"You were right. He's heading to his ally's home on Mimban." Master Praethorn's voice chirped over the com. "Just confirmed from security feeds at the space port that he actually got on board."
"It was the most likely choice. Good thing he doesn't know we are aware of his associate."
"Agreed. We might not have been so lucky in narrowing our choices if he hadn't been so sloppy in his desperation. You must have put the fear of the ScoreKeeper in him."
Obi-Wan knew his master was fishing for more details of the encounter he had with the Trandoshan in the Mos Espa bar. But Obi-Wan did not oblige. He was too ashamed and frightened by his actions. There was no need to provide further evidence of his incompetence to his Master. He knew he would have to discuss it at some point, but he was not ready.
When no comment was forthcoming, his Master continued, "The poor kid that booked his flight was found in a supply closet a few moments ago. Iessel slashed his neck. Bled out pretty quickly."
Obi-Wan ignored his Master's comment. He did not need to think about the further devastation being wrought by the Trandoshan. It would only serve to push him further into his guilt. He paused in his search of the room in which Iessel had been hiding for the past two days. While they needed no more information to determine his next destination, additional evidence of his crimes might be recovered from the items he had left behind.
The Trandoshan had left in a hurry and his pads, weapons, and other personal items were still scattered throughout the one room apartment. Despite his escape from Obi-Wan in Mos Espa, Obi-Wan could still sense Iessel's desperation within the four walls. He knew the two Jedi were closing in on him quickly and to be taken prisoner was a fate worse than death for him. He was used to being the hunter, not the hunted.
"How long ago did he leave?" Obi-Wan asked.
"It's only been two hours since he boarded the ship." Praethorn advised. "It'd be best if we follow quickly. I don't want to give him time to prepare any surprises for us. He knows we'll be following."
"Agreed." Obi-Wan responded, already grabbing one of the nearby bags and throwing anything that looked important inside of it. "I can be back to the Deadeye in fifteen minutes. You'll have her ready?"
"You know I will." Praethorn answered. "Remember to remain calm, Padawan. Do not let your emotions lead you. Let the Force be your guide."
"You have prepared me well, Master. I will do my best."
"You always do, young one. I'll see you in a few moments."
Obi-Wan could hear the pride in his Master's voice and he knew the tough, old man was smiling the smile that seemed reserved just for him. One that would have been given from a father to a son. He just wasn't sure if he was as deserving as before.
Obi-Wan had no idea where he would be if not for his Master. He had been packed and prepared to leave the Temple for Bandomeer. A life of farming in the AgriCorps appeared to be his future. But the older Jedi had arrived at his room as he debated whether to say goodbye to his friends or not. He introduced himself and asked Obi-Wan to join him for noon day meal.
He had witnessed Obi-Wan's duel with Bruck Chun and thought Obi-Wan had a lot of drive and determination. But, he had not considered taking him as a padawan at the time. It had been too long since he had done so and he was getting on in age and had not planned on training another. He had had to leave immediately after the tournament on a short, but time-sensitive mission. Upon his return, he was shocked to find that Obi-Wan had not been chosen.
After speaking with Master Yoda about Obi-Wan's plight, he had decided to make the offer to become the young man's Master. He explained to Obi-Wan that he was no longer in his prime, but he was still out there fighting the good fight. "You may have to do most of the heavy lifting, kid. But I will teach you how to let go of your anger. I'll make you a fugitive's worst nightmare, a tactical weapon, and one hell of a detective. With your strength in the force, you may be one of the most valuable Jedi of your time."
"Master," Obi-Wan had responded desperately , "I just appreciate the chance to become a Jedi Knight at all."
Master Praethorn specialized in catching the most violent and dangerous fugitives wanted by the Republic and he would go anywhere to find them. He was also called upon for dignitary protection details. He had taught Obi-Wan everything he knew over the past nine years. But his Master was older now and finding it tougher and tougher to do the job that came so easily to Obi-Wan.
They had discussed Obi-Wan's status just a month ago, Master Praethorn eluding to the fact that their time together would soon be ending and Obi-Wan would be facing his trials.
Obi-wan found it hard to believe that it had only been a month since that conversation. One month. And now he was not so certain he was prepared to undergo the trials. So much had happened in such a short time span. So many things to give him reasons to doubt his abilities and his judgment.
Barrick Iessel had happened.
Obi-Wan threw the last of the personal effects into the bag angrily and took a moment to pause. He breathed deeply, letting his fear, his anger, and his guilt settle upon him. He released the emotions with each exhale, determined to be perfectly calm when the time came to take Iessel into custody. He would need to meditate even more on the journey to Mimban. Though nearly healed from his physical injuries, the emotional trauma of his most recent mission was still overwhelming at times. His master had helped a great deal, insisting on meditating with Obi-Wan to help him face the more dangerous thoughts and feelings stemming from the incident. He wasn't alright, but he was getting there. At least he was still functioning. And his Master judged him healthy enough to continue in their attempts to take Iessel into custody.
After another few deep breaths, he scanned the room once more using the Force to guide his observations. This was not their usual efficiency, but time could not be spared to search further. Near certain that he was leaving nothing important behind, he exited the room and started back for the ship.
The wind had not completely abated since the sandstorm last night and he was pelted with the tiny grains as he opened the door, He angled his face away and squinted his eyes.
Sand, sand, and more sand! He hated sand planets and Tatooine was definitely being scratched off his list of places to visit in the future. It was horribly hot and there was not a crevice in his body that was sand free.
After being caught in the beginning of the storm last night, Obi-Wan was convinced that sand could be added to the list of things that would tempt one to the darkside.
He was still squinting as he rounded the corner of the building and bumped against a robed figure going the opposite way.
"Excuse me." Obi-Wan said politely.
A growl caused Obi-Wan to look up into the hood. He only caught a glance as the man pushed past him rudely, nearly knocking him down in the process.
The face he saw there made him freeze in his tracks. It made his stomach sink and his knees turn weak. It was the same image that had haunted his visions, his nightmares for the past six years. A face a thousand times more dreaded than Barrick Iessel's. The face of the monster who would kill his Master.
A Zabrak with black tattoos.