A Different Time
by Argenteus Draco
There was a strange presence in the Jedi Temple. The initiates felt it during their morning meditation, a power that was like the Force but which they were unable to touch. Even the Masters guiding them through the exercise seemed unsettled by it: Depa Billaba's eyes snapped open, Ali-Alann shifted uncomfortably, and Master Yoda's ears twitched. Then, after a moment, he smiled.
"Returned, I think, the Doctor has."
Eleven year old Obi-Wan Kenobi was late for his lesson, and so he took a short cut through the Room of a Thousand Fountains, where all thoughts of galactic politics were quickly driven from his mind by the sight of a large blue box sitting innocently beside one of the waterfalls.
Obi-Wan spun around to face the speaker, a man as out of place in his tailored jacket and pants as the box was. "She's a beauty, isn't she," he continued. "The last TARDIS in the universe. Well, in my universe anyway, not sure about this one. See, that's what I've come here to check. There's been time travel here lately, I'm just looking for what's caused it."
Obi-Wan just stared at him blankly. Fortunately, the man didn't seem to require a response.
"Of course, I haven't locked down the time they've appeared in yet. Could be quite a while in the future still. Or the past. Well, both, really--"
"Excuse me," Obi-Wan finally said, looking up at the man with one eyebrow raised, "who are you?"
"Exactly." The man produced a small wallet from his pocket and flipped it open. "That should explain things better."
The card inside read "Doctor Thete Antilles" in neatly printed Aurebesh, and Obi-Wan took it skeptically. Like the box, it hummed with some power that Obi-Wan couldn't name. "Where are you from?" he asked after a minute.
The Doctor shrugged noncommittally. "Oh, here and there."
"I was just wondering," Obi-Wan replied, "because this is written in Aurebesh, but I don't recognize the script on your…" He trailed off and indicated the box behind him. To his surprise, the Doctor beamed.
"Ooh, you're a smart one, aren't you?" he said, taking the wallet back and flipping it open again. "Psychic paper, this is, shows you what you want to see. Picks up projected thoughts sometimes, too. Like right now," he glanced at the card again, "it's telling me you want to see the inside of my little machine here."
Stunned, Obi-Wan took a step backwards. "No, I have to get to class, I'm already late--"
"Well that's a shame," the Doctor cut in, "because I was just about to open her up and show you."
He pulled a key from his pocket and approached the box, and Obi-Wan was torn between responsibility and curiosity. In the end, the open doors were far more interesting. Besides, he thought as he stepped inside the box, he was already late, it didn't really matter how late--
For the second time, Obi-Wan found himself too shocked to think, let alone to speak. He decided his eyes must be playing tricks on him, because the control room he'd just stepped into couldn't possibly fit into the confines of the box, which had looked barely big enough to hold himself and Doctor at the same time. But when he turned to step out again, just to check the box's proportions, he found that the Doctor was locking the doors again.
"What are you doing?"
"Well, you're coming with me, aren't you?" The Doctor pocketed the key and walked up to the controls. "Don't try and tell me you'd rather stay?"
"But I've got class," Obi-Wan protested.
"No worries," the Doctor answered brightly. "I'll have you back again five minutes before your class starts."
"I've already told you, this is a TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimension In Space." He started to press buttons and pull levers without any method that Obi-Wan could see. "So, what do you say to a little trip into the future?"
He could say no. He could have told the Doctor that his training was more important than frivolous adventures, because Jedi did not crave the kind of excitement that the Doctor was promising. But he would have been lying to himself if he said he believed that right now.
The TARDIS hurtled through space, and the Doctor grinned down at his young traveling companion. "So," he started, "if you were a time traveler -- which you are, now -- and you could go anywhere in time -- which you can -- where would you go?"
The boy shook his head. Probably overwhelmed. Or motion sick. Maybe he should try a simpler question.
"Didn't get your name before."
He pressed a series of buttons as he spoke, and the TARDIS calmed considerably. The boy took a couple of deep breaths once they'd finally stopped, then drew himself up as straight as he could and said, "I'm Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"Well, Obi-Wan Kenobi," the Doctor replied, stepping toward the doors again and peering out the TARDIS's windows, "welcome to the Year 988. Or the year 12 BBY, depending on the calender you want to use." He opened the door again, and gestured outside the TARDIS, looking expectantly at Obi-Wan.
The boy just stood there. "We haven't moved," he said, also indicating the area outside. "We're still in the Room of a Thousand Fountains."
"'Course we are. 34 years later." He motioned for Obi-Wan to join him. "Come on, then. You didn't come 34 years into the future just to sit inside the TARDIS."
"How do I know you're not lying to me?"
It was then that the Doctor noticed the hints of psychic power growing around Obi-Wan, and realized that the boy was trying to read his mind, or at least his intent. "Why," he started, running his hands through his hair in an exasperated fashion, "do I always pick the stubborn ones?" Then, addressing Obi-Wan, he said, "Look, you're not nearly strong enough to get inside my head without my letting you in, which I'm not about to do, so you might as well trust me, yeah?" He gestured outside again, and, after a moment, gave Obi-Wan a hopeful smile.
Finally, the boy stepped out of the TARDIS, and looked around with an expression that suggested far too much analytical thinking for a child his age.
"I guess we have gone somewhere," he said after a while. "It's getting dark now, and it wasn't midday yet when we left." Sure enough, the artificial light in the expansive room was dimming to an orange-red, mimicking the setting of the sun outside.
"See? Now, I just need my--" he stopped mid-sentence, realizing that the timey-wimey detector was still in the TARDIS. "Ah, wait here, I won't be a moment."
Obi-Wan watched the Doctor re-enter the TARDIS, and he did wait for a few minutes, taking the time to walk around and examine it. He could hear the Doctor inside, pacing from room to room as he searched for whatever he'd forgotten, but the outside of the TARDIS still suggested that the structure was no more than two-and-a-half meters square.
"This is impossible," Obi-Wan muttered on his fourth circle around the box. "Who made this thing?"
"Exactly what I was just wondering."
Obi-Wan decided in that instant, as he jumped and uttered a surprised little squeak, that after today he was never going to let anyone sneak up unnoticed on him again. He turned to face the speaker, a man with curly, dark blond hair and an intense blue eyed gaze, who had one hand on the hilt of his lightsaber and the other raised, motioning Obi-Wan away from the TARDIS. Then he stepped up to it himself, and rapped on the window.
The Doctor emerged a moment later, his apparent amusement at finding another stranger before him a stark contrast to the expression of the Jedi. "Well, 'ello! Who are you?"
"I'm Anakin Skywalker." His expression narrowed as he looked down at the other man. "Who are you, what is this," he indicated the TARDIS, "and what are you doing in the Temple?"
The Doctor looked at Obi-Wan. "What, you couldn't tell him?" Before Obi-Wan could respond, though, he looked back up at Anakin. "I'm the Doctor. This is the TARDIS. And this," he held up a device that looked more like modern Coruscanti art than anything particularly useful, "is my timey-wimey detector." He looked very meaningfully at Anakin. "Goes ding when there's stuff."
The wheel stuck to the front of the box spun rapidly, and a blue light flashed behind it. "Stuff?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Well, residual artron energy if you want to be specific. But no worries." He glanced down at the machine. "You've only got a little around you."
"You still haven't told me what you're doing in the Temple," Anakin reminded him.
"Ah," the Doctor fished the little wallet out of his pocket again, and handed it to Anakin. "That should explain everything."
Anakin Skywalker looked from the card to the Doctor and back. "This card is blank."
"Is it?" The Doctor seemed a lot more interested in Anakin suddenly. "Well that's curious now, i'n it?"
"I'm taking you before the Council."
"Wait!" Obi-Wan darted in front of the older Jedi. "I can explain. We're time travelers. And we're looking for other time travelers." He looked at the Doctor for confirmation. "Right?"
"That about sums it up, yeah."
Anakin was silent for a moment. Then he grabbed the Doctor's hands and twisted them behind his back, and started to march him out of the room. "I'm definitely taking you before the Council."
Because he didn't know where else to go, Obi-Wan waited outside the Council Chamber with one ear pressed against the doors. He heard muffled voices, but couldn't make out anything that they were saying. Then he heard very clear footsteps, and he jumped out of the way just in time to avoid being hit.
"Where's the Doctor?" he asked Anakin, before the doors had even clicked shut again.
"Still explaining himself." He stared down at Obi-Wan for a minute before adding, "Shouldn't you get back to your clan?"
Obi-Wan shuffled his feet, but didn't have anything to respond to that. After all, his clan was supposedly 34 years in the past. But how could he explain that to a Jedi Knight he did not know, and who didn't seem to believe the Doctor's story about time travel anyway?
Finally, perhaps sensing that he was not going to get an answer, Anakin finally looked at him and said, "Why don't you just come with me."
He started walking, and Obi-Wan found himself almost jogging to keep up with the Knight's long strides. "Where are you going?"
"I've been asked to look into this so-called Doctor's means of transport."
"You mean the TARDIS."
By the time that they reached the Room of a Thousand Fountains again, Obi-Wan was short of breath, and he sat a large, flat rock while Anakin inspected the blue box. He lifted a hand to tap on the window, then tried to pull the door open. It didn't budge. Anakin rolled his sleeves back to his elbows and pulled again, and as he tugged on the handle, Obi-Wan noticed that one of his arms was a prosthetic.
"How did you get that?" he asked, and only remembered to add the honorific "Master" to the end after Anakin turned around and fixed him with a very pointed stare. Obi-Wan chewed his lower lip nervously. "I'm just curious. I didn't mean to pry."
Anakin took several long, slow breaths, and seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "I'm sorry. It is a… difficult memory. But it's a long time ago now." He ran his real hand over the mechanical wrist absentmindedly. "You've heard about the Separatist Crisis?"
Obi-Wan shook his head, and for a second it looked like Anakin might smile.
"Sleeping in history that day, I guess. Never mind, it's not like I didn't do the same thing when I was your age." His tone had become much more jovial, but it darkened again as he continued. "Anyway, I was on Geonosis, in the arena. I lost my hand in a duel with Count Dooku. I lost my Master that day too; he died trying to protect me."
"I'm sorry," Obi-Wan said. "I can't imagine what that must be like."
"Trust me when I say you don't want to imagine it." Anakin shook his head ruefully. "Anyway, the important thing is that Dooku was defeated; we ended the crisis before it even began. The Republic is safe, and I'm healing."
They sat in silence after that, Anakin flexing his mechanical fingers, perhaps still considering his last thought.
"Master?" Obi-Wan tentatively asked after a while, "What if you came with us? I know the Doctor is looking for someone now, but what if after we found them we could go back and save your Master?"
"I wouldn't." Obi-Wan looked up when he felt Anakin's hand on his shoulder, and the Knight smiled down at him. "Geonosis taught me a lot. You can't cling to your attachments. Sometimes, it's better to let things go."
"Now this is fantastic!"
The Doctor generally considered himself to be quite knowledgeable when it came to alien species from around the galaxies, but he was currently surrounded by no less than seven beings whose origins he couldn't have begun to guess.
Directly in front of him was the most puzzling, a short, squat, green and very elderly creature who hobbled toward him with the aide of a walking stick. When he looked up at the Doctor, he smiled.
"So, returned to us again, the Lonely God has."
"Sorry," the Doctor replied, running a hand through his hair. "Have we met before?"
The little creature pretended to look offended, and turned around to face his fellow Council members. "Claim not to remember Yoda, he does." Then he turned a sly look back on the Doctor. "Or perhaps my first meeting with him, still in his future is."
"Yeah, sorry, time travel, you know. Things don't always happen to me in the right order." He grinned down at Yoda. "But it's good to meet you now."
"Always good to meet old friends, it is." He poked his stick in the Doctor's direction. "But careful you must be in choosing new ones. And young Obi-Wan, not a good companion will he be. Take him back to his proper time, you must."
He waved the Doctor toward the doors again; another Jedi with long green headtails stood and opened them. "Good luck, Doctor," he said, his dark eyes sparkling.
He returned to the place where he'd left the TARDIS, and found Obi-Wan there as well, sitting beside Anakin Skywalker. The man had his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder, and he smiled as he spoke.
"...You can't cling to your attachments. Sometimes, it's better to let things go."
"Never a truer word spoken."
Both of them turned around upon hearing him, and Obi-Wan jumped off the rock excitedly. "What did the Council want?"
"Actually, they want me to take you home."
"Couldn't we make one more trip?"
For a moment, the Doctor considered it. There was always the ability to bring Obi-Wan back to the exact time and place he had left from. But what if he showed the boy too much? He was so young still, perhaps he wasn't ready to see the universe…
He felt Anakin staring at him, and met the man's blue gaze steadily. As if he knew what the Doctor was thinking, he gave him a look that told him quite plainly what happened when children grew up too fast.
"No. I was wrong to take you, and now I need to take you back." And went and opened the TARDIS's doors. "Come on, Obi-Wan, let's get you home."
The boy shuffled inside, and the Doctor shut the doors behind him. Neither one of them noticed the shocked expression that crossed Anakin's face when the Doctor had said his name.