Ben Kenobi woke up.
It was still a novel sensation, even after three weeks. He had, perhaps naively, assumed that once he died, waking up would no longer be an option. It was a pleasure that he had not previously paid much attention to. He yawned contentedly, watching the first glimmers of the Coruscant sunrise light up his old room, and ran a hand through the old familiar spikes of the Padawan haircut. He pulled himself out of bed and silently went about getting ready for the day, smiling to himself at the sounds of Qui-Gon Jinn doing the same from the other side of their quarters.
Ben, or rather Obi-Wan these days, idly wondered if he’d ever get used to this again. His body was all of twenty-two years old and the world turned through the warm memories of his senior Padawan days. He’d had to stop himself from startling at the sight of his unwrinkled hands and suppressing pleased grins when his joints did not ache after simple katas. He basked rather indulgently in the sense of all the living beings moving about the Temple; they were a balm to the aching hole in his chest left by the final stroke of the War.
Obi-Wan knew that Qui-Gon suspected something had changed with his Padawan, but the Master never inquired. Obi-Wan could barely remember what his usual behaviours had been in these days and he supposed he was at an age where they might change. He had no idea if the glances Qui-Gon kept throwing his way were present the first time he had lived through this and he just hadn’t noticed.
The two Jedi breakfasted in the usual manner, each seated on either side of their small table with tea and a thick porridge. Neither of them spoke and Obi-Wan fondly remembered being frustrated with his Master’s silence when he was younger. It hadn’t been until late in his apprenticeship that he had realized that Qui-Gon Jinn was not, in fact, a morning person when he was within the confines of the Temple. If there was a mission scheduled, if they were off-planet, or, as Obi-Wan had learned on one memorable morning in his fourteenth year, if his Master had fallen asleep meditating in the Temple gardens, Qui-Gon Jinn would be up and alert at first light without fail. The Jedi Master may have appeared to be awake at the breakfast table, but Obi-Wan knew that he wouldn’t be alert until after his second cup of tea.
It was as they were clearing their dishes back into the kitchen to be washed that Obi-Wan felt a sudden surge in the Force. He frowned and reached out with his senses. It wasn’t a bad feeling - not like the usual ones anyway. Something was about to change and the warning thrummed along the inside of his skin.
“Obi-Wan? Is something wrong?” Qui-Gon asked, taking Obi-Wan’s plate from him to set it in the sink.
“I don’t know,” Obi-Wan said slowly, turning to take in the room. How could things change? He was living his days as he remembered them, but if something were to change, then that would be that this was real. That would mean that for the past three weeks he had actually been living his past life.
The chirp of the comm interrupted, making Obi-Wan jump and pull his mental senses back behind his shields. Qui-Gon put a reassuring hand on his shoulder for a brief moment as he passed by to see to the call. Obi-Wan watched as Qui-Gon picked up a comm from the entryway table and frown in confusion. Obi-Wan tensed as his Master picked up the other comm; he could see the blinking call light from the other side of the room.
“It’s yours,” his Master said, holding out the comm. Obi-Wan didn’t even feel himself move as he crossed the room, took the device, and answered.
“Good morning, Padawan Kenobi. Forgive the intrusion, but there’s been a request to send you a message from Temple Air Control.”
“Oh?” He shared a look with his Master and shook his head in response to Qui-Gon’s inquisitive look.
“Yes. There’s a ship entering Coruscant air space. We can’t identify the make of it. It’s not Republic manufacture, but they’re requesting permission to land in the Temple hangar on one of our frequencies. The transmission is a little garbled, but they said they would only speak to you.”
“That’s curious. Did they identify themselves?”
“Only as 2224.” Obi-Wan felt his entire body go cold and his stomach clench. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Qui-Gon startle at his reaction.
“What’s the message?” he said, in the urgent clipped tones he hadn’t used since the War. There was a pause along the line, the faint sound of static as the speaker addressed another caller, and then the quiet click that released the call from hold status.
“The connection with the ship is experiencing some distortion, so Control’s not sure they’ve got this exactly right. As best we can make out, they said ‘Chips inactive’ and ‘Cadets too… shiny’? Does that mean anything to you?”
“Give them permission to land. I don’t care what Control has to do to get that clearance. Get that ship docked here. Do not let Control redirect them to a public hanger.” Obi-Wan closed the call, stuffing the comm into the pocket in his tunics as he turned to retrieve his boots. He grabbed his lightsaber and hooked it to his belt as he stormed out the apartment.
“Padawan!” Qui-Gon called after him. Obi-Wan slowed his steps slightly to allow his Master to catch up, but he did not stop. He couldn’t have stopped if he had wanted to. There was a sharp tug in his mind pulling him towards the Temple hangars. “What is going on?”
“I don’t think I can explain it, “ Obi-Wan said quietly. “Not yet. Not until I know for sure.”
“Know what, Padawan?” At Obi-Wan’s silence, Qui-Gon sighed. “Control will have to get the Council’s approval to let a non-Republic vessel dock.”
“Then they will have to get the Council’s approval,” Obi-Wan said curtly. They turned into a lift and Obi-Wan jammed the button impatiently. He could barely keep himself from fidgeting.
Obi-Wan could feel the ship approaching as he left the lift into the expanse of the main Temple hangar. The technicians and mechanics moved about their business as usual, but Obi-Wan noted several Jedi stop to turn towards the ship. It was a big, gluttonous-looking thing - a Kaminoan cargo vessel. It’s bulging, rounded shape almost resembled one of the native whales and its gleaming silver-white panelling looked out of place here on Coruscant. Obi-Wan had never seen one venture this far out from the Kamino system and he watched it warily as the great shape of it slowly settled into place.
Obi-Wan kept walking, hand on the hilt of his lightsaber, and stopped to stand in front of the loading ramp. The ramp hissed and sighed as it lowered. Obi-Wan tensed as he heard footsteps and then three figures disembarked. Obi-Wan’s heart ached to see them, but he did not relax and he did not remove his hand from his lightsaber. Qui-Gon’s alarm at this seeped into their bond, despite the Master’s normally tight shielding. Obi-Wan didn’t blame him. His normally level-headed apprentice was ready to draw his saber at the sight of children, but Obi-Wan could still feel the echoes of thousands of lives ending and he would take no chances.
The children stopped at the end of the ramp. Cody stood center forward, small hands steady on the comically large blaster rifle. He planted himself with feet shoulder-width apart, braced and ready for whatever happened next with experience that betrayed his true age. Obi-Wan guessed his physical maturity was about that of a natural-born-human six year old. To Cody’s right stooped the small form of 99, who kept looking around nervously, and to Cody’s left was the smaller figure of Rex, who did not break formation even though he was shivering.
“Commander.” Obi-Wan’s voice was rough, his throat tight with his jumbled emotions.
“General.” Cody sounded relieved.
“Is it just you who remembers?” Obi-Wan interrupted, silencing a shocked Qui-Gon with a glare. Cody shrugged.
“So far,” he said, “But most of my brothers are still in tubes. We were the early batches.” Cody paused, looking uncertainly around at the crowd that had started gathering.
“Go on, Cody,” Obi-Wan said. “I need to know.”
“Chips don’t work on cadets. I pulled the data myself. Back ups are in the ship with everything we need to start the procedures. We cleared the bastards out and wiped everything. Scrambled the sequencers, so they can’t even use Fett’s DNA until they either rewrite the code or get a whole rash of new equipment. If they fulfil the order as contracted, they have to start fresh. That’ll buy us some time.”
“And the others?”
Cody jerked a thumb over his shoulder. Obi-Wan lowered his shields and brushed against the Force’s presence within the cargo ship. Hundreds of tiny lives, some no brighter than an ember, huddled inside the bulky ship’s mass.
“I wouldn’t have come unless I knew everyone would be safe, General. I’m not gonna let any of it happen again.”