War Stories – 1

Ladies and gentlemen… the first products of the reactor.  The Child arc of the Watching Over You AU has survived its foray into M-rating territory, and we are pleased to welcome it back into the garden maze.  For the curious, the first parts of the arc are here and here, but for those who don’t have time…

The Story So Far:

Three-fourths of a year ago, in the course of a mission, sixteen-year-old Padawan Nasriel Threeb was kidnapped from Laerdocia and sold into a peculiarly vile form of slavery.  Although her Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, searched tirelessly for her, it was a Sentinel team that found the missing Padawan, three months ago.  Nasriel was in no state to return to the Temple at that time, being as she was in a certain condition, shall we say, so she stayed with the Altistian Jedi for a couple of months.  The dilemma ended in stillbirth, and Nasriel came home, bearing indelible scars, both mental and physical, from her ordeal.  The relationship and trust between Nasriel and Qui-Gon had been badly damaged, but Obi-Wan Kenobi (of all people!) stepped in as mediator, successfully bringing Master and Padawan back together.  One more crisis entered from stage left, but the pair dealt with it together, further cementing their bond.  Now all is back to normal… not so, I lie!

“… so then, he does this wild kriffing sai cha stroke on this battle droid.  I mean, we’re both standing on the wings of our fighters, ready to go, when these droids show up!  And Obi-Wan cuts a couple down like that doesn’t make sparks, and like there isn’t a total tibanna leak into the hangar –”

“That’s enough, Anakin.”  Obi-Wan speaks up hastily.  “I’m sure the children don’t need to know about that.”

“I was telling Qui-Gon,” Anakin retorts, but stops short of telling the mission-report truth: that they had both dived for their cockpit controls and taken off just in time, afterburners mixing with the edge of the fireball, leaving the droid control ship to explode behind them.

“Oh, we can top that,” Bruck snorts from his chair in the corner.  “Right, Xanatos?”

It is one of the comfortable days, rarer since the war, when the whole family all has a few spare hours in the Temple at the same time.  On such occasions, years of habit dictate that everybody will congregate, seemingly at random, in the main room of the quarters now shared by Tahl, Qui-Gon, and Nasriel.  Today, because of the lack of chairs, and the two Padawans collected since the last family meeting, which took place before the Battle of Geonosis, all of the children including Anakin are sitting on the bare boards of the floor.  Xanatos, in deference to his age, and Bruck and Bant, in deference to their status as Master and Healer respectively, occupy the three chairs.  Qui-Gon and Tahl have – as is right in their own quarters – the ends of the sofa, and Obi-Wan, as the only Council Member present, sits between them.  He offered to join Anakin on the floor, to give one of the girls a better place, but was shouted down.  Anyway, Nasriel at least is perfectly happy where she is, cross-legged on the floor at her Master’s feet.  And Ahsoka has sole possession of a patch of winter sunlight.

“With what, Padawan,” Xanatos enquires wearily, “could we top a two-seconds-to-spare escape from singlehandedly winning the battle for an entire planet?”

“With the Lisarith incident, Master.  That was -”

“There are ladies present,” snaps the dark-haired Master, stabbing his finger toward his former apprentice, emphasizing each word.

Obi-Wan, the “Great Negotiator” – which HoloNet nickname nobody ever allows him to forget – changes the subject before Bruck and Xanatos can embark on yet another of their all-too-common bitter quarrels.  “Nasriel, may I tell about the time you and Qui-Gon came with Ben and me on our first mission together?”

“You may,” Nasriel sighs resignedly.

“Thank you.  We were on a war mission –”

“Oh, yeah?”  Ahsoka interjects, voice colored with a cynical twang that seems oddly misplaced on so young a Padawan.  “What other sort of mission is there?”

Obi-Wan continues serenely.  “On a war mission, at – that’s still classified.  Enough to say that we were on foot, in jungle terrain, with a hundred and fifty kilometers to cover in five days.  I had thought at first that Ben might slow us down –”

“Because I’m the youngest – but not the smallest – and least used to long-haul,” Ben explains.

“Quite.  However, as events transpired, if he had been holding us up I doubt we would have noticed.”

“Nasriel thought like she was so hungry, and ate some poison berries or something and she was totally puking up her guts.”  The irrepressible younger Kenobi takes up the story with gusto.  “And we were really punching it, like so much she had trouble keeping up.”

“What Qui-Gon and I didn’t find out until much later,” Obi-Wan firmly reappropriates the narrative, “was that we had calculated rations assuming Nasriel would, as usual, be able to obtain most of her energy from sunlight.  Which in thick jungle is simply not the case.  However, we reached our objective in time, and the mission was a success.”  What Obi-Wan deliberately neglects to relate is that Nasriel, after struggling for some hours to carry on, fainted, and Qui-Gon, without breaking stride, tossed her pack to Ben, his own to Obi-Wan, and slung his unconscious Padawan over one shoulder, continuing the journey at the same grueling pace as before, though more heavily loaded.  Obi-Wan also does not mention having overheard, on the hyperspace jump home, Qui-Gon delivering the harshest scolding of his entire career.  Nasriel had stood, head bowed, blinking back tears, and accepted the verbal scourging as nothing other than her due.  Presumably there was some sort of reconciliation later, but with these two, it is impossible to be sure.  More likely, they have simply closed the incident as if it had never happened, and carried on as normal.

“Where have you guys been, Bruck?”  Nasriel asks.  Bruck and Xanatos appeared late, and still dusty and travel worn.  “Xan didn’t say anything.”

“Mando Space,” the blond Master answers shortly.  “Tracking down one Jango Fett, who somebody –” glancing meaningfully at Obi-Wan “– had at ‘saber-point during the Geonosis battle, and allowed to walk away.  The man’s dangerous, Bi-An.  And the cloners need him at Kamino.”

“Did you find him?” the Saalisan Padawan asks innocently.

“Oh, finding is easy,” Xanatos smiles, a bitter edge to his relaxed tone.  “Getting him to go anywhere with you… that’s another matter.”  He casually hitches back his sleeve, showing a still-raw blaster burn beneath the scorched fabric.  “So we have expressed huge reluctance to be assigned to this mission again.”

Anakin sighs, and nudges Ahsoka.  “That’ll be us, then – unless the experts call it.  Qui-Gon, you and Sriel are ace at these manhunts; do you want this one?  Because I need to run some upgrades on –”

“We’re still off-roster, but I can ask to be assigned to it.”

“Don’t – don’t volunteer for the mission, Master,” Obi-Wan urges.  “I will explain.  Later.”

Later, much later, when Bant has returned to her duties at the medcenter, insisting Xanatos and Bruck go with her to have their injuries seen to, and Ahsoka and Ben have been ordered home to bed, and Anakin has slipped out, probably to rummage in the lower-level scrap piles for parts, and Tahl has quietly retired for the night, Obi-Wan keeps his word.

“Don’t volunteer for missions as a team for a while.  It’s…  Master Gallia asked me to tell you that you are being watched.”

“By whom, and on whose orders?”

“By half the Temple, on Master Windu’s orders.  The Council – most of the Council – some of the older Council Masters – are concerned.  I mean… you have noticed, haven’t you, that our Sriel sticks to you closer than ever nowadays?  And since Dooku was your Master, and since… in brief, the Council is afraid they may be dealing with a second Komari Vosa.”

“That’s absurd.”

“That’s what I said.  Unfortunately, though we both know Nasriel’s not her usual self just now – she’s only been home a month – and we both know why, I don’t care to betray secrets entrusted to me, so I couldn’t explain.”

“She would have understood if you had.”

“Would she?”  Abruptly, Obi-Wan leans forward to address Nasriel.  “Would you let me tell the Council what happened while you were away?”

“No.  They know I was kidnapped – that’s enough.  Once the Temple rumor mill gets started, who knows what people will say?”

“Exactly.  So you will have to watch your step.  Spend more time with Kijé or your other friends to even things out.”

“I can’t!”  Nasriel springs to her feet, and stands facing them.  “You don’t understand, Bi-An.  I feel safe with Qui-Gon.  And it’s so long since I’ve been safe.”

“Fine.  Fine.”  Turning back to his former Master, Obi-Wan adds, “Still, don’t volunteer for missions.  It could look too much like trying to get time together away from… supervision, if you will.”

“Obi-Wan – oh, sit down, Nasriel.”  Qui-Gon motions for the Padawan to resume her place, and she deliberately misinterprets the silent command, coming to sit on his lap, head pillowed on his shoulder as if sleepy, glaring indignant defiance at Obi-Wan.

The younger Master nods grimly.  “And that, young lady, is what gets you in trouble.”

“In private, it’s harmless,” Qui-Gon defends her.  “Who is saying this, Obi-Wan?  Just you talking to me, or are there others?”

“Master Windu.  Depa,” Obi-Wan enumerates, suddenly reluctant, aware his statements are met with disbelief.  “Master Koon.  Master Yoda.  Master Secura.  And Bruck.  Depa – on behalf of her Master, I suspect – asked the family if we’d noticed anything unusual.  Only Bruck agreed to talk to the Council.”

“Are Ani and Snips in danger too, or just us?”  Nasriel wonders.

“Anakin all but ignores Ahsoka, and if she minds that she doesn’t say so.  Also, he doesn’t have an established pattern to break, in terms of whom he trains.  Qui-Gon does, and he broke it by taking you on.  Ahsoka hasn’t been a Padawan long enough to set a behavioral pattern.  You have, and it’s changed dramatically since you came home.”

“I can’t help that,” the Padawan objects.

“You’ll have to.  It’s that, or explain to the Council exactly what happened – all of it, or close to all – or you two will be broken up.”



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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