V

I move to the med room and cast a glance over the droid before ascertaining what I already knew; it will not suit my purpose. The tracking device is macroscopic—there truly is no technology for it to be otherwise, especially since Tyrannus needed to utilize it so quickly—but it is small, the size of a datachip. The droid could be programmed to remove shrapnel from a wound, but I can act more quickly than it can, can use the Force to find this intrusion myself, which is safer by far than the clumsy explorations the droid will embark on. I will not risk further damage to scar tissue, further restrictions of movement.

I set my cloak and tunic aside and take a syringe from a cabinet—this is anesthetic, carefully stored since before my near-death—and slip the needle beneath my skin beside the scar. It is an awkward angle; it will be difficult surgery if I do it myself. I do not want to inflict more damage than is necessary.

I must enlist Kenobi's aid, then, although it galls me to ask for it. He has surely been trained in the healing arts, as Jedi react instead of take action. This will be over quickly, and if he thinks to betray me, thinks that my setting a weapon in his hand offers him any sort of superiority, he will find himself gravely mistaken. I hesitate for a moment. Is there a better way? Is there a batter opportunity in which I may give him the false impression that I trust him? I can think of none that would serve so well.

There is a vibroknife which is designed for careful surgery on a shelf nearby, where there are also forceps, and I retrieve them and go back into the main hold. Kenobi is entering it as well, and he stops and looks at me.

I say, "I found the tracking device." After a moment—is that fear trickling through his thoughts?—I am forced to inquire, "Did you hear me, Jedi?"

"Have you disabled it?"

"It is a biological tracking device."

"Biological? As in hidden on your body?"

"In the scar tissue. Tyrannus must have implanted it after our fight." I indicate the scar with the knife. "They taught you healing at your Temple. You must help me remove it."

Kenobi takes the knife. He is, I note, right-handed.

I pull a crate from a nearby storage room—it is the packaging for one Dark Eye droid, one spare—and sit down on it.

I do not want this.

He hesitates, but after a moment the needle touches me, cold and painless, and I can see but not feel it pierce my skin, feel but not see the Force churning in restless emotion beneath Kenobi's façade of calm, beneath the focus on surgery which he insists he maintain (and I am pleased that he does! I will not expose myself to damage because of his lack of discipline). The emotions beneath are not easily named—they are like anger, are like nervousness, but perhaps this is what Jedi Mastery means, this hint of…stoicism that makes the world clear.

It is maddening, how much power is spent on such a useless endeavor. Why clean the world of its imperfections when they can be used? Why stifle power, why not let it take oneself over--

Kenobi, you shall at least be a distraction for Dooku, so that he will turn and look at you and expose his side to me, and I will strike--

I do not want this weakness, of sitting still while the Jedi does his essential work so that our greater mission might succeed. But he is stoic indeed, and I sense that he has found the device, and he reaches aside for the forceps.

(It is almost like my tattooing, this forced stillness, but yet it is entirely unlike that, because here there is no pain, and here there is no trust. And so, I will remove this from my memory quickly.)

These thoughts pass by and are forgotten. Far more comfortable is the now.

I would be able to move beforehand if he tries to kill me. I would, no matter how it would rend my skin to wrest the instruments from his hand.

Quickly enough, he extracts the device. It had simply been emplaced, nesting in the lowest levels of my skin. Subtly frightening. The wound does not bleed much; the vibroknife assures that. But it will need rebandaging. I want to get away from Kenobi quickly and be sure to treat the wound properly—I must not underestimate my guest, although it would be impossible for him to sneak up on me here, or perhaps anywhere. I know the Force more thoroughly than he does.

I stand, ready to let the medical droid finish patching the small wound. Kenobi asks the question I would have asked him if he had not spoken. "What do I do with this?" He holds the device up, a little machine-organ with slick sides and dull lights glowing from with its silver center.

"Destroy it."

I leave him, and close the door of the tiny medbay behind me before sitting down there and summoning the meddroid. Lights run across its surface, gradients of green.

It does its work, sealing the incision with synthskin which will protect and close it. This takes a few minutes; then I replace my tunic and seek out Kenobi, because perhaps he may have motive to keep the tracking device whole—perhaps he can use it somehow so that the Jedi may track us. I must circumvent this possibility.

He is sitting near the doorway of his makeshift quarters, meditating. The Force flows tempered around him, as if he struggles to know it in the way he usually does. Of course—the temple is a bastion of light (and yet so easily deceived--)

I say, "What did you do with the device."

"I destroyed it, as you told me to."

"Relinquish it."

"It's broken. I threw it out."

Anger burns through me—I must not admit that I could have chosen better words. "You did not think that I would want proof of its 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?"

"Do not presume to know anything about my life or my training," Kenobi snapped, and now, finally, he was letting his anger show its dragon's-face to him, and he almost moved.

How different is the sensation of the Force between when an attack is going to come and when there is simply the potential of one.

Retorts tumble through my thoughts and I rein in a single, coherent one. "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." And I'll kill you if you seem liable to fail me, because I simply tolerate your presence here, Jedi.

"If our common mission is to eliminate the threat that Darth Tyrannus presents, then I believe we will be useful to each other."

Of course that is true—it was my motive all along. But now I envision failures of the plan—if Kenobi is cut down too quickly, if he betrays me. I am for a moment wordless (and comfortable there—I should have known, this is just like on Tatooine, I should have known, so much more he should have known, that I am liable to act in certain ways, that this verbal battle is not that at which I am most practiced. But I am distracting myself, careening off into the mists of thoughts which emerge like the subjects of dreams, things which I have been thinking of but not aware of their constant presence. Later--) Back to Kenobi's forced loyalty now. "Perhaps that too is something of which I require proof." I do not expect him to profess allegiance, or to pass a test—but simply to comply, to be able to comprehend what I ask of him. Any less could result only in my own forging of a trap for myself.

I did not plan this endeavor thoroughly enough. He has too much freedom.

He says, "I suppose that for the time being you will simply have to trust me, as I am trusting you."

"You are not trusting me. You are a captive."

He has no answer. I leave him there.

"Are we still on course?"

"Yes."

"Where are we on course to?"

"Nowhere." I look up from my dinner to find the Jedi standing behind the pilot's chair where I am seated, looking down at me. "Random jumps for now, to alleviate pursuit." And to be sure that he was not going to betray me—this ship does not really need conventional methods of hiding. If he asks our eventual destination, I will give it. But Vjun may mean little to him (although it is one crucible after another for me—calm--!) and I will give him no possible method of escape if I can avoid it.

I want to shake my head—I feel like thoughts will splatter on the consoles like blood from a cut if I do. Released from me, they can dry, can congeal, can be thrown away. They need not clutter me. I want action, not this impatient deliberation—

I must be patient.

Patience.

Patience.

Breath easing in and out.

The Jedi asks, "And where will we go when you are satisfied we are not being followed?"

"Vjun. Tyrannus has a stronghold there."

He does not move. I push the plate of food I set on the console toward him slightly. "Eat." He needs his strength.

I am forced to pay attention to him again only when he asks, "What is it?" He is holding up a cup of the Iridonian wine, and I tell him so. He drinks, then departs via the turbolift.

I give him a few minutes to pass out. Frail humans. All this sort of alcohol does is stain the teeth of my kind. I do not know how Lord Sidious kept it from fogging his mind.

I find the Jedi lying on the deckplates outside the lift. A crude method, yes, and nearly laughably simple, but easy. He won't bother me for the next twelve hours or so.

I've just made the quick decision to leave him as he is (again—soon he will learn to take care of himself. I suppose it was the Master I killed whom he leaned on--) when he mumbles something. "I thought I was meant to follow your advice."

He is drunk, mired in delusion.

"And when I judge wrong?" he slurs against the deckplates. Uncertain even in his stupors? Pathetic human. Derision compels me; I fold my arms and look down at him, considering how easy it would be to crush the thin bones of his hand with my foot.

I say, "Then you fail."

"Because….I…."

The Force swirls. He may be delusional; he may be having a vision. The latter could be dangerous to me; he might lash out.

He says, "I will not fail you."

I scoff, amused. Delusion. I walk away.

The thoughts I set aside earlier come to me again as I sit on the edge of my bunk and remember Tatooine. Uncertainty. Alien queries into my own thoughts. Memory.

Like the Dorvallan miners, Queen Amidala is my target, but is little more than an object because she does not know the Force. She is the cargo that I will steal from the Jedi. But the Master and Padawan are the living sparks in the darkness to me, while she is gray, another pawn for my master's army which does not know that it is his.

I know that it would come as a surprise to the Jedi that my master orchestrated the Trade Federation's invasion. Often he leaves me for stretches of time and has his hands in matters too complex for me.

During my first chance to capture the Naboo queen, I am so distracted by the Jedi. We converged, and although I could have snatched her up and flown away, I yearned to test myself. To feel the fray, to fall into the midst of the Jedi and tear them apart, proving that warriors who preach peace make no good guards--! (Hear the threat in my thoughts' voice, Jedi. I will extinguish you.)

The clash with the Master is fast and satisfying, hidden in sun, deadly as the desert.

Amidala escapes, and I rue but only for a moment that I left my ship behind. Now I have the Jedi, and I have been trained for them, not for the mundane--!

But I cannot go against my Master's words, even as actions like chemicals course through me from his conditioning.

I hunt them—the Jedi who do not yet know that they will die, the Queen (my target so hard to focus on), the bright beacon-boy that the Jedi and the Force found on Tatooine, the pack of servants. They run back to Naboo.

And again, I cannot resist. The Jedi give me an opportunity to corner them, to split their group, to cull the weak from the herd…there is a moment of crux; I could either turn aside and pursue her or forge ahead and engage them. The droidekas serve their purpose, menacing the soldiers.

Calmness, waiting, burning, controlled malignancy. I savor the moments while the doors open, when I let them see the way I, as Sidious does, control the fates of them all.

Their lightsabers scream to life, and I can do nothing to stop myself from walking the path they walk, because verbal constructs fail, the hums are behind my eyes, Amidala is gone, surrounded by the universe, and we are outside it, powers, forces, Force-swept, trilogy—white, grey and onyx--!

Memory intoxicates.

Long had Sidious taught me to react at the sound of a lightsaber, to take from it my wrath-fed power. And then he sends me on a mission in which I must choose between two Jedi and one mundane girl—no matter her title, not matter her weapon-skill, she is dim to my strongest sense—and expected me to choose correctly?

I would be so foolish to think him a fool.

He left me to die.

Part of me still admires him. What betrayal, what Sith perfection! How preemptive, if he feared me taking the long-upheld traitorous apprentices' route, and if the death of Kenobi and Jinn was not essential.

But I lived, invincible and patient still.

I cannot—it sours and twists—comprehend being greater than him.

Did he plan this as well? That could be why I am still alive. But Occam's Razor slits a plan like that. And what would Sidious want with Kenobi? With Skywalker?

There. My Master could utilize the beacon.

As if I require more evidence of his desire to replace me.

These thoughts accompany me to sleep. Although I know they are important, a small, weak part of me hopes that in the morning I will have forgotten them.

It is a young part. It is undistinguishable from my relationship with Sidious.

And while I want to preserve it, I know that I must leave it behind.