Chapter 1: 1
Darth Vader watched the Millennium Falcon blast out of the Death Star hanger, a monolithic black statue above the crumpled robe and dropped lightsaber. His respirator hissed as he breathed out, summoning the 'saber to his hand and striding from the deck, pulling him comm. from his belt as he walked.
"Tarkin, the ship has left the Death Star, commence tracking as ordered. I will be in my quarters, and have no wish to be disturbed, is that understood?"
"Perfectly, Lord Vader, we will track those rebels, they cannot escape us," Tarkin's obsequious reply came back.
Vader cut the channel and strode into his quarters, sensing the presence immediately.
"They are away?" asked the familiar voice.
"They are away, my Master, but…"
"But you still don't see why you couldn't take the children?" his Master asked from where he was leaning against the wall, beside the door.
"Yes, Master," he acknowledged, turning.
"Because if we fail Anakin, if we are wrong, if we have mistimed this, then they will truly be the last hope of defeating Palpatine, even if it would mean handing all back over to the Light," he sighed, sneering over the last word.
"We will not fail, my Master, I am sure, we have sacrificed too much to allow him to defeat us," Vader said stoutly, offering out the lightsaber he held, the one he had picked up in the bay.
"I have missed you, my young apprentice," Obi-Wan sighed, pushing away from the wall to stand before the towering figure, and taking the 'saber before
tapping lightly on the armored chest.
"Shall we dispense with the trappings of our long subterfuge?"
Vader reached up and flicked off the respirator, before tugging off the helmet and mask, cool yellow irises gazing steadily down at Obi-Wan from a pale, yet unmarked face, under dark blonde hair cut even closer than it had been in his days as a Padawan in the Temple.
"Your curls," Obi-Wan said regretfully, stroking his fingers over the severe cut.
"They will grow back," Vader shrugged, stroking a gloved hand lightly over his mentor's weathered face.
"I am more concerned about you," he pointed out.
"Nothing that a long hot shower and a few chemicals won't take care of, for the most part. I suspect there will be more real white in my hair than I appreciate when this stuff is washed off," he laughed in dark amusement.
"It almost stopped my heart, seeing you look so old, so frail. I thought for one horrible moment we had waited too long, then of course, you Force jumped like a Antraki gazelle chased by a Rancor," he snorted.
"Whatever works, as long as everyone now thinks I'm dead, we have an advantage."
"What of Yoda?"
"He is no threat to us, he is old, weak, and trapped, he cannot get off Dagobah unless someone with a ship goes there for him. He can stay where he is for now, if we do not succeed, young Luke will need the little troll," Obi-Wan shrugged, sea green eyes darkening slightly as he looked up at the other man.
"Shower," he demanded, pulling the taller figure through to the other room, the dark bedchamber with its small, private, attached fresher.
Anakin lay on his side in the bed, his head propped on his prosthetic arm, while the fingers of his natural hand ghosted lightly though Obi-Wan's hair, now restored to its proper red/brown tones, although as predicted, laced with white, across skin no longer artificially aged, before stroking over unfamiliar scars on the warm skin of his Master's back.
"I fell, in the canyons, dodging a troupe of Tuskan raiders who were too focused for me to scare off, the first year I was laying low on Tatooine," Obi-Wan murmured sleepily, answering the unspoken question.
"I should have been with you, guarding your back," Anakin growled darkly.
"That would rather have defeated the point of lying low, apprentice mine. Besides, of the two of us, you had the more dangerous task as it was, your risk of being discovered was far higher than mine. If Palpatine were not so arrogant in his assurance that you were his…"
"He was always arrogant, he always thought he saw all, but his own Darkness was blinding him just as much as he sneered that it blinded the Jedi," Anakin growled.
Obi-Wan rolled over onto his back, looking up at Anakin in the darkness, smiling faintly as Anakin stroked his thumb idly over Obi-Wan's cheek, before leaning down to kiss him.
"I am so glad that I will never have to call that worm Master again, I am so glad to have you back."
Obi-Wan threaded fingers into short blond hair, intending to pull Anakin back down into another kiss when he stilled, eyes losing focus and shifting to a stormy grey, flecked with yellow.
"We need to leave, now Anakin," he said slowly, rolling away from him and grabbing his clothes as soon as his vision cleared.
"They're about to locate the Falcon's tracker, we need to be off this space station before it takes up pursuit."
"This station is doomed, it's going to be destroyed when it reaches its destination, we need to be off before that happens."
Anakin was up and pulling his armor back on instantly, the Vader persona snapping in around him again.
"You'll probably be faster going ahead of me, you might draw attention accidentally if you're with me, people tend to notice me regardless of what I do, here, let me give you the route to the right docking bay," Anakin said, holding out one gloved hand toward Obi-Wan's forehead.
The smaller man stepped into the contact without hesitation, making Anakin swallow a knot of love, protectiveness and pure joy that he was so trusted by this man, he could kill him with a thought in this position, and he trusted him not to, and that was why Palpatine would never wrest his loyalty from Obi-Wan. He gently implanted the route to the docking bay, and indicated Vader's private ship, and Obi-Wan vanished out of the door while Anakin pulled on his mask and helmet, remembering to turn on his respirator before stepping out into the corridor in a swirl of black.
"Tarkin, I am returning to Coruscant on urgent business," he barked into his comm. as he walked.
"But, my Lord, we have just discovered the location the escaped rebels fled to."
"Good, as soon as I am clear, follow them, you will retrieve those plans and capture the rebel leaders, failure will not be tolerated," he commanded, privately wondering how the idiotic Moff was going to manage to lose the station to the rebels, not that it mattered much, he supposed, as long as it was destroyed.
"Yes, my Lord Vader," Tarkin replied, vaguely huffily.
Vader boarded his ship, scanning quickly, and sensed his Master's muted Force presence in the passenger bay, barely registering, except to someone intimately familiar with it. He must have dropped himself into a deep trance to make sure sensors picked up no life signs other than the one that belonged here, should anyone be looking when they left. Firing up the engines, he lifted off, guiding the ship out of the bay, and away from the station, which lumbered into hyperspace as soon as they were clear.
Setting the autopilot to hold their position for the moment, he headed back into the passenger compartment, finding Obi-Wan lying on his back on one of the benches, his hands folded over his stomach, still as death. He shuddered at the thought, and reached out mentally, lightly brushing over his Master's shields, letting him know they were clear of the Death Star, and then headed back to the cockpit, pulling off his helmet and mask as he went, putting them aside. It would take at least half an hour for Obi-Wan to surface from that deep, and there was no point in setting a course until he had his Master's instructions, he might not be ready for them to head to Coruscant yet.
Instead, he used the Force to pop open a secret panel in the wall of the cockpit, pulling out a heavily shielded box, and sitting down in the pilots seat before flipping the lid open to reveal a partially disassembled lightsaber, the crystal and the power cell nestled separate to the pieces of the handle. He had been guardian of this lightsaber for a very long time; it was time to finally finish assembling it for its rightful owner.
Obi-Wan moved into the cockpit just as he was finishing it, and he looked up with a smile, holding the hilt out to him.
"Your lightsaber, my Master," he said with a smile.
"You kept hold of it, all this time?"
"Of course I did Master, it was yours," he said simply.
Turning the hilt away from Anakin, and the controls, Obi-Wan activated it, watching the crimson blade extend with a faint smile, his eyes distant.
"What are you thinking?" Anakin queried softly.
"Nothing much, just wondering how things would have been different, if I hadn't turned when I did."
"We would have destroyed each other," Anakin said with soft certainty.
Obi-Wan looked up, studying him for a long moment, and then nodded slowly, deactivating the blade and clipping the 'saber to his belt, beside the blue bladed one he had carried for so long.
"You are correct, my apprentice, we would indeed have destroyed each other," he agreed, a flash of Mustapha darting across his mind, the feeling that that would have happened regardless of which side of the divide Obi-Wan was on, and it would have been much the worse for both of them. He had planned Mustapha carefully, he had seen it coming, and prepared for it; the thought of the real Anakin being mutilated that way, truly turned into the cyborg monster the clone he had substituted there had become, made him feel sick.
"But it didn't happen, it will never happen, I would sooner die than hurt you," Anakin said intensely, possessive protectiveness surging around him.
"And I you, my apprentice, and that is why we stand a better than average chance of defeating him, because we stand strong, together. The Sith have always failed before because there is nothing but suspicion, mistrust, jealousy and a desire for power between the Master and apprentice. He may be powerful, steeped longer in the Dark side than even I have been alive, but he stands alone."
"Together always, my Master," Anakin swore, his eyes burning bright gold with the intensity of the vow, and just for a heartbeat, Obi-Wan's own eyes flared gold in response to the surge of dark, wild energy, his own Darkness briefly breaking free of the shields that had hidden it for so long from Yoda and the other Jedi, not to mention Sidious himself.
"Are we going to Coruscant now, Master?" Anakin asked, turning back to the controls as Obi-Wan slid into the co-pilot seat.
"Yes, we're not ready to confront him just yet, we need time to allow our bonds to settle back into place properly, we've been apart too long, but soon, soon we will take him. What excuse will you offer for leaving the Death Star and returning to Coruscant so conveniently before its destruction?"
"I will have to report to him finding and killing my former Jedi Master, he wanted to be personally informed of any Jedi I encountered and executed."
"He won't be suspicious, if you don't bring a body back?"
"No, I never have before, I always took…" he fell silent, his eyes flicking to Obi-Wan's belt, were two lightsabers hung.
"You took their lightsabers?"
Obi-Wan unclipped his Jedi lightsaber and held it out to Anakin without hesitation.
"I won't be needing it anymore," he said, shrugging. Allowing Anakin to use it to convince Palpatine that he had defeated Obi-Wan was better than destroying it.
Palpatine lounged on his throne staring out into the Coruscant night, watching the traffic streaming by, his subjects, going on about their lives as they had always done, provided they bowed to his will, of course. He heard the door hiss open and turned, eying the bulky, black armored figure who stepped in coldly.
"You left your post, Lord Vader, the Death Star has been destroyed, what excuse do you have?"
"A Jedi was with those who came to rescue the rebel princess," Vader said, going down on one knee and holding out the lightsaber, and hoping Palpatine didn't notice he hadn't addressed him as 'master', he wouldn't, ever again, unless he had to.
"Who? Who did you kill?" Palpatine asked gleefully, leaning forward to snatch the lightsaber.
"Finally, you brought down your former master, and without losing any limbs this time," Palpatine cackled spitefully.
Anakin remained silent, waiting for Palpatine to dismiss him or torture him, or give him orders.
"Tell me, my apprentice, give me all the details of his death," Palpatine demanded.
Gritting his teeth mentally, Anakin told him about the battle in the hanger bay, embellishing slightly where he could, but making sure to mention that Obi-Wan's body had vanished when the lightsaber hit him, just in case someone else had already reported that to Palpatine, Anakin knew the sleemo had spies everywhere, even among his 'loyal' forces.
"Good, good, they should all be gone now," Palpatine cackled, turning back to face the windows again.
"Get out; I will summon you when I have new orders for you."
Anakin returned home, co-incidentally or not, the same apartment Padmé had once lived in, he had often wondered if Palpatine had had malicious reasons for assigning it to him, or if he had honestly thought it would please him to live there. He had long since messed with all of the security systems so that he would know if anyone was actively monitoring him, and the place was swept daily for bugs by droids he had built specifically for the purpose, so he felt safe enough calling out the moment he entered the apartment.
"I'm back, Master."
Obi-Wan wandered out of the reception room, now dressed in black pants, black boots and a black shirt, his hair slightly damp, indicating he had showered while Anakin was gone.
"How did it go?"
"He accepted my reason for leaving the Death Star, which has indeed been destroyed, although he didn't say how, and then he demanded a blow by blow account of how I killed you," Anakin snorted, pulling off the helmet and mask, and starting for the bedroom to work his way out of the armor.
"How do you hide the fact you don't need the armor when he decides to spy on you?" Obi-Wan asked curiously, following.
"The cameras are set to force info-loops into the system if it goes to active monitoring, that is, the moment the cameras are switched on. The sweeper droids take care of any other surveillance, so as long as I stay away from the balcony, I'm fine. As long as you only ever come and go from the landing bay here, he won't see you on the hall monitors before we're ready to put him out of our misery."
"Good, that's good to know. Luke destroyed it, by the way."
"Master?" Anakin asked, totally thrown by the sudden shift in direction.
"The Death Star, young Luke destroyed it, two photon torpedoes at the weak spot, just like another Skywalker I know. He will most certainly be the head of the new Jedi order."
"I do not want to be on the opposite side to my son, Master; can we not bring him to the Dark side?"
"No, no my apprentice we cannot. Balance can only be achieved when the Sith and the Jedi coexist Anakin; that is where both sides have always failed before. Each thought balance could only be achieved by the chosen one, you, choosing one side and annihilating the other, this is not so, you stand with me, in the Dark, and yet your children are the future of the Jedi. That is balance, there is no Darkness without Light, and there is no Light without Darkness. Do you understand, my Anakin?"
"I understand, my Master. The difficulty we face will not be in killing Palpatine, it will be in convincing them that they should not then kill us."
"Just so, Anakin, just so. I do not know which will distress Luke more, that I lied about his father being dead, or that I faked my death right in front of his eyes," Obi-Wan sighed.
"You know him better than I do, Master," Anakin pointed out without a single sliver of resentment or accusation.
"Yes, and that barely at all, your step-brother was somewhat truculent when it came to allowing me any contact at all with the boy," Obi-Wan hissed in disgust. 20 years on that kriffing rock with barely a glimpse of the boy he was meant to guide onto the Jedi path, the only thing he had agreed with Yoda over in a very long time, not that he would have told the troll that; it was almost enough to make him wish he had been the one to strike the death blow, to Owen Lars at least, Beru had always been a sweet natured girl, too good for that ill tempered oaf.
"Come to bed, Anakin, there is nothing more that we can do tonight, and I cannot think of a more enticing way to reaffirm our bonds," Obi-Wan sighed, pushing it all aside for now. Focus on the moment, as Qui-Gon had always insisted, first things first, solidify their bonds, kill Palpatine, and then worry about convincing the Jedi, aka Luke Skywalker, that they were not the enemy. Simple, he snorted to himself, pushing Anakin down onto the bed.
Anakin woke alone as the morning sunlight intruded into the bedroom through shades that hadn't been completely closed the night before. Running his flesh hand over the empty side of the bed, he realized he'd been alone a while; there was no lingering body heat left behind from Obi-Wan's departure. Summoning a silk robe from the well hidden closet he had left open the previous night, he wrapped it around himself, and padded out barefoot, searching for his Master.
He found him in front of the huge picture window, staring out into the sunrise, wearing only the black pants he had been wearing the night before.
"What's wrong?" he asked, seeing the tension in the smaller man's shoulders.
"I'm not sure, there's a vague sense of danger, just at the edge of my senses, but I can't tell who is in danger, I've been stood here the last two hours trying to narrow it down."
Anakin closed his eyes, concentrating on centering himself, before reaching out into the Force, searching for whatever his Master was sensing, Obi-Wan had much better perception and finer control, and was a natural precognitive, where others had to work at it, if they could do it at all, but sometimes, raw power could get answers where finesse failed.
"I feel it," he murmured, and a moment later, he felt Obi-Wan's mind focus on his, using his own skills to sharpen Anakin's sheer power, while at the same time, throwing up a powerful shield to stop Palpatine sensing them.
They broke connection a few moments later, two pairs of yellow eyes meeting in unhappy shock.
"Well, that complicates things a little, he must have a source inside the rebel fleet, to enable him to get Luke's name so fast, he'll want him Anakin, you know that, don't you," Obi-Wan sighed as his eyes faded back to grey.
"I know, and he will likely want to send me to get him, under orders to turn him or kill him. What now?"
"Now, we are out of time to wait and plan our movements carefully, he will have to be destroyed now, and instead of running around behind the scenes to persuade the rebellion to ally with us, we will have to hammer out a cease fire with them, once we have taken control of the Empire."
"What about Luke?"
"I will have to go and try to persuade Yoda to go to him and teach him."
"Yoda will kill you if you reveal you are Sith, and he'll want to know why you're not training Luke, why you faked your death, if you don't reveal it."
"He is proclaimed to be the wisest Jedi of our age, or at least he was while the Jedi actually existed, I can only hope he will at least be willing to listen to reason."
"And if not, I'll be there to back you up?"
"No, Anakin, you will remain on Coruscant, I will have more chance of persuading him to listen to me if you are not there, and I will have other tasks in mind for you."
"Such as?" Anakin asked, knowing that he didn't sound best pleased.
"You will need to make a start on bringing the Imperial forces into line, they already see you as their commander anyway, you have all of the necessary codes, you will be best placed to carry out that task."
"All right, I don't like the idea of you facing him without backup, but all right. When do we go after Palpatine?"
"As soon as we can, you're sure he'll send you after Luke?"
"Unless he just wants him dead, not turned, yes. If he doesn't care about trying to turn him, then he'll just send a Hand, one of his assassins."
"We can't chance waiting until he next summons you then, we go now."
"Yes Master," Anakin said tightly.
"We can do this Ani, as long as we fight together, we can do this, just like we did with every other enemy we faced."
"I know we can Master," Anakin whispered, and Obi-Wan turned, pulling him into an embrace.
Palpatine scowled darkly as Darth Vader entered his throne room, his black cloak swirling around him.
"I did not summon you, my apprentice. You were ordered to remain in your residence until I required your presence," he snarled.
"Ah, but you are not my Master, so I do not feel the need to obey your commands when my true Master countermands you."
"You seek to renounce me; after all I have done for you, keeping you alive after your precious Jedi Master left you to die in the furnace of Mustapha? Giving you position, and power?"
"You have never been my Master, there has only ever been one true Master for me, there will only ever be one true Master for me, and that is not you." Anakin snorted, reaching up to switch off the respirator, pleased to see surprise turn to shock as he then took off the helmet and mask, allowing them to drop to the floor.
"You were saying, about keeping me alive?" Anakin mocked.
"No, that isn't possible, I know you never went anywhere near Kamino, you never had a chance to get your injuries seen to by the cloners. H0w, how have you done this thing?"
"My Master saw what was to come in time to make arrangements; you might say he preempted you, if you foresaw Mustapha at all, that is."
"WHO?" Palpatine screamed in anger.
The chamber door slid open once more, and a black cloaked figure glided into the room, hood pulled low over his face, and unlit lightsaber held loosely in his hand.
"My Master," Anakin said, turning to Obi-Wan and bowing his head, he wouldn't risk kneeling to him, not with Palpatine in striking distance, but the reverence in his tone was glaringly obvious, especially to Palpatine, who had never heard such a tone directed his way.
Obi-Wan reached up with his free hand to unclasp the cloak, throwing it off in one smooth motion.
"No, you told me you killed him, you told me he was finally dead…you hate him, hate the Jedi," Palpatine ranted.
"There are no Jedi here, Palpatine," Obi-Wan said icily, allowing the Darkness to cradle him as he lit his lightsaber, followed a beat later by Anakin.
Palpatine stared at the two crimson blades, and two pairs of coldly determined yellow eyes, and rage consumed him.
"Do you really think a pair of fallen Jedi can defeat a true Sith?" he shrieked, his lightsaber appearing in his hand as if from nowhere, instantly lit.
The two of them smoothly stepped away from one another, forcing Palpatine to choose one or the other of them as his target. As they had thought he would when they decided to stick to the tried and tested method of making their opponent angry enough with them to make him sloppy, careless, Palpatine's rage made him focus on Obi-Wan, who had been a bane to him for a long time, and had also it seemed denied him the apprentice he had thought his for 20 years. He lunged wildly at Obi-Wan, swinging his lightsaber in an attempt to separate his head from his shoulders, but at the last instant, altering the swing to try to bisect his torso instead. Obi-Wan easily deflected the rather obvious move, and his free hand came up between them; Palpatine braced for the Force push he was expecting, forgetting that this was no Jedi he was faced with, and he was in no way prepared to block the Force lightning that poured into his chest, he staggered two paces backward, impaling himself on Anakin's waiting lightsaber before he even sensed that the younger man was behind him.
"You should have learned from the mistakes of your minions in the past, Palpatine, and then you might have had a chance of making this a worthwhile fight," Obi-Wan said simply as Anakin twisted his lightsaber before jerking it free.
Palpatine crumpled to the floor with a grunt as his lightsaber was pulled from his grip to land neatly in Anakin's hand.
"He will betray you too," Palpatine wheezed, glaring at Obi-Wan as his life ebbed, but Obi-Wan just laughed at him, and Palpatine's last sight before he died was of Obi-Wan pulling Anakin's head down to kiss him soundly.
"The Red Guard has to go, they're too deeply tied to him," Obi-Wan murmured when he broke the kiss.
"And the clones?"
"Hopefully, we can simply rescind the order to kill any Jedi they encounter, now that Palpatine is gone. We can't afford to go around slaughtering the majority of our army while the rebellion is still a threat."
"I'll go to the barracks and start dealing with the Red Guard then, please be careful, Master."
"You too, my Anakin."
Obi-Wan watched as Anakin picked up the helmet and mask of his alter ego, sighing as he put them back on, but it would enable him to get close to the Guard, so that he could kill them with minimal risk to himself. When Anakin was gone, he stepped past the cooling body on the floor, entering Palpatine's private office cautiously, half expecting an ambush, but nothing happened, so he went to the desk and started to go through his files.
Obi-Wan brought his ship into orbit around Dagobah, looking down at the unimpressive looking planet. Anakin had still been protesting him going alone right up until the moment he went into hyperspace, upset that he hadn't even been willing to take a couple of clone troopers, who had proven to be still willing to follow Obi-Wan and Anakin, whichever side they happened to be on, once order 66 had been revoked.
He could sense Yoda down there, so he was fairly certain that Yoda could also sense Obi-Wan close by, but he wasn't sure if Yoda could feel his Darkness or not; he would soon find out, he supposed. Turning his attention back to his controls, Obi-Wan started to guide the ship down close to where he could feel Yoda's presence, searching with the Force for a fairly stable place to land.
He disembarked as soon as he landed, clipping his lightsaber to his belt as he jumped down to the marshy ground. He had been considering leaving it behind, but despite the fact that leaving it might make Yoda less likely to attack before hearing him out, he refused to be unarmed in the event Yoda wouldn't listen, he didn't think that the ancient Jedi would attack an unarmed man, but he wasn't willing to bet his life on it. Picking a direction he started to walk, letting the Force guide his feet around the dangerous areas of ground, knowing that there was no point in seeking Yoda, Yoda would find him, when he was good and ready.
"A long way from Tatooine you are, Obi-Wan."
"Yes, well I needed to talk with you, and it was best done in person."
"Talk, or kill?"
"Why would I wish to kill you?"
"Wish to kill all Jedi, do you not, Sith?"
"I would have thought you would be the last person to jump to conclusions Yoda. If I wanted you dead, I would not need to bother coming here to see to it in person, you have no way off this world unless myself or Bail Organa arranges for a ship to come for you, and Organa is dead, so no other living soul knew where you were. I came to talk to you, nothing more sinister than that."
"Heartbroken Qui-Gon would be, to know you of all people fell to the dark side, thought more of you I did, thought you would follow your Padawan into the Dark I did not," Yoda said sourly, finally appearing out of the trees, his stick thumping into the ground.
"I did not follow Anakin, he followed me, as a good apprentice should, and Qui-Gon knew what I was, he knew the moment I started studying the true nature of the Sith, but the Force guided him, assured him that I was on the path that I was meant to follow, the path toward Balance. Do you really think he would have asked me to take Anakin as my apprentice if he didn't think I was doing what was needful? Even if you do not believe he always knew, I fought and defeated the creature that murdered him, I held my dying father in my arms; do you imagine he could not see what color my eyes were?"
Yoda wanted to deny his words, but he could feel that Sith or not, Obi-Wan was not shielding, and he was not lying; Qui-Gon Jinn had known his son had fallen to the dark, and he had shielded him from the eyes of the Jedi, no wonder Qui-Gon had always kept Obi-Wan so firmly in his shadow until he was powerful and skilled enough to shield himself.
"What then do you want from me?"
"Luke Skywalker must be trained as a Jedi; I would have laid the foundations for him as I was meant to on Tatooine, but his uncle would not permit any mention of Jedi around the child, let alone permit any training. Neither Anakin nor I can now guide him on the path he needs to tread, so the only options are for you to teach him, or to leave him stumbling around on his own, and hope he remains in the Light."
"You intend that the Jedi should continue to exist?"
"Understand, I do not," Yoda told him.
"That, Yoda, has long been the failing of the Jedi. I am returning to my ship, I'll leave you to think on young Luke. I will take off in two hours; I would very much appreciate you joining me."
Yoda watched him until he was out of sight, and then sank down on a tree stump with a sigh, not sure what to do, what to think. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a Sith, had been for a long time apparently, yet he intended to reinstate the Jedi, even going so far as to come and ask Yoda to take on the task of helping to make it happen, in effect. He was Sith, but there was none of the creeping, cloying, pervasive sense of wrongness about him. He quite obviously cared about what happened to the Skywalker boy, preferring to approach Yoda than to risk his future by trying to train him as a Jedi himself, or leaving him to his own devices, but caring was not a Sith trait.
"A conundrum, isn't he Yoda?"
Yoda looked up at the translucent blue figure leaning against a tree, arms folded.
"Know, did you, that your Padawan was Sith?"
"I knew that my son was learning the ways of the Dark side, yes. I do not believe he became fully Sith until Naboo, he could possibly have chosen either way up until that moment, but this is the path he was destined for. He and Anakin are the beginning of balance in the Force."
"The beginning only?"
"Nothing can balance when only one half is present, Yoda. Much as the old Jedi and Sith may have hated the notion, there are two sides to the Force, and both must be represented for balance to be brought about. They are the new incarnation of the Sith, now it is time to bring about the new incarnation of the Jedi. If you're going to go, to do as he asks of you, you must be prepared to accept that the way of the Jedi is going to be different, or nothing can truly change. To co-exist successfully, each side must understand the other."
"A question I must ask, Qui-Gon."
"You want to know about Xanatos, why his fall wounded me so terribly, and yet I could turn around and actively support Obi-Wan?"
"There is a difference between Dark, and evil, a huge difference, Anakin and Obi-Wan are Dark, but I doubt either of them has a truly malicious bone in their bodies. Xanatos, Palpatine, Maul, Dooku, Ventress and the others like them, they were evil, it was all about the power to them, they took pleasure in hurting others, they reveled in causing misery, for it added to their power, it was all about them, and no-one else."
"In the past tense you speak, for all of them?"
"They killed Palpatine; Anakin is even now weeding out those who will object to the change in management, as it were, for the Empire. When he leaves here, Obi-Wan will formally take control of the Empire, and will try to hammer out a cease fire, and then peace, with the rebellion. It isn't likely to be easy, but an end to this war is finally within reach, as long as both sides are willing to grasp that chance. You could help there too, if you decided to train the Skywalker boy, he, and his sister for that matter, are with the rebellion."
"But first, decide if I trust Obi-Wan I must."
Yoda nodded, and rested his chin atop his folded hands, resting on top of his stick, his forehead creasing in thought. Qui-Gon decided he had done all he could to convince the ancient Jedi master, and there was no need to stand there and watch him contemplating. Instead he vanished, appearing at the ship just as Obi-Wan reached it.
"He's thinking," Qui-Gon said, reaching out one insubstantial hand to cup Obi-Wan's cheek.
"You look tired, my child."
"I am, it doesn't matter, I'll be fine."
"You're missing Anakin," Qui-Gon said, a note of gentle teasing in his tone.
"Yes, yes I am, I never could fool you, could I?" he asked wryly.
"No, although some of your attempts to try were amusing in their own right. Coming back from a 'study session in the archives' with a blackening eye, and trying to pass it off as slipping over down there was fairly memorable, considering that by that time you were one of the most graceful and sure footed members of the order. I never did manage to find out what really happened with that one."
"Oh, that, um…we were in the lower levels, some creep decided to try it on with Siri, I decided to defend her."
"So he gave you a black eye?" Qui-Gon asked, suspecting not, a suspicion confirmed when Obi-Wan blushed scarlet, even after all this time.
"Ah, no, Siri punched me, called me a sexist pig," he admitted, making Qui-Gon laugh.
"Only you, my Obi-Wan, only you could get punched by the damsel while trying to rescue a damsel in distress," he snorted.
Obi-Wan smiled at his amusement, then sobered, looking back the way he had just come from.
"Will he come?"
"I don't know, I hope so."
"So do I," Obi-Wan sighed, climbing up the ramp into the ship.
Obi-Wan sat in the cockpit, meditating lightly as he waited for the two hours he had told Yoda that he would wait to pass. The currents of the Force that normally carried warnings, or hints of danger, to him were silent, which at least gave him a fair certainty that Yoda wasn't planning on killing him, whatever else he might decide to do about the request that Obi-Wan had made. He surfaced slowly as the alert he had set to monitor the time sounded, sighing as he silenced the alarm with a wave of his hand, before pushing out of his seat and heading aft to seal the hatch. He froze with his hand over the control, looking down at the small, hunched green figure standing at the foot of the ramp.
"Yoda; have you come to say a final farewell, or to accept my request?" he asked in a neutral tone.
Yoda sighed deeply, leaning heavily on his stick, and Obi-Wan realized that the old Jedi had still not quite come to a decision yet.
"Trust in the Force Yoda, what does it tell you?"
"That do as you ask, I should. Trust in the Force we did before, and misplaced it was, suspect Palpatine we did not, suspect you and your Padawan we did not," Yoda said, bitterness tainting his tone.
"So you've lost faith in the Force? Or is it yourself, and your own ability to follow the guidance the Force offers you that you doubt?"
"My ability to sense darkness, I doubt," Yoda answered sharply.
"As did Qui-Gon Jinn, after Xanatos, and you wouldn't let him drown in that doubt, you pushed him to trust in the Force and take another apprentice."
"And another Dark apprentice he got."
"Yes, yes he did, but as we have already established, he knew where my potential lay. Having encountered that tainted Darkness once, he was more sensitive to it, not less, and he trusted the voice of the Force that told him to trust in me. What about you, Yoda, you've had centuries more practice in feeling the flow of the Force than he did, will you practice what you preach, or will you practice hypocrisy instead?"
There was another long moment of silent contemplation, and then Yoda sighed once more, his ears drooping slightly.
"The boy I will teach," he agreed slowly.
"Thank you," Obi-Wan replied with genuine relief, stepping back to allow Yoda to stump up the ramp and into the passenger compartment of the ship.
"So, young Skywalker knows a new teacher you have found for him?" Yoda asked as Obi-Wan retracted the ramp and sealed the hatch.
Obi-Wan couldn't stop a slight flinch at the question; he and Anakin were still rather uncertain how Luke would react to the knowledge that neither of them was in fact dead.
"Young Skywalker thinks I am dead, killed by his father's killer. Anakin and I would prefer it remain that way, until we decide for ourselves how to tell him otherwise, and I would appreciate you respecting that preference."
Yoda harrumphed noncommittally and got himself into one of the passenger seats, strapping the crash webbing around himself without a word. Obi-Wan sighed, either he would respect their wish that Luke not know yet, or he wouldn't, there wasn't much he could really do about it. Right now, he needed to focus more of his attention on how he was going to get Yoda to Luke, and therefore the rebels, without getting himself into a situation that Anakin would end up having to rescue him from, or worse.
Anakin stood on the bridge of the Vengeance, his hands clasped behind his back under his cloak, his face expressionless as he stared out of the massive ports at the streaking flashes of hyperspace. He had dispensed with his Vader guise for the moment, the hated suit was in his quarters, but everyone on this ship had sworn their loyalty to the new Emperor, and his second in command, so it wasn't needed.
"My lord, we have intercepted a message from the Revenant, to the Iron Fist, they believe they have located the main body of the rebellion, and are calling the Iron Fist to assist them in an attack."
"Kriff, drop us out of hyperspace, order the Revenant to stand down immediately, and see if you can raise the Dark Moon, we must warn the Emperor that he is potentially heading straight into a battle zone."
Anakin clenched his fists under his cloak, keeping his face impassive by sheer force of will, he should be there, he should be with his Master to keep him safe. He wished he could convince Obi-Wan to stay safe and secure on Coruscant, with enough guards to keep an army from getting near him, but that just wasn't the way his Master's mind worked, staying safe while others risked themselves, but he should know by now that he always got in the worst trouble without Anakin there to watch his six.
The star lines melted into static points of white light as they dropped out of hyperspace, and a moment later, the comm. tech glanced up at the Captain, who stood a few feet from the tense Sith lord.
"No response from the Revenant, they're either ignoring us, or in hyperspace. We have picked up a message from the Dark Moon, but I can't get a live connection to them."
"We've just missed our window for the Dark Moon by a minute or two, I can feel that he has entered hyperspace," Anakin said quietly, grimly centring himself and reaching for the illusive channels of the Force that his Master read so easily, searching for any hint of danger.
"There is no immediate threat to the Dark Moon, they're ahead of the Revenant, barely, so they will not come out into a warzone, but there is still a vague feeling of threat hanging over our Emperor," he said, his tone tight with anxiety.
"We have their course, if we jump now, we should exit hyperspace less than two minutes after the Dark Moon," the pilot said looking up over his shoulder.
Anakin closed his eyes, blocking his personal fear for his Master and focussing on the gentle murmur of the Force.
"No, drop us a three second hyper-jump off their exit coordinates, there's still a chance that he can get in and out without our intervention. "
"Yes sir," the pilot acknowledged, and a moment later, they leapt back into hyperspace.
Obi-Wan dropped the Dark Moon out of hyperspace at the co-ordinates of the rebel fleet, and instantly felt a warning of impending danger.
"A threat there is," Yoda said, coming up from the rear section, indicating that he had felt the warning too.
"Not yet, but close. Call the Alliance fleet, get permission for me to dock and drop you off, I need to get back out of here fast," Obi-Wan said, gesturing to the co-pilot seat and twisting the holocam toward it.
He could feel that Anakin was somewhere nearby, which couldn't be a good thing, considering he had told him to remain on Coruscant, and he didn't think he would disobey for no good reason.
"Dark Moon courier ship, calling Alliance fleet, Alliance fleet respond please."
"Identify yourselves Dark Moon, and tell us how you got these co-ordinates," a voice came back over the channel, as sensors pinged a targeting lock on them.
"Yoda this is, sent I have been to young Skywalker a Jedi make," he said, activating the camera.
"Master Yoda?" the voice that came back this time was vaguely familiar to them both, and the screen flared to life to show a red-haired woman that they both definitely knew.
"Glad to see you alive I am, Senator Mothma."
"And I you, but how did you come to be here?" she asked.
"Visited I was by two faces from days long gone, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon bade me train Skywalker's son," he said, letting her come to her own conclusions, many remembered Qui-Gon's death at the re-emergence of the Sith, and he had no doubt that the princess had reported the death of General Kenobi on the Death Star.
The sound cut for a moment, and they saw Mothma conferring quietly a man Obi-Wan recognized as a much aged Dodonna, another he didn't know, and the princess, the Alliance leaders, all here in one place, with a large portion of the fleet, all it would take would be one strike and they would be gone, good job he was after peace with them, not destruction, really.
"You can dock with the Waverider," Mothma said a moment later when the channel was re-opened, the Mon Calamari ship on the screen ran its running lights to indicate where they could dock.
"My thanks, Lady Mothma," Yoda nodded, ending the transmission and looking over at Obi-Wan, who was already heading into the bay.
"I'm not going to be able to jump out again before whatever trouble is coming hits," Obi-Wan muttered, setting the auto-pilot for a moment, he slipped out of the chair, opened an overhead panel, and pulled out a bounty hunters mask and a dark cloak, pulling them on before retaking his seat, his whole bearing seeming to change in that instant.
Suddenly he seemed like every other bounty hunter Yoda had ever encountered, radiating arrogance and a hint of danger, a feeling that he was a predator to the core, his force presence was pulled in and shielded until it was barely discernable even to Yoda, young Skywalker would never pick it up.
"Disturbing, that is," Yoda muttered.
"It will be considerably more disturbing if I have to fight my way out, or if Anakin has to come and retrieve me, if they press for my name, I am bounty hunter Corrin Quinn," he said in a clipped tone that sounded nothing like his own, and Yoda recognized in surprise a very old undercover name once used by Qui-Gon Jinn, long before he had apprenticed Obi-Wan.
"Very well," Yoda nodded.
The ship set down smoothly on the deck of the Waverider's landing bay, landing between the rows of x and y wings that populated the space, many of them undergoing repairs or maintenance of some kind. Obi-Wan hoped that the snub fighter capacity of the other fleet ships was in better condition that this lot, because he was feeling that a fight was now inevitable.
Yoda hopped down from the co-pilot chair, looking back as 'Corrin' followed him to the hatch, keying it open to reveal Mothma and the others waiting.
"Master Yoda," Mothma greeted him with a genuinely pleased smile.
"Lady Mothma," he greeted, stumping down the ramp.
"Your pilot is not joining you?"
"I've done the job I was hired to do lady, I ain't signing up for no war," he snipped, stepping back and shutting the hatch the moment Yoda was off the ramp.
"Let him leave," Mothma said to the deck officer as the courier's engines fired up again.
"We should at least make him stay until we're ready to jump out, if he tells the Empire where we are, we're sitting ducks," Leia protested.
"We can't force him to stay princess, that would make us no better than the Empire.
Yoda watched the Dark Moon rise from the deck again, and slipped back out into the cold of space.
"Something's coming, something dangerous," a slender blond boy said, his eyes vague, and even without the Force that swirled around him, Yoda would have recognized him as Anakin's child.
"Don't get twitchy Luke," another man warned, confirming it. Yoda blinked, recognizing the Wookiee that towered behind this man's shoulder.
"Correct, the boy is, danger is upon us," Yoda confirmed, nodding a greeting to Chewbacca.
"Great, at least the old man was easy to understand, even if he did talk a load of hocus pocus," the man snorted, ducking around Chewbacca and stomping up the ramp of a battered looking ship.
"Don't mind him Master Yoda, he doesn't really believe in the Force. My father, Bail Organa, told me a lot about you. I'm Leia Organa, you already know Mon Mothma, this is General Dodonna, and Carlist Riekeen, Luke Skywalker and this is Chewbacca, first mate to that ill mannered nerf herder."
"Pleased I am to meet you all, but for now, you must prepare to fight, or to run, short is time."
"Tell the fleet to raise shields, prepare emergency jumps to hyperspace, have the fighters prepped for launch," Mon Mothma said decisively, trusting Yoda's warning, even if she hadn't trusted Luke's.
Luke ran for one of the x-wings jumping up into the cockpit, and starting pre-flight checks as R2-D2 was loaded up.
"Let's get to the bridge," Dodonna said.
Yoda followed behind them, standing out of the way on the bridge, watching the view screen as they prepared to jump from their current location, he could see the Dark Moon, almost far enough away from them to jump to hyperspace, but in the next instant, the huge, menacing form of an Imperial destroyer dropped out of hyperspace almost on top of them.
Obi-Wan swore viciously as the destroyer appeared directly in his path, changing course rather more rapidly than the courier had been designed for, and hearing the hull groan in complaint.
"I hate flying," he muttered through gritted teeth, steering away from both the destroyer, and the rebel fleet before slamming his hand down on the shielding button an instant before the destroyer took a pot-shot at him.
"Come on Anakin, I know you're watching," he growled, dodging a second shot, his shields were somewhat better than this class of courier usually carried, but not enough to stand up to a pounding by a destroyer. If Anakin didn't show up quickly, he was going to have to take his chances with the rebels; he couldn't jump while he was powering his shields.
"Sir, Revenant is launching TIE fighters; they're also taking pot-shots at that courier ship. Should we tell the pilot to get behind our defensive positioning?" Waverider's tactical officer asked, but whatever Dodonna's answer would have been, he didn't get to give it, the tactical officer jumped as if electrified.
"Another Imperial ship, coming in over the top of us. Stars help us, it's the Vengeance, its Vader's ship," he squeaked in fear.
"Settle down, you're of no use if you panic, tell anyone who can jump to jump now. Is Vengeance launching fighters?" Dodonna demanded.
"They're targeting Revenant's TIEs, Vengeance is also signalling them to stand down or face destruction, by the command of the new Imperial Emperor."
"General, we've had a message burst from the Vengeance, Lord Vader instructs us to get our fleet the hell out of here, that this is between them and the traitors on the Revenant," another officer reported, sounding confused.
"Tell all ships to pull back, and jump as soon as they can, micro jumps until we can be sure we're not being followed by either Imp ship," Dodonna ordered.
"What about the courier ship?" Leia asked.
"He jumped out just after the Vengeance came in," the tactical officer told her.
"Good, get us out of here."
Obi-Wan sat on the edge of sensor range, watching the rebel fleet vanish into hyperspace in dribs and drabs as Anakin pounded the hell out of the Revenant. It would be a shame to destroy a good ship, but if a lesson was required for other hold-outs, then that was the way it would be. He did notice a large number of the TIE fighters breaking engagement, and wondered if Vengeance's clone troopers were communicating with their brethren from the Revenant, if so, there was a possibility the clones could take the ship with0ut needing to destroy it.
"Dark Moon to Vengeance, are the clone troopers in communication with the Revenant's troopers? If so, authorize them to take the ship, tell them to kill anyone who refuses to surrender to them."
In less than an hour, it was over, the Revenant had fallen to the clone troopers, and Anakin was in the process of organizing a skeleton command crew from the Vengeance to take command of the ship when the Dark Moon landed in the Vengeance's bay.
"Master, you're safe," Anakin breathed, resisting the urge to pull him into his arms and not let go, as they were surrounded by troopers and the crew who would be headed to the Revenant.
"Yes, it was a close run thing, but I know you would have come to the rescue if I was in real trouble, just like old times," he said with a wry smirk.
"Always. You were successful then?"
"Yes, Yoda is going to train Luke. Did we lose many?"
"A dozen of our TIE pilots, about double that from the Revenant before Commander Clipper managed to make them stand down, and the entire command structure of the Revenant, but the crew was happy enough to stand down and surrender."
"How many other ships refused to stand down?"
"Six, one, the Iron Fist, we already managed to subdue, we're in the process of trying to track the others."
"Right, well they've had their chance, track them, give them one last chance to stand down, and then have the clones take the ships, or as a last resort, destroy them, we don't want to lose the ships or the clones, but I don't care about the traitorous command crews. We need the fleet under control before we contact the Alliance with the cease-fire offer."
"Understood, my Emperor."
"Good, then I will leave you to your hunting; the Revenant can take me back to Coruscant before they head to join the rest of the fleet."
"As you command. Commander Clipper, you will accompany the Emperor, and assure his safety personally."
"Yes, my Lord," Clipper said, moving to Obi-Wan's side as Obi-Wan himself rolled his eyes at Anakin's over protectiveness.
"See you when you get back to Coruscant, Anakin, be careful."
Anakin watched as his Master once more boarded the Dark Moon, taking Commander Clipper with him. He was determined to bring the other traitors to heel quickly, and get back to his Master's side, where he belonged.
Obi-Wan sat curled up on the throne, a datapad lying ignored in his lap as he stared vaguely out of the massive floor to ceiling windows into the darkening Coruscant sky. He was bored, and more than a little lonely, he rather wished that he was out in space with Anakin, still hunting the one remaining ship that had refused the orders of the new Emperor to stand down. The datapad chimed softly, and he glanced down with a small frown, picking it up, scanning the data quickly.
"Hmm," he mused softly, it was a report from one of the spies they still had inside the rebellion, there had been a strike against a rebel base by the Shining Sword, the missing ship, and he couldn't quite tell if the captain of the ship was getting desperate, supplies would be getting low and they couldn't exactly put into an Imperial resupply station, or if he was trying to lay a trap for the Vengeance, he couldn't have missed that he was being hunted down, and in battle, the two ships would be well matched, if Captain Torell could engineer himself an advantage in the confrontation, he could manage a lucky strike and destroy the Vengeance before even Anakin could do anything about it.
"Communications, the report you just sent me regarding the attack by the Shining Sword, has it been relayed to the Vengeance?" he asked, touching a control inset in the arm of the throne.
"No, my Emperor, not yet, communication window with the Vengeance is not for another nineteen minutes."
"Very well, when you send the report, inform them that I wish to speak with Lord Skywalker before they act on the information."
"Yes, my Emperor."
Obi-Wan took his finger off the button, cutting the connection, and looked back down at the pad, frowning slightly, before dismissing it, and dropping the pad back in his lap, there was no point worrying about it until he spoke to Anakin, and could get a feeling of if there was any danger to him or not, at the moment, all he had was vague bad feelings, and they could mean anything, he was getting nothing clear at all.
He would be glad when this last ship was dealt with, one way or the other, and they could move on with the next stage, dealing with making peace with the rebels, he would have Anakin back at his side for that, because even though they had only been reunited for a very short time, he missed him as much as he had those first few awful months of exile on Tatooine, he didn't want to be apart from him again, damn it. He settled back into the confines of the throne once more, shutting his eyes and trying to meditate as he waited to hear from Anakin.
The leaders of the rebel alliance, plus Yoda, who had come at Mon Mothma's request, sat around the circular table in the war room aboard the Freedom's Dream, studying the report on the table in front of them.
"It's the first indication of Imperial aggression in weeks, and against such a strategically unimportant target, I don't understand it. They could have done so much more damage in one strike the day Master Yoda arrived, Vader was there, he could have wiped us out, and he did nothing but tell us to leave, and now this," Leia said, frustration coloring her tone as she tried and failed to figure out the motivations.
"That isn't the only odd encounter recently," Dodonna said quietly, steepling his forefingers in front of his mouth.
"What do you mean?" Mothma asked.
"Did you know that until this attack, the only Imp ship that anyone had reported seeing was the Vengeance?"
"No, that hadn't been passed on to us," Mothma said with a hint of disapproval in her voice.
"From what we could tell, they seemed to be hunting something, and it wasn't us. There were several encounters where our ships were leaving one planet or another, and were completely ignored by Vader, not to mention this report I got in an hour or so ago, only two days ago, two of our corvettes scouting for new locations dropped out of hyperspace practically on top of the Vengeance while she was sitting just off the jump point, and they clipped each other scrabbling to avoid her, the only reaction they got; a bored sounding officer asking if they required assistance with repairs."
"What did they do?" Leia asked curiously.
"Thanked them politely, and told them they could manage," he snorted.
"So what in the name of the Force is the Vengeance doing, if she isn't hunting us?" Mothma asked in frustration.
"Looking she is for them," Yoda said, tapping the report on the attack against the base with his stick.
"A schism in the Imp fleet?" Leia mused.
"Only interested in the ship attacking were they, the day I arrived. Know we do, that new Emperor there is, said that Vader did."
"But we don't know if Palpatine is dead, or just deposed, do we?" Reikeen demanded.
"Hard it is to confirm information at times like this," Yoda pointed out dryly.
"Well, that could explain why no-one seems to have seen Palpatine recently, and why there might be a spilt in the fleet, if there is a power struggle going on. This might be a good time to move against them," Dodonna mused.
"No, they're ignoring us at the moment, the rest of the fleet no-where in sight while they're hunting down whatever ships they're hunting, whatever the reason. If we suddenly turn around and attack them now, then not only would we be no better than the Empire, but we would likely find the rest of the fleet breathing down our necks. We need to get more spies out there, we have to find out what's going on, try to find out who the new Emperor is, and if there is some kind of power struggle going on," Mothma said firmly.
"I'll get to work on it, it won't be easy getting anyone new onto Coruscant through," Reikeen sighed.
"Maybe we don't need to get anyone new in, maybe we need to try to find out if any of my father's sources are still in place, they weren't all Alderaanian, so they wouldn't all have necessarily come under suspicion, we just need to figure out how to contact them," Leia said, her heart twisting painfully at the thought of the lost planet, her family and friends all gone.
"Do you have any of the contact frequencies?"
"I don't, but he used to use R2-D2 to route the communications, so there may be something in his databanks."
"Well, we'll tell commander Skywalker to send him to the labs then, and let the techs see what they can do."
"Probably better to see what Luke can get out of him, R2 is very independent, he might wipe his databanks rather than let someone take information he isn't willing to give," Leia sighed.
"All right, so what are we going to do about this apparently rogue Imp ship?" Dodonna asked.
"Stay out of their way, tell all bases in the sectors around the one that was attacked to fall back to their next locations, and keep their heads down," Mothma said firmly.
"You want them to just…run?" he asked.
"We have nothing in that sector capable of being more than an annoyance to a ship like that, and I dare say that whatever spies the Empire has in our ranks have already reported where the Shining Sword was last seen, so let Vader deal with it," she shrugged pragmatically, they could use this apparent respite to start calling in members of the alliance who had been forced to scatter in recent months, start consolidating their numbers so they would be ready to face whatever was coming.
Anakin stood on the holo-projector in his quarters, waiting patiently for the plates to light up with the return signal. Finally an image of Obi-Wan appeared, shimmering faintly against the backdrop of the dark wall.
"Master," he greeted.
"You have the report, about the Shining Sword's latest actions, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked without preamble.
"Yes, we have a course laid in to take us to where the attack happened, we'll see if we can pick up their trail from there."
"Something isn't sitting right about this Anakin, I don't like it at all. Hold your position right there, stay on alert, I'm sending the Dominator out to join you."
"I'm not sensing any danger," he said tentatively, not wanting to annoy Obi-Wan, but not wanting to sit around here while the trail possibly went cold again either.
"Neither am I, not directly, but something…the last time I felt this unsettled by something so vague was Naboo Anakin," Obi-Wan said, looking away from the pickups, and Anakin winced.
Naboo, not a great memory for either of them, everything had started there, all of Palpatine's manoeuvrings, everything he had planned had stemmed from that time, that place, but it had cost Obi-Wan a very high price personally too, his world had been torn apart there, and he had never felt anything than an elusive warning that he had never managed to pin down.
"We'll hold here to wait for the Dominator," he said quietly.
"Thank you, I know you can probably handle anything they throw at you Anakin, but…"
"I know Master, we'll be right here."
Obi-Wan nodded and stepped away from the projector, breaking the connection with the Vengeance, and stood, tapping his fingers lightly on the hilt of his lightsaber for a long moment, staring thoughtfully at the windows without seeing the view beyond them.
"Emperor, the Dominator has entered the system, and the Dark Moon is fuelled an on the pad," Clipper said, entering the throne room and bowing respectfully.
"Good, let's go," he said firmly, pulling his hood up and striding from the room, his black cloak swirling behind him and the clone trooper following on his heels.
They boarded the courier, and Obi-Wan sent Clipper back to the passenger compartment to sit with the other three troopers who were accompanying them, Clipper having decided that the Emperor, Force or not, needed a personal guard. Obi-Wan himself headed up to the cockpit, taking the controls and sending the Dark Moon climbing into the sky, heading to rendezvous with the Dominator. Instinct had warned him not to tell Anakin that he was coming along with the Dominator, the younger man would go after the Shining Sword despite his orders, in an effort to keep Obi-Wan from harm, and if there was a threat that he couldn't detect, he wasn't losing Anakin the way he had lost Qui-Gon.
Luke looked up from where he was trying to persuade R2 to cough up Bail Organa's communication codes as Han came and plunked down in the seat beside him.
"What's up?" Luke asked.
"Her highnessness is being a pain in the exhaust port again. What are you up to?"
"Leia asked me to try to convince R2 to give up the comm. codes that her father used to contact his spies on Coruscant, they're hoping that some of them might still be in place."
"Oh, any luck?"
"Not so far, I did find a cache of holopics though, I thought I might ask Master Yoda about them, I think one of the people in the pictures might be Ben, another could well be my father, there are other people too, I…it would be nice to know more about my father than the lies Owen and Beru told me, or 'oh, he was a Jedi, he was killed by Darth Vader'," Luke said sourly.
"And you think the green guy will tell you about him?"
"Worth asking," he shrugged, picking up the padd he had downloaded the cached pictures to and handing it to Han.
The first picture on the padd was a young man with reddish hair in a severe haircut and a blank expression that didn't manage to hide the unhappiness in his eyes, he was sitting on a bench in some kind of garden, a little blond boy with the same shorn haircut sitting beside him, both staring off into the distance, neither of them apparently aware that the picture was being taken. Flicking through the images rapidly, Han stopped on one that made him raise an eyebrow.
"This girl looks a bit like her highnessness," he commented.
"Yeah, I noticed that too," Luke said distractedly, he had found another hidden cache, with luck, this was what he was looking for.
"Come on R2, don't be stubborn, we need the codes," he muttered, delicately shifting the probes he was using.
"Where's Goldenrod, can't he convince him to give them up?" Han asked.
"I sent Threepio for an oil-bath, they just started bickering when he tried to help, and R2 wouldn't tell me anything," Luke sighed, shaking his head.
"You know kid, your droids are weird, they act more like an old married couple than most old married couples I've ever met," he snorted.
Luke contemplated commenting that they actually acted more like Han and Leia than anything else, but decided against it at the last minute, the Corellian was already in a snit, he didn't want to make it worse.
There was an electronic sigh, and R2 finally released the information in the cache, Luke quickly plugged in another padd as comm. codes scrolled rapidly across the screen, and he patted the top of the droid's dome lightly.
"Thanks R2," he said brightly.
Anakin was in the mess with a mug of kaff and some toast when the bridge signalled that the Dominator was coming out of hyperspace, his head snapped around in the direction of the outer hull when he sensed his Master's presence aboard the other ship, bright and clear, he must have been shielding until they reverted to normal space, for Anakin to have missed that he was growing closer.
/Good morning, Master,/ he sent dryly along their bond, he felt a flare of amused affection from the older man, but his reply came not from the bond, but with the chirp of his comm. and a request to meet a ship from the Dominator in the docking bay.
Draining his kaff, he rose and strode out of the room, heading for the docking bay. The Dark Moon was settling to the deck as he entered, the engines cut and the ramp extended, and Anakin was surprised that the first ones off were four white armoured troopers, who stood two to a side at the base of the ramp, he was surprised Obi-Wan had consented to a guard. He went down on one knee automatically as the hooded, cloaked figure moved smoothly down the ramp, and he felt familiar fingers on the top of his head as the dark form came to a halt in front of him.
"Master, it is an honour to see you here,"/and something of a surprise too,/ he added the last to the formal greeting along the bond.
"I thought it best if we were both here for this,"/not to mention if I had told you I was coming, you would have taken off alone in an effort to protect me, and I think this is something we need to deal with together, besides, I was missing you,/ he replied in the same manner, tugging lightly to bring him to his feet.
/I've missed you too,/ Anakin admitted.
"Come, let's get to work on locating and neutralizing the Shining Sword, the sooner that is done, the better," Obi-Wan said, gesturing Anakin to lead the way from the bay, and resisting the urge to roll his eyes as Clipper and his team fell in behind them.
SO sorry for keeping y'all waiting so long, not really writing much of anything since the summer. Hopefully nice new computer will make muse more co-operative.
Obi-Wan stirred awake, feeling Anakin wrapped around him like a serpent, pinning him securely between the bigger man's body and the mattress, and a tiny frown creased his brow, it wasn't unusual for Anakin to still be holding him after they had slept, but this tightly possessive, protective grip didn't generally indicate anything good. He managed to free one arm enough to dig an elbow into his lover's ribs as he spoke as sharply as he could.
"Anakin," he snapped, feeling the younger man startle awake instantly, but instead of loosening his grip, Anakin tightened it fractionally, holding him even tighter.
"Tell me," Obi-Wan said simply.
"You, alone, snow, nothing but snow and ice, so red with your blood. You, bleeding, dying, cold and alone," Anakin murmured into the bare skin of Obi-Wan's shoulder.
Obi-Wan felt an involuntary shiver slice though him at Anakin's descriptive words, the feelings behind them, and he knew that whatever he had seen, it had been a true vision, not a nightmare, and there was no point in trying to view it through Anakin's memories, for some reason, despite his strong ability in precognition, he could never see visions that directly affected his own well being, even if they were someone else's visions, he suspected that was the reason he had had no real warning that he was going to lose his father, because it had triggered a major shift in his own life on too many levels. He also knew that Anakin's visions tended to the short term, days or weeks, not months, so what he had seen could not be far off.
Sighing, he pushed against Anakin's tight grip enough to make him loosen it a little, and then turned over to face him, ignoring the bruises he could feel developing from Anakin's artificial hand, and stroked through his gradually lengthening curls lightly.
"Wherever, whenever, it is that you have seen, it is unlikely that I will truly be alone, I seldom am now, and you are always but a thought away. Once we have dealt with our traitors, I will be returning to Coruscant, no snow there, so whatever is going to happen, it will be soon, and I know you will come to my rescue, as you have always done," he said, offering the best reassurance that he could. He wasn't going to dismiss Anakin's concerns, tell him that nothing was going to happen, he had learned that lesson.
"Damn straight I'll always come rescue you, but I would prefer not to need to, I don't like seeing you injured," he growled.
"I don't invite trouble Anakin, it finds me of its own accord," he pointed out.
Anakin snorted, his grip on the older man finally relaxing enough that he could pull away if he wanted to, but Obi-Wan was content to stay where he was for the moment, there was nothing pressing to demand their presence right now.
Luke surfaced from his meditation, aware that Yoda was watching him closely.
"Distracted you are, young Skywalker, not on what you are doing is your mind," Yoda chided.
"No, I'm sorry. I…I found something yesterday when I was probing Artoo's databanks, and I've been trying to pluck up the courage to ask you about it, them."
"So fearsome am I, that you feared to ask?" Yoda asked, faintly amused.
"No, it isn't that, not exactly," Luke sighed, pulling the data-pad out from where he had left it.
"Artoo had these pictures stored in a hidden cache, I was hoping you could maybe tell me something about some of the people, maybe…maybe tell me if one of them is my father," he said hesitantly.
"Show me the pictures you may, tell you what I can, I will," he said.
Luke activated the pad, bringing up the first picture, and turning it so that the old Jedi could see it, the two sad figures sitting in a beautiful garden.
"Is this one Ben?" Luke asked, pointing to the older figure.
"Obi-Wan it is, a day or two I think after a Knight he became, Anakin Skywalker the child is, newly claimed as Padawan to Obi-Wan."
"They don't seem very happy," Luke said, pleased by the confirmation that the boy sitting with Obi-Wan was his father, even if it was a bit odd that the only confirmed image he had of him so far was of a child.
"Happy they were not, grieving they were, wanted a Padawan Obi-Wan did not, wanted Obi-Wan for a Master, Skywalker did not. For the path they were on, neither was ready."
"Found young Skywalker was by Obi-Wan's Master, intended he did to take Anakin Skywalker as Padawan, much friction it caused, blame for this the Jedi Council must hold, as well as Qui-Gon's stubbornness. Killed Qui-Gon was, died he did in Obi-Wan's arms, a promise he extracted before he did that Skywalker Obi-Wan would teach."
"It surprises me that he didn't want to teach my father, I kind of got the feeling of a lot of sadness when he told me that my father was killed by Darth Vader."
"Close, they became," Yoda said simply, not mentioning his suspicion that they had become considerably closer than the rules of the Jedi order permitted, he had never had proof after all, and honouring, for the moment, Obi-Wan's request that he not tell Luke that neither Kenobi nor Anakin Skywalker were dead.
Luke nodded and clicked to the next picture, a big man with long hair and a beard, towering over Obi-Wan, one arm slung around his shoulder, against a backdrop that looked suspiciously like Tatooine to Luke.
"Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan's Master," Yoda identified.
"His father," another voice corrected, making Luke jump out of his skin as a shimmering blue figure appeared, unchanged from his appearance in the picture, apart from the glowing and see through thing of course. The newcomer looked at the picture and smiled faintly, sadly.
"That was immediately after we arrived on Tatooine, before everything was thrown into chaos, before I very nearly destroyed my child's trust in me," he said, insubstantial fingers ghosting over the smaller figure in the picture. He knew he still owed Obi-Wan an apology for what he had done after finding Anakin, even if it had all worked out for the best in the end.
"Why you are here, Qui-Gon?" Yoda asked, frowning.
"I wanted to meet your new student Master. I could have sworn you said 'never again' after you managed to get rid of me," he teased.
"Impudent Padawan, someone else you should be haunting, is there not?"
"He's busy, and soon to become busier. He's in enough danger right now without me distracting him at a bad moment."
"Danger?" Yoda queried, his ears rising in curiosity.
"A few days away yet, and his companion has warned him," Qui-Gon said, shooting Yoda a dark look.
Accepting the implied rebuke from Qui-Gon, Yoda gestured mildly in the direction of his new student.
"Young Skywalker a collection of pictures he found, perhaps help identify some of the occupants you can."
"Glad to," Qui-Gon agreed.
"Um, will Ben…Obi-Wan…be able to visit the way you are?" Luke asked hopefully, looking at the Force spirit in fascination.
"I dare say you will see him again, when the time is right," Qui-Gon said smoothly.
"I hope so, I didn't really get a chance to know him, but I liked him," Luke sighed.
Yoda refrained from commenting that he had known Obi-Wan for years, and never really known him, and turned his attention back to the pictures his new apprentice had found.
Anakin and Obi-Wan were in one of the briefing rooms, going through the latest reports and trying to pick up the latest position of the Shining Sword when the door-chime sounded. Obi-Wan sighed at the interruption and nodded to Anakin to hit the unlock command for the door. Clipper stepped in from his post on guard outside the door when it opened.
"Your Majesty, Lord Skywalker, Captain Vernet is here with an update," he reported.
"Thank you Clipper, let him in," Obi-Wan said without looking up.
The grey uniformed man stepped in smartly as Clipper left, and snapped to attention as the doors slid shut once more.
"Report Captain," Anakin said impatiently.
"There has been another attack against a rebel supply convoy, what survivors there were have been sending distress messages to the rebel fleet, although I doubt they are strong enough for them to pick up in time to help them. The convoy was headed to a rebel base on Hoth, they think the Shining Sword is going to head there next, but they don't have the range to warn them."
"Co-ordinate with the Dominator, I want them to head directly to Hoth, to intercept the Shining Sword if she turns up there, Vengeance will detour only long enough to try to pick up survivors from the attack, I want to talk to them," Obi-Wan ordered Anakin, who nodded sharply and rose from his seat, although not without a worried look at his Master; Hoth, planet of snow and ice. Obi-Wan gave him a wry look, but waved him away without comment, there wasn't much to say really, they had known that Anakin's vision would be close.
It was a relatively short jump to where the convoy had been attacked, and Obi-Wan thought they could probably offset much of the time difference between the Dominator's arrival time at Hoth and their own, by making a slightly riskier hyperspace jump, he didn't want to leave them facing the Shining Sword alone for too long, the rogue ship had enough of a lead on them to get well positioned to defend against an attack, although hopefully they would only be expecting one ship, as that was all that had been hunting them all along.
He stood in the gallery above the landing deck, watching as a squad of TIE fighters guided the two badly damaged X-wings and the single surviving cargo ship out of the debris field that was all that was left of the convoy into the bay. The crews got out under the watchful eyes of two squads of storm troopers, the rebel pilots automatically knelt on the deck and put their hands behind their heads, well away from their weapons, and they were efficiently but gently disarmed before Anakin strode out onto the deck, casting a sharp eye over them, feeling for any hint of threat, but there was none, they felt beaten, dispirited, afraid that they had failed their comrades on Hoth, leaving them vulnerable to the coming attack.
"Take them to medical and have any injuries attended to, then bring them to the briefing room on deck six. Deck crew, get all ships secured for jump, we need to get moving to reach Hoth close behind the Dominator," Anakin ordered, sweeping out again, he could now feel curiosity mixed with a thread of panic behind him, but he ignored it for now, he had to get them underway.
The jump to hyperspace had been made by the time their 'guests' were escorted to the briefing room by their guards and the medic who would be giving the medical department's report on them. Obi-Wan was waiting hooded and relaxed at the head of the table, Anakin to his right; he didn't want them to be able to describe him when they were returned to their compatriots, not yet anyway, and he certainly didn't want to keep them prisoner, that would not convince the alliance leaders that they genuinely wanted peace.
"Sit down," Anakin said quietly, waving the rescued rebels to seats at the far end of the table.
"Why aren't we in holding cells? You can't seriously think we will be more amenable to betraying our comrades if you treat us well than if you torture us," the man obviously elected as their spokesperson said, as they remained where they stood.
"We are not asking you to betray anyone, you are here to help them. We already know that your convoy was headed to Hoth when it was attacked, we are not interested in capturing any of your bases, we want the ship that attacked you, now please, sit," Obi-Wan spoke from the shadows of his hood, his voice low, smooth, and completely non-descript.
There was another moment of hesitation, then the five rebels sat down, and all but two of the guards left the room.
"Medical report?" Anakin asked as Obi-Wan silently told him to take over.
"Bumps, bruises and a number of electrical burns from shorting systems, but nothing life threatening. All five would be considered fit for duty if they were not guests here," he said.
"Good, dismissed," Anakin nodded.
The medic left, and Anakin turned his attention to the men at the other end of the table.
"When you were attacked, was the Shining Sword alone?" he asked bluntly.
"Yes," the spokesperson said slowly.
"What were the defensive capabilities of your convoy?"
The spokesman narrowed his eyes and remained silent, making Anakin bite back a growl of annoyance.
"I need to know what sort of resistance the Shining Sword is still capable of offering, what they have, what they took from you, what they may be able to take from Hoth if they get there too far ahead of us."
"We were carrying food and cold weather gear, not armaments, we had an escort of six X-wings," one of the cargo hauler's crew said.
"The other four X-wings, were they destroyed or taken?"
"One was destroyed, three were taken."
"Did they primarily attack with TIE fighters or ship board armaments?"
"Fighters, I don't think the ship fired a single shot."
"They know the Vengeance is close on their trail, they are trying to keep everything they can, even as they try to gather more, to fight us," Obi-Wan said softly.
"What about on Hoth?" Anakin asked.
"If they can take the base, they will have access to the turbo-lasers, and more X-wings," the X-wing pilot replied reluctantly.
"It will be a ground battle then," Obi-Wan murmured, earning a quick glance from Anakin.
/You don't intend fighting do you Master?/ he sent worriedly.
/Intend, no, but given your vision, I think that I may end up doing so regardless. Focus on them for the moment, we have nearly two days until we reach Hoth./
"What do you intend to do with us?" the second pilot asked quietly.
"Nothing, return you to your comrades," Anakin responded with a light shrug.
"Really? Will you allow us to repair our ships and assist our comrades if there is a battle when we get to Hoth?" the first challenged.
"You may work on your ships under the supervision of the deck crews, if you complete repairs to their satisfaction, you may do as you will," Obi-Wan said, rising and sweeping from the room in a swirl of dark fabric from his cloak.
Anakin watched him go before returning his attention to the five men across the table from him, and their guards.
"Take them back down to the landing deck, inform the deck crew that they have been given leave to repair their ships under supervision, remain with them at all times," he said to the guards, then he looked back to their guests.
"Quarters will be assigned, you will be escorted to either your quarters or the mess hall any time that you are not working on your vessels."
"Understood," the spokesman nodded, rising as Anakin gestured to the guards, and they all left the room.
Anakin sat for a long moment, allowing the threads of the future to swirl around him, but he still couldn't see anything beyond the lingering after-image of his beloved dying on the ice. Rising he strode out of the room, heading for where he sensed Obi-Wan's presence in the officer's viewing lounge.
"What did you see?" he asked quietly the moment he entered the room.
"Dominator, she's too far ahead of us," he said softly.
"Will she be destroyed?" Anakin asked with a small frown, Dominator was a good ship, a good crew, he trusted them with Obi-wan.
"I'm not certain, there is a fine tipping point in our arrival between outright destruction, and badly damaged."
"I'll go to the bridge and see if we can tighten up the jump any more, get there a little faster."
Obi-Wan nodded silently, turning back to the viewport to stare out into the flashing streaks of hyperspace.
Luke looked up as Han came into the room where he was going through saber forms under Yoda’s watchful eye.
“Hiding from Leia again?” Luke asked with a faint smile, seeing the disgruntled look on the smuggler’s face.
Yoda tapped his stick firmly on the deck, and Luke took the hint, resuming the forms as he waited for Han to answer.
“No, came to let you know I’ll be gone for a while, her highness-ness wants me to transport some medical supplies to Hoth, they didn’t arrive in time to go with the convoy,” Han sighed.
Yoda’s ears pricked up slightly, a nudge from the Force prompting him to turn to Han.
“With you Skywalker and I will go,” he said.
“Why?” Han and Luke asked as one.
“Danger there is on Hoth, needed we will be.”
“Yes, much danger.”
“The kind of danger we should be warning someone about?” Luke asked.
Yoda hesitated, he couldn’t tell exactly what was going to happen on that ball of ice, but he knew it had to be big.
“Warn Mon Mothma we should,” he finally conceded.
“Well, you’d better do it quick if you want to come with me, I’m scheduled to leave in less than an hour, before the fleet jumps again.”
“Wait with Captain Solo you will, young Skywalker, join you I will soon.”
“You don’t really believe there is going to be danger on Hoth do you?” Han asked as they moved through the corridors, R2-D2 trundling along behind Luke. Han rolled his eyes at the distinctive sound of Threepio joining their merry band.
“Yes, if Yoda says so, I do.”
“You put too much faith in that mystical mumbo jumbo Luke,” Han sighed.
“Maybe, maybe not, maybe you should try a little faith yourself Han,” Luke said quietly.
“Don’t hold your breath kid,” Han snorted, he wanted to point out that the mumbo jumbo hadn’t done old Kenobi any good on the Death Star, that it hadn’t helped him against Vader, but he knew the old man’s death was still a sore point for Luke.
Anakin stood at the front of the bridge, watching hyperspace streak by as they pushed everything to get them to Hoth in time to help the Dominator. He could feel the vagueness in his bond that indicated that Obi-Wan was dropped deep into the Force, trying to follow all of the threads of possibility, to find the path that would offer the least bloodshed.
/Five minutes to reversion,/ he sent into the bond. There was a pause and then he felt his Master’s awareness start to filter back in.
The older man joined him just before they dropped out of hyperspace, and they stood shoulder to shoulder as the stars stopped streaking by, and the frigid white ball of Hoth appeared before them.
There were a few moments of quiet, and the alarms started sounding all over the command deck.
“We’re reading turbo laser fire on the far side of the planet, there are indications that Shining Sword has also launched ground attack,” one of the officers reported.
“Anakin, aid the Dominator, I’m taking a ground force,” Obi-Wan said softly.
“Master…” Anakin started in a tone of protest, vividly recalling his vision.
“We don’t have a choice Anakin, Luke and Yoda are down there. Take the Shining Sword or destroy her, I suspect most of her clone troops are on the ground or in the TIEs right now anyway.”
“Be careful,” he whispered.
“I do try Anakin,” he pointed out with a wry smile, keeping his voice too low for the crew to hear.
“I know you do, but you’re not always terribly good at it,” he said with a wry, sad smile.
“Don’t get killed Master, please.”
Obi-Wan left the command deck, and Anakin started issuing orders, getting the ground forces and fighters assembled in the launch bays, and getting the Vengeance into position to aid their sister ship against the Shining Sword.
Obi-Wan swept into the docking bay, Clipper and his three fellow guards at his back, all of them wearing cold weather trooper armour, like all the other rapidly assembling troops, although Obi-Wan was wearing a protective face mask to protect his lungs from the frigid air, not a helmet, and all of them were marked with a red band on their arms, so that they would know who they were fighting once they got into the fray.
He noticed that their rebel ‘guests’ were standing by their ships, still under guard, watching everything that was going on warily.
“Prepare to launch if you’re launching, we’re moving out, the ground assault on Hoth has already started,” he said bluntly, seeing them scramble to do just that as he strode up the ramp of the troop transport he would be going down on.
“Command deck, we are ready to launch,” he said into the comm. panel.
“Clear to launch, TIE fighters will cover your descent,” Anakin’s voice came back, Obi-Wan nodded once at the pilot, and they lifted from the deck.
Yoda looked up sharply toward the icy ceiling in the command room where the rebel commander was trying to direct the defence of the base, sensing Obi-Wan entering the atmosphere.
“Sir, more Imp ships entering the atmosphere,” one of the techs said, faintly panicked.
“Assistance, I believe has arrived. From the Vengeance they will be,” Yoda said to the commander, who gave him a disbelieving look.
“Sir, we’ve just had communication from the Vengeance, they state that they are not here to harm us, and request that we pull our people back to defend the base, to keep them out of the cross-fire. Also communication from the Leviathan, they were with the lost convoy, they have all the correct idents, and that is definitely Captain Helmeral, he says they were aided by the Vengeance,” the young man on the communication board spoke up.
The commander shook his head and cursed softly under his breath.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, pull our people back, tell them not to engage unless they need to defend the base,” he ordered.
The young man relayed the orders, ignoring the squawks of protest, simply continuing to issue the order until everyone who could pull back had done so.
“We’ve got all we can, there are still some pinned down,” the young man said, watching on the screen as the new transports landed, the troops immediately disembarking and moving to engage the soldiers who had been about to surge forward into the space left by the rebel retreat, firing on the white armoured figures and their traitorous commanders.
“They’ve figured out how we’ve taken all the other ships, there are no clone troopers here, only mercenaries. Kill them all,” Obi-Wan ordered into the channel that connected all his troops after sweeping the opposition with the Force the moment his feet hit the snow.
He saw one of the pinned down positions about to be overrun, and ignited his lightsaber, jumping into the fray and deflecting back a volley of blaster fire.
“Go, now,” he ordered the startled rebels, his blade slashing another volley of blasts back at the men who had fired them, cutting them down with pinpoint accuracy.
There was a moment of hesitation, and the men finally obeyed, backing toward the base, firing back at anyone who fired at them.
Obi-Wan kept a fraction of his attention on his own troops, noting that they were moving to wrest control of the turbo laser turret from the enemy, which would be one less thing for Vengeance and Dominator to worry about, the rest of it, he turned on the ATATs that were pounding at the base.
They had made some effort to defend the weak points, knowing they would be facing an opponent who knew all those weak points, and they were currently stationary to try to avoid anyone tripping them, but they hadn’t reckoned on him. He darted through the melee, his red blade in motion constantly, deflecting fire and cutting down mercenaries, until he stood under the rearmost ATAT. Gathering the Force, he leapt, easily landing on the top of the walker and slicing through the bolts on the hatch, dropping inside.
He recognized Captain Torell immediately, snarling as the man instantly raised his hands.
“I surrender,” he whimpered, obviously realizing his time was up.
“Far, far, too late, Torell,” he hissed, running him through.
The young man on the gun controls went for his weapon, and quickly met the same fate as his captain. Obi-Wan shoved his body away from the controls and with a wicked smile, he targeted the two ATATs in front of him, taking them out from behind, before setting the guns to overload, and jumping clear as the walker exploded behind him.
Luke and Han were covering one of the blast doors, laying down covering fire as the last stragglers came in, their retreats covered by red banded Imp troops.
“This is insane,” Han growled as the three ATATs blew up.
“I wonder if Master Yoda knows who that is,” Luke said quietly, watching the whirling red blade cutting through the enemy.
“What does it matter?” Han asked dismissively.
“I don’t know, just a feeling that it does matter, that it matters a lot,” Luke said softly.
“More mumbo jumbo?” Han snorted impatiently.
Luke shot him a dirty look, looking back outside in time to see a wampa rear up behind the figure with the red lightsaber, felling him with a vicious swipe of a massive paw.
“No,” Luke yelled, taking off at a run before Han could stop him.
“Damn it Luke,” Han yelled, glaring at some of the newly returned men who were still in the corridor.
“Cover this entrance, Chewie, with me,” he snapped, the two of them taking off after Luke.
Fortunately the battle had moved away from this area after the destruction of the ATATs, and a shot from Chewie’s bowcaster took down the wampa before it could turn its attentions to Luke.
“Where did he go?” Han demanded.
Chewie roared at the scent of blood, and gestured with one shaggy paw in the direction of scuffed snow indicating a crevasse that had been hidden.
Looking down, they could see the still figure lying alone in red stained snow.
“He’s alive,” Luke said with certainty.
Han eyed the crevasse, it wasn’t overly deep, but he didn’t think he or Luke would get down there without help, and he wasn’t sure it was completely stable.
“What do you think Chewie?”
The Wookie eyed the icy rock walls critically, his fur and claws would help with the grip, and he could see enough hand and foot holds. It wasn’t a tree, but it was climbable. Without a word, he handed his bowcaster to Han and started to carefully climb down.
Anakin felt the air leave his lungs in a rush as he sensed a bright flare of pain, and then darkness from Obi-Wan. Fighting to stop the darkness pulling him under too, he grasped the bridge railing hard and forced himself to breathe.
“Get onto the ground troops, the Emperor is injured, I want him located, now,” he snarled.
Closing his eyes briefly, he was hit once again by the vision of Obi-Wan lying in red hued snow.
He turned his head sharply at a shimmer of blue to his right and saw Qui-Gon appearing there.
“He fell afoul of a wampa, he’s badly hurt, but he is not alone, your son and his companions are getting him to help.”
Anakin scowled, that could be bad, as far as these people were concerned, Obi-Wan was dead.
“They have to know you are both alive sooner or later Anakin,” Qui-Gon counselled quietly, fading out again.
Cursing mentally, Anakin forced his attention onto the immediate situation, the Dominator was badly damaged, and venting atmosphere from several sections, but the Shining Sword was also badly damaged and was limpingly using the Dominator as a shield, preventing the Vengeance from taking the kill shot.
“Is the Dominator manoeuvrable?” he demanded of the communications officer.
“Barely, not enough to get their remaining weaponry to bear on the Shining Sword,” he reported back after a moment.
Anakin considered, scenarios running at high speed through his mind, if Dominator couldn’t move fast enough to get her guns to bear, she certainly couldn’t move fast enough to ram the other ship, he could destroy her himself, but Shining Sword wasn’t close enough to get caught in the blast, and it would leave the Vengeance vulnerable for a few moments while they waited for their scanners to clear.
“Commander Wylie indicates they have the turbo laser installations under their control,” one of the captains reported.
“Good,” Anakin said with a wolfish smile, turning away from the railing.
“Give the gun emplacements the precise location of the Shining Sword, tell them to concentrate fire on it. Have the Dominator move away at her best available speed.”
The orders were relayed, and the communications officer swallowed hard before looking up at Anakin.
“My Lord, the ground troops report no sightings of the Emperor after he blew up three ATATs,” he informed him nervously.
Anakin grimaced, but he knew that Qui-Gon wouldn’t deliberately endanger his own son, if he said Obi-Wan would get help, he would have to believe him.
“That situation is….under control…for the moment,” was all he said to that.
Turbo laser fire streaked up from the planet then, striking the Shining Sword dead center and she disappeared in a chain reaction of implosions, all flames instantly snuffed out in the vacuum of space.
“Deploy repair crews, find out if the Dominator needs any help with repairs, make sure we mop up any of the Shining Sword’s TIE fighters that are still out there,” he ordered, his eyes drifting to the ball of ice visible through the main port. He wanted to get down there, to get to his master, but he knew that he would have to wait. He hated waiting.
Luke looked over as Yoda stumped into the small medical bay while Chewie lay the injured man on the treatment table, stepping back to allow the medical droid access.
“Do you know who he is, master Yoda?” Luke asked.
“Know him I do, know him you do,” Yoda said with a sigh as the droid removed the armour before moving on to the face mask.
“Ben?” Luke whispered in shock as the face was revealed. He looked younger, his face nowhere near as aged, his hair no longer completely white, but there was no denying that it was him.
“You knew, you knew he was alive,” he said accusingly, betrayal in his blue eyes.
“Yes, knew I did, asked me to tell you not, he did. Things there are you need to know, things to understand,” he said firmly.
“What things?” he demanded.
“Not ready yet are you, wait for him to wake you must.”
“Wait, right,” he sneered, storming from the room, he hated waiting.
Han finally managed to track Luke down to the lounge on the Falcon, although if he had thought about it, he probably should have looked there first, it was the only place he was likely to get any privacy with everyone bustling about inside the base with repairs and the Imps still mopping up outside. The kid was slumped on the bench, his head resting on folded arms atop the deactivated dejarik grid.
“You ok Luke?” he finally asked when the younger man showed no indication of acknowledging his presence.
Luke looked at him, and pushed up into a more upright position.
“He let me believe he was dead Han, no, he made me believe he was dead, Yoda and Qui-Gon let me believe it. How many other lies are there?”
“I don’t know kid,” he sighed, seeing the bitterness in the other’s eyes. He slumped into the seat across from Luke and blew out a long breath.
“We could just snag Chewie and go, head back to the rest of the fleet, or wherever, leave Yoda, Kenobi and this whole mess behind,” he offered.
Luke seriously thought about it for longer than Han thought he would before shaking his head slowly.
“Whatever else Han, I do want to be a Jedi, I can’t do that without Master Yoda,” he sighed.
“I want him to tell me why he did it, and if there were any other lies I have grown up believing.”
“But how will you know he’s telling you the truth even now?”
“I won’t, I guess, but I still need to ask him.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Han nodded, before pushing back to his feet and clapping Luke on the back.
“Come on, up, no point in sitting here dwelling on it, come and help me and Chewie with the hyper drive.”
Qui-Gon stood invisible in the command centre of the base, watching as the base commander reported the attack on the base by the Shining Sword to Mon Mothma, Rieekan and Dodonna over a fuzzy and unstable comm channel.
“Did you drive them off, or destroy them?” Dodonna demanded.
“The Vengeance arrived shortly after the attack had begun, they, along with another ship I do not know the identity of fought off the Shining Sword, they also halted the ground attack. The Imp troopers are still mopping up the enemy troops out there now, they haven’t made any effort to access the base, except…”
“Except what, General?” Mon Mothma asked.
“One injured member of the Vengeance ground force was brought inside by Solo and Skywalker for medical treatment after he got on the wrong side of the local fauna, he…I…”
“Stop dithering and spit it out,” Dodonna cut in impatiently.
“General Kenobi is currently in our medical section, he was with the Imp troops,” he said crisply.
“Kenobi is dead, he died on the battle-station before we escaped, Vader killed him, I saw him,” Leia objected, stepping into the frame.
“Princess, I don’t know what to tell you, but a number of people here recognize him, including me. I may only have been a young grunt back then but everyone knew General Kenobi’s face.”
“Tell Captain Solo to return and bring him with him, as soon as your medic clears him for travel,” Rieekan said, speaking for the first time.
Qui-Gon had heard enough, he focused his attention on Anakin as Obi-Wan was still unconscious, finding himself in the small conference room off the command deck, going through a mountain of datapads listing the damages and casualties from the battle with the Shining Sword and the mercenaries on the ground.
“Is something wrong with Obi-Wan?” Anakin asked instantly as he saw the insubstantial blue form appear in the corner of his vison.
“Not yet no, but the Alliance leaders know he’s alive, they just told the base commander to have him brought to the fleet on the Falcon, as soon as the medical section clears him for travel.”
“We need him awake, we need to know how he wants to handle this,” Anakin said, cursing softly as he shoved the pads aside and rose to pace from one end of the room to the other.”
“Anakin, he’s an unknown quantity right now, unless I miss my guess, he’ll be kept sedated until they get him to the fleet, they’re not going to want to take chances.”
“Then we take him back, before they can take him anywhere.”
“If you attack now, you could destroy everything you and Obi-Wan have been working for, everything you sacrificed for,” he warned.
“I’m not going to attack, I’m just going to snag the Falcon when it leaves the planet.”
“I’m not going to let them take him,” Anakin said fiercely, it was bad enough that he hadn’t been able to do anything to stop him getting hurt in the first place, he wasn’t going to let them take him unconscious and undefended into the midst of the Alliance.
“Just…don’t do anything too rash Anakin, I’ll see if I can persuade Yoda to try to reason with them,” Qui-Gon sighed, he had to admit he didn’t love the idea himself, Obi-Wan could technically be taken as a prisoner of war, and he was too important to risk that way.
Anakin snorted, but didn’t object as Qui-Gon faded out, not that he intended to just sit back and wait.
“Captain, I want the planet watched closely. Any indication of the Millennium Falcon leaving before I counterman this order, bring it aboard before it can make hyperspace. They may attempt to take the Emperor to the rebels,” Anakin ordered, striding onto the command deck.
“Do they know who he is, my lord?” the captain asked in alarm.
“No, all they know is that he is General Kenobi, Jedi, and supposedly dead, make sure that any men who might be around the Falcon crew know it is to stay that way.”
“Yes, lord Skywalker,” the man acknowledged with a crisp salute.
Yoda was sitting in the corner of the medical section, watching the medical droid click and whirr over the unconscious patient when Qui-Gon appeared.
“Sooner I expected you, Qui-Gon,” he commented.
“I’ve been around. Yoda, you need to talk some sense into these people, the Rebel leaders have just ordered that Obi-Wan be brought to the fleet as soon as he is fit to be moved.”
“A problem is that?” Yoda asked, cocking one ear in the direction of his insubstantial former student.
“Well let’s see, Anakin in orbit aboard the Vengeance, already rather concerned about his master….can’t imagine that he will take kindly to them abducting him, so yes, I’m thinking that it could be a problem,” Qui-Gon pointed out sarcastically.
Further conversation was cut off when the base commander came in, Han and Luke trailing after him.
“Is he fit to be moved?” he demanded of the droid.
“My patient is still unconscious, but no longer in any danger,” the droid responded promptly.
“Then prep him for travel, he needs to be sedated, so provide Captain Solo with whatever he needs to keep him under, should he start to regain consciousness.”
“Do that, you should not,” Yoda said after a pointed glare from Qui-Gon.
“We have orders,” Han said disinterestedly, the old man had upset Luke, he didn’t much care what he or the green guy might want.
“Query them, you should.”
“He faked his death and joined up with the Empire, I would say he has questions to answer,” Han said snidely.
“Perhaps, but a mistake it is to do it this way.”
“We’re leaving as soon as they have him doped and aboard, you don’t like it, you don’t have to come with us.”
Yoda sighed and looked at Luke, who was looking at him suspiciously.
“Why don’t you want us to take him back to answer questions?”
“Not a threat is the Vengeance, the Empire, at this moment. Change that will, if abduct Obi-Wan you do.”
“We’re not abducting him.”
“If without his consent you take him, if drugged you take him, abduction that is, a mistake, that is.”
Luke hesitated, then shook his head and moved to help Han guide the floating stretcher out of the medical section. Yoda sighed and followed silently. Qui-Gon was already gone, and he had no doubt where.
Anakin looked at Qui-Gon out of the corner of his eye as he reappeared on the command deck. He shook his head in exasperation.
“He tried, but they were not inclined to be reasoned with,” he said.
Anakin sighed and looked at the captain.
“Be on the alert captain, the Falcon will be leaving Hoth any time now. I will be very displeased if they manage to make hyperspace with the Emperor aboard,” he warned.
“Understood, my lord,” the captain replied, swallowing nervously and moving to make sure the crew were on the ball.
“There is a ship leaving the planet, it matches what we have on file for the Millennium Falcon,” one of the techs reported.
“Get a tractor beam on it the moment it is clear of the gravity well, do not give them a chance to jump into hyperspace.”
“Yes my lord,” the tractor beam tech acknowledged, his hands flying over his console.
Chewie snarled something unflattering as they broke clear of the planet’s gravity field, and found themselves in a debris field, and facing the Vengeance dead on, the second Imp destroyer laying off to starboard, blocking any escape in that direction.
“Evasive manoeuvres Chewie, don’t give them a chance to get a lock on us. Luke, take the upper gun turret, we’re not going down without a fight.”
Luke unstrapped from the seat behind the pilot chair and darted through the narrow corridor, heading for the turret, he could hear Han muttering about Imps trying to lull them into a false sense of security behind him, and he saw Yoda standing in his way ahead.
“Master Yoda, I have to get in there.”
“Fight them you must NOT, wish only to retrieve Obi-Wan they do.”
“Damn it Luke, there are TIEs incoming, get on the gun will you,” Han yelled from up in the cockpit as the ship jerked sharply to port, throwing Luke into the bulkhead, though he noticed sourly that Yoda didn’t even flinch at the sharp movement.
Luke moved to nudge past Yoda, and yelped as the gimmer stick whacked across his shins.
“Make things worse you will, if fire on them you do,” he warned.
“Whose side are you on, really?” Luke asked angrily.
“About sides this is not, listen to what Obi-Wan has to say you must.”
“Well that will be kind of difficult, considering you are in the way of us stopping them from taking him back.”
“Speak as a prisoner he will not. Listen you must,” Yoda insisted.
There was another, harder jolt, knocking Luke on his ass as the engines started to whine painfully and the air was rent by an angry howl from Chewie and vitriolic cursing from Han, who stormed out of the cockpit.
“They have us in a tractor beam, are you happy now?” he snarled.
“Believe me you must, for the best it is.”
“Yeah, you just keep thinking that when we end up in their cells, you do remember that the Imps wanted all Jedi dead, right?” he sneered as the whine of the engines cut out and they thumped to a halt, presumably inside the Vengeance.
Han slammed his hand down on the release for the main hatch, if there was going to be any chance of escaped, he couldn’t afford for the Falcon to be damaged by the Imps heavy handed methods of entry.
A dozen storm troopers surrounded the boarding ramp, their weapons aimed unwaveringly at the hatch. Han sneered silently and raised his hands to show he was unarmed. He vaguely noticed that the three white armoured figures that accompanied the two men pushing a grav stretcher up the ramp had scuffed armour, and the same red strip that the forces on the plant had worn, indicating that they had likely been part of the ground assault.
Chewie loomed up behind Han’s shoulder, growling menacingly, but remained still at a gesture from Han.
As soon as the unconscious Obi-Wan had been removed from the Falcon, a man in a crisp officer’s uniform stepped to the bottom of the ramp.
“I am Captain Veers, I have been instructed to inform you that you have two options, you may depart and go on your way, or you may remain aboard at this time, and wait for Master Kenobi to regain consciousness,” he said simply, that wasn’t quite how Lord Skywalker had phrased it, but it was less abrasive than his ‘they can stay or go, I don’t give a damn right now’.
“You seriously expect us to believe you will let us go, and not shoot us out of space the moment we are clear?” Han snorted.
“You may of course believe what you wish, we are not a threat to you, as long as you do not attempt to threaten us.”
“And if we opted to remain on board, which prison planet would we be shuffled off to?”
“None, there are no plans to break orbit at this time. We will be remaining here until an escort arrives for the Dominator, and to collect those prisoners we have from the Shining Sword,” Veers said with surprising candour, before gesturing to the remaining troopers.
“Take some time to think about it, if you wish; you can inform them of your choice, and you will either be escorted to quarters or permitted to leave unmolested,” he said, turning on his heel and walking away.
Back in the small conference room, Anakin snorted with amusement at the poleaxed looks on Luke and Solo’s faces, and wondered briefly which option they would take. He honestly didn’t care right now, they had tried to take Obi-Wan from him, and he wasn’t entirely sure he could restrain his temper on that front just yet. He left the screen on to keep an eye on them, but turned the majority of his attention back to the pads in front of him, trying to distract himself while he waited for the Medical Officer to report.
“Well?” he demanded as soon as the man stepped into the room half an hour later.
“The Emperor is still unconscious, but he seems to be dealing with the drug himself, it is reducing in his bloodstream much faster than normal, he should be awake within an hour or so. The injuries he received planet-side were dealt with competently, and require no further intervention from us, although we will be monitoring them.”
“So he’s going to be fine?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Good, I want to know the moment he begins to wake, he may be…combative.”
“Of course, my lord.”
Anakin dismissed the man, and glanced back at the monitor, noticing with surprise that Luke and his companions were being escorted across the bay by the troopers that Veers had left there, it seemed they had decided to stay after all. This could be interesting, he mused, eyes narrowing in dislike as he watched Yoda stumping across the deck beside the towering form of the Wookiee.
Obi-Wan slowly became aware of darkness, disorientation, heavy lassitude and faint pain. He struggled to wake up anger starting to burn in him at how hard it was, until he felt Anakin pinning him both physically and psychically, preventing him from lashing out.
“Easy, you’re safe, you’re fine, just take it easy.”
“’n’kin?” he murmured fuzzily.
“Yeah, I’m here, you’re back aboard the Vengeance,” he assured him.
Finally managing to force his eyes open, Obi-Wan blinked until Anakin came into focus.
“What happened?” he rasped.
“You got on the wrong side of a wampa, the rebels dropped you in bacta, then drugged you heavily and attempted to spirit you away to the fleet,” Anakin told him.
“And yet….” Obi-Wan prompted, gesturing vaguely around the medical bay.
“I wasn’t willing to let them just take you, so I intercepted the Falcon, took you back from them. I know we need to forge a peace with them but…”
“’s ok, you did right. So where do we stand?” he asked, hitting the control on the side of the bed to elevate the back.
“Luke, and the rebel alliance, know you are alive, they all want answers. Luke and the others opted to remain aboard the Vengeance, waiting to talk to you, Luke is…annoyed, he wants the truth. The base commander has reported to the rebels that we intercepted the Falcon, but so far no one has made any hostile moves.”
“Does Luke know about you yet?”
“Not yet, no, we’ve also been very careful not to refer to you as Emperor,” he told him.
“Yoda knows that, Qui-Gon told him,” Obi-Wan said absently, wondering why the troll had kept quiet about that, it hadn’t been included in the request for discretion.
“Well, he doesn’t seem to have shared the information. How do you want to handle this?”
“Is it a reasonable hour to go and talk to our guests?”
“No, and I suspect the medical officer isn’t planning on letting you out of his sight until morning anyway. Despite you filtering it, they did have you very heavily sedated.”
“Fine, then I will speak with them in the morning, and see where that leaves us before attempting to deal with the rebel leaders,” Obi-Wan sighed.
Han leaned against the viewport in the quarters they had been put in, staring out at Hoth as they orbited. Luke sat picking half-heartedly at the breakfast that had been delivered by silent storm troopers, Chewie stood silent sentinel in the corner of the room, and the little green guy was apparently meditating. For all that they were in a stateroom of some kind, not a cell, Han felt awfully like a prisoner.
Yoda stirred, his ears rising slightly.
“Here, Obi-Wan is,” he said aloud, turning toward the door, the movement echoed by the other occupants of the room as the door slid open, allowing Obi-Wan to enter, followed by two armed but relaxed troopers who took up at ease positions on either side of the door.
Luke’s eyes narrowed at the man dressed and cloaked in black, he looked so different from the ‘old Ben’ hermit figure he had met on Tatooine that it was difficult to believe the evidence of his own eyes.
“You have questions,” Obi-Wan said without preamble.
“Yes, yes we do,” Luke said, rising from the table and coming to stand with Yoda, feeling Han step up at his back a moment later.
“So ask, and I will answer what I can.”
“Why did you do it? Why did you make us believe that you were dead?”
“Because I had to, it was time for the paths to diverge, and had I simply told you I was remaining aboard the death star, then you would have either determined to stay also, or done something equally foolish that would have got you, and probably me, captured or killed. You had your path, I had mine, and that moment required a clean break.”
“Then why bother bringing me from Tatooine at all? Why tell me that you were going to train me as a Jedi?”
“I said you would be a Jedi, and you will be, provided you listen to your teacher,” he said, gesturing at Yoda.
“If things had gone to plan, I would have taught you the basics of Force control and meditation, the nature of the Force, as a child, but Owen Lars thoroughly derailed that plan, threatening to turn both me and you over to the Empire. I could have kept you with me, but if I had, you would not be a Jedi Luke, I am no longer neutral enough to give you that, it was hard enough training Anakin to his own choice and I had him a lot longer.”
“But…you are a Jedi, aren’t you?” Luke asked uncertainly.
“No,” Obi-Wan stated, his tone soft but flat.
He let his presence wash forward, brushing against them as his eyes lit amber, one corner of his mouth quirking in a small smirk as Luke backed into Han and Yoda’s ears dropped at the touch of unfiltered Darkness.
Obi-Wan reigned it in, pulling the Darkness away from them, but keeping his own place in its shadowed embrace, ensuring his eyes retained their glow.
“This is a pivotal time to the fate of this galaxy young Skywalker, you and Yoda must reshape the Jedi, whilst we reshape the Sith. Equally, the galaxy itself must be reshaped, peace won and all made strong again, for there is a danger coming that will far eclipse the decades of war all have already suffered if we are not united to face it. Twenty years we have hidden in darkness and desolation, waiting for you and your sister to be old enough to do your parts.”
“I don’t have a sister,” Luke protested.
“You do, you know in your heart who she is, you were drawn to her the moment you saw her.”
“The princess?” Luke blurted.
“Yes,” the confirmation came from Yoda.
“So why did her highnessness grow up a princess and the kid got stuck on a dust ball?” Han asked sarcastically.
“They could not be raised together, so they were separated to raise them to their strengths, Leia will be instrumental in reshaping the political morass, so she was adopted by Bail Organa, to be trained in the field of politics and diplomacy. Luke was too strong in the Force to risk raising him on a Core world, he had to be hidden where the Emperor would never think to look, so he was taken to his father’s step brother, where as I said, I was supposed to teach him the basics of the Jedi way.”
“If you’re not a Jedi, was my father really a Jedi?” Luke asked.
“Anakin, like me, was knighted as a Jedi, but no, neither of us was Jedi at the time we were knighted. We simply….steered the same course, had the same goals, for a time.”
“Did you know?” Luke demanded of Yoda.
“Know I did not, well shielded by his father was Obi-Wan, well shielded by Obi-Wan was Skywalker.”
“Then why did Darth Vader kill my father?” Luke asked angrily.
“Kill Anakin Skywalker Darth Vader did not, one and the same they are,” Yoda said.
“No,” Luke whispered, slumping to sit on the sofa in shock.
“Yoda is correct, but incorrect at the same time. Darth Vader was a creation of Sideous, the Emperor, but he was a clone of Anakin. He was killed less than a year after Sideous had unleashed him on the galaxy, and Anakin took his place, doing what he could to lessen the impact of Sideous and drones like Tarkin on planets that would not knuckle under. Who the hell do you think got the death star plans out to your rebel spies and impeded Tarkin’s attempts to get them back? He was feeding the rebellion information where he could for two decades.”
“And the temple slaughter?” Yoda asked quietly.
“I did not know that the clone’s mind was so weak, to allow that level of manipulation, but there was nothing to be done, neither Anakin nor I were in a position to interfere at that point. I was on Utapau, trying to avoid being murdered by my troops, and Anakin was still with the cloners, out of the way.”
“Is he here, on this ship now? This is his ship isn’t it?”
“It is, and he is. I am not certain that you are ready to meet him, nor he to meet you,” Obi-Wan said, tilting his head as he read Luke’s swirling emotions, anger, fear, hope, hate, it was certainly a mess in the youth’s head.
“Yoda, your student needs to meditate,” he said coolly, turning away.
“Hey, just wait one damn minute,” Han snarled, surging forward and grabbing his arm, only to find himself looking down the barrels of two blasters as the guards moved.
“I was patient with your lack of manners and blatant disrespect of both myself and the Force on the way to the Alderaan system, but I no longer need to be so. This is your one and only warning, do not do that again,” Obi-Wan hissed, lightning dancing around his fingers.
“I have no desire to harm any of you, but I will not tolerate such actions from you, you are guests aboard this ship. Behave like it,” he snarled, Shoving Han away with the Force and sweeping from the room.
“Well, that went well,” Han snarked.
“Restrained he was, correct he was, rash you were, young Solo, and unsettled young Skywalker is. Calm down we all must before going further.”
Yoda turned his attention toward Luke, who was staring out into space, his face white, his eyes glassy.
“My father is alive, my father is alive and I have a sister,” he whispered, dazed.
“A twin sister, yes. The truth you wanted, young Skywalker, regret asking for it do you?”
“No, no I don’t think so.”
“Then come, meditate you must, find your centre you must, allow the new knowledge to settle before seeking more you must.”
Luke followed Yoda obediently, going into the small bedroom he had chosen while Yoda paused to look at Han.
“Try you should to stop him doing anything foolish, Chewbacca,” he said in faint amusement, before following Luke.
Han snorted and glared at Chewie as he whuffed his amusement.
Anakin came onto the control deck to see Obi-Wan pacing from one side of the spread of viewports to the other, lighting dancing around his fingers while the captain did a masterful job of avoiding him without appearing to avoid him.
“Master?” he queried, deciding against the flippant ‘I guess it didn’t go well’ he had considered opening with. Obi-Wan clearly wasn’t in the mood.
“I swear if your daughter wasn’t destined to fall for that smuggler and birth the next generation, I would space him, right here, right now,” he snarled.
“Ah, and Luke?”
“Conflicted, knows about his sister, asked about you, but I’m not sure either of you are ready for it,” Obi-Wan answered shortly.
Anakin hesitated, normally when Obi-Wan got like this, he would suggest sparring, or sex, but he didn’t dare do either in front of the command crew, neither would come across as particularly respectful, and he would not undermine him for anything.
Obi-Wan stopped pacing and raised an eyebrow at him, indicating that he had picked up the thoughts, then smirked.
“Sparring, yes, that sounds like an excellent idea,” he nodded, speaking too low for the crew to hear as he strode past Anakin in the direction of the door.
Anakin followed, pretending not to notice the relief in the crew as the Emperor, and his lightning, left the deck.
An hour later, after chasing each other to a draw around an almost empty cargo deck, they sat on a couple of crates, just taking a moment to breathe.
“Is this going to throw everything off course completely?” Anakin finally asked.
“I don’t think so, no. Yoda already has Luke pretty much settled, he’s still unsure about you, but I think that will work itself out with time. The alliance leadership may be wary given that both you and I have seemingly come back from the dead, on the ‘wrong’ side of the war in their eyes, but they can be persuaded that the new Empire will be for the good of all, not just the good of those willing to bend their necks to Sideous. The going might be a little harder than it should have been had all gone to the initial plans, but it is still workable, we can still be a cohesive whole before whatever is coming from out in the far reaches arrives.”
“You still can’t tell what it is?”
“No, but I know what part of it was. Outbound flight is coming home to roost.”
“How? It failed, it was destroyed.”
“We have only Thrawn’s word for that, and I did not trust him any further than I could throw him.”
“He may have attempted to assassinate me on Coruscant while you were busy tracking the traitor ships down, he may also have badly underestimated me. He is very, very dead.”
“There was an assassination attempt and you didn’t tell me?” Anakin asked, outraged.
“I have told you now, and it did not matter, he didn’t even get close enough to pose a threat, and he was too selfish to with his information to tell those still loyal to Palpatine who took the throne. They will know when everyone else does, and you will be at my back for that.”
“Alright, so now what?” Anakin asked, reluctantly putting it aside, Obi-Wan would never change, he didn’t worry too much about attempts on his own life unless they came too close to success, and even then, he tended to be more dismissive than the people who cared about him liked.
“Well, now that I am no longer inclined to mayhem, I think it is time to speak with the alliance leadership about their invitation to have a talk.”
“As good a time as any don’t you think? Before they get any antsier about us having the Falcon and her crew aboard and are moved to try something silly.”
“Yes Master,” Anakin sighed, pushing to his feet and following Obi-Wan out of the cargo deck.
MonMothma groaned and swore angrily as she was woken from the first sleep she had gotten in days by the sound of constant hammering at her door. Getting up she pulled her robe on over her nightwear, and threw the door open, already glaring at whoever was on the other side.
“Sorry, but we have a communication from the Vengeance, they want to talk to the leaders of the alliance. You, me and the princess were requested by name,” Dodonna said, not even remotely phased by the glare.
“Any mention of the crew of the Falcon?”
“No, but last report from the Hoth base command confirms they’re still just sitting there in orbit, not making any other hostile move. I hate to say this, but I don’t think they would have gone after the Falcon if Kenobi hadn’t been aboard.”
“Fine, two minutes,” she sighed, ducking back into her quarters and making a quick change.
They reached the communication room as Leia, Rieekan and Ackbar came from the other direction, and waited for them to join them before going inside and taking seats around the table.
“Go ahead,” she said to the young man working the board.
He worked the controls for a moment, and the holo-projector sprang to life to reveal Obi-Wan Kenobi, leaning back in a chair in what appeared to be a fairly dimly lit room, a tall, cloaked figure that was definitely not the armoured form of Darth Vader standing at his shoulder.
“Greetings, MonMothma, your Highness, Dodonna and Rieekan, I’m afraid I don’t know your other companion there.”
“This is Admiral Ackbar. To what do we owe the….pleasure of your call?” MonMothma asked, pulling on all her diplomatic training not to sound as sarcastic as she felt.
“I called to thank you for your invitation to talk, although I didn’t appreciate the delivery method much. I find communication much more effective than kidnapping,” Obi-Wan said smoothly, resting his chin on steepled fingers.
“And yet you have taken the Falcon and her crew.”
“Not at all, they were brought aboard so that I could be retrieved, they chose to remain aboard temporarily. Young Skywalker had questions, much as you do, and he opted to wait for his answers, while his companions were unwilling to leave him alone here. They are free to leave any time they wish.”
“And you will of course allow us to speak with them, so that we can verify that for ourselves?” Leia demanded icily.
“Of course, even better, I will bring them to you personally. I called because I do wish to speak with you, I simply prefer not to do it as a prisoner.”
“What do you think we have to speak about? You have joined the Empire,” Dodonna pointed out.
“A cease fire, with a view to negotiating peace.”
“The Empire is willing to surrender?” Rieekan ask, leaning forward.
“No more than you are, that does not however preclude negotiating a peace that works for all concerned. We will leave you to discuss it, we don’t expect you to decide immediately. Leave the channel open, I will have Solo and the others escorted here so that you can assure yourselves they’re not prisoners.”
“Silence the feed but leave the connection open,” MonMothma said after the two people walked out of range.
“They will be able to track our location if we do that, this whole thing could just be a set up to find out where we are,” Dodonna warned.
“They already know where we are Jan,” MonMothma sighed.
“What are you thinking?” Rieekan asked.
“I’m thinking of at least agreeing to talk. They could have wiped us out more than once recently and they haven’t. This war does need to end Carlist, and frankly, if anyone can come up with an agreement both sides will be able to deal with its Kenobi.”
“He’s a traitor, he’s with the Empire,” Leia said in disbelief.
“That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for the best deal for everyone,” MonMothma pointed out.
Whatever Leia might have had to say about that was cut off when Luke and the others walked into range of the feed.
“Are you all right?” Leia demanded the moment the sound was back on.
“We’re ok,” Luke said quietly, giving Leia a look she couldn’t quite decipher.
“Kenobi stated you had chosen to remain aboard after they had picked you up, is this true?” Dodonna asked bluntly.
“They have said several times that we were free to leave,” Han said noncommittally.
“Then why have you stayed?”
“Because I wanted to know why he pretended to die, I wanted to know what else there was that wasn’t what he had led me to believe,” Luke said dully.
“Did you get answers?” Leia asked.
“So, why did he fake his death?” MonMothma prompted.
Luke opened his mouth and then closed it again, looking hopelessly at Yoda, but surprisingly it was Han who spoke next.
“That’s probably something you should hear from him, much as it galls me to say this, I think he really does want this war over for everyone’s benefit. In amongst some kind of personal stuff he told the kid, he did say that there was something worse coming.”
“We’ll take it under advisement, will you be testing their assertion that you can leave anytime soon?”
“Yes,” Han said, ignoring the dark look that earned him from Luke.
“Then contact us when you’re clear, and we’ll go from there,” MonMothma said firmly, indicating to cut the channel.
Aboard the Vengeance, Luke glared at Han.
“I don’t want to leave yet,” he said.
“Kid, you need to get your head straight from what you already heard, and if he’s being honest, there will be time for the rest, if he’s not being honest, we need to go while the going is good.”
“Correct Solo is, time it is to leave, for now.”
“Fine,” Luke gave in, his shoulders dropping. He knew Han was right, and he might not get a chance to know his father yet, but there was still a sister to get to know better, he wondered what she would make of suddenly having him as a brother, then winced, what would she make of finding out the man who had worn the armour of Darth Vader all these years was her father.
Leia was waiting in the docking bay when the Falcon landed, standing with her arms folded and a scowl on her face to hide the fact that she was torn between being relieved to see them back safe, or furious that they had been captured and then apparently chosen to stay on Darth Vader’s flagship. She looked them over as they disembarked, seeing that Luke had a rather lost look on his face when he caught sight of her, but they all appeared to be unharmed.
“Everyone is waiting in the briefing room,” she said in a clipped tone, turning for the door.
“What, no armed escort?” Han asked snidely.
“General Dodonna wanted to, but MonMothma put her foot down. Don’t make her regret it.”
Yoda, Chewie and Luke glared at Han to prevent him saying anything else that might make things worse, and they followed Leia silently to the briefing room.
None of the Alliance leaders looked like they had gotten any more sleep since the brief communication they had had while still aboard the Vengeance, and even Han knew better than to snark at over tired commanders.
“Sit down,” MonMothma said tiredly as soon as the door closed behind them.
They obeyed as Leia moved around to take her own seat beside the older woman.
“What were you thinking, staying under Vader’s power?” Rieekan demanded as soon as they were seated.
“Well, aside from anything else, I wasn’t at all sure that they would actually allow us to leave, and Luke wanted to hear what the…actually, not so old…man had to say,” Han said bluntly.
“What reason did he give for his defection to the Empire?” Dodonna asked.
“I don’t think he sees it as a defection,” Luke offered quietly.
“Are you saying he was always loyal to the Empire?” Leia asked, horrified at the thought that her father’s friend could have been a traitor.
“No, I don’t know, all he told us was that it was time for the paths to diverge, and he had to make a clean break,” Luke shrugged.
“Worked with the Jedi, worked with the Alliance, these things he did not to fight the Empire, but to stop the Sith Master that killed his father. Darth Sideous, Emperor Palpatine he was, gone he now is, time to move forward it is,” Yoda told them.
“Did he say what happened to Palpatine?” Rieekan asked.
“Dead he is, killed he was by Kenobi and Skywalker.”
All eyes jumped to Luke for a moment before realizing there was no possible way he could be the Skywalker in question.
“No, Skywalker is dead, he’s been dead for years,” Dodonna breathed.
“No, Vader has been dead for years. My father has been in his place, passing information to Alliance spies all this time. Obi-Wan says he was the one who got the battle station specs out, and did his best to prevent Tarkin getting them back,” Luke said dully.
“You believe that? And what about all the atrocities Vader has perpetrated over the years?” Jan demanded.
“I don’t know, I didn’t see him, I only know what Ben said. If you want more information, you will just have to ask them,” Luke said, stress tightening his voice.
“Which leaves us back at the question; do we speak with them, do we try to end this war once and for all?” MonMothma sighed.
“We can’t trust them, they lied for years,” Leia snarled.
“Leia, something is going to have to change, we have a chance to stop the death and destruction here. I’m not suggesting we decide we trust them blindly and meet face to face, but we can communicate with them, hear what they have to say,” MonMothma pointed out tiredly, she wasn’t much happier about the situation herself, but if there was any chance at all that they could stop all of the needless killing, didn’t they owe it to the innocents on both sides to at least try.
“So, we agree to at least hear them?” Akbar asked.
The Alliance leadership looked at each other for a long moment, conferring with silent glances, then Leia threw herself back in her chair with a huff, folding her arms.
“You’re making a mistake,” she said coldly.
“Perhaps, but we owe it to our people to try. I suggest we get some sleep, and open communication with Kenobi,” MonMothma said firmly, rising to her feet to indicate that the meeting was over.
“Leia, can we talk?” Luke caught up to her as she strode angrily from the room.
“Something that Ben…Obi-Wan…told me.”
“I’m not interested in hearing any more of his lies, Luke,” she said icily, turning her back.
“This isn’t a lie, Master Yoda confirmed it himself,” Luke said quietly.
“Not here, please,” he asked, looking around at the people not so surreptitiously eavesdropping in the busy corridor.
“You can walk me to my quarters,” she said, and he nodded and followed after her as the others walked in the opposite direction.
Leia looked at Luke as they entered her somewhat cramped quarters, and he dropped his eyes, unsure how to start.
“Luke, I’m tired,” Leia said impatiently.
“How much do you know about your birth family?” he asked quietly.
“Not much, my mother was from Naboo, that’s pretty much it, father didn’t like talking about it. How did you know I was adopted?” she demanded.
“That’s part of what I was told. You were adopted by Bail Organa, and I was given to the Lars to raise. He told me we’re twins Leia, you and I.”
“But that would mean…no, no I refuse to believe that that…monster is my father,” she hissed, horrified.
“So you would deny me as your brother, just because of parents we’ve never known?” he asked quietly.
“How…why should I believe…?”
“Why would Ben lie, why would Master Yoda lie, about something that is so easy to check?”
“I don’t know. If it’s true though, why would we have been split up, raised so differently?”
“Safety, to keep us from being found by the Emperor, to train us to be able to make a difference when the time was right. I don’t know if any of that was untrue, but Master Yoda didn’t contradict anything.”
Leia sank down on the edge of her bunk, burying her head in her hands.
“I’m tired Luke, I need to think, and I need to sleep,” she sighed.
Luke turned to the door without another word, not sure how he felt about Leia’s reaction.
He paused, turning to look back at her.
“I hope that it is true that you’re my twin, at least something worthwhile would have come out of this whole mess.”
He smiled faintly and nodded, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Anakin was on the command deck, watching as the Dominator limped into hyperspace, escorted by two other destroyers as they headed for a shipyard for repairs.
“Alright Captain, start preparations to break orbit, we will get underway as soon as his Majesty gives us our destination,” he ordered.
“Yes, my Lord,” the Captain acknowledged, turning to start giving orders to the men under his command.
Anakin went into the briefing room off the bridge, where Obi-Wan was going through data pads of messages that had been sent from Coruscant, keeping current on what was going on there, and preparing orders to be sent back, to keep thing running smoothly while he wasn’t there.
“Dominator and her escorts are underway to the shipyards, and we are preparing to break orbit at your command,” he told the other man.
“Good, I want to get out of here, before the ground commander gets any twitchier and does something unfortunate. No communication from the rebel leaders yet?”
“No, not yet, we haven’t intercepted anything between them and the Hoth base either. Everything is quiet at the moment.”
Obi-Wan drummed his fingers on the table for a moment, thinking.
“All right, break orbit, short jump to the Holcris system, I don’t want us in hyperspace too long, I think the rebels will want to communicate soon. MonMothma is an intelligent woman, if there is any chance of brokering a peace, she will at least want to try.”
“If she can get the others to go along with her.”
Obi-Wan leaned back in the chair, resting his hands lightly on the arms.
“Dodonna and Rieekan will follow where she leads, the Mon Cal is an unknown, but even if he and the princess balk, they will still be outvoted.”
“I’ve run across Ackbar once or twice, he’ll try for peace if he can.”
“Good, so that leaves Leia as a sticking point.”
“She’s angry, not that I can blame her, she’s not going to want to listen to anything we have to say.”
“She might not want to, but she will, Bail trained her well, and he told me once that she was much like…” he stopped, flicking a glance up at Anakin.
“Much like Padmé,” Anakin finished.
“Yes, she will hopefully put aside her personal animosity for the good of all. Get us underway Anakin.”
“Yes Master,” Anakin bowed slightly and left the room, heading back to the command deck leaving Obi-Wan alone.
Obi-Wan leaned forward and picked up the data pad again, turning his attention back to the orders he needed to send to Coruscant, he had to start laying the groundwork to get a functioning Senate up and running. He barely noticed as the ship leapt into hyperspace.
Leia was the last to arrive in the briefing room, looking tired and a little frazzled. MonMothma raised an eyebrow as Leia opted to slide into a seat beside Luke, rather than taking her normal place at the table, and the younger woman set a data pad down in front of him. Luke looked at it, then looked up at Leia, who smiled faintly, resting a hand on his arm.
“Sorry if I kept you waiting,” she said without explaining her late arrival.
“No matter, we have just heard the report from the base commander on Hoth, he has informed us that Vengeance has pulled out of orbit, scouts report that they have only gone as far as the Holcris system, but he believes they were keeping their word that they would only remain for as long as it took to get the Dominator out of there,” Dodonna told her.
“All right, so are we all still in agreement? We speak with Kenobi and see if he is serious about the Empire’s desire for peace.”
There were nods around the table, except from Leia, who looked as if she had bitten something sour, but made no protest, and Han, who had his own reasons for not trusting the Empire. MonMothma turned to the young man manning the communications board and nodded once.
“Please try and raise the Vengeance.”
There were a few minutes of silence while their comm. tech tried to raise the Imperial ship, and then the holograph flared to life with the head and shoulders view of a man in Imperial uniform.
“I am Captain Veers, of the Vengeance. State your business.”
“This is MonMothma, representing the Alliance leadership, I believe General Kenobi is expecting to hear from us.”
“Hold the channel, I will see if Lord Kenobi or Lord Skywalker is available.”
Veers remained in view of the pickup, gesturing to someone off screen, and a moment later he turned his attention back to them, inclining his head in a sharp nod.
“Transferring your signal now,” he informed them, as the image fuzzed for a moment, leaving them connected with a view of Obi-Wan, again relaxed and at ease in a commanding chair, with an imposing dark clad figure standing at his shoulder, only the standing man was unhooded this time, leaving them face to face with an unmistakably older Anakin Skywalker.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Alliance, may I take this to mean that you are at least willing to hear what we have to say?” Obi-Wan asked.
“We’re willing to listen, for now,” MonMothma conceded.
“Good, then where would you like to start?”
“Perhaps from the beginning?”
“There are any number of beginnings MonMothma, please be specific.”
“Fine, when did you turn your back on the Jedi, and side with the murderers of all of your compatriots?” Dodonna asked harshly, earning glares from everyone around the table except Leia.
“I never turned my back on the Jedi, I was never a Jedi to begin with. Even then, I did not turn my back, my apprentice and I fought as hard as any Jedi did in the efforts to stop Palpatine, the Sith Master Darth Sideous, from taking hold of the galaxy. We fought until it became clear that it was already too late to stop him, and shifted our efforts to ensuring that there would be a chance to move against him once more in the future. We safeguarded Anakin and Padmé’s children the best we could, to ensure there would be a new generation of the Jedi you accuse us of betraying, to ensure that there would be people we could work with to pull this galaxy back from the abyss that monster had thrust it into. He fed on war, chaos, hate and destruction, it only made him stronger, he had no real interest in stopping it, and we do.”
“Why?” Leia asked despite herself.
“We see no purpose in needless death, no purpose in the destruction of worlds. If we do not move to stop it now, all will be lost. We have one small chance here to reunite this fractured galaxy of ours, or we will be devoured by what is coming.”
“What is coming?” Rieekan put in.
“I do not know, but I see a darkness, an enemy that will make the years of war we have already suffered seem like a petty children’s squabble. We cannot stand divided when it comes.”
“And what certainty do we have that the new Emperor will honour any agreements you might make with us in pursuit of a ceasefire, in pursuit of peace?” MonMothma asked, wresting back control of the conversation.
“I think you can safely take my word on that,” Obi-Wan murmured quietly, fighting down a smirk that would be misinterpreted.
“Why should we, you haven’t exactly been honest up until now,” Dodonna snarked.
“You’re going to have to trust us at some point, if this is to have any hope of working. Think about it, call us when you are ready to talk more, we won’t be going into hyperspace just yet,” Obi-Wan said, cutting the connection with a wave of his hand in the direction of the controls.
“Listen to him you should, speak for the Emperor with surety he can,” Yoda murmured to them.
“How can you be so sure?” Leia demanded.
“The Emperor he is.”
“Why hasn’t it been announced then, why is everyone still in the dark?” MonMothma asked.
“Told by Qui-Gon I was that already there has an assassination attempt been made, focus he must on fighting for peace if correct he is about the danger. Fight for his life also, he does not need.”
“Which brings us back to trusting him, or not trusting him,” Dodonna pointed out.
“Well, he said it himself, if this is going to happen, we are going to have to trust him sooner or later. He didn’t have to risk himself on Hoth, to help with the ground attack, he didn’t have to keep his word to let us leave the Vengeance, he didn’t have to keep his word and pull out of Hoth orbit as soon as the Dominator was escorted out of the system, he didn’t have to bypass every chance he had to blow the Alliance leadership to atoms, which would have been a hell of a blow to the Alliance. Maybe the question shouldn’t be can we trust him, but what proof have we given that he can trust us. We tried to abduct him when he was injured helping us,” Luke said, his face flushing as they all turned to stare at him.
“Well, well said Skywalker. Are we ready to move forward and try to end this kriffing war?” MonMothma asked.
Chapter 10: 10
Anakin leaned against the back of Obi-Wan’s chair, looking down at him.
“That was kind of unexpected from Dodonna,” he said quietly.
“Hmm, maybe, he’s never much liked me, we had a few run ins over strategy, but MonMothma should be able to keep him leashed in order to try to make this work.”
“So, we’re back to waiting then?”
“Yes, but hopefully not for too long, I need to get back to Coruscant, and get moving on the new Senate.”
“Do we need a Senate? Look at all the trouble they caused the last time.”
“Well, they, and we, are just going to have to learn from past mistakes, or we’ll just be making them over and over again.”
Anakin grumbled softly at that, but didn’t push the issue, and Obi-Wan rose from his chair, pulling him down to kiss him softly.
“Don’t worry Anakin, I won’t be trying to make a politician out of you, you can keep the military under control.”
“You don’t like politics any more than I do,” Anakin pointed out, wrapping his arms around the smaller man, basking in the closeness.
“True, but one of us is going to have to deal with it, and I’m marginally less likely to shoot the stupid ones.”
“So how are you going to stop it turning out to be the same corrupt, lumbering mess it was before?”
“By keeping a firm grip on it,” Obi-Wan shrugged, he would allow them to manage their own affairs to a point, but he would step in at the first hint of underhand dealings, or foot dragging.
“Do you think they will accept that?”
“They’re going to have to, that point will not be negotiable,” Obi-Wan said firmly.
MonMothma sighed, leaning back in her chair, Leia was still arguing against having anything to do with the idea of talking with Kenobi, insisting it was a trap.
“Enough,” she finally snapped, leaning forward again and giving Leia a hard look.
“I know you went through a bad time on the death star, and I know that the loss of Alderaan is a gaping wound to all of us here, Bail was a good friend, a good man, and a well-respected member of this council, but we cannot allow personal animosity to destroy what may well be our one chance to end this war peaceably.”
“They’ve killed millions of people,” Leia snarled.
“And our hands are not precisely clean, are they? How many people were on the death star, did we give them a chance to evacuate? How many on the star destroyers we’ve destroyed? How many in the garrisons we destroyed? Yes, they have shot down our ships, destroyed our bases, but they were always small convoys, small cells, a few hundred at a time, maximum, while we have killed thousands at a time. There has been more than enough blood spilled on both sides of this conflict, pushed on, fed and encouraged by Palpatine and now there is a chance to make it end. We need to take it.”
“The Empire…” Leia started, was overridden.
“Is in new hands Princess, hands that are offering an end to the bloodshed. MonMothma is correct, we must take a chance,” Akbar said, speaking for the first time since the debate had begun.
“Fine, have it your way, and when we are all in Imperial cells on Coruscant, awaiting public execution as an example to everyone else, I’ll ask them to kill me last, so that I can say I told you so to every one of you,” Leia hissed, stomping out of the room.
“Well, that went well,” Han snarked, earning himself a glare from MonMothma.
“We need to all take a break, calm down and gather our thoughts, we will meet back here in two hours and try to contact Kenobi. Maybe that will give Leia a chance to calm down and think it through too.”
“She’s very stubborn,” Rieekan pointed out.
“She is, but she was also trained in politics and diplomacy by Bail, he will have taught her that what you think is right isn’t always the best option for the people you serve. That’s how he kept Alderaan under Imperial radar for as long as he did.”
They all left the room, heading off in separate directions, except for Luke, who stood looking down at Yoda.
“She’s so angry, I can feel her from here.”
“Yes, dealt with the pain of her capture she has not, with the pain of the loss of her world. Until grieve she does, angry she will remain,” Yoda sighed, he could foresee at least one confrontation between the princess and the two Sith Lords before she started to deal, he just hoped it wouldn’t be enough to derail the peace Obi-Wan was hoping to form.
“Come, meditate we will, work on forms we will, settle our minds we will.”
Luke sighed, he really wanted to go and talk to Leia, but he didn’t think she would listen to him right now. Han would go after her, and either send her mind elsewhere for now, or goad her into a row that would take the edge off her temper, he followed Yoda with a nod.
Leia was already in the meeting room when they came back in, a flush on her cheeks and glowering at Han, who was smirking at her, but she did seem marginally calmer than she had stormed out of the room.
“I apologize for my outburst before, it was unnecessary,” she said stiffly before anyone else could speak.
“Accepted Leia, this isn’t easy for any of us, we do understand your feelings,” MonMothma said.
“I know, but you’re right, as distasteful as it might be, if there’s a chance to stop the killing, we have to at least try. Just don’t expect me to be overly civil to them if we come face to face,” she warned.
“Then let’s do this, “MonMothma said, declining to comment on Leia’s warning, she wasn’t a hundred percent certain she would manage face to face civility herself.
“Make the call,” she instructed the tech.
Obi-Wan was once again working through the ever-growing pile of data pads, wondering if the bloody things were breeding while his back was turned, when a flashing light on the desk’s control panel drew his attention.
“Yes?” he growled after hitting the switch.
“This is Captain Levon your Majesty, the rebels are requesting communication with you.”
“Good, inform Lord Skywalker and have him join me here, then route the communication through to me.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
Obi-Wan kept working until Anakin came in, taking the seat to his left at the table, and then put the data pad aside and called for the communication to be put through.
“Emperor Kenobi,” MonMothma greeted, her holographic form offering a shallow bow of the head, and Obi-Wan winced.
“Not over communications please, Madame, not until the official announcement is made. Lord Kenobi and Lord Skywalker if you please.”
“As you wish, Lord Kenobi,” she acknowledged.
“May I take it a decision has been reached?”
“We’re willing to talk, yes. Terms for a cease fire?” she asked.
“Our fleet has already been pulled back, in return, your ships, your convoys will restrict themselves to non-military actions, the delivery of food, medical supplies, shelters. We will offer assistance with these items if required. Once the crews of our fleet have been thoroughly vetted, a small number of ships will be sent back out to patrol to ensure that scavengers, or people wishing to prolong the conflict do not become a problem, they will be ordered to assist your own vessels in the event you come up against any of these same people. Our ground forces will cease searching for your people on the ground, garrisons will concern themselves only with peacekeeping, unless they come under fire, and they need to defend themselves. If you have people trapped on Imperial loyal worlds, you may arrange their retrieval, on unarmed ships, no one will interfere with your ships, or the people they come to collect, provided they are flying openly under your banner. Stealth missions will be considered a hostile action.”
“Peacekeeping, we’ve seen some of your garrison commander’s ideas of peacekeeping,” Leia snorted acidly.
Obi-Wan studied her face in the hologram for a moment, and then turned to Anakin, eyebrow raising.
“There are a handful I could list right now that I suspect will need to be removed from their positions sooner rather than later, and I can guarantee there are more I don’t know about,” Anakin told him, not bothering to lower his voice.
“Find out, I don’t want anyone trigger happy in charge of a garrison,” he ordered.
“Yes Master,” Anakin acknowledged automatically, making a note on his own data pad.
“This is starting to sound an awful lot like us surrendering,” Dodonna pointed out.
“No; I am not asking that you disarm, or that your people on the ground turn themselves in to the garrisons. I am just asking that we stop shooting at each other so that we can make a start on healing this galaxy.”
“And what next, if we agree to the terms you have laid out?” MonMothma asked.
“I go back to Coruscant and start working openly to build a functioning Senate, Lord Skywalker will bring the military under control, you will do whatever you need to do to make the ceasefire work on your side, and we will give it time to see if it can hold. If it proves that can hold, then we will move on to formal peace talks.”
“There is already a Senate in place,” Leia pointed out.
“A puppet Senate, more concerned with currying favour with Palpatine than representing their worlds. I said functioning Senate and I meant it, I am not interested in puppetry.”
“We would like time to discuss it,” MonMothma said softly.
“Of course, take all the time you need. I will be returning to Coruscant shortly, feel free to contact me there when you are ready to speak again.”
“Thank you, Lord Kenobi.”
The hologram cut out, and she sank back in her chair, looking at the others gathered around the table.
“The terms are actually more reasonable than I expected,” Madine sighed, rubbing his temples in the hopes of soothing the headache he could feel coming on.
“If we agree we can take his word, possibly. It will take several days for him to get back to Coruscant from where they are now, so we have time to watch, to see if they really do clean house on the more extreme base commanders, to watch for signs that it was empty words,” MonMothma pointed out.
“I’ll start sending messages to our people in deep cover, tell them to report in as often as they can. That will give us a better idea of what they’re doing than what they let us see out here on the fringes,” Dodonna frowned.
“You risk blowing their covers, if they report in more frequently,” Ackbar protested.
“If Kenobi was legitimate in his claims, they will be safe, and if not, well, then we will know that he was attempting to trick us,” Rieekan shrugged.
MonMothma scowled at his casual dismissal of the risk to their deep cover spies, but couldn’t really argue against the need for the information they could provide.
“Did we hear anything back from the contacts on the list we retrieved from R2D2?” she asked.
“Not yet, we’re not even sure any of them got through, but we have a dedicated board monitored constantly to make sure nothing slips through the cracks if we do hear from them,” Rieekan told them.
“Keep us informed. We have a lot to do now, everyone contact the cells in their sectors, tell them not to engage with any Imps until further notice, but to report everything that they see and hear back to us, we will meet at eighth hour each morning to compare reports. We have time to think about this, we need to make it count. Dismissed,” MonMothma said.
They all rose and headed for the exit, but Leia stopped her in the doorway.
“I really am sorry, what I said….”
“I do understand Leia, it burns my blood too, the thought of capitulating in any way to the Empire, but you know as well as I do that neither Alliance nor Empire is ever going to surrender. Shifting the battlefield may well be the only way to save us all.”
Leia nodded and slipped away silently, leaving MonMothma alone, or not so alone she realized as she heard the tap of a stick against the floor in the corridor.
“Do you really think we can trust him, Master Yoda?”
“Trust him we can, trust him we must,” he told her before tapping away.
She watched the direction he had gone long after he had vanished around the corner, then chided herself firmly for wool-gathering, she had work to do.