War Crimes
BeElleGee Beej@fanfix.zzn.com

Rated PG
Summary: Takes place roughly five years before EPI. Qui-Gon
volunteers for a dangerous assignment to Colla IV to try to thwart
production of the galaxy's newest weapon of warfare: Droidekas.

Author's note: Quite a few references gave me the idea for this story.
One being the Episode I Visual Dictionary and its description of
Colla IV, the Colicoids, and Droidekas. Second was the first book
of the Episode I Adventure Series in which it was revealed that
padawans are not allowed on the more dangerous missions. And third,
Obi-Wan's alarmed cry of "Master! Destroyers!" in The Phantom Menace.


Supreme Chancellor Valorum's pale blue eyes searched the stoic faces of the
Jedi Masters seated before him in the spacious and opulent conference
room.  He sighed impatiently at their silence and leaned forward,
spreading his hands in a pleading gesture.

"I don't ask this lightly," he reiterated.  "Not knowing what I do."

The four Jedi Masters--Yoda, Adi Gallia, Mace Windu, and Plo
Koon--exchanged glances.  Yoda shifted uneasily in his chair and
shook his head slowly.

"Asked our assistance in this matter, you have.  Relying on our
loyalty to the Republic which we serve, yes," Yoda began.
"Counting, you are, on our principles to comply."

"Trading on them, would be more accurate," Adi Gallia retorted.
She lowered her head and stared into the blackness of
the conference room table.

"You know we are unable to refuse you," Mace Windu stated.

Chancellor Valorum shook his head.  "No.  That's not true."  He
inhaled deeply and frowned.  "This is not a formal Galactic
Republic request.  That is why I have asked you to come here
at such a late hour, instead of presenting this through routine
channels to the entire Council.  I don't want you, any of you, to
feel coerced in anyway.  I wanted to make it easier for you to
deny me, if that is what you strongly believe you should do.
However, I did want to personally stress the gravity of this
situation and be able to persuade you of the need for Jedi
intervention here."

"Admittedly, a need there is," Yoda went on.  His face adopted
a weary expression of sadness.  "Tried before, we have, to
intervene on Colla IV.  Disastrous, it was.  Many fine Jedi
were lost.  Now you would have us sacrifice more.  Know this,
you do.  Futile, this mission is.  "

"It doesn't have to be that way.  Not if you know ahead of time
what you will be going up against," Valorum assured him.  He
reached forward and inserted a disc into a holographic projector.
"The information contained on this disc is accurate and first hand.
It has been filed as top secret, but I will turn it over to you to
assist your preparations."

Valorum activated the disc, which revealed a hologram of a
prototype droid.  It shimmered slightly and began rotating slowly,
hovering just above the conference tabletop.  With some
reluctance, the four Jedi Masters looked up at it.

"They are calling it a droideka," Valorum explained.  "A completely
mobile, centrally controlled battle droid with a body of plated
armor and its own individual deflector shield generator.  It is
equipped with twin blasters on each 'hand' which has a collimating
tip to concentrate the energy it fires.  One droideka alone can
bring down a starfighter within its range.  It has optimum sensors
and antenna to track its intended victim, so it doesn't rely on
sight alone.  It is impenetrable to regular blaster fire which
makes it virtually indestructible.  It is a gruesome and brutal new
weapon of warfare which is about to be unleashed on the
Republic's systems."

Plo Koon thoughtfully stroked his breath mask, then gestured
at the hologram.  "Warfare is always brutal, Chancellor.  Besides
being new, why does the production of such a weapon disturb
you so?  Is it not just one of many deadly devices being marketed
to the highest unscrupulous bidder these days?"

Mace Windu straightened.  His voice was sharp
and his expression was unyielding.  "Master Yoda is right.  Trying
to convince the Colicoids to cease production of these droids is futile.
They are motivated by profit and greed only.  To rely on their mercy
and conscience would be a waste of time.  It is simply not their nature."

"Masters," Valorum began in a soft measured tone.  "A weapon
offered of this quality and destructive capabilities will no doubt
flush out a hoard of ruthless and ambitious beings bent on
planetary domination.  I believe it will actually incite warfare
and pose a threat to the Republic's star systems.  Any being,
willing and able to put forth the money to have an army of these
droids produced would become, without a doubt, all but invincible."
He turned off the hologram and sighed heavily.  "But we have
one advantage.  There is no large-scale production as of yet.
Presently, the Colicoids have only a handful of prototypes they
are testing for demonstrative purposes.  The information I have
given you comes from my agents working on the Republic's outer
core.  Unfortunately, I have not heard back from them since these
plans were dispatched to me.  But I was assured in our last
communication that no contract for the droidekas has been drawn
up.  If the Colicoids are motivated only by greed, then it's their
greed we need to prey upon.  If the droids prove to be unprofitable
to build, the Colicoids would inevitably abandon them."

Mace Windu furrowed his brow.  "The Colicoids are carnivorous
predators, renown for their instinctive aggression and hatred of
other beings.  There are numerous recorded incidents of Colicoids
attacking and consuming the beings they capture.  Knowing this,
how do you propose we convince them these weapons are
unprofitable?"  The Jedi Master paused and leaned back in his chair.
"Civilized diplomacy does not work with the Colicoids,
Chancellor.  Since we are diplomats first and foremost,
why then, are you appealing to us for aid?"

Valorum licked his lips apprehensively.  "I'm not suggesting using
diplomacy in this case.  Yes, the Jedi are effective diplomats, but
they can also be great warriors if the situation arises.  If the Colicoids
can only relate to aggressive action, then it is action we will have to
take.  My plan involves a simple demonstration of the Republic's
superior power.  The Jedi will publicly defeat these droids.  Then
the droids' reputation of invincibility will plummet.  It will make them
less appealing to would-be dictators if it becomes known that the
tried and true forces of the Galactic Republic, the Jedi, can bring
them down."

All four masters collectively stiffened with flares of emotions.
Adi Gallia all but jumped out of her seat.

"How are we to defeat these droids?" she retorted.  "We have
never gone up against the likes of such devices before!  You said
yourself they are equipped with shield generators.  How are we
supposed to breech a defensive system of that caliber?"

"Even if a weakness can be found and exploited, many Jedi will
have to lose their lives in order to gain that information," Plo
Koon added.  "That is unacceptable."

"You are asking us to deploy our Jedi Knights for...a suicide
mission," Mace Windu stated hotly.  "There is no guarantee
that even if we can find a weakness, it will convince the Colicoids
to cease production.  They may simply make adjustments to
compensate for any weakness we may discover."

"Chancellor, with all due respect, what you are asking us to
do is unconscionable," Adi Gallia told him.

"Master Gallia, please," Valorum intoned.  "Hear me out.
All of you."  He passed his eyes over each of the masters
before continuing.  "It is an idea of mine.  It is not necessarily
the only way.  But I believe the correct choice is clear enough.
We can either confront a handful of prototypes now or we can
engage an army of these finished droids in full-scale warfare
later.  Either way, we must rely on a show of superiority to
the Colicoids.  It is why I have brought this before the Jedi.
I am surprised however, by your reaction to my proposal.
Why is it so outrageous to all of you?  I believe in the superiority
of the Jedi Knights and Masters that serve this Republic.
Otherwise, I would have never suggested such a thing.
Perhaps I have more faith in the capabilities of the Order
than you do."

Yoda, who had been silent during most of the proceedings
turned to look at Chancellor Valorum.  He drew his long ears down
and narrowed his eyes in irritation.

"Faith in our Jedi Knights we keep in abundance.  For our children,
they are.  Know them and teach them, we do.  Extraordinary
they are.  Immortal, they are not.  Simple, you make it sound.
But dangerous it is."  He paused and closed his eyes slowly,
taking a deep breath.  "See fit to order our Jedi Knights to
undertake such an assignment as this, we do not. Good night to
you, Chancellor Valorum."

Without a doubt, Master Yoda wielded the power of the final
decision.  Once his decision had been made, the four Jedi Masters
rose as one as if on a silent command to make their way out of the
conference room.

Valorum's face fell.  He hadn't been prepared for such an abrupt
dismissal.  "Wait!  May I make this proposal to you then?"

The Jedi froze and faced Yoda for their cue.  Yoda looked up at
Valorum and nodded once.

Valorum sighed, relieved.  He passed his hand quickly over his
eyes, his mind racing.  "I can understand your reluctance to formally
assign this mission.  I know the weight of the responsibility it carries.
You must understand my position in all this.  I was given this
information at no small cost of my own.  I cannot consciously ignore
it or refuse to act on it because of the dangers it involves.  Therefore,
I have asked for your assistance.  I am only asking.  I am not ordering.
Will you consider doing as much?  Ask your Jedi Knights; do not
order them.  Let them decide whether to partake of this mission
or not."

Again the Jedi Masters focused on Yoda.  He considered Valorum's
request for a tense moment before nodding his consent.

"Ask them, we will."  With that he bowed slightly and turned to leave.


Qui-Gon Jinn spared a quick confused glance at his apprentice,
Obi-Wan Kenobi just before they entered the Jedi Council chambers.
The tension emanating from inside the room was both unusual
and intriguing.

Qui-Gon did not know why he and Obi-Wan had been summoned
to appear before the Council, but he had assumed it was simply to
be assigned another mission.

As the two Jedi drew closer to the council room, the Force became
charged with a mixture of rare emotion.  That alone gave Qui-Gon
pause.  He also felt the presence of several other Jedi assembled
within; no less than twenty.  Normally, assignments were handed
out individually and in private.  Something was up.

The doors opened and confirmed Qui-Gon's suspicions.  The
circular chamber was nearly wall-to-wall in Jedi of varying species
and ages.  Some were male.  Some were female.  A few were
masters with padawans.  Some were alone.  All appeared just as
intrigued and confused as Qui-Gon felt.

Qui-Gon motioned for Obi-Wan to follow him to the front of the
assembly.  He stopped before Master Yoda and bowed.

"My apologies for our tardiness," Qui-Gon began.  "We came as
soon as we received word.  Have we missed anything?"

Mace Windu shook his head.  He turned to Yoda.  "I believe
everyone is here now.  Shall I begin?"

Yoda nodded.  He closed his eyes momentarily and frowned.
"Begin, Master," he said simply, his voice murky and soft.

Mace Windu rose from his chair and faced the assembled Jedi.
"First may I say that all of you have been carefully selected by
none other than Chancellor Valorum himself," he began.  "All of
you were chosen by him for one reason or another, but you are
all capable and qualified to carry out the mission we are about to
relay to you."  He paused and looked around the room.  "The Supreme
Chancellor has contacted us regarding a matter of utmost
concern, to him, and the Republic as well.  Information has been
sent to him by his administration's outer core agents.  Information
which he strongly feels requires his personal attention and our

Master Yoda straightened and raised a small hand to silence the
ensuing murmurs.  "Dangerous this mission is," Yoda said.  "And
required to accept it, you are not.  Decline you may and free to
go you will be.  Assign any of you to it, we do not.  Asking for
volunteers we simply are."

Plo Koon rose from his seat and came to stand beside Mace
Windu.  "After learning the details of this mission, Master Yoda,
Master Gallia, Master Windu and myself agreed that this mission
is an exercise in futility.  Doomed from the start.  We initially
refused the chancellor our assistance.  He has asked us, however,
to ask you, if we would put the details before you so you have the
opportunity to at least consider it."

Master Gallia leaned forward.  "We do agree that the chancellor's
concern is valid and justified.  He has learned of a prototype for
a new kind of battle droid, one far deadlier than its
predecessors.  He fears the results of full-scale production of
these droids, partly because of their virtual indestructibility, and
partly because they are being manufactured by the Colicoids."

The Jedi in the room stood in stunned silence.  As Adi Gallia's words
began to sink in, another hum of murmurs filled the Council's chambers.
Two Jedi with young padawans in tow, immediately stepped forward.

Yoda folded his hands in his lap and focused his full attention on
the two masters.  The first, an older female Cerean with a twelve year
old human boy, bowed deeply.

"With respect, Master Yoda, from what I know of Colla IV,
I feel I must decline.  My padawan is newly acquired and far from
ready to face a mission of such perilous circumstances," she stated.

Yoda merely nodded.  The Cerean placed her hand on the boy's
shoulder and motioned him towards the door.  The second Jedi,
a Triller, bowed before Yoda as well.

"Masters, my padawan is also quite young and inexperienced--" he
began.  Mace Windu cut him off.

"You are dismissed as well," Mace Windu told him.  As the Triller
ushered his padawan to the door, Mace Windu addressed the remaining
Jedi.  "We should have made this announcement earlier.  If you choose
to act on the chancellor's behalf by accepting this mission, and
you are a master with an apprentice, you should know that we expressly
forbid your padawan to accompany you."

Qui-Gon felt Obi-Wan bristle beside him.  Slowly Obi-Wan turned
his large expressive eyes towards him, obviously seeking confirmation
that the Council could not possibly be referring to him as well.  Qui-Gon
didn't respond.

Obi-Wan spared a quick glance around the room.  The other
padawans were all much younger than he was.  They were far
more inexperienced and not nearly as accomplished in the Jedi
arts as he was.  He was closer to knighthood than any of them as
well.  He took a deep breath and tried to quiet his pounding heart.

Obi-Wan remembered that Qui-Gon had been to Colla IV once
before on a diplomatic mission.  Obi-Wan had been forbidden to
accompany him at that time as well, but he was much younger then.  He
had stayed with Master Yoda until Qui-Gon returned.  He remembered
that it had been a difficult mission for Qui-Gon and it took the Jedi
Master a long time to recover from it.  Respecting his master's privacy,
Obi-Wan never questioned him about it.  All he knew was that if
Qui-Gon was returning to Colla IV, Obi-Wan was definitely going
with him this time.

"Masters, tell us about this assignment so we may decide," a voice
from the back called.

"What is it that the chancellor would have us do?" another Jedi asked.

Qui-Gon fixed his eyes on Yoda.  "How many Jedi does the
chancellor need?"

Yoda raised his hand once more.  "All your questions in time, we
will answer.  Now you know, to Colla IV this mission leads.  Anyone
else, who does not wish to hear the details, now should you

No one else stepped forward.  Plo Koon walked to the center of the
room and activated the hologram of the droideka prototype.


After the final details were given, most had agreed with
the Council and deemed the mission futile and most likely suicidal.
Eight had remained and Obi-Wan wondered if they felt compelled
to accept or were more optimistic than their peers in the mission's
possibility of success.  He wasn't sure what had motivated Qui-Gon
to remain.

As he followed his master back to their quarters to prepare
for their new assignment, Obi-Wan sensed an unease in Qui-Gon
that went beyond the hazardous mission he had just volunteered
them for.  Obi-Wan didn't pursue it.  Qui-Gon would work it out in time.

In turn, Obi-Wan did not attempt to hide his own unease.  It would
have been futile to try.  Qui-Gon would sense it even if he did.
Silently, the two Jedi walked back to their quarters.

"Everything will be just fine, Obi-Wan," the Jedi Master began,
offering his padawan a reassuring smile.  "There will be plenty of
support for us.  Some of the finest Jedi in the Order are partaking
of this mission.  I've worked with quite a few of them before."

Obi-Wan nodded slowly.  "I have to admit to being more than a
little anxious," he replied.  "I can't remember a mission where
negotiations were not attempted first.  I don't know very much
about the Colicoids, but launching an attack on them without
some sort of warning or ultimatum seems...unusual for the Jedi."

Qui-Gon moved about the room quickly, gathering whatever he
felt he needed for his departure and packing it into a small case.

"It was my understanding that the details of our strategy hadn't
been worked out yet," Qui-Gon corrected.  "Master Oppo Rancisis is
accompanying us so I'm sure all peaceful, non-confrontational paths
will be pursued first.  These droids are indeed formidable.  We
cannot go up against one blindly.  We will try to find some fault to
their defenses first.  It's our only hope, really.  But I believe our
chances are good."

Obi-Wan wandered off into his room and began gathering his own
things to pack.  "If we can't find a vulnerability in these droids, we
won't be able to follow the chancellor's plan," he continued, raising
his voice so Qui-Gon could still hear him.  "We will have to
aggressively confront the Colicoids. We will need to destroy their
plans and prototypes in an all-out assault.  Hopefully as a last resort
only.  I fear that is where the real danger for us will lie."

"I agree," Qui-Gon said, coming to stand in the doorway of
Obi-Wan's room.  He stopped short and watched Obi-Wan
silently for a few moments then began shaking his head.  "What do
you think you're doing?"

Obi-Wan gave him a preoccupied glance over his shoulder.  "...Getting
things ready. Why?"

Qui-Gon inhaled slowly.  "Why indeed?"

Obi-Wan turned to face his master, startled by the tone of his voice.
As usual, Qui-Gon's expression was passive, but Obi-Wan heard
the sharp edge in his question and felt the Jedi Master's sudden
apprehension.  Realization dawned on Obi-Wan and he stared
back at Qui-Gon with an incredulous expression.

Qui-Gon shook his head again.  "No.  You heard the Council.
No."  With that he turned and drifted back out of the room.

Obi-Wan gaped after him in shock, then sprang forward.  "You
can't possibly be serious!"

Qui-Gon whirled around to face him.  "I've never been more serious.
You are not coming with me."

Obi-Wan tried to smile.  Obviously Qui-Gon had misunderstood
the Council.  "Master, they were talking about the children.  It
only makes sense.  They were not referring to me.  I'm twenty-one.
I'm hardly a child."

Qui-Gon was adamant.  "Then stop acting like one and accept the
Council's decision."

Obi-Wan placed his hands on his hips.  "Do you hear yourself?
Since when does anything the Council decrees apply to you?"

Qui-Gon's expression darkened and Obi-Wan immediately regretted
his rash bravado.

"Guard your tongue, Padawan," the Jedi Master warned quietly.

Obi-Wan swallowed hard and bowed his head.  "Forgive me.
That was uncalled for."  He looked up pleadingly.  "Qui-Gon...please.
Let me come with you.  This isn't the first time the Council has forbidden
me to accompany you.  It never stopped you from taking me with you

Qui-Gon sighed heavily.  He placed his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder.
"I'm sorry.  It's too dangerous.  I won't risk it."

"Risk it?  You've already agreed to it," Obi-Wan countered.  "And
when you accepted this mission, I did too."

Qui-Gon dropped his hand.  "I accepted this mission because I have
a responsibility to serve the Republic as a Jedi."

Obi-Wan straightened indignantly.  "So do I.  Or are you forgetting
that I am also a Jedi?"  He turned away from the Jedi Master,
focusing on his travel bag, forcefully shoving items into it.

Qui-Gon chewed his lower lip thoughtfully.  He could feel a cauldron
of emotions brewing in Obi-Wan.  He knew he had to diffuse them
soon before they both ended up saying things they would later regret.

"Try to understand my position, Padawan," he said, his voice softening
considerably.  "My very first responsibility is to you.  I am obligated
and bound to care for you first and foremost.  That is why I cannot
allow you to accompany me."

"I can take care of myself."

Qui-Gon was stung by the vehemence in Obi-Wan's tone.  He knew
that the boy was hurt and insulted by what he no doubt perceived as a
personal rejection.  But he also knew the Council was right this time.  He
turned away from Obi-Wan and went to retrieve his case.

"Fine.  Take care of yourself here then."  Qui-Gon snatched up his bag
and strode powerfully towards the door.

"All this time, I must have been deluding myself," Obi-Wan growled.
He crossed his arms over his chest.

Qui-Gon stopped walking, whirled around, and flung his bag forcefully
into the nearest chair.

"All right, Padawan, let's have it," the Master seethed.  "Before I go,
I want to hear everything."  He stalked up to Obi-Wan and stood
towering over him, mere inches away.

Obi-Wan refused to be intimidated.  He locked his eyes on Qui-Gon's
and scowled.

"I always believed I was your partner--that we were a team.  We
would always be there for each other.  You say you care for me and
that you have a responsibility to protect me, well, I have that same
responsibility towards you.  As much as you feel you cannot put me
at the kind of risk this mission is fraught with, I feel I cannot allow you
to participate in it without me."  He paused and sighed.  "I have to
go with you," he said, his voice a mere whisper.

Qui-Gon's anger quickly dissipated.  The argument was a strong one,
and he was pleased with his padawan's logic, if not the emotions
behind it.  Nevertheless, he shook his head.  "I can't let you."

Obi-Wan backed away from his master and bowed his head.
"You haven't been truthful with me, have you?  I can feel it. You
don't believe in this mission any more than the Council does.  Why
are you going then if you don't believe you'll be coming back?"

Qui-Gon frowned.  "Someone needs to stop the Colicoids.  I believe
in that much."

"Why you?"

"Why not me?  I'm entirely capable and willing and more or less

Obi-Wan's eyes flashed.  He became angry all over again.  "And
just who told you that drivel?  Expendable?  To whom?  Certainly
not to me.  But apparently, I don't seem to matter very much."

Qui-Gon passed his large hand over his face to wipe away the
inappropriate smile that threatened.  Obi-Wan's sense of adolescent
outrage was charming, but he didn't want his padawan to think he
was making light of his indignation.  He took a moment to compose
his thoughts, aware that he would have to frame his response carefully
to make his apprentice understand how important he was, and would
continue to be.

"You are all that matters," Qui-Gon told him.  "You are my legacy,
Obi-Wan.  Long after I'm gone you will still call upon my resources,
my opinions and lessons, and values and principles.  All the things I
have impressed upon you in all our time together.  Don't you see,
as much as I want you with me, as much as I might need you, it is
self-defeating for me to lead you to...imminent death."

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes and shifted his hands back to his hips.
"So even if the Council did not forbid apprentices on this mission,
you still would refuse to let me come with you?"

"The Council's decision is final."

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes.  "You have defied their decisions before.
What's stopping you now?  If you truly believe it's wrong, take me
with you.  They are used to your defiance."

Qui-Gon looked around, making an elaborate show of searching
for something.

Obi-Wan furrowed his brow in confusion.  "What are you looking

"My padawan," Qui-Gon retorted.  He gestured at Obi-Wan.  "I
can see you standing there, but you're not my padawan.  My padawan
always admonishes me for defying the Council.  He never ever
encourages me to do so.  But I suppose it's different when it's
something you feel strongly about.  Isn't it, Obi-Wan?"

Obi-Wan had the grace to look ashamed.  He swallowed
uncomfortably.  "Yes, it is," he replied softly.  He blinked several
times and shook his head.  "For once, you don't believe they are
wrong, do you?"

"It is a personal decision," Qui-Gon told him.  "Please respect it."

Feeling once more that their discussion was at an end, the Jedi Master
turned and picked up his bag again.  He glanced over his shoulder
and offered Obi-Wan a small smile.  "May the Force be with you,

Obi-Wan would not look at Qui-Gon, and stubbornly bowed his head.
Sighing, the Jedi Master turned towards the door and hurried out.


Jedi Master Oppo Rancisis, military tactician and strategic
consultant of the Jedi Council, glided soundlessly through the
Temple corridors on his way to the waiting Republic transport.
He was accompanied by two interpreter droids, which were
programmed for use by ambassadors and agents deployed to
the outer core territories.

He was grateful to have acquired them, since he didn't know how
to speak the chitinous Colicoid language and to the best of his
knowledge, no one on the team for this mission did.  It had taken
the Temple's administrators a long time to find these droids,
causing a considerable delay in the transport's departure.

He turned down the accessway to the Temple's hangar bay and found
his path suddenly blocked by Qui-Gon Jinn's padawan.

"Master," the young Jedi burst forth.  "I must speak with you!"

Oppo Rancisis stopped, motioning the droids to continue on
towards the transport.

"Quickly, Obi-Wan Kenobi, I am already behind my time," the
Jedi Master said, his long white hair rippling fluidly about his face
with every move of his head.

"I don't want to detain you," Obi-Wan told him, and gestured for
him to continue.  Oppo Rancisis bowed his head in appreciation
and started walking across the tarmac.

"What did you need to speak to me about?" he prompted.

Obi-Wan took a deep breath.  "I wish to volunteer my services
for this assignment."

Oppo Rancisis suddenly stopped walking again and faced Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan hurried to explain.  "Under chapter twenty-nine,
section 2D, paragraph six of the Jedi Council Articles."

Oppo Rancisis shot Obi-Wan an impatient look.  "Forgive me,
Padawan, I don't have all two hundred chapters of the Articles
memorized.  Would you care to enlighten me?"

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak, but the Jedi Master suddenly
raised his hand for silence.

"Do you have Master Jinn's permission to come along on this
assignment?  For that matter, do you have the Council's permission?"

"Ah...no, but under this section of the Articles, I don't need their
permission," Obi-Wan continued.

Master Rancisis shook his head and started walking towards the
waiting ship.  "I need their permission.  I'm not going against the
Council, or your master to placate you."

Obi-Wan skipped after him, stifling his rising irritation.  "Section 2D
pertains to any voluntary assignments," he began.  "Specifically, who
may and who may not volunteer for assignments and under what
circumstances.  I am fully qualified to volunteer my services for this
particular mission, if it is of my own accord and I am fully knowledgeable
of what is expected of me."

Oppo Rancisis chuckled deeply.  "Are you serious?"

Obi-Wan frowned.  He was hoping for a much more impressed
reaction from the Thisspiasan than that.  "Master Rancisis, I have just
spent the last two hours in the Temple library devouring anything and
everything I could find on the Jedi conduct in order to make my
seemingly impulsive actions legal in the eyes of the Council."

Oppo Rancisis made a sweeping gesture of welcome towards Obi-Wan.
"Very well, Padawan.  At the very least, I welcome your enthusiasm.
And if Master Jinn disputes your presence, have him speak with me.
Remember now, you are not his padawan on this mission.  You will
take orders only from me or your immediate superior, whomever
that may be, understand?"

Obi-Wan nodded.  He followed Master Rancisis to the transport's
boarding ramp and tried not to think about Qui-Gon's reaction when
he saw him.


Qui-Gon found a darkened deserted passageway, closed his eyes
and cleared his mind to meditate.  The journey to Colla IV was
already proving tedious and lengthy and they hadn't even left Coruscant
yet.  It would be a good time to meditate and come to terms with his
feelings surrounding this mission and his departure from Obi-Wan.

He was unhappy, to say the least. Considering the mission he was about
to undertake, he was hoping to leave on better terms with his padawan,
but in anger, Obi-Wan had refused to see him off.  He hadn't wished him
well, or even said good-bye.

Well, thought Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan would get over it in time.  He was
hot tempered but he never held a grudge and never remained angry
for long.  He was usually the first to apologize to mend any riffs,
regardless of who was originally at fault.  It suddenly pained Qui-Gon
to think that at this very moment, Obi-Wan might be deeply regretting
not saying good-bye to him and punishing himself by considering it
may have been the last time they would ever see each other.

If that was the case, Qui-Gon hoped Obi-Wan would just stay mad
at him.

He began to wonder if maybe he had been wrong in refusing him.
Obi-Wan was a capable Jedi, well able to contribute to this mission.
He was courageous and dedicated and a superb swordsman.
Qui-Gon had to admit he felt a little vulnerable not having
Obi-Wan with him.  They had been together for a long time now.  Obi-Wan
was right.  They were a team and it didn't feel right to be separated
from him.

He tried to reassure himself that he had Obi-Wan's best interest in mind
and that he had only acted as a caring, responsible master to protect
his protege from known peril.

He nodded and settled into a meditative posture, reassured he had done
the right thing.


On board the crowded transport Obi-Wan didn't see Qui-Gon, but
he could sense his master's presence.  He was certain Qui-Gon
would be able to sense him as well and would seek him out in time.

He settled in the only seat left vacant near the entryway, beside
a Niaforian female who regarded him with some surprise.

"You're a padawan," she announced.  "How did you manage to
convince the Council of the necessity of YOUR presence here?"
She drew her hood back and angled herself to face him better.  She
was older than Obi-Wan, with long amber-colored hair and large
piercing brown eyes that were attractively accented by a green
jewel implanted between her brows.

Obi-Wan bowed his head.  "I didn't, exactly."

The Niaforian smiled slyly.  She extended her hand in greeting.  "I'm
Jedi Knight Lyrik D'La Verge."

Obi-Wan glanced up at her and took her hand.  "Obi-Wan Kenobi.
How do you do?"

Lyrik dismissed his question as rhetorical.  "Kenobi.  That sounds
familiar."  Her eyes traveled up and down the length of him.  "Strange,
I don't believe we have met before. If we had, I assure you I would
have remembered," she grinned.  "You're not supposed to be here,
are you?  Does your master realize his padawan is missing?"

Obi-Wan scanned the room quickly.  "Not yet."  Chagrined, Obi-Wan
gazed at Lyrik.  "He will when he senses me, though."

Lyrik's eyes widened.  "He's here?"  She looked around as well.

Obi-Wan nodded.  "He won't be pleased, to say the least, but I am
here within my legal rights--I spent hours in the library researching
them," he added, noticing her dubious expression.  "The Council
cannot dispute it.  My master cannot dispute it.  Though I'm quite
certain he'll try."

Lyrik merely shook her head.  "I hope you know what you are doing.
And what you have gotten yourself into."

Obi-Wan looked offended.  "Of course I do.  I wouldn't be here
otherwise."  He sighed, regretting his sharp tone and lowered his
voice.  "Why are you here?"

Lyrik pursed her lips in consideration.  "I can help.  I wanted to help.
Personal reasons."  She shrugged.  "Why are any of us here?"

Obi-Wan shifted uneasily.  He felt the sting of Qui-Gon's rejection all
over again.  "Because we want to feel needed.  We want to be able to
look out for those we care for."

Lyrik gazed at him sympathetically.  "Ah, it's personal too, then."

Obi-Wan flushed slightly.  "It wasn't before, but it is now.  Apparently,
I need to regain his confidence.  I must have lost it somewhere along
the way because he resolutely refused to let me accompany him on
this mission."

"Directly disobeying him--that's a good start if you want to reinforce
his confidence in you," the older Jedi teased.  "I'm sure his confidence
in you had nothing to do with it," she went on. "He most likely just
wanted to keep you safe."  She offered him a reassuring smile.  "You're
very young, Obi-Wan.  You no doubt have that sense of invincibility
that comes with youth.  Nothing can stop you.  Nothing can harm you.
You will live forever."

Obi-Wan frowned.  "Hardly.  I'm a Jedi.  I have a very keen sense of
mortality, thank you very much."  He turned away from her and folded
his arms across his chest.

Lyrik laughed.  "Oh you are precious-looking when you pout," she
teased.  She placed her hand on his arm.  Obi-Wan looked over at her.
Her voice became soft and her expression solemn.  "When I was a
padawan, my master had to leave me behind sometimes.  I didn't like
it very much either, but at least I tried to understand that it was because
she cared about me.  And at least I respected her and trusted her
judgment enough to accept her decision."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes tightly and shook his head.  "Impetuous,
aren't I?"

Lyrik cocked her head slightly.  "Maybe.  I would be more inclined
to say opinionated and temperamental, I think."

"Mmm, that too," Obi-Wan said with a slight grimace.  He looked
around for Qui-Gon again.  Obi-Wan couldn't understand why he
hadn't shown himself yet.  The Jedi Master should have
sensed him by now.  "I'd like to think my heart was in the right
place though.  I simply couldn't bear the thought of being
left behind, knowing the dangers he could face."  Obi-Wan slumped
back in his seat and sighed.  "I know he's furious.  The fact that he
hasn't come over here yet speaks volumes."

Lyrik smiled easily.  "Did you think he would welcome you aboard
with open arms?"

"No, but I thought he would at least confront me.  I'd definitely
prefer that to this 'simmering' silence."

"Maybe he is respecting your 'legal rights'," Lyrik offered.

Obi-Wan glanced sideways at Lyrik and frowned.  "I'm certain it is
not that.  He can't possibly be aware such a thing exists.  He isn't what
you would call a disciple of the Code.  And I don't believe he has
ever read the Jedi Articles."  Obi-Wan shook his head ruefully.  He
knew he would not be able to quote passages to Qui-Gon as his
defense.  Qui-Gon would only see that Obi-Wan had deliberately
disobeyed him.  He turned and faced Lyrik, feeling her eyes on him.

"Not a disciple of the Code, huh?  My master once used those
very same words to describe a particular Jedi named Qui-Gon Jinn.
Oh, I had such a crush on him when I was five."  She paused and
laughed lightly.  "Now I know who you are," Lyrik suddenly
announced.  "You are Qui-Gon Jinn's padawan."  She smiled and
grasped Obi-Wan's chin in her hand, turning his head back and
forth.  "I hardly recognize you now.  The last time I saw you, you
were just a teenager.  My, you've grown.  And how."

Obi-Wan blushed under her scrutiny.  "I'm sorry.  I don't recall
our ever meeting.  Was I with Qui-Gon at the time?"

Lyrik sighed heavily and released Obi-Wan's jaw.  "Yes.  As a matter
of fact, my master and your master were quite an item.  They
were inseparable whenever they were at the Temple together.  You and
I first met as initiates.  I remember I didn't like you very much
then.  I thought you were rather precocious.  We dueled once.
You were fourteen.  I was nineteen.  Do you remember
that?  Naturally, I won.  I had you pinned in minutes.  Of course,
my being ambidextrous helped."

Obi-Wan smiled warmly as the memories she spoke of surfaced in his
mind.  "Lyrik D'La Verge, of course.  Yes, I remember you now.  You
demonstrated the benefits of fighting with two lightsabers as opposed
to one.  I would have never connected you with that gangly, freckled
padawan I fought so long ago.  And I didn't like you very much either,
if I remember correctly.  I think it mainly had to do with the fact that you
were taller and stronger than I was.  But your master, Master Sheleigha.
I was just as smitten by her as Qui-Gon was.   Such a powerful Jedi
and a lovely, elegant lady.  How is she doing?"

A flash of pain dulled Lyrik's soft brown eyes and she involuntarily
recoiled from Obi-Wan.  "You mean you don't know?  Didn't
Qui-Gon ever tell you?"  Her face became a mirror of sadness as
a rush of unhindered emotions threatened to surface .

Obi-Wan shook his head confused.  "Tell me what?"

Lyrik closed her eyes tightly and sighed.  "She was killed on Colla IV."

Shocked, Obi-Wan was about to respond when he felt the whisper of
recognition through the Force, followed by an acute sensation of anger
and disbelief.  His master had suddenly sensed him.

"Qui-Gon...I'm sorry, Lyrik.  I didn't know about....forgive me,  I
have to go," he said hurriedly, standing up.

Lyrik waved him away with a soundless gesture.


Be careful what you wish for, was the last thought to pass through
Qui-Gon's mind before feeling Obi-Wan standing in front of him in
the ship's hallway.

Instead of acknowledging him, Qui-Gon submerged himself deeper
in his meditations and pulled the Force's calming potency to him.
He didn't trust himself to speak wisely at the moment, so he refused
to speak at all.  He kept his eyes closed, knowing they would betray
him and reveal the turbulent emotions he was presently struggling to

After awhile, Obi-Wan began pacing the hall, but remained silent,
waiting for Qui-Gon to speak to him first.  He could feel Qui-Gon
retreating from his presence and shielding his emotions from him.
Obi-Wan began to realize the extent of his displeasure.  Finally, he
sighed in resignation and sunk to the floor beside Qui-Gon to meditate
as well.

Obi-Wan didn't know how long he had been meditating when he
suddenly sensed Qui-Gon looking at him.  His eyes snapped open
and he turned to face him.


Qui-Gon lowered his eyes and rose gracefully to his feet, then
started walking away.  Obi-Wan quickly pushed himself up after him.

"Master?" Obi-Wan prodded.  "I found a way around the Council's
edict and--"

Qui-Gon glanced sharply back at him and raised his hand for
silence.  "I have nothing to say to you," he told Obi-Wan in
a carefully controlled tone.  "And I'd rather you not speak to
me either.  I'm already aware of your contrition and
your contrived shame, just as I feel you are aware of my
disappointment in you.  There is no need to expand upon any of it."

"It's not contrived," Obi-Wan protested quietly.  His throat tightened
uncomfortably and he felt as though the close quarters of the small
passageway were pressing in on him.

Qui-Gon continued walking, saying nothing.

Obi-Wan looked after him longingly.  "I'm...I'm trying to apologize."

Qui-Gon stopped walking and turned to face him.  He was losing
his battle to keep his temper cinched.  He drew himself up to his full
imposing height and crossed his powerful arms over his chest.

"By all means, Obi-Wan.  Apologize.  But don't think that is going to
make everything all right between us, because it's not.  You've gone
way past the point where I can just blithely forgive you.  You've shown
a blatant disregard for my authority by your underhanded scheming to
get yourself on this ship and I want nothing to do with you on this mission.
Just stay out of my way," Qui-Gon snapped, turning away from his
padawan's sudden mortified expression.

Qui-Gon mentally cursed himself.   He should have clung to his first
resolve not to say anything.  He knew if he spoke, he would end up
saying something he would regret and he regretted what he had just
said. Space, space, space, Qui-Gon thought.  He needed to put
some fast distance between himself and Obi-Wan.  Clamping his
mouth shut, he strode purposefully down the hall.


Obi-Wan stared after his master, stunned and psychologically bruised.
He bit his lower lip savagely and quickly debated his next course of action.
He had two options.  He could let Qui-Gon go and be forced to endure
his intolerance until he cooled off enough to bestow his forgiveness; or
Obi-Wan could go after him and confront him and get everything out in
the open all at once.  He chose the latter, knowing his inability to wait
patiently for anything.

Qui-Gon growled inwardly at his tenacious padawan as Obi-Wan came
running after him and planted himself directly in front of his master.
Qui-Gon stopped walking and glared down at him.

"I don't think you realize how callous you are sometimes," Obi-Wan
began.  "Or what a difficult master you are.  No matter what, I can't
seem to please you."

Qui-Gon took a deep breath.  "And that's what drives you to do the
things you do," he retorted sarcastically.

Obi-Wan visibly struggled against his own temper.  "Admittedly," he
continued, "My decision to come on this mission was somewhat rash,
but then I didn't have the time to think through the consequences.
Yes, I disobeyed you.  But if you would look momentarily beyond
your tarnished pride, you would be able to sense the underlying
reasons which motivated me."

Qui-Gon's eyes softened somewhat and he sighed heavily.

Not wanting to lose his momentum, Obi-Wan pressed on.  "I know
you told me I had to remain on Coruscant.  But if you would have
been honest with me, about why you volunteered and why you were
so concerned for my well-being,  I would have understood better."

Qui-Gon shook his head.  "That's not the point, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan nodded.  "I realize that."

Qui-Gon frowned.  "My reasons are my own.  I shouldn't have to
explain myself to you.  You should trust me enough by now to accept
my decisions and know that I have good reason for deciding what I do.
I'm not the one at fault here."

"I didn't mean to imply you were.  I'm only saying that, due to some
inherent character flaw of my own, please consider being more
forthright in the future--and trust me with your feelings."

Qui-Gon looked slightly confused.  "What are you referring to?"
His tone implied that he had a good idea of what it was already.

"I'm referring to the real reason why you took this mission.  And the
real reason behind you not wanting me to go," Obi-Wan informed him.
Qui-Gon merely stared blankly back at him.  Obi-Wan lowered his
eyes.  "I'm talking about Master Sheleigha."

Qui-Gon's eyes darkened.  "What about her?"  He suddenly
appeared decidedly uncomfortable.

Obi-Wan sighed.  "Why didn't you tell me that she was killed during
your last excursion to Colla IV?  Why didn't you tell me that the
reason you are here is to reconcile yourself with her death?"

Qui-Gon swallowed hard.  "At the time, I was barely able to
come to terms with the knowledge of her death myself, even though
I knew the details.  I knew what had happened to her.  I didn't want
to share that knowledge with you.  I didn't feel the need to."

"You could have at least told me she died.  I could have shared
your grief," Obi-Wan said softly.

Qui-Gon's strength seemed to leave him.  He leaned heavily against
the wall as if for support.  "What's done is done," he said simply.
"What remains to be reconciled is the fact that because you are
now here, you have rendered me powerless to protect you from
an unspeakable evil.  An evil I have faced before and know all too
well.  You have put yourself in grave danger, Padawan."

Obi-Wan felt chilled by Qui-Gon's words.  "You are not powerless,
Qui-Gon.  And neither am I.  We'll face this together.  The way it
should be."

Qui-Gon looked depressed, his normally vibrant eyes vacant and
dim.  "If anything happens to you, Obi-Wan, I'll never forgive myself."

Obi-Wan leaned towards his master. "Nothing will happen to me.
You won't let it.  Just as I won't let anything happen to you."

The Force surrounding Qui-Gon was dark and turbulent.  His shifting
mood made Obi-Wan uneasy.  He waited, sure his master would realize
he was ultimately right and praise his steadfast optimism.  Instead,
Qui-Gon gripped Obi-Wan by the shoulders and pushed him away.

"Everything is so clear cut to you, isn't it?" Qui-Gon retorted.  "The
answers are obvious.  The right way is easy.  Everything in black
and white. You still see me through the eyes of a child.  Is that
what makes you think I can save you?"  He paused, closing his eyes
against a lingering sense of anguish.  "I couldn't save her.  Even though she
trusted me to, I wasn't there for her when she needed me to be and she
was taken.  I couldn't stop them.  And they killed her...then they ate her."

Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon abruptly brush by him and heard his footsteps echo
down the passage until they faded into silence.  The younger Jedi stood
where he was, unable to move until his lungs began to burn and his
heart pounded inside his head.  He suddenly inhaled sharply, gulping
down air.  It occurred to him that he had been so startled by what
Qui-Gon had just told him that he had actually stopped breathing.

He turned and faced the wall, leaning his forehead against the cold,
hard surface to soothe away the rush of heat reddening his skin.


"That's not exactly encouraging, Masters," Oppo Rancisis stated,
addressing the three Jedi seated across the table from him.

"Master Rancisis, it certainly wasn't because we did not try," the
Jedi closest to him began.  The other two nodded wearily.  They
had been given the task of studying the files and images of the
droidekas to find a weakness that could be exploited.  As the
Republic Cruiser, Reliant, quietly entered the Colla System, they
had sought out Oppo Rancisis to relay to him their lack of success.

"These droids are of an entirely new design.  They aren't anything
like the battle droids we are accustomed to.  More thought has
been put into their defenses.  Their firepower is twice that of a
battle droid and their speed and maneuverability are very impressive."

Oppo Rancisis immersed himself in deep thought.  "What about
close range contact?  Can a lightsaber penetrate that shield?"

"A lightsaber can penetrate both shield and armor, but the difficulty
lies in getting within range.  Then the best possible course of action
would be to sever the sensors located around the head, where the
droid's vibration sensors and radiation sensors are the most sensitive
and accurate."

"Or lop off its arms," one of the other masters offered.  "But that
makes two targets whereas the head just makes one."

"However, as soon as the droideka detects a threat, the shields go
up and it fires.  This is usually only seconds after it unfurls."

"Seconds," Oppo Rancisis pondered hopefully.  "Seconds may be
all we need."

"Anticipation of their assault will allow us to act accordingly," the
Jedi Master explained to Oppo Rancisis.  "Perhaps before the
droid can react."

Oppo Rancisis gazed steadily at his advisors.  "What about speed?
And you mentioned their maneuverability.  Just how impressive is it?"

"The projections we viewed showed an incredible capacity for both.
Droidekas transform themselves into wheels.  That's when they reach
their maximum speeds and maneuverability."

"What about in combat stance?  When they are actually attacking?"
Oppo Rancisis questioned.

"As I'm sure you know, being somewhat of reputable conceit,
the Colicoids have fashioned these droids in their own image.  The
Colicoids themselves are neither fast nor agile.  When in combat
stance the droidekas rely completely on their defense shields and
their firepower.  They are virtually indestructible when in that stage."

"What about intelligence?"

"Centrally controlled.  Similar to the more common battle droids.
They are told what to do and they do it."

Oppo Rancisis had heard enough. "Make sure every Jedi on this
ship is aware of these facts.  I feel our advantage lies in our ability
to think and react before these droids do."

A red blinking light on the control screen left of Oppo Rancisis hailed
his attention.  He turned and studied the readouts, then faced the
three masters.

"We are returning to normalspace."  He rose and bowed.  "If you'll
excuse me, Masters, I need to organize a landing party and gather
my interpreters.  May the Force be with you."



Obi-Wan glanced up at Lyrik as she settled herself down beside
him on the floor of the passageway.

"Hey," he repeated in a failed attempt at levity.

"Brooding, are we?"

Obi-Wan didn't answer at first.  Instead, he drew his knees up to his
chest and encircled them with his arms.  He leaned his head back
against the wall with a heavy sigh.

"I am so sorry, Lyrik," he whispered, his voice barely audible.  "You
have my deepest, sincerest sympathy regarding the loss of your
master."  Slowly, Obi-Wan turned his eyes on her, swallowing
uncomfortably.  "If I had known what had happened, I would have
sought you out and offered my condolences then, you must believe me."

"Ssshh, Obi-Wan.  It's all right," Lyrik murmured.  "I understand."  She
paused and closed her eyes momentarily.  "And thank you...for the
condolences.  Better late than never, huh?"

Obi-Wan studied her expression carefully.  "Please don't be upset with
Qui-Gon.  When I confronted him earlier, I realized the circumstances
surrounding Master Sheleigha's death remain difficult for him to accept.
In a way, he believes he was indirectly responsible."

Shaking her head emphatically, Lyrik angled her body to fully face the
younger Jedi.  "No, I'm not upset.  Don't think that for a minute.  I've
made peace with Sheleigha's death by vowing to honor her memory.
Not just through the lessons she taught me, but by living my life the way
she lived hers--to the fullest."  She paused as memories of her master
came to mind.  "Sheleigha believed that even though life
may be fraught with sorrow and hardship at times, we all need to realize
just beyond any veil of darkness is the light with all that's true and
strong.  There's love and beauty and laughter to be found in each and
every day if only we would recognize it and embrace it."

Obi-Wan stared back at Lyrik dubiously.  "Some would say that's
too idealistic."

"Perhaps," Lyrik readily admitted.  "But I'm a romantic at heart.  My
philosophy stems from the simple truth that light inevitably banishes
the darkness.  Therefore, light must be sought, even in the dark."

The younger Jedi massaged his eyes wearily.  "I wish Qui-Gon shared
your outlook.  I wish he would realize that my being here may be
a good thing."

Lyrik gazed at Obi-Wan sympathetically and smiled warmly.  "Was
he very upset?"

"Disappointed, I believe was the word he used," Obi-Wan told
her in a quiet voice.  "I can't blame him.  I'm disappointed in myself.
I can't imagine what I was thinking, disobeying him like this.  Not to
mention the Council."

Lyrik inclined her head.  "Obviously, you weren't rationalizing.
You were just reacting.  Justifying your actions by the intensity
of your emotions.  That's dangerous ground for a Jedi to tread."

Obi-Wan turned away from her.  She reached over and patted his
knee reassuringly.

"His reprimands are hard for you to bear," Lyrik observed.  "You
don't disobey him very often, do you?"

Obi-Wan tried to smile.  "No, and I couldn't have chosen a worse
time to start.  He's been very thin-skinned lately.  But I think about
it now and it's as if I wasn't acting of my own accord.  I was just
driven by this overwhelming sense that he needed me with him.
That was all I could see."

Lyrik shot him a calculating expression.  "Maybe that's it then.  Maybe
you were motivated to act by something far greater than yourself."

Obi-Wan looked back at her, startled by her revelation.  Lyrik

"You are a Jedi, Obi-Wan.  Remember, whether you are consciously
aware of it or not, you are tuned to the Force and the Force can think
for us at times.  It guides us and we follow.  It speaks to us constantly,
it's just that sometimes we don't recognize its voice."

Obi-Wan sighed.  "If that's the case, why didn't I foresee anything?
Why didn't Qui-Gon?"

Lyrik's reply was chilling.  "Perhaps he did."

Obi-Wan dragged his hand through his hair anxiously.  "I don't

Rising, Lyrik offered Obi-Wan her hand and helped him stand up.
"Don't try to analyze anything at this point.  Trust in the Force.
Remember, it won't abandon you when you need it the most."

Obi-Wan squeezed her hand in appreciation before releasing it.

Lyrik turned and motioned him to follow her.  "Come on.  We are
coming out of hyperspace.  There's going to be a briefing in the
conference room.  We need to head that way."  She held out her
hand to him again.  He hesitated for a moment, then took it in a firm
grasp.  Lyrik smiled and laced her fingers through his.  "Now, don't
worry," she continued amiably.  "Qui-Gon will come around.  And
until he does, you're more than welcome to stick with me."

The younger Jedi grinned.  "And what if he doesn't?"

Lyrik shrugged.  "If he disowns you permanently, I guess I could always
claim you.  I think I would like to have a padawan of my own."

"Well, your future padawan will be very fortunate to have such a wise
master.  But I'm telling you now, it won't be me."

Sighing with feigned disappointment, Lyrik pouted, gazing into Obi-Wan's
eyes.  Her expression grew somber.  "Your master is fortunate to
have such a wise padawan.  Even if he doesn't always see it at first."


The Reliant touched down on a pad within the capital city of Colla
IV.  Like Coruscant, the planet was entirely industrialized, with
structures and machines devised purely for function.  Its dense
tropical jungles had been completely razed, all its natural resources
utilized for numerous pragmatic purposes with little regard
for the planet's aesthetic appeal.  Nothing looked natural.  Not even
the grayish-yellow sky.

Qui-Gon drew up beside Oppo Rancisis at the viewscreen.  "We
are ready to disembark, Master Rancisis," Qui-Gon informed him.

Oppo Rancisis turned away from the grim vision on the cockpit
viewscreen and faced Qui-Gon.

"I wanted to speak with you privately, Qui-Gon," Oppo Rancisis
began.  "I need a reconnaissance team.  I want someone observing
from the outside.  Very, very low key.  I am aware that you have been
to this sector before.  I know you are more familiar with the layout
of the city than most of the Jedi here.  That was why I want you in
particular for this.  I want you to take two other Jedi with you and
try to infiltrate the factories--find out just what's going on as far as
production.  We'll need that information to take back to the chancellor."

Qui-Gon bowed.  "As you wish, Master Rancisis.  I am at your

The Thisspiasan Master sighed heavily.  "I'm sure you are aware
by now your padawan is on board.  Despite your current
personal feelings towards him, you may want to consider him for
your team.  A master-padawan bond would be beneficial when it
comes to espionage.  It would eliminate a lot of the guessing."

Qui-Gon fixed his dark blue eyes on Oppo Rancisis and nodded.
"Yes, Master, I do know about my padawan.  And I was already
considering him.  I would like to take him with me as part of my team.
Besides the fact that we work well together,  I know I can depend
on his acute sense of responsibility to wholly dedicate himself to any
task he's given.  He's courageous, and strong, and very tuned to the
connecting power of the Force."

Oppo Rancisis placed a hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder.  "I'm pleased to
see you've had a change of heart regarding him, Master Jinn.  When he
approached me back on Coruscant, he was resolute, but he also seemed
apprehensive.  I knew he defied you by volunteering his service to me.  I
sensed you would not be pleased, but his terms were viable.  There was
no contesting them."

Qui-Gon bowed his head.  "Our confrontations earlier reminded me of
a similar circumstance which played out long ago.  I was angry and even
though he did defy me, my heart never wavered.  My feelings towards him
remain the same as always.  His presence here is an asset.  I need him
to know this."
"Good," Oppo Rancisis said and nodded.  "The plan is for me to ask
for a demonstration of the prototype and then present
the formal protest to the Colicoids as a representative of the
Galactic Republic.  Depending on how the Colicoids react to that,
we will either challenge them or issue our farewells and be on our way.
You should know, there will also be a backup team remaining
on the ship.  This backup team has been instructed to contact
you for reinforcement should the need arise.  It will then
be up to you to retrieve as many Jedi as you can and head back to
Coruscant.  The chancellor and the Council will need to be informed."
Oppo Rancisis paused and lowered his voice.  "It is my
experience that anything less than full-scale deployment of the Jedi War
Machine is a waste of time when it comes to dealing with these beings."
He straightened and cleared his throat, returning to his normal
volume.  "But that is just in case something goes wrong."

Qui-Gon feigned shock.  "But Master, what could possibly go
wrong?" he asked dryly.


Being the only padawan on the ship was beginning to make Obi-Wan
feel self-conscious.  Everyone was offering him counsel and dispensing
wisdom as if he had been collectively adopted by all of them while the
man who actually was his master, presently wasn't offering him anything.

He tried to stay close to Lyrik.  He felt comfortable with her: her sage
advice was encouraging, and her sympathy welcome.  And he found
her frequent coquettish remarks refreshing.

The ship's interior was awash with varying shades of brown.  The Jedi
mulled about in discussion, debating, meditating, or simply waiting.
Qui-Gon was conspicuously absent.  Obi-Wan began to wonder if
he was avoiding him, but dismissed it as too petty for Qui-Gon.
Lyrik suddenly nudged his arm and he looked up just in time to see
Oppo Rancisis enter the interior followed closely by another hooded Jedi.

Obi-Wan recognized Qui-Gon even before seeing his familiar leonine
features.  His Force signature was strong, and his presence, even amid
the other masters, was commanding and formidable.

Qui-Gon made his way over to where Obi-Wan and Lyrik were
sitting.  He glanced briefly at Obi-Wan but stopped in front of Lyrik
and bowed.

"Lyrik D'La Verge, I regret that I have not sought you out before this
to renew our acquaintance.  I was aware that you had also accepted
this mission.  May I say you are looking quite well?"

Lyrik smiled.  "You may," she quipped.  "You don't look so bad yourself,
Master Jinn.  I meant to seek you out as well, but I got a little
side-tracked."  Her eyes drifted towards Obi-Wan.  "With a
face like that, who could blame me?"

Pointedly ignoring Lyrik's reference to him, Obi-Wan focused his
eyes determinedly on his lap.  He busied himself by pulling loose threads
from the hem of his cloak.  He felt he should say something to Qui-Gon,
but there wasn't anything left for him to say.  He shifted uncomfortably
and scowled at his fraying cloak.

Qui-Gon gazed down at Obi-Wan and was stung by the portrait of
dejection marring his padawan's usually vibrant features.

"Obi-Wan, look at me," he said quietly.
Reluctantly, Obi-Wan raised his eyes.

Qui-Gon shook his head.  "I know you probably think I've been
avoiding you, but in truth, I have been with Master Rancisis,"
the Jedi Master explained.

Obi-Wan furrowed his brow and wondered if Qui-Gon's observation
was merely a figure of speech, or if the Jedi Master actually did know
that was what he had been thinking.

Qui-Gon grinned and continued.  "Since you are here, Master Rancisis
and I felt you might as well be put to good use. He was impressed
by what I told him about you, and believed you would be able to
contribute greatly to this mission. "

Obi-Wan looked even more puzzled.  "Impressed?"

Qui-Gon nodded.  "I told him you were a fine padawan.  I told him
that you were brave, committed, reliable, and capable.  And, that I
wanted you with me."  His dark blue eyes locked on his padawan's.
"I meant it."

A slow smile brightened Obi-Wan's features.  He inclined his head
in a gesture of appreciation.  "Thank you, Master."  He was
considerably pleased by Qui-Gon's compliments but even more
pleased to be teamed with his master again.

"You and I have been given a special assignment for reconnaissance,"
Qui-Gon continued and crossed his arms, burying his hands in his
sleeves.  "It has to be very low profile.  We need to gather
information to take back to the chancellor on the latest droideka
developments.  Master Rancisis spoke of possibly infiltrating the
actual factory and then acting as reinforcements if needed."  He
turned and faced Lyrik again.  "Does this sound like something
you might be interested in as well?"

Lyrik nodded.  "Count me in, Gentlemen.  What's the plan?"


Aware of the fact that the Colicoids were monitoring the landing
pad and not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention to themselves,
Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Lyrik departed the Reliant with the four
masters that made up the main landing party.  They stayed towards
the back of the group, waiting for the opportunity to split from them
and venture out on their own undetected.

The arrival of the insectoidal Colicoids to the landing pad caused
a slight wave of apprehension to ripple through the Jedi.  The
Colicoids were large, powerful-looking beings with glossy
purplish-black shells.  They walked in sporadic, halting steps,
their limbs clicking with their mechanical movements.  Their
tiny vacant eyes added to the impression of the lack of
any kind of face.  The predominant feature of their head was
numerous antennas, followed closely by their large jagged
mandibles, which constantly ground together with a soft
scraping noise.

Obi-Wan shuddered involuntarily.  It was difficult to view the
Colicoids as the highly intelligent and sophisticated architects he
knew them to be.  They looked too much like machines.  Cold
and predatory.

The droids interpreting for Oppo Rancisis were currently engaged
in conversation with the largest of the Colicoids' representatives.
Finally, one of the droids turned its attention to Oppo Rancisis.

"This is Ty R'Kerkov.  He is a sergeant of rank of official forces here
in the city.  He was sent by his superiors to discover the reason for
our intrusion.  If sufficient cause can be determined, he has been
instructed to release us, but insist on our immediate departure.  If
not he has authority to seize the ship and all those on board."

Oppo Rancisis sighed.  "2-4M8, tell him he has no such authority
over us.  Warn him that should he attempt to carry out his threats,
we will not hesitate to defend ourselves and our ship.  Our purpose
here is diplomatic, as representatives of the Galactic Republic.  We
seek information only.  We came to see the droidekas."

2-4M8 hurriedly told the Colicoid what the Jedi had said.  The
Colicoid raised his arm in a dismissive gesture and replied in a
flurry of caustic sounds.

"He says you are lying.  He knows you are all Jedi and would not
be interested in purchasing a contract for production of droidekas.
The droidekas are war machines.  Their very name means destroyers.
Jedi would never support such production.  He knows the Republic
has sent you as a blatant act of aggression against his kind.  He feels
it only fair to treat you accordingly."

Oppo Rancisis shook his head.  "Our expedition here is not an act
of aggression.  Tell him this exactly.  The Republic is interested in
the production of these droids.  Not the Jedi.  We are only acting
as agents for the Republic.  Tell him we wish a demonstration of the
droids' capabilities.  We wish to test them ourselves to find out if they
are as indestructible as they are proclaimed."

This seemed to appease the Colicoid.  He turned and motioned the
seven Jedi to follow him as he aligned his contingent of soldiers to
lead them from the landing site.

Qui-Gon glanced over at Lyrik and Obi-Wan.  He nodded and
inclined his head to the left slightly, drifting slowly away
from the group as soon as the Colicoids had taken them out into the
center of the city.

The streets were all but deserted.  Occasionally a mangy and feral
creature scuttled from one hiding spot to another in the back alleys,
but no other sign of life appeared.

"Something's not right," Qui-Gon whispered.  "The foreboding I feel
is very strong.  The Force is trying to tell us something."

Obi-Wan leaned closer to his master.  "Could it be stronger because
we all sense it?"

Qui-Gon shook his head.  He stopped walking and looked around;
then quickly ducked into one of the darker alleyways and waved
Lyrik and Obi-Wan to him.

"No, the Colicoids are going to attack," Lyrik announced with
decided certainty.

"But the masters haven't shown any aggression towards them,"
Obi-Wan countered.  "Why would they attack them unprovoked?"

"The Colicoids are very wary of outlanders by nature," Qui-Gon
explained.  "You heard what they said.  Our mere presence here is
considered an act of aggression."

From their position in the alley, the trio watched as the
Colicoids led the four Jedi through a passage and out of sight.

"Shouldn't we stay with the others then?  Fight beside them?"
Obi-Wan asked.

"No, we'll be able to reinforce them from a different vantage point
this way," Qui-Gon told him.  His hand was already on the hilt
of his lightsaber.  Lyrik drew hers and shifted it from one hand to
the other a few times.  "We'll circle around the building and intercept
the Colicoids from the other side.  They won't be expecting that, it
might just give us an added edge."

Qui-Gon led them back out into the deserted street, skirting the
perimeter of a vacated building.  They moved quickly and silently
despite the fact there was no one around to see them.

Lyrik paused, an odd expression darkening her face.  "Qui-Gon
wait," she whispered loudly, pulling on his sleeve.  "Do you hear that?"

Obi-Wan had heard it as well.  He glanced at his master. Qui-Gon
stopped, listening.

"Something's coming towards us," Obi-Wan stated.

Qui-Gon heard the haphazard rumbling of heavy metal rolling
towards them at great speed.  It was unlike any sound he had ever
heard before.  He glanced quickly at Lyrik and Obi-Wan with
sudden dread.

"Destroyers!" he hissed and quickly pulled his companions further
down the alley.

Six large armored wheels sped past them and continued in the
same direction the other Jedi had been heading, rounding the side
of the building.  The loud metallic clanging sound they made
faded, then stopped completely, to be replaced by the sound
of laser blasts hitting lightsabers.  It resonated through the tunnel-like
streets to ear-piercing levels.

The three Jedi looked at each other, then simultaneously sprang

As Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Lyrik cleared the corner of the building,
the sight that accompanied these disturbing sounds proved to be
even more grim.

Master Rancisis was pinned inside a recessed threshold.  For the
time being, he was holding his own despite the steady stream of
blaster fire coming from the Colicoids and the droidekas in front of
him.  The three Jedi who had been with him lay dead on the street.

Qui-Gon noticed that two of the droidekas had been methodically
destroyed, their heads severed, parts littering the street.
The interpreter droids were also demolished.  Their demise must
have come from the Colicoids, who apparently felt their
interpretive skills were no longer necessary.

The sudden unexpected appearance of three more Jedi startled the
Colicoids.  They broke ranks and scattered for cover, but not
before drawing the droidekas' attention away from Oppo Rancisis.
The Thisspiasan seized the opportunity he had been given and
moved to attack, bringing down Ty R'Kerkov and two other
Colicoids himself as Qui-Gon and company finished off the remaining
five.  Now there was just the four destroyer droids to contend with,
but the Jedi had had enough, and before the destroyers
could center their assault on any particular target, Obi-Wan, Lyrik,
Oppo Rancisis, and Qui-Gon hastily retreated back around the
building, down the other side.

Qui-Gon took the lead and brought them into the vacant building
they had passed earlier.  He wanted to get them off the street
momentarily and out of the droidekas' sensory range.

Qui-Gon turned and faced Oppo Rancisis.  "We need to call the
backup.  We need their help."

"No," Oppo Rancisis stated emphatically.  "I will not see more
of my Jedi slaughtered.  We will return to the ship and leave this place.
It's clear to me this mission was pretty much over before it even got
started.  The Colicoids have made sure of that."

Qui-Gon swallowed hard.  "But the masters...back there.  We
can't just leave them to the Colicoids."

Obi-Wan paled, remembering Master Sheleigha's grisly fate.
"They'll be consumed," he said under his breath.

Oppo Rancisis sighed heavily.  "We will get them and bring them
back ourselves.  We will not call out the others."

Qui-Gon faced Lyrik.  "Master Rancisis and I will
carry the bodies.  You and Obi-Wan will have to act as cover,

Lyrik and Obi-Wan both nodded.


As the Jedi slowly made their way back to the passage, they noticed
a steadily increasing number of heavily armed Colicoids milling about.
These new forces had been alerted as to the escape of the Jedi and
were diligently scouting the immediate area for them.

Lyrik peered around a masonry wall surrounding a courtyard of sorts
and frowned back at her companions.  "We are never going to get
back to that lane undetected now.  There are Colicoids crawling
everywhere," she murmured, then grimaced.  "Uh, no pun intended."

Refusing to give up so easily, Qui-Gon began looking around.  He
noticed Obi-Wan steadily gazing upward.

"What is it, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan pointed.  "An open elevator shaft.  I can see it through the
window.  Inside that warehouse.  If we can cross the yard and make
it inside undetected, we can gain entry to the roof of the warehouse
using that shaft.  We could ascend the building without detection that
way."  He paused, calculating distances in his head while studying the
outside of the warehouse.  "Traveling down the length of that building
would take us to the street just beyond the passageway.  We could
move a little more freely on the rooftops, I think."

Qui-Gon looked impressed.  He turned to face Lyrik and Oppo
Rancisis for a sign of approval.  It was then he noticed the Thisspiasan
was leaning unsteadily against the wall.  He studied the Jedi Master
and frowned deeply.

"You're wounded," he stated knowingly.

Oppo Rancisis nodded.  "It's nothing to be concerned about.
Nothing I can't manage with a little manipulation of the Force."
He sighed and scowled at his companions' concerned expressions.
"I'll return to the ship on my own.  I don't want to slow you down.
Young Obi-Wan's suggestion is a viable one.  Go now."  He nodded.
"Go, and may the Force be with you."

Lyrik licked her lips in anticipation.  "Gentlemen, after you."


The elevator shaft was accessible by climbing over the top of the
elevator.  The actual elevator rested on the ground level, its doors
open and waiting for the next occupant.  The warehouse itself was
fairly quiet.  The Jedi spied a few armed Colicoid workers acting as
sentries outside a set of three massive double doors.  Using the
Force, the Jedi easily distracted the sentries and slipped into the
open elevator shaft.

The elevator operated by means of a hydraulic lifting mechanism.
The pressure tubing lining the sides of the shaft made scaling the
inside fairly easy physically, but the climb was tedious and slow

"You know what I just realized?  This scenario has all the ingredients
of a recurring fantasy of mine," Lyrik began, as they finally reached the
top.  "An elevator.  Two handsome men.  You know the kind.  If only
we weren't being hunted by killer droids and giant predatory bugs."

Obi-Wan pulled himself up out of the shaft and climbed onto the
flooring of the uppermost level.  He reached down and offered Lyrik his
hand to help her up.  She hoisted herself out and knelt down to assist

Qui-Gon gave her a dubious look.  "I can see where killer droids and
predatory bugs could put a damper on your erotic fantasies," he told

Lyrik grinned.  "Who says they were erotic?  My fantasy merely involved
reaching a goal through my own efforts...and having something nice to
look at along the way."

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged glances.  "I stand corrected," Qui-Gon
muttered with a slight smile.

The three Jedi worked their way down the spacious halls to the
farthest end of the warehouse in search of the roof's access.  Their
search of the entire upper floor proved futile.

Lyrik gestured at the window at the very end of the hallway.  "We'll
have to risk it," she told Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.  "We won't be
exposed very long.  It's just a matter of climbing out and pulling
ourselves up."

Qui-Gon nodded.  "Quickly," he urged.

Lyrik started for the window.  Obi-Wan skipped after her and almost
crashed into her and Qui-Gon as they ground to a halt just before
jumping out.

"Will you look at that," Lyrik whispered.

Qui-Gon peered out the window at the yard below.  Hundreds of
droidekas were lined up, row after row in precise formation.  Colicoid
workers were unloading more from the warehouse into the yard at a
steady rate.

"We're too late," Qui-Gon said to no one in particular.

Obi-Wan leaned forward, looking out over Qui-Gon's shoulder.
"They've apparently already started production.  They must have a
paid contract for these droids to construct this many of them."

"This warehouse must be a storage facility," Lyrik pointed out.  She
turned from the window and glanced around.  "I wonder how many
more there are inside."

Qui-Gon shook his head.  "I'd rather not stick around and find out.
We have to get back to the ship.  We have to hurry."  He pointed up.
"Let's go."

Lyrik silently hopped onto the windowsill and pulled herself up.
Obi-Wan glanced down below to check to see if the Colicoids
had noticed the sudden activity above them.  Slowly, he stepped
out onto the ledge and looked up at Lyrik.  She held her hand out
to him encouragingly.

A blast coming from inside the building startled Obi-Wan to the
point where he almost lost his balance and fell.  He clutched the
side of the building desperately as more blasts showered the
hallway from the sudden appearance of two patrolling droidekas.
Qui-Gon's lightsaber hissed to life and deflected the blasts back
down the hallway and into the surrounding walls.

"Go Obi-Wan!  Get out of here!" Qui-Gon ordered, furiously
swatting at the powerful blasts.  The droidekas were slowly stalking
towards him from the other end of the hall, surrounded by a
violet-colored globe of energy which efficiently protected them
from the Jedi Master's efforts.

Obi-Wan slipped back through the window, taking advantage of
the added height the ledge provided and diving as high up as he
could in the confined space of the hallway.  He sailed over the two
droids and landed just behind them with a perfectly executed
forward roll, simultaneously spinning around.  Before the lumbering
droids could turn their deadly blasts towards him he cut them down,
his lightsaber penetrating through the energy shields and armor
plating with relative ease at such close range.

Now the only sound in the hall was the gentle humming of the
lightsabers and the thundering of Qui-Gon's heart in his ears.  He
closed his eyes tightly for a moment and took a deep steadying breath.

Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and walked over to his master's
side.  "That was a bit of an adrenaline rush."

Qui-Gon deactivated his saber and attached it to his belt.  "That's
the second time you've disobeyed me, Padawan," he began,
the corners of his mouth twitching into a smile.  "I hope you are not
going to start making a habit of it."

"No Master, I promise," he replied, returning the smile.  Then
Obi-Wan lowered his eyes and his voice became very serious.
"But I'm not ready to have you die for me.  You understand,
don't you?"

Qui-Gon nodded.  "I understand."  He placed his hand on Obi-Wan's
shoulder and squeezed it in a gesture of appreciation.  "And I thank
you as well."

Lyrik's voice suddenly interrupted.  "Hey!  If you two are finished
playing around with the droids down there, you need to get up here

Together, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon leapt onto the window ledge and
climbed outside. They hurried over to the edge where Lyrik was
waiting.  She lay flat on her stomach, peering over the roof down
at the activity below.  Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan settled on either side
of her.

"What is it?" Qui-Gon asked.

She pointed.  "There.  That outbuilding.  Service droids just carried
three litters in there.  Whatever was on them was completely wrapped
in some sort of malleable film, as if for cold storage."  She paused
and swallowed uncomfortably.  "I'm pretty sure it was the masters'

Qui-Gon furrowed his brow.  He scouted the area and frowned.
In the lot to their left, the Colicoids continued lining up the destroyer
droids.  To their right was the front of the building and a main
thoroughfare.  Workers were coming and going.  Behind them
was the sideyard and the masonry wall where they had left Oppo
Rancisis.  The side of the building they were currently looking down
at was dark and relatively quiet.  There wasn't any signs of Colicoids
or droidekas in this area, just the service droids moving busily from
one outbuilding to the next.

"Those must be supply houses," Obi-Wan offered.  "For the
warehouse.  For the most part, they seem to be unguarded."

"Still, we'll have to try to avoid those service droids," Qui-Gon
pointed out.  "They may not be dangerous, but they can easily set
off an alarm."

"Got any ideas, Master Jinn?" Lyrik said and sighed heavily.

Qui-Gon rolled over on his back to think.  He closed his eyes to
envision his plan.

"We can jump down to the roof of the outbuilding," he began,
concentrating.  "We'll cut a hole in the roof.  It's metal, so that
shouldn't be difficult.  I'll go inside, retrieve the bodies, and pass them
up to you and Obi-Wan.  Then we'll have to scale the masonry wall
surrounding the perimeter, pass the bodies over to each other and
follow the wall to the other side.  I can carry two bodies and Obi-Wan
will take the third."  He paused and looked over at Lyrik.  "I want
you to go ahead of us and make sure the way is free of 'obstructions.' "

Rubbing her hands together in anticipation, Lyrik nodded and
sat up.  "Then let me at 'em and don't hold me back."


Qui-Gon's plan went without a hitch up until the point where they
were to follow the wall surrounding the warehouse.  The streets were
bustling with activity now as armed troops patrolled the
area along with the occasional contingent of destroyer droids.  The
Jedi were forced to move back into the outskirts of the city and
then practically double back in order to reach the landing pad.
Able to avoid the troops until they came through the
passage that led directly to the ship, the trio was startled to discover
the Reliant was entirely surrounded by Colicoid soldiers.  The ship's
rampway was guarded by two droidekas.

Qui-Gon eased his burden to the ground and stood regarding this
new predicament with vexation.  He dragged his hand through his
hair in frustration and turned to face Obi-Wan and Lyrik.

"We need a distraction," he stated.  "The only way we are going to
be able to get to that ship is to pull those troops away from it."

The Jedi turned as one, feeling an approaching presence.  Oppo
Rancisis emerged from the shadows and ambled over to where
the three Jedi were hiding.

"The others are sealed inside.  They told me they closed the ship when
the Colicoids showed up in force," Oppo Rancisis informed them.
He turned and gazed down at the bodies of the slain Jedi.  "I'm
pleased to see you were successful, Master Jinn."

"In more ways than one," Qui-Gon told him.  "We now have knowledge
that a full-scale production of these droidekas is currently underway.
They've amassed hundreds of these droids already.  At least we
were able to procure information the chancellor needs."

"And at least we know they can be destroyed with the proper
application of technique," Obi-Wan added.  "But, unfortunately, it
won't be enough to convince the Colicoids to cease production.  We
were simply too late.  So we failed in that respect."

Oppo Rancisis shook his head.  "Even if this mission had gone as
planned, there was never any guarantee the Colicoids would
cease plans for production.  And Jedi would have still lost their
lives.  In a sense we have failed, but the first-hand experiences we
have had with these droids will help Jedi defeat them in the future.
I do not wish to think these fine masters gave their lives for an
exercise in futility."

Lyrik nudged Obi-Wan.  "Give me your lightsaber, Padawan."

Obi-Wan gave her a puzzled look but complied.  She took it and
examined it carefully.

"Master Rancisis, contact the Reliant and tell them to prepare for
take off.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to go
home," Lyrik informed them.

As Oppo Rancisis activated his comlink, Qui-Gon faced Lyrik with
an uneasy expression.

"Just what do you have in mind, Lyrik D'La Verge?" Qui-Gon
questioned her.

She turned and started walking away from them.  "You said we
needed a distraction.  I'm going to cause one."

Obi-Wan gaped at her in surprise.  Qui-Gon sprang after her.

"No!" he spat and grabbed her sleeve, hauling her around to face him.
"That's not what I meant!"

"Relax!" Lyrik hissed back at him and jerked her arm free.  "Believe
me, I'm not into theatrical heroics.  I'm just going to buy us some
time and opportunity.  Have the ship ready to take off.  I'll pull the
troops off her and you boys get on board.  No sweat.  Just don't
forget to swing by and pick me up when you're ready to leave, okay?"

The Reliant's engines suddenly flared and fired up, startling everyone
and everything at the landing sight.  Lyrik turned and stalked off.
Qui-Gon looked longingly after her then reluctantly turned away.

The boarding ramp began to descend.  The Colicoids were on full
alert now, waving their weapons wildly at the unseen threat and
scuttling about, searching to no avail.  Suddenly the sound of two
lightsabers being activated focused their attention on the far side
of the landing pad, to the top of a broken down and long since
abandoned ship.

Lyrik stood perfectly balanced and ready in combat stance: feet
apart and lightsabers held blazing in front of her, one in each hand.
As predicted, the troop of Colicoids rushed to her, firing madly.
The droidekas dropped and coiled into their wheel form and rolled
towards all the commotion.

Qui-Gon moved to intercept them, his own lightsaber activated and
ready.  He disabled one while still rolling, narrowly avoiding being
crushed in the process.  The second droid straightened and Qui-Gon
stepped up to it, crashing his lightsaber through the armored head.
The droideka teetered, suddenly deprived of its guidance systems
and sensors.  It toppled over and lay on the tarmac, scraping the
ground frantically to try to right itself.

Obi-Wan had already made it to the ship with one of the bodies.
Oppo Rancisis had gathered up the others and had started up
the boarding ramp.  Qui-Gon ran after him, seeing the Reliant
begin to slowly rise off the landing pad.  He jumped, his feet hitting
the ramp just as the ship began to pull away.

Qui-Gon stayed on the ramp as the Reliant steadily gained height
and speed.  He watched the Jedi on the top of the abandoned ship
with admiration and awe.  Her unique style painfully reminded him
of Sheleigha, whose handling of a lightsaber was expert and also
unconventional.  Like her master, Lyrik was all grace and power
and precision.

Despite his tension, Qui-Gon had to smile.  Lyrik was Sheleigha's
legacy just like Obi-Wan was his.   Already he could see bits and
pieces of his personality reflected in Obi-Wan.  The boy was getting
more headstrong and defiant all the time.  If he kept it up, he would
never be offered a seat on the Council either.

Qui-Gon braced himself on the ramp, sending waves of encouragement
to Lyrik through the Force.  He could feel her tire as the extreme
exertion she was undergoing quickly drained her.  Despite that, Lyrik
was fending off the Colicoids' assault with considerable finesse, leaping
and spinning to avoid blasts she could not deflect as both
arms worked in perfect harmony with the two lightsabers.

She heard the ship over her and jumped straight up without looking
at it, letting the Force guide her.

Qui-Gon caught her in his arms and crushed her to him in a wave of
overwhelming relief.  He covered her mouth in an impulsive and
devouring kiss then released her, looking more than a little flustered.

"Forgive me," he breathed.  "This has been a hellish trip."

Lyrik smiled back at him and patted his cheek reassuringly.  "Please
Master Jinn.  Don't apologize.  That just made it all worthwhile."



Obi-Wan stared unseeing into the flames of the funeral pyres that
engulfed the bodies of the three slain Jedi Masters.  Qui-Gon stood
beside Obi-Wan, his head down, his eyes closed.  Silently and
without warning, Qui-Gon turned and began walking slowly away.
Obi-Wan started after him.

The Jedi Master stopped outside the great hall of the Temple and
leaned heavily against the cold stone wall.  Obi-Wan approached
him cautiously.

"Do you wish to be left alone?" Obi-Wan asked in a quiet and reverent

Qui-Gon sighed and shook his head.  "No, I don't wish to be alone.  I
don't ever wish to be alone."

Obi-Wan drew closer.  "Don't feel as though you have to speak with
me.  I'll just stand here with you if it will lend a little support."

Qui-Gon looked up and smiled.  "You're very kind and wise and a
good friend to me, Obi-Wan.  Sometimes, I don't think I deserve

Obi-Wan lowered his eyes.  "I feel the same, Master.  I feel very
fortunate to have you."

"Obi-Wan...about all those things I said when we were on our
way to Colla IV.  I know I hurt you.  I am sorry."  Qui-Gon paused
and pushed back the hood of his robe.  "Sheleigha insisted on going
to Colla IV with me, too.  She also felt an overwhelming sense of
responsibility towards me.  We argued.  I know I said a lot of
punishing words to her as well."  Qui-Gon raised his palms in an
entreating gesture.  "I was afraid for her and wanted to
discourage her from ever doing anything of that sort for me again.
Unfortunately, she was killed before I was given the chance to tell
her what I was truly feeling--how grateful I was that she loved me
enough to want to be with me no matter what.  How much she meant
to me and how special I thought she was."  Qui-Gon's dark eyes
glistened with unshed tears.  He reached over and placed his hand
on Obi-Wan's shoulder.  "I'm very grateful history did not repeat
itself in this instance.  I learned from my mistake with Sheleigha.
I could see the same pattern developing and I knew I had to stop it."

Obi-Wan inhaled deeply.  "It would appear my presence on that
mission was guided by something of a much more profound nature
than I originally thought," he began.  "At first I believed I was only
sent to save you, but now I see I was sent along to heal you as well."

Qui-Gon wiped at his watering eyes with his wrist and wearily
straightened.  "Come on, Padawan.  Let's go home."