Exchanging grim but triumphant grins, Obi-Wan and the others ran once they had gotten clear of the Melida’s buildings and entered the surrounding fields. They had only their best guess that they were out of the sightlines of the guards patrolling in and around said buildings but they had a time limit that pushed them to rush. Even if they weren’t out of sight, the risk of being heard or seen was less than the risk of being too close by this point.
After all, as they liked to joke: out of sight was also out of sound but not out of range! ...It was probably funnier if you were there.
Anyway, they let their feet thump loudly against the hard-packed dirt to focus all their effort on putting distance between them and the Melida’s warehouses and encampment. Obi-Wan was pleased their latest training was working: even though they were sacrificing stealth for speed, none of the Young he was with got careless — they remained wary, scanning for enemies in the low light and carrying their weapons at the ready.
It was especially good to see that they didn’t get cocky: careless would be one thing but overconfident was quite another as carelessness could immediately be checked with a quick word while overconfidence usually had to be corrected by ever-merciless experience. So it was good to see a lack of brashness, they were all keeping low and sticking to the long shadows caused by the early dawn before darting quickly into the cover promised by the tall grass. It was a bit sad that they had had to teach the other children to be this wary (a bit sad that they knew how to be wary like this) but it was better than losing any of them to something avoidable.
Letting the younglings race ahead, Obi-Wan lingered at the back of the group in order to defend against any pursuers they might gain while they rushed back to their sanctuary. He and his squad had just successfully infiltrated the main Melida munitions warehouse and sabotaged it without being caught, and he wasn't about to let that change. There were no injuries, no deaths, no members left behind to the dubious mercy of the Elders because they were too far away or in a too dangerous spot for rescue. Across the continent, another squad was doing the same to the Daan with hopefully the same level of success.
It wouldn’t do to become distracted now.
Besides the time spent infiltrating the Melida's set-up and setting up the bombs, the most dangerous point of the whole raid for the Young was this remaining stretch of time as there was nothing but open space and some vegetation between the Melida operation and the ruins of old Zehava. If their luck did not hold and their tampering was discovered before the bombs went off, they would almost certainly be in trouble — especially if the Melida still had working portable searchlights. If they still had those, their movements through the stubborn tall grasses in the meadow would be fairly easy to spot as the stalks' movement would give away their position even while they concealed them from plain sight.
It was only once they were all deep into the grass and dozens of metres away from the other encampment without any alarms sounding — and thus relatively safe— that he allowed a wild grin to break across his own features. There wouldn't be enough time now to disarm their planted explosives, they had done it! The taste of victory tasted sweet on his tongue: unlike their other efforts lately, it wasn’t tainted with the bittersweetness of grief or pain for those under his command.
Soon there wouldn’t be enough to fight with and the Elders would be forced to come to the negotiation table.
Soon he wouldn’t need to lead younglings as young as eight-years-old in attacks and raids against the Elders ruining their planet.
The lives, blood, sweat, tears that they had lost in the three months since Obi-Wan had joined them would be vindicated and there would be peace. No more raids, no more death, no more blasters and bombs instead of toys — they would be able to just be children and allow their planet to heal.
A muffled Th-WHUMP went off in the distance followed shortly thereafter by the clang of a fire bell and the screaming of an alarm. The children and young teens he was with quietly whooped with happiness at the sign of their successful efforts: signalling the demise of the warehouse filled with weapons and charge-packs as their planted explosives went off. One of the copper-haired Melida younglings let out a breathless giggle and high-fived the ebony-haired Daan tween running beside them, high on the success of their first mission, the others following suit with any in reach.
They didn’t stop moving though — not even for their very brief celebration — as their grace period was now up. The explosion and the subsequent cacophony of alarms only reminded them of that, encouraging them to run faster. It was now very urgent that they get to the safety of the tunnels hidden in the old city ruins before the Melida came swarming to find and kill the perpetrators.
Obi-Wan felt the thrill of adrenaline course through him, both from the explosion and from the emotional resonance of the others, pushing away the dregs of exhaustion that had been pulling him down.
His straining senses buoyed by the surge of adrenaline (and stress) was probably what let him hear the quiet childish burbling. Slowing down ever so slightly and glancing around, he spotted what first appeared to be a large rock but that quickly proved instead to be a wiggling ball of a youngling in rough-spun brown cloth, the same colour as the dusty ground.
… Was that Yoda?
Knowing they only had a few more precious minutes (if that) before the area was overrun by enraged Melida, Obi-Wan zigged to the left and scooped up the small one. He then drew on the Force to catch up to the other six, darting into the ruins of Zehava and the concealed sewer entrance within.
“Sorry young one, you’ll have to come with us.” Obi-Wan murmured as he ran, “It is not safe out here. I’ll help you find your family later if you have any still around here.”
He stumbled and nearly dropped his precious cargo in surprise when the little one outright shoved all of their confusion and longing at him in the Force. They burbled at him aloud, small-clawed hands clutching tightly at his clothes as they twisted to get a good look at his face. It was only for a fraction of a second but at that moment, he felt only unfathomable grief and joy from the youngling before their shields went back up.
He shook his head when he realized that he’d stopped dead in his tracks and was staring in the middle of a ruined roadway. That sort of inattention could cost him his life! Shaking his head once more as though shaking off water, he began to run again with the youngling tucked under his arm. Now was not the time to get his head lost in the stars! Pushing away his own confusion and curiosity to focus on the here-and-now, he continued to weave his way through the rubble and buildings to make his way to safety.
He had almost caught up with the others again when they all heard the whine of a far-off speeder engine that was coming closer. They were almost out of time! It couldn't end like this, they were almost there: they should be able to make it before that speeder got to the area. They had to, there was no other option that Obi-Wan would accept. Not now!
There was no denying the sharp surge of relief that rushed through him when they finally reached the alley that hid the intact sewer tunnel before the speeder's lights reached the city ruins. As the younglings darted in ahead of him, Obi-Wan quickly looked around to see if there were any unfriendlies around. After all, it wouldn’t do for the Melida or the Daan to find them now and to be able to raid them in turn.
Once he was sure they were alone, he followed them while leaving his senses open to catch any incoming hostile minds. In the alley, the younglings were finishing moving the boxes and large pieces of rubble to the side that hid one of the entrances to their sanctuary. Obi-Wan yanked open the heavy sewer grate and ushered his squadmates inside before jumping down into the small tunnel himself. Reaching out with the Force, he replaced the grate over the tunnel: wedging it into place and moving the minor debris back on top to camouflage it.
Then he sat down hard on the concrete walkway to stare hard at the small green being he had picked up, holding him up to eye level. Reaching out slowly with his Force presence, he offered the equivalent of a handshake to the young one. He? She? …They giggled and gave the mental equivalent of a poke back.
He was dumbfounded, not really having expected such a response.
Youngling was definitely Force-sensitive then... One who knew some semblance of control at that!
Okay. Well. This was happening? Just…
Goodness. No one even knew what species Yoda and Yaddle are, never mind where their home planet(s) was? What were the odds that he would find one of their younglings — and a Force-sensitive one at that — in the middle of an active war zone?
He felt the panic and despair of the last three months surge in him. He was no Jedi, only a wash-out who couldn’t protect anything enough. The Force shouldn’t have guided the little one to him! He was a failure! Too angry, too emotional, too empathetic to realize when a situation was beyond his ability to help with. How was he to help such a vulnerable youngling when he could barely help himself?
Better the child had come to Master Koon, Master Rancisis, Master Tholme, or literally anyone else!
Another mental poke jerked him out of his panic as the small one looked up at him with such trust, and then offered their name Grogu.
“Hello Grogu,” Obi-Wan said softly, in both disbelief and awe. “My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Little Grogu gave the mental equivalent of a shriek and jump at his name while their tiny arms flailed and reached out for his face, happy chattering sounds escaping their tiny mouth. Oh… well then…at least there was one Force-sensitive outside of his crèchemates who didn't think he was a total failure and was happy to see him. He held the youngling a little closer and Grogu took the opportunity to wiggle out of his hands and hug his head, clinging to him like a Syned opossum.
He turned his head to see his squadmates looking at him with bemusement, and while they had seen him much less dignified than this, Obi-Wan couldn't help how his face flushed in embarrassment as the little green tot wiggled contentedly from his new perch.
They made it back through the warren of tunnels to the blocked-off storm drain that the Young had made their centre of operations without encountering any problems. The squad that had sabotaged the Daan warehouse had made it back before them, and so their entry was greeted with raucous cheers.
There had been no losses and minimal injuries: a very rare good day for the Young and their mission of bringing peace to their war-torn world. They sadly could not have a party even down here as too much noise might alert the Elders where they’re hiding. It also did not help that there was not enough light in the tunnels for most games, and there were no extra special drinks or bits of food to break out (in fact they must carefully ration what little they do have). Despite that, the evening takes on a decidedly cheerful tone as they all find ways to quietly celebrate anyway.
Instead of joining in one of the cuddle piles as he normally would, Obi-Wan grabbed a ration pack and split it with little Grogu, sitting on one of the mats in the far corner. While the green youngling initially turned his nose up at the offering, he quickly subsided upon realizing that none of the others had anything fresher or better.
Normally, bringing in a new person would have prompted vetting and interviews before allowing them back to their base but considering how small and young Grogu appeared to be, it seemed to be fine that Obi-Wan had broken that unspoken rule. Obi-Wan was a little too caught up in his thoughts to be an impartial judge but Nield and Cerasi had walked over, exchanged glances briefly before nodding in simple acknowledgement and continuing on their check-in rounds.
So it was fine.
After eating, they sat there in silence, exchanging Force signatures and getting to know each other a bit better before tentatively opening a crèche bond with one another. Like with all Force bonds, the longer they communed like this and the more they anchored it in, the better able they were to “talk”.
A part of himself that Obi-Wan hadn’t really been conscious of — a part that in hindsight had been so stressed from the lack of contact with another Force-sensitive — finally relaxed. He lost any sense of time after they first established that mental bond as the sheer pleasure of building and strengthening such a bond distracted him from the physical world. Instead, he revelled in the mental one as they first began to exchange feelings, then simple words, then pictures between himself and the youngling as the bond strengthened enough to support those different sharings.
From what he shared, little Grogu wasn’t sure how he ended up here — in fact, he was downright confused that Obi-Wan didn’t have what Obi thinks is a beard on his face? Either that or he thinks Obi-Wan should have a very high scarf or some form of strange helmet… It was a little silly but fun trying to understand what Grogu was trying to show him. His species did not seem to see in the same spectrum as Obi-Wan’s more humanoid species did (or it was just Grogu — after all, sometimes sentients were born with different working eyes than the rest of their species), and it seemed that the images were from a time when their eyes were still developing, causing further distortion of the pictures he was trying to show.
He didn't remember visiting the crèche and seeing a little Yoda, but that was one of the images that Grogu offered to him. Considering the image distortion and that he appeared to have a scarf-beard-helmet along with being very tall (at least to Grogu), the only reason Obi-Wan had realized it was him was that Grogu had also shared the Force signatures he'd sensed at the same time as the picture. All things considered, he was fairly sure it was a memory rather than merely an idea put into a mental picture because it was too detailed to be anything but some sort of recollection.
It was strange.
Stranger still was Grogu's firm memories of a humanoid in shining metal armour who radiated safety and family, and whom Grogu longed desperately to get back to.
He tried to coax more information from the little one, but they stubbornly stuck to pictures and feelings, only giving a handful of one-word answers when pressed. When Obi-Wan asked for a name, he instead got the visual of a metal fist tapping against a breastplate and a shake of a head combined with a sense of duty and protection. Trying to get Grogu to show him the face of his protector — so he knew who to look for — was met with feelings of horror and an absolute refusal.
He didn't understand what there was to protect about a name or a face, but he would respect the youngling’s feelings.
On the other hand, it made it impossible to figure out a plan of action to reunite them when all he had to go off was a mental picture of a set of armour. It was true that armour like that was incredibly uncommon on Melida/Daan, but if his guardian had had to take it off or was robbed since Grogu was last with him, there was literally no other way for Obi-Wan to find him and reunite them.
After trying fruitlessly to get some more details from the child, Obi-Wan flopped sidewise on the mat and pulled little Grogu into the crescent formed by his body.
“Well little one, I’m out of ideas.” Obi-Wan whispered, “I can’t run around the continent — never mind the whole planet— in the hopes that I will see your guardian somewhere. Both the Melida and the Daan know my face as one that came with the adult Jedi and know I stayed as a Young. At best they’ll just kill me, but at worst they’ll capture and torture me like Master Tahl. Without any other way of finding them, I’m afraid that you’re stuck with me and the Young until they come to find you.”
Grogu shifted closer, then slumped over against Obi-Wan's shoulder and reached out to his face with a small-clawed hand; looking at him with his eyes too old for his young face. He must have seen what he was looking for because there was a hesitant poke again at his shields before a string of numbers flashed into his mind. A comm code — and unless he was sorely mistaken, the first four digits of the comm were an Outer Rim area code for the Noonian, Ojestor, Mandalore, Meerian, and Weneen sectors. That narrowed down things a little — with the armour Grogu had shown him, his guardian was likely to be Mandalorian.
Guess it was a good thing he wasn’t a Jedi anymore: going by Master Ti-nak’s history lectures, they wouldn’t likely be happy with him if he had been.
Obi-Wan looked over the embankment again at the imposing building in the distance, trepidation making his heart race, beating in double then triple time the longer he looked. From what he could see and from the Young scout reports: the old comms building had been transformed into something of a castle keep, complete with slap-dash fortifications. While built by amateurs and clearly thrown together with what was at hand, it didn’t look any less formidable to a 13-year-old with a toddler to protect.
To start, even just approaching it would be difficult: there was a fifty meters radius of barren soil surrounding it, leaving no true place to hide. Well, that was somewhat untrue — there were rubble and wood barricades blocking the two remaining roads that crossed the area that theoretically could be used as shelter… but those also concealed deadly booby traps and were best avoided altogether. Off the roads, there were buried pressure sensors here and there that if stepped on would explode — thankfully they had been concealed with ill-intent which caused them to radiate malice in the Force so Obi-Wan should be able to avoid those pretty easily. If they reached the keep itself, the only remaining entryway to the comms building within was guarded by a barbican made from old speeders complete with a vicious-looking rusty portcullis of scrap metal. At some point, either the Melida or the Daan had built a mid-sized stone and scrap metal curtain wall going all the way around: the only break was for the imposing barbican. Lastly, walking slowly along the parapets on the wall were patrolling adults with their blasters at the ready, while a pair walked around the perimeter at its base with a mangy-looking massiff.
This was the only remaining working comm station on-planet as far as the Young knew, one that had changed hands multiple times between the Melida and Daan. There had been a deliberate effort made to keep it intact by all factions: no one had been willing to sever communications with the wider galaxy (or at least, not yet). After all, neither the Melida nor the Daan (nor the Young) had the means to fix it if it was destroyed now. Like all irreplaceable things, this unfortunately made it a prize and a frequent target between both groups; so the guards would be on high alert at all times.
Going in the normal way without several squads to back you up would be suicide.
But the only lead on Grogu’s guardian was the comm number he knew so in the name of getting the child to safety, Obi-Wan was willing to risk it. It took some deliberation but eventually, he got Nield and Cerasi to agree.
Something he was regretting a little now, looking at the worn building bristling with defences and defenders. He tracked the sentrys' rotation one more time before rocking back on his heels to stare incredulously at the innocent-looking Grogu sitting beside him.
“...I can’t believe you’ve convinced me to do this.” He grumbled at the youngling who just blew a bubble at him in response.
He looked up at the sky briefly; it was about a half-hour until sunset judging by the colours and the sun’s position on the horizon. He should get ready, it wouldn't be much longer until their small window of time opened. Obi-Wan turned around to rifle through the small duffle bag he brought with them for the long cloth ties. As he wound the ties around his limbs, securing any loose fabric tight against his skin, he grouched: “This is going to get us killed .”
Once he was sure that there wasn’t any loose cloth to flop around or get caught in things, he quickly did a few crouched stretches to limber up, his boots splashing in the shallow water of the tributary. He was satisfied once he'd ascertained that he could still move as expected and determined that he hadn’t restricted the movement of cloth too much. That done, he then craned his head back over the embankment again to look at the facility.
Yep, still heavily guarded.
With a groan, he crouched and put his head in his hands. After a moment of feeling sorry for himself, he released his fear and worry to the Force then turned a gimlet eye at the excited youngling beside him. “If we die, I’m blaming you.”
Grogu put a small, clawed hand on his arm and babbled nonsense at him quietly, projecting reassurance at him in the Force. The sweetness of the gesture was somewhat undermined by him also offering half of a frog with his other hand.
“You eat it,” Obi-Wan said magnanimously while he looked dubiously at the partially eaten amphibian... He wasn’t that hungry, or at least not yet. He reached out with a gentle hand to ruffle those long ears while he mumbled. “You’re lucky you’re cute.”
Grogu quickly consumed what was left of his snack before he climbed onto Obi-Wan’s front, his tiny hands gripping tightly at the cloth ties that crisscrossed there.
Obi-Wan huffed a small laugh before widening the front of his tunic. “There’s no sense for you to hang onto my front like you're a Komala Bear from Alola.” He then picked the youngling up and tucked him into his tunic, moving the cloth straps on his torso slightly to help support him. “Do you feel secure there?”
He got a squeak back which sounded like an affirmation.
With the sun just barely a sliver over the horizon, Obi-Wan slipped over the embankment and into the sparse reeds and tall grass lining the tributary. With dusk having progressed into evening, his brown clothes and the low light helped to camouflage him as he moved closer to the building.
He did his best to focus on his surroundings while extending the Force as far as he dared, keeping this sixth sense attuned to the minds of those patrolling. If they should spot him then, Force willing, the alert registering in their consciousness would give him enough time to dodge and escape.
Once clear of the tall grass, he waited until the opportune moment — when one sentry turned the corner just as another approached from the other direction.
For those few precious seconds, the stretch of plains in front of him was in their blindspots and he immediately took off running as fast as he could. After moments of all-out sprinting, he dropped and tucked into a ball, for once grateful of his small size. As planned, he could feel as Grogu’s mind focused and did his best to project an image of a rock to the sentries while Obi-Wan continued to monitor as many minds as he could for discovery. It seemed to work as no alert registered in the sentries’ minds and they continued to patrol. A minute or so later, their routes overlapped again and Obi-Wan got up to dart forward again.
He was lucky that he needed to do this on such a devastated planet with few materials as otherwise a facility like this would certainly have had spotlights in addition to other more high-tech security measures, and a mysteriously moving migratory rock would certainly be noticed.
It was a stressful thirty minutes, but at last, they reached the wall. Obi-Wan paused for a moment to catch his breath against the cool stone and metal. He also helped Grogu out of the front of his tunic to instead perch on his shoulders with clawed fingers delicately gripping his head. After all, he didn’t want to squish the youngling between his body, and the stone and old rusty metal wall. Their grace period was soon up as his mind alerted him that the sentries with the massiff were going to be coming close to the corner that led to their stretch of wall.
So, steeling himself, he jumped up as high as he could before reaching out with the Force and kicking off the wall to get just that little bit higher. At the peak, he jammed his fingers into some cracks, wincing as stone and metal pressed and cut into his hand.
He hummed happily to himself when he noted they’d made it halfway up the wall before freezing once the sentries came around the bend. The massiff began to sniff the air interestedly and Obi-Wan panicked as he realized his palms were bleeding. He could feel its desire to howl an alert rising from it so he let go of his sensing of other minds to coil around the creature's mind instead. He soundlessly whispered reassurances to it: friend, friend, no harm, no harm doing his best not to panic.
However, the massiff didn’t seem to care and time slowed as Obi-Wan sensed it slow with a bark building in its chest. At that moment, he also felt Grogu catch on to what he was doing and then chimed in, passing on messages of non-hostility and friendship with an element of something else. The sort of something he’d normally sense when communing mind to mind with a predator that wanted to eat him...
There was a split second when he thought it wouldn’t work — that it didn’t work — but then the hound decided that he didn’t care enough to deal with them and was more interested in his supper waiting at the end of this rotation. The incident had been only a few seconds but had stretched on for an eternity as the massiff moved on without alerting his handlers. Somehow Obi-Wan was convinced this was more due to Grogu’s effort than his own but was too relieved that the creature was moving along to be offended by that.
Once he was sure they were gone, he began to slowly pull himself up those last few meters to the top and once more reached out with the Force, sensing for the guard rotation again.
With the sun now really and truly set, it was his best time to make it over the walls. Once the sentry closest to him passed him by and he sensed the other across the way — sight in his direction obscured by the walls of the comms building — he put his hands in the crenel on either side of the crooked merlon, then pushed himself up and over; swinging himself onto the palisade.
He landed on his toes in a crouch, as quiet as he could while Grogu continued to cling tightly to his head. After a moment, he moved — scuttling a few metres behind the walking sentry, looking for a good place to get down. After all, just jumping would create too much noise for stealth as they were too high off the ground, and he didn't have enough control (or strength? hard to say, either way he couldn't) to call upon the Force to help soften his fall and remain alert to the minds and emotional status of the beings surrounding him. He was in luck as just a little bit ahead was a set of cargo boxes that had been fashioned into a rudimentary staircase.
Grogu tugged lightly at his hair and called that way, followed by the mental image of a vent cover.
That way? Obi-Wan hesitated and stilled, eyes following the imperiously pointed little finger across the three-metre wide gap to the roof of the comms building. The roof was slightly higher than the level of the palisades but that was clearly not what had caught the youngling’s attention: no, Grogu had spotted a vent that was set up as a dormer, poking out from the roof.
Well, they hadn’t identified a way into the comms building once past the wall so little Grogu’s improvisation was as good as any.
He mentally asked Grogu — Force Leap or Notice-Me-Not? He then slumped a little when the youngling indicated he would power the leap — as he only had practice at projecting an image, not at using a long-term mental suggestion to ignore something. The mental suggestion would also be harder for Grogu to improvise as they would be moving, rather than staying still. It was good logic, even if he would have preferred it being the other way around.
There was no time to question whether the youngling knew how to compensate for his weight and size for a leap: they were on limited time as the far sentry would be rounding the wall soon. They would either need to continue to make their way down or he would have trust that Grogu would be able to do it. Any hesitation in making a leap like that would cost Grogu speed and distance which he’d then have to compensate for.
The leap was the more defined plan, even though it was riskier.
...It would have to do.
He confirmed with Grogu their plan and felt the youngling concentrate, claws prickling at his skin as he gathered the Force around them. Steeling himself, Obi-Wan went back a step before bounding forward the width of the palisade and leaping.
As soon as he was in the air, he projected the best Notice-Me-Not around them both, focusing on keeping the suggestion moving with them. He was relieved when he felt Grogu catch them at the peak of the jump, and preserve their momentum to buoy them the rest of the way.
Obi-Wan’s hands caught on the gutter and held, his legs swinging lightly below him while Grogu then lent his concentration to bolster the Notice-Me-Not. It was stressful to be just hanging there, their entire weight supported by a rain gutter so he wasted no time shuffling hand-over-hand along the edge until they were in front of the dormer vent — one hand leaving bloody handprints behind as they went. Grogu quickly scuttled off his shoulders to the roof to get a better look, then raised both hands and the screws holding the vent in place came out, followed by the cover to float in mid-air.
Not wasting any time, Obi-Wan then did a pull-up and crawled inside before he heard Grogu follow in after him, his little feet softly slapping against the metal of the vent… Obi-Wan was mildly jealous that the young one could easily walk within while he had to slowly leopard crawl. Once all the way inside and no longer needing to focus on the Notice-Me-Not , Obi-Wan reached out with the Force himself to help Grogu replace the vent and put the screws back into place.
Then he slowly slumped forward on his belly to let his aching muscles rest for a moment while thanking the Force for all its help. Considering they were a youngling and almost-still-an-initiate in age, the fact that they had gotten this far without issue was nothing short of Force intervention. He then reached into his belt pouch for a precious bandage wrap and wrapped it around his hand to staunch the bleeding caused by the rusty metal — it was a good thing he had gotten his tetanus vaccination just before coming here.
After a minute, Grogu clambered delicately over him, being careful to not make much noise to then take point and lead their way through the labyrinth of ducts. Together they quietly shuffled through the vents, peeking through grates to try to find the comms room.
As they went, Obi-Wan couldn’t help the panic building low, deep in his stomach. There were so many Elders here. So many Elders with so many blasters! He tried to centre himself — really he did — but the sight of so many weapons (terrible weapons that had been responsible for some of the most traumatizing deaths he’d ever witnessed) combined with the overheard angry gossip and threats made towards the perpetrators who had destroyed their weapons caches… well, he wasn’t exactly surprised when he wasn’t able to breathe his fear fully back into the Force. Little Grogu seemed upset too, his Force signature whirling with stress… It took a moment but Obi-Wan realized that their negative feelings were being compounded by all the hostility surrounding them and by the other’s reaction to it.
When they reached a fork, Obi-Wan made an executive decision that they couldn’t carry on like this and reached out with his mind to tap at Grogu’s shields. Once the youngling had relaxed them a bit, he mentally explained his idea and then coaxed them into a sort of shared meditation. Which, considering he had been a Padawan for only five months, he was pretty proud of managing. Over the next few minutes, they helped soothe each other’s nerves and build stronger shields by overlapping theirs together. It likely wasn’t the best idea to intertwine their signatures and minds like that, but Obi-Wan had no idea how else they could proceed so he was sure it would be fine.
Grogu’s Force signature brushed up against his in a way to indicate laughter, likely catching that last thought. Well, at least one of them had cheered up Obi-Wan thought as they began to move forward once more.
After half an hour, Obi-Wan was certain they had explored almost every centimetre of the place and they had yet to find anything aside from dust mites. Seriously! When was the last time any sentient or droid had cleaned up here? Obi-Wan probably resembled an albino Ewok at this rate given how the dust clung to his clothes. Amusingly Grogu was not faring much better, looking like a baby Iakaru complete with what looked like large eyebrows that were instead dust fluff that followed down his long ears. Obi-Wan suppressed another sneeze as more dust got into his nose, then gave a small sigh when Grogu did sneeze — which he muffled by pressing his face into a somewhat clean spot on Obi-Wan's tunic. Classic youngling manoeuvre — this was why he didn’t like to work with the youngest at the crèche, you ultimately got covered in gross body fluids and craft supplies.
His clothes would have needed a wash regardless but he still couldn’t help but send Grogu a sarcastic “thanks” in the Force.
They continued to shuffle their way through the ductwork, not having much luck to the point Obi-Wan was fairly sure they had gone in a loop. But it was around here somewhere, so they continued on.
Grogu was the one to spot it through one of the vents: a small door — inconsequential looking really, possibly a closet. Likely why they had gone past it the first time without noticing it. This time though, one of the Daan was leaving it, allowing a brief glimpse into the room beyond with its console, camera, and transceiver.
Obi-Wan reached out to the Force once more and asked for its help, sensing the surrounding area for any active minds and once he didn’t find any, he began to unscrew the vent — leaving the bolts and cover to hover midair while they slipped out.
Dropping to the floor caused an amusingly large cloud of dust and dirt to fly in the air around their feet — it looked like no one much bothered to clean the halls either. More the better for them!
Wasting no time, they darted to the doorway across the hall and Obi-Wan palmed the access pad. He was relieved when there was no corresponding beep for keypad password or biometric input — it was to their benefit but it was a bit concerning how lacking their security was internally considering what they had set up outside of the building. Though he supposed with how often it changed hands between the Melida and Daan, it might just be an exercise in frustration to remove the old then set all of those security features again.
They didn’t even wait for the door to fully open before they were moving inside, pushing the door closed behind them. Grogu augmented his small jumps with the Force to go from the floor, to against Obi-Wan’s leg, to on top of a chair, then to the top of the console; in his haste disregarding how rebounding off of Obi-Wan’s leg like that almost caused him to fall.
Though Obi-Wan supposed he couldn’t blame him, if he thought his comm would be welcomed by the Jedi, he would likely be in a rush to speak to them too. To be assured that they were coming and that he would soon be safe.
Obi-Wan couldn’t begrudge Grogu that, so he said nothing as he looked over the console for the correct buttons to set up an off-planet out-of-sector comm.
Once he was sure he had everything set up, he punched in the first four-digit Outer Rim area code numbers that he remembered while he prompted Grogu for the rest. Once all fifteen numbers were in, a small holo of a spinning circle appeared while the call was placed.
Obi-Wan expected it would take a while to connect considering what little he knew. Melida-Daan was in the Cadavine sector which was Outer Rim — much like the Noonian, Ojestor, Mandalore, Meerian, and Weneen sectors that had that comm area code. However, Melida-Daan was on the opposite side of the known galaxy to those sectors — even travelling on the Hydian Way it still took a week to travel between those sectors at best.
Thankfully holo calls were much faster considering they were just signals bouncing off receivers rather than physical matter travelling but Obi-Wan would still be surprised if it connected in under an hour. Though if Grogu’s Mandalorian… parent? Guardian? Friend? It was so hard to say when no name or title was given and all he had to work with were the few images Grogu shared with him… Though they could be lucky if Grogu’s person was in the area, it would be connected much faster.
Feeling awkward staring at the spinning holo, Obi-Wan turned and wandered around the room. There was a small vent at ground level that they would just be able to squeeze into... Huh, it looked like the building had two ventilation circuits: one high and the other at ground level. Which meant that there was possibly a basement then for the building… hmm. Obi-Wan pushed away his curiosity for now — the important thing was that they had another method of escape or at least hiding out if their infiltration was discovered. Whisking a small multi-tool out of his belt, he began to manually unscrew the vent cover — better to get ready for discovery than to do this on the fly and there was no sense asking the Force for help when he was perfectly capable of doing it himself.
With that done, he looked around the rest of the small room. There was a pile of small empty boxes, some unidentifiable odds and ends, empty ration wrappers, and a broom. Nothing really useful. He then wandered to the door and was mildly dismayed to find that there was no lock — this was looking more and more to be just a repurposed closet — but Obi-Wan did find a small access panel and ripped out a few key wires. Trying the access pad, he gave a pleased smirk when it flashed error-red and an unhappy beep. Good, they wouldn’t be snuck up on while placing the call.
He wandered back over to where Grogu was staring intently at the spinning holo and looking absolutely miserable. It had barely been ten minutes, he hoped the youngling wasn’t despairing over the amount of time it was taking to connect — this was sadly not the Inner Core with its super-high-speed comms and close together planets.
As if to prove him wrong, there was a soft ping sound as the comm indicated it had reached its intended receiver and was now waiting for them to pick up. Grogu’s ears perked up from where they had sunk and the youngling leaned forwards as they waited for the comm to fully connect.
“Jaster speaking.” An armoured Mandalorian answered though they appeared distracted as they were looking down for or at something. When they didn’t get a reply, they looked up and at the holo. It was hard to tell considering the helmet, but the other seemed a bit surprised to see them given how they jerked back and then leaned forward. With the closer view, their armour looked rather different from Grogu’s memories — though that could have just been the result of the blue wash of the holo. Had he misdialed?
Just to be sure, Obi-Wan turned to Grogu, “Is this your… dad?”
Grogu pouted and shook his head definitively, ears drooping down once more.
“Sorry for bothering you Mxster,” Obi-Wan said politely, not letting his voice shake despite feeling intimidated by the helmet’s dead stare. “Wrong comm!” Before the other could reply, he leaned over and hung up.
He did not want to be offensive to anyone’s culture but that armour made them scary .
“At least we got a Mandalorian?” He said after letting out the breath he had been holding. He then turned to Grogu and gave a wan smile, trying to be reassuring. “Let’s try again. I’ll dial more carefully.” Setting up the console once more for an off-planet outside-of-sector call, he then pecked out the numbers one by one, like an Endorian tip-yip pecking at seed. Sure that the numbers were correct this time and in the right order, he placed the holo call once more.
They waited with bated breath for another ten minutes, then the holo pinged, then dinged as the call connected.
It was the same Mandalorian.
Hopefully they didn’t mind that Obi-Wan had hung up on them earlier?
“Er… sorry to bother you again Mxster.” Obi-Wan began politely, “My name is Obi-Wan and I’m trying to reach the guardian of this youngling here who indicated that I could reach them at this comm code. Would you happen to know a …” Then he floundered, he didn’t know anything about the Mandalorian they were trying to reach — not their name, their clan, or anything distinguishing. “… a Mando who is missing a green youngling called Grogu?”
Instead of immediately replying, the other reached up and slowly took off their helmet, revealing the man beneath. They were a middle-aged humanoid with flecks of grey in his short black hair, with a square jaw, some scruff, and a nose that had been broken at least once. They looked at them with eyes filled with concern.
“I’m afraid I don’t know anyone missing a foundling by the name of Grogu.” They said calmly, “My name is Jaster Mereel, he/him/his. This happens to be the code of my younger cousin Marea Djarin who is currently away on a mission. To my knowledge, she has not adopted any ad-children recently — I don’t suppose you would be able to tell me the name of Grogu’s guardian?”
“I don’t know.” Obi-Wan admitted, turning to Grogu and asking again, “I don’t suppose you could tell me now?” In answer, Grogu patted his chest twice while he sent him the memory of a fist tapping similarly on a beskar plate and murmuring This is the Way. He turned back to Jaster and admitted with a sigh, “That’s a no… Unless you know someone called ‘the Way’?”
Jaster looked a little curious at the wordless exchange but shook his head, “They’re a traditionalist if they follow the Way — they don’t share their names or faces with any but their closest ali -family.”
Obi-Wan looked at Grogu exasperatedly and commented “You know that makes it infinitely harder to find them and to get you off this hellhole.” Grogu just babbled at him in response, sending him more mental pictures of his… whatever he was to Grogu. With a mental sigh, Obi-Wan kept trying to give more of a description while attempting to recall parts of his Giving Reports module. “Um. He has a set of silver armour and a black cape with a mudhorn insignia on one pauldron. He fights with a spear, flamethrower, some blasters… Grogu I have no idea what those are, some small bird things?… What do you mean they whistle?… That’s not helpful youngling!”
Jaster interrupted, looking bemused by the one-sided banter, “I’m not familiar with any clan who uses a mudhorn as a symbol, but I’ll put word out to my people.”
“Your people?” Obi-Wan asked hesitantly after a moment, an apprehensive feeling swelling in him.
“Yes,” Jaster replied amused, “I’m the Mand’Alor of the Haat’Mandoade — the leader of my faction of Mandalorians.”
“...You’re a King, ” Obi-Wan said faintly, sitting down heavily in the chair as he stared wide-eyed at the comm feed. Panicked, he turned to Grogu and hissed, “We just cold-called a KING! ”
Grogu tapped his hand gently and pushed reassurance at him in the Force, which didn’t reassure him at all considering that he didn’t have a better idea of what was happening than Obi-Wan himself did.
“Young one, you are not looking so good.” Jester gently said after a moment of silence, “Not to be harsh but you look like you are having a rough time. It is hard to be looking after another child when you are still one yourself — even on a planet with plenty. I would be happy to send one of my verde to stay with you until you can find Grogu’s guardian. Where are you?”
Obi-Wan felt his hurt pride swell, he was managing just fine looking after the younglings in his care! Knowing he was reacting childishly, but unable to stop himself, he couldn’t help but retort: “I’m managing just fine! I managed to get an entire crate of bacta and rations for the Young last week! We don’t want any more adults around here!”
Jaster just looked at him calmly, not reacting to the anger in his voice. He waited for Obi-Wan to stop visibly bristling before commenting: “I know well what starvation looks like. You might not want any adults around little one, but it looks like you might need one because you are in over your head.” He paused for a moment, running a stressed hand through his hair before looking at the camera earnestly, “Children are precious to my people and to leave one to suffer is an anathema of what it means to be Mandalorian. I’d soon as give up my armour then allow you to deal with any pain that I could prevent.”
"Adults are decidedly unhelpful here." Obi-Wan commented, looking at him suspiciously, “No adult outsider has tried or managed to do anything to help here before. Why would you be any different?”
Jaster gave him a wry grin, “As I said, children are the future and it is the Mandalorian creed that they are to be protected. Any iota of effort less than that is simply unacceptable.”
“I’m on Melida-Daan,” Obi-Wan replied, chin up and daring, testing the other. “Where war has been fought for a century between the Melida and the Daan, and now an army of their children and I are trying to end it.”
“AN AR-ARMY?!” Jaster spluttered, outrage growing across his features. “An army of children? Fighting against their parents?”
“Dying too,” Obi-Wan said darkly. “Have been now for about five years. And yet no Mandalorians or anyone else has come to protect them or to stop the slaughter.”
“Well. That ends today!” Jaster said cheerfully, in the same tone as the masked serial killer in the holos that Siri loved to watch. “We can’t really…” BOOM.
An enormous explosion rocked the building and interrupted Jaster while also causing dust and debris to fall into the room. Obi-Wan blinked at the holo, confused, dazed with blood running down from his face from where a piece of concrete had struck him.
There was now also incoherent shouting from the other side of the door and, before he could string his thoughts together to react, there’s another, smaller, explosion as the door bursts inwards from the force of a grenade.
He hated having to rely on the youngling but was very grateful that Grogu was with him as the youngling had not been hit in the head with a rock and was not dazed: meaning that they were aware enough to throw a Force shield around them for those few seconds — protecting them from the worst of the flying metal and stone.
“Kriff! It’s some of the Young! They must be working with the Melida!” A voice calls through the dust cloud and the area erupted into blaster fire.
Obi-Wan grabs Grogu and gently throws him towards the vent that he had opened earlier. Then, despite the fact that he was assuredly concussed at this point, he manages to dodge almost all of the bolts with the grace of three months' practice.
The dust cloud was settling but still gave him enough cover to close the distance without the two Daan being aware. A snap kick at the elbow to the one on the left had their blaster pointing skyward, followed by a punch to the abdomen that had them doubling over winded, possibly with cracked ribs. He brought his leg up and then down as hard as he could on their shoulder, breaking their collarbone with an axe kick. The momentum of the kick had them hitting the ground and they didn't get up again.
At this point, the cloud of dust had settled and the other Daan quickly spotted him standing over the body of his unconscious brethren, which caused him to shoot wildly in his panic. Obi-Wan began to dodge once more as best he could and grimaced when he felt a bolt extinguish the life of the unconscious Daan. He would kill if he must, but he preferred to instead severely incapacitate where he could — hence the broken arm, ribs, and collarbone.
What a waste.
With visibility back and the closer distance between them, he had to be infinitely more acrobatic in dodging in order to close the distance with his new opponent. He crouched, sprung up, and bounced off the walls all the while contorting his body to avoid the blasts as best he could.
He could sense Grogu’s presence in the Force as the youngling reached out, and moments later a chunk of concrete fell from the ceiling and almost landed on his opponent.
It was his chance! Not wasting any momentum, he finished his dodge with a back handspring and spun into a tornado kick, feeling the other’s ribs crack under his foot and knocking him down. Obi-Wan picked up the fallen blaster, changed the setting to stun and shot the other before he could get back up. With the immediate threat gone, Obi-Wan’s senses lost their hyperfocus: allowing him to hear shouts in the hall as the fighting came closer. The explosion earlier must have been the Melida attacking again to regain control of the comms centre.
After a moment's hesitation, Obi-Wan shot the comm console a few times. At this point, the Young would be unlikely to ever get back in here, and it would make their efforts meaningless if the Elders were able to contact any arms dealers to replenish their destroyed stockpiles.
He then got down low and squeezed into the vent after Grogu, using the Force to put the cover back into place after him.
"...Was anyone recording that?" Jaster asked, once the firefight was over and the comm line cut due to the blaster fire.
He didn't think the youngling realized that he hadn't ended the call when the explosions started. He was glad they hadn't because the ensuing acrobatics and takedowns were among some of the best he'd seen from an eleven- or twelve-year-old ad. If not actually the best!
Which was concerning for a child who had no business being in a war zone.
He was also concerned though how the child hadn't seemed to register when he took a bolt to the knee or shoulder, nor the one that clipped his arm. He was very concerned that the child seemed just to shrug off a heavily bleeding head wound — this is why we wear karking helmets!
His hadn't been how he'd expected anything to go today. His morning had started out normal enough: arranging for supplies, training, reading reports from his verde who were taking missions off-planet, and then meeting with the allied and sympathetic Clan heads to discuss treaties and trade agreements. It had been in the meeting when his comm sounded — which given his cousin was undercover and this was her contact comm, he would always answer.
Things had rapidly devolved from there.
The only good thing really to come from that call was that now, well, there were no sympathetic clans — only allies. Maybe just temporary ones but allies nonetheless. Allies who were making arrangements for their own scattered verde to make it to Melida/Daan