Obi-Wan rockets to awareness despite never having lost it. It’s a disorienting feeling, all things considered. He knows where he is, he knows where he was. He knows what is going on.
Which is a good thing, he thinks, considering droid ships are currently firing on his starfighter. Still, he barely manages to dodge a missile at the last moment, leading Arfour to squeal indignantly at him.
Perhaps he is more dazed than he thought.
He sinks into the Force, the action alien and familiar. Unsettling that he slips so deep so easily. Strange that even then he still feels too separate, too apart. He lets the ancient energy guide his actions completely while his mind tries to make sense of what, exactly, just happened. He has to, otherwise he is not sure he’ll survive this battle.
He’s not scared of death, it’s an old friend, but dying right now would be… bad. Very bad. He can’t die yet. Or is it again? Either way, definitely not now.
At the edge of his senses he catches the edge of Darkness that outlines the Rupture, a nearly unheard of Force phenomena, nearby. Relatively speaking, of course. He’s left it clicks behind already, but he knows that he passed through it the moment the awareness took hold.
No. Not pass through it. The Rupture came into being around him. And now his mind is torn in two. Past and present. Or is it present and future? Here in battle in the cold recesses of space and there in the-
He’s shocked out of his trance and the split second causes him to nearly collide with a vulture fighter. He pulls up and out of the way, sparks flying as he scrapes the hull. Here and now, Kenobi, he lectures himself. Here and now.
Here and now he’s leading a squadron of clones in a firefight with a droid interceptor. Only a little away from here and a little before now he and the 212th were patrolling trade routes in the mid-rim.
But at the same time, right before the awareness, he was one with the Force. He should still be one with the Force. He hadn’t fought in an actual battle in over twenty years. Not in the conventional sense. No, he had been fighting… fighting… fighting on the planes of the Force itself to stop the Sith from— He and Anakin were protecting the twins from—
Arfour screams and Obi-Wan once more forces his attention back to the fight at hand. A clone’s voice comes over the comm. He can’t be bothered to figure out which is talking to him, too busy fighting off the remembered panic the voice evokes.
“Sir? General Kenobi! Are you all right?”
Obi-Wan forcibly shoves everything from There and Then behind a durasteel wall, anchors himself as tightly as he can in Here and Now. His hold is tenuous, but will last until he can stop and meditate and reorient himself.
“There was a disturbance in the Force.” Lying is not worth the effort at this point. “I’m afraid it’s left me a bit disoriented.” He can’t spare the attention to lie, so half-truths and understatements will have to suffice. He has a battle to win.
Commander Cody greets him when he steps out of his starfighter and onto The Negotiator’s hanger. Obi-Wan had attempted to brace himself in the brief period between the end of the fight and landing, but the discord in his mind is playing havoc on his ability to keep the two sets of yesterdays straight. His attempts at balance are thrown into greater disarray as he breathes in the recycled air of the hanger. Scent is strongly tied to memory and the last time he’d inhaled a spaceship’s air was— when he took off not too long ago—was when he stepped off the Millennium Falcon to sneak past Imperial Stormtroopers. The mundane wars with the maudlin in his head. The maudlin is winning.
As such, he’s wary of seeing the clones face to face, as unfair as it may seem. Cody has been nothing but loyal and true, a good man and a fine soldier these past several months. Obi-Wan is proud to be able to call such a man his second-in-command.
But Cody is also the one who gave— would give— might give the order to fire on Utapau.
“Are you all right, sir?” Cody’s voice holds nothing but concern, yet how many years has it been that even the whisper of a Mandalore colony accent would send a spike of fear through him?
Obi-Wan viciously squashes that reaction now, as well as the fight or flight response that threatens to tense every muscle in his body. Instead he lets his body move on autopilot, disconnecting his thoughts from his actions. If he let his instincts rule him, he’ll start attacking men who have done nothing wrong. And, as he steps in line with the commander, he fears that if he thinks too hard about where he’s at and where he’s going, he’ll end up lost on his own ship.
“Quite all right, Cody,” he lies. “Nothing to worry about.” He can’t bring himself to smile right away, settles instead on that trademark Jedi stoicism. He pushes past Cody as he speaks, hopes the clone fails to notice the minute hesitance.
No such luck.
“Sir?” Cody’s brow furrows ever so slightly as he catches up. Force does his concern feel sincere. “You said there was a disturbance. In the Force. Are you sure you don’t require assistance?”
Oh, Obi-Wan knows he needs help. He feels disconnected and hollow and something is missing.
“It’s nothing a bit of meditation won’t solve,” he says, instead. Cody gives him a Look. And, oh yes. He definitely remembers having discussions with his commander about severity of injuries and leaving med-centers early, and these are recent memories. A genuine, fond smile makes its way across his lips.
…and now Cody looks concerned. A moment too late Obi-Wan realizes that he’s been asked a question.
“Could you repeat that?”
The furrow between Cody’s brows has deepened enough to pull on the scar. “Sir, if you’ve been injured, you really should go to medbay.”
Obi-Wan scoffs internally. As much as he admires them, there is not a damn thing that the medical officers aboard ship can do for him right now. Even Bant wouldn’t be able to help him, provided he could find a conceivable way to explain what happened to begin with.
Externally, he chooses to go with gentle amusement.
“Over mild disorientation? I think they have more pressing concerns right now, Cody. Now what was the question?”
“With all due respect, General Kenobi, inattentiveness during battle is no small matter.” OH, but Cody can be a stubborn one. Good thing he can be as well.
“I agree, but as we are not currently in battle, I’d like the chance to parse what I experienced first, Commander. Now, your question?”
Cody hesitates, but Obi-Wan won’t back down. There’s a niggling feeling in the back of his mind, guidance from the Force that he was deposited at this moment for a reason. He knows he won’t be able to figure out what that reason is if he’s being hovered over by well-meaning but ultimately useless medics and med-droids. So yes, Cody, he knows he’s not well, he hasn’t been in the habit of lying to himself since, well… since he was finally forced to confront the truth about Anakin by—
He feels a hot splash of unJedi-like fear in his stomach and the blood drains, not just from his face, but out of his heart, leaving it a hollow vessel that echoes one word:
No no no no no. No.
For 24 years he has held one Force signature more dear than any other in the galaxy. For 24 years, he has attuned his every sense to the well being of that single being. And now it’s gone. Disappeared as if it never existed.
It has never existed.
In that moment there is no Here and Now. No Then and There. He is not the Jedi General, the Council Master, the Negotiator.
He is simply Ben Kenobi, Wizard of the Jundland Wastes.
And he can’t feel Luke.
Luke was never his to raise, barely his to teach, and yet for over a third of his life, Luke was his everything. His boy. His brother’s son. His greatest pride and joy. His reason to keep living. And now. Now… Here and Now…
The durasteel wall once more slams into place like a thunderclap. Here and Now.
He needs a moment to think. Where he isn’t trying to cover, or lie, or find his footing. He needs a moment where he doesn’t feel like a ghost trying to maneuver a puppet one snapped string away from collapsing.
But that moment is not now. The stoic Jedi mask comes up and he is once more General Kenobi of the 212th. And he needs to reassure his second.
Cody is still gripping Obi-Wan’s shoulder, steadying him. Oh dear, that’s actual fear there and Obi-Wan knows he only has one shot to get out of reporting back to the temple to see the mind-healers. Force, he could use a drink.
“I’m all right Cody. Truly, I appreciate the concern, but this is a Jedi issue, not a health one.” Cody looks like he’s coming to a decision. Obi-Wan knows it’s to contact the council even if he has to wait for Obi-Wan’s back to be turned. Dammit, he needs time. “I will contact the council about the rupture. Tomorrow,” he says, before the clone can suggest heading towards the communications room. Speaking of, where are they heading anyway? The downside of letting the body move on autopilot, he supposes. Though these hallways look familiar, more familiar than most. Had he led Cody to the officers’ quarters?
“Sir,” the clone starts. Hesitates. Goes for it anyway. “Will you at least rest tonight?”
Right. Still need to placate his commander. Force, the war can’t be that far along. Has he already developed that particular reputation as well?
Obi-Wan sighs, rubs the middle of his brow, and sets his shoulders. “The Force in the Rupture was unsettling, Cody. I need to work through what I was shown before I can report it to anyone else. But,” he cuts the clone off, “I assure you, I will be well rested before tomorrow.”
They’ve reached Obi-Wan’s door, and he is glad that it looks like this was the his goal the entire time. Cody does not look placated, but Obi-Wan is certain that the clone will no longer contact the rest of the council as soon as he steps inside and recommend he meet with the mind healers. Yet. As such, the clone salutes again and leaves Obi-Wan to his own devices before heading back to complete his duties.
Upon entering the room, Obi-Wan takes a deep breath and goes about preparations for meditation. Automatic as it is, the routine should help quiet his mind. First he needs to remove his armor. He takes off his chest plate and pauldrons. The movements are as familiar as they always are, yet he can’t help the feeling of disconnect and unease. No matter, that should be taken care of when he connects with the Force.
It’s when he takes off the vambraces and peels off the gloves beneath that he realizes he won’t be meditating anytime soon.
His hands- strong and straight, not pitted by sandstorms or curled by arthritis- are the hands of a young man. He knows this is normal. Knows he shouldn’t be surprised. But the utter feeling of wrongness is overwhelming. What is a body to a ghost? One simply will the appearance of movement and it happens. But this… he curls his fingers in and feels his breath catch when short nails bite into the flesh of his palms. Force, this is real. This is Real.
The durasteel wall crumbles like so much sand, and all the things Obi-Wan has Not Been Thinking About rush in at once.
And Obi-Wan finds himself rushing for the ‘fresher. He needs confirmation. He needs to be elsewhere. He needs water. He knows he should trust the Force, after all eyes can deceive, but he’s only human. Only, against all reasoning, flesh and blood. He clumsily palms open the door and skids to a stop in front of the mirror.
A copper haired young man stares back at him.
“Anakin, what did you do?” he moans, young hands clasping the edges of the sink. His arms shake with the effort to keep him upright.
He glances up again once he steadies them, part of him expecting to see white hair, to see a blue glow. He’d never looked at his reflection as a ghost, never had a reason to, but he remembers Qui-Gon had a definite outline when he’d visit.
He flinches when once again he sees red-gold.
Grasping the sink tighter, he goes back to the breathing exercises of his childhood. Forces calm into lungs launching into hyperactivity and a heart that pounds against his ribs.
Think, Kenobi, think. What do you know?
As he concentrates on the questions answers start coming to him, as if they were only just out of focus, needing little effort to make them clear.
He’s thirty-five. No. Thirty-six. His life-day wasn’t too long ago. He’s a Jedi Master. He’s a general in the Grand Army of the Republic. The Clone Wars have -officially- been going on for about six standard months. Anakin Skywalker has been knighted for five of those. Ahsoka Tano’s been his padawan for nearly three. He’s in his personal quarter on The Negotiator and has been on this particular patrol for the past three weeks. And at the end of this one, he’s expected to report back to Supreme Chancellor Palpa—
His knees collapse beneath him and Obi-Wan barely manages to turn his body towards the toilet before the contents of his stomach can empty onto the floor. The action is so physical, so visceral, it grounds him in a way nothing else has. He’s here. He’s alive.
He’s dry heaving.
Well, he thinks when he finishes, at least I just saved myself an existential crisis.
He takes a moment to simply exist, appreciating how nice and cool the seat feels against his forehead, overly warm and overly crowded as it is. The disconnect is gone. The disorientation dissipating. Mind, body, soul, Force. All are tied together as they should be. And he’s finally able to concentrate on the old knowledge that feels so, so raw.
The Supreme Chancellor is a Sith Lord. The Sith Lord. This entire war is an elaborate trap designed to weaken, undermine, and slaughter the Jedi and all they stand for. And they’re playing right into his hands.
An alert wakes Obi-Wan the next morning. Amazing, he thinks, that he actually managed to get some sleep after all. Cody will be so proud. He sends an acknowledgment of the alert to the bridge with a thought, ending the alarm, and forces himself upright with a luxurious stretch. When was the last time he slept in a bed?
Yesterday. As far as his body’s concerned it was yesterday. Well, maybe the day before yesterday, but not twenty-odd years. Probably the most confusing part of the whole thing, he decides as he begins to get ready for the day, is that he’s not quite sure how to organize all his memories, how to structure his personal timeline. If he could just pick up at the latest-in-time memory, that would be one thing. He’d be a sixty-two year old inhabiting the body of his thirty-six year old self, easy enough. He figures that timeline would look like a loop starting and ending at the point of the Rupture. Then everything past that point would veer off onto a different course as the old, experienced Ben made entirely different choices.
But that’s not right.
The problem is that, in examining his own self last night, he didn’t feel like the old hermit. Not… not entirely. He doesn’t expect aches when he moves. With the barest of effort, he can recall the things that happened a week ago (an update from the Jedi temple. Anakin, Knight Secura, and the others had been found, thank the Force). And he’s just… not as centered. There’s an unsettled undercurrent that is very familiar in his psyche. One that he’s not too keen to examine right now.
The assumption, then, would be that he’s the thirty-six year old Jedi master who experienced a very vivid series of visions. A Jedi who was simply shown, in the span of milliseconds, what the future would be if it continued on this path. That timeline would simply be a straight line.
But that’s not right either.
He’s had visions before. They plagued him as an initiate. No, these are memories. He’s lived (well, existed for) those twenty-odd years. He knows the anguish of finding the Jedi Temple in flames to his bones. He’s intimately familiar with the taste of Tatooine cuisine (and not just what Anakin occasionally forces on him). He turns his face and expects to feel the burn of twin suns and the sting of sand in the wind. None of which are things he’s experienced at thirty-six.
Somehow, he is both the young Jedi Master and the old Jedi Exile, both General Kenobi and Ben the Wizard.
Of course, this is yesterday’s conclusion. The only clear one he was able to reach after he’d finished re-internalizing the knowledge of the Sith Lord’s true identity. Well, that, and that if he has managed to travel to the past, he should probably assume that Sidious at least partially achieved his ends.
Which was just great, he thinks to himself as he retrieves his haphazardly discarded armor. Not only does he have a Sith Lord in the highest office of the Republic, but that Sith Lord has future knowledge and more than enough paranoia to be on the lookout for Jedi who know too much.
I don’t know how this happened, he thinks as an early headache begins. I don’t yet know why. But this is definitely Anakin’s fault.
As he makes his way to the command center, Obi-Wan cannot shake the growing feeling that he needs to be going somewhere. Doing something. The Force, his eternal companion, seems impatient. He finds himself hurrying his steps to match.
However, the pull seems to originate far beyond his ship. Nothing he can do now. Yet he aches to follow it, familiar as it is. The last time he felt a pull this strong was when Luke had wandered into that Tusken ambush.
He spares a moment to feel his grief at the lack of that shining light in the galaxy before releasing it into the Force. If Luke and Leia are meant to be, then he will see them again. And if he is to see them again, his first duty is to prevent the rise of the Empire.
It’s with this resolution firmly in mind that he steps through the door. His concentration is almost immediately shattered, however, by the presences at the other side. There, standing next to the holoprojector, are Master Plo Koon and…
“Ahsoka! I wasn’t expecting to see you so early.” The smile he’s wearing is genuine and gentle, the fond smile of a grandmaster, but inside he’s falling to pieces. Anakin’s beloved padawan. The girl the Jedi order failed so entirely. For a moment he sees her as she will be in only a few years. Rather, as she might be in a few years. How she was the last time he saw her in the flesh, before Anakin’s Fall. He blinks, and returns to the present. Instead of barely healed betrayal and melancholy, he sees the bright, hopeful eyes of a child all too glad to see him.
If seeing Cody was difficult, seeing Ahsoka Tano once more is devastating. He suppresses a shudder at the thought of facing Anakin.
“Master Kenobi,” she bows in greeting, trying and failing to school her face into Jedi stoicism. Ah, yes, they are early in the war, aren’t they?
Memories of might-yet-be’s are shoved behind the wall, along with all the other thoughts not currently useful. Instead, he replies to her bow with one of his own. “Padawan Tano, Master Koon. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Master Kenobi, it is good to see you my friend. If only it could be under better circumstances.”
“Well that’s not ominous at all.” This is all beginning to feel alarmingly familiar. More so than the rest, that is. Something about what’s coming next stuck with him through all the years on Tatooine. What was it?
“Oh nothing too terrible,” the Kel Dorian master says with his characteristic good cheer. “I was simply escorting Little Soka.”
Anakin exacerbated his injuries fighting on Maridun, Obi-Wan thinks, and that isn’t all.
“It would appear that Knight Skywalker caused himself some damage defending Maridun against the Separatists, and has requested that his padawan learn from you while he recovers,” Master Koon begins. “However, circumstances have changed while we were en route. Master Yoda and Master Windu will explain it more in depth, but I shall be relieving you on this patrol.”
The Force surges with impatience around him once more. This is fine, this is right. Obi-Wan is needed elsewhere, so the faster he can go the better.
“I understand. I assume that was the cause for the alert?”
“The Generals are standing by, Sir.” And there’s Cody, ever ready. The clone still looks concerned, but Obi-Wan can’t handle placating everyone when the Force is so very loud. He’ll just have to trust in Cody’s professionalism to keep him quiet until they are out of others’ earshot.
“If you will, Commander.”
The holoprojector buzzes on, the staticky blue images of Jedi Master Mace Windu and Grandmaster Yoda coming to life in the center of the comm. The exchange of greetings is rote, and Obi-Wan spares his attention to study them, his old friends, refamiliarizing himself with features not-yet forgotten. The Force flares a gentle warning. His actions aren’t too noticeable. Nonetheless, someone, not Cody, is paying him close attention.
“I understand I am to be removed from my patrol?” he asks, clasping his arms behind him. Here and Now.
“Yes. Master Koon will take over the rest of the clean up. For you, we have a new mission, an urgent matter that must be addressed right away.” Oh, Mace. Always so straightforward. The Force nudges him to pay attention before he can get unmoored in his disordered memories again. “Over the past several hours we’ve been receiving reports about strange occurrences in the Force, Jedi encountering tears in existence. There is speculation that these waves are originating from Ruptures.”
“Felt, have you, these disturbances in the Force?”
“I… feel a pull, masters. My attention is being driven elsewhere, perhaps to the source of these Ruptures? The Force is quite insistent that there is somewhere else I am meant to be.”
Cody is judging him. The man won’t say anything, but Obi-Wan is blatantly refusing to bring up his own experiences and thus the clone is judging him. Thankfully, for now at least, the Commander is loyal to his General above all others and doesn’t seem likely to say anything. However… oh. Oh dear. While Obi-Wan is a master at shielding, his commander has very little practical experience at this point in time. Both Master Koon and Ahsoka are picking up on the clone’s Obi-Wan centered concern. Well, that could be trouble. Master Koon will want to discuss things, surely, at some point in the future. Well, the Council may have to be brought in sooner rather than later, anyway. Ahsoka on the other hand…
Once more, the Force looks out for Its distractible child and guides his attention to the meeting taking place and away from what-ifs better contemplated in private quarters.
“The source of these disturbances appears to be on the edge of wild space, on the planet Jakku. You are to go, investigate, and report back any anomalies you find. And it must be you, Obi-Wan. The Force is being extraordinarily clear on this.”
“As if calling you there, someone is,” Master Yoda chimes in.
And Obi-Wan remembers this all now, oh so clearly. The Jakku mission had stood out in his memories for so many years, not for any particular happenstance, but rather for how maddeningly uneventful the whole thing had been. Despite being one of the rare cases during the war where the Force was completely clear about who needed to be where and when (“Obi-Wan”, “Jakku”, and “Now”), absolutely nothing had happened. Obi-Wan had been dragged away from an active patrol and sent to the middle of nowhere without a separatist in sight. There was a strong pull, sure, but all he discovered was a weak disturbance in the Force in the middle…of the… desert…
There are no such things as coincidences to a Jedi and there are too many here to count. Desert planets seem to be where everything began, after all. Where everything began multiple times over.
The dry orange dust of Geonosis ushered in the opening salvos of the Clone Wars.
The red canyons of Utapau brought about the death of the Jedi Order and the start of his life in exile.
And it was on Tatooine that Anakin was found, and Luke was raised. It was where the Sith announced their return. It was where Anakin took his first true steps into darkness. It was there that Obi-Wan discovered the secrets of the Force and the path of the Whills. It was where Luke took his first, and final, steps towards becoming a Jedi knight.
Jakku, though, Jakku had been where the Empire chose to stage it’s death throes. Where Luke and Leia and their Captain Solo were right before…
The Force soars with triumph as Obi-Wan’s will fully aligns with Its own. He has to get to Jakku.