"I have a bad feeling about this," Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi said for what seemed to his 19 year-old Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, to be for the hundredth time. And that was only this week.
"No surprise there, Master," Anakin responded offhandedly, picking at his rumpled, brown Jedi cloak. "It's too hot here for this thing," he muttered, finally peeling the outer robe off with an overly dramatic sigh.
Obi-Wan frowned at his student's sulking, though he absently wiped his sweaty brow with the edge of his own robe. "I would think out of the two of us you at least would be used to this heat."
"You'd compare Tantooine to this humid jungle? Desert heat is DRY, Master. This heat is wet, and well, gross." Anakin continued mumbling to himself about the oppressive, dense jungle mist that was preventing him from moving as gracefully through the trees and vines as he would have liked. He swiveled his back to look to his master who had stopped while mentioning yet another ominous feeling. Anakin sighed again. It wasn't that Obi-Wan was wrong or overstating the situation in any way. On the contrary, calamities seemed to follow the Master-Padawan pair wherever they went. Though, of course, they always overcame any such problems. Their mission successes were well-known and respected amongst their fellow Jedi. It was just that Obi-Wan always seemed to act like his presentiments were something that he could hoard over his Padawan - who as of yet had not shown any signs of being able to read the future like his Master. Of course, Anakin knew that wasn't his Master's intention, but he resented him for it anyway. Anakin decided long ago that not everything could be, or should be, explained rationally. Just because Obi-Wan was more closely connected to the Unifying Force than Anakin didn't mean that…
"…Anakin! Coruscant to Skywalker…Anakin are you listening?" Anakin jerked his head up from his musings, knitting his eyebrows in distraction.
"Sorry, Master," he replied smoothly, trying to appear genuinely contrite. "I will do better." There, that should keep him happy, Anakin thought.
Placated for the moment, Obi-Wan dismissed whatever distraction seemed to have briefly taken his apprentice's attention. He focused on the matter at hand. "Let's sum up the situation. Go ahead, Padawan. Report, " Obi-Wan intoned in his I'm-the-master-and-don't-you-forget-it voice.
Anakin consciously stopped himself from rolling his eyes, and met Obi-Wan's serious gaze. He was about to give a proper response, when something in the look in Obi-Wan's blue-grey eyes made his frustration peak. He stated with as much calm as he could muster, "We're on a planet we don't even know how we got on. And we are lost."
"A Jedi is never lost," Obi-Wan interjected. "We are…" he sought for the right phrase, "We do not currently have a destination." Pleased with his analysis, he continued, "If indeed we had a destination, we would surely be able to reach it."
Not deigning to acknowledge Obi-Wan's interpretation with more than an undignified snort, Anakin leaned against the trunk of one of the huge, green-leafed trees. The jungle seemed to go on for miles – how did they end up here? The last thing Anakin remembered before trudging through this tropical joy of joys was working with his Master on a new kata. Anakin scowled to himself. Obi-Wan seemed to take an immense enjoyment in mastering new katas, even in teaching ones he already knew to his Padawan. But to Anakin, the idea of repeating the same movements in an ordered pattern to be memorized for a repertoire was boring, repetitious, and even stupid if one was trying to prepare for a real fight. Why couldn't they just spar more often? Full-out, with lightsabres at their highest setting and all – now THAT would be useful. Anakin loved those practices, and he suspected Obi-Wan knew about his rather unwholesome fondness for their mock battles. A Jedi does not enjoy fighting, Anakin. It is only as a last resort. Anakin dutifully took his Master's words to heart. He knew fighting wasn't the point; the Jedi were diplomats. It was only lately that there seemed to be more requests by the Senate to take on conflicts that were impossible to resolve and generally ended with what Anakin dubbed aggressive negations. Anakin tried to imagine his Master as a younger Jedi – make that even younger, since he was still young, especially for having his own Padawan – and finding lightsabre battles exciting and, well, fun. But looking at the man who seemed so stern of late, Anakin shook his head, at the same time shaking away the imaginary picture of a younger Obi-Wan leaping eagerly into battle. Bringing his head level, Anakin winced as he realized his thoughts had drifted. Again. Well, he did have a lot to think about, and, like Obi-Wan said, they didn't exactly have a destination so what was the hurry? Anakin sought out the object of his current thoughts.
Obi-Wan was sitting on a rock, meditating. Okaaaay, Anaking thought. Maybe he can meditate us back to where we came from. Anakin considered that with only brief hope. Not very likely. Deciding to try meditating himself, Anakin slumped down with his back against the huge tree and opened his senses to the Force. Closing his eyes, he inhaled the thick jungle air and sifted the fingers of his right hand lightly through the dusty dirt covering the rough ground. This jungle was so alive. He could feel creatures big and small moving about his surroundings, some crawling along the ground through the fallen leaves and others leaping from tree to tree. None were particularly curious about the two humans imposing on their jungle home. Staying very still, Anakin tried to release his feelings into the Force. I need to relax, not be so agitated. I need to respect my Master. He is a very good teacher, and I'm lucky to have him. Who knows where'd I be now without him having taken me on as his Padawan? Anakin paused in his thoughts, thinking of a likely answer. Probably not in this gross jungle, Anakin concluded with a chuckle, losing his focus as he tried to muffle the sound.
Too late, Anakin noted, seeing Obi-Wan raise his eyebrows in his direction without flitting an eyelash. Compose yourself, Anakin, Obi-Wan thought towards him through the Force.
Chastised and sending back confirmation through their Master-Padawan bond, Anakin settled back down only to suddenly jump up, sensing a rumbling in the ground. "Master! Master, I hear a ship! Some kind of machinery is being used on the ground nearby, like a, like a ship taking off or something. Let's go check it out!" Excited, Anakin tightened his grip on the robe in his hands and bounded towards the direction the vibrations indicated.
"Wait! Anakin, wait. Calm. Think. Do no just rush ahead," Obi-Wan said, punctuating each word with his cultured, Coruscanti accent. Catching up to his jumpy apprentice, he put one hand on his Padawan's shoulder. Giving him a rueful smile, he followed up, "Are you sure it's a ship? Do we know if the sentients are friendly? What else do we need to consider?"
Anakin blinked. Considerations, right. "Sorry, Master. You are right. I just thought through our options very quickly and came to the conclusion that we should investigate."
"Fine," Obi-Wan replied. "Now, we will go." He stepped back and gestured ahead, still smiling with what Anakin surmised was probably amusement. At least that was better than the sternness that pervaded the last several hours of wandering. "Lead the way, my young apprentice."
Anakin warmed to the new light-hearted mood and returned a grin of his own, running his now earth-covered fingers through his short-cropped hair. "Only slightly younger than you," he said teasingly. Then, before his Master could protest, he dashed off – at a slightly slower pace than the stampeding sprint he had begun moments before. Taking his own turn to roll his eyes, Obi-Wan gathered his heavy robes around him and dashed off after his headstrong apprentice. Everything would work out – at least, it usually did. But sometimes he just didn't think he was really getting through to the young Jedi he called his apprentice.
"Pilot, sir, we are Jedi. Can you please give us passage to Coruscant?"
Before the pilot gathered her response, Anakin jumped in, "You must take us there." Giving his Padawan a meaningful glance, Obi-Wan turned back to the pilot.
"You Jedi want to leave Yavin 4 and go to Coruscant, fine with me." The pilot shrugged her shoulder, her bright orange-colored flightsuit highlighting the flaming red curls of her hair. Then she added, "Only because I'm heading there anyway. Business, you know." She gave them a scrutinizing look. "I don't know you two, but I guess I haven't been around this moon much lately." As if coming to some decision, about which the Jedi couldn't fathom, she tipped her head and headed towards the ship.
Confused, but glad to find a way to get back to the Jedi Temple, the Jedi followed their new captain up the ramp of the small, but well-equipped ship.
Anakin whispered to Obi-Wan, "Why would she know us, Master?"
"I don't know, Anakain, but I'm…"
"…getting a bad feeling about it?" Anaking finished for him.
Embarrassed or ticked off, Anakin wasn't sure, but Obi-Wan curtly spoke up. "I was actually going to say, I'm sure we'll find out in due time."
Anakin smirked and titled his head. "Sure, Master. Whatever you say, Master."
"Get on the ship, Padawan," Obi-Wan ordered, projecting his stern-master voice. Then, more softly, "We're going to Coruscant."
Luke Skywalker, recently Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, rose out of his morning meditations with a pensive look on his soft-featured face. Blinking his cool blue eyes, he contemplated what he had felt in the Force.
There had been a vague sense of…something. Shaking his blonde head as if by doing so he could clear the confusion of the images in his Force sight, Luke couldn't get rid of the feeling that something had happened – and nearby, at that. It was as if the Force had shimmered, and where was nothing there was suddenly…something(s). Strange, Luke thought. But, try as he might, he could get nothing more substantial…a sense of familiarity, but somehow not quite right, somehow different.
And then, as suddenly as the feeling had come, it was gone, spiraling off into the void. Unsettled now, Luke internally catalogued the feeling and his reaction to it. Saved for another time, another day perhaps. But for now, there were more pressing things in the here and now that required his attention. Noting his own distraction, Luke decided that making the New Republic function as a new political entity was likely even harder than creating it. Well, thinking of his own role in that creation, at least almost as hard. Thankfully, with his sister at the head as Prime Minister on Coruscant, Luke was able to concentrate on defining the role of the new Jedi – not on the day-to-day politics that consumed every waking moment for the new, democratic governing body.
Thoughts of his new Jedi trainees made Luke smile with a lighthearted optimism that belied his current stress. The new Jedi could succeed at protecting this new republic. Luke only wished he had been able to learn more about the Old Jedi Order from Ben before he had died. Or from Yoda. The timing hadn't been right. Too much had been at stake to be concerned with trivial details in the protocol of training Jedi – Luke's own training was a haphazard affair that ended up being more a path of self-discovery and individual experimentation. Though a Jedi Master, Luke wondered what that honorary title might have meant in the Old Republic. Not that he doubted his own abilities, though.
Sighing wistfully, Luke looked longingly over the rising sun above the Masassi temple to his north. If he had just had more time to talk with Ben, more time to learn about what it meant to be a Jedi, the philosophy and way of life. Barely any records of those times survived Palpatine's reign of terror. The Jedi Temple Archives were completely destroyed and nothing further remained. Well, Luke thought decisively, he and his new fellow Jedi would have to forge a new path, a new Jedi future. The past was lost to the past, and, all things considered, Luke would pick the fresh beginnings of the present over the darkness of the past.
"Going to the state building?" the pilot asked the two Jedi expectantly, maneuvering the ship into the docking bay one of the upper levels of Coruscant.
"Jedi Temple," Obi-wan Kenobi amended quietly, his eyes narrowed and searching as the ship landed safely. Something was not right.
The red-headed pilot gave a derisive snort, "Right. Then force knows why we came all the way here from Yavin." She escorted them off the ship and began to walk on her way, muttering to herself about confused Jedi. Flipping her long hair over her shoulder, she turned back towards the pair. "Well, fine. You don't have to tell me where you want to go. I'm just a pilot." With that, the Jedi were left to their own devices, the back of their pilot the last they saw of her.
Anakin's sarcastic comment was bitten off by one of his Master's, "Well, that was rude," Obi-Wan said.
"Must be your way with the ladies," Anakin offered with a smirk, his eyes twinkling as he began taking a few steps towards down the platform.
"Let's be on our way," Obi-Wan suggested, ignoring his Padawan's barb. As if he could care about impressing anyone in that way… "What? What is it?" Obi-Wan suddenly noticed that his Padawan was staring out of the docking bay, his mouth agape and his eyes wide.
Anakin didn't answer, and Obi-Wan stepped close behind his charge, peering over (well, around) Anakin's tall frame to seek what so shook his usually unshakeable apprentice. With a gasp of his own, Obi-Wan's breath caught in his throat at the scene before him as he took in the vista of the center of Coruscant.
His mind froze with one thought: GONE. It was gone. It just wasn't there. The temple which had stood for centuries upon centuries, the home and bedrock of the Jedi was…gone. Reaching out with his force senses, Obi-Wan felt for the presence of his fellow Jedi and felt, no one - an empty void where those who should have been were, simply, not. Cursing himself inwardly for not having realized the source of the disturbance earlier, Obi-Wan lowered his eyes and took a deep breath before raising them again. Anakin, his apprentice. He must say something to Anakin. "There must be some explanation…"
"Master, please," interrupted Anakin. "This isn't possible. The whole Jedi temple could not have disappeared like that. Something is going on." Then, with purpose, "I'm going to find out what." With nothing further, Anakin leapt the rest of the way down the platform and sought a ship to commandeer. His master was only one step behind him.
"Take us to the…site." Obi-wan faltered slightly, nervous despite himself. Strengthening his mental shields, he hoped his astute Padawan didn't sense just how disturbed he really was by the situation. Glancing over at Anakin as the Padawan recklessly piloted the speeder, Obi-Wan had no idea how much of his own thoughts his Padawan could decipher. Likely too much, he thought, considering Anakin's increasingly powerful abilities. With another tap at his shields, Obi-Wan braced himself, physically and mentally, for whatever awaited them at the base of the place the protectors of the Republic used to call home.
"Oh lay off it, Jacen," Jaina Solo said to her twin brother, carefully moving aside a large piece of burnt scrap metal. She wiped the soot off her hands by brushing her fingers through her straight, auburn hair. Jacen laughed to himself again at his sister's more and more soot-covered appearance, but Jaina continued, "I'm sure there are some interesting creatures around here for you to adopt."
"Yeah, but I think we should have gone the other way." Jacen wasn't about to let his sister decide everything about their latest adventure, scouring through debris and remains in the lower levels of Coruscant. On a "vacation" from their recently begun Jedi training at Yavin 4 with Uncle Luke, the twins had come to visit their parents on Coruscant and now had some free time to do some much anticipated exploring. "Besides," Jacen added. "If we're going to find things from the past around here, I doubt they'll be alive." Jacen kicked aside a broken ship engine and some food unit leftovers. A pungrat skirted near his feet and snatched up the food waste, scurrying back into a dark hole in the dank, musty corridor.
"Ewww," Jaina said, looking over at her brother. "Okay, come on. Maybe you're right. Let's keep moving."
Pleased at her agreement, Jacen didn't hesitate to turn up the power level on his glowrod as he ventured further down the dark passage. Jaina began, "What do you think…"
"Hush!" Jacen whispered quickly and excitedly, flicking off the power switch on the glowrod. Gesturing silently to his twin, he whispered again, "There are people here!"
Jaina's eyes widened in surprise. Why would anyone be done here? This could only mean trouble. Concealing their presences in the Force, the twins skulked towards the unexpected visitors, ready to investigate this disturbance. /Trouble always seems to find us/ Jaina sent to her brother through the Force. She sensed his mental laugh and heard from her brother /Don't you mean, we always find trouble/
Anakin and Obi-Wan were hardly prepared for the scene that greeted them at the foot of where the Jedi Temple once stood. It was a wreckage, debris everywhere. The tower had been completely demolished.
Anakin was hysterical. "Master! We've been attacked! We must figure out what happened and fight back!"
Obi-Wan was equally hysterical, but with the outwardly calm demeanor his title of Jedi Master implied, he focused on the matter at hand and turned aside from his grief in order to guide his Padawan and keep him in the Light. "Anakin, calm. Think." Obi-Wan wondered if his Padawan was as tired of hearing this same mantra over and over as he was of giving it. Why couldn't Anakin control himself and his emotions? The pair worked on it all the time, with painstaking effort. But, apparently, to no avail.
Seething with anger, but quiet now, Anakin slid to his knees in the dusty rubble, his hands in tight fists. Placing a calming hand on his Padawan's shoulder, Obi-Wan continued, "You must maintain control, Padawan. We will get to the bottom of this. Besides," he mused, reaching out again with his Force senses, "Things might not be as they seem." Stretching to his limits, Obi-Wan addressed his Padawan, "What do you sense, Anakin? Had the Temple been destroyed this way, we would have felt it in the Force. The fact that we did not feel the loss may mean there is another explanation for what is going on."
Considering his Master's words carefully, Anakin turned to his teacher, "But something had to have done this, Master. The temple was here, and now it's not. How can there some other explanation for that?"
"Perhaps the answer lies within ourselves," Obi-Wan said, tuning himself to the Unifying Force and feeling turmoil within its swirling eddies. His sense of the present was distorted. It was almost as if…but no, that couldn't be. Could it? Anakin's mental warning cut off his force search.
/Master, we are not alone./
Moving in sync with his Padawan, their coordination perfected by many years of practice, Obi-Wan swung himself to his Anakin's side, taking a defensive stance but not raising his weapon. Following suit, Anakin released the death-grip on his own lightsabre and readied himself for whatever was coming there way.
And they waited.
Risking a whisper, Anakin spoke softly to his Master, "I think it's a stand-off." Obi-Wan gave a subtle nod in the direction of the presences they sensed through the Force. Every situation for a Jedi apprentice was a chance for a lesson. Anakin needed to be able to handle anything.
Accepting his implied mission, Anakin slowly stalked forward into the dark tunnel. He used the force to filter out all distractions: the dripping engine fuel, the jittery pests crawling about, the smell. Oh, the smell. /Focus/ Anakin reminded himself. One step. Another. Another. He saw some sort of light ahead, bobbing up and down, like someone carrying some sort of flashlight. Deciding to go with confidence instead of caution, Anakin lunged out of his crouched position and stood his ground firmly, augmenting the imposingness of his presence with the force. His young voice boomed, "Who are you? What are you doing here? And what do you know of what happened here?"
The bobbing light immediately revealed two surprised human faces sitting on bodies too short to be human adults. "Ahhh! Relax! Sorry! We don't know who YOU are anyway." Came the high-pitched retort from the flickering glow of the faces.
They're just kids, Anakin realized, slumping, and trying to make himself appear less menacing. "I'm the one who's sorry. I'm don't mean you any harm." He made sure he had both hands openly by his sides.
Jacen and Jaina examined the young man in the shadows. "Let's get some real light," Jacen said anxiously. "Or, at least, as real as any light we're bound to get in these lower levels." He let loose a nervous chuckle, motioning back up the tunnel.
The three figures moved closer to what seemed to be a little pocket-cove, well-lit, at the junction of two of the service tunnels. Finally the strangers got a good look at each other.
The first thing Anakin noticed was the lightsabres hanging from the children's, make that young teenagers', belts. "You're Jedi!" he exclaimed. "Where are the others? What happened?
Confused, Jaina responded, "Well, yes, we're Jedi trainees. And they're on Yavin IV, of course. We would be too," she said, giving her brother a shove, "but we have some time off to visit our family."
"Yavin IV? But Master and I were just…" Anakin wrung his hands, flustered. The twins watched him try to regain his composure with interest. They didn't know who he was, but there was something about him, something they could sense through the Force. Suddenly, Jacen caught a glimpse of a silver cylinder hanging at the young man's waist. Wary now, Jacen sent his sister a warning of what he had noticed.
Eyes widening a bit as she sensed her brother's intentions, Jaina stole another glance at the stranger in front of her. He looked like a Jedi right out of the history holo-vids. But she knew all the Jedi there were. At least all the good Jedi…
In a flash, the twins were off, racing off down the tunnel towards an exit. Breathless, Jaina mindspoke to her brother while they were running in order to save her breath. /Did you recognize him? As a fellow Jedi/
/No./ Jacen sent back.
Concurring without words, the two continued at their fast pace to finally reach a level with natural light. The two stopped, panting, and catching their breaths. /What an adventure/ Jacen sent.
Jaina replied aloud, "A dangerous adventure! We're going to have to talk to Uncle Luke about this. And mom. This was too weird…It's almost as if"
"As if we recognize each other but not really?" A third voice finished Jaina's sentence. She gasped, spinning around to see the strange maybe-Jedi right next to them.
"Stay back!" Jacen cried, huddling close to his sister but putting on a brave front. The young man was an unknown element, and the twins always faced things better together.
"Please calm down. Patience," Anakin said, then realized who's words he was repeating. "I told you, I don't mean any harm. I just really need to know what is going on around here."
Dubious but curious, Jaina pressed, "What do you mean: what is going on? You're the strange one who appeared out of nowhere in the lower levels."
From your point of view, Anakin thought to himself. Catching himself quoting his master again, this time in his own head, Anakin latched down on his inner thoughts to focus on the matter at hand. He announced himself formerly, drawing himself up to full height and straightening his raggedy robes. "I am Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker, apprentice to Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am looking for the Jedi Temple and the Jedi themselves. Can you give me answers?"
Anakin watched as the jaws of the two young Jedi dropped in astonishment. A million emotions flickered across their faces, from doubt to hysteria to confusion.
"But that's impossible," Jaina told him gravely, staring at him like he was some sort of puzzle that couldn't be figured out. But at least she's trying to calm as I requested, Anakin thought. Her twin continued, "Um, you died years ago. So did Ben, er, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
It was right then that Obi-Wan himself appeared, stepping out from a pile of storage equipment. "My Padawan and I are dead?" He scratched the growth on the beard he was always trying to grow to hide his youthful appearance. "This is news indeed."