Ahem. I’m not terribly sorry about the cliffie – it was lovely fun to write. But I’m going to leave it hanging and go back a week so that everything will tie up nicely later. There’s a fan theory I was going to scream at, but then I realized it’s rescued me from a week of pure agony by making the whole problem academic and cerebral anyway and saving the writing of an impossible H/C workout. Not for a while, of course.
Padawan Threeb? When you’re ready.
I’m not scared, I’m not… it’s odd, but I really am not scared. I’m on a ship with one of the most feared bounty-hunters in the Republic, and I have no way of knowing what he’s going to do next, and no way of contacting my Master if things go badly wrong – but I am not scared. Partly, because Jango has a reputation as an honorable man who never hurts anyone he doesn’t have to. Partly, because his son’s fate rides on his own behavior toward me. Or he thinks it does, which comes to the same thing. I know Boba is as safe as any child anywhere, regardless of what happens to me.
We’re bound for Alderaan. Jango didn’t tell me that, but I’ve made this exact jump before, with Obi-Wan, and I remember the coordinates. Of course, I don’t know why we’re going to Alderaan – time for some snooping.
Later: Okay. There’s a thermic detonator in the hold. About one-eighth cubic meter in size, with a time-lapse switch, not armed yet. There’s a plan of a theater in the shipboard computer, uploaded two days ago. But I don’t know where this particular building is: I’ve only been to Alderaan once, and it certainly wasn’t to go to the theater.
When I asked Jango why we’re going there, he was evasive, and told me he was a free agent, hired by another free agent, to cause a little damage, for reasons he didn’t understand and wasn’t paid to. Now I’m just trying to decide whether I have enough reason to interfere – if he’s going to kill someone, I should, but if that detonator is only meant for a building, I shouldn’t… I wish I could ask Qui-Gon what to do.
Right now, my life depends on the Jedi Order not getting in Jango’s way. But there’s nothing stopping me from acting if I think it’s warranted. I’ll probably die if it comes to that, but I just realized, that’s what freedom means: freedom to sacrifice your life willingly in a good cause, instead of having it taken off you without your consent. The Force gives us life so we can give our lives to others. Rather depressing thought, really.
The comlink is heavy in my pocket. I wonder if this counts as trouble. But I haven’t tried to get through to Qui-Gon yet, and he said if there was trouble, and if I couldn’t contact him, I should call Master Dooku.
And now, I’m scared.
Later: I’m making mission notes, because this is getting complicated and I don’t want to forget anything. Jango said he wanted me to do something for him. Because right now my best chance of getting back to Qui-Gon is for Jango to finish his contract quickly, I said I’d help. He asked me to find when the Aeschylus Theater at Alderaan had scheduled performances over the next week, so he could know when the theater was less likely to have anyone in it. When I gave him the times, he went down to the hold for about half an hour.
After he came back to the cockpit, I made some excuse and went down myself. I found the timer on the detonator had been set to a time when there would be an operatic performance partway into its second act – two days from now. We’ll be at Alderaan in an hour, and I don’t know how to defuse this model detonator in that time. I don’t know where Qui-Gon is; Jango says there are no calls logged to the ship. That does it; I’m contacting Dooku.
Later: So I called. I still remember every word of that conversation. I went back to the hold, because Jango was busy navigating an asteroid field just spinwards of the planet, and wouldn’t be down to look for me for a while. Dooku answered the call after only one ring – I don’t know if that’s good or not.
“Qui-Gon?” he said.
“No,” I replied. “It’s me, Nasriel. It’s a long story, but –” a terrible thought occurred to me. “Have you contracted a hit out at Alderaan?”
“No. Nobody at Alderaan is in my way. Why?”
“Because there’s one going down. I’m on Slave One right now and I don’t have time to tamper with the detonator before we get there, and I can’t call the Temple to interfere because he’ll kill me –”
“Are you, personally and right now, in danger?” Dooku cut in. When I didn’t answer right away, he said firmly, “I’m sending someone to fetch you. Leave this channel open.” I slowly realized that I have just called the leader of the Separatists to stop a mercenary who usually works for the Republic. Why the blue Wild Space would I be worried?
Later: Master Dooku is very quiet. Thinking, I guess.
Slave One was met at the edge of Alderaanian territory by a light shuttle: three droidekas and a Togruta woman a few years older than me. The droidekas held Jango in the companionway, away from any controls, while the Separatist woman asked me to show her where the detonator was and to explain how the timer was set. She was very friendly to me, but couldn’t work out how to defuse the detonator, so she settled for resetting the timer to a time when the theater really would be empty, and shattered the switches so it couldn’t be altered again. She talked the whole time, but I only remember some of what she said.
“You must be more important than you look, kid. All gods know I couldn’t get Lord Tyranus to just snap his fingers and send a squad to get me out of enemy territory. Come on, you come with me, and we’ll leave Fett to carry on with his – modified – Republic mission. Have to let him finish, so his boss doesn’t try recontracting the hit.” She winked. “Though why the Republicans want a theater wrecked I don’t know and don’t care.”
The Togruta made it quite clear to Jango that she had come for me, didn’t know why I was with him at all except that I wasn’t supposed to be, and said he could go on his merry way with no consequences – this once! She hustled me aboard the Sep ship, leaving Jango audibly nervous about the possibility of Qui-Gon killing him when he got to Kamino, but relieved not to have been killed already, and to be allowed to finish his contract. The Separatist agent took me to Korriban – don’t want to go there again – to meet up with Master Dooku.
And now I’m on his ship, making for Nar Haaska on the edge of Hutt Space: nobody goes there, so it’s a quiet place to meet. Master Dooku said he’ll call Qui-Gon when we get there, rather than take me into Republic territory himself. He said there are things he needs to talk to me about, and it’s a comfortably long trip to do that on, and things he needs to talk to Qui-Gon about, and the two categories have very little overlap.
I don’t know, really, what’s going on anymore, so I’ve just been meditating quietly. Something’s wrong with this ship, meditating is like trying to swim through ground-nut butter. I suppose Dooku being all but Sith has something to do with it. Funny, I can’t think of him as being absolutely evil, even after last time we met, when he kept me locked up for weeks on end, as a way of getting Qui-Gon to come and find him.
I can’t wait to see my Master again. A single week seems a long time after all that’s happened.