stated.
Obi-Wan closed the door and faced the man. His skin was black
in color, like Saloma's. He appeared to be slightly younger than she,
Tall and athletically built, the man was disheveled but wearing an
expensive coat and spoke with a refined accent.
"Who are you?" Obi-Wan demanded.
"I came to see Saloma. I am her brother, Nare." He paused
catch his breath, searching the wary faces of the Jedi.
"Please. Tell me if she is all right. When I heard, I feared the
worst. They've been taking people away all over the city. I
snuck out of my apartment before they got to my building.
There are others who have gotten away. Those people are
organizing now, ready to fight back. Please, I've been up all
night, searching for my sister. Someone told me she was here...that
she has claimed sanctuary. Is it true?"
"Saloma is well. She is up in the north tower," Obi-Wan
Nare pointed a long finger at Obi-Wan. "You two are the Jedi
who protect her," he surmised.
Obi-Wan bowed slightly. "Yes. I am Jedi Master Obi-Wan
Kenobi. This is my apprentice, Anakin Skywalker."
"I'm very pleased to meet you both. I am also indebted to you
for your assistance."
"Where are Vrone's forces now?" Anakin questioned, bypassing
any further small talk. "Has there been any aggression shown
towards the people who have organized?"
"No. Not yet. It's all very clandestine. Vrone's forces
over the city though. The governor has sent out more troops to
help deal with the resistance while Vrone gathers the dissidents."
Nare looked over at Obi-Wan sadly. "All the other council
members have been taken, even the mayor and his family. The
governor wants total regional control and anyone who still stands
by the Republic, whose vote is on record as being against the
secession, has been labeled an enemy of Aremont. It has been
"They traced the votes? That's illegal in a planetary election,"
Jedi Master declared.
"Only the Republic has such laws now," Nare replied.
Obi-Wan sighed heavily. Ergo seemed to be crumbling all
around them and they were powerless to help. He looked at
Anakin. His padawan wouldn't meet his gaze.
Everyone looked up as Saloma excitedly descended the stairs.
"Sal!" Nare ran towards her, catching her up in his outstretched
arms. They hugged and kissed each other, then both dissolved
in tears of joy as they stumbled towards the inner sanctum to talk.
Obi-Wan turned back to face Anakin. "The Jedi Council is
aware of what is happening here," he began stiffly. "I told Master
Yoda in my last report."
"But you didn't believe me when I told you this would happen,"
Anakin answered. "You kept going on about how peaceful
Aremont was. Why would you turn around and tell Master Yoda
what I said?"
Obi-Wan lowered his eyes briefly. "It's not that I didn't believe
I was trying to keep you focused. A Jedi must learn to limit himself.
It requires a very strong discipline that's difficult, but necessary if we
are to function as an order."
Anakin ground his teeth angrily. "I already know this rhetoric,
Obi-Wan, so don't bother." He brushed past his master and
quickly jabbed the exit code into the door lock, opening the door.
"This has happened because of our failure and I'm not referring
to our presentation as representatives of the Republic," the
padawan seethed, raising the hood of his cloak against the wind
as he stepped outside. "Our presentation was a waste of time,
Obi-Wan. Those citizens were so intimidated, they wouldn't have
voted any other way. I told you that. Now we have proof. The
entire election was nothing but a facade. A way for the governor
to illegally identify anyone who still opposed him."
Obi-Wan swallowed hard. "We had no way of knowing that at
the time. You didn't suspect anything yourself until the vote for
secession passed. Then you were so outraged by the fact that a
system could want out of the Senate, you started accusing everyone
involved of foul play. But there was no evidence to back it up.
We can't act entirely on suspicions, Anakin. To me, it didn't seem
that extraordinary. Systems are turning away from the Republic
more and more these days." He paused and took a long, deep
breath. "The Republic isn't what it used to be."
Anakin shook his head. "The Jedi Knights aren't what they used
be either." He turned and stomped off through the snow towards
the outer gardens.
Obi-Wan swore under his breath. "Where are you going?" he called
anxiously after his padawan, hoping Anakin would sense his concern
and turn around. When Anakin did, his anger had dissipated.
"Don't worry, my friend," Anakin told Obi-Wan in a soft, reassuring
voice. "I'm just going to have a look around. Maybe I can glean
something useful. I'll stay out of sight. I promise."
Obi-Wan nodded slowly and withdrew from the threshold. He closed
the door behind him.
PART TWO ~LIFE LESSONS
Keeping discreetly in the shadows, Anakin went south towards
Ergo's business district. He was expecting chaos in the streets,
but oddly enough, everything was dark and eerily quiet. He could
sense the presence of people nearby, but there wasn't anyone within
eyesight. There wasn't even a transport about.
The young Jedi also had the distinct feeling of being watched, despite
his caution. Using the Force, he tried to connect with whomever
it was tracking him. He had no way of knowing if the presence
was hostile or merely curious.
It occurred to him that it might be droids watching him, or
computerized scanners, or some other form of technology.
There wasn't any aura of emotion in the air. The Force was
charged, but not with any imminent sensations of danger. Anakin
breathed in and analyzed every tremor and disturbance. Still, all
he could feel was a presence.
He mentally weighed the pros and cons of purposefully revealing
himself to draw whatever it was out in the open for a confrontation.
If it was a droid, Anakin was confident he could easily overcome it.
The sense of being watched was growing stronger as if more
eyes or scanners were amassing in the shadows. Anakin's hand
rested lightly on the hilt of his lightsaber. He moved off the street
and into a well-lit empty lot behind one of the businesses. He
situated himself in the middle of the lot and turned around slowly.
In moments, the "eyes" began to materialize out of the shadows.
There were twelve altogether. Armed enforcement droids, most
likely deployed by Captain Vrone to patrol the outskirts of the city.
They approached warily, weapons trained on the young Jedi.
"You are under arrest, Citizen! Stand where you are for processing!"
one of the droids, Anakin couldn't tell which, shouted at him in a thick
Anakin inhaled slowly and tightened his grip on his lightsaber
concealed under his cloak.
"What for?" the Jedi questioned, playing along for the time being.
"Statute seven breach," another mechanical voice informed him.
Anakin shook his head. "And what's that?"
"Curfew," the first droid explained. Anakin discovered it was
the one closest on his right. "You are under arrest. Stand where
you are for processing." As if given an inaudible order, the other
eleven droids quickly surrounded him in a loose circle.
Twelve, Anakin thought. He tried to calculate his chances of
successfully overcoming all of them with minimal personal injury.
Even Obi-Wan, whose wild style with a lightsaber was effortlessly
accurate, would have had difficulty rising above these odds. For the
first time in a long time, Anakin thought he just might be in trouble.
"Don't shoot, I'm unarmed," he fibbed, slowly raising his hands
above his head. Opportunity comes to all in time, he thought.
One of the droids stepped closer but then suddenly fell back,
sparking and smoking in the snow, struck by a white-hot blast of
energy that exploded out of the darkness. Other droids began
dropping while others turned around and began shooting haphazardly
around the lot.
Rapid laser blasts filled the night air. Someone was firing on
enforcement droids. Speaking of opportunity, the Jedi thought
with grateful relief. Anakin drew his lightsaber and dove into
the fracas swinging, taking down three droids with one blow.
Moments later, blasted and dissected bits of droids littered the
vacant lot. The shooting ceased just as suddenly as it had started.
Anakin whirled around once, his blue lightsaber blade illuminating
"I lied! I'm armed!" Anakin called out to his mysterious benefactors.
"Vrone's toy soldiers were just a warm up exercise, so don't try
anything stupid." He took a deep breath and expelled it slowly,
waiting. He realized he didn't sound as thankful as he felt, but
he didn't want to take anymore chances.
"Who are you?" a woman's voice called to him.
Anakin raised an eyebrow. Human at least. But still armed.
Maybe a member of the resistance Nare had spoken of.
"I am Anakin Skywalker. I am a Jedi. Who are you?"
lowered his saber slightly in good faith. The Force was settling
around him. It seemed the danger had passed.
A figure in black stepped momentarily out into the light to reveal
her position. There were others with her. Anakin counted four.
Much better odds. He deactivated his lightsaber and reattached
it to his belt, then walked forward to meet them.
"My name is Teira Rure," the woman introduced herself. "This is
Lex Coln. Jaren Beedna. And this is my son, Mortane."
Anakin nodded respectfully. "Rure? Are you related to the
mayor by chance?"
Teira Rure nodded. "He is my husband. He sacrificed his
so Mortane and I could get away. They took him to Maerske."
She paused and lowered her eyes briefly, struggling to overcome
her grief. "We are now part of an organized resistance force
that intends to take back our government and put an end to this
oppression. The others are meeting in a warehouse just west of
Anakin licked his lips anxiously. "Can you take me to them?
need to speak with whomever is in charge. The more information
I have to take back to my master the better."
Teira's eyes lit up. She and the others exchanged hopeful smiles.
"Have you come to fight with us?" Her excitement grew even
more at the idea. "We knew the Republic wouldn't abandon us
to this despot."
Anakin's heart sunk. "I'm not here, in a sense, to join you....I
only out seeking information. My master and I were the acting
ambassadors during the pre-election platforms. We made a
presentation on behalf of the chancellor."
The four resistance members exchanged confused glances.
Mortane suddenly raised his blaster.
"He's a spy!" he announced. "A real Jedi would help us.
just wants our secrets!"
Anakin held up his hands. "I'm not a spy!" he hurriedly explained.
"I'm telling the truth. The only reason we know anything about
what's going on at all is because your councilwoman claimed
sanctuary at the Jedi Cathedral earlier this evening when Vrone's
forces came to take her away. My master and I have sworn to
safeguard her until we can work something out with the governor,
but for now that is all we are allowed to do."
Anakin searched the expressions of the resistance members for
some sign of comprehension. Instead, they looked skeptical and
disgusted. Anakin tried again. "My master has informed the Jedi
Council back on Coruscant of your plight. In turn, they will see
that the chancellor and the senate are notified." He sighed
despondently. "I'm sure help is on the way."
Mortane turned his head to the side and spat in the snow. "In
meantime, we die! Our city is turned into a prison! Citizens of the
Republic are locked away! And you, a Jedi, have the arrogance
and audacity to turn your back on us in our time of need."
"One Jedi is worth ten resistance fighters," Lex pointed out.
"We are not soldiers. We are common citizens. Business people
and laborers. We do not know how to fight. We are only guessing.
If you and your master agree to fight alongside us, we can easily
defeat Vrone's forces and liberate the camps."
"Other Jedi will come," Anakin stressed. "They will help you.
I'm sorry, but I cannot. I need to be with my master to watch
over the councilwoman." The Force was stirring again. Anakin's
heart pounded inside him and his blood turned cold. Alarms were
going off in his mind but he couldn't pin them down with all the
tangled emotions clouding his thoughts.
"If you are not for us then you must be against us," Teira Rure
announced, raising her blaster rifle and pointing it at Anakin.
"I think Mortane is right. What you're saying doesn't make any
sense. Real Jedi do not refuse to help the people who need them.
I don't know much about your creed, but I do know that much."
Anakin bowed his head. "It didn't make sense to me either until
now," he admitted. "I believe wholeheartedly in what you are
trying to do, but try to understand. My master will talk to the
governor tomorrow about what's been happening since the election.
He will be confronting the very root of your oppression."
"And accomplish what?" Jaren interjected.
"Obi-Wan is a superlative diplomat. He has accomplished more
with a lot less to work with than what he has now. Besides, the
Jedi aren't above making threats," Anakin told him. "And any
threats my master makes can be carried out with a report to the
"I've heard enough," Teira said. All eyes turned to her with
inquisitive expressions. She faced Anakin. "Come with us to the
warehouse. We will share with you what we know." Her
companions stared back at her as if she had lost her mind. She held up
her hand to stifle any further protests.
The Force darkened and moved erratically around Anakin. He
closed his eyes briefly to tune into it more precisely. "We need to
leave this place," the Jedi murmured. "I keep sensing danger but I
can't isolate it." He opened his eyes and looked at Teira. "Thank
you for trusting me."
Teira started off, withdrawing deeper in the shadows. "Can you
show us you trust us in return, young Jedi?"
Anakin felt it was important to assure her he did. "I trust you,"
declared, following her readily into the shadows.
"Then hand over your lightsaber to Mortane," she instructed. "It
will be returned to you after you leave the warehouse."
Anakin stopped in his tracks. "I...cannot surrender my lightsaber
to you. That's the very first lesson a padawan is taught. We keep
our lightsabers with us at all times when outside the Temple."
Mortane's blaster was back up, trained on Anakin's forehead.
"What did I tell you? Why are we wasting anymore time with
Teira placed her hand on the muzzle of the blaster and lowered it
away from Anakin. "Trust is a sacred thing, Mortane. Don't you
Anakin sighed heavily. He felt he had no other choice. "Very
well. When we get to the warehouse, I'll hand it over. But to
Lex. Not Mortane."
"What's the matter?" Mortane grinned. "Don't you TRUST me?"
"I trust you, it's just that I don't like you!" Anakin snapped back.
"Come," Teira urged. "We need to go now." She all but vanished
in the dark, her rag-tag band of freedom fighters trailing after her.
It had finally stopped snowing and the wind had quietly died.
snow had settled in small drifts against the stationary objects in the
cathedral gardens and was piled precariously high on any raised
flat surface, leaving the open spaces on the ground all but bare.
Drifts sloped along the black stone walls beneath the south tower,
giving the spire the illusion of having grown in the night and ice
edged the overhangs with spindly frozen daggers that glistened
like faceted jewels in the moonlight. The landscape's stark, cold
beauty mirrored the city of Ergo. It too seemed dark, misshapen
Saloma couldn't sleep. She stared out at the distant lights which
were randomly scattered throughout the city. It wasn't at all like
the vibrant, luminous metropolis that stared back at her on other
nights. Ergo's colorful cityscape could normally be seen to the
edge of the horizon from any window in her three story townhouse.
How quickly things change, she thought.
Nare had informed her that the governor had issued a curfew.
He ordered the ports, businesses, and schools closed until further
notice. Her fellow councilmembers, the mayor, and some of her
friends had been taken to Maerske with a number of other citizens
she represented. Even with the coming dawn, the city wouldn't
wake to greet the new day.
Lowering the hood of the cloak, Saloma turned away from the
bleak view to go back inside. She looked up and was startled to
see Obi-Wan standing before her. She gasped and placed her
hand over her heart.
"Obi-Wan! Forgive me, I--"
"You must have been in deep thought," the Jedi pointed out.
"I've been standing here for quite sometime."
Saloma massaged her eyes. "Well, why didn't you say
something instead of just standing there?"
Obi-Wan stared blankly at her. You looked so beautiful in the
moonlight, I just wanted to watch you awhile. Obi-Wan decided
keep this thought to himself. "I called your name twice, but you
didn't acknowledge me." He had, but not loud enough for her
to hear him.
"Oh," Saloma sighed. "Then I apologize." She hugged herself
and lowered her head, suddenly feeling uncomfortable.
"Where's Nare?" the Jedi asked.
"Asleep in one of the rooms. He was nearly exhausted. I
think you or Anakin would mind. He plans to leave in the morning."
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, of course we wouldn't mind.
He's welcome to stay as long as he likes."
Saloma frowned. "If I put him in one of your rooms, I'm sorry.
We checked the room and didn't find any personal effects in it."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Obi-Wan peered at her curiously.
"You probably wouldn't. Jedi travel light out of necessity. Don't
worry about which bed you gave your brother. Anakin and I can
sleep anywhere. We appreciate any bed we are given."
Then: "Why do you keep apologizing?"
Saloma looked up sharply. "Because....I'm sorry. That's why."
"Sorry about what?" the Jedi pressed. Another unbidden thought
came to him. Me?
Anxiety creased her forehead as she narrowed her eyes
before replying. "I guess I keep saying it because you haven't
acknowledged it yet. Instead, you treat me like I'm a bad influence
on you or something."
Obi-Wan straightened and placed his hands on his hips. "Then I
the one who needs to apologize to you. It was never my intention
to make you feel that way."
"I know. It's just that you...you think one thing, but you say
Saloma accused. "I noticed it when we first met in the foyer this
afternoon. Why don't you just be honest with people? You try to
present this stoic, disciplined image to others, when inside you are
just as wildly emotional and reckless as Anakin." Her voice quivered
slightly and her large eyes began watering, but she shifted her weight
to one leg in a defiant pose.
"How audacious of you to presume to know what I'm thinking," he
responded coolly, hoping she hadn't noticed him flinch earlier.
Saloma continued to stare up at him, her mouth set in a tight thin line.
"I know," she said simply. "Believe me."
The Jedi opened his mouth to reply, but promptly closed it again,
sensing her sincerity. He knew she wasn't exaggerating just to
make a point. Staring back at her, Obi-Wan suddenly realized
why what she was claiming could be true.
Saloma's exotic features and black-colored skin were
not common among most Ergonians. She looked more like a
Flaro, a native of the southern polar region. Many Flaro women
were known to be gifted with ultra-sensory perceptions. If
Saloma wasn't all Flaro, she was at least half-Flaro. And like
them, she could read minds. She had been reading HIS mind all
along. He cursed inwardly.
"I hope you don't use that kind of language around Anakin. He's
at a very impressionable age," Saloma quipped.
"Thank you, that will be quite sufficient," Obi-Wan murmured.
Using the Force, he immediately quieted his racing mind. He could
feel his face flush deep red with embarrassment. He moistened his
lips with the tip of his tongue, then slowly peered up at her. "Then
you know...everything? The way I feel? All the secrets I keep?"
Saloma reached up to place her hand on his cheek reassuringly.
"No. It's nothing like that. We Flaros 'hear' things,
that's all. It's like unconsciously eavesdropping. I hear snippets
of conversations people have with their minds." She offered him a
small smile. "I heard your expletive because you 'said' it so clearly."
She paused and inched closer to him. "People usually feel violated
when they find out I can read their thoughts, so I don't share this
information too broadly. I don't want people to start avoiding me."
"It is slightly unnerving," Obi-Wan admitted. He took her hand
in his and squeezed it gently, gratefully.
"It shouldn't be any more unnerving than what you Jedi can do to
someone's mind. It all comes down to ethics. And believe me, I try
not to listen in most of the time."
A disquieted expression shadowed the Jedi's features. "Is this
you believe I'm so two-faced?"
Saloma bowed her head. "I don't believe that. But I know
struggle with yourself over everything. You disapprove of a lot of
what your heart tells you, I know that. You won't allow yourself to
just be human. You feel you always have to be the Jedi Master.
You are trying to be so careful around Anakin, you feel you can't show
him who you really are. He would respect you more if you would be
up front with him and treat him like an equal."
Obi-Wan grimaced. "So you've been listening in on my padawan's
thoughts as well as mine?"
"I suppose I am a little over-protective of him. He's a very special
boy and it's just that he becomes so emotional on his own, he
doesn't need any of my emotions to feed off of. His temper is going
to get him in serious trouble one of these days." An unsettling
thought suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan. "Why do you keep insisting
I'm angry with you? That I blame you for what's happened? If you
have been reading my mind, you should realize nothing is farther
from the truth."
Saloma turned away from Obi-Wan and cleared her throat. "Just
before you were going to kiss me," she began quietly, "you were
blaming me for keeping you 'prisoner' here. You were angry
because you couldn't think straight when I was around you. You
thought of me as a problem of yours that needed solving. Do you
remember thinking those things?"
Obi-Wan shook his head. "Vaguely...but that wasn't how I felt."
"Well, I read minds, not hearts," Saloma replied defensively.
you heard someone saying things like that about you, how would
you interpret it?"
"I suppose the same way. But let me explain." Obi-Wan placed
a hand on her shoulder and gently turned her around to face him.
"It's certainly no secret now how attractive I find you. I guess it
never really was," he began, the hint of a smile playing on his lips.
"In fact, when you are close to me, I find you so enchanting, I
can't keep my mind on anything beyond the way the moonlight
reflects in your eyes or how clearly I can see a snowflake's pattern
against the blackness of your hair. So actually I'm captivated by
you, not 'your prisoner'." He reached up and cupped her chin in
his hand. "Is that why you turned away from me before I could
Saloma lowered her eyes. "Actually, I kept catching an occasional
thought appreciating my physical looks, but I didn't know you were
about to kiss me until you began thinking about it afterwards.
When you asked if I wanted it too, I thought you were thinking
about the sanctuary." She sighed despondently and slowly raised
her eyes to meet his. "Did I miss my golden opportunity? Are
you going to insist on being the staid Jedi Master pulling all the
strings, bearing all the responsibility, or are you going to be a real
person and acknowledge the undeniable feelings we have between
Obi-Wan smiled. //I choose to be real// he thought purposefully.
He knew she heard him when she grinned and placed her arms
around his neck. He bent towards her, sliding his hands around
her back and pulling her up against him. Saloma leaned her head
back and parted her lips. Sighing with anticipation, Obi-Wan
closed his eyes.
The comlink in his tunic pocket suddenly began bleating, insisting
on attention. Groaning in protest, Obi-Wan pulled back to answer it.
"It's Anakin," Obi-Wan informed Saloma. "His timing is always
Saloma smiled understandingly. "Where did he run off to?" she
asked. "I guess I didn't notice he was gone."
"He left because he was upset. He told me he was just going to
have a look around, but he's been gone most of the night,"
Obi-Wan told her, fishing the comlink out of his pocket.
"Maybe he's found himself a pretty Ergonian girl to take his mind
off his troubles," Saloma said trying to reassure him. "He's
probably calling to tell you not to wait up for him."
"Unfortunately, I doubt that," Obi-Wan said and smiled. "Anakin's
heart belongs to another." He quickly turned on the comlink and
spoke into it, trying to keep his voice even. "Anakin, where are you?"
"Obi-Wan! I think it might be a warehouse. They're holding
I drank some tea and it was laced with something...I don't know
what, but now my reflexes are all but non-existent. There's no
windows that I can see. It's dark. And there's a guard at the door.
I...I don't have my lightsaber anymore. I gave it to, oh I can't
remember his name. The one guy gave it to Teira's son. I don't
like him. I know I really screwed up. But I--"
Suddenly the transmission broke off. Obi-Wan stared at the
comlink in shock. Saloma looked up at him, horrified.
"Vrone must have him," she guessed. "He's probably close to the
governor's mansion. He said he thought it was a warehouse, so
at least we know he's not in prison."
Obi-Wan thrust the comlink inside his tunic. He turned on his
heel and hurried off the balcony. Saloma was beside him as he
loped down the stairs and strode purposefully to the north side
of the cathedral.
"Do you know of any warehouses in that area?" he questioned
Saloma, glancing back at her as she jogged to keep up with him.
"Would Nare know?"
"There's four I can think of that are within a five kilo radius.
There's also the warehouses on the industrial side of the port,
but they are much farther away."
Having reached the north tower, Obi-Wan swept into one of
the guest rooms and retrieved a backpack that had been tossed
in one of the corners. He opened it and pulled out various items,
then began stuffing the items into pouches on his utility belt.
"What's that for?" Saloma asked.
"To counter the effect of the drug he's been given," the Jedi
informed. He finished and tossed the pack back in the corner.
"Which room is Nare in?"
"The next one down."
Obi-Wan nodded and hurried over to it. He rapped loudly on
the door and entered without waiting for Nare to answer him.
The young man sat up groggily. "Sal? What is it? What's wrong?"
Saloma rushed to his side. "They've got the young Jedi," she
began. "We've just received word. They're keeping him in a
Nare sprung up out of bed, instantly awake. "Do you know
"I was hoping you might," Obi-Wan interjected. "Anakin said
there wasn't any window. It was dark. He's being kept in a
separate room from the sound of it. An inner office maybe?"
Nare shook his head. "I don't know. I would try the warehouses
down by the port though. They are older. Some of them don't
have windows. But there's so many in Ergo. How will you get
inside them all to look for him?"
Obi-Wan placed his hand on Nare's shoulder. "Don't worry
about that. If I'm anywhere near him, I'll be able to sense his
presence. I can locate him that way. But there is a time element.
I'd like to have him back before dawn. I have a feeling if I'm
away too long, Vrone's forces will discover it and storm the
cathedral." He paused and licked his lips anxiously. "I need you to
look after your sister for me while I'm gone. If Vrone does decide
to breach the sanctuary, you need to get her out of here fast."
Obi-Wan noticed Nare eagerly nodded his head while Saloma
shook hers. He sighed heavily. "Saloma you would have to go.
Neither myself nor Anakin will be here to defend you if Vrone
comes to get you."
"No. I'm going with you," she announced. "I can help you."
Now Obi-Wan was shaking his head. "I don't need your help.
Thank you anyway."
Saloma put her hands on her hips. "Oh, you know this city that
well, do you? I thought you just said time was important. I can
take you directly to all the warehouses until you find him."
Nare faced Obi-Wan. "I can show you the warehouses. Sal
can stay here."
The Jedi Master closed his eyes briefly. "No. It would be
dangerous to leave Saloma alone here." He knew what she offered
made perfect sense, but he was still put off by the idea of taking her
out of the cathedral.
"It'll be all right," Saloma assured him. She looked over at her
brother. "Here, give me your coat and your boots," she said,
reluctantly pulling off Obi-Wan's cloak and handing it over to him.
"If anyone sees me, they'll think I'm a man."
"That's a good plan," Nare agreed. He helped his sister into his
coat and handed her his boots.
"Very well, but stay close to me," the Jedi told Saloma. He
slipped into his cloak and was comforted by its heavy, familiar
warmth. He raised the hood and caught a faint whiff of spicy
perfume; Saloma's perfume. He smiled. It made him feel like
her arms were around him, telling him everything would be okay.
Anakin cursed and spat blood on the floor after having his lower
lip split open by the butt of Mortane's blaster. His head reeling
from the blow, he straightened slowly, glaring at the young resistance
fighter who wasn't much older than he was. Mortane held up the
comlink Anakin had been using, then flung it out the door. Teira
entered the room, wondering about the sudden commotion.
Anakin pointed at her son. "Keep him away from me," he said
in a low, menacing tone.
Teira looked over at Mortane. "What's going on here?"
"He was calling the other Jedi," Mortane began. "I heard him through
the door and found him using that device." He gestured out where
he had thrown the comlink.
"What can you possibly hope to gain by holding me against my
will?" Anakin questioned Teira. "You are only making enemies
of your allies."
Teira looked up at Anakin, but addressed Mortane. "It's good
that he called him. That's exactly what we wanted. Now the other
Jedi knows we are holding him. In turn, he'll call for reinforcements.
This is what we want. To make the Republic and the Jedi Knights
aware of our cause." She glanced at her son. "Do not strike him
again. We are not Vrone's brutes."
"No, Mother. He has betrayed us. He has called his friend
confront us." He glowered at Anakin. "We will have to kill this Jedi
or be killed ourselves."
Teira refused to be alarmed. "He would be foolish to seek us out
alone. There are many of us and only one of him."
Anakin sighed heavily. "Don't you realize that by holding me,
are putting the life of the councilwoman in danger? Obi-Wan will
have to leave her alone in the cathedral without protection. I am his
first responsibility and he will not hesitate to try to find me. Foolish or
not, Obi-Wan is coming here, and I wouldn't be too consoled by the
fact that he is one man."
Mortane adjusted the setting on his blaster and aimed it at Anakin.
"You will sleep now," he announced and fired. Anakin staggered
back a step, then slowly sunk to the floor.
Following her son, Teira backed out of the room and closed the door
behind her. "Lock it up and let's go. We need to regroup with the
others. The Jedi has served his purpose. We don't need him anymore.
I'll go inform Lex and Jaren." She turned and hurried off.
Mortane watched her disappear into the shadows. He locked the
door seal and smiled smugly. "Be one with the Force, my friend,"
he said sarcastically as he withdrew Anakin's lightsaber from his
coat and activated it. He touched the blade to a tarpaulin
covering a shipment of new generators being stored just outside
The lightsaber easily cut through the fire-resistant tarp and connected
with the generators. Mortane drove the blade down into the powercell,
holding it there until it ignited. The generator sparked and a small
column of smoke climbed steadily to the high ceiling, engulfing the
buildings smoke sensors. Mortane smiled. He had disconnected
the extinguishers earlier.
Mortane began cutting away at the tarp to let the fire grow, then
backed away as the flames surfaced. He deactivated the lightsaber
and threw it off to the side with a grunting laugh. He knew Anakin
had not told his master he was being held by the resistance. The Jedi
Master would naturally assume it was 'Vrone's brutes' who had
executed his padawan. This would assure that the Jedi Knights
would unite with the resistance against Governor Spiget. He tried
to summon some sympathy for the young Jedi, but then thought by
making a martyr out of him, Anakin would most likely forever be
revered by his kind.
Obi-Wan quelled the desperation that was beginning to grow
inside him. He tried to keep his emotions reined in so he could
think clearly and let the Force guide him. He and Saloma had
been to three warehouses and still no sign of Anakin.
Saloma led the Jedi behind buildings and down alleys, keeping
them well-concealed in shadows and far from any main
The governor's mansion was just to the east and police headquarters
were southwest of the fourth warehouse, but it too proved to be
deserted. Obi-Wan concentrated hard, but could not sense
Anakin's presence. He sighed forcefully in frustration and faced
"How far are the other warehouses?" he asked.
She frowned. "They are on the outskirts. Close to the ports."
She looked around. The shadows were fading. The sun would
be rising soon. It would be harder to cross the city on foot without
being noticed. "We need transportation." Without waiting for a
response from Obi-Wan, Saloma started towards police
headquarters and didn't stop until they came to the parking
lot for the police's squad speeders.
Obi-Wan eyed her warily. "I don't think this is such a good
idea," he whispered, looking around. He could feel the Force
moving and centered his mind on the activity inside the headquarters
Saloma studied the durasteel plated fence surrounding the lot.
your lightsaber cut through this? I don't believe it's electrified." She
tapped it gingerly with her forefinger. "No, it's not."
"Pleeease," the Jedi exhaled. His heart was pounding inside his
"Don't do that again," he growled. "Just let me deal with the logistics.
Your job is to act as a guide. Nothing more."
Saloma fought a smile. "Yes Master," she whispered and stretched
up on her toes to plant a kiss on his cheek.
"And don't distract me," Obi-Wan grinned. He activated his
lightsaber and slashed easily through the fence, cutting out a piece
large enough to fit one of the speeders through. He paused
momentarily, looking around, then frowned. "This is way too
easy," he murmured.
No sooner had he said that, when the Force crackled with warning.
He looked at Saloma, his eyes widening. Soldiers began scrambling
out of the building, racing towards them. The fence must have
been connected to a silent alarm. Obi-Wan swiftly seized Saloma's
hand and pulled her towards the nearest squad speeder.
"Can you operate one of these?" he yelled, nearly throwing her in
the driver's seat. Obi-Wan jumped on the top of the vehicle,
activating his lightsaber.
Saloma hurriedly studied the controls. "I...I think so.
quite the same as my luxury coupe, but I believe I can figure it out."
The soldiers began firing at them, shouting out orders to surrender,
and declaring the two thieves under arrest. Obi-Wan deflected
each blast with confident efficiency. He let the Force flow
through him making his lightsaber a mere extension of his arm.
A slight tremor in the Force's energy alerted him to the presence
of a new danger. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied three
soldiers setting up an ionic launcher.
"Saloma, I don't mean to put pressure on you," the Jedi hollered
above the crash and crackle of his lightsaber. "But speed is
Saloma fumbled with the controls, searching desperately for the
activator switch. Nothing was labeled and the panel wasn't set up
like anything she'd ever seen before.
"I'm aware of that," she yelled back. "But this government issue
exactly user friendly!" Her hand bumped a lever accidentally and
suddenly, the speeder surged to life. "Aha! Hang on! I think
I've got it now!"
The ionic launcher fired just as the speeder lurched forward.
Obi-Wan caught the powerful bolt of energy with the base of his
lightsaber blade, but the movement of the speeder and the
impacting force of the ionic blast knocked him down. He tumbled
off the top of the speeder, somersaulted, and landed deftly back
on his feet, but by that time, the squad speeder was already out
of the lot, it's engines screeching in protest. Some of the soldiers
turned and shot after it.
The Jedi tried to keep his mind on the shots being fired towards
him, but it was proving difficult, knowing Saloma was no longer
under his protection. He knew, without a doubt, she would turn
back for him, and would be putting herself at even greater risk.
//I'm going to distract them// he thought, hoping Saloma could 'hear'
him. //When they stop firing, bring the squad around to the front
of the building. I'll catch up with you there.//
The sound of the speeder's engines were fading, telling him that
Saloma was taking it out to a safe distance. He sighed with relief.
"Stop shooting!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "I surrender!"
Instantly the firing stopped. Obi-Wan lowered and deactivated
his lightsaber. He tossed it on the ground, off to the side and
slowly raised his hands. The soldiers swarmed around him and
took hold of his arms to lead him inside the jail.
"You are under arrest!" the commanding officer relayed angrily.
"Captain! Captain, we've got him!"
Obi-Wan's heart skipped a beat. In all the commotion, he hadn't
noticed Vrone standing just beyond the fence, behind his troops.
The captain strolled forward with a cruel smirk on his face.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, haven't you caused enough trouble already?
What are you doing outside the cathedral? Has your ladyfriend
stepped out on you?" Vrone laughed hollowly at his own joke.
"And what are you doing stealing a squad speeder?"
The Jedi sighed heavily and lowered his eyes, refusing to talk.
In the ensuing silence, he heard the sound of the speeder's
engines again. Saloma was coming back. He had to be ready.
"I'm talking to you!" Vrone snapped. "And you better start
talking as well. I have no qualms about letting you rot in prison,
Jedi. To me, you are nothing but a common criminal and an
enemy of the state." He started walking slowly back and forth
in front of Obi-Wan, then stopped suddenly. "Where is the
woman?" He cocked his head abruptly, listening. He also heard
the sound of the approaching speeder. He looked around, then
turned his attention back on Obi-Wan. "Where's the other Jedi?"
The Force abruptly shifted around Obi-Wan, filling him with a
darkening feeling of dread. The darkness encircled his heart
and bore into the center of his mind. Split second images of
Anakin flashed before his eyes. It could only mean one thing.
Anakin was suddenly very much in danger. Obi-Wan looked
up at Captain Vrone and leaned towards him.
"I've come for my padawan, Vrone," Obi-Wan said. His fiery
blue eyes sparkled with cold menace. "Release him and I give
you my word, you and your soldiers shall not come to any harm."
Vrone frowned. "I don't have your padawan, Jedi. Even if
did, do you think you are in any position to be bartering for his
life? If I were you, I would be more concerned right now about
my own well-being." He motioned for his soldiers to take
Obi-Wan went along with them willingly for the time being.
The speeder was in sight now, racing down the street in front
of police headquarters. Obi-Wan began to struggle slightly,
keeping the soldiers occupied with trying to hold onto him.
It was then he noticed Vrone had taken a blaster rifle from the
soldier closest to him and was aiming it at the approaching speeder.
Obi-Wan struggled in earnest now. He had to free his right hand.
//Keep going// he told Saloma in his mind. //Don't stop for anything.//
Summoning the power of the Force, the Jedi pulled his arm free
of the soldiers' grasps and gestured sharply, sending them flying
backwards. He called his lightsaber to his hand and as soon as
the hilt touched his palm, he activated it and brought it in a wide
arc down in front of Vrone. Vrone released a blood-curdling
scream as the blaster rifle, with his arms still attached to it,
crashed to the ground. The soldiers began shooting haphazardly
in the chaos, but the Jedi swatted each blast aside with barely
contained contempt. The speeder came roaring by. With lightening
speed, Obi-Wan jumped up, flipped, and landed neatly on the
speeder's narrow roof. He quickly lowered himself into the seat
beside Saloma. The soldiers fired nonstop, but in moments the
squad speeder was well out of their range.
Anakin woke to the thick acrid taste of smoke in his mouth.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. The door was actually glowing,
giving the dark room an eery yellow cast. Squinting, Anakin
tried to focus his blurry vision and was startled to see wispy clouds
of black smoke curling up from underneath the door. Maybe he
was hallucinating now. Looking around wildly, he painfully
pulled himself up into a sitting position and struggled to his feet.
His reflexes remained unresponsive and his mind was muddled
with too many different memories. It took him a few moments
to sort them out and remember where he was and how he had
gotten there. Carefully, he staggered over to the door and placed
his palms against it. The metal was seeringly hot. Anakin jerked
his hands away with a curse.
A fire. Just when he thought his situation couldn't get much
worse, now the building was on fire. Anakin backed away
fearfully. There was no way out. He was trapped.
The smoke began scalding his lungs. He coughed hoarsely and
tottered to the wall opposite the burning door. He flattened
himself against it and slid to the floor, trying to call on the Force,
but it still eluded him. He knew his mind wasn't functioning
properly due to the drugs he had been given. This was the
very bottom of it all, Anakin thought. He had no lightsaber,
no comlink, no Force, and no master.
Anakin struggled to remain calm. Panicking never helped in
"Obi-Wan...Master. If you can hear me, please hear me...," Anakin
whispered. The smoke in the room choked his voice and he
coughed violently. He started thinking about how much he
wanted to report to Obi-Wan all the valuable lessons he had
learned from his experiences among the resistance fighters.
His master would be so impressed. Maybe he'd be so
impressed, he'd someday find it in his heart to forgive him.
Anakin's eyes began to sting with irritation and a large tear rolled
down his cheek. Gathering his cloak around him, he curled his
large body into a tight ball and closed his eyes. There was
nothing left to do but wait.
Once Saloma had gotten used to the way the squad speeder
handled, she proved to be an extraordinary driver. She maintained
top speed the entire way to Ergo's ports, deftly maneuvering past
any obstacles they happened upon, and precisely executing last
minute hairpin turns. The Jedi beside her found himself more
than once grasping the sides of the speeder to keep from being
thrown out. He glared over at her and sighed heavily.
"This is like flying with Anakin--only slightly more harrowing,"
Obi-Wan complained. "Where did you learn how to drive?"
Saloma spared a glance in his direction. "Oh I never learned how
to drive. I have a chauffeur." She smiled as the Jedi's eyes
widened in shock. "I'm a fast learner however." She pat the dash
affectionately. "And this thing handles like a dream."
Obi-Wan folded his arms over his chest and hunkered down in the
seat. "How much farther?" he questioned, closing his eyes.
"I'm going to take you to the one on Kogget Street first," Saloma
replied. "It's one of the older ones, like Nare said."
Obi-Wan nodded and tried to calm his raw nerves. He replayed
Anakin's brief contact with him over and over in his mind for any
clues at all that would help narrow down their search. Saloma
said there were fifteen storage warehouses scattered around the
port and two to the far north. Despite the fact that Saloma knew
where they were and was driving like a pod-racer pilot to get to
them, it was still taking too long. The sense of danger Obi-Wan
felt earlier was expanding and making him more anxious. Why
would Vrone have Anakin brought so far away from the jail?
Why didn't he just keep him at the jail? Why keep him in a
warehouse at all?
Saloma glanced at Obi-Wan and licked her lips apprehensively.
"Vrone was telling the truth, Obi-Wan. He doesn't have Anakin."
Obi-Wan's eyes flew open. "You 'heard' him?" He angled himself
to face her better.
Saloma nodded. "Yes. And Anakin thought he might be in a
warehouse. We don't know for sure if he is or not, we're just
Obi-Wan lowered his head into his hands and covered his face.
He sighed heavily. "I thought of that. I keep trying to analyze
his message, but nothing else makes sense." The Jedi Master
peered through his fingers and shook his head. "I fear he's in
serious danger, Saloma. If I don't find him soon, I may not find
him at all."
"Well, what else did he say? Something about drugged tea and
his lightsaber?" Saloma urged. "What was that all about?"
Obi-Wan frowned. "He drank tea. At one time, he must have
felt welcomed enough by whoever has him to have shared tea
with them. Then he gave one man his lightsaber, but he gave it to
his son--no, a woman's son. Tawna, Tara?"
"Teira?! Teira Rure?" Saloma exclaimed, nearly crashing the side
of the speeder into a building. "Super nova, that's the mayor's wife!"
Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "But why would she be holding
Anakin against his will? Besides, Nare said the mayor and his
family were taken to Maerske."
"They must be part of the resistance movement...they must have
found him and taken him to their hideout," Saloma hypothesized.
She slammed on the speeder's brakes and whipped it around a
corner at the last minute. Obi-Wan glared at her again, but
Saloma reached over and patted his thigh reassuringly. "The
mayor's wife owns a business which employs a warehouse in the
docking district to store and ship it's goods."
For the first time, a glint of hope shined in the Jedi's eyes.
The smoke blackened the early morning sky above the
warehouse, blocking out the sunrise. It could be seen for
quite a distance.
"He's here!" Obi-Wan announced. "I can feel him." He leapt
from the speeder before Saloma could stop it and raced towards
the warehouse. "ANAKIN!"
The squad speeder skidded to a stop on the opposite side of the
street. Saloma jumped out, surveying the burning building with
an incredulous and mortified expression. Flames had consumed
one side of the roof and thick smoke billowed from every crack
in the main entry. Alarms clanged loudly in time to her thundering
Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber, activated it and stabbed it fiercely
into the door's seal. It slid slowly open, its mechanisms charred
and misfiring. He was immediately engulfed in smoke and intense
heat, but pushed the torn metal aside and ducked through the
Saloma coughed from the fumes and moved back over to the
speeder. She closed her eyes and listened, hoping with all her
heart she could hear something, anything from the young man
To her surprise, Anakin was alive and doing as well as could be
expected, considering the circumstances. He was biding his time
with thoughts of his mother and a beautiful girl queen. He kept
telling them how much he loved them and begging to be allowed
to see them once more. He rolled these tender thoughts around
in his mind over and over again, refusing to lend any of his thoughts
to the fire, his fear, and the very real possibility of his impending death.
Saloma's eyes watered. "Please find him, please find him," she
chanted. "Let him see them again."
Anakin's lifeforce was a beacon to Obi-Wan. He fought his way
through the flames and the black smoke, letting the Force guide
him to a tiny inner office entirely surrounded by fire.
The gleam of a bright silver cylinder on the floor to his left, caught
Obi-Wan's attention. It was Anakin's lightsaber, charred and
dingy in spots, but still readily recognizable. Obi-Wan called it
to his hand and latched it to his utility belt.
"Anakin? Anakin!" Obi-Wan knew his padawan was inside.
There was no answer to be heard above the roar of the flames
however, and the heat inside the building was becoming unbearable.
Obi-Wan coughed harshly and blinked several times to clear his
vision in all the smoke.
Concentrating to focus the Force's energy on the door, the Jedi
Master stretched out his hands. Slowly the flames in front of the
door began to recede, flowing away from the walls like water
running down an incline.
Once the way was clear, Obi-Wan smashed his lightsaber into
the door and disintegrated it. He stepped inside and called to Anakin.
Anakin in turn shot to his feet. "Obi-Wan!" He stumbled
to him and threw his arms around him in a mighty embrace.
"Hurry, Padawan, we don't have much time," Obi-Wan informed,
prying the young man's arms from around his neck. He produced
a small vile of green liquid and gave it to Anakin. "Drink this. It
will clear your head."
Anakin downed the contents in one gulp, then made a face at the
Obi-Wan grinned. "This way." He took his hand and pulled
through the smoky door.
Saloma was crying in grateful relief by the time the two Jedi
reached her. She hugged them together, then each in turn.
"I knew you had found him!" she told Obi-Wan, stepping back
and wiping her eyes. "The Force is with you, young Anakin."
Obi-Wan faced Anakin, placed his hands on the sides of his
padawan's neck, and gave him an affectionate squeeze. "Are
you all right?" he questioned him earnestly. He noticed Anakin's
bruised face and split lower lip and began searching him over for
"Nothing a little fresh air won't fix," Anakin replied with a crooked
smile. He noticed Obi-Wan's skeptical expression. "Obi-Wan,
I'm fine now. Really."
Obi-Wan sighed and stepped back. "Very well. Then let's
back to the cathedral. We have a lot to discuss, you and I."
Anakin lowered his eyes. "Yes Master," he murmured.
Saloma jumped behind the driver's seat again and waved the
Jedi in. "Climb in, I'll get us there in a millaparsec. I know a
short cut we can use."
Anakin's eyes lit up as he spied the squad speeder. "Wizard!
Where did you get hold of this beauty?"
"It's a long story I'd rather not recall at the moment," Obi-Wan
grumbled, settling himself into the front passenger seat. "Maybe
when we get back to the cathedral, I'll--" He suddenly noticed
Anakin was no longer paying any attention to him. The padawan
stared off to the east in an unseeing gaze with an umistakable
expression of unease. Obi-Wan sat forward, following the
direction of his gaze. The Force was moving again. Something
else was moving as well.
A platoon of enforcement droids was swarming towards the
warehouse on patrol swoops.
"There Master!" Anakin exclaimed, pointing.
Obi-Wan knitted his brow in vexation. The droids were coming
from all directions now.
"Get us out of here," he murmured to Saloma, his eyes locked
on the descending droids.
Saloma looked up from the speeder's controls as the engines
roared to life. There was something ominous sounding about
"What is it?" she asked, then gulped down any further inquiries
at the sight of the flying red droids. "Oh fahg." She focused her
attention back on the squad's panel and took a deep breath.
"Hang on...and lean your head back."
"What? Why?" Anakin asked, unsure if he'd heard her correctly.
"Don't argue with me Padawan! Just do it! Lean your head
"Saloma, darling, step on it," Obi-Wan urged.
Saloma depressed the accelerator. The speeder shot forward
like a rocket. Anakin whooped with delight.
The droids separated. Half continued onto the warehouse,
while the other half peeled off in pursuit of the squad speeder.
In minutes they had gained on the squad and began firing upon it.
A few blasts ricocheted off the chassis. Saloma tried to keep
her attention on driving, but it was becoming more and more
difficult. The droids had the advantage of being able to get
above them. The squad wasn't made for ascension, just
maneuverability and speed.
Obi-Wan twisted in his seat and handed Anakin's lightsaber to
him. The padawan accepted it with a surprised smile.
"You take the back. I'll get the sides," the Jedi Master told
then turned to Saloma. "Try to keep it steady. We'll be right back."
"What? Oh no, please don't do this to me. Obi-Wan!"
spared a glance up at Obi-Wan just in time to see him climbing
out of the speeder onto the squad's narrow top. Without hesitation,
The Jedi positioned themselves back to back, deflecting away the
droid's blaster fire with graceful efficiency. However, their rapid
movements rocked the speeder, throwing its stabilizer off a few
times. Saloma grasped the steering with both hands in a
white-knuckled grip and raced on, her heart nearly stopping
each time the squad dipped and rose.
Out of the corner of her eye, Saloma caught a brief glimpse of a
landmark she recognized that heralded the turnoff to the cathedral.
She hoped with all her might that Jedi reflexes were all they were
cracked up to be, because there was no way to warn them of the
approaching turn and decelarating now would be more dangerous.
Holding her breath, she threw her weight against the steering
mechanism and turned at breakneck speed down an alley on
her right, off the main thoroughfare they had been on.
With immense relief, Saloma heard the mental cursing and
accusations of insanity from the two men on top of the speeder
and smiled. She'd startled them, but they were still with her.
That was the important thing.
Most of the droids had not been so fortunate. Some hadn't
anticipated the turnoff and had continued racing down the main
road. Others had tried to follow the speeder and crashed into
each other or into the corners of the buildings on either side.
Now, there were only two droids left in pursuit and as soon as
they resumed their attack, the Jedi were able to dispose of them
Saloma heard the familiar ripping sound of the lightsabers being
deactivated and glanced up. Anakin climbed back into the squad
first. He looked more than a little haggard but his face was
flushed with excitement.
"The Force is definitely with you, Anakin Skywalker," Saloma
breathed in grateful relief.
"What a rush!" he exclaimed. "That was super nova!" He gave
her shoulder a hearty congratulatory pat.
Obi-Wan pulled himself in finally and settled down in his seat
with a heavy sigh. "I'm glad that's finished," he announced
unnecessarily. He looked back at Anakin and nodded.
"Well done, Padawan." Anakin inclined his head in thanks.
"I'd say the Force was with you as well, Councilwoman," he
continued, fixing his eyes on Saloma.
"I'll settle for a certain Jedi," Saloma quipped, reaching over and
placing her hand on Obi-Wan's thigh. She squeezed it and
glanced up at him. "Promise me you'll stay BESIDE me for
the rest of this ride."
Obi-Wan smiled. He took her hand in his and laced his fingers
through hers. "I'd like nothing better," he replied.
PART THREE ~COUP DE GRACE
The cathedral loomed in the horizon like the silhouette of a
skyline. Its twin black towers stretched up to the morning
sky, blocking the sun's rays. Beautiful and foreboding, the
enormous cathedral was a very welcome sight for the two
weary Jedi and their charge.
As the speeder pulled up to its massive doors, Anakin leapt out
and looked around warily. He reached down and offered
Saloma his hand to assist her up, keeping his senses tuned to
the slightest tremor in the Force.
Obi-Wan joined his padawan at Saloma's side as soon as she
climbed out of the speeder. He and Anakin flanked her, their
hands resting uneasily on the hilts of their lightsabers. Quickly
ushering her to the doors, Obi-Wan automatically tapped
the entry code into the lock's security mechanism without looking
at it. He was too preoccupied with surveying the treeline.
"Anakin, this entry code needs to be changed. The sooner the
better," the Jedi Master relayed.
Sparing a glance at the lock, Anakin nodded. "Shouldn't be a
problem. It's a standard trigger entry."
"Are you two always this jumpy?" Saloma teased, struck by
how naturally they assumed their roles as guardians and escorts.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No. Only when I'm cold, exhausted,
and hungry enough to eat a mynock," he said drolly.
"We're just being alert," Anakin explained easily. "We're too
vulnerable outside like this and I personally wouldn't write off those
droids yet. They most likely tracked us, even if they couldn't follow
us." The lock clicked and the huge door slowly slid open.
Anakin took one last look around, then slipped inside.
"Then there are Vrone's forces," Obi-Wan added, urging Saloma
inside. "I wouldn't put it past them to pay us an untimely visit." He
sealed the door behind them and relocked it from the inside.
"Oh, yes, and then there's that, how could I forget," she said with
sigh. "You left some lasting impressions back there. But I have to
admit, after everything we've been through in the last twenty-four
hours, I'm beginning to feel invincible."
Anakin grinned. "I want the whole sordid story," he began, glancing
at Saloma. "But first, I have to get something to eat."
"First, you and I will talk," Obi-Wan countered, facing his padawan
with an icy look. He crossed his arms over his chest and took a
Anakin bowed his head and frowned deeply. "Do we have to do
this now?" He dragged a large hand through his hair, his brow
"Can you at least have the grace to show a little remorse?" Obi-Wan
shifted his hands to his hips. "Are you even the slightest bit aware of
how wrong all this could have gone because of your irresponsible,
impetuous--" The Jedi Master paused, feeling Saloma's hand rest
firmly on his arm.
"Let him go," she whispered. "You're too tired, Obi-Wan.
You'll just make him resentful if you reprimand him here like this.
Let him go eat. You go get some sleep."
The Jedi peered over at her. She was right. He was both
mentally and physically tired and apt to be overly emotional.
He took a deep cleansing breath and nodded slowly.
"Sleep," he repeated as if the word was foreign to him. He nodded
again, warming to the idea. He faced Anakin. "Go, Padawan.
Get something to eat, then I want you to change the lock."
Genuinely surprised, Anakin slowly backed away, then turned
and hurried off before Obi-Wan changed his mind.
Saloma smiled warmly. "Please don't punish him, you'll only
demoralize him if you do," she said, wrapping her arms around
the Jedi and laying her head against his chest. "I've been listening
to him since you found him. He's pretty angry at himself for what
happened. He knows what he did wrong. He also knows you
are disappointed in him and that's been very hard for him to deal
"I still want to talk to him," Obi-Wan said, and felt Saloma tense
up. "Just to find out what really happened out there. We may be
in more danger than we realize." Saloma sighed and relaxed again.
Obi-Wan hugged her tightly. "Mercy is a virtue. Every Jedi, even
Masters of impulsive padawans, must pursue it. So don't worry
about Anakin. He'll be just fine." He leaned back slightly and
looked her over. "You must be quite tired and hungry as well."
"Can I get you anything?"
Saloma thought for a moment. "I would desperately love a cup
of tea, but I'll get it myself. You need to sleep. Anakin's in the
kitchen now and I'm sure he'll help me. I'll be all right. Besides,
I want to see if Nare has left yet. He was planning on leaving this
morning to join up with the resistance, but I am hoping he changed
his mind and decided to stay."
Obi-Wan paused, concentrating. "I don't sense anyone," he informed
her. "He must have left as he had planned. Try not to worry about
him. He made it all the way out here last night. I'm sure he can take
care of himself." He tenderly kissed her forehead and released her.
"I'm sure you're right about him." Saloma sighed, watching Obi-Wan
pull himself up the stairs to the north tower. Then she turned and made
her way to the kitchen.
When she got to the kitchen, Saloma was surprised to see Anakin
sitting at the end of a long table, dismally staring down at the surface
with his head propped up in his hands. He seemed somewhat
embarrassed that Saloma had caught him like that and quickly sat up.
Saloma walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Anakin, why haven't you eaten? What's the matter?" she began softly.
Anakin swallowed down a lump in his throat and shook his head. "Nothing......everything."
Saloma eased herself into the chair beside him. "I thought I'd
some tea and maybe sample some of that soup you told me
about earlier. Or anything, as long as its hot." She paused and
licked her lips. "Would you care to join me?"
Sparing a glance at the doorway, Anakin frowned, then faced
Saloma. "What happened out there?"
Saloma realized he wasn't interested in discussing food. Going
to the kitchen had merely been a means of escape.
"I'm not sure. Maybe he was just feeling merciful."
"Mercy is a virtue," Anakin replied mechanically.
Grinning, Saloma realized that proverb must be
recited frequently among Jedi. She leaned towards Anakin and
lowered her voice. "Look on the bright side, you must have
learned some valuable lessons. The experience you gained has
"True. Everything experienced has some merit. Sometimes
the unpleasant experiences prove to be the most significant."
The young Jedi dropped his eyes and rose from his chair. He
cleared his throat gently. "I'll heat the soup and some water
for tea," he offered, tossing his long padawan braid behind his
shoulder, out of the way.
"Thank you." Saloma gazed up at him sympathetically. She
could clearly decipher his thoughts and knew then just how
frightened he had been trapped and helpless like that.
"Anakin, would you like to talk about it?"
Anakin shrugged. "There's not really much to say," he started.
"Obi-Wan was wrong. I was right. And I wasn't about to sit
around and wait for something to happen. I needed to take a
stand for what I believed in. I needed to play an active part.
I wouldn't trust the wisdom of the one man who loves and cares
for me. Instead, I trusted people who betrayed and used me."
His breathing was becoming forceful and deep. He closed his
eyes tightly and laughed mockingly. "A padawan needs to trust
his master beyond all doubt. I can't seem to bring myself to that
level with anyone."
Saloma caught him switching his thoughts from Obi-Wan to
the girl queen he had thought of back at the warehouse. Her
name was Padme', Saloma discovered.
Anakin was distractedly puttering around the kitchen. He
found bread and placed it on the table, and some millet and
herbs and carefully added them to the soup like a gourmet chef.
"This will only take a minute or so," he announced, stalking over
to the cupboards. Saloma was pleased to see him pull out two
bowls and two cups.
She decided to get Anakin's mind off of its self-deprecating
course and onto something more pleasant. She sniffed softly
at the mouth-watering aroma of steaming soup filling the air.
"Tell me about...Padme'. Am I pronouncing that right?"
Anakin looked startled. "Padme'? How did you know about her?"
"Um, Obi-Wan had mentioned her to me."
Anakin's eyes lit with surprise. "Really. Well, what would
you like to know about her?"
"Anything. Anything at all."
Sighing wistfully, Anakin spooned the soup in the two bowls and
handed one to Saloma. "She's my friend." He sat down and
slowly stirred the soup in his bowl with a piece of bread. "We
met awhile ago. She's the ruler of Naboo, have you heard of it?"
Saloma shook her head and smiled. Her plot had worked.
Anakin was visibly relaxing, readily regaling her with tales of
adventures he and the lovely Padme' shared as children.
Saloma found herself relaxing as well, captivated by Anakin's
They finished eating and talked over several cups of tea until the
approaching midmorning sun blazed through the windows. Anakin
went off to change the door lock after helping Saloma clean the
dishes. After the night they had, their amiable conversation made
for a most enjoyable morning, and Saloma found herself growing
increasingly fond of her two Jedi companions.
Saloma was suddenly struck with realization. Anakin had
spoken of being used by the people he trusted. Was she doing
anything less by claiming this sanctuary with them? Taking
advantage of their code and chivalry to ensure her own well-being?
She now knew both Jedi would willingly die before letting her
come to harm. They thought nothing of risking their lives to
protect her. Saloma knew what she had to do. The only real
way to end this standoff was becoming glaringly obvious.
Nare was gone. According to the message he left her in his
room, he departed just before dawn to seek out and join the
resistance. Saloma had just missed him. She had hoped they
could leave together. The idea of venturing out on her own
was more intimidating.
She still wanted to leave, as quickly and quietly as possible.
She knew if either Jedi discovered her plans, they would try to
stop her. Leaving like that meant she wouldn't be able to say
good-bye and she wouldn't be able to thank them for all they
Her heart thudded uncomfortably inside her at the thought of not
ever seeing Obi-Wan again. She stalked quietly through the halls,
peering into each room. If she could just see him one more time.
If she could leave with the image of him safely sleeping, it would
comfort her and reassure her that she was doing the right thing.
That would be enough.
The last door on the left was slightly ajar. Carefully, so not
wake him, Saloma pushed it aside and looked in.
Obi-Wan was shirtless, face down on the bed. Tendrils of his
long fair hair were draped over his bare shoulders, and his arms
were wrapped loosely around the pillow beneath his head. He
had been too tired to actually get under the blankets and had
chosen instead to stretch out on top of them. The dark room
was very warm and the Jedi had peeled off most of his cold,
damp clothes and spread them over furniture to dry.
Saloma sighed at the sight of him. He looked blissfully peaceful
and she realized she had never seen him remain so still for so long.
She cautiously stepped closer but paused when he stirred and shifted
his position, rolling to the opposite side of the bed. The warm,
recently-vacated space next to him called out to her. Her whole
body ached with fatigue, leaving her mind struggling to rationalize
her waning desire to leave. Saloma longed to climb in and curl
up beside him. Tucked safely within the circle of his arms, she
could sleep the rest of time away.
Summoning every molecule of willpower, Saloma turned slowly
to retreat. If she didn't leave now, she never would.
"I made room for you. Aren't you going to join me?" the Jedi
Master's voice whispered sleepily.
Saloma's eyes filled with unshed tears. She stopped and bowed
her head. "No. I wasn't going to."
Obi-Wan slowly raised himself up on one elbow. "Then why
are you here?"
Saloma reluctantly faced him. "I just wanted to see you, but I
didn't mean to disturb you. I knew you'd be asleep, but...I just
wanted to see you." Her tears spilled from her eyes and slid
slowly down her cheeks. She reached up and quickly wiped
Sitting up, Obi-Wan moved to the edge of the bed. He reached
out his hand to her. "Come here."
Shaking her head, but powerless to turn away, Saloma shuffled
towards him and took his outstretched hand. "I didn't think it
would be this hard," she breathed shakily.
Sitting her beside him, Obi-Wan held her and tenderly stroked
her hair. "You're heart is troubled, but I cannot read your mind.
You need to tell me what is wrong."
Saloma rested her head on his shoulder, burying her face in the
warmth of his neck. "I have to leave, Obi-Wan. I can't stay
here any longer." She paused, trying to summon the right words
to make him understand how she felt. "I feel I'm taking advantage
of the valor I spoke of earlier, which I so admire in Jedi, and which
you and Anakin possess in abundance. I don't want you two to
be responsible for me anymore. And I don't want to be responsible
if anything should happen to either of you."
The Jedi leaned back slightly so he could look at her. His eyes
searched her face, anxiety furrowing his brow. "It's not some
ingrained sense of blind valor that makes me want to keep you
safe, Saloma. You've heard my thoughts. You know what I feel
for you is more complex than that. Don't use my valor as your
"It's the only excuse I'm prepared to deal with at the moment,"
Saloma explained quietly. She placed her palm on his chest,
feeling the steady thud of his pulse and the slow rise and fall of his
breathing. Her fingers traced over the muscles of his abdomen
and up his sides to his neck. His soft white skin was scarred in
places, recording injuries he'd suffered throughout his life as a public
servant--as a Jedi. No, she wouldn't be party to another injury,
another scar. Leaving was the right thing to do.
Obi-Wan took a slow, deep breath. "If you truly want to go,
I won't stop you," he said sadly. Sighing, he gazed in her eyes,
and cradled her face in his hands. "I'm pleased you came to
me--to see me one more time." He continued staring into the
depths of her eyes, searching hopefully, then tentatively lowered
his mouth to hers and softly kissed her.
Feeling as if she were dissolving, Saloma molded herself against
him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, letting the searing
heat of his lips melt away the last of her resolve. She should have
never turned around.
The Jedi's kiss became more passionate, more desperate, and
demanding. His hands caressed her with urgent need, gradually
pushing aside her clothing to expose more of her smooth dark
skin. Carefully, he eased her back until she was lying on the
bed, and covered her with his body. He began seductively
rubbing against her, reveling at the sensation of her body pressed
so tightly to him.
Her blood racing, her heart pounding, Saloma twisted her leg
around his encouragingly, as her hands slid over his back to his
narrow waist, urging him closer. She dragged her mouth down
his neck and gnawed his skin. He gasped and squeezed her
shoulders in a vice-like grip.
"Saloma...you are so beautiful," Obi-Wan breathed into her ear.
"I...." He was going to tell her that he wanted her with every fiber
of his being and that she was driving him mad with desire, but
suddenly stopped himself. He didn't want her believing this was
all an attempt to coerce her to get her to stay. His feelings for
her were real. He wanted her to know that.
//Tell me you want this to happen because you feel as 'real' as
I do// he thought, recalling her earlier description of him.
Trailing her fingers through his silky hair with sensual abandon,
Saloma acknowledged his thoughts with a smoldering gaze and
pulled him back down for a devouring kiss. She folded her legs
around his hips, settling him between them suggestively and
reached for the waistband of his trousers.
It was all the reassurance Obi-Wan needed.
Having eaten, Anakin then spent the good part of an hour changing
the code for the lock on the door. Now he was ready to sleep.
He sat on the edge of his bed and turned on the small newsband
transistor on the nightstand to hear any local news reports.
He was so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open until he heard
the report of the warehouse fire down on pier six. The fire had
nearly consumed the entire building, since its smoke sensors had
been disconnected, and now the fire was under investigation as
arson. What really caught Anakin's attention was the fact the
reporter interviewed a witness (who sounded suspiciously like
Mortane Rure) who saw two Jedi leaving the warehouse in a stolen
squad speeder. The arson investigator declared the fire had been
started by a pierced generator powercell and spread with the use
of an accelerant. The internal military police were now searching for
the two Jedi for questioning.
Anakin turned the transistor off with a heavy sigh. No rest for
wicked, he thought with a wry grin. The reporter didn't mention
them by name, but he certainly didn't have to. They were the only
two Jedi on the entire planet, and they were currently at the old
cathedral, harboring a government fugitive. That could only mean
one thing. Soldiers were on their way.
Anakin went to the room Obi-Wan usually slept in and found the
door closed, but not sealed. He knew Obi-Wan was still sleeping;
the room was quiet and dark. He knocked once and hurried in.
"Master! Master, we've got company coming." It took Anakin's
eyes a second or two to adjust to the lack of light. Obi-Wan stirred
and began untangling his limbs from a second figure lying asleep
beside him. Anakin hadn't noticed Saloma initially. She was on
the far side of the bed and her black skin made her blend into the
shadows. "Oops...um, excuse me," Anakin quickly offered, and
did a fast about face.
"Ssshhh," Obi-Wan scolded softly. He climbed out of the bed and
pulled his clothes on. "Let her sleep." He motioned his padawan out
the door and followed him.
"What do you mean, company?" Obi-Wan questioned, rubbing his
eyes to clear them.
"Soldiers. We're being accused of starting the warehouse fire.
heard it on the news. They said we are being sought for questioning,"
Anakin explained. "It stands to reason they would begin their search
Obi-Wan was wide awake now. He stared up at his padawan and
frowned deeply. "When was this?"
"It was reported just a few minutes before I came to find you."
The Jedi Master turned and strode purposefully up the hall towards
the stairs. Anakin followed. "I don't need to ask you if you changed
the front entry's code, do I?"
"No, you don't," Anakin retorted, arrogantly. "14-26-58-33-16."
Obi-Wan smiled easily. "I want you on the north balcony," he
continued. "Stay alert and let me know the instant you sense
anything amiss. It sounds to me as if they are trying to turn the
tide of the public's perception against us. Without their respect,
the custom of sanctuary loses its credence, and Vrone's forces
will feel permitted to attack us. Our main objective is to keep
them from penetrating the cathedral. Be sure all access to the
northside is sealed, blocked, or otherwise made unobtainable.
I'll do the same on the southside and use that balcony for lookout.
My guess is they'll come from the south, but there's always a
possibility that they'll use stealth and attack from the north."
Anakin nodded once and turned away from his master's side
once they reached the main sanctum.
Knowing the soldiers were coming, and having to wait for their
arrival was the worse part, Obi-Wan decided. Over an hour had
passed and there still was no sign of Vrone's forces. Anakin was
equally confused and impatient. Obi-Wan clearly sensed his
restless prowling on the opposite side of the cathedral.
Obi-Wan was pleasantly surprised when Saloma arrived on the
balcony. He noticed she had donned his cloak again and but
even more obvious was the fact she had entirely changed
her appearance. She had unbraided her hair and removed
all the jeweled beads, and now thick piles of wild curls cascaded
down to her hips. She had washed the makeup off her face and
her eyes now glittered with their own natural beauty. She greeted
him with a smile and Obi-Wan sighed in spite of himself.
"I was wondering where you had gone," she began, her hair
dancing around her shoulders in the wind. "Then I started
hearing your thoughts." She paused and gazed out towards
the city, joining Obi-Wan at the balcony railing. "They're
coming, aren't they?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "I don't understand what's taking them so
long to get here, however."
Saloma shrugged. "Maybe they're gathering troops and
equipment. Plotting strategies."
"I think you're right," the Jedi sighed. "Our own course of
action depends on what they decide to use against us. If they
send an army to this cathedral, we can keep them out for awhile,
but they have the means to gain access, and when they do get in,
we need to get out." He turned and faced her fully. "Anakin and
I cannot fend off an entire army."
"I could still turn myself in," Saloma told him, trying to sound
blase' about it. "But I understand it's not just me they're after
anymore." Feeling a sudden chill, she pulled the cloak tighter
around her. "So, what are we going to do?"
Smiling warmly, Obi-Wan reached up and touched her face,
tracing the outline of her lips with his thumb. His eyes were like
clear pools of calm blue water.
"Don't worry, Councilwoman," he replied. "I didn't mean to
make things sound so hopeless. I just wanted you to be aware
of the facts." He paused and turned his gaze towards Ergo.
"My master often told me to live in the moment--be aware of
what is happening now, and not worry so much about what
may happen in the future." He laughed lightly and shook his head.
"I know, but it makes sense when you think about it."
"If you say so," Saloma said and smiled. She turned to go back
inside. "I'm going down to the resources room. Maybe I can
pick up some information on what the government is planning.
If I hear anything, I'll let you know."
"Saloma, wait...." Obi-Wan bowed his head and gnawed his
lower lip, trying to form the right words in his mind. "I......just
wanted to tell you--"
Saloma leaned into him, slipping her hands around his waist. "I
know. You don't have to say a word," she whispered. "It was
very sweet...wasn't it?"
The Jedi Master slowly raised his eyes to her and flashed a
smile. "Yes." He cradled her face in his hands, tilted her head
back and kissed her lingeringly.
"Mmm, I should go now," Saloma said and sighed, her lips
pleasantly tingling. Gazing deeply into his eyes, she reached up
and touched his brow, pushing back his bangs. She turned
quickly, taking a deep steadying breath, and hurried off the terrace.
The Jedi nodded in acquiescence and watched her duck
back inside the cathedral. Slowly, he focused his attention
back on the vacant-looking city to the south. It was then his
comlink began beeping, startling him slightly. He knew it
couldn't be Anakin, as he had lost his back at the warehouse.
He quickly fished it out of a pouch on his utility belt and answered it.
It was a recorded voice, telling him there was a face-to-face
transmission being sent to him from the Jedi Council.
Obi-Wan tuned the comlink to a secured frequency and locked it,
then produced his handheld holoprojector to receive the image.
It was Yoda.
"Called to tell you, I did, the Council is sending a transport.
To collect you, it will. Evacuate, you will. Reports we have
received. Crimes committed, you have. Sabotage, yes, and
acts of terrorism."
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. "Master, I'll admit, things did get
slightly out of hand, but these accusations...who has brought
such things before the Council?"
"The chancellor, among others," the little image of the Jedi Master
continued, bowing and shaking his head in dismay. "Disappointed,
he is, in your actions out there. Misrepresented him, he believes.
From Spiget himself, he's been told. Met with him you have not.
The low drone of distant engines momentarily pulled Obi-Wan's
attention to the skies above the cathedral, away from Yoda's
transmission. Star fighters, he concluded. An aerial assault.
Vrone was getting serious. The sound from the approaching
fighters' lasers were deafening out on the balcony. Obi-Wan
retreated just inside the doors.
"Master Yoda, I'm going to have to sign off now, but I can
assure you, nothing of that sort has been done by either Anakin
or myself. I did not get to confer with the governor, but I will
give the Council and the chancellor a full report of everything
that's transpired here." He was about to turn off the holoprojector
when the little Master spoke again, pounding his gimer stick on
an unseen surface to convey his displeasure.
"Accused, you are! Concerned with details, at the moment, I
am not," Yoda sputtered. "Believe you, I do, not the point, that is!"
The fighters were directly overhead now. Using twin canon engines,
they released another barrage of blaster fire onto the roof of the
Obi-Wan could feel the Force suddenly surging around
him, moving over and through the stone walls, creating a dense
atmosphere of connection between himself and the varying planes.
It was an odd sensation for the Jedi to experience. It was as if the
structure itself had called upon the Force to protect it.
Obi-Wan clutched the holoprojector in his hand and sprinted
further inside for cover, almost colliding with Anakin in the
"Ground forces and tanks are coming in from the north,"
Anakin reported excitedly. "They're destroying the lake."
"Obi-Wan! Obi-Wan! Listen to me, you will!" Yoda's muffled
voice drifted up from the holoprojector.
"Get down to the main sanctum and find Saloma," Obi-Wan
instructed his padawan, then dodged around a corner and
stopped to answer Yoda. "Master Yoda, the cathedral is
presently under attack, I really need to end this transmission!"
"Sent you a transport, we did," Yoda relayed calmly. "Enter
the eastern hemisphere, it will, in under an hour's time. Be
ready for it, you will. Take you home, it shall." An explosion
above sent a shower of stone fragments raining down on Obi-Wan.
He cursed softly and moved towards the stairs. Galloping down
them, he raced to the opposite side of the cathedral and to the
"Thank the Council for me. Their foresight was right on the mark
this time. I don't think we could have stayed here much longer.
We have no means of defense against this kind of assault. The
only thing we could have hoped for was to discover a way to
escape," Obi-Wan replied. He dashed up the stone steps three
at a time and down the narrow hall which led to the north balcony.
"A Jedi fortress the cathedral is," Yoda continued. "Protect you
will. The Force. Flows from within and the waters beyond. Use
it, Obi-Wan. Feel its power. Yes. Protect you it will."
Obi-Wan paused and studied the little Jedi with awe. It was as
Yoda was aware of the way the Force had moved within the
cathedral earlier. "Of course, Master. The Force will be with me."
Yoda bowed to his pupil and the hologram shimmered out.
Obi-Wan pocketed the holoprojector and quickly made his way
out to the balcony.
Just like Anakin had said, tanks, speeders, and columns of armed
soldiers wearing filtration masks, lined the right bank of Lake
Seasey. There were six patrol droids lined up just behind them
on swoops, hanging in the air to the northeast, blackening the
snow with the exhaust from their engines.
Flame-throwers mounted on symtex tanks were in the process of
torching the forests on the west side of the lake. The lake itself was
undergoing its own assault as toxic putrificants were being poured
into it by enormous utility vehicles. Suffocated from the gaseous
fumes, waterfowl were falling from the sky, aquatic plants were
twisting and turning black, and various fish species helplessly floated
to the top, gasping for air, writhing on the surface of the water in
The destruction of such a beautiful habitat was heartwrenching for
the Jedi to witness. Obi-Wan turned away as Yoda's words
concerning the cathedral echoed in his mind. The soldiers were
having the lake and the surrounding woods destroyed because it
was long believed to be the source of the cathedral's connection to
the Force. It was what gave the area its unique sensitivity.
Sickened, Obi-Wan left the balcony and headed down the hall to
the stairs. The soldiers weren't taking any chances and were
attacking the Jedi's power at the source. By doing so, the governor
was making sure no Jedi would ever want to step foot on his world
Saloma looked up from the report she had been reading at the
sound of a muffled crash above her. She turned off the data machine
and headed for the antechamber. There was another crashing sound,
then an explosion. Saloma picked up her pace and entered the
cathedral foyer just as Anakin came very nearly flying down the
tower stairs towards her.
"Saloma! Come with me!" he barked, seizing her hand and hauling
her back through the inner sanctum.
He didn't need to tell her that the cathedral was being attacked.
The sound of explosions from above and the look of determination
in the young Jedi's eyes was all the confirmation she required.
"There's reports of a holo-conference between the chancellor and
the governor. They're saying he's all but washed his hands of you
and Obi-Wan and has given the governor permission to use
whatever force deemed necessary to see justice served," Saloma
told Anakin. "You two are being blamed for all kinds of sordid
deeds against the current regime and its citizens. They are reporting
you'll stop at nothing to keep Aremont a part of the Republic. This
goes way, way beyond a simple warehouse fire."
"Lovely," Anakin spat. He led Saloma to the center of the sanctum
and gestured at a chair. She seated herself and curled her legs
beneath her as Anakin began pacing back and forth a short distance
in front of her. "Your governor lies as comfortably as he breathes,"
he grumbled. "The chancellor would never turn over his Jedi to
anyone, let alone a dictator of a renegade administration on such
"Not my governor," Saloma countered. "Not my chancellor."
Anakin stopped pacing and looked up as Obi-Wan strode in.
"I just spoke with Master Yoda. We are to evacuate. The
has been taken out of our hands."
Anakin put his hands on his hips. "Evacuate? How?"
Obi-Wan moved to Saloma's side. "The Council sent a transport
to retrieve us. It will be here in an hour or so. We need only bide
our time now."
Shaking his head, the padawan resumed pacing. "They brought
tanks and starfighters with them this time. They'll have the north
side down in minutes with that kind of firepower. We can't wait.
We need to get out of here now."
"Such a move would not be wise," the Jedi Master gently
contradicted. "Fleeing the cathedral now would only place us in
the hands of our enemies. When the time is right, the Force will
guide us. For now, as long as we remain inside the cathedral, we
will be safe."
Saloma reached for Obi-Wan's hand and squeezed it. "You're
leaving in two hours? And what of me?"
The Jedi looked down at her perplexed. "You'll come with us,
Her eyes watering, Saloma looked up and shook her head. "I
can't leave Nare behind. I have to find him. He's the only family
Obi-Wan knelt beside her. "Can you contact him?" Saloma
sadly shook her head.
The inner sanctum suddenly grew disturbingly quiet. The aerial
assault had stopped.
"They've stopped firing at us," Anakin pointed out. He faced
Obi-Wan. "Why? The only logical offensive strategy would be
to maintain the barrage of firepower until the building collapsed
and the sanctuary could be breached."
Obi-Wan's gaze was piercing. "Quiet your mind, Padawan.
to what the Force is telling you. Feel its power. This cathedral
becomes part of us when we are within these walls. The Force
connects us to it and it to us. It will protect us."
Anakin paused, closing his eyes and turning slowly around. His
brow knitted in concentration as he raised his arms. "Of course,"
he breathed, his face transforming into calm euphoria. "That's why
the citizens would come here for sanctuary in the presence of Jedi.
The Jedi make the cathedral impenetrable." He broke into a huge
smile and opened his eyes.
"I don't understand what you are saying, but I can tell it's good news.
Something you just discovered?" Saloma guessed, looking from one
Jedi to another.
Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes. It is good news."
Saloma tried to smile. "But what about Nare? How are we
to find him if we can't leave?"
The Jedi Master straightened and faced his padawan. "Anakin,
I need you to go to the resources room and try to raise the
Council's transport. Tell them we'll meet them on Beneken Island
just off pier twelve. Tell them to wait. We'll be no more than
thirty minutes. And if we're not there in thirty minutes, we're not
coming and they are to leave."
Anakin licked his lips, but that was the only outward sign of
apprehension the young Jedi gave at his Master's decision.
"Yes Obi-Wan," Anakin replied dutifully and crossed the room
towards the south door.
Obi-Wan faced Saloma. "We'll find him. I promise."
slowly and sighed. "Anakin can take us back to the place where
he ran into the resistance. Perhaps they have set up a base camp
Moments later, Anakin came rushing back into the room. "Obi-Wan!"
Obi-Wan looked up. "Did you make contact? Did you send
Anakin dismissed his inquiries with a wave of his hand. "Yes,
But there's something else. An outside transmission. The decoder
states its source as coming from the south gardens."
Obi-Wan and Saloma followed Anakin back to the resources room.
A blinking light on the communications panel grabbed their attention.
Anakin tapped in a code and adjusted a few dials.
"With whom are we speaking?" Anakin began.
"Lieutenant Tilar, of the internal military police force under the
command of Captain Vrone," a crackly voice responded.
"Would this be Kenobi?"
"No, I'm Anakin Skywalker, his apprentice. Why have you
"We wish to draw your attention to the south gardens."
Anakin quickly made an impromptu connection by severing
two wires and regrouping them with a different section of the
control panel. "There," he said quietly, speaking to Obi-Wan.
"You'll be able to pick up the transmission on your comlink now."
Obi-Wan nodded and motioned for Anakin to stay and monitor
the transmission. He turned and hurried back to the antechamber
and up the stairs to the south balcony. He didn't realize Saloma
had followed him until she gasped at the sight which greeted them.
Another ground force, this one twice the size of the one to the
north, and outfitted with mobile port canons, had amassed just
beyond the garden. There was a prisoner trailer attached to a
large utility speeder, which Obi-Wan presumed was for their
transportation to the jail. The three aerial fighters had settled
down in the vacant lot southwest of the cathedral. And to the
Jedi's surprise, Captain Vrone, equipped with new mechanical
arms, sat in an open speeder beside his lieutenant.
Obi-Wan turned on his comlink. "Lieutenant Tilar? What did
you wish to show me?"
The soldiers' attention turned upwards to the balcony. Vrone smiled
wickedly, then turned in his seat and motioned to the guards standing
beside the trailer.
"Bring out the first prisoner," Lieutenant Tilar called to them.
Obi-Wan and Saloma watched as the guards reached inside
the trailer and hauled out a woman. It was the cathedral's tour
guide, recognizable only from the tattered employee uniform
she wore. Her face was bruised and swollen in grotesque
distortions, but she raised her eyes to the Jedi and Saloma
and shook her head.
"I'm sorry," she called up to them. "I'm so sorry."
"Our guide today will now provide us with the entrance code
to the front double doors," Vrone said duly. "Just like she
provided us with the digital blueprints and floorplan of your
At the guards' urging, the hapless tour guide hurried over to the
double doors and began entering the only entry code she knew.
Obi-Wan was outraged. Saloma covered her mouth with her
hand in astonishment and horror.
"What purpose could you possibly hope to achieve by involving
this woman in such a manner?" the Jedi snarled into the comlink.
"She will not be able to provide you with the information you
seek because the entry code has been changed. Let her go,
she has nothing to do with any of this!"
Vrone motioned jerkily to the tour guide and leaned over to
speak with Tilar. Shaking her head to confirm what Obi-Wan
had stated, the tour guide staggered back a few steps, and
looked up at Saloma and the Jedi Master.
"This cathedral is the last of its kind," she began in a loud, clear
voice, raising her arms to the balcony in reverence. "The Jedi
have practiced their religion here for over a hundred years.
Despite the desecration it has suffered at the hands of the
greedy, this site remains sacred to those who seek repose here."
She smiled up at Obi-Wan and Saloma and nodded slowly.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, know that this woman's death will be on
your hands. Not mine," Vrone said. The lieutenant raised a
pistol and aimed, and fired it at the tour guide. She crumbled
to the snow and was dragged off by the guards.
Saloma grabbed the balcony railing for support as she felt her
knees give way. "Why are you doing this?!" she screamed.
"What do you want?"
Obi-Wan grasped Saloma's shoulders and tried to pull her
back, but she managed to fight him off. "No! If they want me
so badly, they can have me!"
"It's not just you!" Obi-Wan told her. "It's everyone who
represents the Republic. That's why the Council sent the
transport. To evacuate us. They knew we were in trouble
before we did. They had received reports. They found out
we were set up to fail! We were brought here under false
pretense, as scapegoats for anything and everything that went
wrong following the governor's transfer to power."
"Congratulations, Kenobi!" Vrone's voice hissed over the comlink.
"You've reached a very plausible conclusion. Rest assured the
governor's propaganda minister will make sure from this moment
on, the mighty Galactic Republic and her cold-blooded Jedi
Knights are always viewed by Aremont's citizens with distaste
Saloma slumped against Obi-Wan's arms. She began crying
softly. Anakin came jogging up the hall to the balcony and crept
over to where they were.
"Obi-Wan, I just got word from the transport," Anakin whispered.
"It just docked on the far side of Beneken Island and is awaiting our
arrival. We need to leave now." He placed his hand on Saloma's
shoulder and squeezed it gently. Obi-Wan handed her over to his
"Take her inside. Don't let her out of your sight," he warned.
"I'll join up with you in a few minutes." He turned and stalked back
to the balcony railing and leaned over it to peer down at the soldiers.
The lieutenant directed Vrone's gaze upwards once more. Vrone's
mechanical hand awkwardly clutched the comlink transmitter as
"Are you ready to surrender?" he asked with barely contained
fury. "I can assume then, the sacrifice of one dissident appeased
"Why are you so anxious to apprehend us? We've done nothing
but borrow a squad speeder," Obi-Wan replied into the comlink,
choosing to ignore Vrone's actual questions. He pointed over
the railing. "You can have it back, it's right there."
"Nothing?! You call this nothing?" Vrone yelled, standing up and
flailing his new arms. "How dare you mock me." He pointed up
at the Jedi. "Know that you will be brought to justice. You, your
apprentice, and that infernal councilwoman you protect." His
composure regained, he resumed his seat beside the lieutenant.
"It is my duty to the citizens of Aremont to see that you are all tried
and punished for your crimes."
Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "We are prepared to remain here
indefinitely. A great deal longer than you are, I bet."
"We shall see," Vrone growled. He signaled Tilar, who in turn
signaled the soldiers.
"Open fire!" Tilar ordered and the air was promptly filled with
laser blasts and canon fire.
Obi-Wan dodged back inside the cathedral and hurried over to
Anakin and Saloma.
"Quickly," he urged. "We haven't much time."
He led them down the hall, passed the open window casements
which overlooked the front gardens and over to a narrow door
half-hidden in a heavily shadowed depression in the wall. The
door opened with a touch of the lock and revealed a tiny elevator.
Saloma licked her lips and glanced back at the Jedi Master as
he urged her inside. "Where are we going? Shouldn't we be
going down instead of up?"
"It's too obvious," Anakin informed her. He knew what Obi-Wan
had in mind but he wasn't sure if he should tell Saloma or not.
"We are going down, just not directly," Obi-Wan added.
Saloma looked warily back and forth between the two of them as
they squeezed into the elevator and closed the door. She flattened
herself against the far wall and made a face. "Luckily I'm not
claustrophobic. Or androphobic for that matter."
"How about acrophobic?" Obi-Wan asked.
Saloma started to laugh, then stopped when she realized he was
being sincere. "Ah, a little. Why?"
"Because we are taking you over the side of the cathedral,"
Anakin supplied. "From the roof."
The elevator door opened. Cold, damp air and muted sunlight
filled the elevator's chamber. The flat and turreted landscape
of the cathedral's roof lay just before them.
"From the roof?!" Saloma exclaimed. "That must be a thirty
"Think of it as a descent, not a drop," the padawan encouraged.
He and Obi-Wan ushered Saloma outside and over to the east
edge, just as a high aimed laser blast struck one of the turrets. The
trio ducked, but the bolt of energy bounced harmlessly off the stone.
Obi-Wan frowned but Anakin smiled, scuttling over to the southern
edge of the roof. Curiously, he peered down at the army below.
"They won't keep firing upon us much longer," the older Jedi
noted solemnly. "They should be able to see how futile it is. We've
no time to waste."
Anakin nodded and retrieved his suspension line and grappling
hook from his belt. He measure out a section of the line and swung
the hook forcefully above his head. Taking careful aim at one of
the turrets, he threw the hook, releasing the full length of the line.
The hook whipped towards the turret, circled it three times and
caught the line tightly on the opposite side. Anakin leaned back
on it and tested its strength, then turned and faced Saloma expectantly.
Taking an involuntary step backwards, Saloma bumped into
Obi-Wan who mercilessly pushed her forward and into Anakin's
"Don't worry, Anakin is very good at rappelling and it will be over
before you know it," he assured, kissing her cheek. "I'll be right
Saloma wrapped her arms around Anakin with all her strength and
buried her face in his chest. She felt the rumble of his laugh and his
hand ruffling her hair.
"This is the fun part," he told her cheerfully. Saloma nodded,
refused to look up. "I've got you, I promise. I won't let you fall," he
sweetly added. His muscular arm encircled her waist as he positioned
himself on the top of the turret.
Saloma's insides sunk as she felt the Jedi rise over the roof's edge
and hop off. His feet landing on the side of the building sent a
jarring shockwave through her system, then they were airborne
again, descending, landing, airborne--all the way down to the
When Saloma finally felt safe enough to let go of Anakin and
open her eyes, Obi-Wan was already down the rope and heading
towards them, staying under the cover of the tallow trees which
decoratively flanked the cathedral at both ends.
"Just around the corner are six patrol droids on swoops," Obi-Wan
told Anakin. "Try to get their attention and draw them away from
the soldiers. We can use the swoops to take us into the city.
We need to find Nare before we can rendezvous with the transport.
He said he was going to join the resistance."
Anakin swallowed hard and nodded. "I have a good idea where to
look for him. Let me go after him. You take Saloma to the
transport. I'll meet you there. With Nare."
The set determination in Anakin's eyes gave the Jedi Master pause.
He knew Anakin wanted to do this to make up for his past mistake.
"Are you sure you want to face them again alone?"
Anakin nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. "Positive."
Obi-Wan placed his hand on his padawan's shoulder and nodded.
Flashing a grateful smile, Anakin turned and stalked off to the north
side of the cathedral, then disappeared around the corner.
"Master Jedi," Vrone's voice from the comlink interrupted unexpectedly.
"Perhaps you are not aware of the damage your cathedral is sustaining."
Obi-Wan reached for the comlink to reply, but Vrone continued.
"It will only be a matter of time before its power wanes enough for
us to blast through."
"Blast through then," Obi-Wan taunted. "It is the only way you're
"Not the only way," Vrone continued. "I 'd still prefer the front
door. I have one more weapon in my arsenal that is sure to
Before Obi-Wan could ask, Saloma suddenly gasped. Her eyes
narrowed, then filled with tears.
"NO!" she screamed and made a blind dash to the south.
Just before she reached the corner, Obi-Wan tackled her, throwing
her heavily to the ground, and covered her mouth with his hand. She
went limp in his arms, sobbing hysterically. The Jedi tentatively
withdrew his hand.
"What is it? What did you hear?" Obi-Wan asked.
"He's got Nare!" Saloma repeated over and over again.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, may I once again invite you to the front of the
cathedral to be witness to the power of this new weapon I wield,"
Obi-Wan climbed to his knees, his mind racing. He leaned over
Saloma and reassuringly stroked her back. "SSsshhh," he
soothed. "I won't let anything happen to him. This may just
work to our advantage."
Saloma sat up, stirred by the calm confidence in the Jedi's voice.
Obi-Wan peered down at her. "You stay here out of sight and
wait for Anakin. When he arrives, tell him about Nare and tell
him I've gone back inside." He turned away from her and walked
purposefully back to the suspension line which still hung from the
turret. Grasping it with both hands, Obi-Wan started climbing up.
Anakin had just rounded the corner when the patrol droids came
into his view. He stopped and flattened himself along the stone
wall. All six of the droids were facing forward, but not really
focusing on anything. They were merely lined up, waiting for a
The platoon of soldiers were on the southeast side of the lake,
next to the droids, but they were facing towards the lake,
watching the fires burning through the woods. Occasionally,
the smoke would drift their way, enveloping them in a thick black
cloud. It gave Anakin an idea.
Saloma's concern was her brother. She paced frantically behind
the trees, trying to pick up more of Vrone's thoughts. The captain
saw himself as a dedicated officer and loyal patriot, willing to do
what was necessary to quash any lingering sentiment towards the
old government and the Republic. Presently, Vrone was waiting
to see how Obi-Wan would react to the weapon he spoke of.
Saloma decided she needed to do something besides wait. She
couldn't tell what Obi-Wan was planning, but she was sure he
could use help. She focused her attention on Anakin, listening
carefully for him, and discovered he was just around the corner,
only a few feet from her, devising his own plan. Saloma hurried
"Anakin," she whispered loudly. "Anakin?" She peeked cautiously
around the corner but only saw smoke. "Anakin?"
"Saloma?" The young Jedi materialized out of the black cloud.
He spied her and motioned her back. Using the Force, Anakin
had pulled the smoke towards him to use as cover.
Obeying, Saloma retreated back behind the trees. Anakin slunk
around the corner and hurried over to join her. He immediately
noted his master's absence and Saloma's tear-streaked face.
"What's happened?" he demanded, pulling her deeper into the
Saloma quickly explained about discovering Nare. She found it
oddly comforting that Anakin didn't seem particularly concerned
by this bit of news. She heard his mind begin to revise his
former scheme to suit their new need for fast transportation to
the Council's ship.
"The star fighters," he said finally. "Of course."
Saloma struggled to keep up with the speed at which Anakin's
mind worked. "But...How are the four of us going to fit into one
of those? You just said they are one-man fighters."
Anakin looked down at her curiously. "I never said that. I was
thinking there was only one man in them. This particular model
the military police are using is a TM-26. It has rear guns, and seats
two. TM's are used alot in aerial dogfights. Speedy, with lots of
maneuverability." He paused and rubbed his hands together in
anticipation. "Two will seat four. I'll get one, but you'll have to get
Saloma's eyes widened and she began shaking her head. "Absolutely
no way! I can't fly a star fighter!"
"Come on!" The young Jedi smiled encouragingly at Saloma.
way you handled that squad speeder was so nova! You're a natural!
This will be a lot like driving, only you'll be up higher." He quickly
sobered and placed a heavy hand on her shoulder. "Ultimately, we
need two fighters. I can only fly one at a time. You'll have to fly
the other. There is no other way."
Saloma closed her eyes and nodded reluctantly. There was no
"Good," Anakin announced. "Try not to worry. I'll contact
soon as we get situated and talk you through the cockpit controls."
He grasped her hand and pulled her after him. "No time to lose.
I'm going to use the smoke to conceal us. We have to run and it will
be uncomfortable, but keep holding my hand no matter what. Start
taking slow, deep breaths and when I say hold it, stop breathing.
"Uh-huh," Saloma replied in a very small voice.
From a full tilted run, Obi-Wan skidded to a stop. The cathedral's
entrance loomed before him. He took a quick, mind-clearing breath
to give himself a moment to recall the new code numbers for the
door's lock. He hadn't really been paying close attention when
Anakin recited them. It took two full heartbeats before he could
remember. Quickly, he punched in the correct digits in the correct
sequence and the door opened.
Nare was standing alone in the middle of the garden. He too had
been beaten while in Vrone's custody. He looked up in astonishment
as the door opened and the Jedi Master strode out.
Obi-Wan positioned himself between Vrone and Nare and struck
a challenging pose.
"What's the meaning of this, Captain?" Obi-Wan questioned.
He gestured back at Nare. "What are you intending to do with
Vrone stared back at the Jedi in surprise. He clearly hadn't
expected Obi-Wan to open the door and just saunter out the
way he did. His soldiers immediately snapped up their weapons,
but Vrone stilled them with a wave of his mechanical hand.
Slowly, he rose and climbed out of the speeder.
"My intention was to use him to persuade you to do exactly
what you just did," he replied, taking a few steps forward.
"Are you....surrendering, then?"
Before answering, Obi-Wan weighed the pros and cons of
such an action in his mind. He turned and faced Nare briefly,
then shook his head.
"No and I still have no intention of letting you in the cathedral."
Now Vrone looked miffed. "Then why the theatrics? Just to
save him? Is he worth so much to you?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan breathed with heartfelt sincerity, and noticed
Vrone's scoffing expression. "And not just because I am a Jedi!"
he added hotly. "I feel this way because I am human!" Because
With that thought, the image of Saloma's lovely face surfaced in his
mind. Her heart full of trust and tenderness, she was gazing up at
him, her large smoky eyes shining through the darkness, her skin
pulsing with heat and perspiration. They had just made love. She
had never looked more beautiful to him than she did in that instant.
He closed his eyes briefly to savor it. "Don't distract me," he
whispered and smiled slightly.
"Suit yourself, Kenobi," Vrone snapped. He turned on his heel
stalked back to his speeder.
Obi-Wan gathered the Force to him and felt it prickling his nerves with
warning. He took a deep breath and activated his lightsaber. "Go inside,"
he told Nare.
Vrone laughed vacantly. "Do you seriously believe you can withstand
an all-out assault from my troops? I can't decide if you are valiant,
arrogant, or ignorant."
"Perhaps a little of all three," Obi-Wan sneered. He glanced back
Nare, then fixed his attention on the soldiers. "Go on. It'll be all right.
I'll keep them busy until you're safely inside."
"I'm sorry, Master Jedi," Nare began shakily. "I'm afraid I cannot
Behind Obi-Wan, the raspy hiss of a lightsaber being activated
lacerated the crisp evening air. The Jedi spun around and instantly
sealed the cathedral door with a sharp gesture of his hand.
The three starfighters had landed in the speeder parking lot on the
southwest corner of the cathedral. Like the patrol droids Anakin
had seen, the fighter pilots were biding their time, waiting for further
instructions. All three pilots remained inside their fighters on the
alert. It made it easy for Anakin and Saloma to sneak up behind
the nearest ship and take cover beneath its tail end. The other
two fighters were side by side, in front of the third forming a triangle.
"We're going to use this one as a distraction to pull the pilots out
of the other two fighters," Anakin told Saloma, pointing up at the
ship's tail. "They may be armed, but don't worry. You just get
in a ship and seal the cockpit. I want to do this as quietly as
possible. I don't want Vrone's soldiers to notice what's going
on over here. We're far enough away from them. We should be
Saloma was nervously gnawing her lower lip and wringing her
hands. "How are we going to get to Obi-Wan and Nare? What
if they're inside the cathedral? And how will they know it's us
Anakin held up his hand to quiet her. "I'm still working on all
Right now, my main concern is pinching these fighters."
"Oh right. I forgot. Live in the moment, the here and now,"
"Exactly," Anakin grinned. He removed his lightsaber from his
belt and activated it and plunged the blade deep into the ship's
The pilot looked around wildly, spied the Jedi sabotaging his
ship and scrambled to get out of the cockpit. He picked up a
blaster and began firing as soon as his feet hit the ground.
Anakin was ready for him. He deflected off the blasts with
practiced ease, advancing his position until he had the pilot
pinned to the side of his craft. The pilot panicked then and
tried to flee, but the Jedi caught him and hauled him around,
smashing him forcefully into the ship's wing. The pilot
crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Anakin bent over and
retrieved the blaster and tossed it to Saloma, who barely caught it.
"One down," the young Jedi told the wide-eyed councilwoman,
spinning his lightsaber around in his hand. He began attacking
the ship with new zeal, hacking off the rear gun turrets and slicing
through the cockpit's instrument panels, pointing out various
features to his reluctant pupil. "That one is for stability, this
over here is for lift, oh, here's the autopilot, there's manual." He
paused and glanced up at the two fighters in front of them. "Get
ready, they see us. Here they come," he added without missing a
beat. "You take the one on the right."
Saloma's hands were shaking. "What? Just shoot him?"
"Here," Anakin said, snatching the blaster from her hands. He
quickly adjusted the setting to stun. "Now you won't kill him.
Okay?" He thrust the weapon back at her.
"Okay," Saloma replied quietly. She raised the blaster and
trained it on the pilot on the right as he unsealed the cockpit.
"You're doing fine," Anakin said, his voice softening. "Just relax.
Loosen up a little."
Saloma nodded, determined to do whatever was necessary.
"Sure." She fired before the pilot could even turn around to
climb out. He tumbled from the cockpit to the ground in a heap.
The other pilot cleared his cockpit and dodged behind the ship's
nose for cover. He fired blindly towards Anakin, peeking out
occasionally to see if he had hit him yet.
Anakin swatted at the deadly blasts as if they were mere
annoyances and gestured for Saloma to get in the second ship.
"Go! Seal yourself in and fire her up!"
Saloma scurried to obey, firing randomly at the remaining pilot.
Outnumbered and out of his element, he too decided to flee
just as Saloma climbed into the cockpit and faced forward.
At this new height, she could see the gardens, Vrone's troops,
and the line of cannons to the south. What drew her attention
was the activity in front of the cathedral. Her jaw dropped
and her pulse nearly stopped as she realized what was happening.
Anakin let the pilot go. He deactivated his saber and pulled
himself into the ship, then settled comfortably behind the controls.
Saloma's panic-stricken voice was already blaring over the cockpit's
"Calm yourself," he chided her. "It really isn't that complicated...."
He paused, as a distinct disturbance rippled through the Force.
He glanced over at Saloma who was pointing towards the
gardens with a horrified expression on her face.
Anakin quickly snapped his head around. Lightsabers? Obi-Wan
and...Nare? "What in blue blazes is going on over there?" he
demanded to no one in particular. He sat forward slightly, unable
to believe his eyes.
"My brother! He knows how to use a lightsaber. He studied
Jedi fighting techniques once," Saloma supplied. "I can't
understand it! Why is he attacking Obi-Wan?"
Anakin sat back. "He's been tortured. Or bribed, or both."
His large hands glided over the cockpit controls as he spoke.
"Try to keep your focus on the ship, Saloma. The only way we
can help them is to get them out of there. We need to get moving."
Saloma pried her eyes off the lightsaber battle and looked down
at the controls as Anakin began carefully explaining the step by
step process of flying the TM-26. The young Jedi's detailed
instruction made it easy for her and in moments, she was ready to
"I want you to bring your ship down between the troops and
garden. I'll be above giving you cover. Unseal the cockpit and
get Obi-Wan first. He'll be able to help you fly the fighter. I'll
come down after Nare. You two give me cover. Got it?"
Anakin spared a glance in her direction. He noticed her nodding
readily and was filled with admiration for her undaunted courage.
"Very good. Are you ready?"
Saloma gritted her teeth and placed both hands on the controls.
"Ready," she announced. The fighter slowly began to rise.
Nare did not have the skill to defeat Obi-Wan and the Jedi Master
did not have the will to bring down Nare. They circled each other
warily, testing each other's reflexes and abilities. Nare attacked
and Obi-Wan retreated, striking at him only when necessary to
back him up. The Jedi was hoping to maneuver Nare away
from the gardens and the soldiers to the cathedral's east side
where Anakin would be waiting with the swoops.
Timing was essential. Obi-Wan knew Vrone would soon tire
of this outclassed spectacle and order them both killed. Vrone's
plan to gain access to the cathedral by using Nare to keep the
Jedi occupied had ultimately been thwarted when Obi-Wan had
closed the door. Obi-Wan realized Vrone may be counting on
Anakin to come to his master's aid and allow Nare to fight with
him until then.
Anakin was coming to his master's aid, but not as Vrone or
Obi-Wan had envisioned. Everyone's attention turned upwards
as two starfighters suddenly rocketed overhead, flying fast and
low in a tightly paired formation. They turned as one unit and
spun around to circle the cathedral. One of them broke off and
soared just over the soldiers' heads making them scatter in fear
for their lives. The fighter looped and came zooming back at a
death-defying speed, chasing the fleeing soldiers farther apart.
Anakin, Obi-Wan realized. In his moment of distraction, Nare
resumed his attack. Obi-Wan parried and skipped backwards,
chastising himself for not staying focused. Nare lunged forward,
slashing from the side, then down. Obi-Wan's blade tangled with
Nare's and crackled menacingly. The Jedi leaned into his weapon
and pushed Nare away.
Vrone hollered orders to open fire as Lieutenant Tilar tried to
maneuver the speeder they were in out of harm's way. The cannons
behind them jerked to life. Slowly, the ponderous machines raised
their noses to the sky.
Undaunted, Anakin raced towards the cannons, spraying them with
blasterfire as he sailed over them. Two of them exploded, causing
the ground to shake.
The second fighter slowed as it made another pass over the
cathedral and hovered above the gardens as its engines shifted
and its landing gear locked into place.
Saloma felt a jolt as her ship settled on the ground. She scooped
up the blaster Anakin had given her, just in case, and quickly
unsealed the cockpit canopy.
"Obi-Wan! Nare!" she hollered, trying to be heard above all the
blasting and the explosions. She fired her blaster haphazardly into
the chaos of running troops to keep them away. "OBI-WAN!!!"
The Jedi was moving, circling and dodging away from her brother's
wild-eyed assault, trying to merely defend himself. He heard
Saloma's call and tried to head back towards her but Nare kept
intercepting him, forcing him farther away.
"You don't have to do this..." Obi-Wan confronted Nare. "We
can save you if you let us. You don't need to side with them."
Nare brought the lightsaber down in a sweeping arc over the Jedi's
head. "I have already saved us. I made Vrone a deal and he agreed."
Obi-Wan blocked Nare's blow and pulled his blade back down.
Nare stepped aside and swung across the Jedi's legs. Obi-Wan
jumped to avoid having his feet severed from his ankles.
"He's lying to you! He and Spiget are using you! Can't you
that?" Obi-Wan relayed. "Vrone has already failed. He doesn't
need you anymore. He's not going to keep any bargain he made
Nare was tiring, becoming more desperate, and angry. "All I need
to do is kill you," he said. "Then they will give me everything I
asked for. The governor promised."
Obi-Wan was growing impatient. "Don't be ridiculous. You
kill me! They know this. You're not skilled enough to kill me.
They set you up to fail, my friend. Just as Anakin and I were set
up to fail."
Nare's temper flared. "I will kill you! I will!"
As Anakin continued to wreak havoc from above, Saloma
anxiously studied the lightsaber duel taking place underneath
the south terrace. She called out to them again, but Nare and
Obi-Wan kept moving farther away from her. She didn't
understand any of this. Why were they even fighting each
other in the first place? She opened her mind and began sifting
through the thoughts she heard to pick out the pieces of information
Obi-Wan's mind was quiet. He was feeling the Force's guidance,
moving just as the Force told him, not really thinking at all. Nare
was different. His mind was racing. Thoughts swirled in his head
in a dizzying cyclone. One thought in particular suddenly caught
Saloma's attention. His intent was plain. He wanted to kill
Momentarily stricken with shock and disbelief, Saloma slumped
down in the cockpit seat and tried to decide what to do. Why?
she asked herself. He must have gone insane under Vrone's torture
like Anakin had said. What was she going to do? Stop him. She
had to stop him.
Unsteadily, Saloma climbed out of the ship and jumped to the ground.
She tightened her fist around the blaster she held and sprinted
towards the two combatants.
Obi-Wan's back was to Saloma. She saw Nare attack him
relentlessly. Her brother was a strong and athletic young man,
but he seemed cumbersome and clumsy next to the Jedi. Nare
had abandoned any kind of finesse in his technique and seemed
bent on just wearing the Jedi out or somehow catching him off guard.
"Stop it!" Saloma suddenly screamed, raising her blaster. "Stop
or I swear I'll shoot!"
Obi-Wan's heart sunk at the sound of Saloma's voice. He could
feel her fear and heard the desperation in her voice. She was
going to shoot him, thinking he was attacking her brother. Nare
wasn't backing down and Obi-Wan knew he couldn't risk lowering
his lightsaber to comply with her wishes.
"Stop it now! I won't let you kill him! I love him!
I won't let you
kill him!" Saloma screamed again. "Please stop! I'm begging you!"
Obi-Wan backed up, out of Nare's reach and whirled around
to face Saloma. "I swear to you, I won't hurt him!" he declared.
Saloma stared back at the Jedi with a confused look on her face,
her eyes wide, her lower lip trembling with fear. She adjusted her
grip on the blaster as her palms began to perspire.
Noticing the distraction he'd been waiting for and seizing the
opportunity Obi-Wan gave him, Nare charged, ready to run the
Feeling the Force's dark shifting, Obi-Wan turned and raised his
lightsaber, but Nare was already too close for him to parry his
attack. Knowing if he ducked or moved out of Nare's way,
Saloma would be left exposed, the Jedi Master stood his ground.
He caught Nare's blow with the tip of his blade, but wasn't able to
put any weight behind it to push his attacker off of him. Nare's
lightsaber skidded down the length of Obi-Wan's blade, pushing
back against it with all his strength. Obi-Wan immediately
recognized his mistake. Nare had all the advantage of weight,
plus momentum, and easily forced the Jedi to the icy ground.
Suddenly Saloma fired.
Time seemed to blink in that instant. Nare was struck in the chest
and began falling slowly, a look of surprise on his handsome
young face. Obi-Wan could hardly believe his eyes. He staggered
to his feet and spun around to face Saloma.
The blaster she was holding was smoking and shaking slightly.
Slowly she began to lower it, her eyes fixed on her brother, now
lying motionless on the ground. Hot, heavy tears streamed down
You've killed her brother, the only family you had to save me,
Obi-Wan thought. He took a step towards her.
"Saloma....I..." He turned and glanced back at Nare, then
tightly closed his eyes. She had been threatening Nare, not him.
He had misunderstood. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Saloma's head lolled back as her eyes fluttered closed. She
dropped the blaster at her feet and fainted.
Obi-Wan ran to her and caught her up in his arms before she hit
the ground. He kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly.
The Jedi felt his eyes watering and his throat tightened uncomfortably.
"Saloma? Saloma?" He shook her gently, but she didn't respond.
He spared one last look at Nare before he turned and carried
Saloma to the waiting starfighter.
PART FOUR ~CLOSURE
Saloma opened her pastey-feeling eyes and blinked a few times
to clear them. She looked around. The darkened room she was
lying in wasn't at all familiar, but she felt warm and safe and
well- rested. She had been so cold before and nearly exhausted.
And more frightened than she ever remembered feeling.
She sat up, startled, and looked around again. She had been in
the fighter's cockpit. She remembered seeing Nare. She
remembered shouting, begging, threatening him....
She gasped suddenly with recollection. Nare was dead! She
had shot him! She had killed her brother! Her heart felt like it was
tearing in two and her body began shaking all over, her mind
threatening to shut down once more, still unable to accept what
Then she felt a warm, callused hand stroke her face and hair.
A gentle, melodious voice began talking to her.
"Saloma? Don't be afraid. I'm right beside you. There's
to be frightened anymore. You're safe, I promise. You're on the
Council's ship. We're taking you to Coruscant."
"Obi-Wan?" she said, her voice trembling and weak. She hadn't
noticed him in the room before. He was facing her, sitting in a
chair beside the bed she was lying on. His soft blue eyes reflected
a myriad of sad emotions.
"I was worried," he confessed softly. "You've been sleeping for
Tears welled up in Saloma's eyes as the memories came flooding
back. She began shaking her head and gasping for breath. "I
couldn't let him kill you, I just couldn't. I didn't know how else
to stop him. I was so scared. I just couldn't let him....I love you."
Obi-Wan rose and leaned towards her and kissed her cheek.
"I love you too," he whispered, caressing her face, trying desperately
to soothe her. She took his hand and pulled him closer, crying
The Jedi seated himself beside her and gathered her in his arms.
Curling up around him, she leaned her head against his chest and
Obi-Wan held Saloma and tenderly rocked her, until she fell back
asleep. Carefully he shifted away from her and slipped off the bed.
He felt sick and discouraged. Nare's death had been tragically
needless and now Saloma would have to live with the memory
of having killed him.
Anakin was waiting just outside the door, pacing back and forth
like a tethered wildcat. He looked up as Obi-Wan came out of
the room and hurried over to him.
"Doesn't it seem like the harder we try, the more we fail?" Obi-Wan
murmured, barely able to look Anakin in the eye.
"It may seem that way at times, a wise old Jedi once told me,"
Anakin quoted back to him. He glanced towards the door.
"How is she doing?"
Obi-Wan sighed heavily. "As well as can be expected.
She's sleeping now."
Anakin shook his head. "Let me get this straight, once and
for all. She shot her brother, and killed him?"
"What's to understand, Anakin? She killed him to save my life.
If she hadn't, I'd most likely be the one dead now. This is
something that will always stand between us. Our feelings for
each other will never be the same. Something like this...it's
too traumatizing. For both of us. Saloma had to choose
between her brother and me and...I'm not sure how to feel
about that. As it was, he was fighting with me because he
believed he was saving her."
"But she killed him?"
Obi-Wan put his hands on his hips. "I know it sounds incredulous,
but I've explained it over and over to you the only way I know
how. She shot him, he fell down. He died."
Anakin frowned deeply. "You're certain he died?"
"What is it? What's not getting through to you?" Obi-Wan
snapped. He turned away from Anakin and started up the hall.
"I saw her shoot him."
Anakin held up his hands. "But that shouldn't have killed him."
Obi-Wan stopped in his tracks. "What are you talking about?"
"The blaster she had. We got it off the first starfighter pilot
attacked. I adjusted the setting for her because she was
uncomfortable using it. Obi-Wan, I set that blaster on stun.
Unless she changed the setting afterwards, there's a very good
chance her brother may still be alive." Anakin folded his arms
across his chest and stood back to watch his master's reaction.
Obi-Wan's heart skipped a beat. His eyes widened as he
stared up at Anakin, his jaw dropping in astonishment. He
swallowed uncomfortably and licked his lips. "I think you may
be right. I never actually sensed his death."
Anakin narrowed his eyes. "Didn't you check him...to make sure?"
Obi-Wan's head was spinning. "No...I just, well, I just assumed.
I mean, she shot him right in front of me." He glanced behind
him at Saloma's closed door, then bowed his head and sighed
heavily. "The anguish that poor woman has been through. How
could I have made such a...stupid mistake?"
Sensing the older Jedi's anxiety and shame, Anakin placed a
reassuring hand on his shoulder. Obi-Wan slowly looked up at him.
"It's understandable," he began softly. "We all make lame,
stupid mistakes from time to time. It's easy to get caught up in
the passion of the moment."
"Yes," Obi-Wan agreed, knowing Anakin was speaking for
himself as well.
Encouraged, Anakin continued. "The sound of our hearts' mad
beating drowns out any sensibility our minds may be preaching."
He offered Obi-Wan a crooked smile. "She said she loved you.
She had just saved your life. No one would expect you to be
thinking of anything except her at a time like that. You may be a
Jedi, but you are only human."
Obi-Wan's heart swelled with pride as he looked into Anakin's
eyes. "Thank you. Your words have been very comforting. I
only wish I had been in possession of such compassionate
wisdom when confronting you about your mistakes." He lowered
his eyes briefly, then gestured at the door. "Go to her, Anakin.
Tell her, please."
Anakin straightened and shook his head. "No, you go to her.
It's you she loves."
Obi-Wan smiled and accepted Anakin's gift with a slight nod. He
stiffly turned around, then paused. Waves of emotions washed
over him and unable to contain them inside, he suddenly threw
his arms around Anakin and hugged him.
Anakin returned his master's embrace, his heart warming with
affection. He greatly enjoyed seeing his normally stoic,
high-minded, unbending Jedi Master lose his composure like
that once in awhile. It made him seem infinitely more real.