TITLE: MILES TO GO
TIME: 6 years pre-TPM, Obi-Wan is 19
CATEGORY: Drama/Angst, Non-Slash
SUMMARY: Across a dangerous tropical rain forest, Obi-Wan struggles against his Force-sensitive captor.
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DISCLAIMER: All recognizable characters are the property of Lucasfilm Limited. All the rest belong to me. I receive absolutely no profit from this.
MILES TO GO
CHAPTER 1 - ILLUSIONS
"I have a personal matter I need to discuss with Yoda," Qui-Gon addressed his padawan, who was sitting at the kitchen table finishing up his dinner. "I might be gone a long time, so don't wait up for me," said Qui-Gon with a smile. Casually, he crossed his arms, waiting for the expected response.
Obi-Wan's head flew up to search his master's face. Then a small frown creased the padawan's brow. "Master?" Obi-Wan inquired with one word, but Qui-Gon knew all the weight, all the meaning, carried behind it.
WHY wasn't Qui-Gon confiding in him? If he had some sort of problem - personal or not - his master should tell his padawan. Afterall, they had been together for over six years now as a master/padawan team and, further, they felt as close as father and son.
Filing away the look of total rejection displayed so openly - and amusingly, although Qui-Gon dared not show any thoughts along that line - on his padawan's face, the tall Jedi master paused at the kitchen door. "It's not important that you know, Obi-Wan," he added before noting the appearance of a look of irritation surfacing to displace the other one.
He waited to see if Obi-Wan would reply to that statement, but the padawan's eyes quickly darted away, concealing the storm brewing within. This was not something that he wished to tell Obi-Wan, at least not yet. So, without further comment, he exited the apartment.
Hurt. He was hurt that Master Qui-Gon would deliberately keep something hidden from him. Even if he needed to seek Yoda's advice, did he have to shove his padawan away like that? Was confiding in his padawan so difficult? Was it such a pain, such a problem to tell him something that obviously was important? Washe a pain to his master, a problem?
Realizing the irrational jealousy rushing through him, Obi-Wan tamped it down and focused his energies on procuring an object for his master's upcoming birthday. This would provide an excellent opportunity to find what he was looking for. If Qui-Gon was indeed gone the rest of the night, then the padawan should have sufficient time to travel to the merchant shops near the shockball sports complex in the Northern sector and find just that special gift for his master.
Strolling in the 'fresher, Obi-Wan took in his appearance in the mirror. He looked like he thought he did, only more tired. He and Qui-Gon had had a long day - learning new katas, running errands for various senators who wouldn't take responsibility for their own mistakes, reading more holo-books about the politics and religion of far too many star systems, and the list went on, much too much for Obi-Wan's tired mind to recall.
He slid an open palm down the side of his face, determining that he needed not to shave. Then he took one last look, casually straightening his braid and smiling at himself, before leaving his apartment and the Temple.
The evening air was crisp and sweet - not at all humid, as it had felt earlier when they were tirelessly running back and forth from the Temple to the Galactic Senate building. The fall of night brought with it a pause of foreboding that the padawan pocketed, keeping it in mind, but not giving in to worry.
As he reached the edge of the Temple's property and crossed causeways to reach the transit stop, he surreptitiously glanced around him, a vague feeling of danger lightly touched his senses. There were the regular type of waiting passengers - a family of Rodians, a young human couple, three other single individuals - all fidgeting in wait of the transit. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing apparent to justify caution. A few minutes later, he boarded a beat-up transit and got off at the merchant strip near the sports arena.
Coming to a favorite shop of Qui-Gon's, the padawan entered with the usual door chime announcing his entrance. He quickly passed over the large, expensive wares to the smaller - hopefully - more affordable items near the back of the tiny shop. Not that he preferred to spent little on Qui-Gon, but he just didn't have a lot of credits.
"How may I serve you?" scratched a mechanical voice behind him.
He turned to see a droid, old in design and humanoid in form. "I'm looking for something for a friend. For his birthday. But," Obi-Wan dropped his gaze to the floor, hesitating in embarrassment. "I don't have much to spend."
He felt strange, feeling embarrassed towards a droid. Why should a droid make him uncomfortable? It was not a real person - just a droid. Just a droid, he told himself.
When he looked back up at the droid, he suddenly realized that he was leaning against something that started to give way. Without ample time to recover, the padawan followed the cart down to the floor with an answering loud crash of metal and glass.
In the now deathly silence, he sat up in a slight daze, feeling his face flush. He looked over the mess covering the floor - broken cups, vases, and figurines scattered along with various metal objects.
"What are you doing?" bellowed an angry voice. The Calamarian shopkeeper inhaled a deep breath. "Look at this mess. You've broken my collection of Lattisinian ceremonial bowls. They're rare and very expensive," the shopkeeper inhaled quickly between each sentence, unable to keep his temper in check.
"I'm sorry," the padawan finally said, after gaining his wits about him to stand and push his padawan braid out of his face.
"'Sorry' won't fix everything you've broken. You'll pay for all of this, Jedi," the Calamarian huffed, rubbing his hands together in frustration.
"Yes, sir. I'll pay for it... when I can," Obi-Wan's voice trailed off, knowing he could not afford to pay for all the items that he had broken. But he would try to, someway. He fished out all of his credits and held them out for the shopkeeper. "This is all I have now. I'll pay you the rest as I get it," he sheepishly explained, hoping the shop owner would agree.
"The Sith you will," the Calamarian complained as he grabbed the credits from the padawan's hand. "I'll report you to the Temple for this. They'll pay me for what you owe, and you'll be in trouble with your master."
Obi-Wan nodded in agreement to the shopkeeper's analysis. "Yes, the Temple will pay you."
"And you'll be in trouble," the Calamarian added with a smile, in the closest expression a Calamarian could come to one.
"Yes, sir. You're probably right," Obi-Wan resigned, shifting on his feet uncomfortably.
"What is your name, Jedi?" the Calamarian demanded, stepping closer.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi. And my master is Qui-Gon Jinn." Obi-Wan quietly supplied.
"Get out of here, Jedi. And never come back." The ire-laced voice sent the padawan out the door in a hurry - a hurry to get away from the scene of the crime - as he thought of it - a hurry to get back to the Temple and release his emotions to the Force, and a hurry to lock himself away before anything else terrible happened.
What he would do about Qui-Gon's birthday now, he was not sure. It was only a week until then, and now Obi-Wan was broke. He would have to do some serious thinking to decide what to do for his master, since now he could not afford to buy him anything.
Upset by the unfortunate turn of events, the padawan easily lost his focus on the Force and wandered down the sidewalk, walking as in a daydream towards the transit stop at the end.
Halfway to the stop, a stranger seemingly from nowhere smashed into him, sending the padawan crashing to the duracrete.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," came a baritone voice from above him.
Obi-Wan looked up and met the dark eyes of a human male around forty years of age with short, slick black hair. There was something in his eyes that seemed clear, and yet clouded at the same time.
"It's not your fault, sir. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going," Obi-Wan said as the man hastily helped him to stand.
"You're a Jedi, aren't you?" the man asked quickly, nervousness playing in his actions as his eyes grew nearly frantic.
"Yes, sir," the padawan answered as he straightened his robe.
"I need your help. Someone's just kidnapped my friend, but I'm afraid to go after him. Can you help me?" the man's eyes pleaded. Taking the padawan's arm, he pulled him along the sidewalk before he had time to answer.
"I suppose so," Obi-Wan replied, pushing aside his own worries.
The man led Obi-Wan into a small, nearby hanger where a few spaceships resided. Dark and devoid of life, the hanger had an ominousness that dwelt beneath the shadows - almost whispering warnings of peril.
The man prodded the padawan onward to the bottom of a lowered landing ramp. Obi-Wan peered up into the ship, taking in the bright light inside.
"He's in there," the man whispered, pointing at the interior of the ship. "I watched him carry Vred in there. My friend's a Bith. The kidnapper is human."
Nodding as he stared warily through the ship's open hatch, Obi-Wan sent a quick inquiry through the Force into the ship, but was confused to receive an answer of white noise - indicating something was interfering with its sparks of life. Frowning, he hesitated.
"Please, hurry," the man goaded him, a tone of fear underlining his words.
Turning back to the man beside him, the padawan noted the worry that graced the man's face. "You stay here," he advised, before cautiously creeping up the ramp.
Once inside, Obi-Wan found himself in a brightly lit hallway, and he nearly fell to his knees in agony as his sense of the Force seemed to be instantly tempered and tamed - its singing resonance dulled to a faint whisper. Resting his hand on the wall to steady himself, he closed his eyes, desperately desiring a stronger access to the Force.
It must be a Force-dampening field, he thought to himself.
"Hurry, before that mad man kills Vred," the man frantically hissed up to the padawan still - barely - standing at the ship's threshold.
Pushing aside the disorientation, Obi-Wan staggered down the hallway until he came to an opened door and cautiously stepped inside the room. His eyes quickly swept the tiny room, coming to rest on a small Bith tied to a large pipe running the length of the wall. She was conscious and wide-eyed, staring at the padawan. Obi-Wan rushed to her side, dropping to one knee beside her.
"Keep your hands where I can see them," came a controlled, low voice from behind him. "And turn around... slowly, Padawan."
Suddenly, Obi-Wan's heart began pounding. He quashed the wild panic, realizing his mistake, before standing and turning to face the man behind him. Sure enough, it was the man who had sent him in here to 'rescue' the Bith.
"Now, surrender and place your lightsabre on the floor, or the Bith dies," the man calmly ordered with his blaster trained on the Bith. He walked into the chamber, placing the Bith between himself and Obi-Wan.
Weighing his options, the padawan knew that the Force-dampening field would greatly hinder his response time, which would allow the man to kill the Bith before he could be stopped.
"Don't try my patience," the man's voice dripped with dangerous volatility.
Seeing the grave nature of the situation, the padawan slowly removed his weapon and laid it on the floor, never taking his eyes from the man. "What do you want?" Obi-Wan ventured as he straightened back up.
"You, Padawan. Now... face the wall and place your hands on it. And - I warn you - don't attempt anything foolish, or the innocent little Bith is going to die for your mistakes." The man's dark eyes sharply eyed the padawan, warning.
Reluctantly doing as the man instructed, Obi-Wan heard his lightsabre being retrieved from the floor, and then felt a brief flash of fear as he was violently pushed and held against the wall and felt a sharp sting to his neck.
"It's a Force-suppressant," the man's voice whispered at his ear. "I discovered it myself. It's an extract of a rare plant called the judka. It has some nasty side effects, but it won't kill you," the man informed him. "I'll turn off the dampening field after I'm sure the drug takes effect," the man chuckled. "I don't like it, either."
As the man backed away towards the doorway, Obi-Wan turned around to watch him.
At the door, the man spoke again. "You have outlived your purpose, Vred," he said to the Bith. "Parting this way brings such sadness to my heart," he mocked.
"No, Merrik-" the Bith's soft voice pleaded, strangled to silence by a sudden volley of blaster fire.
"Now," the man spoke to the stunned padawan, who was staring in shock at the dead Bith. "We'll become better acquainted later."
Obi-Wan knelt beside the still bound Bith, as the door swished shut, leaving the padawan alone in the small, empty cargo hold. Ignoring the gush of nausea trying to envelop him, he loosened the bindings that held the dead body to the pipe and gently lowered it to the floor. Then, he backed away and sat against a wall, careful to keep his gaze away from the Bith.
"I'm sorry," Obi-Wan whispered to the dead body. "It's my fault."
Entering the cargo hold where his Jedi prisoner was, Merrik Tennosa carried a bowl of slimy soup and crouched beside the sleeping padawan. Then he set the bowl on the floor and shook the padawan's shoulder to wake him.
Opening his eyes, Obi-Wan saw his captor's dark eyes staring menacingly down at him.
"Time to eat," Tennosa informed him as he stood up, keeping his blaster aimed at Obi-Wan.
How long Obi-Wan had been asleep or on this ship he wasn't sure, but he knew it had been many hours. He could feel the subtle vibrations of the ship, indicating they were travelling through space. Pushing himself to a sitting position, he glanced to the bowl of gray soup. Its unappetizing appearance matched the padawan's desire to eat. He assumed that the drug his captor had given him caused nausea and dizziness, for he now felt both rushing wildly through him.
Swallowing back a swell of nausea, Obi-Wan said, "Who are you, and why are you doing this?"
"Drop the formalities and shoot straight to business, eh?" Tennosa asked with a twisted smile. "My mother told me Jedi were too arrogant for negotiations. You are all more suitable to make demands - a trait I find all too often in the Republic's 'peacekeepers'." He spat out the last word as if he were pained to pronounce it.
Obi-Wan watched the man warily. He took in the man's appearance that he had failed to notice earlier. He stood a little taller than the padawan. His broad shoulders and built chest muscles were carefully concealed beneath a generous black cloak. The man's slick black hair was short and slightly unkempt, while his face had that deranged look found in mental wards. But, Obi-Wan knew the man's intelligence lay hidden beneath that outward appearance.
"I'm Force-sensitive - not identified until too late by your Temple's wise standards," Tennosa started in derision, pacing the small chamber. "So, I've made a lifetime of intense search and study of Force knowledge. Coming to the sad conclusion that the Force is more steeped in ancient tradition skillfully guarded from the prying eyes of any unwanted pupils by a band of hostile elitists for more centuries than I even care to wonder about, I decided to make a more empirical study... and kidnap a Jedi. I wanted a padawan nearing the final years of studies, but not as threatening as a full-fledged Jedi Knight. And you, my lab subject, have been unmeticulously chosen to fill that need. I must thank you for showing up so soon, so I would not have to look long."
"What do you think you can learn from me?" the padawan inquired. As the raging dizziness rose, he rubbed the back of his hand across his forehead.
"I want to understand your thinking. Why do Jedi do the things they do? Is there a method to your reasoning? Or do you just 'follow the will of the Force', as one of your own once told me," Tennosa said with a sparkle in his eye. "Perhaps you can give me insight into this aspect of the Living Force that seems to elude many of the Temple's greats in favor of an unhealthy thirst for premonitions and other visionary conundrums." He paused, his eyes glazing over. "Consider me a hungry mouth to feed."
"Or a blackhole with no escape?" Obi-Wan added sarcastically.
Laughing, Tennosa looked back at the padawan. "This is going to be great fun."
"For you, maybe," Obi-Wan replied.
"And it can be for you, if you cooperate." Suddenly all humor left the man's expressions, leaving in its wake coldness.
"Why did you kill..." Obi-Wan's voice died off as he looked back to the Bith.
"She was becoming... a nuisance," Tennosa's mouth curled up in distaste. "I should have gotten rid of her a long time ago. But, enough of that," he stopped at the door. "Eat your soup," he ordered and disappeared behind the closing door.
Obi-Wan glanced back at the bowl of gray soup, and felt the nausea wash over him again. Turning away from it, he laid back down to think. He had already tried the door earlier, finding it locked. Qui-Gon would notice him missing sometime soon, he surmised, and begin looking for him. But, he felt sure that his master could not track them - not across the galaxy like this. He sighed, wondering why he had let himself become so reckless as to fall for the captor's trick. Am I that stupid, he asked himself.
Forcing himself to swallow the excuse for soup that was the only thing Tennosa fed him, Obi-Wan fought down the sickness racing through him. After a couple of days of being trapped in this small cell, the padawan had finally given in and eaten the food that was brought to him, and - despite his body's need for sustenance - had thrown it up more times than it had stayed down. Now - in retrospect - he felt appreciative of the Temple's daily rations.
Suddenly, the deck lurched upwards, then downwards. Thrown against the wall, Obi-Wan fought to find something to hold on to. As he was tossed about like a rag doll - his body colliding with the walls and the Bith's decaying body that his captor had so ungraciously not removed - Obi-Wan unconsciously reached for the Force for help, and he nearly panicked when he remembered that he was drugged and could not access it.
As his head came into contact with a wall - entirely too hard for the padawan's taste - he slipped into blissful unconsciousness, leaving behind the wild excitement permeating the realm of reality.
A cool breeze.
A peaceful, gentle quietude.
A pause of vain rest.
Then came a slap - hard - that sent his head to the side. Opening his eyes, the padawan squinted up into the hateful eyes of the man who had kidnapped him a few days ago.
"We need to get going," the man gruffly said. "I want you fully awake by the time I get our supplies ready."
Obi-Wan noticed that he sat with his back against a tree, his hands bound in front of him, and that he was tied with a second rope to the tree towering over him.
Tennosa busily worked at loosening the rope binding him to the tree.
"What happened," asked the padawan's voice laced with confusion.
"The ship's navi-computer miscalculated the coordinates, and brought us out of hyperspace too late," Tennosa explained in frustration. "Then we hit an orbiting asteroid that spun the ship out of control and into the planet's atmosphere. I gained enough control to land and probably saved your life in the process. Then I pulled you out of a mess of bent-up metal pipes. You owe me one, Jedi."
"Owe you?" Obi-Wan blurted out. "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here in the first place," exclaimed the padawan sarcastically, which - to his dismay - earned him another slap.
"We'll have to walk the rest of the way there," Tennosa said, standing.
Freed from the tree's rope, Obi-Wan watched Tennosa walk away, entering the twisted wreck of the ship they had crashed in. After noticing the landscape around him was being gently washed with a fine mist of rain, he turned his attention to his right ankle, which hurt terribly. Moving it uncertainly, he winced when a sharp pain shot through it. He decided to keep it to himself as long as he could - for he knew not if his captor would help or hinder the injury.