Author's Note: Yay, Chapter One is up! Sequel to Freefall, of course. How's Ryn doing since her dramatic fall?

Disclaimer: I still don't own Star Wars, although Ryn is all mine. This story is entirely a work of fanfiction, for which I am receiving no profit. Please relieve my pain by sending exuberant feedback.

Chapter Playlist:

About Her (Kill Bill Vol. II soundtrack)

CHAPTER ONE:

Obi-Wan looked up as Anakin suddenly tensed in the pilot's seat. "Something wrong, Padawan?"

Anakin shook his head tightly. "No, Master. Just a feeling."

The tension around his mouth gave his assurance the lie. "What sort of feeling?"

Anakin looked down at the controls. "A bad feeling, Master."

Obi-Wan studied him for a moment. "Anakin, if a Master and Padawan are to make an effective team, they must communicate. If you have a bad feeling, I want to know about it. Can you tell what this one is about?"

Anakin fiddled with a knob as though he were planning to repair it. But Obi-Wan was by now familiar with Anakin's habit of looking for something to fix whenever he was troubled, and did not take exception.

Finally, Anakin said, "It's Ryn, Master. I'm not stupid, you know. I know part of the reason we're on this tour of the Core worlds right now is that you think we were getting too close, spending too much time together. I know I'm not supposed to be thinking about her. But I saw her, Master. She was lying in a pool of blood, and she was ... Master, she was dead." Anakin turned anguished eyes on Obi-Wan. "Something awful is happening back home. Ryn is in trouble. I just know it."

Obi-Wan frowned at his Padawan. On the one hand, Anakin was right, if rather uncomfortably perceptive: part of Obi-Wan's plan in initiating this trip now was to separate him from Ryn before whatever there was going on between them developed into something else, something more painful to sever. He'd like spare Anakin that, if he could. Leaving his mother had been bad enough. Obi-Wan knew he still missed her, even if he rarely spoke of it. No need to add an abortive love affair.

On the other hand, if Anakin was right ... and Obi-Wan had certainly learned not to dismiss Anakin's "bad feelings" ... then it would be wrong to do nothing and let Ryn walk blindly into whatever danger awaited her on Coruscant.

His decision made, he nodded. "Drop out of hyperspace. I'm going to open a channel to Coruscant."

Anakin's eyes widened briefly, as though he hadn't expected Obi-Wan to take him seriously; but he complied readily enough.

Obi-Wan tapped buttons and toggled switches, opening the comm channel to the Jedi Temple; but the Padawan at the comm center was unable to raise Ryn after multiple calls.

Obi-Wan hestitated, not looking at Anakin. "I see. Do you think you could put me in touch with Master Yoda?"

Obi-Wan heard the Padawan's surprise in the brief silence that echoed through the cockpit.

"Of course, Master Kenobi. One moment."

Fifteen minutes later, the Padawan was back on the line, sounding nervous. "Ah ... Master Kenobi?"

"Here," he said pleasantly, despite the growing knot of concern in his throat.

Anakin's tension, palpable in the small space, wasn't helping matters.

"I'm afraid I have been ... ah .. unabe to raise Master Yoda. Shall I contact Master Windu or another member of the Council?"

This time Obi-Wan did look at Anakin, thinking fast as he tried to figure out who might be willing to listen. Not Mace, his disapproval was noticeable whenever Orun's name was mentioned. He'd heard Ryn speak with affection of Aayla Secura, but she was on a mission; what about --

Anakin was mouthing a name. Gallia.

Oh, all right.

Obi-Wan spoke into the comm. "Is Master Adi Gallia available?"

"Obi-Wan!" Master Gallia said, her warm tones soothing even over the tinny cockpit speakers. "How can I help you?"

"I'm not sure," Obi-Wan admitted. "My Padawan has had a rather disturbing premonition, and we are concerned for the safety of Miss Orun, but we seem unable to raise either her or Master Yoda. Can you shed any light on this matter?"

Adi looked troubled. "No," she said. "But that is certainly unusual. Ryn is too responsible to go wandering off, and it isn't like Mater Yoda not to answer his commlink. I'll see what I can find out."

"Thank you," Obi-Wan said, ignoring Anakin's pleading eyes and Gallia's optimistic view of Ryn's character. "In the meantime, my Padawan and I shall head back to Coruscant. We're not that far away; maybe we can do something. We haven't any urgent business, anyway."

"So it was just an excuse to separate us," Anakin said, when Obi-Wan had signed off.

"Not just an excuse," Obi-Wan countered. "You do need to become familiar with the Core worlds. This merely seemed like a particularly good time to make such a trip."

Anakin tightened his mouth as he began programming the jumps. "But why, Master? Ryn is a good person. Why is it so wrong to care about her?"

Ob-Wan sighed, watching jump coordinates flick past his Padawan's fingers. "It's not that it's wrong to care, Anakin. Compassion is essential for a Jedi, and it is right to admire beings who adhere to the highest standards of conduct. Ryn deserves both your kindness and your respect. I imagine she must be a very good friend." Polite, kind, patient: one of the most truly decent beings Obi-Wan had ever been privileged to meet. And, for that very reason, dangerous to Anakin's focus. She could so easily become a distraction ... because, in herself, she was worthwhile.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat. "The problem is that, as Jedi, we must deny ourselves attachments that most beings take for granted. We must surrender ourselves to the will of the Force. That means always being willing to let attachments -- people, things, it doesn't matter -- pass out of our lives."

Anakin was scowling as he punched the lever that would launch them into hyperspace. "That sounds ... cold, Master."

"It is not an easy lesson to learn," Obi-Wan said, not quite disagreeing. "It will be especially hard for you, because of the way you were raised. But it is an important lesson." He sighed. "And it's a lesson that gets harder to learn with time, not easier. I know Ryn will miss you ... but I also believe that she genuinely cares for you enough to let you go."

"I'm not sure Ryn will see it that way," Anakin said. He fiddled with the controls a little. "I'm not even sure I see it that way."

Obi-Wan found he had no answer.

When the came out of hyperspace -- too far insystem for Obi-Wan's comfort -- the comm immediately blinked, showing a message from Adi Gallia. The news was not encouraging.

"Master Kenobi, please comm the Temple when you receive this message. I have located the young woman you inquired about, but she is currently in the infirmary in very delicate condition. She has asked to speak with you, but Master Che is uncertain how much time she has left. I urge you to return to Coruscant as quickly as possible."

Anakin took the news predictably ill. Mouth set in a grim line, he whipped their small shuttle in and our of the space lanes as though training for a Podrace.

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan said sharply as they flashed past a freighter, close enough to scrape paint off the hull if it had had any. "What do you think you are doing? That was illegal!"

"You heard Master Gallia," Anakin responded, not slowing in the least. "She told us to get there as fast we could. I'm just trying to follow orders."

And I'm a mynock, Obi-Wan thought. "Yes, yes, Anakin, but we want to arrive in one piece."

"I'll be careful," Anakin promised, without slowing down. "We're nearly to the atmosphere, anyway. Not much longer now."

Obi-Wan gave it up. Anakin was nothing if not a competent pilot. His passengers might find the twists and turns unnerving, but there was no reason to think they wouldn't survive the trip. And Anakin was too distracted by his concern -- Fear, Obi-Wan, call it what it is-- to be cowed by his Master's ire.

It was a sign of how worried Anakin was for his friend that he didn't wait to do his usual maintenance check on landing. In fact, he was out of his seat before the landing protocols had been completed, and jumped off the boarding ramp while it was still halfway up.

"Calm down, Anakin," Obi-Wan said, following at a (very slightly) more dignified pace. "Another five minutes won't make that much difference."

Anakin shot him a pained look. "Master Gallia said the Healers didn't know how much time Ryn had. It might make all the difference."

Obi-Wan frowned and hurried his own steps to match Anakin's longer stride. "You're not a Healer. I don't see what either of us can do, once we reach the infirmary."

"Ryn wanted us there," Anakin said, stepping into the lift. "That's all I need to know."