Humbling. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi always found it humbling to drop out of hyperspace, a spark of life amongst the vastness of space, held within infinity's palm. Not a black void, not to a Jedi, but still a deep well of silence and darkness, punctuated by the occasional jewels that were planets, swirls of color that were nebulae, or the light of suns.
It was a reminder of the power and presence of the Force that guided his life. It was also one of the few moments when he didn't mind flying: his distaste for flying came from both dodging fire from those who would prefer to see him disintegrate in mid-air and hanging on for dear life if his padawan, Anakin Skywalker was piloting. Anakin's skills took him way to the edge of control – too near for his master's liking, and in his firm belief, often beyond.
As the Republic's small transport oriented itself and swung about, the planet slid into sight. From this altitude they could see the division between night and day – the lighter side showing shades of blue gray, splashes of crimson and yellow, leading up to areas of such dazzling light that the ship's transparisteel panel darkened.
As the ship changed angle, the blinding blur resolved into focus – snow fields atop mountain peaks, blinding brightness with the sun at a certain angle. As planet dawn came into sight, snow fields at the juncture of night and day flamed red and pink below them.
Nature was playing a symphony for them; the chords glorious combinations of vivid colors rather than composed of notes – with instruments made of light, not sound. Obi-Wan was entranced. After some of the various planets the Jedi had been on recently, this was a treat for the senses, a gift of the Force. It was joy made visible.
Only the blue-grey eyes of the Jedi reflected his pleasure at the sight, his total and inner contentment. He stood in quiet repose, little hint of his delight in his voice or posture.
"Pretty planet," Obi-Wan remarked with a sideways glance at his padawan, who was staring gloomily through the transparisteel panel of their small transport. He chuckled at the resigned shrug that the young man gave, thinking at least that this attitude was a distinct improvement over the brooding that had all but enveloped the young Jedi within a shroud of anger and disappointment during most of their journey.
"You don't find the sight of those snow capped peaks and meadows refreshing, after some of those planets we've been on lately?" The twinkle in his eye grew more pronounced. At the lack of response, he shook his head and returned his gaze to the planet below.
It had been a tough year and then some, fighting a war that was no closer to being won than when it started.
A time of too much battle, too much death and too much suffering. A time of sound that no longer had the harsh urgency it had once had - cries of the wounded were no longer a shock to the ears.
A time of silence; the silence of the dead. Sound and silence that no longer struck numbing blows to heart and mind as if a dagger made of ice was thrust into them and cruelly twisted, sound as well as its absence that struck more than ears.
A time of bone weary exhaustion that leached the life from them, making them feeler older than mere age should.
Obi-Wan Kenobi could have hardened under it; turned harsh and silent under war's assault. But as always, when he wanted to deaden the horror surrounding him, distance himself from the pain of unceasing death and destruction, he turned to the Force. For he wanted to feel; keep his compassion alive, bathe in the relief that the Force granted him. It was his choice: to keep feeling, to try to find joy in small moments, and to remember how to laugh.
It was his need to worry about and watch over his padawan. While Obi-Wan softened under war, Anakin hardened. His sharp blue eyes grew ever more hooded, his silences brooding. He rarely smiled.
Only in actual battle did he seem to come alive: baring his teeth in smiles that rarely reached his eyes, calm and focused, and fierce with determination to win this battle, only to be, yet again, disappointed that each victory failed to bring an end to the war.
After the culmination of their last campaign neither of them was happy to be on another mission. Obi-Wan, ever pragmatic, just sighed and prepared to move on, shrouding himself in his calm and accepting Jedi demeanor while his Padawan, unable to successfully release his frustration, brooded.
With the successful conclusion of their last campaign, the two Jedi had hoped that the latest communication from the Jedi Temple had been permission to take a Rest and Recuperation leave. It had been, instead, a request to take off on another mission. They were available, they were the team chosen, and without even an opportunity for a quick trip home, let alone leave, they found themselves en route to Skore.
Obi-Wan had taken the news with a weary shrug, though he was no happier than his conspicuously unhappy padawan. Anakin had not taken it well, glowering at his master when he relayed the request, as if he as the bearer of bad tidings was the source of the unpleasant news.
With his padawan simmering away, it had been a tense and silent journey. The master had given up on placating the apprentice: the young man would have to find his own release.
After a few minutes of silence, Anakin deigned to respond.
"I find them cold and uninviting," Anakin pronounced with a glare at his master. "You, however, must come from such a climate as this since you find it so pleasing. I may hate Tatooine, but I am more adapted to its climate than that below."
It had been years since Anakin had left the hot desert planet of Tatooine forever behind him, but its heat remained within his veins. He knew he would find Skore cold and uninviting.
"I have never inquired as to the planet of my birth," Obi-Wan said with great dignity. "I just happen to appreciate wild places and beautiful sights. Look how clear the atmosphere is. I can hardly wait for a breath of fresh air. I found the air on that last planet to be, well, an affront to the senses."
"I much prefer cities and technological comforts," Anakin grumbled, an undertone of longing in his voice. "I wish we were back on Coruscant."
Obi-Wan glanced sideways at him with a raised eyebrow. All too often, lately, his padawan longed for Coruscant. Considering his somewhat unseemly zest for action, which the Clone Wars provided in ample measure, he found it disconcerting this constant longing for the Temple.
"Are you that eager to spend time in meditation?" he asked innocently; though a wicked gleam showed in his eye. He broke into another chuckle at Anakin's scowl.
"I miss…." his voice trailed off.
The look that Obi-Wan shot at him this time was a mix of worry and concern. He had no solid reason for his feeling of unease, only suspicions. He hoped Anakin's moping attitude was a result of his youth; even for a Jedi, he had been forced to grow up much too fast.
He had been a slave for the first nine years of his life, before leaving his former life and his mother behind to be a Jedi, only to lose his first mentor – Obi-Wan's own Master, Qui-Gon Jinn - before his journey as a Jedi had even begun.
Qui-Gon's death had abruptly thrust the two of them into a relationship neither had contemplated: the newly knighted Obi-Wan unexpectedly became master to the child; their relationship springing to being from shared grief. The boy had known of Qui-Gon's desire to train him; had indeed been present when the Jedi had put forward Obi-Wan for the Trials so as to be free to take on a new apprentice; had known the anger Obi-Wan had tried to hide at being set aside.
The boy had felt superior; he was the preferred one. His resentment that Qui-Gon had died, no longer to fulfill his promise of training, had been re-directed at the Jedi who had taken the place he had expected another to hold.
Obi-Wan had tried hard to step into Qui-Gon's role; be the master to Anakin that Qui-Gon had been to him and would have been to Anakin. Hiding his own grief at his master's passing, knowing how unprepared he was, he had been cautious, too much so, perhaps. It didn't help that the boy was much older than Jedi usually were when beginning training. No one could guide either master or padawan along this path.
In adapting to something he had no guidelines to hold to, Obi-Wan had allowed, with some misgivings, the boy to form bonds outside the Order. The Chancellor of the Republic had taken quite a fatherly interest in the "Young Hero of Naboo" and had encouraged the boy, becoming almost a surrogate father. Recently, before the Wars actually flared into life, he had re-kindled a friendship with the former Queen, now Senator, of Naboo, Padme Amidala.
This friendship was the source of much of Obi-Wan's unease; he feared the friendship was much more; certainly, his Padawan's interest was undeniable. The raw sensual intensity that occasionally leaked through their bond embarrassed him, as if he had been deliberately caught eavesdropping on something meant to be private.
He hoped his Padawan's devotion to the Order was sufficient to restrict his interest from developing into anything forbidden. He had worked hard to reinforce that a Jedi released his emotions to the Force and did not use them to guide his actions. Even now, he wasn't sure how successfully Anakin had absorbed that lesson.
He was pretty sure that Anakin was not inexperienced with women. While he was less than pleased with this, Anakin had not formed any troubling attachments. As a former slave, his views differed sharply from most Jedi. But his attraction to the young Senator was intensely personal.
Obi-Wan hoped Padme was wise enough to avoid the potential problems any relationship other than friendship between them would cause, should Anakin be unwise enough to pursue his attraction.
"Must you look at me like that?" Anakin demanded. "Don't you miss the Temple, friends, too?"
"Of course, I do," Obi-Wan said gently. "But I focus on what I must do, not on my own wishes. That is what a Jedi does. It is the life I chose, as did you."
"Mmmm," he muttered in response. "So explain again just exactly why this planet you find so attractive needs the attention of two Jedi? Especially us two? You'd think they'd give us - you," he suddenly grinned, "a chance to rest after the last few campaigns. You're not getting any younger, you know, Master, and I was getting a bit worried about you."
"You were, young one?" Obi-Wan snorted, amused. "If my memory is correct, I have managed to avoid the healers for some months now, while you, I seem to recall, had need of their services not so long ago." A wry smile crossed his face. "I will concede that I am no longer as young as I once was, but I am still young enough to stand up to you in a sparring match, as you well know."
He was heartened by the buoyant grin he got in return.
"A scratch only, Master, as you well know, obtained in saving your life once again."
"Which only needed saving due to your own rash actions, impudent Padawan," Obi-Wan reminded him, shaking his head. "Surely, one of these days you will be the death of me –someday - when you're an old fossil like me, and unable to fly to my defense and I am too weak to hold my own lightsaber."
The two men grinned at each other, finding comfort and relaxation in their light banter. Not long ago, their relationship had been somewhat strained as Anakin's push to adulthood and independence had collided with Obi-Wan's attempt to restrain his youthful rush to the same. Then Geonosis had happened, and their lives were forever changed.
Obi-Wan had been captured and imprisoned by the Separatist leader Count Dooku, and sentenced to die in the Geonosis Arena. Anakin, charged with protecting Senator Amidala from assassins, was with her on Tatooine when they had realized, through relaying and watching Obi-Wan's interrupted holographic message that he had been captured and possibly killed. At the Senator's insistence, the two had headed to the planet where they hoped to save the Jedi.
Captured, too, they would have all died but for the intervention of the Jedi, and Master Yoda's arrival with the newly discovered army of Clonetroopers.
Casualties had been severe, and Anakin had lost an arm to youthful impetuosity as he tackled Dooku alone, against his master's express command. Both would have died, but for Yoda's intervention. Anakin had been much subdued after the conflict, which had so shortly followed the death of his mother on Tatooine.
Recognizing a new measure of maturity in his padawan, Obi-Wan had loosened the reins and encouraged the young man as he demonstrated his abilities. It would not be long now before he faced his Trials; before he left his stewardship. The source of their conflict at least minimized, their relationship was easing into that of friendly camaraderie.
Fighting side by side in numerous conflicts, away from outside influences and united in their goals, they had become a team so skilled in working together as one unit that they had become the "go to team" of the Jedi, a team as renowned as Jinn-Kenobi had been.
But this petty little rebellion didn't seem to require Jedi assistance to quell. A faction on the planet Skore wanted to join with the Separatists, and had resorted to civil war when the planet voted to stay in the Republic. However, the government of Skore had appealed to the Senate for help, and the Senate had asked the Jedi to send a team and a company of Clonetroopers to the government's aid.
Anakin wondered why.
The planet was far less urbanized than Coruscant; its cities small and few in number, with most of the populace living in small towns and villages. The planet was ringed by a vast mountain range, born of volcanism and chipped down by past ice ages. Its chief industry was tourism, as well as garments and fine cloth made from the luxurious silky hair of its native Alpacabans.
These animals were bred for their hair and allowed to roam free in rocky pastures before herding in for shearing each spring. In a galaxy where artificial fibers dominated, the uniqueness and sheer feel of this cloth brought fantastic prices to the breeders. Skore had grown rich on its exports and its tourism, fabled for its hospitality and wondrous scenery.
Obi-Wan continued to delight in it, pointing out fantastic vistas to his indifferent Padawan as their ship arrowed to its designated landing zone. Snow covered glaciers lay locked away in high mountain fortresses, not far from the habitable plateaus. The ground was stony, covered with lichen-like growth. It reminded Anakin of holopictures of Aldaraan, though the sun here was further away and the light temperature more blue than they were accustomed to.
The ship settled onto a secure docking pad within the largest city; located within a veritable parkland. Slender spires and spans bridged the many sparkling streams wandering haphazardly through the city while a few large buildings reached high.
Most buildings, however, were small and fit neatly into the landscape, rather than dominating it as with so many other planets, other than a sector housing the planet's government and city center. Lawns, fading green to yellow during the season before winter's snow dusted the landscape into a fairyland of white, held meandering paths under trees shedding summer's leaves in an explosion of riotous color rarely to be seen nowadays.
Its idyllic peace seemed unbreakable; yet the planet was at war. The two Jedi hoped to negotiate an end to the fighting before it exploded into total chaos; its small skirmishes a hope that a truce could take hold. Obi-Wan was charmed with the place; Anakin indifferent when Obi-Wan looked at him.
The hatch opened and the two Jedi stepped forward, taking the measure of the place. Obi-Wan's nose twitched, he sniffed appreciatively and nodded. He looked at Anakin approvingly.
"A good place to die," Obi-Wan whispered to him just before disembarking, taking in a deep breath of sweet air, cool and fragrant.
Cold dread gathered in Anakin's heart at the words. Icy fingers crawled down his spine, and at that moment he felt only two things: sudden fear and aching loneliness. Not again, oh Force, he couldn't lose someone dear to him again. Never again. Never.