Obi-Wan shifted on his bunk, nestling his head down once again into the pillow. His battle for sleep had gone on for most of the night cycle. Flipping to his back, he sighed out loud in frustration at how elusive rest seemed to be. It wasn't that he didn't feel the burden of exhaustion; both he and Anakin had outdone themselves in recent negotiations and had been nearly falling over when they boarded their transport. But, the Force was agitated and he could not find peace in the currents swarming around him, clamoring for attention. How to describe it? Not danger, not even a warning, but a heralding of something that was to come. It was a command to be alert – to be ready.
Obi-Wan pushed himself up to a sitting position, his body heavily protesting his mind's decision not to sleep. Maybe hot tea was in order, something soothing and relaxing. He exited the cramped berthing space, finding his way to the ship's small galley. A slight smile tugged at his lips as he saw another open door and empty bunk. Apparently he wasn't the only one unable to sleep.
Obi-Wan made his way to the cockpit, towards the bright Force presence of Anakin Skywalker, carrying two mugs of warm tea. He paused at the door for a moment to consider his apprentice. At seventeen, Anakin really couldn't be considered a boy anymore. He was rapidly approaching manhood, Obi-Wan realized. But, he still looked young, hunched over the controls of the transport with a blanket drawn tightly around his shoulders. He looked as exhausted as Obi-Wan felt, and the Jedi master did indeed have sympathy for his padawan. With Anakin's sensitivity, the agitation in the Force had to be deafening.
"Do you want something to warm you up?"
Anakin nodded, sliding his hands from beneath the blankets to grab the mug offered to him. Closing his eyes, he leaned his face over the mug, inhaling the warm steam and fragrant aroma.
Obi-Wan settled down in a chair looking thoughtfully over his glass at the stars streaming by in hyperspace before taking a sip.
"Do you sense it too, Master?"
"Yes, Anakin," he replied, not needing to question what it was.
Anakin let out a gentle sigh, relieved that he wasn't imagining things. Both Jedi sat back sipping tea, listening to the hum of engines in the ensuing silence.
"What do you think it is?"
"I am not sure, Padawan."
Anakin slouched down into his blanket. "Well, I wish it would shut up and let me sleep," he said sulking, earning an amused chuckle from his mentor. "So, do you have any idea why the Council needs us back so quickly?"
"No, I don't …"
The words trailed off, Obi-Wan's attention caught by flashes of orange erupting out the forward viewport. Streaks of violet sliced through the flares like lightening cutting through the sky.
"What's that?" he asked.
"I don't know," Anakin said, leaning forward. "Some sort of storm?"
The transport lurched roughly as though caught in a tractor beam, and then began to rock fiercely back and forth. Anakin let his mug clatter to the floor, shrugging the blanket off his shoulders as he flew to the controls.
"We're coming out of hyperspace, Master!"
Anakin began to wrestle control back from the autopilot while the ship continued to reel from side to side. As quickly as it had begun, though, the ship stopped its tossing and turning, and floated along.
"What happened?" Obi-Wan asked.
"We entered whatever this is. It dragged us out of hyperspace and now we are stuck right in the middle of it."
Obi-Wan looked out the viewport at the soft golden glow enveloping the transport. Flickers of orange lapped along the ship like flames. It was like nothing he had ever experienced. He felt warm, warmer than he should be in space, and strangely at peace as though they were in the calm eye of a storm. The Force was strongly concentrated in the anomaly, and it felt as though they were swaddled by its warm currents.
Anakin had closed his eyes, a content smile resting on his youthful features as the Force spun excitedly around its Chosen One. Obi-Wan hated to break up the moment, but he still was not certain if the anomaly presented any danger.
"Can you get us out, Anakin?"
Long lashes fluttered open as Anakin snapped out of the trance, blinking his eyes rapidly. He looked down at the control panel, studying it.
"Well, the good news, Master, is that we will come out of it on our own in just a few …"
"Then that means …" Obi-Wan braced himself as the ship pitched violently. Cockpit lights flickered on and off until the consol next to Obi-Wan sparked, plunging the small space into darkness. The groaning of durasteel being contorted gave way to a high-pitched whine. It sounded as though they were about to lose their starboard hull.
Anakin was focused, fingers flying across the controls, and the ship began to stabilize. Emergency power came on as the anomaly finally passed, leaving the ship sitting dead in space. Obi-Wan looked over to Anakin.
"We should go survey the damage."
A brief inspection revealed that their hyperspace drive was failing, the communications relay was shorted, and there were substantial fractures in the durasteel hull. Obi-Wan and Anakin sat hunched over the navigation consol considering their options.
"We obviously aren't going to make it back to Coruscant," Obi-Wan said.
"We can easily make it to the Bandomeer system," Anakin suggested.
Obi-Wan stifled a groan. "Is there anything else, nearby?"
"It's our best bet, Master… and that looks like all we're close to." Obi-Wan cast a forlorn look out into space. "Come on, Master. It's been … what … twenty years."
"You're right, Padawan." Obi-Wan offered a smile. "Lay in our course."
Bandomeer had not changed in twenty years, something that came as a surprise to Obi-Wan. With all the work that the Agricultural Corps had planned to carry out, and statutes that had been put into effect after Offworld left, Obi-Wan expected to see more progress. But the dull gray skies they descended through were the same he remembered, infused with black particulate matter. The planet was as desolate as ever.
They landed the ship where they were directed to, and Anakin quickly left to survey the outside damage for the first time. There was a permanent scowl affixed to the youth's face when Obi-Wan arrived.
"I take it, it's not good news," Obi-Wan suggested.
"It can be fixed, but we should contact the Council and tell them …"
The sound of a shrill whistle behind them startled both Jedi and they turned to face a short Meerian man dressed in a pair of dingy coveralls. Short cropped silver hair framed a wind beaten face, a testament to the harsh conditions on Bandomeer. Obi-Wan squinted his eyes, sure he had seen the man before in passing, or at least a younger version.
"What happened to your ship?" the man asked.
"Some sort of spatial storm or anomaly … it tried to rip our hull off," Anakin explained. "Our hyperdrive is also damaged."
"We are somewhat understaffed right now. I can't guarantee when I will be able to make the repairs …"
"I can make the necessary repairs," Anakin interrupted with smug confidence.
"If you will permit us access to your equipment and tools," Obi-Wan added more graciously.
"You are welcome to whatever you need, Master Jedi." The Meerian held out his hands, palms facing up. "If you need anything, ask for KaalTa."
Anakin surveyed the hands extended in bafflement before Obi-Wan returned the simple gesture. "Thank you for your help. I am Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is my apprentice, Anakin Skywalker."
"Pleased to meet you both, but now if you will excuse me, the Monument is landing soon and is sure to be a real fine mess."
"The Monument?" Obi-Wan asked in surprise. "I find it hard to believe that ship is still in commission."
"She's old, but still gets you there." The mechanic shrugged his shoulders. "Pirates might have done her in this time, though."
"I rode that ship from Coruscant when I was twelve … about twenty years ago," Obi-Wan said with a nostalgic air to his voice.
"I didn't know she was that old."
"Yes, and ironically enough, we were attacked by pirates then also."
"Well, these are treacherous lanes of space," the man replied, shaking his head.
A call from one of his subordinates drew the Meerian away. Obi-Wan looked up. A large vessel was descending through the atmosphere, bearing immense battle scars, and looking as though she was only held together by the hopes of her passengers. The ship looked exactly as Obi-Wan remembered seeing her last, something that left him greatly unsettled.
It started as a twitch in the corner of his mind, the Force shifting and calling him to attention as the Monument settled to the ground. The landing ramp was lowered. He looked toward Anakin. Apparently, the youth didn't sense the same thing. Suddenly, the long dormant bond he had shared with his late mentor surged to life. Obi-Wan quickly slapped up barriers, nearly collapsing from the shock of what his mind knew should not be possible.
"Are you okay, Master?" Anakin asked, steadying him, frowning in concern.
"Shields, Padawan," Obi-Wan whispered hoarsely.
Anakin turned to see what was causing his mentor's lapse of composure, gasping as he caught sight of the tall figure that stepped to the opening at the landing ramp. Qui-Gon Jinn looked almost exactly as when he had set foot on Tatooine. There was perhaps less gray in the long chestnut locks, and his face was more stern and sad than Anakin remembered, but it was still Qui-Gon, and he still seemed larger than life.
"Master?" Anakin mumbled in confusion.
The tall Jedi master made his decent down the landing ramp, hands clasped lightly in front of him. A worn travel bag was slung casually over his shoulder. Next, a boy emerged, falling into step behind him. His head was hung low. Anakin couldn't see his face, but the ginger colored spikes caused him to glance toward Obi-Wan and back. The boy paused as he took his first step onto Bandomeer soil, his nose wrinkling briefly as he surveyed the bleak planet. His shoulders slumped in dejection as Qui-Gon chided him for lagging, and he hurried to the Jedi master's side once again, clutching on to his own travel bag.
"That's you, Master … and him … how?"
"I don't know, Padawan."