I'm baaaack! Amazingly enough I have not completely dropped off the face of the earth…the release of Episode III has reignited the enthusiasm of my muses. Enjoy!

TWENTY-FOUR

It all made sense, now.

Anakin drew in a slow, deep breath as the holocron switched off, and he shook his head slowly in amazement. It was all so simple. Boredom. Disappointment. Shock. Pleasure. Amusement. Anticipation. Curiosity. None light, none dark, but all with their own sense of power. A sense of power that quite simply went untapped by most Jedi that Anakin had ever known. It had been a startling revelation that light and dark were so…restrictive. Each had their boundaries, only so far that they could travel in opposite directions.

Applied as a viewing lens onto any given situation, they were feelings that would allow him to act apart from the attachments of lightness or darkness, Jedi or Sith. Tatooine, viewed through a perspective of grey, was no longer painful. A heady freedom rushed in as Anakin allowed himself to file the Sandpeople in his consciousness as a footnote to failing his mother, rather than a dangerous failure in its own right. Closing his eyes, he was finally free of the screams.

When the blue eyes reopened, however, he placed his hands on the table as if physically steadying himself would gain him a better grip on this new ability. Anakin gazed at the holocron thoughtfully. Grey perception, as Aunoth called it, was simply the power of rationalization shot through with exceptional mental talent. No wonder, Anakin thought to himself idly, it had been so easy for some of them to become either Jedi or Sith. It would only be a short step from grey into darkness or light. As he sat there, contemplating what he'd just learned from the holocron, he wondered what Master Obi-Wan would think of the old alliances between the Order and these ancient telepaths.

"You can keep your promise now, Jedi Skywalker." Aunoth's voice said calmly behind him. "It's the power of dispassion…neither anger nor peace. Simply freedom to ask your mind to do a thing…and it does it."

"What do you know about my promises?" Anakin asked carefully, turning to hold the holocron out to her. Aunoth glided over and accepted it from him delicately.

"You promised your mother you would not fail again. You promised Senator Amidala that you would learn to stop people from dying. You have the power at your disposal now to keep those promises. Project your thoughts outward, Anakin, through the grey vision…ask your mind who your master's killer is." She watched as Anakin hesitated.

"You've been watching me." He challenged, now that he knew how she knew these things.

"For a long time now, yes." Aunoth nodded, a faint smile touching her lips. "My curiosity had to be satisfied."

An interesting answer, Anakin thought idly. Sandy brows rose slightly above blue eyes.

"And was it?" His question was at first answered by soft laughter.

"Let's just say that…your potential had my attention." Aunoth replied archly, her hand waving lightly to dismiss the subject. "Now it's up to you." The exquisite eyes took on an almost feral look. "Tell me where he is, my Jedi friend. It is, after all, what you set out to do. What you swore to your Master that you would do."

Just that quickly, the flash in Anakin's mind was the image of Master Obi-Wan, deathly still on his sickbed, a breather unit aiding his weakened lungs as Aunoth had suggested earlier. Anakin's throat tightened as the image melted away as fast as it had appeared; a sudden and savage reminder of what was at stake.

Closing his eyes tightly, Anakin pushed aside all else and gathered the grey mists to himself, calling out into the vast openness for the one answer he had come here to find. Blue eyes opened moments later, gazing sightlessly past the telepath into the infinite corridor, the wrinkle in time where future melted down into the present.

From the cold fog of dispassion, as Aunoth had put it, he could see his Master's attacker, felt a ripple of disgust as he sensed something familiar about him. Instinctively he called on the Force to enhance his memory, going back to Obi-Wan's poisoning. Instead of the familiar warmth, it was the grey twilight that brought to mind the crewmember, the Force-silent Dhanir who had been unreadable aboard the Moonrise Trader during their ascent from Coruscant. The blue eyes narrowed in recognition and concentration.

The narrow corridor of grey expanded enough to tell him what he wanted to know.

"Ich'im." The name fell from his lips as if he had simply reached into the man and pulled the knowledge out. "His name is Ich'im...he's on Jastas Prime." A chill shot straight down Anakin's spine as he realized the rest of his answer. "And he's not alone." Aunoth turned away from him gracefully, as if uninterested, returning the holocron to its place within her quarters. Glancing back over her shoulder, she graced Anakin with the hint of a smile.

"Is his companion unfamiliar to you?"

It was something less than a taunt, but was enough to stab at Anakin's heart with a brief apprehension. Still second nature to touch the Force first, he stretched out, seeking the meaning behind the telepath's words. Strangely enough, the Force was silent, not offering a look into either past or future, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Was it his imagination or did he hear her soft laughter? Fine. Anakin called upon the grey vision, gathering it to himself as simply as breathing…a frightening concept really but something told him he didn't have the time to contemplate it. The curling mists seemed to part aside like a curtain of rain and the face that turned toward him held a mirthless smile in a visage of dark composure. Dooku.

The vision presented to him was enough to steal his breath, and he lurched to his feet awkwardly, the chair tipping back with the force of his motion.

"Padmé…"

"It would appear…" Aunoth murmured smoothly as her pupil's expression hardened into something dangerous, "…that our time together is at an end, young Skywalker."


"Didn't I tell ya we should'a gotten outta here?" Jash grumbled as he pushed past Khavi and headed toward the cockpit, barely glancing back toward Khavi's company disdainfully.

"You'll have to ignore Jash." Solo shrugged a little, not quite apologizing for his co-pilot's rudeness. "Jedi aren't exactly our usual customers." He spread his hands a little, indicating the modest hold. "I give you the Silver Sunrise. She's not exactly what you'd call a pleasure ship but she punches a pretty good hole in space."

"Don't be so modest, Solo." B'hri Chandel remarked as she entered the hold just behind the two Jedi Knights that she had ferried to this point. "Especially in front of a pair of Jedi." She glanced at Mace with what passed as a slight smile for her species. "This bucket is one of the fastest ships out of the Corellian merchant fleet that Khavi…acquired and…shall we say, modified for his own business purposes." She nodded her head in Solo's direction. "You name it, I've seen him outrun, outshoot or outsmart it."

Chandel crossed over to the set of jump chairs and lounged in one, looking from smuggler to Jedi and back again with a certain amount of satisfaction.

"At any rate," Khavi interjected. "If you're thinking about recruiting me to go off on some sort of internal womprat hunt, forget it." He folded his arms defiantly across his chest and leaned against the wall. "I've told you all I know, and this is where I get off."

"Just what makes you think that's what we want from you?" Adi Gallia asked lightly, a slow deliberate pause as she walked over to the Corellian pilot and folded her own arms in mock imitation of Khavi's defensive posture. "You were chartered for round-trip passage and that's all we ask of you. Complete your charter. You'll just have…a couple of extra passengers on board for the return trip." Azure eyes held Khavi's gaze, and while it wasn't actually a mind-trick—the Corellian was too strong-willed for that—there were few who could resist the Jedi's persuasive gaze.

"And if I do…?" Solo prompted slowly, meeting Gallia's gaze lazily.

"Whatever they were paying you, we'll add…say…two?" Solo's eyebrows rose skeptically. "Four. Four thousand credits."

"You're dealing with the riff-raff of the galaxy now, Master Jedi." Khavi said slowly, a sort of lopsided smile gracing his features. "You sure your Council will like that?"

"Captain Solo…" Adi leaned closer now, boring those eyes into the smuggler until he was uncomfortable enough to uncross his arms and shift his stance. "You are dealing with the Jedi Council." She motioned toward Mace as well and she smiled in satisfaction, as the self-assured pilot was definitely unnerved. "I'm pretty sure we're quite fine with it."

Moving gracefully away from the pilot now, Adi met the steady gaze of Mace Windu.

"I'm sure," Mace murmured softly out of Solo's earshot, "that Master Yoda will just love paying off a smuggler." Adi's expression became rather amused.

"What? You don't have four thousand on you?"


"Master, I have news."

The small holographic image of Count Dooku appeared before him, and in his private quarters, Darth Sidious received the coded and scrambled message impassively, although the report in question was a rather interesting one.

"Senator Amidala…" Sidious considered aloud, a thoughtful sort of tone entering his calculating voice. It was not the first time the young senator from Naboo had done something he had not expected of her. She was beginning to become as annoying as the Jedi she sought to defend on the Senate floor. Still, the appearance of Anakin's "secret" wife, for that was what Sidious knew her to be, provided him with a unique bargaining chip in the turning of the young Jedi apprentice. With Obi-Wan in one hand, and Padmé Amidala in the other, there would be nothing to keep Sidious from claiming the young one as his own. "Have Ich'im take her to the surface. There he will await my instruction concerning Senator Amidala's…future."

"Yes, Master." Dooku answered smoothly, before reporting on the progress of the Death Star. Satisfied that Dooku had the project well in hand, Sidious allowed a wicked glint of pleasure to grace his features.

"Excellent, Lord Tyranus. Now…we are prepared to launch our war in full upon the Core of the galaxy. Marshal our forces in full, strike from the Outer-Rim, and work your way into the Core systems. The Jedi will not be able to counter such a massive front, and the war's course will open the way for us, as I have foreseen."

"It shall be as you say, my Master."

Dooku's image flickered out and Sidious turned aside from the protected hologram generator as it slid back into its hiding place. Slowly over several moments, the darkness seemed to be almost put aside as Chancellor Palpatine gathered himself and prepared to return to his private offices in the Senate building. With the launching of all-out war now, the Republic would be easily guided into hatred for the Jedi Order and all they represented; there was nothing like misery and suffering to turn well-meaning people into scapegoats. The Jedi would make such lovely scapegoats. With the Order permanently out of the way, there would be nothing to stop him from ascending to the power he so desired.

As Palpatine slipped into his offices, there was a signal at his desk and he picked up his step to intercept it. A deep frown creased his features as he realized what it was. Yoda! The meddling green troll was in his outer offices requesting audience. Drawing in a deeper breath, Palpatine squared his shoulders and allowed the full return of his "Chancellor" persona. "Send him in." He finally ordered, and the doors slid open to admit the tiny Jedi. Palpatine hid his disgust at the centuries-old Master, simply spreading his hands in an open gesture of welcome, and taking the seat behind his desk. "Master Yoda. What brings you to my office at this time of day?" He inquired politely.

"Speak with you I must." Yoda prefaced cautiously as he approached the chancellor's desk. "Know, I do of the Senate debate on the role of the Jedi in this war." Palpatine's eyes narrowed slightly, but he refused to let his irritation bleed off into the air around him; he wouldn't give the diminutive Jedi the pleasure.

"Of course, Master Yoda. Please, take a seat." Palpatine offered graciously, inclining his head a little. "I assume you speak of the motion on the Senate floor regarding the drafting of Jedi into the armed forces of the Republic."

"Hmm…" Yoda regarded Palpatine with some distrust; ever since Geonosis the Council had kept a close eye on the proceedings of the Senate, and the aged Master's perception of the Chancellor's movements were deceptive at best, downright manipulative at worst, but there had been no true proof that could be used to lever an accusation at him. "Indeed, it is." The green-skinned Jedi made his way into the chair across from Palpatine, and sharp blue eyes did not back down from the Chancellor's frank stare.

"The measure has been proposed by the Senator from Alderaan." Palpatine said emotionlessly, simply watching his adversary warily. "It has gained some support among the Senate rank and file…but it has not yet been put to a final vote."

Yoda gauged the Chancellor's answer, thinking it over. If the measure had not yet been voted on, that meant there could potentially still be considerable support for the Jedi in the Senate. Perhaps Amidala's absence would not hurt the vote as much as he thought it might, but he was unwilling to gamble on it just yet. The wizened face lifted a bit, and those blue eyes gazed piercingly at the Supreme Chancellor.

"Uncertain, it is what the best course for the Republic will be." Yoda said guardedly, unwilling to reveal his own position on the measure, or the vote. Palpatine hedged a bit as well, long fingers curling around the armrests of his chair. "Serve the Republic, the Order will." That was enough of a statement all by itself, a declaration of intention that no matter which way the vote turned, the Jedi Order would continue to uphold its principles. Palpatine recognized it for what it was, and he smiled thinly.

"Of course." The Chancellor acknowledged with a gracious—more gracious than he actually felt—nod of his head. "I would expect no less of you." Palpatine steepled his fingers, allowed his expression to take on something a little kinder. "How is Master Kenobi faring? I have heard nothing recently regarding his illness."

Yoda frowned just briefly at that before making an answer; while asked earnestly enough, it seemed a rather odd—and deft—shift of topic. Inclining his head a little, the diminutive Jedi folded his hands over his gimer stick.

"Deteriorated, his condition has." Yoda finally answered, despite his uneasy regard for Palpatine, and a soft sigh escaped him. "Leave us soon, I fear he will." Across from him, Palpatine's expression took on a distressed sort of air, and the Chancellor leaned forward on the desk.

"The Healers can do nothing for him?" Palpatine put on just the right balance of concern and sorrow, although neither were honestly present. "Such a loss…to the Order and the Republic…and to me personally." Palpatine shook his head slightly. "After all, Master Kenobi has been a great aid to my homeworld in the past."

Yoda regarded the Chancellor uncertainly. While it was certainly true that Obi-Wan's death would be a trauma to the Order, and his service to the Republic in recent years had been invaluable…there was something not quite…sincere in Palpatine's demeanor. At the last, however, there was only one response the Jedi Master could make and still keep his cards close.

"Agree with you, I do."


Jeriya turned saddened eyes toward the Coruscanti skyline once again as she had so often during this quiet vigil. The stark contrast between the bustle of living on one side of the window and the stillness of dying on the other almost made it appear as if the window itself was the dividing line…if only Obi-Wan could be on the other side of that window...

Jeriya shook her head at herself just slightly, drawing a slow breath. She knew that she shouldn't have made this battle for Obi-Wan's life so personal; when Kenobi joined the Force, he would take a part of her with him. Turning slightly from the window, she looked back at the motionless Jedi. The periods of unconsciousness were becoming longer, his waking moments disconnected and disoriented. Soon he simply would not wake up.

The slender healer felt tears sting her eyes as she left the window and drew close to the sickbed, smoothing her palm over Obi-Wan's pale forehead. There was no response, no sound save raspy breathing. His lungs were worsening, weakening and his heartbeat becoming erratic.

"It's not fair, Master." She whispered softly, not looking up as she sensed her former master enter the room. Jeriya knew as well as anyone that she couldn't win them all, knew that there would be some lives that just couldn't be saved. As she looked up at him, however, Obuk was struck by the vulnerability visible in his former student, and his expression grew softer. The older healer crossed the room and placed a slender hand upon her shoulder. Jeriya had never taken to losing kindly, even when she knew it was inevitable.

"Let me take over here, my Padawan." Obuk said gently, yet firmly. "You've done all that you can." Jeriya looked up now and she shook her head emphatically.

"My place is here, Master. I…can't leave him now." Slim shoulders hunched a little beneath her former mentor's touch. "He's fought so hard. I know it's a fight he can't win but…I started with him. I'll finish with him." She brushed her hand along the ginger hairline once again. "I can't abandon him now."

Obuk nodded in agreement; he recognized her intention and understood it.

"Then, I will stay with you both." Obuk said quietly. He turned his gaze to Obi-Wan; the quiet labored breathing so at odds with the energetic young Padawan, the purposeful Jedi Knight that he had come to know. Qui-Gon Jinn had had his hands full with this one at times, but he had become a true Jedi. Placing graceful fingers against the unconscious Jedi's temple, Obuk stretched out through the Force. An overwhelming sense of tiredness met the healer's gentle inquiry, Obi-Wan's body—and spirit—beginning at last to give up the fight. A fight he had stubbornly clung to for his padawan's sake but now that it seemed clear that Anakin would not return, Obi-Wan, ever the realist, had resigned himself to his fate. "Oh, Obi-Wan." Obuk murmured affectionately, mournfully.

The bacta tanks were lined up in neat rows, the chamber quiet and for the most part, empty.

Except for a single tank. And for a pair of Jedi…one inside, and one outside of the tank.

"Qui?" Obuk said softly as he joined them.

"Forget it." Qui-Gon Jinn had replied shortly. "I'll sleep when he wakes up."

That had been a vigil, too, the Jedi Master and the Master Healer staying at it until Obi-Wan returned to them at last. Obuk remembered how very relieved Qui-Gon Jinn had been when those blue-grey eyes had finally fluttered open after three days of floating in the bacta tank and another six of lying on a bed in the Ward. Why that particular incident should surface in his mind, Obuk wasn't certain, except possibly for Jeriya displaying the same stubbornness Qui-Gon had all those years ago in staying at Kenobi's side.

Instinctively, the long slender fingers slipped around Obi-Wan's hand. The poisoned Jedi might be never be aware of his touch, trapped inside his failing body, but Obuk was determined that somehow…Obi-Wan would know that he would not die alone.

"No, my Padawan…" He finally agreed very softly, "…it is not fair at all."


Padmé surveyed her surroundings and took a deep breath, wincing a little from the manacles biting into her skin. It hadn't taken long, she observed, for Dooku to find another bodyguard in the wake of Jango Fett, or so it appeared. The man who had shoved her into this little cell was taller than Dooku by some two or three inches, eyes as black as coal and strong. There had been no resisting his grip on her arms.

"You have never looked so…delightful, Senator." Padmé stiffened a bit before turning her head to offer her captor an icy glare. Dooku simply raised his eyebrows slightly, and for all her formal training in the public arena, Padmé had to admit to a sudden urge to wipe that polished demeanor from his face.

"Slavery is not delightful." She bit out sharply, and was mildly surprised when Dooku actually seemed to react to that, albeit ever so slightly. It had been such a brief shift in the smooth manner that Padmé wasn't certain that she had seen it at all before the mask was back in place. "Betrayal is not delightful." She pressed, and now, the former Jedi's expression hardened into something darker. "It is treason."

"Betrayal is such a relative term." Dooku replied smoothly, but his eyes glittered with something…hard and dark. "What is betrayal, Milady Senator, if not the decay and corruption festering in the heart of the Republic?" Dooku gave her a withering look. "Perhaps you should look more closely at how you define treason, Senator Amidala." Padmé held her tongue; there was no further use in trading barbs with the cloaked Separatist leader and whatever her fate, she would face it with the same calm, impassive face she had worn in the Geonosis arena. "Nothing more to say, Senator?" Dooku prompted condescendingly, and when he received no response, simply shrugged. "Very well. I suppose I should be polite enough to take my leave of you, as I will not see you again."

Padmé lifted her chin, a bit of defiance; it drew a genuinely amused smile from Dooku.

"Murder," Padmé enunciated icily, "is not delightful."

"I shall miss our little sparring matches." Dooku dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand. "Your spirit could have been a great asset to our cause. No matter. Allow me to introduce you to my companion, Ich'im. He will accompany you to the surface."

Padmé was slightly surprised. Take her to the planet's surface and not kill her outright? Something about that set off alarms in her mind and she glanced from Dooku to Fett's replacement and back again. Bait. Her heart lurched sharply as she realized that she was being used to draw out her companions—Anakin and Khavi Solo's crew. It was too obvious that she would not have been out here in the Outer Rim on her own, and Dooku meant to protect his operation out here and kill them all.

"After you." Ich'im said rather coldly, grasping Padmé's arm and pushing her roughly ahead of him, a blaster held at her back.

"Goodbye, Senator Amidala." Dooku said as she left the cell with the assassin behind her. "It has been a pleasure, as always."


Anakin raced along the streets of the mining colony; assisted by the Force he was nearly a blur of motion in the afternoon sun. There were few to see him, even in broad daylight as most were either working in the mines or sleeping after working the night shifts or various intoxications.

"We have to take off!" He shouted even before he'd quite run all the way up the ramp of the Silver Sunrise, anxiety tingeing his voice. "Khavi! Raise the ship, we have to…" Anakin came to a screeching halt in the common area of the ship, as his worst nightmare seemed to unfold before him.

"Have to…what?" Adi Gallia asked. She sat directly across from where Anakin now stood, speechless.

"Padawan Skywalker?" Mace Windu's voice spoke next, drifting into the common area from a nearby gantry and Anakin swallowed back a rising irritation.

"They sent you after me?" Anakin bristled a bit, before drawing a deep breath. "We have to leave Uleare One…" He hesitated a moment, before plunging ahead. "Count Dooku's on Jastas Prime." He sighed softly. "He's behind the assassination attempt on Master Obi-Wan and he's captured Senator Amidala."

The two Jedi Masters traded curious gazes before Mace walked further into the compartment and settled, unperturbed, into one of the jump chairs.

"We never should have been here in the first place, Anakin." For all the calm control, there was a note of irritation in Windu's voice, and Anakin sighed softly.

"I know I disobeyed the Council's order…"

"You've done more than that, Padawan." Adi Gallia said softly, but pointedly. Those azure eyes held Anakin captive, and the Jedi apprentice shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other.

"…but I couldn't sit there and just watch Master Obi-Wan die." Anakin finished his sentence, not quite defiantly but definitely with an edge of upset. "I know I can save him. But every moment we stay here, is another moment Master Obi-Wan doesn't have, and neither does Senator Amidala. You know Dooku will kill her." That, at least there was no arguing with; Mace exhaled slowly but did not break his steady gaze upon the wayward apprentice.

"Very well, we will go to Jastas Prime and rescue the Senator." Mace pronounced at last, with what Anakin thought was interminable slowness. The Jedi Master rose now and came closer, his imposing presence felt as well as seen. "This is not finished, Anakin." Anakin drew in a deep, frustrated breath but knew enough at least to hold his tongue for the time being, simply bowing his head in deference as he drew his robe closer about himself.

"I understand, Master Windu." He dared to glance briefly in Master Gallia's direction; the graceful Jedi wore a troubled expression. Anakin couldn't tell what was in those azure eyes and he didn't want to ask.

"Wait just a minute." Khavi Solo spoke up now, one hand waving once. "You Jedi didn't say anything about a detour. You," He pointed at Adi. "Said that all I had to do was complete my charter."

"Have a heart, Solo." B'hri Chandel smirked a bit, inasmuch as it was possible for her to do such a thing. "You've already extorted more than your fair share of credits from them. Four thousand more, to be exact." The Nhomi smuggler motioned gracefully toward the Jedi Masters. "Besides, I hardly think you want to be responsible for the killing of a Republic Senator, hmm?"

Khavi sighed softly, raking fingers through his dark hair. He didn't like the position he was in, but at least he was being paid decently to traipse the galaxy with a trio of Jedi Knights. "Oh, have it your way. Jash! Get up here! We're raising the ship!" The pilot headed for the cockpit, grumbling lightly under his breath.

B'hri Chandel laughed outright now, a gravelly, joyless sound really, but it passed for mirth among her kind. She rose from her place, offering Mace and Adi a smart salute.

"My work here is done." She announced. "Good luck finding the Senator." Chandel paused at the hatch, however, and glanced back at Adi with another of those almost-but-not-quite smiles. "You owe me a huge favor. Huge."

With that, the smuggler departed, presumably to take her cargo of smuggled rum and likely spice to the festivities on Vahqun. Anakin had to admit, he hadn't expected his masters to resort to the same methods he had taken, and he grudgingly gave them credit for their unorthodox tracking skills.

"How did you know?" He finally asked after Jash had pushed his way past on the way to the cockpit. Anakin tucked his hand inside the sleeves of his robe, almost in unconscious imitation of Obi-Wan, as if he could somehow make himself less noticeable.

Mace sighed softly. This would have to wait until they rescued Senator Amidala; it would not do to have this distraction during such a mission. If Dooku has not killed her already, that is. He motioned dismissively as though the how and what that had brought him and Adi here was unimportant.

"We will take that up later, Anakin." He said firmly. "We have a rescue mission to concentrate on."

Anakin knew that was true, but there was one more thing he must know.

"How is Master Obi-Wan?" That drew a more sympathetic look from Windu, despite whatever irritation the Jedi Master might feel over Anakin's impulsive actions. Anakin felt his heart clench in his chest. "Tell me." He said urgently.

"He is not doing well." Adi said softly. "As of my last communication with the Temple, Master Obuk said that his system is starting to shut down; the toxin has made his heart and lungs weak, and Master Obuk feels it will not be long now before he slips into coma."

Time was running out. Anakin felt as if his breath were freezing in his chest as he gasped; all he had risked, all he was still risking, was going to be for nothing. Obi-Wan was much closer to death than Anakin realized. They could not possible return to Coruscant in time to save him, could they?

Could they…

Quickly, the apprentice sprinted into the cockpit.

"How fast will this thing fly?" He demanded, as Khavi and Jash were just raising the ship. Through the canopy, Anakin could see the desolate rock that was Uleare One beginning to drop away beneath them. He would not miss the place, that much was certain.

"Point three-two-six over lightspeed." Jash replied sharply, an expression of disdain crossing his features. He was becoming less and less patient with their Jedi 'cargo.'

"I can get it to point four." Anakin said confidently, drawing in a deep breath.

"What do you think you're…?"

"Point four?" Khavi interrupted his copilot with a pausing gesture, glancing back at Anakin. "You sure about that?"

"You're running a standard four-over-five conversion package, right?" Anakin asked, and at Solo's impressed nod, continued, "All you need is an adjustment in the hyperdrive for direct conversion from the fuel cells. You'll be able to outrun any capital ship that puts up a look."

That had Solo's attention. "Take her out-system, Jash and line her up on the nav computer for a course to Jastas Prime." The smuggler rose from the pilot's seat and followed Anakin from the cockpit. "You do that for me and I'll knock off the extra credits your friends out there were going to pay me."

Both Jedi Masters looked up at that last comment as the two walked back into the common area.

"Show me the way." Anakin said, motioning before him, and he started to list the tools he would need to complete the adjustment he intended. The Jedi Padawan glanced back at his masters. "Don't worry." He said persuasively. "I'll have us on Jastas Prime in no time. Save you some credits, too."

With that, Skywalker disappeared into the engine compartment, leaving his elders to shake their heads slightly and wonder what the Council would do with him.


Bail Organa had rarely been within the halls of the Jedi Temple; there had been little cause for him to travel from the Senate or his own private offices to the ancient edifice. The spires rose majestically as they always had upon the horizon of the Senate District; a reminder, Bail always thought, of the peace the Jedi were supposed to protect.

The senator had to admit that he knew very little about the ways of the Jedi until recently, when the recent unrest in the politics of the Senate toward the Order disturbed him enough to look into it. There seemed to be a subtle hatred breeding among the galactic representatives and the greater it swelled, the more anxious Organa became.

He had taken it upon himself to learn more about the Jedi Order, as much as he was able at least, and it had led him to believe strongly that to abandon the Jedi or worse, dismantle the Order, would be a fatal mistake for the Republic. He had constructed his proposal both as a means of protecting the Jedi the best he could while creating the best possible use of the clone troops in the event that Dooku had more up his sleeve than just the scattered battles fought thus far.

Now, however, none other than Master Yoda himself had summoned him to the Jedi Temple and Bail had to admit he was highly curious as to the reason behind the request. He would not turn down the ancient Jedi Master's invitation, but the senator had to admit also that he was slightly anxious as well. He did not know what to expect of such a forbidding, ancient, overwhelming place as the Temple of the Jedi Order.

The wide, broad steps led up into an equally broad entryway, flanked by tall pillars and a massive entryway. At one time, there had been thousands upon thousands of Jedi who walked these halls, he knew, but now there were so few that the vast structure actually had closed areas that were not in use.

As he came into the Temple and was swallowed up into the grand vastness of it, a young human boy, approximately nine, or ten years of age, who bowed to him seriously before straightening and looking him right in the eye, met Bail.

"Greetings, Senator Organa." The boy's voice was clear and steady, not nervous at all, but very polite and formal. "Master Yoda sent me to meet you and show you the way."

"Greetings." Bail smiled slightly at the formality. "What is your name, young one?"

"I am Tulin." The boy said just as clearly, and Bail nodded. "This way, please."

Organa followed the young Jedi student silently, unable to resist looking around the Temple halls, awed by the gracefulness, design and craft of the place. Various Jedi passed them by; some he knew, some he had never met. A clan of younglings trooped along behind their Jedi instructor, some of them giving the senator openly curious looks, and he smiled slightly. The boy ahead of him paused now, and turned to look at him, and Bail stopped just a pair of paces before the doorway Tulin indicated.

"Thank you, Tulin."

The young Jedi bowed respectfully before turning away to pursue other duties, and Bail stepped into the chamber, finding it to be a small reception room of sorts, a few scattered chairs and tables, a pair of small sculptures memorializing great Masters of the past. In one of the chairs, the diminutive form of Master Yoda waited for him.

"Senator Organa." Yoda greeted him politely. "Good it is that accepted my invitation you have."

"Master Yoda." Bail inclined his head slightly in greeting as well. "I must admit that it was with some surprise that I received your coded transmission."

"Ask you to forgive me, I do, Senator, but necessary I fear it was." Yoda motioned graciously with one gnarled hand to a nearby chair. "Join me, please. Speak to you I must." Bail did not even try to hide the expression of curiosity that graced his features as he settled into a nearby chair and leaned forward.

"I would hear what you have to say, Master Jedi."

"Disturbing changes in the Senate there have been." Yoda prefaced, and after a hesitant moment, Organa nodded slightly. "Hear your opinions, I would."

The Senator drew in a slow, careful breath.

"I do not know if I should…"

"Speak freely here you may." Yoda reassured; a slight nod of his wizened head. "Within this room alone are your words heard. Brought you here, I have for sense I do that trustworthy, you are."

"I agree with you." Bail said finally, but his voice was still careful. "The Senate is treading very dangerous ground, I believe, in allowing the Chancellor to take these executive powers." He watched Yoda carefully, a bit of anxiety in his features. "I fear the threats this war represents have the Senators driven to distraction and Chancellor Palpatine is making good use of it."

"A very shrewd politician, the Chancellor is." Yoda agreed, and he leaned forward a bit as well. "Heard, I have, that proposed bringing the Jedi into this war as part of the Army of the Republic you have."

"No offense intended, Master Jedi," Bail defended himself, a concerned edge in his voice. "But I fear that the Order has kept itself far too removed from these recent events. There are Senators who mean to dismantle the Jedi Order with restrictive measures that would effectively silence you as a voice in these troubled times."

"More about this proposal, tell me." Yoda said slowly and deliberately. "Decide I must what course of action to the Council I will present." A stunned moment of silence passed between the two beings; Bail had not considered that the Jedi might not support this resolution, and to realize much-needed support from the Order itself was important. Leaning forward, the Alderaanian Senator began to explain his ideas.