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Back, once again. Sorry about the wait… :-S

This chapter: Some dark flashbacks, mentions of torture, Sidious being… well, Sidious. And we finally get to find out more about Obi-Wan!

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

Chapter XI

                Obi-Wan rose long before dawn, his innate time sense, part of him as deep and ancient as the Force itself, waking him at a good time. It wasn’t hard, after all. He could endure hunger, thirst, exhaustion, pain, all without flinching or complaining. He was used to this. He rarely got tired, or suffered because of a lack of sleep, or was debilitated by malnutrition, for some odd reason. The Force was sustenance enough, somehow.

Quickly dressing, Obi-Wan went down to where Siri was hidden. She was already awake and ready, albeit somewhat sleepy-eyed. Obi-Wan checked her over quickly. “Come on. Shield yourself, and let me take the lead.” Obediently, the sleepy younger Padawan followed. Obi-Wan allowed himself a brief smile. They were making progress.

“I have a question,” Siri remarked as they made their way through the passages of the palace. No one was up yet, and the corridors were empty. “I wasn’t shielding like this before. How come the Sith didn’t sense me and come and find me?”

“I was shielding for both of us,” Obi-Wan replied. “Actually, it’s a bit of a relief to be able to let you take over. I’m used to shielding myself, but not two people.”

“Oh,” Siri replied, somewhat subdued. Or just sleepy. It could be either one.

They found their way to the landing platform without mishap. However, on the edge of it, Siri spotted the two guards and stopped. Obi-Wan shot her a half-exasperated glance and walked boldly forward. He waved his hand in front of the guards’ faces. They didn’t even stir, they just kept staring blankly ahead. Obi-Wan smiled briefly at his companion. “The Force can be a strong influence on the weak-minded,” he quoted impudently. Siri’s mouth dropped open.

“They don’t even realize we’re here?” she gasped. Obi-Wan shook his head.

“No. At the moment, they can only think what I’m thinking for them.” He guided her into the craft and into the hold, where he hid her in a box behind some struts. “After we lift off, you won’t have to worry about a thing. I’ll make sure that whoever sweeps this area—if they even decide to follow protocol at all—doesn’t even realize you’re there.” He nodded briefly to her. “I will knock this time, I promise.” Then he swept out of the hold. A few moments later, Siri felt as if a surge of energy had been released back into her. She had no idea what it was, but at least she didn’t feel so tired now…

Keeping the new shields firmly about her mind, Siri slid into a deep sleep.

Sidious was almost surprised to see Kenobi waiting by the ship with the guards. However, true to form, he obviously hadn’t been able to simply submit to fate. One of the guards was holding him with his hands in a pair of stun cuffs behind his back. Sidious scowled angrily. “What was he up to this time?” The guard shrugged.

“Some cheek about us going to be late if you didn’t hurry up, sir,” he said, keeping his eyes down and speaking dully, as if he had no choice but to say the truth and only hoped that he wouldn’t be killed for saying it. “Saucy son of a varmint can’t keep his mouth shut.” Sidious caressed the darkening bruise on his slave’s un-tattooed cheek, then slapped him, hard. The young man’s eyes steeled into determined gray, staring cold defiance back at his captor, as if to burn the memory of Sidious’ every feature from yellow eyes to cruel mouth onto his mind. Sidous wasn’t used to defiance. This display from young Kenobi fascinated—and troubled him. There was something unsettling, something vaguely disconcerting in Kenobi’s gaze, the wild, untamed gray eyes burning into him, as if to see through to his very soul, pregnant with a promise of whispering peril. But at the same time, the boy was fighting a fight beyond his strength, a futile exercise. He might be bright with potential, but he was untrained and untested. Fully trained, Kenobi might have been a formidable warrior, capable of besting the Dark Lord of the Sith. Perhaps, Kenobi was the only one capable of defeating Sidious. And yet, he couldn’t do it without training. It was almost a pity, Sidious mused, that someone so gifted would have to go untrained. And yet, the bitterness he felt every day in the young man was a sweet taste of revenge against everything Kenobi stood for. In this dark time, ironically enough, this untrained whelp was the only living reminder of the Jedi, the last son of an ancient tradition, spawned after its death, to live on in bitterness and pain in the darkening world with no chance of ever restoring his noble parentage to its rightful place. It was a sweet and intoxicating thing, Sidious mused, to feel the boy’s constant suffering and outrage. And so, he had let Kenobi live, but what an existence… slowly squeezing the life out of him, feeding off of his pain and mental torment, the Dark’s taunt at the staid, stagnant Light, whose servant was being slowly bled out on the sacrificial altar of the Sith and of his own choice. It was one way of trampling the memory of the Jedi, and Sidious intended to trample. This boy, disgustingly noble and spirited as he might be, was only a means to an end, a symbol, dying for what he stood for. Kenobi meant nothing; what he might have been was everything.

“Take him on board,” Sidious snapped, and then walked forward. He heard a gasp of pain from behind him. He didn’t bother to look back. A hitch in the tight breathing, a stoop in the proud shoulders. A whisper of agony echoed in the Force, then there was silence.

Kenobi served breakfast with his usual panache; in short, icy silence. Sidious toyed with the idea of baiting him for a moment, then almost decided against it, then decided in favor. He looked up. “I suppose the white knight is champing at the bit at the moment,” he said. Silence. An almost imperceptible twist in the corner of the mouth. Kenobi stared straight forward, face unreadable. “His lovely lady fair is trapped in the dark tower, and he can not go riding out to save her. Oh no, he’s chained down himself, and about to watch the coronation of the usurper of her throne. What will happen to the sweet damsel in distress, I wonder?” Still no response. Sidious’ icy fingers clawed around the young man’s shoulder, forcing him down. “And what will the brave knight do when he sees her execution in secret and is helpless to stop it?” Horror spiked through the Force. The young man’s eyes snapped with a dangerous glint.

“Monster!” his voice snapped, taut like a whip. And then it failed him completely, and the young man turned and rushed from the room.

Obi-Wan rushed blindly from the cabin, trying to calm himself, but the deep breaths only seemed to bring on more adrenaline. How does he get under my skin like that? I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! Why can’t I just be… Silence. Breathe. Peace. It wasn’t about the words, it was the way Sidious said them. It wasn’t the sneer, it was the thought behind the sneer. Obi-Wan fell back against the wall, closing his eyes, blanking the face out by force. Sidious’ face. The last face he had seen before the huge black phantom hand had reached into his chest and ripped his innocence away from him. His childhood had been short and had ended with Sharya’s death, all those years ago…

Sharya. Sharya. Mother. Beloved mother. Pure-hearted woman and strong comrade, ultimately destroyed by the evil that was the Sith. Obi-Wan’s hand went to the pendant that he still wore, under his tunic. He barely remembered his birth mother. He was an orphan, and the small, white gem was the only connection he had left to his family.

The day after she died, Obi-Wan had been dragged from her room in the palace, sordid and small and completely unworthy of her, forced to his knees in front of Sidious. And there, he had left childhood behind.

He was only three.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes against the memories. The scar under his ribs from the ceremonial blading burned like fire, a phantasmal pain that wasn’t really there. That was the first time.

Obi-Wan forced the memories away. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—think of that now. Obi-Wan had been born with the ability to see the future and past as if they were happening at that moment, but he had espoused with whole-hearted abandon his mentor’s mantra to live in the moment. He might look forward, but only for practical purposes, and only when it was necessary. He had to live in the moment. The past was too painful; the future, too dark. Only in the moment could he put aside the pain. He focused on the Living Force, reaching out to all the corners of the universe. Joy. It was someone’s birthday. Sorrow. The anniversary of a death. Pain. A mother was giving birth. Hope. A child was becoming a man. Light. The other Jedi speckled the surrounding nothingness, like blazing stars. They were all one, they were all united.

Obi-Wan opened his eyes, re-centered. It was moments like these that gave him hope, the strength to go on fighting. He was satisfied in the knowledge of having something worth fighting for.

Quietly, he went back to Siri’s hiding place.

Siri looked up at her… host? as he entered. The thought was somewhat amusing, but he was. He was offering her the best he could, and if that wasn’t all a cup of tea at least it was something better. “We’re en route now,” he informed her, sliding to the ground as if exhausted. Siri couldn’t help but frown in confusion at the resonances in the Force. He wasn’t so much of a presence or entity as a brightening in the undercurrents. He felt oddly vacant in the Force, as if he were not really there—and yet there was the Force-presence, but it did not quite resonate as his. It was as if he was sealed off, blocked from her in some way. Siri frowned thoughtfully. She had an odd memory of his real Force-presence, detached from her other memories, not fitting into the time line, adrift, singular. Finally, Siri plucked up her courage and made the decision to ask her question.

“I’ve been wanting to ask,” she said, “about a couple of things.”

“You can ask,” he replied noncommittally. Siri shook her head.

“I guess you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” she said. “I don’t think I could make you.”

“Wise young lady,” he said sardonically. Siri huffed, but continued, determined to get an answer.

“You feel so… strange… in the Force. Almost as if you’re not there. And your Force-presence… it’s not your Force-presence, almost like it’s an illusion. But I can tell when you’re there, because of the way the Force… well… it swirls around you, and it warms up around you. I don’t know any other way to describe it.”

“You’re right about the Force-presence you can feel not being my real presence.” Obi-Wan said. “It is an illusion that I project. It gives the Sith the idea they can pry into my mind, when they really can’t. As to the Force being warm around me… is that… unusual for a Jedi?”

“Well, not really, but around you it’s a different kind of brightness and warmth. Unique. It’s almost as if you’re a part of the Force, you have a deeper connection…”

“I’ve been drawing on non-stop it for years, I don’t see why that would be strange,” Obi-Wan remarked.

“And then, there was a moment when you had just left the ship. All of a sudden, it felt like I had more energy and I suddenly realized I’d been inexplicably tired and drained up until that moment…” Obi-Wan blushed.

“That was a mistake on my part, and I apologize,” he said. “I was probably subconsciously drawing off of your strength as well as my own in order to distract the guards. I’m so sorry I drew on you without your permission… can you ever forgive me?”

“Of course,” Siri said, puzzled. “How… did you know what it was…”

“Some of the younger Sith apprentices seem to find my presence extremely draining. I had no idea what I was doing, or even that I was doing it, until I accidentally did it to Master Qui-Gon on a mission. I’d never done it to any of my friends, though, and I only did it to Qui-Gon when I was at my own limits, and that’s what tipped him off. Apparently I have an innate ability to draw on other people’s energy and strength when I’m completely exhausted, but after we figured that out, I focused on simply drawing off the Force instead, rather than preying off of other people.” Obi-Wan looked down. “I’m glad Master Qui-Gon found me. If I’d stayed untrained—even if I’d been able to keep to the Light—I would have been a danger to everyone around me.”

“How did you come to be at the Imperial Palace?” Siri asked. “You were joking when you said you were born there, right?”

“I wasn’t joking,” Obi-Wan said softly. “I really was born there.”

“Then how did you come to be trained? And why were you still there?”

“It’s a long story…”

“It’s a long, long way to Naboo,” Siri informed him. Obi-Wan sighed.

“My mother was kidnapped before I was born. Master Jinn, who had been her mentor, came to find her, too late. She… she died. We couldn’t find a way to deactivate my slave transmitter, so Master Jinn would slip into the palace to train me, after dark. Then, we figured out a way to deactivate the transmitter—you’ve heard of ionite, right?”

“Isn’t it one of the most valuable minerals in the galaxy?” Siri asked. Obi-Wan nodded.

“And rendered even more rare and valuable by the fact that it is so dangerous to obtain. It’s found in only a few places, and it carries an electrical charge, neither positive nor negative, but neutral. It makes most types of electronics go dead—the theory is that it creates an anti-magnetic field strong enough to stop electricity from cycling normally. Of course, this is all quantum physics…” Seeing the glassy-eyed look in Siri’s eyes, he took the hint. “Like other electronics, the transmitter deactivates if it comes into too-close proximity with ionite. And once it’s offline, it’s easy to bring it back on with a simple use of the Force. I can’t deactivate it using the Force—it only reacts to the Dark Side for that—but I can use the Light to bring it back on. It’s odd little quirks like that that bring down empires, my friend.” Siri watched him, looking at those odd, changing eyes, now stormy gray like the sea of her homeworld.

“You really have thought everything through, haven’t you?” she asked rhetorically. His solemn gray gaze did not waver.

“Completely. No stone goes unturned.” He fell silent, turning away for a long moment. He sat down on another pile of boxes.

“Do you think there will be… fighting?” Siri asked. Obi-Wan took in a deep breath.

“I hope not. There shouldn’t be, if everything goes as planned.” Another long pause.

“Why was your mother kidnapped?”

“Because she was the true heir to the throne.” Obi-Wan said softly. “Sidious wanted to ensure she’d never be a threat to his power.”

“You’re a prince?” Siri asked, shocked. Obi-Wan whirled on her, his eyes gleaming with a terrible fire.

“No. I have never claimed my birthright, and I do not intend to. I am the heir to a thousand years of oppression, born to be the Prince of Darkness. I would rather stab myself to the heart than claim that throne or hold that scepter. It would change me, twist me into something I have no desire of becoming, and I would no longer be the man who stands before you now.”

“Still…” Siri said. She hesitated again. “Why didn’t you ever… leave? You said yourself that you could have.” Obi-Wan sighed.

“I… I was just needed there, and they decided…”

“The Council ordered you to stay?”

“No, not exactly. It was my decision in the end… And I have never been able to quite say why I stayed.” There was a deep regret in that.

“In the course of your missions, have you… well, what I mean to say is… have you ever… ever taken a life?” This time, the beat was so long that Siri wondered if he had gone to sleep. Then, a soft, almost incomprehensible word.

“Yes.”

There was such pain in that single word that Siri looked up sharply. Obi-Wan had risen to his feet, and she could only see him in profile. His face was impassive and cold and proud, and for a moment she could only see the self-disinherited prince. Then he turned toward her and that guise all melted away. Suddenly, Siri realized that the reason why his eyes were so unusual, so changeable, was because they were so ancient. Even Master Yoda, who had lived for centuries, did not have eyes quite like this. It was almost as if he was seeing through all the various eyes of the very Force itself. “I have killed. Never by choice, but all too often, all the same. Wherever I go, I leave behind death. People die for me, I kill those who might kill me, and I never requite it. Horrible, isn’t it? I’m a monster, a monster wearing a fair guise. How many times have I actually saved lives? Not enough, never enough. I’m a murderer.” Siri’s jaw dropped, horrified.

“That’s guilt talking, not you.” she said. “No real murderer would feel guilt for what they’ve done. Or what they haven’t done.” She fixed him with a stern look. “I don’t believe you’re a monster. You may have Deriaka’s blood, but you aren’t Deriaka.” Obi-Wan sat down, his head in his hands.

“I wish it wasn’t this way,” he said softly, into his hands. “Sometimes, I wish I had never been born.”

“Well, at least I got to meet you,” Siri said. “I’m glad to have known you, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Obi-Wan sighed.

“We have several hours until we get to Naboo,” he said, “and I’ll expect you to spend at least some of it sleeping. I have to attend Sidious…” he made a slight face at that. “After we land, though, I want you to wait until I come for you. I’ll have to accompany Sidious to the palace, then slip away and come back here to pick you up. We’ll head out to meet my Master, and you’ll be a free woman.” He spoke without a quiver of his voice or a single movement to indicate any emotion, but his eyes paled a shade, flickering sadly. The deep self-control he had over himself was not enough to control his eyes. It was deeper, more sincere.

And all in all, it made him more dangerous.

Obi-Wan made a quiet, graceful bow and exited. Siri sighed. She wished that he wasn’t so insanely confusing.

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