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Hey! I’m trying to catch up, desperately… I hope you all don’t hate me for not being faster… :-S

Anyway, this chapter: Obi-Wan reports to his master, to Padme, and to Siri, and then has the luxury of a little rant (partially inspired by Merlin’s famous… or infamous… one in the BBC show.) Enjoy!

[11/2/2013: Changed tagging to reflect current story status; aka, completed.]

Chapter X

                “Master,” Obi-Wan reported, via hologram, “they are gathering an army, as Padawan Tachi said. From what I heard, it is comprised of droids from the foundries of Geonosis as well as clones, from Kamino.” Qui-Gon put his chin on his fist, pensively.

“This is serious news, Obi-Wan.”

“Not the most serious I have, though.” Obi-Wan said. “The Sith do suspect that we have the organization we would need to fight back against them. The Council must be warned. They have to be cautious…”

“Obi-Wan, I will inform the Council. Don’t worry…”

“That is my prerogative,” Obi-Wan quipped, tongue in cheek. They both laughed. Qui-Gon looked hard at his apprentice.

“I should take it that you have a bad feeling about this?”

“Not such a very bad one,” Obi-Wan admitted.

“But a bad feeling, nonetheless.” Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan smiled.

“One more thing. Sidious is going to Naboo in the morning, and I guess that this time that means that I’m going as well. I have a plan to get both Padme and Padawan Tachi out of the palace, if you can smuggle the queen-elect out with you.”

“That won’t be a problem, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon said firmly.

“I’ll meet you in the normal place then, tonight. We may be running late—I don’t know yet. After Padme is out of the palace, can you get her to Naboo? I’ll meet you there.”

“Will do.” Obi-Wan smiled.

“Thank you, Master. Over…”

“Oh, and Obi-Wan.” Qui-Gon said. “May the Force be with you.” Obi-Wan smiled again.

“May the Force be with you, Master. Over and out.” He cut the transmission.

Obi-Wan walked into Padme’s room, carrying her lunch on a tray. She looked up at him and smiled. “And how are you today, milady?” Obi-Wan asked, setting down the tray and scanning the apartment, checking it for bugs as he had the first time he had come into her room.

“Fine, I guess.” Padme replied. “Bored to death, though.”

“I have good news, then,” Obi-Wan said, smiling. “You’re going home tonight.”

Padme leaped from the bed and flung her arms around him, hugging him tight. “Oh, thank you thank you thank you! How are we getting out of the palace? Why tonight? Will you be coming too?” Obi-Wan gasped for breath in her overexcited embrace.

“Just let go of me for a moment and I’ll give you the details! You hug like a full-grown Wookiee.” Padme released him and he sat down, rubbing his bruised ribs. “There’s a system of tunnels leading out of the palace from the hall where we’ve been meeting with Master Qui-Gon. Few people know of their existence, and the Sith are not among that number. How did you think he was getting in and out?” Obi-Wan teased gently. “You’re going tonight because Sidious is headed for Naboo in the morning—the vicious, backstabbing toad—and he won’t be there to hear about your escape and the hunt until it’s too late. Maybe they’ll figure out how to get communications to a ship in hyperspace in our lifetimes, but for now it’s still science fiction. Besides, I’ll have some of my friends cover for you—maybe they won’t even realize you’re gone, if we’re lucky. The moment you’re out of the palace, Master Qui-Gon will take you to Naboo—this is the tricky part—and we’ll spring you on the crowds just as Sidious is making his condolence speech. That way, the Naboo will have a ruler whom Sidious will think twice about messing with in future. He’s too smart to miss the fact that you have leverage with the possibility of blackmail, so he’ll leave you alone.” Padme gasped.

“That’s brilliant!” was all she could find to say. Obi-Wan smiled slightly.

“You don’t live among the worst schemers in the galaxy for twenty-five years without learning something.” he said. “Oh, and I won’t be coming with you—I’m supposed to be attending Sidious, but I’ll slip away from the palace… Speaking of which, can you write out some directions so I can find your home? We’d better make that our rendezvous point and base of operations.” The next several minutes were spent in writing and memorizing directions, with Obi-Wan rapidly committing to memory Theed and its streets.

That night, after dropping Padme with Qui-Gon and repeating last-minute messages and injunctions, Obi-Wan directed his steps back toward the room where he had hidden Siri. He palmed open the door. “Siri?” he called.

The room was empty.

Obi-Wan panicked. Casting about through the room, scanning for any sign of life, he took a step inside.

Instantly, something dropped down from the rafters, tackling him. Obi-Wan struggled, but as he did so his hand came into contact with a thick mane of blond hair. Siri.

Obi-Wan gasped and rolled her weight off of himself. “It’s just me,” he panted, trying to regain his own equilibrium. “Sorry about that, I should have pre-arranged a signal with you.”

“Just knocking would be completely fine,” Siri said, throwing her hair back out of her face. “The Sith haven’t got the brains or the manners to knock, believe me.” Obi-Wan grinned, then turned serious.

“I have a way of getting you safely off-world,” he said.

“Thank goodness,” Siri quipped. “And none too soon. How?”

“Sidious is going to Naboo tomorrow,” Obi-Wan said. “He’s going to take me along with him… There are advantages to being his favorite personal slave, however few they may be.” He favored her with a quick, humor-bright smile. “What he doesn’t know, however, is that you will be on the ship as well, and once safely on Naboo, getting clean away will be relatively easy.” Siri gasped with shock.

“You can’t be serious,” she said, then registered a double take as she saw the determined expression on his face. “Wait, what? You’re planning to smuggle me on a ship with the most powerful Dark Sider in existence? What are you thinking?! He’ll sense my presence!” Obi-Wan leaned forward slightly, earnestly.

“No, he won’t. I can teach you a few shielding techniques that will allow you to hide your presence completely, or alter it if you so choose. I’ve been using them for years, it’s why the Sith never caught on that I’m a fully-trained Jedi. They won’t expect you to be trying to escape on Palpatine’s personal shuttle while he’s on it, which is what makes it so perfect.”

“What makes it so hare-brained, you mean.” Siri pointed out. She sighed. “Are you sure this is going to work?” she demanded.

“Yes,” he replied, perhaps just a bit too quickly. “Of course I am. I wouldn’t do anything to risk your life like this if I wasn’t absolutely sure it would work. Don’t you trust me?”

“Have you ever tried this ruse out before?” she pushed. Obi-Wan sighed.

“Well, no, not exactly. But I have been an undercover operative here for the past twenty-two years, and I wouldn’t be alive today if I made a habit out of being foolhardy.”

“Great,” Siri sighed. “So, basically, we have no idea whether this will really work or not.”

“I don’t do anything without thinking it through, ever,” Obi-Wan insisted. He sighed. “Listen, this is a very busy week for me. I have a full schedule. I have to get one young woman out of the palace already, which is hard enough, and she’s not even in high security holding, in which case it would be difficult but not impossible, I have crossed Sidious several times and was tormented for a few hours, not to mention that I’ve had some very unwelcome attention from two different Sith, and may have inadvertently landed myself on the radar in general due to a fight with a Sith apprentice, and I can not possibly get two women out of the palace without detection, so I must settle for smuggling them out separately, which has the added bonus that if one is recaptured the other may not be. And honestly, this is the best I can do right now. It’s been an insane week for me. You should have turned up another time if you wanted five-star service. It never rains, but it pours,” he sighed, shaking his head. Siri giggled at his tirade.

“From the way you were talking, for a moment there I thought you were someone important,” she laughed. Obi-Wan shook his head at her again.

“This isn’t a joke, Padawan Tachi,” he said, somewhat ruefully. Siri laughed again.

“Oh, really? Then who exactly are you?” she asked. Obi-Wan looked thoughtfully at the ceiling, frowning as he thought it out.

“Well,” he said pensively, “taking everything into account, and all things being equal… I’m the third most influential, second most powerful, and absolutely the most dangerous person on Coruscant.” The laughter died on her lips as she saw his expression.

“You’re serious?” she asked.

“You’d be surprised how many people’s destinies I hold in the palm of my hand. I’m the only thing that stands between them and death or torture. And I am not about to fail them, Padawan Tachi.” His face was stern, almost as if he was speaking a sacred oath. Siri thought for a moment before asking her next question.

“All right… so… what about tomorrow?” she asked.

“I’m afraid you won’t get too sleep much tonight,” Obi-Wan said apologetically. “I’m going to teach you how to cloak your presence tonight, then I need you to get up early tomorrow morning so I can get you aboard Palpatine’s shuttle and well-hidden before anyone else goes on board. Oh… one last thing. I have to ask your permission first, but the shielding technique—it’s one of the more restricted ones. It involves me wiping your memory of myself teaching you; no one is supposed to know who else knows this technique. You’ll remember being taught, but you won’t remember who taught you. I’ll also have to wipe your memory so that you don’t remember me telling you about the technique, either, after the mission is over, and my own memory of teaching you, after submitting a report to the Council so that they’re aware you know it. Neither of us will know that the other knows it. Understand?”

“I guess,” Siri said doubtfully. “You’ll be in my mind?”

“It’s very specific, not like a probe,” Obi-Wan cautioned her. “It’s for your own safety, and mine too, remember.”

“Have you ever done that before?” Siri asked. “Selectively wiped someone’s memory, I mean.” Obi-Wan smiled, half-mischievously.

“Yes, I have actually done that. It’s part of the reason I’m alive today.”

“Oh.” The silence dragged out between them for a long moment, then Obi-Wan took a deep breath.

“Lower your shields. I’m not always good with words, it’ll be easier to just show you.”