Obi-Wan was--well, he wouldn't say fond--there was little to be fond about in war--but he found he preferred refugee evacuations, successful ones, to battles. It was something like a balm to the soul to save lives rather than watch them perish. Bittersweet, of course, because so many people had their lives torn apart by war, but they had their lives.
Perhaps that was why Obi-Wan was on the ground, overseeing the evacuation in person rather than keeping abreast from the bridge. Force knew he certainly had enough paperwork to do--Cody would find some way to make him regret it if he made Cody handle it all himself again--when he felt it. A disturbance in the Force.
Head snapping up, Obi-Wan searched the crowd of refugees. It had been very brief, a flash of Light presence as strong as Anakin, if not stronger--but it was gone now. His eyes lit on face after face--a blue-skinned Twi'lek boy tugged along behind his parents, clutching a small, soft blanket; a bearded old man wearing a hooded cloak, keeping it wrapped closely around himself against the chill, the fingers of his cybernetic hand just visible; a trio of Rodians that clutched at each other as they stumbled along. Obi-Wan shook his head. Whatever he had felt, it was gone now.
Anakin walked up, standing at Obi-Wan's left shoulder with his hands braces on his hips. "We're ahead of schedule. For once. Looks like we'll get out of here well before the Sepratists can send their reinforcements."
Obi-Wan felt a shiver settle at the back of his neck, and he sighed even as his eyes drifted over the crowd once more, his eye drawn back to the old man, though he couldn't say why. There was something about how he moved that screamed ‘don't notice me’. "I certainly hope so, Anakin, and that you haven't just jinxed--
The Force flashed a warning, and Obi-Wan spun, saber at the ready as one of the supply tankers blew, the fireball deafening and sending the refugees into a screaming panic. It was chaos in moments as the formerly orderly march became a frantic shove, the people's screams blending with the whining of fighter engines.
"Sithspit," Anakin swore.
"Go," Obi-Wan ordered, and Anakin leapt into the fray. Obi-Wan turned to the trooper next to him, Fives, he thought. "Our priority is the refugees," he yelled. "We need to get them on board."
"Sir!" Fives echoed, and called over more to lay down cover fire even as Obi-Wan did his best to deflect what he could. A canon bolt slipped through, there were simply too many, and the ground behind him exploded, scattering the refugees. More troopers poured from the ship, helping to pick everyone up and get them on board, but the chaos was too great and some refugees began to run from the ship in their confusion, disoriented from the sound and the smoke.
When it happened, the world slowed around Obi-Wan as he saw it all play out--
--the droid fighter, careening and billowing smoke--
--the Twi'lek boy, frozen in its path--
Obi-Wan began to run, but he was too slow, he wouldn't make it and--
--the old man, cloak snapping in the wind and hood blown back from his face, appeared suddenly in front of the boy, hands raised in a gesture that was intimately familiar, and the fighter shuddered, slowed, and glided gracefully over everyone's heads to set down on the far side of the charred remains of the tanker as gently as an initiate playing push-feather in the crèche. For a brief moment, Obi-Wan felt that brilliant presence blazing like binary suns. Obi-Wan watched as the old man crouched before the boy and saw a warm smile crease his eyes as he spoke to the boy. The boy nodded, and the old man lifted him with ease, ticking him on his hip as if he was used to carrying a young humanoid of toddling age. Unable to hold his cloak closed, it fluttered around him, revealing an outfit of all black, the details lost to smoke, and a distinctive glint at the old man's waist--a lightsaber.
The Force screamed in. His attention snapped back to the battle, and his time was lost to the constant rush of defense. Some time later, the firing slowed and then stopped, and Anakin ran from the smoke, a group of troopers on his six. He waved at them to take off.
"That's the last of them!" he called out, and Obi-Wan nodded. They backed towards the ship as the troopers ran up the ramp, jumping up together even as it began to close, and then they were away.
It must have been a local attack, a pocket group that had survived because there was no resistance waiting for them in the skies above the planet, and they were in hyperspace before Obi-Wan and Anakin had made their way to the bridge.
Obi-Wan's crew were very efficient, and he had his status report within minutes.
"Anakin," he said, and jerked his head towards the door, tapping his datapad against his hand. Anakin frowned, but followed.
"Obi-Wan? What's wrong?"
Obi-Wan pursed his lips. "Did you feel it, back on the planet? That presence?"
Anakin frowned, shaking his head, and then paused. "Wait, yeah, now that you mention it. Just a flash, but it was strong." He raised his eyebrows. "Do you know what it was?"
"More than that," Obi-Wan said. "I know who it was--or rather, I know which refugee it was. His identity is rather a mystery."
A sly smile began to curl around the edges of Anakin mouth. "A mystery, huh?"
Obi-Wan felt his own lips curl upward in response. "Indeed. Shall we get to the bottom of this one?"
"After you, Master," Anakin said, and Obi-Wan felt a wave of warm affection for his former Padawan--his best friend and brother. For all their reputation as a dream team, they hadn't actually fought together much in this war--it made too little sense to keep them together when they could do so much apart. It was nice to have him near, for once.
Fives and another clone from the 501st were standing guard on the bay where they had housed the refugees for processing before they were moved into more comfortable quarters. They were to be in space for nearly two weeks, after all. There was no reason to keep them all in the hold like cattle.
"Fives," Obi-Wan said in greeting and Fives snapped to attention.
"There is a man in there, an older man with grey hair and beard, and a metal hand. He was carrying a young Twi'lek boy when they boarded, but I'm not sure if they'd still be together. I need you to bring that man to us in interrogation room Three."
Obi-Wan could feel the question burning behind Five's stern expression, but Five hadn't certified ARC for nothing, and he left to complete his task with nothing more than a crisp "sir."
"Interrogation?" Anakin said. "Isn't that a little harsh?"
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "I saw this man stop and redirect a crashing fighter with the same ease that Master Yoda would lift a flower blossom. I'm not taking any chances until we know exactly who, or what, we're dealing with."
Anakin's shock was clear on his face. "That easy?" He frowned. "I didn't sense any darkness in that presence, but I didn't feel it for long."
"Neither did I," Obi-Wan said. "Which is the other thing." He gestured with the datapad still in his hand, and he and Anakin began to walk to interrogation. "He's shielded his presence completely, and yet did not appear as a void in the Force. We're dealing with someone very well trained, and in this war the fact that he is a stranger is...troubling."
Anakin's brow remained furrowed. "Do you think he was a Sith? A plant or a ploy?"
"I don't know, Anakin. I don't know."
Fives was standing guard outside Interrogation Three, which meant the old man was alone inside. Obi-Wan turned to Anakin. "Why don't you step into the observation room. He may reveal something he wouldn't normally with only myself in the room."
Anakin set his jaw. "If he's as dangerous as we think he could be, you’ll need backup."
Obi-Wan shook his head, holding up his hand to stall any further complaints. "Fives is just outside the door, and you'll be able to see everything. If things truly go south," Obi-Wan shrugged, "go through the glass."
Anakin made a face, showing just what he thought of that. Funny how this was the same Padawan who would jump from a moving hover car would be so against going through a window in an emergency. Still, he turned and entered the observation room, and Obi-Wan palmed his entry to the interrogation room.
The old man had clearly been meditating as he waited, the air in the room was filled with a deep peace Obi-Wan usually only felt in the room of a Thousand Fountains. Yet, when the door opened, the man opened his eyes and watched Obi-Wan enter with open interest. Still, Obi-Wan felt no maliciousness coming from the man, even though his eyes never strayed, barely blinked, as he watched Obi-Wan cross the room and take the seat across the table.
"Well," Obi-Wan said, his manner open and pleasant. He smiled. "I want to start by thanking you for what you did. You saved that boy's life."
The old man blinked, and Obi-Wan noticed that his eyes were very blue, pale like a desert sky, and unfathomably sad.
"Appreciated," the man said, and Obi-Wan was surprised to hear an Outer Rim accent, even one distorted by a voice rough from disuse. The man cleared his throat, and when he spoke again, his voice was a clearer tenor. "Though I don't need thanks for doing what anyone would have done."
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "Redirecting a crashing ship to save a little boy?"
The old man smiled slightly, just the one corner of his mouth. "Caught."
For a moment, Obi-Wan thought the man meant that Obi-Wan had caught him out, but…Obi-Wan tilted his head. "Excuse me?
"I didn't redirect the ship," the old man said. "I caught the ship, and then put it down." He shrugged. "It probably would have been easier to redirect the ship, but instincts--heat of the moment. I just…did.” The old man shrugged, a wry smile apparent in the twist of his beard. "You know how it is."
"Yes," Obi-Wan said, blinking. He had caught the ship? Through their bond, Obi-Wan could feel Anakin's surprise--and doubt. Obi-Wan wasn't sure even Yoda would have be able to accomplish such a feat. Anakin had the power, certainly, but not the focus.
This man carried a lightsaber, ostensibly as one of their Order. Who was he that he had such strength and yet was unknown to the Council and to Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?" He asked, hoping a direct question would yield answers. The old man seemed adept at sidestepping information when asked a bit more deftly. “I’ve never heard of a Master with your level of talent.”
The old man seemed surprised. “If you’ve never heard of one like me, then what good would my name be? You wouldn’t know it.”
Obi-Wan felt a flare of irritation, and quickly squashed it. The old man blinked, as if he hadn’t expected to feel that, and he smiled, sadly. “My name is Luke,” he said, as if a peace offering.
The force trilled in his ear, and Obi-Wan frowned. "Luke what?" He asked, and the old man, this Luke, smiled wryly.
Anakin’s reaction was strong enough that both Obi-Wan and Luke looked towards the opaque window that hid the observation room.
"Where do you come from, Master Skywalker?” Obi-Wan asked. “Who trained you?"
Luke raised his eyebrows, and Obi-Wan could feel the amusement bumping against his senses, along with a deep well of bitter sadness. “I am from Tatooine originally, my first teacher's name was Ben.”
I am here because the Force willed that I be here," Luke said. "I do not know how I came to be here, only that I was sent here for a reason." He sighed, a resigned humor shining on his face. “At least, there had better be a reason.” He turned towards the door as Anakin burst in.
“I’m the only Skywalker in the Order,” Anakin said, his presence blazing. “I know it. I looked!”
Luke spread his hands. “I’m not in the Order,” he said. “Never have been.”
Anakin licked his lips, chewing his bottom lip as he thought. “You’re from Tatooine,” he said at last, slowly. “Did you know a Shmi Skywalker?”
The sadness that lingered around Luke’s eyes deepened. “I never had the opportunity,” he said, and it sounded as if he deeply regretted it. “I”m sorry. Everyone said she was such a lovely woman.”
“She was my mom,” Anakin said, his voice nearly cracking, and he sat down hard on one of the chairs, leaning forward and resting his forehead on his crossed forearms. Obi-Wan lifted his hand, as if to settle it on his back, hesitated, then pulled it back. Not in front of the mysterious man in front of them.
“You said you’re not part of the Order,” Obi-Wan said. “Yet you carry a lightsaber.”
Luke nodded. “I can use it, too,” he said, and he smiled, quick and boyish, and Obi-Wan saw a familiar flash in that smile, someone he knew, but it was gone too quickly. “But I’m assuming that’s not why you bring it up.”
“Only Jedi can legally carry lightsabers,” Anakin said into the table, and Luke looked down at him for a moment. Then, without a word, he simply unhooked his saber and handed it to Obi-Wan hilt first.
Obi-Wan took it, nonplussed. To simply hand over his weapon—a Jedi’s saber was his life! But then Obi-Wan felt the Force resonating through the weapon, and he looked down at it in surprise.
It was a simple design—fairly rudimentary in fact, for all that it had obviously seen many years of hard use. Anakin had built better sabers as a Padawan, when he was replacing his saber every year or so due to how fast he grew. Yet it was solid in a way that echoed back through history.
Obi-Wan placed his hand on Anakin’s forearm, and Anakin drew himself upright, at last. He held out the lightsaber, and Anakin took it, frowning the instant it touched his palm. “This doesn’t have an Ilum crystal,” he said. “What did you use?”
“Tatooine Emerald,” Luke said, and Anakin looked at the lightsaber again, in surprise.
“I didn't know the Emeralds were strong enough,” Anakin said.
“I didn’t have time to wait,” Luke said. “When I built it, access to Ilum was…highly restricted. Even for Jedi.” He shrugged.
“Which you said you are not,” Obi-Wan reminded him.
Luke stared at him, and Obi-Wan blinked. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at him like that, and he could almost hear the echo of Qui-Gon, “…really, Padawan?”
“I said I was not in the Order,” Luke said. “But I am a Jedi.” He didn’t elaborate, but he didn’t need to. The Force sang the truth of what he said.
“What you are is a mystery,” Obi-Wan said. “Luckily, we have two weeks to figure it out.”
Luke grinned. “I certainly hope so.”