Obi-Wan Kenobi woke up to a pounding headache and a back so stiff he wondered for a moment if he had been imprisoned by Separatists for the third time that month. When he remembered he had hands and discovered that they moved, he used them to roll over onto his back, letting out a sigh of exertion. He carefully opened his eyes and frowned at the ceiling overhead.
Pale, taupe stone and soft ambient light coming from over Obi-Wan’s left shoulder gave him little clue as to where he was and why he couldn’t remember what he was doing before he woke up. The bed underneath him felt comfortable, just soft enough to encourage relaxation but not nearly enough to indulge in a long, indolent nap. There was a blanket tangled up in his legs and now that he was thinking about it, his boots were still on, which was even more curious.
There was something about the ceiling that was terribly familiar.
Obi-Wan inhaled and exhaled steadily before he closed his eyes and reached out with the Force, letting his senses unfurl like the tide of an endless ocean.
Where am I? What is this… place?
His blue-grey eyes flew open and Obi-Wan sat up in a rush, regretting it an instant later when the world spun murderously and the contents of his stomach tried to make an encore appearance.
He closed his eyes and urged the Force to calm the vertigo and nausea waging a war for dominance over his body. Eventually, order was restored and the Jedi master stood up slowly, looking around his room.
In the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
Obi-Wan frowned at the meditation cushions by the window and the small workspace tucked into a corner. There was another chair over to the side of the table and a neat stack of datapads on the shelf above. The bed was tucked against a wall and he found himself absent-mindedly making it, tucking the sheets back into place and fluffing his pillow as he tried to remember how exactly it was that he got home.
The last thing Obi-Wan could remember was a conversation with Anakin about a mission report the younger Jedi was trying to pawn off on his Padawan Learner, Ahsoka Tano. They were in a ship’s hallway and he thought he remembered hearing Admiral Yularen in the background, which would have meant they were on the Reliant.
He remembered his parting words to Anakin as he stepped through a doorway. “Perhaps the Council will have an idea. We will simply have to wait and see. Good night, Anakin.”
“Good night, Obi-Wan,” Anakin had replied before the door shut and that was where the Jedi master’s memory ended.
“Damn,” Obi-Wan muttered, rubbing his temples as he headed towards the door, hoping that nothing had happened between his memory and now. Perhaps it was some kind of bio-neurological weapon used by the Separatists and, if that was the case, he needed to make a report to the Council immediately. He hit the button to open the door and walked out into the hallway.
I hope Anakin and Ahsoka are safe.
A loud, angry groan followed by a foul curse interrupted Obi-Wan’s deep thoughts and he jumped, surprised by the sudden sound. He looked around for the source of the moaning and was startled to discover that he was staring at a black-robed man who was rubbing the back of his neck as he stepped out of a room opposite Obi-Wan’s. He was grousing to himself in Huttese, the harsh, guttural language sounding oddly crisp and erudite coming from the black-garbed figure.
Obi-Wan watched in a kind of horrified awe as the ginger-haired man rolled his head from side to side before he stood up straight, his yellow eyes distant for a minute before they snapped to focus on the Jedi in the doorway.
Blue-grey met corrupted yellow and for a moment, a long, tense moment, neither man said a word to the other. Each Force-wielder held their hand over their lightsaber, waiting for the other to crack and make a move.
The man in black spoke first. “Let me guess. A trick by the Council to tempt me back to the pale gloaming of the Order?”
Obi-Wan kept his expression neutral as he responded. “So then you are a Sith.”
“I am,” the Sith replied with a bow of his head and wicked smile that horrified Obi-Wan with its familiarity. “And can I assume that you are now Master Obi-Wan Kenobi?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “You may, Darth…?”
The Sith chuckled. “Arulas.”
The Jedi smiled, a false, polite expression. “A pleasure, Darth Arulas. And may I assume that you were not born with that name?”
“You may, Master Kenobi,” Darth Arulas grinned, and Obi-Wan watched in barely concealed shock as the Sith lord’s smile mirrored his own, complete with his own damn dimples.
“You know, I’ve always wondered how my life would have been had I followed in Qui-Gon’s officious footsteps. I see now that following the rules and sucking up to Master Windu and Yoda might have paid off.”
Obi-Wan quirked an eyebrow at this man who called himself Arulas but decided to hold his tongue. He was certain that if he could stall for time and keep the Sith Lord occupied, another Jedi would be along and they could bring some reinforcements. Hopefully Master Yoda was on-planet and he could shed some light on the subject.
“As much as I would love to stay for a tour of the holding cells down on level 252,” Arulas sneered, his face twisting into a harsh expression, “I have no intention of waiting around for whatever random Jedi that just happens to pass by. If you will excuse me, Master Kenobi, I have an escape to make.”
Obi-Wan’s blade was out and lit before he had conscious awareness of it. He shook his head once, still smiling politely at the Sith Lord wearing his face. “I’m afraid I must insist. We’ve only just met and it would be terribly rude to leave the party so early.”
A red saber rose to life in Arulas’s left-gloved hand and he narrowed his eyes. “Just like our Master. How disappointing.”
The Jedi Master was going to make a dry and witty retort when he heard the door behind him open and someone step out behind him, muttering and cursing to herself. “Anakin, that is the last time I let you talk me into two bottles of Telladorian liquor…”
Arulas looked up at Obi-Wan who stood still and turned his head just a bit to the side, trying to catch a glance at the woman behind him. The Sith Lord peered around his shoulder and the Jedi could tell by his round eyes that he was in for another shock.
“Excuse me. Please find your own door to stand in front of, young one,” the woman sniffed, her voice crisp and clear with that same polished accent. Obi-Wan felt two hands on his shoulder blades shoving him forward towards the Sith, who deactivated his blade, apparently in shock. “Force but my head hurts.”
Obi-Wan slowly turned around, turning his off as well, Arulas stepping to his side as both men gaped at the woman with faded copper-brown hair that stood in front of them. She rolled her shoulders back as she looked down the hallway and frowned. “This isn’t right. This is the wrong hall.”
“Indeed,” Arulas observed, his voice cool with a faint thread of amusement. Obi-Wan shot him a look and shook his head as he stepped forward.
“Pardon me, my dear, but who are you?” he asked, his blue eyes kind and encouraging, as was his presence in the Force.
The woman blinked at the twins in front of her, one with blue-grey eyes that crinkled at the corners and the other with eyes like sulphur pits on Malastare, corrosive and wrong. She furrowed her brow at them, puzzled as to why they both had moles on their right cheek like she did and the faintest mole on their foreheads. If it weren’t for the hateful eyes and the black clothing of the one, she would have taken them for twins or even clones.
“Your name, my lady?” Arulas practically oozed charm as he bent his head in greeting.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the Jedi woman replied, folding her arm over her chest and giving the two men a good and proper glower. “And who are you?”
The man dressed as a Jedi master let out a sigh and ran a hand down his face, taking a long moment to stroke his beard. “I… I am also called Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is…”
“Darth Arulas,” the Sith replied, stepping forward to take the hand of his female doppelganger, kissing the back of her fingers. “I must say that I am pleased to see how attractive my female form is. Well done, my dear.”
The woman looked from the Jedi Master to the Sith lord, frowning and politely but firmly retaking her hand from Arulas’s grasp. She pursed her lips, held up a hand as if to say something and then shook her head. “No. This is a dream. Or perhaps a hallucination. Either way, I am going back to sleep. Good night.”
And with that decision made, the lady Obi-Wan turned on her heel and marched back into the room that the Jedi master Obi-Wan had emerged from a few minutes ago. The Sith lord looked at his light-side counterpart, holding his gloved hand to his mouth, his eyes narrowed in thought. “I give her five minutes.”
“Five?” the Jedi master echoed. “I’d give her three.”
Two minutes later, she walked back out of the room, looking very concerned and a touch anxious. “That is not my room.”
“Do tell,” Arulas practically purred in amusement. “And whose room is it?”
“Not mine,” she snapped, glaring colbalt fire at the Sith. “What is going on here? Who are you and why are you here? Where is Anakin?”
“I was wondering that myself,” Obi-Wan murmured, turning to look for the door that Darth Arulas had stepped out of only to find that it had disappeared. “That’s odd. It seems your room has vanished, Darth.”
“Perhaps you are unfamiliar with proper ettiquette when addressing a Sith Lord,” Arulas replied with an edge of menace in his voice. “But Darth is a title. Arulas will do fine for now, Obi-Wan.”
“This is so bizarre,” the female Obi-Wan sighed, still not believing what was happening and folding her arms over her chest. “How did we get here?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Arulas answered, reaching out to touch the wall, his hand running over the seamless stone. “Curious. It is as if it never was. What strange Force work is this?”
The three Obi-Wans looked around the hallway, observing the midday light coming from a window at the end of the hallway and the polished stone floors beneath their boots. This part of the Temple was quiet and still but there was the faintest whisper of distant voices from the classrooms and training areas. There were three more rooms next to Obi-Wan’s but they were empty of life. The Force seemed quiet and still, as if dozing in the warm sunlight.
“Assuming this is not a dream,” the lady spoke first, walking towards the window, “How did we all come to be in the same place at the same time?”
Arulas waved one hand with an elegant flourish of sarcasm. “The Force works in mysterious ways?”
“Besides that,” the male Jedi Master sighed, massaging a temple as he followed his female counterpart. “Do you remember anything?”
“I remember drinking too much Telladorian liquor with Anakin and having to haul him to his room by his boots,” female Obi-Wan muttered, trying to stretch out her sore shoulders. “I threw a blanket over him and left him to sleep it off. Then I stepped into the hallway and… I can’t remember anything after that.”
“Troubling,” the male Jedi master observed as the Sith rolled his eyes and muttered something about “typical Jedi”.
Both Jedi turned to look at the Sith, who was lounging against a wall, a predatory smile on his face and his eyes glinting. “What?”
“Anyway,” the lady continued, looking out over Coruscant, “The door closed and that was it. That’s all I remember.”
“We’ll need to speak to the Council,” Obi-Wan said, stroking his beard. “And locate Anakin. That is the last thing I recall as well, parting with Anakin and a door closing. Only I was on the Reliant.”
Arulas let out a groan and rolled his eyes, stepping away from the wall and prowling over to his Jedi twins. “You can do what you like but I am leaving this marble sepulchre. Clearly whatever brought us here is no longer in this place, if it was ever in the Temple to begin with.”
“Maybe if we find Anakin we can… I don’t know,” Obi-Wan pulled her braid over one shoulder and fretted with the end. She looked younger than the male Jedi Master at her side and he put a hand on her shoulder. He imagined that Anakin was still a Padawan at her age, a strong-willed teenager who was really starting to push the limits of her patience. He remembered that time and while he had learned a great many things about Anakin and himself, he did not envy her task.
“He’s fine,” Obi-Wan said, his voice low and warm. “I’m sure he’ll think long and hard about sneaking alcohol into the Temple again.”
His female twin looked up at him puzzled. “What are you talking about?”
Arulas put an arm on the window, throwing a shadow over his gilt-colored eyes. “He means your drunken hoodlum of a Padawan. What would Master Yoda say? Letting the Chosen One drink himself into a stupor! Shocking!”
The woman caught between the Jedi Master and the Sith looked at them both before realization dawned and she let out a short, bright torrent of laughter. “Oh! You think… oh! Aha! He’s not… Anakin was Knighted almost two years ago. We were out celebrating a victory on Akitan III.”
“What?” The Jedi Master asked, looking down at his clearly younger female twin. “But… how is it possible that you are younger than me? How old is Anakin?”
“Now, now, Old Man,” Arulas chuckled, placing his hands on the female Obi-Wan’s shoulders. “If our Little Sister wishes to celebrate a victory with some sweet Telladorian cocktails, who are we to judge? There’s nothing in the Code that forbids it, after all.”
“I am not your Little Sister!” the other Obi-Wan seethed, jerking out from under the Sith Lord’s hands.
Arulas simply smiled and folded his arms over his chest as if very pleased with himself. “Ah, but we can’t all call ourselves Obi-Wan, now can we? And since I already have a name, that leaves you and the Old Man. And I doubt he wants to be called that.”
Both Obi-Wans scowled at Arulas and he let out a pleased snicker. He was going to say something when Little Sister spoke up, her voice brisk and sharp. “Fine. Since our fallen brother lacks the mental capacity to tell us apart, I will spare you the grief of such a label, Obi-Wan.”
She put her hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder and smiled, a charming expression intended to soothe his ruffled feathers and assuage his bruised ego. It was the smile of the Negotiator and Obi-Wan had never been on the receiving end of his own trick before.
He was a little embarrassed at how well it worked but then Little Sister and Arulas were arguing over which Obi-Wan was smarter and he found himself exhausted by their energy. Perhaps he was turning into an Old Man after all.
I’ve certainly been called worse.
“Enough, I said enough!” Obi-Wan barked, inserting himself between the two squabbling Force users. “You are both too loud and will attract attention we cannot afford at this time.”
“Where will we go?” Little Sister asked, looking at her older counterparts. “Shouldn’t we try to find Anakin?”
“That boy is going to be worthless,” Arulas muttered, rolling his eyes. “He’s good for two things, fighting and...”
The other two Obi-Wans pointed their fingers at the Sith Lord and ordered in the same voice, “You hold your tongue, Sith!”
Arulas blinked at this sudden display of carefully controlled anger and made a mental note, hiding a pleased smile behind his gloved hand. But he had to admit he was a little disappointed at how easily manipulated his other selves seemed to be. “My apologies.”
Obi-Wan shook his head and looked back at the copper-haired woman before him. “If nothing else, we need to get him out of here. He is here on borrowed time. Surely someone will sense his presence.”
“There you are, Master Obi-Wan! I’ve been looking all over for you!” A cheerful and far too familiar voice broke through the quiet discussion between the displaced Kenobis.
“Too late,” Little Sister murmured as Darth Arulas stood up stiffly, turning away from the two of them and running a hand over his face. Obi-Wan turned around slowly at the faint nod from the female Jedi master.
He pulled his shoulders back and put his own Negotiator’s smile on, hoping that it was just a starstruck Initiate or some young Padawan who had a message to give him.
The Old Man had no such luck as he smiled down at Ahsoka Tano, her blue eyes as bright as her smile, the silka beads of her Padawan braid swinging in place. She bowed to him and Little Sister. “I finished our mission report. I thought you would want to read it over before I submitted it to the Council.”
Obi-Wan frowned, puzzled. Why would Ahsoka be giving him her mission report?
“Hello there!” Little Sister piped up, her voice cheerful and suddenly much higher than the Old Man or the Sith Lord were expecting, startling the two with its easy charm and grace. “Are you Master Kenobi’s Padawan?”
Ahsoka nodded slowly, looking a little confused. “Yes. For past year now. I’m sorry, Master, I don’t think we’ve met.”
Obi-Wan stood very still as he waited for his female twin to speak.
“I’m Shmi Skywalker,” Little Sister said, bowing to Ahsoka as if she had no idea who the Togruta Padawan was. “I’m the Watchman for the Arkanis Sector.”
Obi-Wan watched Ahsoka’s face for any sign of recognition, wondering what the Force was saying to his counterpart. He hope that Little Sister knew what she was doing because this was most definitely not one of his plans.
Ahsoka mouth dropped and she gasped in surprise. “You’re a Watchman? Really? I’ve never met a Watchman before. Isn’t that a permanent position?”
Little Sister nodded with a smile. “Yes. I’m here to pick up some goods and do a little bit of research in the Archives. There’s only so much sand one person can take.”
Ahsoka laughed and Obi-Wan felt his stomach tighten as the two girls continued to chat about the Archives and Master Nu. He had suddenly realized why his twin had chosen to use Anakin’s mother’s name. It was clear by Ahsoka’s reaction that she was not at all familiar with the Skywalker name and if she was claiming to be his Padawan that could only mean one thing.
In this world, Anakin Skywalker was not a Jedi Knight.