Chapter 2: Serpent's Pass
In a darkened corner of Coruscant, an older man in robes stood before a holographic communicator, "I understand, General. I will contact a recovery ship to come and pick you up quickly."
Perhaps I will have new forces for us to command soon, Count Dooku, the hologram of General Grievous replied. These … 'benders' prove to be most powerful, perhaps even a challenge for the Jedi.
"We shall see, General." Count Dooku paused a moment before nodding. "Help will arrive soon, General. Dooku out." The image faded and Count Dooku bowed as another image appeared on the screen, this time a robed figure. "What is thy bidding my Master?"
General Grievous has crashed on the Planet Elementia? The Sith Lord Sidious asked his hood hiding his face.
"Yes, my Lord," Dooku replied. "Shall I arrange a rescue craft to pick him up?"
No. I have another idea, the Sith Lord replied with a small nod. We shall go ourselves.
"We?" Dooku asked in surprise.
It is time to show the Jedi what true warriors of the Force the back water planet holds.
"You're quiet today, Uncle," the former Prince Zuko noted as he and Iroh walked along a dusty path.
"Hm?" Iroh mumbled as he stroked his beard. "It's nothing to be concerned with, Zuko." He said looking up in to the sky.
"It just seems odd not hearing you jabbering on about nonsense," Zuko stated rolling his eyes slightly at the thought.
"I never speak of nonsense, Zuko," Iroh pointed his finger at his nephew. "It will serve you well to listen to old men and their stories, wisdom comes from it." He paused for a moment. "Not all old men though. Some spend most of their time jabbering on and on about nonsense just to hear themselves speak."
"That sounds oddly familiar." Zuko smirked, and Iroh frowned deeply at him.
"Wait, Zuko," Iroh said grabbing his nephew's shoulder and pulling him into the bushes. "Something's coming."
"Roger, Roger, rendezvous with General Grievous at Outer Wall," a odd voice spoke from beyond Zuko and Iroh's vision.
"Droids?" Iroh narrowed his eyes.
"Droids? Uncle what are Droids?" Zuko asked, but Iroh placed a hand over his mouth.
"Silence," Iroh hissed.
"What are those things?" Zuko whispered when they saw the metal skeletons with long heads.
"Who's there? Come out with hands in air," the Battle Droids turned quickly to Zuko and Iroh's hiding place.
"Zuko, run!" Iroh ordered as the Droids opened fire, and the two men ducked for cover.
"What kind of bending is this?" Zuko asked as he threw a barrage of fireballs just barely knocking one off its feet.
"Aim for their heads, Nephew!" Iroh ordered watching his nephew battle, before reaching into his robes for a reminder of his old life.
"It's no good, Uncle, these things are too strong!" Zuko said backing away using every fire bending technique he knew.
"Get behind me, Zuko," Iroh said moving to stand between them with an odd metal object in his hand.
Iroh's eyes widened as a brown blur shot down among the droids and with the sound of waving energy and flying sparks Droids began to fall. "JEDI!" A droid yelled before getting chopped in half.
"Stay back, Zuko," Iroh ordered, before literally jumped into the air and turning the lightsaber in his hand on and slicing three droids in half with a single swing. "So the Republic finally spread out this far, did they?" Iroh asked the Jedi as he got back to back with him.
"Not really, but it is a growing cause," the Jedi responded, frowning behind his beard. "Do I know you?"
"You do look familiar," Iroh said as he deflected a laser blast back to the droid.
"Wait, Master Kasai? Is that you?" the Jedi's eyes widened in realization.
"That's a name I haven't heard in a long, long time," Iroh nodded, "But perhaps we could save our introductions for later, young one," he said slashing and stabbing a droid.
Off to the side Zuko stood with his arms to his side and his mouth hanging open. His uncle was fighting in almost a blur, at speeds he hadn't seen fully trained Bending masters move.
After making short work of the droids that Zuko failed to even scratch, the two shut down their lightsabers and faced one another. "Master Kasai, It's been a very long time, sir," the Jedi bowed humbly.
"You seem to know my name, but I don't know you…" Iroh eyed the robed Knight.
"You really don't recognize me? It's me, Master, Obiwan Kenobi," Obiwan smiled.
"Kenobi? Obiwan Kenobi?" Iroh smiled, "Has it really been long enough for you to grow up? I remember when you were barely knee high!" Iroh said slapping the Jedi's shoulder. "You made Jedi Knight? I bet Qui was very proud! Is the old goat with you?"
Obiwan glanced away, "Master Qui Gon was killed, several years ago …"
Iroh seemed to age visibly at the news. "Qui's down? Did he go down fighting?"
"He was killed battling a Sith Lord," Obiwan explained sadly. "I avenged him."
"Sith! The Sith are back? You killed a Sith Lord? Did you kill the other one too? Surely you did!" Iroh grabbed Obiwan's shoulders. Obiwan winced and shook his head no. "You at least got the identification of his master or apprentice, right?" again a no. "That's wonderful …"
"If it's any consolation Master, we do know that Count Dooku has become a Sith," Obiwan said sheepishly.
"Dooku? Qui Gon's stuck-up master?" Iroh cocked an eyebrow. "He joined the Sith huh? Wish I could say I'm shocked."
"Would someone please explain to me what is going on?" Zuko shouted flames sparking from his hands. "Who's this Qui Gon, and Sith, and Master Kasai?!"
"Master Kasai?" Iroh smirked at his nephew.
"Yes! Do you know him Uncle?" Zuko snapped.
"Of course I know him," Iroh smirked proudly. "He's me."
"So this is your nephew, Master?" Obiwan said turning to Zuko. "Greetings, I'm Obiwan Kenobi, Jedi Knight." Obiwan bowed nobly.
"And that's supposed to mean something to me," Zuko crossed his arms. "Uncle. Explain. Now."
"When I was born I was taken by a group of Jedi to another world, and then trained as a Jedi Knight," Iroh explained to his nephew. "Then some years before your birth I left the Jedi Order and came home. Simple as that."
"Simple as that?" Zuko narrowed his eyes. "You expect me to believe this guy's from another world?" Zuko said pointing to Obiwan.
"I expect you to believe what you want, nephew," Iroh said before patting Obiwan's shoulder. "I'd tell you in greater detail, but I was under the understanding that you didn't want to hear me go on and on about nonsense." He said before turning to the Jedi Knight. "What are you doing here anyway?"
"Master Kasai, the Republic is at war, a group of Seperatists are attempting to split the Republic in half." Obiwan explained. "My Padawan Learner and I crashed on this world battling a Separatist General called Grievous. "Apparently he wants to contact the leaders of the Fire Nation, whom he believes to be the leaders of this world."
"I see, he may be headed to Ba Sing Se," Iroh nodded, "It is still under Earth Kingdom control but word is Princess Azula is leading a force on it."
"I believe that is correct," Obiwan said nodding. "I've been tailing the Droids trying to find my way there."
"You are in luck my boy," Iroh grinned, "My nephew and I are on our way there as well, we shall accompany you!"
"I would appreciate the company and support," Obiwan nodded. "And perhaps when we regroup with my Padawan and his companions you will be able to talk some sense into him. He has been more stubborn than usual lately."
"I'll see what I can do," Iroh smiled as the two started down the path.
Zuko stood a moment longer glaring daggers at the Jedi Knight, before snorting and following along behind.
Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Anakin patiently stood in the line at the tram station to Ba Sing Se. "There are a lot of people here," Anakin noted as he glanced around the crowded terminal.
"The war with the Fire Nation has destroyed many homes," Katara said watching a young family, before turning to the clerk before them. "Hello, we'd like five tickets for the tram, please."
"Passports," the old woman said in a monotone voice.
"Passports?" Aang asked cocking his head to the side before glancing to Toph and Sokka.
"Look, ma'am, this is the Avatar, and we have very important information that needs to get to the King, post haste," Sokka said smoothly.
"No Passports, no rides, NEXT." The woman said glancing passed the group.
"We don't need any passports," Anakin said casually with a wave of his hand.
"You don't need any passports …" the clerk and Sokka said in a daze.
"We can go on about our business," Anakin said with a second wave of his hand.
"You can go about your business …" the clerk and Sokka parroted.
"Have a good day," Anakin smiled with a wave of his hand.
"Have a good day," the clerk and Sokka said as Anakin ushered Aang Katara and Toph along.
"How'd you do that?" Katara said grabbing the dazed and drooling Sokka and pulling him along.
"The Force can easily manipulate the weak minded," Anakin replied as Sokka slowly regained consciousness.
"And they don't come any weaker then Snoozles here," Toph said with a smirk.
"You can say that again," a voice spoke from behind them. The group turned to see a teenaged girl standing in a green tunic. She had a mischievous smile on her face framed by her short mid-neck length hair.
"Can we help you?" Anakin asked blinking in confusion.
She just frowned and stomped toward Sokka. "Let's see the tickets and pass ports!" She growled grabbing him by the collar, "I know your type. Sarcastic, think you know everything."
"Do … I know you?" Sokka asked in mild terror.
"Don't recognize me do you?" she asked with a scowl. "Maybe you'll recognize this!" She snapped before moving in to kiss his cheek.
"SUKI!" Sokka squealed before pulling the girl into a tight hug.
Anakin and Toph looked questioningly to Aang and Katara. "Old friend," Katara smiled.
"What's going on guys?" Suki asked with a broad smile.
"How about let's go talk someplace a tad less crowded?" Katara asked eyeing the large crowd of travelers.
"So after we repaired our village, I was sent to lead a group of Kyoshi Warriors to help in Ba Sing Se," Suki explained. "Maybe we could help with the war effort. Like you guys," Suki smiled at Sokka.
"A very noble goal, m'lady," Anakin said with a humble bow, earning Suki's face to flush and Sokka's to scowl.
"Right now though we're just sticking around because of all the families who can't afford tram tickets," Suki replied sadly. "In fact we used what money we had to buy a group tickets to head on to the city, we're stuck here too."
"Noble," Toph noted with crossed arms. "Stupid, but noble."
"Excuse me, gentlemen, m'ladies," Anakin bowed as he walked backwards toward the stairs before turning on his heel and walking back toward the desk.
Moments later the group, including the Kyoshi Warriors, was on a crowded tram to Ba Sing Se. "She's probably going to get in trouble for that …" Anakin said with a sheepish smile.
"Don't see why," Toph shrugged, "She just gave a train full of people a free trip…"
"At least we're getting everyone to the city now," Sokka said, noticing Katara focused farther up the train car. "What is it?" he asked studying her emotionless glare.
"What's wrong, Katara?" Anakin asked furrowing his brow, "anger's coming off you like light from a star …"
Katara said nothing but stood to her feet and stomped down the corridor of the train with a purposeful step. "Uh oh," Sokka said, as he and Aang both saw who had gotten her attention.
"You …" Katara hissed as she stood before a young man in a seat.
"Um … Can I … uh oh …" Jet gulped when he saw the pair of hate-filled blue eyes.
"We don't want any trouble," Smellerbee said as she and Longshot stood at Jet's side.
"Don't want any trouble?" Katara asked in a dark mocking tone, "Well … too bad!" she growled as she bended her water from her pouch.
"Anakin stood up and slowly approached them, but Sokka stopped him with a grab of the sleeve. "I'd watch Smellerbee if I were you. He's small, but he's a scrapper."
"Actually, that's a girl," Anakin cocked an eyebrow.
"You don't say?" Sokka blinked as he studied the small girl at Jet's side.
Katara and the three Fire Nation rebels stared at one another as the three drew their own weapons. "Ok, that's enough," Anakin's voice spoke up as Katara was lifted into the air by an invisible force before being tossed back into Sokka and Aang's grasp.
"What?" Jet gasped when his weapons as well as his friends' weapons flew from their hands and on out the window of the train.
"I agree with your young friend," Anakin said standing between Katara and the trio. "Despite my overeager friend over there, we don't want any trouble either. What ever rivalries and wrongdoings have gone on in the past will remain there. If anything's started, by either side, I will finish it. Understood?" he said with a firm commanding tone.
"This was none of your business," Katara growled as she struggled against Aang and Sokka's grasp.
"Mind at your surroundings, Katara," Anakin said, glancing around the small, crowded train car. "If you two had begun a fight, chances are someone would have been hurt, and it likely wouldn't have been either of you."
"You can't let your temper get the better of you …" Anakin drifted off as his face lost some of its color. He sat down roughly on the bench and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"What's wrong?" Suki asked with concern.
"I'm sounding exactly like Obiwan Kenobi that's what …" he groaned, ignoring the glare from the three on the far side of the train.
The train ride was quite uneventful as it came to a stop at the station some ways away from the great walls of Ba Sing Se. The group exited out and bid farewell to the Kyoshi Warriors.
"Hope to see you soon, Sokka," Suki said with a faint blush to her cheeks.
"I'm sure we will," Sokka said scratching the back of his head. Toph snorted slightly and crossed her arms while Aang and Katara were busy looking everywhere but at the couple. "So I guess this is it for a while, huh? Take care of yourself now …" Sokka said holding his hand out to her, earning an eye roll from the Jedi Padawan behind him. As soon as Suki's small hand grabbed Sokka's two invisible forces slammed into their backs, pushing them together. Their lips collided in an unexpected, but not unwelcomed kiss.
Katara gave an exasperated glance to the Jedi who just shrugged. "What? Can I help it I'm a hopeless romantic?" Anakin flashed a flirty smile.
Toph gave a small growl before stomping on ahead. Anakin closed his eyes a moment. "Toph, wait we need to go this way," he said pointing behind him.
Toph turned with a glare, stomping her feet as she passed the still kissing couple to break them up. "Let's go lover boy, daylight's not going to wait." She grumbled as she joined Aang, Katara and Anakin as Suki said her goodbye, waved and joined her fellow Warriors. "And what pray tell is this way? The entrance to the city is THAT way?"
"We have to meet a friend, m'lady," Anakin said patting her shoulder.
"Anakin!" an accented voice called out drawing their attention to a bearded man in light tan robes. "Glad you made it without any major destruction, my young Padawan."
"Yeah, I thought I'd give a stealthy peaceful travel a try, Master," Anakin shrugged, "You know, shake it up a bit. Though I have to say it's a bit dull."
"I see you've made some friends as well," the other Jedi said turning to Anakin's companions.
"Yes, of course, Master," Anakin turned to the kids. "This is Aang the Avatar, and his companions, Toph, Sokka, and Katara. We met during Hostile Negotiations." Anakin made a motion to the older Jedi. "My friends, this is my Master Jedi Knight Obiwan Kenobi."
"The Avatar you say?" Obiwan said making a bow. "I have heard of you from Jedi Master Kasai. I am honored to be in your presence."
"Master Kasai?" Anakin and Aang asked at the same time.
"Here they come now," Obiwan smiled as they turned to the sound of two travelers.
"YOU!" came five gasps as Aang, Sokka, Katara, and Toph all took fighting stances to match the surprised Prince Zuko and Iroh.
"Ah, you know each other then …" Obiwan said awkwardly as he glanced helplessly from Anakin to Iroh.
"What … I have never met anyone so confrontational in my life!" Anakin sighed loudly earning a short laugh from Obiwan.
"Zuko, stand down," Iroh said stepping between his nephew and the others.
"But Uncle…" Zuko replied hotly.
"Don't but Uncle me," Iroh said in a commanding tone smacking the prince in the forehead with two outstretched fingers. "Trust me, Prince Zuko, if the Jedi are here and what Jedi Obiwan says is true this is something much bigger then your honor quest … much bigger then even your father and his plans."
"One more thing!" he said smacking him one more time with his fingers finally bringing the prince out of his fighting stance. "In case you didn't notice our faces are on the same wanted posters as the Avatar and his allies. So there is really no need for us to battle one another."
"He's like a taller, less ugly Master Yoda, Master," Anakin whispered as he watched Iroh correct his nephew.
"Never insult Master Yoda's height, my young Padawan…" Obiwan whispered back. "Quite sensitive of that, he is," He finished with a smirk earning a chuckle from the Padawan.
"Relax, please we are on the same side … from a certain point of view," Iroh said turning to the Avatar and his friends. "Let us all go someplace were we can sit and talk like civilized people … over nice herbal tea."
"Only if Anakin, keeps his hand on that light sword thing," Sokka said carefully returning to his full height.
"Deal, now shall we enter the city?" Iroh said with a firm pat on his nephew's stiff shoulders, ushering the group toward the city gates.
Meanwhile on the far side of the city the Dai Li stood in formation along a large stone pad in a well hidden top of the Earth King's palace. They all stood at attention as a dark grey aircraft slowly came to a landing on the platform. The leader of the Dai Li, Long Feng approached the lowering gang plank as Count Dooku led a cloaked figure that radiated pure darkness toward him.
"Thank you for the warm reception, Long Feng," the cloaked figure known as Darth Sidious said in a dry, emotionless voice.
"I am, as always, at thy bidding, Mighty Earth King," Long Feng went down to one knee before the Sith Lord.
To Be Continued …