Mina Telluvi's team was well-trained. She and Pheru, and Aidos too, were Jedi - after a fashion. They had been raised to discipline. And her other staff were brave and true, reliable to a fault. It was a simple matter to divide the labor. Young Aidos she put in charge of the piloting; he was competent, and it kept him out of the way. Solmi she assigned the task of navigation. Three others she left in the cargo hold with the Twi'Lek children. There was little in the way of comfort aboard the vessel, but they did their best. They would have to be cared for until they coudl be returned to their homes. Pheru she summoned to her own aid, in caring for the injured Jedi.
Master Skywalker was the only one over whom she had no authority, and whom she could not rein into any useful task. He stood in a corner of the passenger cabin, locked in rage and fear, tied so tightly in their constricting bonds that he could neither speak nor move. Mina and Pheru exchanged a meaningful look, set to work without him. They stripped off sweat-drenched , soiled clothing, cleaned the injured man up, wrapped him in every blanket they could spare from the emergency closet. Neither of them was a healer, and they had little to work with.
"Master Skywalker," Mina said at last, snapping upright. "Your help, please."
"I'm not a healer," the tall, dark haired Jedi choked out. "I can't ...fix people. I can't. " His chest heaved.
Again, she looked at Pheru. Such emotion was not displayed even among her people. In a Knight of the Temple, it was...disturbing. Pheru's brows drew together in concern.
"That kriffing bastard got away," Skywalker snarled, turning his back to them. At his side, the black-gloved prosthesis clenched. The cabin lighting flickered ominously.
"Skywalker!" Pheru barked. "Control yourself!"
The young man was terrifying. He wheeled about, and they cringed; but Mina saw the unshed tears trembling in the corners of his eyes. She felt overwhelming pity; but also dread. This one, she felt sure, should not have been trained. He should not be bearing the saber. Something was very, very wrong. She suddenly wished to reach Republic space, make their rendezvous with the promised cruiser, and be done with this wrathful, fearful man forever. But she said none of these things aloud, and shielded the thought even from Pheru.
"We need your help," she insisted. "Your friend - you have a bond with him. He needs to be in a healing trance until we reach your people. "
Reluctantly, Skywalker tamped down some of his startling, untamed passion. He did not conquer or release it...but he made space. A shelter. He nodded, and took a few stiff steps forward. Mina took his hands, the flesh one and the metal one, between her sunburned and calloused ones. She pried apart the cold fists of battle and vengeance and smoothed the fingers open, gently pulled them onto his friend's face and chest, pressed them into place, into the work of healing.
He relaxed, and allowed her to guide him. Mina had the wisdom to ignore the two wet trails which slithered down his cheeks.
Lord Sidious' eyes were awful. They gleamed from under the hood, coals wreathed in shadow. Dooku trembled, his innards melting. If only this interview could have been via hologram…but Sidious demanded that reports of failure be made in person.
"So you…failed to break him," Sidious muttered.
"My lord." Dooku calmed his racing pulse. "I did not entirely fail. There was a moment…"
But the lord held up a hand for silence. "Tell me, did Skywalker see this?"
Dooku bowed his head lower. He did not know what the correct answer might be. His life hung in the balance, he knew. But there was no use in lying to Sidious. Deception was as native to him as blood and breath. He was its master, and it fawned over him, told him others' secrets. There was no lie which could save him.
"Yes, my master," Dooku admitted, cold misery clamping down on his heart.
A second of thought. Dooku felt death light on his head, caress his silver hair. …but then Sidious laughed, a chuckle edged with cruel serrated bitterness. "You amuse me, my apprentice," he sneered. "Your failure will still serve our grand purpose."
"Yes, my lord."
His master did not elaborate, and Dooku knew better than to ask. He felt like a child which has burned itself playing with a dangerous toy. He felt that Sidious had enjoyed seeing him burnt. He felt a cold suspicion slide in his belly. Had he been…used? Had this been an experiment? A trial run? A way of testing the waters?
"Now we must discuss your punishment. "
"Yes, my lord."
"Yes, Master Windu."
Anakin wasn't stupid. He knew exactly how careful he needed to be with the Jedi Council. Mace Windu's flickering holo-image steepled its fingers. Beside him, Yoda leaned on his gimer stick, gimlet eyes boring into the young Knight.
"Grateful, we are," the diminutive master rasped, "That save Obi-Wan you did."
Anakin's heart warmed a little. Yoda never spared him much love, but when it came to his former master….sometimes he was able to bask in the overflow of Yoda's affection. Which didn't officially exist, on the record.
"However, that does not change the question at hand," Windu interjected sternly. "We are discussing a major breach of discipline."
"Yes, Master Windu."
"You do not sound very contrite, Skywalker," the dark Jedi master growled, a thin note of impatience echoing in his deep baritone.
"Forgive me, master. I will accept the Council's judgement on this matter."
"I hope so," Windu said drily, clearly not satisfied.
"Accompany Obi Wan back to Coruscant, you will," Yoda commanded. "A Padawan have you left behind here, and other duties as well."
"Yes, master Yoda."
The tiny green Jedi master looked up at him. "And discuss your actions further we shall, then. Hmmmph."
Anakin bowed. "Yes, master."
At last the conference was ended. His report given, his good news shared, his gross disobedience dissected and examined and lamented over. All done. Released at last, he hurried out of the comm. station and back through the cruiser's plastoid hallways to the sick bay.
Obi Wan was asleep. Probably a good thing, since the efficient clone medics had strapped him to a biomonitor, a nutrient IV drip, a therm stabilizer, and a bunch of other stuff Anakin didn't care to think about. His master would have a tantrum like a shaved Wookie when he woke to all this fuss and bother and invasion of privacy. Chuckling at the thought, Anakin touched a finger to his mentor's shoulder, just brushing against him with the Force. Checking. He had been searching for his friend this way for so many days that it felt odd not to do so now. He closed his eyes…careful not to disturb the fragile spell of sleep…
A sky full of stars, woven together in a bright white band. The galaxy's rim, seen from this position, was a soft robe draped across the sky. The crater valley's walls rose gently on all sides. Water flowed, plants unfurled in the dusk, insects flittered, glowing like stars. The Force sang deeply, sweetly, in low, multi-hued harmonies. Warmth floated up from the rock beneath him, and he held the tiny Twi'lek girl against his chest. Teaching her the names of all the things they could see, Star. Flower. Tree. River. Rock. Moth. Beautiful moth. The girl laughed and clapped. The moths began to descend, one by one, landing on their faces and shoulders like drifting leaves. The girl was very wise…she did not attempt to touch. Soon they were covered in beautiful stars, stars with wings…
Anakin withdrew. He had no idea what planet that was…but he could sense the pang of a cherished memory in its every detail. The girl in the dream was the one Dooku had murdered. He smiled, wondering if he had inadvertently discovered Obi Wan's "happy place." Then he felt a tug of sadness. There was no happy place in this galaxy anymore, for anyone. I will kill you, Dooku. I swear it.
The vehemence of his oath must have left a ripple in the Force. The sleeping Jedi awoke, eyes squinting at first against the light of the dimmed illumination panels.
"Anakin?" he said, half-bemused.
"That's seven, master. Seven times I've had to rescue you."
Obi Wan shook his head, a tiny movement. "Six. Only six," he insisted weakly.
"No, master. Seven. You really owe me."
"A lecture on humility," Obi Wan muttered, managing to raise his eyebrows.
A pause. Obi Wan frowned, thinking back through the blur of days. A thought seemed to strike him. "Who sent you? I didn't have time to contact the-"
"Sorry, master. I'll sort it out with the Council later. Meantime, let's not discuss it. You're supposed to be resting."
Too late. Obi Wan was stirring now, and he had discovered the various tubes and wires. "What in the blazes….Oh, for Force's sake. Anakin. Help me take this chizzsk out."
"No. Stop that," Anakin scolded, catching his friend's wrists and holding them. "You are going to get Captain Skarr in trouble. He's the medic."
"Scar?" Obi Wan repeated, ironic. "Lovely."
"Seriously, master. Please. Just…relax. We're on our way back to the Temple. Can you save the tantrum for Vokara Che, please? She'll appreciate it. I bet she misses you. It's been a while."
Obi Wan surrendered, less than graciously. He relaxed – and then he shot up again, sitting bolt upright. "The Twi'Lek children. Anakin, there were younglings. Where are they?"
"Calm down. Please, master." He pushed him back against the mattress. "They're fine.. Mina Telluvi – she's with the Ag-Corps – she's going to see that they are returned to their families, or fostered out if they're orphans. They'll be all right."
"Except the girl," Obi Wan said, flatly.
Anakin bowed his head. He had no words of comfort. I will kill you Dooku. I swear it.
He looked into Obi Wan's face. "I am, master. I'm going to kill him."
"Not in anger, Anakin."
"But…." Sudden comprehension dawned. "Why didn't you kill him, master? I saw you. You could have. You could have ended this war. You could have saved every person Dooku has yet to murder. Why didn't you do it?"
"Not in anger." Obi Wan was exhausted, starting to drift off again.
"I swear to you, master –"
"No! Anakin….listen….Dooku is a broken Jedi. If he dies, it cannot be at the cost of another Jedi breaking. Promise me."
"Just promise me."
Anakin twisted his hands together, the human one and the prothesis which replaced the one Dooku had severed. All he could promise was that Dooku would die. And he would be the one to do it. Forgiveness...mercy...those were things he didn't want to understand….he didn't want to think about it. "Whatever you say, Master Kenobi," he smiled, making light of the moment. "Go back to sleep."
Obi Wan was too tired to notice his evasion. He nodded, eyes slipping closed. "Whatever you say, Master Skywalker."
Anakin watched him for a few more minutes, to be sure he was really and truly asleep once more. He clenched his fist. Nobody here was broken beyond repair. And he would not break his oath.
I will kill you Dooku. I swear it. I will BREAK you.