Chapter 1

It was, of course, in the twilight years of the Old Republic, full of pain and fear, usual enough for a Jedi Master and his Padawan to go missing.  It was rather less usual for them to be in possession of data so sensitive that Senators, roused at midnight with the news, “Jados is missing,” would scramble into their garments and order their men to call the Temple and offer help in the search.  But that was precisely what had happened.  Master Jiron Jados and his Padawan Nasriel Threeb, on the Rim world of Nos Erenyas, had relayed a message through every Jedi stronghold in the Galaxy.  At long last, an anxious Twi’lek boy at Nud Goerl, the tenth link in the delicate chain, got through to the Temple with Master Jados’ news.  Barely a minute later, Master Ki-Adi-Mundi had gone to Yoda.

“They’re lost.  Felt it in the Force: young Threeb trying to get through, scared half to death of something.  Signal just cut off, but she’s not dead, not yet.”

All over the Temple, Jedi and Padawans were wrenched from sleep and ordered into the Great Hall.  Master Windu addressed the assembly, many of whom were still yawning and fuddled with sleep.

“Master Jados has gone missing.  He and young Nasriel Threeb know something important enough that they felt they had to alert the Temple to it immediately.  The Nud Goerl station seems to think this information could end the war if we can get Jados and Threeb back in time.  The signal Master Mundi received ten minutes ago was very weak, but certainly not from Nos Erenyas.  Each ship in the hangars to be manned by one Jedi, one Padawan.  Coordinates of your search areas will be ready in the navcom.  Find and bring back Master Jados and Padawan Threeb, alive if possible.  Dismissed.”

Against the tide of beings headed grimly to the hangars, one Jedi approached Mace Windu.

“I’m going too, of course.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Master Windu looked at his friend concernedly.  “Only if you feel you can, Obi-Wan.  It’s barely two weeks since your return from Zigoola, and all that happened there.  Are you sure you…”

“I’ll be fine.  Would you mind telling the administrators to assign a search area for Master Kenobi?”

One long, anxious week passed before any news came from the search parties.

“Kenobi reporting Word of one Karori, one Saalisan Jedi at Irilyen Braek Going after them.”

The next news was not as positive.

“Kenobi reporting.  Jados is dead.  Threeb’s in terribly bad shape.  Tell Master Che to be ready to take a damaged Padawan.  Should be back late tonight.”

Master Vokara Che, chief healer, immediately seized the transmitter and demanded to know exactly how damaged “damaged” meant.

“Could you ask me an easy one, like, “what are the origins of the Force?” next time?  I don’t know for sure.  Hypothermia certainly: I found Nasriel at Hoth.  She’d lost her cloak and outer tunic somewhere – how do you lose a tunic?  – and was holed up in an ice cave near one of the poles.  No frostbite that she knows of; the girl had the sense to keep moving.  There’s what looks like serious saber damage on the upper part of one arm, and at least heavy bruising.  Too many small cuts and scrapes to tell what’s really wrong.  Just a minute.  Threeb?  Nasriel, wake up.  Sorry, Vokara, she’s not even conscious anymore.”

Had any younglings been awake at three hours after midnight, and had they looked toward the landing bays, they would have been stunned, electrified, and shocked beyond belief to see Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the entire Order, carrying a mysterious bundle wrapped in a cloak toward the portal where Master Vokara Che waited anxiously beside an empty hovergurney.  Had the curious younglings been in the mood to keep watching, they would have seen Master Kenobi lay his burden gently on the hovergurney, and Master Che flip the cloak aside to reveal a thin young Saalisan, her usually blue skin paper-white, and press skilled fingers to the Padawan’s wrist to find a pulse.  Had they stayed longer still, they would have observed Master Che snap orders to her assistant standing in the shadow of the portal, then set off at a near-run toward the medical bay, leaving the assistant to propel the hovergurney after her, leaving Master Kenobi alone in the sparkling lights of a Coruscant nightscape, before he too slipped quietly into the Temple.

***

Master Kenobi paced irritably up and down the medcentre waiting area.  Master Che poked her head around the door from the clinic room.

“Contrary to your apparent belief, Obi-Wan, your behaving like a caged nexu in a bad mood has not helped me reach a diagnosis.”

“But you have reached one nevertheless.”

“Your hypothermia was correct.  Your saber damage is very serious, and your “heavy bruising” is in fact a broken patella, two broken ribs, cracked hip, dislocated shoulder, and fractured humerus.  You forgot to mention the sand-embedded abrasion of half the face and the painfully obvious punctured lung.  You almost spotted the concussion, and completely missed the shock.  Not to worry, not many Jedi do notice that.  All in all, a moderate diagnosis on the fly, Master Kenobi.”

“What do you think happened?”

Vokara sighed.  “Remind me as to the origins of the Force, Obi-Wan?  All the fractures and some of the abrasions point to her having been dropped, probably while unconscious, from a great height onto a cement or transparisteel surface with a thin layer of sand over it.  She hasn’t spent the whole week on Hoth, then.  The concussion could be from that, or from almost anything else.  The saber damage is the most worrying, and suggests a Sith: what Jedi would knowingly do that to another Jedi?”

Obi-Wan replied stiffly, “Bail Organa.  It was necessary.”

Vokara colored slightly.  “I take your point.  But those were rather unusual circumstances.”

“Vokara, I know it goes against all your ethics, but can you wake Nasriel up?  We have to find out what she and Jiron learned.”

It was a scene he would remember forever.  Nasriel gasping for breath enough to speak.  Stopping every few words to cough up blood into the basin Vokara held for her.  His own guilt at inflicting this additional pain on the child – surely, surely it could not be so important it couldn’t wait until Nasriel had had a chance to rest?

“Found…  Dooku’s master.  If you remember?  At Geonosis?  Almost that is…  Master Jados was… going through some papers on…  Corselb.  Saw some letters.  Read…  Written from the Senate, Master Kenobi, it’s a Senator…  Letters mentioned…  Tatooine, so went there… to see if could find Dooku…  Didn’t really want to.  Found something else… with lots of arms and a yellow saber.”

Vokara gasped involuntarily, “Grievous!”  Obi-Wan hushed her.  “Go on, Nasriel.”

“Master Jados… tried to protect me.  I’m a Jedi, Master…  Kenobi.  I can look after… myself.  He died… so slowly.”  Obi-Wan was horrified to see Nasriel’s dark eyes fill with tears that crept down her pale blue cheeks, making her wince as the salt water reached the grazes embedded with grit that obscured her bright green and purple facial markings.

“I thought…  I thought it would never end.  The screaming…  I’ll never forget.  Never forget…”  Nasriel set her teeth and tangibly shoved the memories farther back in her mind, becoming a businesslike Jedi Padawan, so much older than her sixteen summers.  “Name Sidious register?  Grievous… took me to Hoth.  Bargaining chip?  Met Dooku, talked about…  Sidious.  Dooku said to leave me…  Padawans are two a credit.  That’s… what the saber wound is.  To stop me… following them.  Couldn’t’ve anyway.  Stop… stop whispering.  Can hardly… hear myself think.”  The gasping voice died away in a fretful murmur.

Obi-Wan glanced at Vokara, saw the look on her face, and decided to say it anyway.  “Nasriel, can you hear me?”

“Master…  Kenobi?”

“That’s right.  I have to brief the Council on what you’ve just told Master Che and me.  Uh – if you feel you need to talk about what happened on you mission, have Master Che call me, all right?”

“You what?…  I mean, I beg your pardon, Master?”

“For the time being, I may as well be your acting Master.  After all, I found you.”  It was the least he could do to make up for putting her through all the pain and the memories.  Not giving her time to reply, he turned on his heel and strode out of the room.

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About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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