Ben comes to a body that only barely feels like his own, with his fingers grasping tightly on the controls of a ship and the whirl of hyperspace in front of the windshield. Just by the feel of it, he can tell he's been sitting behind the controls for a while, unmoving, crammed tight in the pilot's ergonomic seat – and a glance tells him what kind of ship it is. A Delta-7 starfighter, hm? That's a good sign.
Stretching his neck and listening to it crack, Ben leans back and forces his body to relax it's hold on the controls, his shoulders to loosen. It's a young body, tight, firm, strong, and so is the spirit inside it – young and energetic. They're fighting him, scrambling for control, but they're being quickly smothered under his much older, stronger presence. Still, their alarm is palpable.
Shh, it's alright, it's alright, Ben thinks to it to the spirit, spreading his care and soothing over the younger spirit like a blanket with long practice. This won't hurt a bit.
And it doesn't. While Ben closes his eyes, breathes in and out, and lets the Force flow through him, the younger spirit falls asleep with a last sputter of what might've been a dawning realisation. They're asleep before they reach full understanding, though – the possession complete, Ben in full control of a body once more.
One wouldn't think you'd get used to such a thing. Time, it really wears down on all things, even the horrors of spiritual possession.
Sighing, Ben opens his eyes and then takes a more thorough look around the ship. "Now, where are we…?" he murmurs and then hears a confused thrill of binary in front him. Ben cranes his head to see through the windshield and – ah. He has a droid companion – R4. That seems somewhat familiar – wasn't that the…
R4 thrills confusedly at him, while Ben scrolls through the log. R4 was his astromech droid from before the clone wars – which is explained by the date he finds himself in – as does his destination. He's headed for Kamino.
He's headed for Kamino for the very first time.
"Well, well," Ben murmurs, running a hand over his chin and then smiling delightedly when he actually finds him – last time, he'd been all smooth cheeked. Not only does he have a beard but his hair is the longest it ever got, curling down to his shoulder. Delightful.
The fact that he's about to step into starting salvo of the Clone Wars is a little less delightful. Especially considering all the other things happening behind the scene. Very vital time, this.
"Well, it doesn't look like we've gotten very far yet," Ben murmurs, running his fingers along the edge of the beard – how meticulously he'd groomed himself in this age, heh. There wasn't much time for this kind of self-care, afterwards. "Hmm."
R4 asks him if perhaps he'd been asleep and if maybe he'd had a weird dream?
"Entirely possible," Ben says and considers their navigational computer and the other Obi-Wan's flight plan. They're still on route to Mon Gazza, where they meant to drop out of hyperspace to switch over to the Manda bound hyperlane, the safest route to Kamino. But he could just as well continue to Savareen and from there head towards Scarif and by it, to Kamino…
And if he happened to make some detours along the way, well. Kamino is a hard planet to find. Anything could happen along the way.
"Yes, Kamino will keep," Ben hums and punches in new coordinates. "They can't very well start the show without me, can they, R4?"
The droid lets out a confused series of beeps and whistles and Ben chuckles. "Yes, quite. Wake me up when we make it to Savareen, will you, R4? I have some meditating to do."
The droid lets out a dubious series of noises, but Ben ignores him, closing his eyes and folding his arms into the sleeves of his robes, humming.
Now, what kind of mischief can he get into this time…?
His detour to Tatooine doesn't take him longer than a few hours – a few hours, most of which was spent by a Tusken camp fire, rubbing elbows and when that doesn't work, making some not so overt threats. Some insults and a couple of cut off limbs later, Shmi Skywalker is on the way back to her family. Ben escorts her some of the way, parrying most of her questions as they walk
"But who are you?" she asks, shaky as she leans to his side.
"A friend, I hope," Ben says. "An ill prepared friend mind you – I would have brought a medical kit if I had one, but my ship did not come with one, I'm sorry to say."
"Oh?" She answers, confused. "That's – I will live, I think – but how did you even – how did you know – "
Well. Spend a few lifetimes going over all the mistakes he'd made in Anakin's training with a fine tooth comb, and Shmi Skywalker's death starts showing up as a rather prominent and consistent snag. "Let's call it good luck and leave it at that, shall we?" Ben says.
Shmi shakes her head, more confused than before, and more worried. "And what do you want in return for this luck?"
Ben hums. He could tell her, warn her, ask her to give Anakin a slightly better direction in life – all of it would come across as manipulative, and he knows from experience how badly that tends to turn out before long. "I want nothing but you to live a long and fulfilled life, Shmi Skywalker – and maybe take a slightly more care when you venture so far out of your homestead."
She's not convinced, not then and not at the end of their painful trek – but by the time they reach Lars homestead, she's at least resigned herself to not getting answers. Ben leaves Shmi within the view of the farmstead with a final warning to get some medical treatment, and she gives him a piercing look in answer.
"You're a Jedi, aren't you?" she asks, swallowing, teetering somewhere between painful need and even more pained resignation. "Do you know – you must know, how else would you –"
"Let's not ask questions that have no clear answers, shall we?" Ben says and pats her shoulder where she's not hurt. "Go home, heal, and learn from your experiences. I was never here, alright?"
Not that her knowing or telling people about him would make much of a difference to him – still, if things go as badly as they're wont to do, it won't do her any favours to spread her close attachment to the Jedi around. Things like that only made people into targets.
Shmi draws a deep breath and then sighs slowly. "Alright – I think I understand. Thank you," she says and nods her head. It's carefully not a bow, Ben notices. Nod of a free woman.
Ben gives her a bow in turn and then turns around and leaves. His detour thus done, it's time to head to Kamino.
R4 has decided that he's seen nothing and he's heard nothing by the time they make it to Kamino – Ben can hear him whir and beep something about damned Jedi secret missions. Astromech droids – they're all so wilful.
The droid is very vocal about all the sand Ben had gotten onto the ship, though.
"Well, you will be happy to know that it rains to an excess in Kamino," Ben says cheerfully. "And it should wash away all the sand."
He gets a dubious string of beeps for that – how does he know about a planet that isn't even on the navigational computers? Ben just hums in answer, and sets to land in Tipoca city – though not before checking where Jango Fett had his ship stored away. It never hurts to make sure where the escape routes are – and it wouldn't be the first time he had to steal the thing from under the man's nose… granted, it would be the first time he'd do it in Kamino.
"Consider all avenues of attack," Ben murmurs, much to R4's alarm, and then brings the ship down.
It's raining at the rate that would make every soul on Tatooine weep, as he steps outside. Ben takes a moment to enjoy it, letting the fresh water wash away the dust and sand of the desert from his hair and then, once he's properly soaked, he heads for the entrance.
Taun We is waiting for him just inside, greeting him happily as "Master Jedi. The prime minister is expecting you."
"Ah," Ben says, pushing wet hair from his face. "I see – I'm sorry, I would hate to keep the prime minister waiting, but I'm drenched. Is there any chance of freshening up before the meeting?"
The Kaminoan blinks, confused, and Ben blinks back, innocent. "He is very anxious to meet you," Taun We says, slow.
"We wouldn't want to begin with me catching my death by cold, now would we?" Ben says and clears his throat. "Is there any place I could dry up?"
"… Yes, of course – come this way," Taun We says, turning to lead him, and Ben follows shortly after, smiling blandly as they go.
It's a small thing, almost petty, but what he remembers most from his last time here was how he kept shivering through the whole meeting with Lama Su and then Jango Fett and it'd not done his investigation any favours. Not that he really needs to investigate matters here.
What he needs to do is disturb things.
Ben takes his moment in the strange Kaminoan version of a fresher – all too large for human use. They have very sophisticated drying facilities, though, which is more than welcome. It makes Ben look like a son of a wookie by the end of it, with formerly wet hair all fluffed up by the spinning air currents, but he's certainly looked worse.
Carding his fingers through his hair Ben eyes his reflection – thirty five years of age and not yet baptised by war and fire. Hmm. Something of a step up from his thirteen year old self from the last live, he has to say. He dare say he always looked his best just before the war – from there on it was a slow decline of stress, sleepless night, skipping meals and avoiding medics.
Perhaps not this time.
Ben steps out with a smile and says to Taun We, "Shall we?"
"Right this way, please," Taun We says, and motions him to follow.
Ben can't remember the original meeting with prime minister Lama Su verbatim, but he suspects his rehashed version of it does the job well enough – it's not like they can surprise him with the Clone Army this time. He takes his moment to watch them afterwards, lingering in the tour the Kaminoans give through their facilities, displaying their pride and joy.
Two hundred thousand identical men, ready for battle field – ready for Geonosis just in time for Dooku to enter the stage with the droid army. A ready made battle with all the pieces all lined out, dominoes in a row, ready to be tipped over.
Almost thirty percent of the men Taun We and Lama Su so proudly display to him would end up dying in Kamino, trustingly marching to their deaths following the orders of completely inexperienced commanders. Sixty thousand men, brand new and shiny and fresh of their battle simulations, with no real concept of what it would be like, when boots hit the real dirt… or what it would be like, following incompetent Jedi to the field. They'd learned fast, though, they learned to apply orders without following them to the letter.
Sixty thousand is a steep price for a lesson. As is two hundred thousand. As is three million, the final total of Clone Troopers produced for the war.
"Master Jedi?" Lama Su asks, as Ben lags behind, watching a group of clone commanders go over simulated battle plans – a scene that's reminiscent of a hundred tense nights on board a Jedi Destroyer.
"They are impressive," Ben muses and folds his arms. "I think I will take command of them right away. How quickly can you transfer the inhibitor control to me?"
Both Lama Su and Taun We stop at that, exchanging a long, slow look. "We were under the impression that the final control was to go to the High Chancellor of the Republic himself?" Lama Su says slowly.
Ben looks at him. "Was it the High Chancellor who paid for the army, then?" he asks mildly.
"… no, the funds were supplied by Master Sifo Dyas."
"Yes. A Jedi," Ben agrees and shakes his head. "The High Chancellor can have the army once he pays for it. Until then, I will be taking control of the army, to minimise any risk… false starts," he says. "How fast can you transfer the commands?"
Lama Su and Taun We look slightly more worried now. Ben says nothing, looking back to the clone commanders, looking over familiar faces, wondering. He can't tell yet – but he has a feeling Cody is among the group.
He can imagine what the Kaminoans might be thinking. Though they'd never found out the exact deal Sifo Dyas had made with the Kaminoans originally, Dooku had been manipulating it and behind him there was Sidious – so it was probably nothing good. It was also an unwritten deal – with no paperwork, no agreements, no written terms or conditions, no signatures made. Just promises and verbal agreements and an enormous sum of money that exchanged hands, some ten, eleven years ago. All under Master Sifo Dyas' name, because ultimately, the Jedi had to be the ones to blame for everything.
It is all very clever, really.
What the Kaminoans are doing is, technically, illegal slave breeding and trade by Republic standards – the army was only made legal by Executive Order by the Senate, when the High Chancellor got his emergency powers and pushed the Military Creation Act through and even then it was highly questionable. Right now, though, and from the point of view of the Kaminoans…
Well, Ben might very well be about to start a coup against the republic with a massive clone army under his belt. And who are they to tell him otherwise? The army is there, it was bought and paid for, and the Kaminoan aren't yet under Sidious' influence. They're just providing a service and they're doing it well. What do they care about the planetary politics involved? They're not part of the Republic.
"I see," Lama Su says after a moment and then bows his head slowly. "It will take no time at all, Master Kenobi. You will have full control over the army shortly."
"Excellent," Ben says, smiling to the clone commanders. "Now, I think I'd like to meet the Prime. He's here, correct – Jango Fett, you keep him here?"
"We do indeed," Taun We says, a slight timber of unease to her airy voice now. "I would be happy to show you."
Ben nods and moves away from the window. "Lead the way."
Jango Fett is not happy to see him – but he hadn't been the last time either. Boba Fett is – precocious. Both of them radiate subtle loathing his way.
Ben takes a seat by the window, overlooking the main training hall of the clone troops – where hundreds and hundreds of them mill about in various training exercises, some practicing marksmanship, others doing hand to hand combat – the very hall where Jango trained the Alphas, probably.
"That's quite the view," Ben says, smiling. "You've overlooked their training, all this time?"
"It was part of my contract, yes," Jango says tightly, glancing at Taun We. "Over and done with now."
"We modelled the training program on Jango's abilities, though with far more military discipline," Taun We says. "Jango has been instrumental in optimising the clone troopers capabilities."
"I'm sure he has been," Ben agrees, watching a group of clones go through the motions of disarming each other, their movements military perfect. One of the clones is looking up at him, and Ben tilts his head a little, wondering. It's mostly Alphas down there – could be Alpha-17, who knows. It's hard to tell at this range.
Jango gets impatient with his silence before long. "Is there something we can do for you, Master Kenobi?"
"I don't know – is there?" Ben asks and turns to him.
Jango frowns a little at that, before managing to school his expression. "I'm just a simple man, trying to make his way in the universe," he says, shrugging his shoulder. "What could I offer to a Jedi?"
Ben hums, amused. What indeed. "Does any of this," he motions to the clone army, "seem particularly simple to you?"
"For you it's whatever it is – for me it was a job that I got paid for," Jango says, shrugging – and how strange it is to see a man try to play it casual. "That's all it is. Now, if you have nothing else to ask…"
"Why, are you in a hurry somewhere?" Ben asks, arching his brows.
"I was about to make dinner for my son," Jango says, his voice slightly tighter, while behind him Boba's eyebrows speak volumes.
"Oh, how wonderful – would you mind terribly if I joined you? I'm famished," Ben says innocently and bites his tongue as Jango flashes pure unadulterated aggravation at him. Ben smiles, and offers, "I'm not a shabby cook myself – I could give you a hand in the kitchen."
"I'm sure you'd rather dine with the prime minister," Jango says, his voice just short of a growl.
Ben smiles wider and warmer. "I'm very curious about how you trained the clones," he says. "It's not everyone who gets to personally engineer an army. Come now, surely you'd like to brag a little? It must've quite something."
A vein pulses on Jango's temple and Ben is privately delighted – Cody got the same thing when Anakin did something particularly harebrained.
"Fine," Jango says through gritted teeth. "We'll have dinner."
Ben smiles through the dinner preparations, and then dinner itself, while Jango gets more and more annoyed with him. Boba, sensing the atmosphere, is little better – by the end, Ben is quite certain Jango would like to throttle him, or possibly smash his face into the spicy food the man had been forced to serve him.
"Your clones are very impressive, as is their training, judging by the sound of it," Ben says, smiling wider and wider. "You must be very proud."
"Like I said, it was just a job," Jango mutters. "I don't feel this way or that over them."
"I'm sure that's not true. You've been here over ten years, after all," Ben says, eying Boba. "I'm sure you must feel some sort of accomplishment over what you created."
Jango very obviously smothers an annoyed scoff and sets down his eating utensils. "Yeah, it's been a blast. Why don't you ask what you mean to, Jedi?" he demands.
"Ask what?" Ben asks and takes a sip of his drink. "I'm only making conversation."
He smiles at the look Jango gives him. Honestly, though, he has no idea what the man might be thinking. This part of this whole ordeal has never made sense to him, neither in hind- or foresight. That Jango had been told to target Amidala, to botch the assassination attempt, that he understood. What a better way to invite Jedi attention after all, but to engineer a high level investigation? Jango had intentionally laid down a trail of breadcrumbs in order to bring the Clone Army into Jedi attention just in time for Dooku to make his move. That was easy enough to understand.
"Tell me about how you were hired," Ben says, watching Jango thoughtfully.
Jango narrows his eyes. "It was a man named Tyrannus who hired me, on the moons of Bodgen."
Ben arches his brows. "On all the moons? My, you must've been spread thin."
Jango's eye twitches. "It was a series of tests – he only wanted the best. I came out on top."
"How fascinating." As was the fact that Jango could just… say that, right here, in the heart of the Clone Army which was, supposedly, ordered by a Jedi. That's the confusing part.
Sidious' plan concerning the Clone Army was simple enough. Make a Jedi order them, then put Jedi in command of them, sow trust with one hand and discontent and suspicion with another, and at the end turn it all on the Jedis heads – the army, and their creation, both. Straightforward enough. Why then, right at the start, does Jango just admit that he'd been hired by a Sith Lord at the start of the whole plot? Of course last time Obi-Wan hadn't known what that meant, but later… when it was far too late…
Ben strokes his hand over his beard while across the table, Boba fidgets boredly and Jango does all he can to not glare at him.
Here's the question – does Jango actually know his role in Dooku's and Sidious' plan? Ben can't recall these days in perfect precision, but he remembers Jango quite earnestly trying to kill him in the asteroid fields near Geonosis. That couldn't have been by Dooku's design – young foolish Obi-Wan had been the perfect pawn in their game and to do his part he needed to live. There is no way Dooku would've commanded Jango to kill him.
Unless… he hadn't ordered the opposite. Dooku could have bet on Obi-Wan easily surviving all Jango could throw at him – which he had – and then following doggedly after the bounty hunter – which he also had. It certainly made the race seem more real, more honest, at the time – nothing quite like a life or death situation, to smooth away the wrinkles in your plans. Jango was such an obvious bait in hindsight – and Obi-Wan took it without second thought.
Ben is not going to take it this time, but it is fascinating how it all lines up.
"Is there anything else you want, Master Jedi?" Jango asks, rather insistently.
Ben smiles and stands up. "No, I do believe I know all I need to, now," he says. "I think I shall go inspect the troops on the floor. Do give Dooku my regards when you see him, will you?"
Jango freezes at that, his hand drifting towards a blaster that isn't there, and Ben smiles a little wider, bowing his head, and heading out of the Fett rooms.
The inhibitor chips command structure has already been changed, he's pleased to find – and then, immediately, somewhat dismayed. The first clones he meets address him as their Lord. As in, "What is your command, my Lord?"
"Ah," Ben says, his fingers flexing uneasily. The clones are all lined up – some hundred of them who'd been in the middle of a training exercise, but came into immediate, precise order at the sound of him. "Who is the highest ranked clone here?"
"I am, sir – Lieutenant CC-7736," a clone says promptly, stepping forward.
"I have some orders to pass up the chain to be disseminated across the entire army. Will you assist, please?" Ben says and the clone immediately lifts a fist, activating a holorecorder. Ben nods, and then clasps his hands behind his back and addresses the recorder.
"I am Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, your current superior commander. I am changing my rank to High General and my title to Master Kenobi – which is how you will address me. As the High General of the Clone Army, I decree that none of you take orders from anyone except from me or higher ranked clone officers. No Jedi, galactic official, senator, chancellor or any other Republic representative, has the power to command any of you. This includes," he glances over his shoulder to where the Fett rooms are, "your DNA progenitor Jango Fett, and his masters, Lord Tyrannus, also known as Count Yan Dooku, and High Chancellor Sheev Palplatine, also known as Lord Sidius. You only follow the orders from each other – and from me. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Sir!" comes from not only the hundred clones in front of him, but shortly after from all the clones awake and attending, the call echoing through the entire training facility.
"Disseminate this through the entire Army, please," Ben adds. "I want there to be no confusion concerning the command structure. That is all, for now."
"Yes, Master Kenobi," the Lieutenant says, and finishes the recording.
"Excellent," Ben smiles, feeling the incredulity coming somewhere in the direction of the Fett rooms – Jango is still there, it seems, and not about to leave after all, how curious. Well, no matter. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Now, I want a gathering of the highest ranked and best performing clone commanders in a suitable auditorium – what is the least painful way to arrange it?"
Just by saying it apparently. The Lieutenant shows him to one of the many auditoriums in the facility, explaining to him that it's used mainly for personal lectures by Jango and training videos. It begins filling in short order with fully suited up clone commanders, who fill every seat in orderly fashion, and then line up the back wall of the room as well, filling the entire hall to the brim.
Ben steps to the front, clasping his hands behind his back, and basks for a moment in the sheer ridiculousness of him having taken command of the entire army, and all without anyone being able to tell him otherwise. Sidious would be spitting fire, when he heard.
"Good evening – at ease, gentlemen," Ben says and smiles as the entire hall echoes with hundreds of men, loosening their shoulders. "I am here to go over the primary mandate of this army, and the general outline of your duties in the upcoming months or years, however long this will take. This might take some time, so… make yourselves comfortable.
"After we're done here, I welcome all of you to take a moment to go over the plans, and if you have any suggestions, ideas, or if you see any flaws in my plans of action, you're to bring them straight to me," Ben continues calmly. "I will also be selecting a number among you to work as my personal adjutants through this campaign – though if you have suggestions for more suitable clones for the task, I will be happy to hear it."
He waits for the words to settle and then presses on. "As you might be aware, a number of planets are looking to separate from the Galactic Republic, seeking their independence – they are collectively known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, or CIS. Their council of leaders is currently concentrated in Geonosis, ensconced in planning on how to proceed with their plea for independence – and building a Droid Army, in expectation of strong opposition."
That makes the clone commanders more attentive, expectant – it is the army they've been trained to fight, after all.
Ben smiles. "The Galactic Republic is a democracy," he says. "With an elected body of governance, and with a people that enjoy the right to vote. If these systems wish to make a suit for independence, if their people vote for independence… that's their right as Republic citizens."
That gets him some confusion, but the commanders remain attentive. Good.
"It will be from here on our job to assist them in that suit for independence," Ben says, basking in the surprise that comes his way. "This army will be here on known as the Peacekeepers – it will be our task to ensure that those systems, planets and people looking to become independent and free will be able to do so in orderly, peaceful manner, without being harassed by anyone in the delicate process of becoming autonomous and self governing."
He lets the words sink in – but the clones are professional about their shock, there's none of the shouting, murmuring or unease you'd get with a natural born army. These men take their orders at face value – it's what they were bred for. They only look up to him, waiting for the rest of it.
"This new direction for this army will of course mandate some changes to your original training regimen, which we will address in short order," Ben continues. "No man in this army will be going into deployment uninformed, I assure you, you will all be well prepared. For now, let's go over general terms of your future service, and what is the intended outcome."
He looks over the clone army's commanders and lifts his chin. "What we are trying to do, gentlemen, is prevent war."
And if so doing they to tear the Old Republic apart and thus dismantle Lord Sidious' power base and also undermine all of Dooku's efforts of uniting the independent systems in order to create the Old Republic a suitable enough opponent to justify war, well…
He just wishes he didn't need to use the clone army for this, but at least he will get to keep them alive.
"And at the end of it," Ben continues, "once your service is done, you too will be free to do as you please, join whatever system you choose to join as free citizens. I will ensure it personally."
That finally gets him an applause – a confused one, still, they're too young to really understand what he actually means, or what they are missing. They'd learn, though. He'd make sure of it. Jango Fett is still in Tipoca city, watching the meeting over a holoprojector, and his irritation has shifted into confusion and suspicion and unease – but he's still not going, the bait still sitting still, waiting for the stick. He's going to learn a thing or two too, by the time this was over.
Just for once, just this one time, Ben would get to prevent the Clone Wars. Or die in trying to do so, one or the other.
"Well then," Ben says, considering the clone commanders. "Let's talk about the Sith and their plan to destroy democracy, and go from here, shall we?"