Obi-Wan awoke to a pounding headache and the feeling that someone in the galaxy really had it out for him. His body felt bruised and ached all over, undoubtedly resulting from the explosion that had knocked him out. Shackles encircled his wrists and ankles and he felt like he was floating, his body probably suspended in some kind of energy field. The collar around his neck with the suppressor was the most bothersome, cutting him off from the familiar flow of the Force, which was far more worrying than the whole chained up thing.
He was somewhat surprised that he was still alive; holding a Jedi captive was usually more trouble than it was worth. Then again, he wasn’t sure if anyone would come looking for him here on Geonosis. Because of the sudden droid attack Arfour had been unable to relay his message to Anakin on Naboo. Without that piece of information, the Council would have no idea where he even was, making the chance of being rescued equal to zero. And if his captor really was Dooku, as he assumed, escaping would be very difficult – even with outside help.
Better get started on it then, he thought, and opened his eyes.
He was in a round room. Small, dimly glowing lights were embedded in the walls, but the main light came from the field generators above and below him that fed the blue containment field keeping him suspended and immobile. He faced a door, plain grey without any visible control panels, that didn’t look like it was meant to be opened from the inside.
The energy field kept his limbs firmly ensnared but he was still able to move his head, so he strained his neck to see if there was anything else behind him. Nothing. The room was empty except for the generators and him. No guards, no lock mechanism on the door, not even visible cameras keeping a watchful eye on the prisoner occupying the cell.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, willing his body to relax. There was nothing at the moment he could do to get out of this situation, so instead of wasting energy, he let himself sink into a meditative trance. Just shy of sleeping, it would replenish some of the energy he had lost to all the excitement of the last two days. An opportunity for escape would present itself sooner or later. He released his frustration into the Force and calmed his breathing.
Judging how much time passed during meditation was always somewhat tricky, but he was sure that it had been about two hours since his awakening when he noticed a strong presence in the Force approaching. Even though the collar prevented him from drawing energy from it, he could still pick up contrasts in its everlasting movement – and the person walking towards his cell caused ripples that were strong enough to be picked up even by non-Force sensitive individuals.
It had to be Dooku, he realized after a moment. He had never met the man, but he had known his Force signature ever since he had become Qui-Gon’s padawan. Faint traces of it stayed in his master’s signature even after he and the Count had distanced themselves from each other. The door opened and Dooku strode in, dark cloak billowing after him, his posture and gait speaking of determination and power.
“Traitor,” Obi-Wan spat, as Dooku stepped into the circle of light cast by the field generator above him, eyes fixed on his captive.
“Surely there is no need for insults,” Dooku said, faint distaste in his voice even as he kept his words polite. “Though I do apologize for the… unfortunate arrangements. It is merely a security measure.”
“Is it, now?” Obi-Wan asked dryly, arching one eyebrow.
Dooku didn’t rise to the bait, but then, Obi-Wan hadn’t really expected him to.
“You must understand, this is only a temporary confinement,” he said. “I am sure that we can reach an agreement that both of us will find advantageous. Contrary to what you might believe, it is not in my interest to cause you any harm.”
“Well, why would I ever come to such a conclusion, I wonder,” Obi-Wan said. A brief flicker of annoyance, masked too well to ever be detectable in the Force, flashed briefly across Dooku’s face before he regained control.
“You may have noticed that I didn’t let the droid shoot you to bits when I easily could have.”
“And for that you have my everlasting gratitude,” Obi-Wan replied.
“In that case, I would like to exchange it for the opportunity of saying my piece without being interrupted by your oh-so-witty one-liners.”
“Sure. After all, I don’t exactly have anything better to do at the moment.”
Dooku looked like he very much wanted to rebuff that remark, but reigned himself in with visible effort.
“I do realize that I may appear as an… antagonist, of sorts, but I assure you that just because I have left the order behind doesn’t mean I have done the same with the morals I once swore to uphold.” Obi-Wan held back a disbelieving snort. “The Separatist movement is merely a means to an end. Not a pretty one, I am aware of that, but a necessary one nonetheless, to dispose of someone who threatens the peace of the whole galaxy. I do not have the resources or the strength at my disposal to defeat this enemy by myself, and I cannot ask for support from the Senate or the Council.”
“How come?” Obi-Wan asked, making sure to keep his tone indifferent as he watched Dooku pace back and forth in front of him.
“The enemy I am up against—we are up against—has integrated himself deeply into the political system of the Republic. They have a considerable amount of control over the Senate, and by extension, the Jedi Council,” Dooku said, and finally stopped to turn around and look at Obi-Wan. “I believe that there is a Sith Lord sitting on and controlling the Senate.”
Obi-Wan frowned. “That’s not possible. The Council would have noticed their presence.”
“The Dark Side has clouded their vision, my friend,” Dooku said, and Obi-Wan gritted his teeth to keep himself from objecting to the endearment. “Surely you must have noticed by now that the Force doesn’t flow through Coruscant as it used to just a decade ago; the decline of visions and the lack of assistance from the Force itself.”
Begrudgingly, Obi-Wan had to admit that he was right. For a long time, there had been murmurs at the Temple about the Force not feeling the way it used to, and the topic had often been the centre of heated discussions by the Council, but to no avail.
“If you are so sure of it, why haven’t you taken your concerns to the Council?” Obi-Wan finally asked.
“With the level that the Sith has infiltrated the Senate I am sure that he has also contacts inside the Temple, Jedi that work for and inform him. For now, it is important that the Sith Lord not know that I am aware of his existence, or I will find myself in grave danger indeed. Without more information about just how far his network reaches, I don’t know whom I can trust.”
“And yet, you are telling me,” Obi-Wan remarked.
“Ah, but you’re not like any other Jedi, Master Kenobi. After all, it was you who defeated the Sith on Naboo, who I believe had been apprenticed to the one who is currently taking control of the Senate. You were a remarkably powerful Jedi back then, and have only grown in strength ever since.”
“Flattery won’t make me trust you, Dooku,” Obi-Wan said.
“Flattery isn’t my intention—I was merely pointing out facts. You wanted to know why I am giving you all this information and I am telling you: I want you as an ally. Join me, and together we can defeat the Sith.”
Obi-Wan was quiet for a moment, contemplating, as Dooku watched him with hawk-like eyes.
“I still believe you should take your theory to the Council,” he said carefully.
“You don’t believe me then,” Dooku said, faint disappointment colouring his voice.
Obi-Wan inclined his head. “I do not dismiss what you’ve said, but without evidence and while in this position,” he demonstratively wiggled the fingers of his chained hands, “it is hard to show the amount of trust needed to believe you.”
“I understand. I suppose I should have expected nothing less.” Dooku paused for a moment, seemingly considering. “There is something I would like to show you.”
“We will need to move, however, so I ask that you accompany me on the condition that you will not try to escape or cause any harm.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Obi-Wan replied. Unarmed, and without the Force, he wouldn’t stand a chance against Dooku anyway, and they both knew it.
Dooku waved his hand, undoubtedly doing something with the Force that Obi-Wan was unable to sense at the moment, and the containment field generators shut off. The binders around his wrists and ankles unclipped and dropped him down the foot or so he had been floating above the ground. He stumbled a bit as his legs suddenly had to support his weight after being held immobile for so long, but luckily managed to regain his balance without falling flat on his face.
Dooku was watching him intently when Obi-Wan looked up—something that was starting to unnerve him. At Obi-Wan’s raised eyebrow, Dooku produced a pair of cuffs from the folds of his robe and held them out expectantly. Obi-Wan restrained himself from shooting an annoyed glare at Dooku and instead obediently placed his wrists inside the cuffs before they snapped shut. There was a time and place for resistance and now wasn’t it. At least his hands were chained together in front of his body instead of behind.
Another wave, and the door of his cell opened. Dooku motioned for him to step through first, obviously not so naïve as to turn his back to his captive. ‘Distrustful bastard,’ Obi-Wan thought as he stepped outside. Then again, he would have done the same had their places been reversed.
They were flanked by a small squad of battle droids as they stepped outside, Dooku staying at his side as they started to walk down the hallway. Obi-Wan used this opportunity to look around, doing his best to add the new information to what he already knew from his previous visit. He didn’t bother to disguise what he was doing—Dooku would know anyway, so there was no use pretending. They took a lift downwards and reached one of the lower levels where durasteel replaced the rough stone walls. Bright artificial light projectors lit their way instead of the natural sunlight. The Geonosian patrols he had seen on the upper level were substituted with droids – apparently Dooku only trusted the native population so far.
At the end of the hallway Dooku opened a broad door, and they stepped into the room behind it. On first glance there seemed to be nothing special in it: a corner with what appeared to be monitoring equipment, two screens, a control panel and two chairs. What caught Obi-Wan’s attention was the wall opposite to the door, the only thing not made from polished steel like the rest of the room, but a milky white material. Dooku led them to stand right in front of it, then motioned for one of the droids to man the control panel.
With the click of a button, the milky white turned transparent, making it clear that the wall hadn’t been wall at all, but a transparisteel window. It showed what appeared to be a sickbay room, one obviously meant for recovery. There was a small cubicle in one corner containing a ‘fresher and a closed door at the far right side without any apparent opening mechanisms. On the left side was one bed – judging from size and shape, one made for humanoids – and in it, sitting with his back to the headboard, was a man with long, dark grey-streaked hair that covered most of his face from this angle. He was reading a data pad, his pale arms covered in IV and monitoring lines leading back to the equipment at the side of the bed.
Obi-Wan was just about to turn around to Dooku and ask what exactly it was that he wanted to show him, when the man turned to face them, obviously only now having noticed he was being watched.
Obi-Wan froze, stunned disbelief surging through him, reason insisting that this was impossible, but the man in the bed looked exactly like his old master had just before he had died on Naboo. The regal features, piercing blue eyes, aquiline nose, the long hair that usually was pulled back but now fell freely, framing his face.
It was all he could do to cling onto his mental shields, keeping them wrapped as tightly around him as possible to contain the turmoil inside him. Confusion, joy, grief, hope – all swirled together in one big maelstrom. Only the control of the Jedi master in him kept his legs from giving out. He could feel Dooku watching him from the side and while he was sure that at the moment his face was merely a frozen mask of no expression, that alone would be enough to indicate to the former Jedi master just how unsettled he was.
Behind the window he could see Qui-Gon studying him, his intense gaze cataloguing every detail, eyes flitting over the Force collar and handcuffs. But there was no recognition on his face, no indicator that he knew who Obi-Wan was. But then again, why would there be? It had been ten years since they’d last seen each other, and unlike Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan looked quite different from when he had still been a padawan, so it was unlikely that Qui-Gon would be able to recognize him.
If this person really was Qui-Gon, something inside him whispered; the same rational part that kept desperately clamping down on the traitorous hope that continued to flare up within him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dooku wave at the droid, and a flicker went over the window. Qui-Gon’s eyes slid away and it took Obi-Wan a moment to realize that from his side, the window must have returned to its original, opaque state.
It couldn’t be, his mind screamed. Qui-Gon was dead, his body burned, the ashes scattered over the lake of Theed. Logic demanded that whatever was in that room had to be some sort of advanced clone technique, a hologram, a body morphing technology, an obscure Sith spell, anything but his former master in flesh and blood and soul. And yet, he couldn’t help but to let himself hope against hope that the impossible had been made possible. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to have access to the Force right now. Just one moment and he would be able to tell if this apparition was truth or lie.
With effort he tore his eyes away from the window and looked at Dooku. If anything, he had to admit that the man had an excellent poker face. Especially in his current state, he had no way of telling what the man was thinking or feeling.
“What is the meaning of this?” he asked, only by sheer stubbornness keeping his voice from cracking from the emotions whirling inside.
“I wanted to show you why I do not trust the Jedi Order,” Dooku said.
If it weren’t for the handcuffs, Obi-Wan would have crossed his arms at this non-committal answer. At least they kept him from the temptation of punching Dooku in the face.
“Do enlighten me, then,” he retorted.
Dooku raised an eyebrow at the tone of the request, but started speaking.
“Ten years ago, I received a message from the Temple while I was here on Geonosis that my former padawan had died in battle. It took me two hours to get to Naboo, but the Temple had already dispatched two Jedi healers from a nearby outpost who arrived before I did. You weren’t conscious at that time – the healers told me that you had overexerted yourself by attempting to heal Qui-Gon with the Force, but that your efforts had been in vain and my padawan had still died.”
Obi-Wan sceptically tilted his head ever so slightly, but said nothing. It was true that he had fallen unconscious just shortly after the guards arrived at the power station to take him and Qui-Gon’s body. And even that event was mostly hazy in his mind – the attempts to keep Qui-Gon from dying had drained him so much that he hadn’t been able to fight the guards as they took his master from his arms no matter how much he had wanted to.
“The moment I arrived on Naboo I was certain that I had been lied to. Even though we had… drifted apart all that time ago, I still should have been able to feel the remnants of Qui-Gon’s spirit in the Force so shortly after he had supposedly died. So I began to search, thinking it to be some elaborate plot set up by the Darksiders.”
Dooku’s eyes fixed back on the med room before them, his face hardening with what Obi-Wan belatedly recognized as anger.
“I did find him, hidden and locked away not by the Sith, but by the same two Jedi Healers who had just expressed their condolences to me mere hours ago. Yet Qui-Gon was still alive and breathing, although in a deep healing stasis. In hindsight, I think it was your efforts that put him down under enough to keep him tethered to the edge of life. Back then, I was sure that someone was trying to abduct my former padawan without anyone else being the wiser. It was obvious that the Temple healers were involved or even responsible for this, and that there was someone high up in the Temple who had orchestrated it. Without knowing who to trust, I decided to take Qui-Gon back to Geonosis with me since the Geonosians would have the necessary facilities to care for such an injury.”
“And then you decided to keep him prisoner for the next ten years?” Obi-Wan asked sarcastically.
“…And I thank you for your faith in me,” Dooku said. “In fact, I did not. Qui-Gon had been very close to death, and the stasis his body had been encouraged to enter – by you – had been accordingly deep. It took three months, even with bacta, for his body to heal the wound. But even after he was pulled out of the bacta, he didn’t come out of stasis. Neither I nor the Geonosian doctors knew how to treat something like this, and breaking him out forcibly could have killed him. As healing isn’t my speciality, I would have had to contact a Jedi healer, but there were none I could trust. They could have been in league with those I had met on Naboo. So I decided to wait – the stasis was bound to wear off at some point. And it did, three tendays ago.”
“A stasis lasting nearly ten years?” Obi-Wan asked disbelievingly. He wasn’t a healer, but in all his time as Jedi he had never heard of something like that, let alone thought it possible. The longest stasis he had heard of had been for 92 days. Still, it would explain why Qui-Gon didn’t look any older than he remembered him.
“Somewhat unprecedented, I’m sure, but when he survived such an injury it isn’t all that surprising to me anymore,” Dooku said. “He doesn’t know how much time has passed, however. He was very weak when he came out of the stasis and I did not want to impede his healing process.”
Obi-Wan wanted to believe him. He wanted to believe so, so badly that his former Master was alive. But Dooku’s words weren’t enough proof, neither was the sight of the medical room. For his own sake, he couldn’t trust anything Dooku said until he was able to confirm it with his own Force senses. Building up his hopes only to have them shattered again could very well be his undoing. He didn’t want to think what losing Qui-Gon again, even if only in such a way, would do to him.
“Can I speak to him?” Obi-Wan asked, unable to stop himself even when he already knew what the answer would be.
“Not yet,” Dooku answered. “If you do, however, choose to ally yourself with me…”
“Not above using your former padawan as leverage, then,” Obi-Wan said.
“We stand on the brink of a war against a very old and powerful evil, and I am finding myself very short on allies who are actually capable of opposing such an evil. So no, with the situation at hand I am not above something like this,” Dooku said, dark eyes blazing.
Bold words, Obi-Wan thought, but decided not to antagonize his captor further. Dooku was building on the belief that he would do everything in his power to keep Qui-Gon from harm and that he would be very reluctant to leave him behind should he make an escape attempt. Sadly, he wasn’t exactly wrong in his assumptions – but he might have been miscalculating just how far Obi-Wan was willing to let his love for his former master affect his judgement. Something that might work in Obi-Wan’s favour, if he played his cards right. His own emotions were strong, yes, but they would only be harmful to his plans if he let them control him. Let Dooku think he held power over him; being underestimated by the former Jedi master might just give him the advantage he would sorely need if he wanted to escape from this place.
“I will need to think about your proposal before I can make a decision,” he said out loud instead.
“Understandable,” Dooku said. “I will give you three days, then I will demand an answer.”
Not as much as he had hoped for, but better than nothing. He nodded his assent and Dooku turned around towards the door, cape flowing dramatically behind him. Obi-Wan briefly entertained the fantasy of stepping on it just to see him flounder.
He threw one last glance at the window. With his current strategy he could allow himself as much wistfulness as he wanted. Qui-Gon hadn’t moved from his position, eyes still trained on the data pad. Obi-Wan wondered how much he knew about the situation, if he had gotten a similar offer from Dooku, and what his answer had been. Probably not very favourable; their relationship hadn’t been affectionate in the past and this situation wasn’t bound to improve it.
If this really was Qui-Gon, he reminded himself.
With effort he tore his eyes away, only to see Dooku looking at him. Obi-Wan was sure that if he had access to the Force he would be able to feel the self-satisfaction rolling off of the man in waves. For now, he met Dooku’s stare with a carefully constructed, indifferent mask that wasn’t fooling either of them.
“I’ll show you to your rooms,” Dooku said as he stepped through the door, obviously expecting Obi-Wan to follow. ‘Like a pet,’ he thought darkly as he trailed after him.
“Rooms?” he said instead, emphasizing the plural marker. “How generous.”
“Master Kenobi, I wasn’t lying when I said that the previous accommodations were merely due to acute circumstances. As long as you don’t give me reason to think otherwise I will consider you a guest here and as such I am hardly going to keep you in a cell.”
Don’t cause any trouble and I won’t stick you in a containment field again. Lovely.