…Chapter V – Captive…
"I found the tracking device."
Obi-Wan had been on his way out of the room again, had just opened the door and found the Sith looming there in front of him. The first thing he noticed, after the initial shock of being confronted so suddenly, was that the tattoos marking his face and hands actually covered the entirety of his upper body. The second thing he noticed was that Maul was carrying a small knife in his left hand, and the fleeting thought passed through his mind that the Zabrak had changed his mind and decided to kill him anyway.
"Did you hear me, Jedi?"
He chose to ignore the second comment, and focused back on the first. "Have you disabled it?"
"It is a biological device."
Obi-Wan blinked. "Biological? As in, hidden on your body."
"In the scar tissue." He paused the indicate the area around the hearts, which Obi-Wan's eyes had slid over before. He fixated on it now, wondering how anyone could survive a wound like that. "Tyrannus must have implanted it after our fight. They taught you healing at your Temple. You must help me remove it."
There was the barest hint of strain on the word must, as though he didn't really want to admit that he needed aide. Considering who he was asking, Obi-Wan couldn't entirely blame him, although that came with it's own wave of guilt, because he felt he shouldn't understand Maul so easily.
He didn't respond verbally, merely reached for the knife and followed the Sith back into the main hold where he had pulled a crate from one of the storage closets and sat down on it, back to the wall.
He studied the area the Sith had indicated before, willing himself to think only of the task before him and not of the long-past events of Naboo. The last time he had seen this wound -- inflicted by the lightsaber that was even now clipped to his belt -- it had still been red and charred, and the Force had burned with the stench of death. Now, it sang only of restrained strength and determination, and that was not so different from his last impression of Qui-Gon--
Focus, Kenobi, he chastised himself as he positioned the point of the knife with oddly steady hands. The present is the most important time.
Locating the device in the Force was not terribly difficult; although mechanics could not be sensed directly, the absence of life in an area could. He made the cut immediately over the device, and exchanged the vibroknife for a small pair of forceps with which he could remove the tiny computer chip.
The Sith sat upright again so quickly that Obi-Wan barely had time to pull his hand back and not catch and pull the new wound. He was halfway to the door before Obi-Wan could open his mouth to ask, "What do I do with this?"
"Destroy it," came the simple reply.
And then he was gone, leaving Obi-Wan still kneeling on the floor and staring at the closed door.
After a long moment, Obi-Wan shook his head, stood, and dropped the tiny device onto the floor before crushing it under the heel of his boot; not the most advanced method, perhaps, but effective none the less. Satisfied that it would no longer be sending out whatever signal it had been, he picked it up and dropped it neatly into the trash chute. They would dump it at the first refueling station they reached.
He returned to the little cabin he'd been granted, and sat quietly on the floor to sort out his thoughts. But no sooner had he sunk into a basic meditation than he was interrupted once again by the opening of the door.
"What did you do with the device?"
"I destroyed it," Obi-Wan replied evenly, "as you told me to."
He finally opened his eyes and stared up at the Sith incredulously. "It's broken," he said, and found himself slipping into the bordering-condescending tone he sometimes used when frustrated with Anakin. "I threw it out."
The Zabrak's eyes flashed dangerously. "You did not think that I would want proof of it's destruction?"
"I can't be expected to read your mind."
"I do not expect clairvoyance, simply practicality. Do they not teach you that at your temple?"
It was too much; the jibe at the Temple and Obi-Wan's instruction there -- and, by association, the Masters who had trained him -- was like a physical blow, and it was difficult to refrain from lashing out himself. "Do not presume to know anything about my life or my training," he snapped, staring up at Maul.
"No matter the quality of your training, I require your aid. If you do not show yourself capable of giving that aid, you are not of use to me."
Obi-Wan sensed the thinly veiled threat, but did not back down; though his next words were not fueled by anger, they were strong just the same. "If our common mission is to eliminate the threat that Darth Tyrannus represents, then I believe we will be useful to each other."
The Sith was silent for a long moment, and Obi-Wan felt himself regaining some control of the situation. In this -- the politics of forming such an unsteady alliance -- his Jedi training gave him the upper hand. All the more reason to keep to the code he had been raised with, and not to let his anger overwhelm him before he released it into the Force.
"Perhaps that too is something of which I require proof," Maul finally said, though it did not sound like the concession Obi-Wan had hoped for.
"I suppose that for the time being you will simply have to trust me," he replied, closing his eyes again and settling back into his meditation, "as I am trusting you."
"You are not trusting me. You are a captive."
Silence, he knew, could be as powerful as words. He did not reply -- what more was there to say, anyway, now that they had strayed so far from their original topic? When the door shut again, he pretended not to hear it. He would not give Maul the satisfaction of knowing how that last statement had unsettled him.
By the time evening fell -- or at least, he thought it was evening; it was always hard to tell during extended periods of space travel -- Obi-Wan was both hungry and cramped from sitting too long on the durasteel floor. He decided to tackle the latter first, and though his legs protested a bit, he stretched and began walking again.
Maul was in the cockpit, a protein bar and a bottle sitting in front of him on an unused part of the console, and he appeared to be ignoring the Jedi the way that Obi-Wan had been ignoring him earlier.
"Are we still on course?" Obi-Wan finally asked.
"Where are we on course to?"
"Nowhere." The Zabrak never took his eyes from the viewport, though their hyperspace tunnel looked no different from any other. "Random jumps for now, to alleviate pursuit."
It was not the whole truth, that much Obi-Wan knew, but he did not push the matter. More important was their eventually destination. "And where will we go when you are satisfied we are not being followed?"
"Vjun. Tyrannus has a stronghold there."
Obi-Wan nodded. He knew the planet from recent reports; harsh experimentation had left most of the populace dead or insane, and it had happened so quickly that the Republic had not had the time to intervene. It was an appropriate place for a Sith to settle.
A red and black hand suddenly thrust a tray with another protein bar and a full glass in his direction. "Eat."
It was a gesture of necessity more than generosity, but Obi-Wan took the offered food and drink anyway, and sat in one of the unused passenger chairs. He ate in silence, but asked before he sipped the drink, "What is it?"
He wondered briefly if this was some hint of Maul's background, or if it was simply what he was used to drinking. Dark in color, it tasted of both fruit and spices, and other flavors that were foreign to Obi-Wan. But it was good, and it was strong.
And maybe it would help him sleep.
He drained the glass before he stood again. It was not until he exited the lift that a sudden wave of dizziness washed over him. He didn't feel the impact as he hit the floor.
His dream does not take him to a single, recognizable place, but rather to a juxtaposition of all the worlds he has visited in the last twelve years. But that is not what's strange to him. What is strange is that he isn't alone, but accompanied by a man who he watched die almost three years before.
Qui-Gon walks beside him, his longer strides leisurely, so that Obi-Wan does not need to struggle to keep up. He is speaking in the Master-voice, explaining that this tree's leaves have medicinal benefits and that sun is the larger of the two in the system and you must follow your instincts, my young Padawan.
"I thought I was meant to follow your advice," he replies, half jokingly.
"No, Obi-Wan. I give you advice so that you know enough to form your own judgments."
"And when I judge wrong?"
Qui-Gon suddenly steps in front of Obi-Wan, effectively stopping him in his tracks. He is silent for a long moment; when he does speak, it is in a plain, objective tone. "Why are you here, Obi-Wan?"
"Because…" He trails off, realizing that he still has not arrived at a suitable answer. "Because I…"
"Because you are following the pull of the Living Force." It is not a question. Qui-Gon fixes him with a steady gaze. "Because the information you follow now is vital to the Republic. And because you must learn to accept, and not to seek revenge." He smiles slightly. "You are a good Jedi, my Padawan, but you will be better for this."
"I will not fail you."