What did I say? I said no posts until New Year.
It’s January 1st over here. Happy kriffing New Year.
Obi-Wan’s Padawan, Ben, is waiting for them on the landing platform, twisted into lotus position and scowling as if he has been there a long time. The instant Qui-Gon appears in Morningstar’s hatch, the boy is on his feet, storming toward the ship.
“What kept you?” he demands, voice ragged-edged in frustration. “I’ve been out here waiting for you guys since Master Obi-Wan first called you.”
That was fifteen hours ago. As a period of enforced inactivity and meditation, fifteen hours is nothing: Qui-Gon and Nasriel have often gone forty and more, on long journeys. Ben has forgotten to whom he is speaking; one does not simply sass Qui-Gon Jinn and expect to get away with it.
“A useful lesson in patience,” the Master admonishes coolly, and his Padawan’s Padawan subsides, running one hand backwards through his hair and looking eerily like Obi-Wan did at that age.
“Would you come with me, please, Master Jinn?” Ben asks, suddenly polite and mindful. “Master Obi-Wan wants to speak with you as soon as possible.”
Nasriel slips past them, to join Kijé Yenseh and Sima Orezna, who wave to her from the Temple doorway. By the look of things, the two Padawans have been waiting even longer than Ben – and Qui-Gon does not like to think how much trouble these two will get into for their vigil.
“Half an hour,” he calls to Nasriel, “then you meet me at Obi-Wan’s.”
“ThankyouMaster!” his Padawan yells back as the trio disappear into the Temple.
Ben has used his Master’s Council override to keep one of the lift-tubes locked all night, and while this will no doubt have inconvenienced many of the Temple’s denizens, it does allow him and Qui-Gon to reach the Kenobi quarters in two minutes flat, rather than the usual ten. Oddly, Anakin opens the door – he’s supposed to be away until the middle of next week – and jerks his head impatiently back, a brusque invitation to enter. Obi-Wan appears from his room, voice-only comm in hand, apparently midway through a conversation, but the deep worry lines etched in his face lighten at the sight of his former Master.
Turning away again, “I’m sorry, Bail. I understand how you must feel,” Obi-Wan says, continuing the comlink exchange. He visibly winces at the Senator’s vehement reply.
“No, Master Kenobi, you don’t understand how I feel at all. If you ever got off your Jedi pedestal long enough to love someone, love them so much that without them life is nothing to you, and they are murdered, only then will you understand how I feel.” Bail Organa shuts off the channel before Obi-Wan can reply, leaving the Councilor ashen.
“I have, blast you,” he hisses at the deactivated comlink, before regaining his composure and turning to Qui-Gon. “Master, the Aeschylus Theater at Alderaan was bombed the night before last. Breha Organa was there for an unscheduled performance that the opera company pulled together in honor of her birthday, so she and about a dozen of Alderaan’s most influential nobles are dead. Preliminary reports suggest the attack matches Jango Fett’s modus operandi, and as you were most recently with him, I hoped you might know what was going on.”
“Get Nasriel in here,” Qui-Gon orders Anakin, who hovers near the door. He doesn’t particularly care how, so long as it happens quickly – in the end, Anakin calls Madame Nu in the Archives, who calls Kijé, who accompanies the stray Padawan back.
“You wanted me, Master?” Nasriel asks demurely.
“Jango Fett, in connection with the Aeschylus Theater at Alderaan. Everything you know on the subject.”
“What happened?” Nasriel’s calm confusion flicks over in an instant to panic well concealed from all but her Master. “He set a detonator for…” she counts on her fingers. “Assuming I was with Dooku three days, the detonator was set for four days ago. And the girl Dooku sent to fetch me changed the timer for two days later – so that the theater would be empty when it went off. The night before last. What’s happened?”
“Who was this?” Anakin demands.
“A Togruta woman.” After a moment’s hesitation to recall the details, Nasriel rattles off a description. “Grey and white montrals. Facial markings like a mask over her eyes. Wearing a synth-silk shirt and leather leggings and boots. I guess she was a few years older than you are, Ani. Didn’t get her name.”
“Who hired Fett?” Obi-Wan probes sharply, and “That’s not all you know?” Qui-Gon asks, disappointed.
“That’s all,” Nasriel snaps, emotions hovering in the grey area on the edge of tears. The last few months, she has been crying altogether too much and too easily – Qui-Gon would prefer it if she could restrain herself. A few simple questions should not a breakdown cause. “I don’t know if I knew anything else; it could be gone by now. I’ve – I’ve had a pretty messy few days, Bi-An.”
“It’s all right, Sriel, calm down,” Obi-Wan says distractedly, giving the impression that it is not remotely all right. “Master, the Council gave Senator Organa their word they would find out who is responsible for this.”
“Dooku,” Anakin spits, mechno-hand crushed into a tight fist, aura roiling with fury. “Who else? Why are you even wasting your time?”
Whirling on him like an angry kajitt, claws out ready for a fight, “He kriffing saved my life, Skywalker,” Nasriel hisses in reply. “And Dooku is not the worst traitor in this lineage, not by a few hundred parsecs.”
“Now is not the time!” Qui-Gon growls, effectively silencing Nasriel. He grabs her arm, bringing her to stand beside him, though she still seethes in quiet rebellion, and her breath rasps in and out.
“Force, we are an emotional pack,” Ben observes, a rueful grin on his face. He’s partly right. Disputes, scenes, and shouting matches in this family are as common as rust in a junkyard, but real quarrels, with real anger, are rare – the most recent was the argument about Nasriel, eleven years ago. And they do have an excuse, of sorts: most teaching lines don’t have three of the family on the Council and five on the unofficial HoloNet favorites list, and very few are forever running into Sith and related troubles. That’s where the root of the matter really lies, Qui-Gon supposes: each of them, in some hidden corner of their minds, carries a carefully suppressed and concealed shadow of the Dark Side.
Glaring up at her Master, Nasriel draws back her mouth in a snarl, and emphatically bites her tongue, to sign that she will not say what she feels she ought to. Because he does not want her to tell the truth. She ignores the blood that wells up around the white points of her teeth, letting it stain her lips, and the effect is singularly gruesome. After her brief time with the Shaman, no doubt she will follow the pattern set by her elders, and get more involved in family clashes, instead of waiting on the sidelines or trying to negotiate peace. Qui-Gon does not look forward to that.
He sighs. “Obi-Wan, could I have a moment of your time?”
“Can it wait?” The younger Master is already keying in another callsign. “You said Fett was still at Kamino, didn’t you?”
“It’s important.” While the current busyness offers a superficial reprieve from discussing past trouble too long neglected, and for that reason alone it is tempting to continue indefinitely as before, Qui-Gon knows that every delay, every off-putting, will only make the inevitable reaction – confusion and sharp betrayal – harder to bear.
“So is this,” Obi-Wan retorts, checking the callsign and opening the channel. “Boba? Hello. This is Master Kenobi calling from Coruscant. Could I speak to your father, please?” Although the reply is unclear across the room, Obi-Wan’s stunned expression is not. “Jango says you’re the only Jedi he’s interested in talking to, Master,” he relays, handing over the comlink.
“Mr. Fett,” Qui-Gon says calmly, “I believe you still owe me a favor. I’ll call that in now, if I may.”
“Fine,” the bounty-hunter replies, just intelligible over the static of an ion storm somewhere along the transmission route. “What do you need?”
“To know who hired you for the attack on the Aeschylus Theater.”
“Ah.” Fett sounds troubled. “That could be a problem. I never got her name, just her money.”
“Her?” Obi-Wan mouths. “Her who?”
“Did you ever see the lady?” Qui-Gon asks, translating the Great Negotiator’s atypically blunt query into more restrained language. “Could you describe her?”
“Uhh… Human, about forty Standard, white hair, fair skin, average height – you know what, I’ve fought her. Must be ten years ago now. Didn’t get her name that time either, but she was in charge of the Bando Gora crew back then, if it helps. That guy Tyranus had me try to kill her, but she lost the fight and ran, so he picked me for the cloning project instead.”
Qui-Gon motions to Nasriel to give him her datapad, hastily scrawls one word across the touchscreen, and turns the ‘pad to show Obi-Wan: Komari. The Councilor closes his eyes for a long moment, and nods.
“Thank you, Jango,” the older Master says softly. “We know her.”
“You want me to find her again? Because I can. Find, capture, or kill, whatever you want.”
Obi-Wan catches his Master’s attention, holds up two fingers. Second option.
“If you could convince the lady to talk to us, I think that would help. As you may have gathered… no soft handling required.”
“All right. I’ll call you back on this comm when I’ve got her.” Fett rings off abruptly, leaving the Kenobi quarters in stunned silence.
Ben breaks it first. “What’s a Komari when it’s at home?”
“When she’s at home, Ben, Komari Vosa would be here in the Temple. It’s been a long time, but she used to be a Jedi – Master Dooku’s apprentice.” For Ben’s benefit, Obi-Wan rattles off a sanitized version of the truth – the boy is only fifteen, and there are details he does not need to know. Qui-Gon finds himself blackly amused at this: Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Great Negotiator, the darling of Council and HoloNet alike, who survived Ventress’ best attempts to turn him, also tells half-truths and untruths to his Padawan.
“So she’s like you,” Ben says to Qui-Gon.
“Not really, no,” the Master deflects the accusation. “Obi-Wan, are you going to call this Senator back now or wait until you know more?”
Anakin coughs. “Someone else should. He sounded pretty chubazzi karked off at you, Master. But not me – I’m going out.”
“I’ll call,” Nasriel offers unexpectedly. “It was kind of my fault the bomb went off when it did. And I guess I know the most about it.”
Obi-Wan tosses her the comlink. “The Net should review my nickname – Great Negotiator hardly seems apt when nobody wants to talk to me.”
“Maybe that’s why,” the Padawan replies cryptically, keying in the callsign and taking a deep breath to steady herself. “Here goes nothing.”