REMNANTS IN THE MIND - Cascadia
See part 1 for notes, disclaimer, etc.
CHAPTER 15-EDGE OF DESTINY
As soon as he had sensed the waves of distress, Qui-Gon had immediately headed to Obi-Wan's cabin He palmed the door release and barged into the near-lightless room. There, he saw the boy kneeling on the floor, facing the stars. But the padawan did not move.
"Are you meditating, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon whispered, then thought that if he was, it could not have been very successful given the amount of distress that had flowed from him.
When there was no answer, the Jedi master stepped in the room and let the door slide shut behind him. "Obi-Wan?" he ventured, growing concern in his tone.
"Was it you or the Council?" Obi-Wan's soft voice was accusing and hurt at the same time.
Qui-Gon stopped, confused and taken aback by the implication. "What?"
Obi-Wan rose very slowly to his feet and turned to face him in the dimness. "Was it you or the Council?" His eyes were narrow and blazing with pain.
Casually crossing his arms across his broad chest, Qui-Gon wandered into the room further until he stood directly in front of the padawan. "What are you talking about?" he frowned.
Obi-Wan heaved a sigh, his gaze unmoving as it met Qui-Gon's, and his shoulders slumped. "Getting me a new master," he replied in a small, dismal voice. "Was it you?"
And the soft, resigned pain in the boy's tone clenched Qui-Gon's heart. Despite the lack of sufficient light, he saw the hurt. He saw the despondency of perceived betrayal etched in the soft angles of youth. And he saw tears swelling in pale eyes.
"No," Qui-Gon began gently, shaking his head, "it was not me . . . nor was it the Council."
A frown creased Obi-Wan's brow. "But . . ."
"But," the Jedi master continued patiently, "it was Healer Pasheso."
Aquamarine eyes grew wide. "But why?"
"It's a long story, Obi-Wan. But I will not let another take over your training," Qui-Gon assured him, large hands clasping the padawan's upper arms. "You're my padawan and will remain so until you are knighted. The Council has only to formally announce it. Pasheso thought it would be for the best to have another, but Yoda and others know otherwise."
Relief washed through Obi-Wan, and he released a huge sigh. "I'm sorry. I said I trusted you, but I guess I . . ." he trailed off in shame, diverting his gaze.
"Perhaps I should have told you," Qui-Gon smiled ruefully. "But I was . . . concerned, and I didn't want you to worry unnecessarily." He paused, taking in the worn appearance of his padawan. "How did you find out?"
"A holo message." Obi-Wan trudged to his bed and dropped on it, bouncing gently. "It was Master Yoda. He said he would be in Council today, and that it may be plausible to remove the imprint," he said, sprawling back across the mattress.
"I hope so," the master breathed.
"I just wish it was over with," came the quiet reply.
"He's dangerous, Qui," Mace said. "If he snaps . . ."
"Snaps?" Qui-Gon growled back.
The Councilor placed a placating hand on the taller man's shoulder. "Qui-Gon," his voice warned. "We don't know what this . . . thing might do to him. We have to take precautions."
"Precautions? What precautions?" Qui-Gon was sure he about to lose any serenity he had before now. "This is Obi-Wan you're talking about, not some crazy person."
"Yes, it is Obi-Wan. But what's inside him is not," Mace explained. "This is serious, my friend. Let's treat it as such."
Qui-Gon was busy studying his charge through the clear glass observation window. Obi-Wan was alone in the room and sat on an examination table looking lost. It tore his heart to see the boy this way - that quiet, beautiful spirit's future in suspension.
"There is a Force screen around the room," Mace informed him, "just in case . . . something happens."
Qui-Gon's head flew to Mace, a dark gaze in midnight blue eyes.
"We'll have the entire High Council and a mind healer in there," the Councilor continued. "You said Tarren said he transferred the imprint to Obi-Wan. Yoda thinks we may be able to dislodge it in the same way, and then hopefully destroy it, and Obi-Wan will be free."
"And if not?"
"If not . . . I don't know. We don't know. Yoda has tentatively probed it, and is now meditating. He said there was a slight flaring when he examined it, but that was all. Hopefully, it won't do anything else."
Qui-Gon returned to staring at Obi-Wan again.
"Qui-Gon. There is something else."
The seriousness of Mace's voice brought Qui-Gon's gaze back to him.
"If it doesn't work, then we can't keep him here. We don't know what kind of influence that thing could have on him."
Qui-Gon blinked with shock.
"We're not monsters, Qui," Mace said to the accusation in the taller master's visage. "Likely, he would be sent to a remote, inhabitable planet near the Outer Rim."
"Oh, and that would solve everybody's problem," Qui-Gon retorted.
Mace could see the rage building in the other master. "No," he answered bluntly, shaking his head.
"Then what?" said Qui-Gon sharply.
"Then . . . Obi-Wan could live out his life, and he would be no threat to us."
Qui-Gon rested his hands on his hips. "Mace, if we sent him away, then that madman who put it there would find him and . . ."
"We have no choice. He can't stay here unless he's kept isolated in a Force-sealed room. Which do you think is more humane?"
"Mmmm," a scratchy voice intruded. "Attempt to remove, we must, the imprint first. Judgements then may be rendered. Hmm?"
Both sets of eyes simultaneously cast to the small master. A series of soft grunts accompanied Yoda's journey as he hobbled towards them.
"Master," Qui-Gon greeted him. A strange relief settled through him with the wizened troll's presence.
Large beryl eyes peered from beneath lazy lids. "Qui-Gon, what say you of Obi-Wan's state of mind?"
Folding his arms, Qui-Gon considered. "He's . . . well, he's at peace as well as can be expected."
"But what of himself? How close to the boy before the attack is he?"
Qui-Gon swallowed hard and thought of the days of joy, before. . . . "He is becoming stronger," he said carefully, amazed at his own revelation, but he saw Yoda's knowing gaze. "I believe this has strengthened him. But . . . he also believes that this imprint has kept the assault from drifting away. That it has been keeping it foremost in his mind, so that he has had difficulty healing properly from it. If not for the imprint, Obi-Wan would have been mostly fine by now."
Wrinkled green lips curled into a smile. "Strong, the boy is. Stronger than he himself believes. However, serious danger now is he in. Meant to destroy him this was. Yes, meant to destroy us all."
"Will he . . ." Qui-Gon was unable to finish, unable to ask his greatest concern.
"Hmm." Heavy lids slid over surprisingly bright eyes, and his voice fell whisper soft. "Always in motion, is the future. Always."
Qui-Gon looked away, unable to hide the look of worry that passed over him.
"Come," said Yoda. "Work have we to do."
"Master?" Round eyes glittering against the pale of ivory skin locked on the tall master.
Qui-Gon reached up to grasp the new padawan braid dangling against Obi-Wan's chest. Taking a strand of his own hair, the master had used Force energy to fuse it to the snipped ends of the boy's hair where his had been. Obi-Wan had smiled gratefully and offered a sheepish 'thank you, Master', before reverently sliding his hand down the woven tress.
It was a gift that Qui-Gon had determined to present to Obi-Wan before they arrived at the Temple, when everything would dramatically change as the full import of the dark imprint took over their lives.
"Obi-Wan," the baritone voice soothed. He had made sure the boy had mediated just prior to arriving at the healers ward, but there yet remained traces of apprehension in Obi-Wan's posture.
"If something goes wrong . . ."
"If something does . . . I will do everything I can to stop it."
Obi-Wan gazed deep into his eyes and gave a slow nod. He swallowed hard, but stilling peace remained thick around him.
A tiny smile touched Qui-Gon's face, grateful for the boy's serenity. "I'll take your pain, if there be any. Don't hesitate to reach for me. Yoda and the others will locate and destroy the imprint," he said, knowing it would not be so simple in occurrence.
And Obi-Wan knew. For a small, dark shadow passed behind his eyes. "Yes, Master," he whispered, and a heavy weight of something akin to dread coiled around his heart. He tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore it, and the look in Qui-Gon's eyes indicated he knew the familiar bad feeling expression. Smiling somberly, the padawan looked away.
A hand, large but gentle, rose to cup Obi-Wan's face and turn the young face back toward Qui-Gon. The master silently regarded him before speaking. "I will be here for you, Obi-Wan. And the Force, much greater than I ever could be, will be with you always."
Obi-Wan nodded slowly, then sighed when the room began filling with several mind healers and the members of the High Council.
In the bright light of the examination room, Obi-Wan lay on the table with the healers and the Councilors gathered around, Yoda to his left, Qui-Gon to his right, clasping his hand. One by one, the Jedi each settled a hand along on the padawan's arms or legs to make contact. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, centering himself in the Force and slowly dropped his shields until there remained the one deepest, most personal vault that none other than the imprint's originator had ever touched. With a small regret, he at last dropped that one.
After a spate of complete quiet, they entered the young mind fairly quickly, much to Obi-Wan's surprise, but it did not hurt to have so many minds in his own. Rather, it felt exhilarating and disorienting at the same time. A golden glow of balmy energy and exquisite balance all contained within his mind.
For several moments there was nothing else out of the ordinary. Recognizing the slight crowding in his thoughts, he pressed back out of the way, becoming a mere spectator and allowed unhindered access to every part that they wanted. To his relief, the healers and masters only vaguely noted his most intimate thoughts and quickly bypassed them. He noted the other presences were amassing together with a combined strength near where the deep void of darkness had rooted itself.
/Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon's mental voice gently rung through his mind.
/They have found the imprint and are forming a barrier around it/ Qui-Gon informed him.
Obi-Wan felt a sudden sweep of pain, and tightened his grasp on his master's hand. Then, what seemed like a whirlpool of thoughts twisted in a jumble, and the pain increased exponentially.
/Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon sounded urgent.
/Mas- . . ./
And Obi-Wan never finished. Heavy shadowy waves crashed over him, and the fall of a terrible blackness encased and clawed at his awareness. If he could have gasped, he would have.
/Obi-Wan/ the usual calm of Qui-Gon's voice, gone.
Colors, shapes, thoughts, images, and memories pressed in the precious book of a young lifetime were torn out of their resting-places and swirled around by winds of madness. He sensed a slight panic, and distantly realized that it was himself when a steadiness channeled away most of the pain.
There was a mournful screech as the Darkness was ripped away, and concentrated energy bore into it, pulling it apart to shreds. At last, the evil presence subsided and shriveled away, and a brightness of loving light flooded inside. But the storm of perplexity remained . . .
"It's gone," sighed Mace wearily.
"Gone, it is," Yoda agreed.
"Something's wrong," Qui-Gon's voice carried desperation. "Something's wrong with Obi-Wan."
Yoda's long ears sagged.
"But the imprint is gone," Adi Gallia said. "What could possibly . . ."
"What could possibly, what could possibly?" Qui-Gon repeated in anger. "What do you think? That that mad man couldn't hurt him? That Obi-Wan wasn't in danger? That you're all so powerful that-"
"Qui-Gon," Mace warned, dark eyes piercing.
And for a brief moment the two men stared daggers at the other.
"Tried to protect him, we did," said Yoda in a softly sad tone.
"What exactly is wrong?" Depa Billaba asked. "He is alive."
"Yes, but all I'm sensing from him is . . . confusion," Qui-Gon explained. "His mind's been . . ." He stopped as Obi-Wan stirred, his hand still holding the padawan's.
The Councilor's remained crowded around the table, and Mind Healer Treng, a Twilek, stepped forward. He slid his palm across Obi-Wan's brow.
The boy's eyes fluttered open, staring dully at the light on the ceiling.
"Obi-Wan?" whispered Qui-Gon. He leaned closer, holding the boy's hand between his larger ones.
The confused eyes shifted to him and blinked.
"Obi-Wan?" the tall Jedi tried again.
A frown formed on Obi-Wan's forehead as he continued to stare at the bearded Jedi.
Qui-Gon's heart hammered in his chest, but he dared to reach out through the bond again to find overwhelming confusion. "Obi-Wan? Please answer me."
He watched in silent agony as the boy's mouth struggled to form a word.
"Mas- . . . ter . . ." Obi-Wan stuttered.
A dreary smile fell across Qui-Gon's lips, and he looked up into the worried eyes of Healer Treng.
He stood, gazing out a set of large windows at the air traffic silently flying by. Shadows of night were slowly deepening, and the vision was growing darker.
But not dark enough.
The light mocked him.
He had nearly succeeded in destroying it, but others had interfered. Others had destroyed that small piece of him that had been placed in a young Jedi, and now he was afraid.
Afraid of the dreams that haunted him. Afraid of the visions he emerged from in perspiration for the fear of what the future held.
He hated himself for letting the boy go, for not being able to destroy him when he had the chance. But to be able to possess that light, to be able to command and control it had been much too seductive to resist.
He turned away from the night scene and walked across plush scarlet carpet to his obsidian desk. Opening a drawer, he stared down at a dull silvered cylinder - the boy's lightsabre that he had saved.
It was a beautiful object, he mused. Much like its builder, for they both possessed light.
His eyes stared hatefully at the weapon, and it suddenly crumpled up in a small heap of metal.
No. This was not the end, he smiled. For darkness was falling.
With bowed head and closed eyes, he knelt alone in one of the meditation chambers of the Jedi Temple, window blinds open and watched by the stars.
A single, crimson blossom had been left for him here before he had arrived. There was no note, nothing accompanying it to confirm just who had left it for him, but he knew well within his heart the caring, deeply loving nature of his Jedi master - and he most certainly had the sentimental, creative flair for such an invention.
It was in the mediety of springtime on Coruscant when flowers achieved idyllic beauty. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors bred in the artificial gardens, brightened and emboldened with a flair and exquisite finesse. But this one was an exception to achieve such a state in the chill of winter.
It was a Sandriffa, if his memory was correct - a treasure in its balance of aesthetics with aromatic scent. Dainty, silk crimson petals surrounded a rosette of ivory stamens and a large pistil in the center, which glowed a lovely pale shade of pink at night, as it was now.
Obi-Wan was not an avid flower-monger, but Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn had introduced him to many alien varieties, but where he had seen this one before sadly remained a mystery.
Sending one's padawan a flower was not the standard action of protocol between master and apprentice; but then again, Qui-Gon was not the standard master. On the contrary, he was the quintessential rogue Jedi - but he was also his teacher and father figure, and the Council had assured him that Qui-Gon would train him to knighthood.
Over the span of his meditation hour, the drift of the Sandriffa's pungent tea and citrus top notes had filled the entire chamber, making it impossible to take one breath without being inundated with the sweet aroma - enchanting is most certainly was, but utterly impossible to ignore. Originally pleased with the discovery, he now felt the florescent blossom was more of a distraction than a comfort, but since he had no intention of disposing of it, toleration seemed to be the only solution.
He shifted his weight, allowing for better circulation through his legs, and impatiently raked his fingers through his closely cropped hair. Maintaining any level of meditation required minimal movement - preferably none - and now . . . he was about to give up.
He felt that he should remember more about the flower, but even the countless starlit meditations revealed very little when it came to recent events before the imprint's removal. The man who had formed the imprint had fought the removal of it nine months ago, and the padawan had been left with a limited collection of memories and damaged motor skills.
Months of physical rehabilitation had brought him near the level he had left off, but there was still work ahead of him.
Sometimes, in the midst of fervent seeking a faint memory would resurface, but even then there remained large gaps or a misted haze, and all he could do was gratefully savor what he had been given.
The mind healers had said that this was expected, that nothing else could be done. And each time, he would ruefully smirk and offer no retort, but they knew his frustration.
The man who had done this to him had never been apprehended. Obi-Wan was the only one who could have possibly identified him, but all images of the man's appearance had been effectively erased.
Yet he cradled the hope that one day he would recover everything lost.
His thoughts drifted back to the bloom. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed familiar. His eyes, once again bright as the suns of Lamuri, slitted open and glanced at the beautiful flower again.
If a spark of the past could trigger a trickle of memories, then maybe a flower of illumination would loose the floodgates.