From his perch in the rafters of the warehouse, Obi-wan gritted his teeth as he watched Kali raise her saber at the terrorist. He wanted to leap down to her rescue, but she had been adamant about her plan, hastily conceived as it was. "Come on, Kali," he muttered, sweat starting to trickle down his forehead. "Give the signal."
Qui-gon's voice nearly caused him to lose his balance as he whirled his head around to see his Master, crouching-uncomfortably-upon a series of rafters several meters from where he stood. "Master?"
Qui-gon frowned. "Mace is not far."
"But..." In that moment, a booming noise shuddered through the warehouse as a series of small explosions detonated below them, sending up a wave of heat. Kalinda, Obi-wan thought, releasing his grip and using the Force to guide his descent away from the flames. He hit the floor running, heedless of his Master's urgent voice in his mind. Kali...
Anger coursed through her as she stared at the man who had murdered so many innocents, the man who had taken her father from her. Kalinda felt a dark, roiling ripple of power within her as she focused on her anger, causing her eyes to widen. The dark side, she thought, her eyes locked on Non. It feels...strong. I feel powerful. He seemed to sense the change in her, his giggling laughter incongruous with the fact that he was pressing a blaster to her jaw.
"Here it is, dollface," he whispered, moving his other hand to caress her cheek. "The only thing you have to live for now is a quick death."
Her mind grew blank with fear, until she heard her name, as clearly as if Obi-wan was shouting it in her ear, and something within her broke. Some floodgate opened and she felt a calm sense of purpose settle over her. Using the Force, she tossed the blaster from his hand and knocked him back, calling her saber to her hand in the next moment as she held it as his throat. "Surrender, Non," she said, though her voice was cracked and weak.
He looked at her. "Kill me first."
"Kali, don't!" Obi-wan was running to her, the edges of his robes were singed by the flames. "Don't do it!" Qui-gon was behind him a moment later, his eyes fixed on Kalinda.
"I second that," another voice said. A Togrutan male stepped from the shadows, his blaster rifle trained on Non. "Good work, Kam...I mean Kali...er, whatever. He's worth more alive than dead."
"Elek," she breathed. "You're late."
The bounty hunter shrugged. "Close enough." He raised his rifle and fired, sending a bolt of energy toward the criminal, causing his eyes to roll back in his head briefly as he fell at her feet, stunned, though he managed one last glance at her.
Kalinda ignored him, instead she nodded to Elek. "He's all yours. Good luck." The bounty hunter stepped forward and locked a set of handcuffs around Non's wrists, eying the unconscious terrorist dubiously.
"Kalinda," Mace Windu's voice rose from the other side of the building as the Jedi Master stepped through the dying flames and approached her. He paused before Non's form, regarding him with disdain. "Did you really think that you could sneak out of the Temple and attempt the capture of a galactic terrorist without my knowledge?"
She looked at him, feeling her stomach drop. "Yes." He raised his brow and she winced. "I mean...well, yes, Master. I just...I did what I thought was necessary." She swallowed. "I will accept whatever your decision is, on one condition." The Jedi Master said nothing, but she could feel his incredulity. Her voice trembling, she continued. "Just punish me, Master. Everything was my idea; Obi-wan came along to make sure that I didn't get hurt." She wanted to look away, look down, anywhere but Master Windu's dark gaze.
Finally, he glanced at Elek, who was attempting to drag Non's body towards the exit. "Who is your employer? There is a price on this man's head in many systems."
Elek shook head head, his lekku swaying. "I don't know, Master Jedi, but I know that there are many of my kind who are after him." He sighed. "You're not going to let me take him, are you?"
Master Windu glanced back at Kalinda. "Padawan," he said. "What would you do with him?" He nudged Non's form with the toe of his boot.
Padawan? Kalinda looked at Non and tried to seek the grief and anger she'd felt earlier; an image of Jonas entered her mind, but it was not his last moments; rather, it was a distant memory from her childhood, when he was teaching her to play the viol, his laughter reverberating in her mind. He left me with only hope and happiness, she thought, I must honor that. But...
"Take him, Elek," she replied, turning to leave, a slight limp in her left knee. "I don't want to think about him any more."
The news that an inexperienced bounty hunter had captured one of the most notorious killers in the Core disseminated through the galaxy in less than a standard day, though there was no mention of the Jedi's involvement. Later, Kalinda would hear of Non's eventual execution by one of the rulers of a system whose name she forgot almost instantly; presently, however, she was standing in the Council chambers as the rest of her life was decided.
No, she thought suddenly. I decide my own fate; with every choice that I make. Now it's time to deal with what remains.
Master Gallia was speaking. "We have listened to your account of the incident, Kalinda, as well as Qui-gon's and Obi-wan's. Do you have anything to add?"
She paused, collecting her thoughts. "I accept whatever decision that you make, Masters," she said, her voice quiet. Frowning, she cleared her throat before continuing. "But in my heart, I know that I did the right thing; I suppose that will have to be enough for me, once I leave here."
The chamber was silent.
"Padawan Halcyon," Mace Windu's voice caused every pair of eyes to focus on him. "You have proven yourself to be willful, defiant, and unwaveringly firm in your convictions. Do you deny this?"
Her face fell. "No, Master."
"And do you deny that you have acted rashly and foolishly, Padawan?"
Heat rose to her cheeks. "No. But..." She swallowed and raised her eyes to his. "If I have acted so, it is because I felt I had no other options, Master."
"Jonas died in my arms," she said, clenching her fists below her robes. "And I was left with no one...and when I came before you," she glanced at the others. "I was met with cold silence and an uncertain future. I needed help that I did not get; so I sought it on my own." Her eyes closed, briefly. "I'm not saying that you didn't do what you felt was right, but it wasn't right for me. I made my own way." Master Windu regarded her, his face smooth and silent. "Being a Jedi has been all that I've ever wanted to do from the first moment I can remember, but if you kick me out now, I will continue on as best I can; I will continue to do what I know is right. That much Jonas taught me; that is what being a Jedi has meant to me."
Oh gods, she thought, I blew it, didn't I?
Obi-wan was waiting for her when she returned to her quarters, his face drawn and tense. "What happened?" he asked the moment she slipped in the room.
She did not respond as she stood in the middle of the floor, surveying the mess: clothes and datapads littered the floor; her bed was unmade, the sheets tangled and pillows askew; her desk was filled with the clutter of the past months. Finally she looked up at him. "I'm on probation," she said at last, frowning. "For a year."
His eyes widened. "A year? That long? Even when I left the Order for Melida/Daan, it was only a few months..."
"It's not a normal probation," she explained, sitting on the bed. "I'm to be Master Windu's Padawan, go on missions with him, but if I step out of line..." she shook her head. "I'm out. Forever."
He sat beside her. "At least you're still a Jedi."
A smile spread across her face as she nodded, her hand slipping to Jonas' lightsaber clipped at her side. "At least there's that. What about you? How angry is Qui-gon?"
Obi-wan sighed. "Pretty angry, though he's all silent and cold-I'd rather he shouted at me, to tell you the truth-this is much worse." He grimaced. "I have cleaning duties for the next three months. And I'm not to see you anymore," he admitted.
She nodded. "Same here. Did he tell them about...us? Master Windu didn't reprimand me about forming an attachment, so I assumed..."
"I don't think so," he said with a frown. "Though I'm not sure why." He chuckled and leaned back on his hands. "Maybe he feels sorry for us."
At this she laughed and leaned back to put her arm around him. "I doubt it, Ben." They remained so for a moment before he sighed again.
"What are we going to do, Kali?"
In response, she kissed him, feeling the Force spiraling around and through them as she did so; she was filled again with a strange calm, and when their lips parted, she gave him a smile.
"I have no idea, Ben," she admitted. "But I'll never stop loving you. No matter what."
He nodded, his face serious as he pulled her to him again. "No matter what."