TITLE: PASSAGE OF FEAR
AUTHOR: Cascadia
TIME: 7 years pre-TPM, Obi-Wan is 18
RATING: PG-13
CATEGORY: Drama/Angst, Non-Slash
SUMMARY: Someone has infected Obi-Wan with a memory-loss virus. What are their plans for him now?
ARCHIVE: Please ask first.
DISCLAIMER: All recognizable characters are the property of Lucasfilm Limited. All the rest belong to me. I receive absolutely no profit from this.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a sequel to 'Trembling in the Balance' and 'Hiding Master Sariel', but it is not necessary that you read them first to understand this story. Anything between * * are personal thoughts. Anything between / / are Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon talking through their bond.





~CHAPTER 1 - LABYRINTH~



Countless visible stars shimmered from the blackening sky - creating a sparkling backdrop for the enormous skyscrapers on Coruscant's upper level. Nighttime had fallen hours before, but the city lived on as though it were day. There never seemed to be a time when the city slept. It was a constant consciousness never seeking rest - never wanting respite.

This was how the planet lived. Although its inhabitants lived, died, and did a lifetime of things in between, the steady stream of activity never slowed - heavy air traffic was a constant. It all served as a rude reminder that life continued on - for the ones destiny or fate deemed worthy.

The young Jedi shuddered involuntarily from a short blast of cool air that came from below, travelling upward from some unseen source. The chill brought to the forefront of his thoughts the displacement of his warm robe safely hidden away inside. He was alone on the balcony - and alone in his thoughts.

A sense of isolation had settled in after he and his master moved to separate living quarters. It was not uncommon for masters with senior padawans to live separately - and the young Jedi had insisted on the arrangements himself - but now it seemed a hollow victory. Now that he had it, it didn't seem to matter anymore. In fact, he dearly wished that things were like they were... before.

He felt that something was terribly wrong. There was no clue, no proof as to what WAS wrong. But he could not shed the heavy presage that had draped itself over him, ominating. His master's close proximity would make him feel less insecure. Although he was eighteen now, in the past he had always relied on his master for comfort or support, and even a thin wall was more than he felt comfortable with right now.

His master was the great Qui-Gon Jinn, revered by so many - including himself - despite a difference in philosophy from most other Jedi. But how did he feel about his apprentice's weakness? Was he disappointed? Was he embarrassed? Would he rethink keeping Obi-Wan as his padawan learner?

Obi-Wan refused to believe that his failure would have no effect on his status with Qui-Gon. The master was caring, yet Obi-Wan sometimes felt that the elder man was so far above him, that the young Jedi was more of a liability than an appreciated addition. True, Qui-Gon had said that Obi-Wan was like a son to him. But what would any of them know what having a son was like? They had never experienced a real family. It was another part of life the Jedi Code kept locked away from them - a part that could never be truly understood.

How long had it been since he had been free of his drug addiction? About one month. In that time he had worked hard to keep his link to the Force strong and anchored. Still, he felt insecure and grappled at any Force-sensations he detected - afraid of falling away from the ivory tower that kept him from drowning into a sea of nothingness, helplessness.

But what most concerned him was that he allowed himself to sink into that bondage. True, the drug had a strong addictive nature, but it was not so much that others became hooked on it the way he had - at least not any others that he knew of - and especially not Jedi.

And he was a Jedi.... So why did he let himself be led by a drug... and not the Force?

It was all his fault, he reasoned. If he had kept a closer walk with the Force, then his addiction would not have taken over. The Force is greater than anything... enormously greater than an addiction to a drug. So why did he fail? Why did he give up and resign in defeat? Why? A Jedi gets all his strength from the Force. But sometimes it's so difficult to just let go of everything and rely solely on the Force, and not on yourself. When will he learn to be the Jedi he should be? Perhaps never.

Turning, he stepped back into his quarters, stopping just as the doors slid shut behind him. The droning sounds of the night traffic faded, leaving him in a vacuum of silence - a silence to compliment every other imagined insufficiency in his life.

"Master," his voice a mere whisper. There would be no answer. He did not expect one.

He walked to his bedroom and fell on the bed, fully clothed. The mattress felt lumpy... unwelcoming. After tossing about in his bed for what seemed like hours, he finally fell asleep - plagued by dreams of failure.

Morning brought a slight sense of hope that things were not so bleak - that the problems he mused over were only in his mind and did not exist beyond his thoughts. Daylight also brought with it a sharp headache that lasted only a few seconds before receding back to its hidden lair. That seemed to happen a lot recently.

He showered, dressed, and did whatever else needed to be done before meeting his master in the training salles for their morning workout.

Sabre practice usually came last, much to Obi-Wan's chagrin. Everything proceeded normally - Qui-Gon introduced Obi-Wan to a new level of kata and explained a different way of thinking about the Force - then they broke into lightsabre sparring.

Obi-Wan was doing well, Qui-Gon thought - performing with the celerity the young man usually had. He appeared to be putting into use parts of the new kata Qui-Gon had just shown him earlier.

Qui-Gon swung his blade around for a strike from the side. It was a simple attack - not requiring any advanced training to deflect. But just as the Jedi master's sabre came into motion, Obi-Wan felt a pain in the back of his head - temporarily interrupting his concentration - and the green blade struck the young man on the side - eliciting a cry from the injured youth, who fell to the mat on his knees, holding his wounded side.

"Are you alright, padawan?" Qui-Gon asked, crouching next to the young Jedi.

Looking up into his master's eyes, Obi-Wan answered, "Yes, Master. I think I was mostly just surprised."

"Or confused?" the Jedi master supplied calmly. With their training bond, there was little that could be hidden from one partner - especially during a combat situation where they were trained to be of one mind.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan admitted quietly. "I was a little confused."

Qui-Gon offered his hand to the young Jedi, and they both stood - Qui-Gon still studying his apprentice for any further sign of perplexity.

Obi-Wan appeared fine now, but Qui-Gon couldn't help but wonder what had caused the bewilderment. It was not like Obi-Wan to exhibit such blatant confusion as the Jedi master had read in him moments before.

"I'm fine now, Master," the young Jedi assured, after noting the concern etched upon the face of the man he looked up to as mentor, teacher, and father - as much as could be understood by a Jedi that a father would be.

The elder man nodded before turning towards the exit from the salles. The young Jedi followed - although wondering slightly as to why the sparring was ended so quickly after it began. Qui-Gon walked in silence down the hall, peering only straight ahead - offering no explanation for their hasty retreat.

At a conjunction of hallways Qui-Gon stopped, turning to Obi-Wan who kept a close walking proximity to the Jedi master. "Obi-Wan, get yourself cleaned up, and then meet me in my quarters," he paused, his eyes peering deep into the bright blue eyes of the padawan.

"Yes, Master," Obi-wan replied, feeling even more confused than he had during their sabre sparring. He simply stood, watching his master recede further down the hallway, until he rounded a corner and disappeared entirely from view.

*What did I do wrong now?* he wondered, miserably. He was only a little confused. It wasn't so terrible, was it?

He slouched up to his living quarters, keeping his head bowed most of the way. Passing a few friends on the way there, he only nodded at them if they spoke.

The water from the shower felt refreshing, but it did not alleviate the miserable feeling inside of him.

*I've let Master Qui-Gon down again. I'll never be the Jedi I should be. I feel so unworthy. Here I am having trained all my life, and still so unprepared....*

A tiny headache formed again - growing in intensity - then left as quickly as it had begun.

Obi-Wan left the shower, toweling off. In his bedroom he started to open a drawer, but then couldn't remember what it was that was in the drawer that he wanted. He waited for several seconds, desperately trying to recall what had so easily slipped his mind.

Giving up, he opened the drawer to see what was in it - since he couldn't remember, at the moment, what would be there. There inside, was a clean collection of socks. He picked out a pair and then dressed quickly. He gave the drawer no more thought as he flew from his quarters into the hall.

Qui-Gon answered the door before the young Jedi rang the door chime. "Come in, padawan," Qui-Gon warmly intoned.

*His mask is on again,* Obi-Wan thought. He wondered if Qui-Gon would even mention why they had so quickly aborted sabre sparring earlier, or if the master would torture his charge by leaving the matter so conspicuously untouched.

Obi-Wan followed his master in the kitchen. As soon as they entered, the young man could smell the delectable scents originating from a sophisticated pre-planned lunch.

"Sit down, padawan," Qui-Gon gestured to a chair at the table.

After seating himself, Obi-Wan watched as his master brought the steaming dishes to the table - placing them carefully in an arrangement so that the young man would not have to stretch far to reach any of them. Lastly, an empty plate was placed on the table before him, alongside stemware and a napkin.

Qui-Gon then sat at the table directly facing him - without saying a word.

Obi-Wan looked at the table, then at his master before speaking. "Master," he said quietly, "why did you go to so much trouble... to fix all this food?" he asked, glancing over the dishes.

"Because, padawan," Qui-Gon smiled, "I enjoy doing things for you."

Obi-Wan stared at his master, unsure of what to say. "Thank you, Master... for doing all this... for me." He dropped his eyes back to the table.

"Go on," Qui-Gon chuckled. "Eat."

Slowly, the young Jedi filled his plate. After he started eating, Qui-Gon filled his own plate. They ate in an uncomfortable silence - anyway, it was uncomfortable for Obi-Wan, for he knew not what lurked behind his master's visage.

After his last bite, Obi-Wan raised his eyes back to Qui-Gon, who was nearly finished with his plate.

"Obi-Wan," the master began as he laid his fork down. "How have you been today?"

"Fine, Master."

Qui-Gon stared at the padawan. "This morning, when we were sparring," he hesitated when he noticed a flash of shame in Obi-Wan's eyes. "How were you feeling then, padawan?" he added gently.

Obi-Wan would not look at Qui-Gon, but only stared at the empty plate before the Jedi master. "I suppose I was... confused, Master," he quietly finished.

"Do you know why you were confused?" Qui-Gon prodded, trying to be more encouraging than anything else.

The young Jedi thought about the question, realizing that he had not wondered about it earlier. "No... I suppose I don't know, Master? Does it really matter?" He finally met the older man's gaze.

"I think that we should examine why, padawan. I sensed your confusion. It was not just a momentary distraction.... Is there anything else about this morning that was out of the ordinary? Anything at all... different?" Qui-Gon felt something was wrong. There was definitely more going on than what showed on the surface.

Obi-Wan looked at his master. "I'm not sure, Master.... I think I had a little headache while we were sparring, but it didn't last long."

Qui-Gon's eyes narrowed. A headache? Was that important? The Force was telling him it was. "Is there anything else that happened, Obi-wan?" he asked, trying to discern the problem.

"No, Master. I can't think of anything else," the young man answered, staring again at his plate.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon stood, "I think we should go to the healers." He moved behind the young Jedi, calmly pulling him to his feet.

"But why, Master? I feel fine now," Obi-Wan protested.

"Because, I feel that there is more to this," Qui-Gon said, cryptically.

Oh, how he hated this. Obi-Wan felt a sudden tinge of fear. What was happening to him? He had only broken free of that addiction a month ago. Now... something else was happening?

But, he was acquiescent and let Qui-Gon take him to the healers - without further complaint. He had learned not to question his master's actions in most circumstances.

Qui-Gon's belief in the Living Force was a controversial subject to most Jedi. But Obi-Wan had witnessed too many times when the Jedi master was proven right. Qui-Gon's acceptance of a gift from an ambassador on their last mission was one action that would be frowned upon normally. But the gift - a drangmul pup - was the agent that revealed Obi-Wan's drug addiction to Qui-Gon. If the elder Jedi had not listened to the Living Force then - acting on a feeling that challenged the Jedi Code - then Obi-Wan may well still be trapped by the drug. Qui-Gon informed the Council of the pup, only to find that the Council already knew - for they agreed to pay the ambassador for it.

Defiance was what Master Yoda called it. Yoda undoubtedly saw the Living Force as a virtue, but did not espouse it to the extent that Qui-Gon did. Obi-Wan assumed that the wise, old Jedi Councilor dabbled in both kinds of Force philosophy - Living and Unifying. But Qui-Gon was unorthodox - ultimately throwing out commonly accepted Jedi Code rules when they came in conflict with the Living Force's prodding.

"Do we serve the Jedi Council or the Force?" Qui-Gon had once asked his young apprentice.

Of course, the answer was obvious. But the Council was not likely to find the answer a comfortable one - especially if they felt their rules were uncompromisable. The Force is immutable and infallible - we are not. But the Force would never lead one to do something wrong - of that, Obi-Wan was sure - there must be some intrinsic value to the outcome... and the means to reach it.

Obi-Wan sat in the reception room, waiting for Qui-Gon to inform a healer of the situation. A feeling of dread enveloped his heart. If something was wrong with him, then what? He could not help but feel that a greater danger waited - patiently biding its time as destiny or fate formed each day.

Qui-Gon emerged from a door, followed by Healer J'Reedon. The healer was a short man, around sixty years of age, with short gray hair. He was kind in speech and in his treatment of his patients - the things that made him a favorite of Obi-Wan.

"Now, Obi-Wan, let's go take a look at you," the healer said, smiling. They were led to a room near the end of the hall. J'Reedon checked over Obi-Wan's vitals first. Then proceeded to more in-depth tests. The whole situation made the young Jedi uncomfortable. Usually, he knew why he was in here, but now they didn't know what they were looking for.

"Master, can we go now," the young Jedi asked, the battle of fear and patience drawing to a close.

"Obi-Wan, we're not done yet," the kind healer said as he skimmed over a data-pad.

The young Jedi opened his mouth to protest, but decided against it. It would accomplish nothing - Qui-Gon would keep him here until he was sure there was no reason to.

"Hmmm...." healer J'Reedon said, intently studying the results of one of the countless tests already completed. "Well... this is interesting. Very interesting indeed."

"What is it," Qui-Gon inquired.

The healer placed the data-pad on a metal table and approached the bed where Obi-Wan sat. "Have you been experiencing a lot of headaches, Obi-Wan?" The healer crossed his arms in anticipation.

Thinking back through recent days, Obi-Wan recalled that he had. But why was that important? He looked to the healer, "Yes... I think I have." He swallowed hard, trying to keep his mind calm.

J'Reedon nodded. "That's what I thought," he picked up the data-pad again and glanced at it.

"What's wrong?" Qui-Gon insisted. Even the calm Master Jinn was getting impatient.

"It appears that Obi-Wan has experienced a series of small mutations in his brain," J'Reedon glanced between both Jedi to gauge their understanding. Both remained silent, so he continued. "I'll make it as simple as I can. Something has caused him to lose some of his memory. And I think I know what it was... or at least partially what caused it. This last test indicates that a foreign infection - something like a virus - has entered his system and mutated in such a way as to cause memory loss. There was a catalyst that was present, too." The healer stopped, a look of concern etched on his face.

Obi-Wan noticed his palms drenched in sweat and wiped them absently on his pants legs.

"The catalyst was Tordoxaine," J'Reedon said bluntly.

"Tordoxaine?" Qui-Gon echoed, remembering the painkiller that Obi-Wan battled to escape its addiction.

"Yes, but in high dosages." J'Reedon turned to his patient, "How long did it take you to use up the first bottle, Obi-Wan?"

"I... I think I used it all in a week," the young Jedi answered, embarrassed.

"I see," the healer said. He turned back to Qui-Gon. "Even that much - as much of an overdose as it was - would not have been nearly enough to transform the virus in his system to what I'm seeing. He had to have had five times that much in a short time to cause such a mutation. And with that said, even Master Yoda would have trouble not getting addicted - that is, if it didn't kill him first."

"Are you saying someone increased the potency of Obi-Wan's medication?" Qui-Gon asked.

The healer nodded slowly. "Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying, Qui-Gon. Someone deliberately made Obi-Wan take overdoses of Tordoxaine... so that this... virus - or whatever you want to call it - could mutate, causing something like multiple, tiny strokes in his brain. The strokes caused memory loss... and confusion. I've seen one kind of virus like this that does. But this one is different. It looks engineered."

"Why didn't it kill me?" Obi-Wan said, in too much shock to process all the information he was hearing.

"You mean the large overdoses?" J'Reedon asked.

"Yes, Healer," the young man said, dazed.

"That, I'm not sure of. The only thing I can gather is that as the virus encountered the Tordoxaine, both mutated into something else. And that in itself may have caused your addiction to increase even more. So, although your body contained extreme levels of the drug, a lot of it mutated and didn't really do much more than increase your addiction. Maybe."

"So the virus and the tampered medication were both present in Obi-Wan's first bottle - the one prescribed to him?" Qui-Gon asked.

"It appears so. I don't think anyone else knew he was stealing medicine from our pharmacy. And even if they did, they couldn't have known which bottles he would take."

"So then, someone has access to the Temple's pharmacy... and is trying to harm Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said. "I must inform the Council. We have a security breach," he turned to leave.

"That's not all, Qui-Gon," the healer stopped him, placing a hand on the tall master's arm.

Qui-Gon turned toward J'Reedon, waiting.

The healer looked at Obi-Wan, who felt a flicker of worry from him.

"I don't know how to stop this. I can see what it's doing, but... that's about all. Obi-Wan's memory will continue to fail, and I don't know how to stop or reverse it. And I don't know what will happen when... when his memory is all gone."

tbc


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hey, guys. I have the rough draft already finished. But, I still need to refine and proof-read each part. I will post each part as it is completed. Thank you so much for reading.