Title: Mission to Callodas, chapter 1
Author: Padawan Zol-Tan, zoltan@wattosjunkyard.com
Rating: PG
Setting: Pre-TPM
Category: Drama
Summary: On a mission to a troubled planet, Qui-Gon is wounded and Obi-Wan must lead a rebellion.

Spoilers: minor Jedi Apprentice

Disclaimer: Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, etc. belong to The Mighty George Lucas. Everything he didn’t make up is mine, and I didn’t make any money off this story (alas...)

Warnings: angst
Author’s note: //...// indicates thoughts
Disclaimer: Star Wars and all publicly recognizable characters, names and references, etc. are the property of George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd. Lucasarts Inc. and 20th Century Fox. This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment and no money was made from it. Also, no copyright or trademark infringement was intended. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Any other characters, the storyline and the actual story are the property of the author.

CHAPTER ONE

“Obi-Wan.” It was his Master’s voice. The Padawan stirred slightly. He was called again, louder this time. He twitched as his conscious self took over.

“Mmph,” said Obi-Wan, groggily dragging himself into a sitting position. “What time is it?’

“Nearly ten o’clock,” answered Qui-Gon serenely.

“Ten o’clock!” shouted Obi-Wan, suddenly awake. “Why didn’t you wake me?” He was on his feet now, searching through the mess of his quarters for his Jedi robes. //Qui-Gon is right,// he thought. //I should clean up in here.//

Qui-Gon apparently picked up this thought. “You know, Obi-Wan,” he said conversationally, but with a hint of good-natured mockery in his voice, “It’s amazing that you can make such a mess with only a Jedi’s possessions.”

Obi-Wan shot him a scathing glance as he buckled his belt and began rummaging around for his lightsaber. Qui-Gon offered it from behind his back.

“I nearly stepped on it coming in,” he said severely. “Obi-Wan, I am not pleased.”

Obi-Wan bowed humbly. “I’m sorry, Master,” he said, and to his own surprise, he really meant it.

Qui-Gon nodded in acknowledgment, then handed Obi-Wan his lightsaber. The Padawan clipped it meekly to his belt and began hunting down his boots. Qui-Gon sighed.

-------------

“Where are we going, Master?” asked Obi-Wan, nearly trotting in order to keep up with Qui-Gon’s long, purposeful strides. They were in a more remote corner of the Jedi Temple, where the architecture was older and the walls slightly dusty. The halls bore the odors of old paint and stale air. Clearly it was not traveled often.

“Master Windu has another assignment for us,” answered Qui-Gon.

“Why does that involve coming here?”

Qui-Gon slowed and stopped, turning his intense stare on his Apprentice. “Stretch out with the Force, Padawan,” he said. “What do you see?”

Obi-Wan obediently closed his eyes and let the familiar energy of the Force flow through his being. Slowly he reached outwards with it. He felt Qui-Gon there, a reassuring strength. He could feel the corridor around him in perfect detail, every nuance of the wood and stone. Stretching further, he found his senses drawn to a small hangar branching out from the central hallway. He felt a small ship--old, but still in good order. The engines had already been powered up. And there by the loading ramp another familiar Jedi presence--Mace Windu.

Obi-Wan pulled back into himself and stared quizzically up at his Master, trying to pick up his thoughts. Qui-Gon smiled.

“Master Windu is sending us to the Callodas System. We’re using this hangar to avoid attracting attention.”

Obi-Wan started to ask why this was necessary, but Qui-Gon cut him off.

“This is a very important part of your training, Padawan,” said Qui-Gon. “We are to go and negotiate peace on Callodas Three. Master Windu and Master Yoda are the only ones who know of our mission there.” So there would be no one save those two to find them if they never came back. It was unsaid, but Obi-Wan could sense it under his Master’s words.

“But why, Master?” asked Obi-Wan, still puzzled.

“This mission is a test of our bond, Padawan,” answered Qui-Gon. “We will undoubtedly encounter many obstacles, but if the Force is strong enough between us, we will succeed.”

Something had been nagging at Obi-Wan. Something about the name Callodas Three... then it hit him.

“But Master!” he cried, “Callodas Three is in the middle of a civil war! We’ll be shot down before we even enter the atmosphere! And even if we survive that, there’s a communications block around the entire planet!”

Qui-Gon nodded, slowly, then resumed walking towards the hangar. Obi-Wan was shocked. He’d never known Qui-Gon to walk so rashly into obvious danger. For a brief moment he considered trying to take his Master by the arm and drag him back to the safety of the Jedi Academy, but he knew he would never succeed; not only was Qui-Gon physically much stronger than he, but his control of the Force was remarkable, even for a Jedi. No, that was a battle Obi-Wan could not win.

Besides, Qui-Gon had said that there was at least a chance of survival, and if Qui-Gon said so, Obi-Wan would believe it. At least, that was what Obi-Wan’s brain told him. There was still that lingering feeling in his gut that even Qui-Gon Jinn could be wrong.

Obi-Wan tightened his jaw. Whether Qui-Gon was right or wrong, he was the Master. //Where a Master goes, his Padawan follows,// he told himself. //And if I must die,// he thought, //I could think of no one I’d rather die beside.// This thought made him feel very brave and noble, but even as he resolutely followed his Master to the hangar, Obi-Wan fervently hoped the notion would not have a chance to test itself.

-----------

Mace Windu met them by the ship, looking a little grim. “Welcome, Master Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan,” he said, bowing to them each in turn. As Obi-Wan returned the bow he felt a deep sense of unease growing over him. Master Windu handed Qui-Gon a data pad.

“Here are the coordinates of the landing platform you’re to arrive on,” he said briskly. “The representatives of the Central Government will meet you there. Don’t worry,” he added, casting a meaningful glance at Obi-Wan, “they’re expecting you and will let you land.” He patted them each reassuringly on the shoulder. “May the Force be with you,” he said, then Mace Windu turned and strode calmly out of the hangar, never looking back. Obi-Wan gazed after him with admiration. He didn’t see how Master Windu could be so calm sending one of his best friends along with a 15-year-old child on so dangerous a mission.

Qui-Gon interrupted his musing. “Let’s get aboard, Padawan,” he said briskly, but Obi-Wan sensed worry underneath the briskness. //Well,// he thought, //at least I’m not the only one with doubts about this mission.//

He quietly sat in the co-pilot’s seat, watching his Master program in the coordinates and raise the ship gently into the air. Soon the stars were flying past as the ship accelerated, and then the darkness was replaced by the beautiful shifting patterns of hyperspace.

“Master,” said Obi-Wan after a long pause. Qui-Gon made no visible movement, but Obi-Wan knew he had been heard. “I have a very bad feeling about this.”

Qui-Gon turned slowly to face his Padawan. “Do you feel you’re not up to this?” he asked quietly. It wasn’t a challenge.

“No, I feel up to it, but I...” Obi-Wan paused. It was hard to put his feelings into words. “I think that these negotiations will not go easily for either of us. I sense... pain. And fear. Whose, I don’t know, but...” he stopped again. It was useless trying to tell Qui-Gon how much his instincts were screaming at him to turn away, to go back, to do anything but go to Callodas Three. “Just... let’s please be careful, Master,” he finished lamely.

Qui-Gon smiled at him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Your feelings do you credit,” he said. “I, too, sense grave danger ahead of us, but as Jedi it is our duty to help those in need, and Callodas Three is most definitely in need of our help. Try not to worry. The Force is our ally, Padawan. It will give us the strength to endure, and, if we use it well, to triumph. Now,” he said, changing his tone so abruptly it made Obi-Wan jump, “how about something to eat? You never got breakfast.”

CHAPTER TWO

Obi-Wan grew more and more restless as the ship neared the Callodas System. He tried to calm himself through meditation, but every time he reached out to the Force he saw again visions of fear and suffering. He paced around the halls of the ship like a caged beast, nonchalantly checking the medical supplies and escape pods. They were, however, all in good condition and moderate abundance. Obi-Wan began to feel silly. Surely there was no reason for him to be unnerved; the Government had agreed to let them land unchallenged, and besides, they were Jedi. One was a Master. Both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had escaped unharmed from situations far more dangerous than this one, sometimes without even activating a lightsaber. A Jedi’s calm reasonable diplomacy was his most powerful and effective tool, his ability to see all sides of the argument and seek a peaceful solution. But it could also be a danger to him, thought Obi-Wan. People feared and sometimes even hated the Jedi simply because of that seemingly unbreachable fortitude, their calm patience. But everyone also knew of the Jedi as powerful warriors. Someone would have to be either incredibly well-trained or very desperate to attack a Jedi--not to mention two. But desperate was just what the Callodians were....

Obi-Wan’s contemplations were interrupted by the clanking of the ship’s engines as they left hyperspace. He marched reluctantly back to the bridge and buckled himself into the co-pilot’s seat beside Qui-Gon. Neither of them said a word, but each could feel the other’s unease as Callodas Three, a bright amber jewel, filled the viewscreen. Soon the ship was speeding down through the planet’s thick, cloudy outer atmosphere, heading towards the coordinates on Master Windu’s data pad.

Obi-Wan watched grimly as layer upon layer of dense cloud rolled over the front and sides of the ship, creating swirls and eddies that took on monstrous form in the Padawan’s imagination. Then, out of the dense orange fog emerged the planet’s surface, spattered with sparse vegetation that was being beaten back by the edges of large sprawling cities. Towards one of the larger cities the shuttle flew, and was immediately hailed. A fuzzy image of a tall Callodian woman in a simple burgundy ambassador’s robe filled the viewscreen. Her abnormally large eyes, trademark of the Callodians, blinked skeptically at the Jedi.

“So,” her voice crackled through the ship’s rather inadequate speakers, “you are the Jedi.”

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon bowed respectfully. “We are honored by your invitation, my lady, and request permission to come aboard at once,” said Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan was sure his master was the only being in the world who could sound so sincere when he said he was honored to be invited to a planet engulfed in a bloody civil war--it was because he really was, Obi-Wan thought with awe and respect. //One would think I would eventually stop being surprised by him,// Obi-Wan told himself. //One would be wrong.//

There was a pause, just long enough to be unnerving, then the woman smiled mechanically. “Very well,” she said dryly. “Welcome to Callodas Three.” Then her image blurred and disappeared from the viewscreen and a shabby landing platform in the middle of an even shabbier city took its place. Master and Padawan exchanged glances.

Qui-Gon skillfully set the ship down in the center of the platform. The two Jedi walked in silence to the boarding ramp, centering themselves and straightening their robes, pulling the hoods up over their heads as was both expected and proper; it projected a more pacific and monastic image than the high boots and warrior’s robes undereath. Obi-Wan drew a deep breath as the ship’s doors opened and the ramp extended. For once he felt his calm was only a facade, that it did not reach into the center of his being as it used to. Worst of all, he felt the same from Qui-Gon. Something was very wrong.

As they walked down the ramp the woman who had hailed them strode up from the far side of the platform accompanied by two lines of armed men and women--an honor guard, Obi-Wan hoped. She met the Jedi at the bottom of the ramp and all three bowed.

“You must be Qui-Gon Jinn,” she said. “Welcome. I am Yemil Ch’Andri, Ambassador of the Callodas Central Government. I apologize for my entourage,” she added, gesturing with her chin at the guards behind her, “but at times like this, one cannot be too careful.”

“No,” replied Qui-Gon, “one cannot. Allow me to introduce my apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Yemil Ch’Andri glanced at the Padawan and nodded curtly. As Obi-Wan reflexively bowed he noted with unease that she had failed to meet his glance. Nor, thinking back on it, had she made eye contact with his Master. Obi-Wan felt his unease growing within him.

“...and we have been forced by these acts of terrorism to cut off the rebels’ supplies,” Ch’Andri was telling Qui-Gon as they strolled across the platform. “However, the attacks have not ceased, and we believe they are receiving supplies from some other source. That is why we called you here. We wish for you to destroy the rebel contacts and cut off their supplies completely so they will be forced to surrender.”

“Ambassador,” answered Qui-Gon evenly, “we are Jedi. Our mission is to help the people of Callodas Three reach a mutual agreement with as little bloodshed as possible. We cannot move aggressively unless it is our only choice, and in this case, I must at least hear the other side of the argument before I can make any judgment.”

“But you are warriors!” cried the ambassador, peeved.

“Yes, but only when we must be,” replied the Jedi calmly. “I understand the rebel captain has agreed to speak with us?”

“He has.” Ch’Andri’s voice radiated annoyance and disgust.

Although Obi-Wan had been looking attentively at Ch’Andri and Qui-Gon, he had felt the ambassador’s bodyguards silently flanking and surrounding them. Inside his robe his hands were shaking. He reached out psychically for his Master, who responded with a wave of caution; he wanted Obi-Wan to be careful still and try not to betray his unease.

Suddenly Ch’Andri stopped and whirled to face the Jedi, staring Qui-Gon straight in the face for the first time. She radiated hostility. “Master Jedi,” she snarled, “I will give you one last chance. Cooperate with us in destroying these rebels or my men will kill both you and your boy where you stand.” There was a clatter as the guards raised their blasters and pointed them unwaveringly at the two brown-robed men in the center of their circle. Ch’Andri moved out of the ring with the smug fluidity of a predator who is about to enjoy playing with her food.

Qui-Gon slowly reached up to unfasten his cloak and pull back the hood. Obi-Wan mirrored his Master’s movements, then both turned towards the ambassador. She sized them up, their warrior’s gear, their grim, composed faces, their hands hovering dangerously near the lightsabers clipped to their belts. It was clear they would not yield.

“Kill them,” she said, then turned and strode away as a battalion of trained soldiers fired as one behind her.

CHAPTER THREE

No sooner had the words been uttered than Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan leapt, somersaulting through the air as blaster bolts sizzled inches beneath their feet. They landed on opposite sides of the ring of guards, lightsabers ignited. A few of the soldiers had gone down from their own companions’ blasters as they fired at the Jedi, but too few. Obi-Wan fought as he had never fought before, but he was outnumbered ten to one and was slowly being encircled again. He stopped thinking, letting instinct and the Force guide him, tell him when to duck, jump, parry, dodge. Still he knew in the back of his mind he could not last forever.

A few times he managed to bounce a bolt back into the man or woman who had fired it. One by one the guards fell, but he was completely surrounded. Following a subtle prompting he dove to his left and rolled back onto his feet as the burning plasma whined past his face. Another guard fell. He could see Qui-Gon’s lightsaber flashing to his right. If he could get beside his Master, maybe the two of them together could defeat the rest of their assailants.

Slowly he began fighting his way towards Qui-Gon, still whirling his lightsaber in complex patterns around his body, deflecting the fire from all directions. A guard cried out and fell. //A young voice,// he thought vaguely. //Too young to have met his end like that.// But there was no time for regret. A line of blasters blocked him from his Master, barraging him ferociously.

Obi-Wan leapt again, parrying with the Force and his lightsaber as he spun over their heads. He felt a reassuring presence behind him and then Master and Padawan were fighting back-to-back. One by one the guards fell. Some retreated, wounded or disarmed. Obi-Wan felt the waves of the Force wash over him, multiplied by his Mater’s presence. The two of them fought like one being, each knowing precisely where the other would move next. Their lightsabers became glowing blurs as each drew on the other’s power, and they were whole.

Out of the corner of his eye Obi-Wan saw Yemil Ch’Andri fade out of the shadows and draw a blaster from a fold of her robe. He was surprised; he had forgotten completely about the ambassador, and had somehow failed to sense her. As she raised the blaster he felt a prick of fear and the battle-trance broke. Confused and shaken that he had not felt her presence earlier, Obi-Wan should have parried the shot fired at his head, but, startled and unfocused, he ducked awkwardly. It missed him by a matter of centimeters.

Behind him, Qui-Gon cried out and crumpled to the ground, his lightsaber automatically deactivating as he dropped it. With horror, Obi-Wan realized what had happened. The bolt he had ducked had hit his Master full in the back. He felt anger rising within him, and despair. If he had inadvertently killed Qui-Gon....

No. He couldn’t allow himself to think about it. Obi-Wan stood protectively over the fallen Jedi, fighting now not just for his life, but for Qui-Gon’s as well. It seemed to take forever, but at last the remaining soldiers were dispatched, and Obi-Wan looked around for Ch’Andri just in time to see his ship take off with her in the cockpit and vanish into the city.

He sighed and deactivated his lightsaber, then knelt by Qui-Gon’s side, fear and guilt once again flooding his mind.

“Master?” he asked, and his voice cracked.

Qui-Gon looked up at him with clear, aware eyes, though immense pain was evident in his face. “Obi-Wan,” he said. It was a reassurance and a reprimand in one.

Obi-Wan felt a lump in his throat as he tried to hold back his tears. “I’m sorry,” he breathed.

“I know,” answered Qui-Gon, trying to smile. “It’s all right, Padawan.”

“I have to get you to shelter,” said Obi-Wan, a little more steadily. “They’re sure to find us here.”

Qui-Gon nodded. “I’m afraid you’ll have to carry me,” he said reluctantly. Obi-Wan knew his Master hated being waited upon and needing help, and he promised himself he would try very hard not to bring it up once they got home... if they got home.

Obi-Wan bent to hoist Qui-Gon onto his shoulders. As he began to lift, the older Jedi gasped and fell limp. Obi-Wan felt panic rising inside him. But he could still sense life from the still figure. Qui-Gon had only fainted, at least for now.

Obi-Wan laid the unconscious Jedi over his shoulders and set off into the city. He could only hope the Force would guide him to a haven before Ch’Andri’s forces could find them. He had never fully realized how big Qui-Gon really was. Now he knew as he struggled under his Master’s weight why people found Qui-Gon Jinn intimidating--he was enormous. Even with the Force Obi-Wan could scarcely hold him up. But he could feel Qui-Gon breathing steadily against his back, and as long as that vital rhythm kept going, Obi-Wan would, somehow.

The streets were dark and smelly. Obi-Wan saw no one, but he could not keep this up for long, wandering the streets, completely exposed. If his guesses were right, there would soon be a veritable army combing the streets for him and Qui-Gon. He was beginning a mental search for an abandoned cellar where he could hide, when he sensed someone approaching from behind. He turned, searching the gloom with his eyes as the adrenaline began coursing through him again. As gently as possible, he laid his Master down, wincing as the Jedi groaned slightly, and stood protectively over him as he had on the landing platform. His hand went to his lightsaber, but he did not ignite it.

The figure of a short man materialized out of the shadows of an alley. It was evident from the way he held himself that this man made a living of staying hidden. His movements were fluid and controlled and he seemed reluctant to step into the dim light of the street. Obi-Wan tried to read his intentions, but found only the same fear and anger he had felt since he came to Callodas Three.

The man crept over to Obi-Wan, looked him over, glanced at the dark mass at his feet, and hesitantly touched the Padawan’s arm. Obi-Wan reluctantly clipped his lightsaber back onto his belt.

“Need help?” mumbled the man. Obi-Wan nodded in assent. “Come,” said the man, and began to wind back into the shadows. He waited as Obi-Wan again shouldered his burden, then led the way into the alleyway.

Through a door hidden in the back of the alley, a maze of passages in which Obi-Wan lost all sense of direction, and several guarded checkpoints, there was a cavern. Obi-Wan stepped in, blinking in the sudden light. He was weary and disoriented, but what he saw in the secret cavern made him think twice about complaining. In every corner were old mattresses, each holding a wounded citizen. There were some missing legs and arms, blinded or torture-scarred. The sheer immensity of pain and sorrow filling the room nearly knocked Obi-Wan off his feet. Those able to stand and walk administered shabby first aid to the wounded, but even among those there were few unhurt, and all of them were painfully thin.

The man who had guided Obi-Wan there appeared beside the Padawan. “Find an empty bed for him,” he said gruffly, gesturing towards Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan nodded, too horrified to reply or object, and began scanning the room for a place to lie his friend. An old woman with an eyepatch and a limp took his arm and guided him to a far corner of the room, pointing silently to an empty bloodstained mattress. When he thanked her, she blushed and hobbled away with a little smile on her thin lips.

Obi-Wan gently eased Qui-Gon onto the mattress, making him as comfortable as possible. Then he knelt by his Master and studied the Jedi’s face. Qui-Gon was pale, but he seemed relaxed. His breathing was deep and even. Obi-Wan sighed with relief and let himself relax a little. Feelings of guilt and remorse washed over him. He had betrayed his training and himself, but most of all he had betrayed Qui-Gon. And now, because of Obi-Wan’s stupidity in letting his connection to the Force slip, Qui-Gon might die. The words ran themselves through Obi-Wan’s head until he thought they would drive him mad.

But Qui-Gon was not dead, he told himself fiercely. His master was right there in front of him, living and breathing easily. The Jedi had survived worse that this before, Obi-Wan knew. Qui-Gon would live. He had to live.

The old woman had limped over again and was now sitting next to Obi-Wan, carefully studying his face. The Padawan realized there were tears on his cheeks and brushed them hastily away. She smiled and handed Obi-Wan a bottle of old disinfectant and a bandage, then quietly limped away again.

“Thank you!” called Obi-Wan after her. As gently as he could, the Padawan peeled off his Master’s robe, vest, and tunics, then turned Qui-Gon over onto his stomach. The Jedi stirred slightly, then lay still again. Obi-Wan gasped in horror as he surveyed the wound. The blast had caught Qui-Gon in the middle of his left shoulderblade. The bone had shattered, but had at least stopped the bolt before it reached Qui-Gon’s heart. Still, the damage was devastating. If Obi-Wan couldn’t get him to a bacta tank soon, Qui-Gon might lose his arm.

But for now, he would do the best he could. He opened the little vial and dabbed the bitter-smelling mixture inside around the wound with an edge of his robe, administering along with it a surge of the Force, willing the tissue to heal itself and keep out infection. He wrapped the bandage and tied the ends together, then pulled his knees up to his chest and watched Qui-Gon breathe.

“Give him some of this,” said a husky voice from behind him. “And take some for yourself.” Obi-Wan unfolded himself to accept the cup handed him by the man who had brought him to the cave.

“Who are you?” asked Obi-Wan.

The man hesitated for a fraction of a second. “Garret,” he said. It was obvious he would tell no more. “You?” he asked. “Don’t bother standing up,” he added as Obi-Wan began to struggle to his feet.

“I am Obi-Wan Kenobi,” said the Padawan, trying to look dignified and Jedi-like. “This is my Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. We are the ambassadors sent to stop this,” he added dejectedly.

“The Jedi?” asked Garret, a twinge of emotion registering in his voice for the first time.

“Um...yes,” said Obi-Wan, surprised. “But how...”

“Let’s just say news travels quickly.” He nodded at Qui-Gon. “Ch’Andri?” he said, spitting the name out like a curse.

Obi-Wan nodded. Nothing made sense. Why was Yemil Ch’Andri so desperate to destroy the rebels instead of making peace? Why had she tried to have him and Qui-Gon killed? Who was Garret and how did he know so much? He wished Qui-Gon could give him the answers, or at least tell him it would all be all right, come up with some sort of plan...

As his thoughts turned back to his Master, Obi-Wan remembered the cup Garret had handed him. He sniffed it suspiciously. It smelled strongly of strange herbs and alcohol. Usually he would have balked at the idea of even being offered the stuff; the vows he had taken forbade it. But surely he could at least afford to give some to Qui-Gon for medicinal purposes. Garret helped the Padawan raise Qui-Gon into a sitting position.

“Master?” Obi-Wan called quietly, placing a hand on Qui-Gon’s forehead. The elder Jedi stirred slightly and his eyes fluttered reluctantly open. Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief to see his Master conscious again.

“Padawan,” said Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan might have imagined it, but his Master sounded just as relieved as he was. “Where are we?”

“A rebel medical center, I think,” Obi-Wan said, glancing at Garret for affirmation, getting none. If he was mistaken, it was obvious the rebel would not enlighten him. “Do you think you can drink this?” he asked, just to change the subject.

“What is it?” Qui-Gon looked suspiciously at Garret.

“Ale,” said the rebel sharply. “With herbs.”

“Please, Master,” said Obi-Wan before Qui-Gon could protest. “You need your strength.”

“No, Obi-Wan,” said Qui-Gon calmly. “I will not break my vows unless I must.” And that was that.

“Yes, Master,” mumbled Obi-Wan. Then to Garret, “Do you have anything else?”

“I can brew up just the herbs,” said Garret, “but it’ll taste like the sewer.”

“Thank you,” said Obi-Wan earnestly. As Garret headed off grumbling under his breath, Obi-Wan turned back to Qui-Gon.

“Master, can you ever forgive me?” he choked.

“What for, Padawan?” asked Qui-Gon patiently.

“For... for back there, at the landing platform. I let myself be taken by surprise, and because of it you...” he trailed off, blinking back tears. “I failed you, Master.”

Qui-Gon reached up and brushed a tear from his Padawan’s cheek as he had done years ago when the boy had a nightmare or became overly frustrated with a lesson. “I’m proud of you, Obi-Wan,” he said.

The Padawan stared at his Master with wonder. How could Qui-Gon look into the face of this betrayal that had nearly -- and might still -- cost him his life, and return only comfort and unconditional love?

Obi-Wan felt he did not deserve so great a man for his Master, or even his friend, and he silently cursed himself for his shortcoming. Apparently Qui-Gon sensed his discomfort.

“I’m not angry with you, Obi-Wan,” he said. “I forgive you.”

“I know,” choked Obi-Wan. “I just wish I could forgive myself.”

“Ah,” said Qui-Gon, more briskly, “here comes our host again.”

Garret handed Obi-Wan another mug, grunting as the Padawan sniffed and brushed tears from his reddened eyes. “When he’s done, come help with the rest of them,” said Garret, and slunk away.

Qui-Gon took the cup, drinking the foul-smelling mixture in slow sips, the very picture of determined dignity. When he had finished, he let Obi-Wan ease him back down onto the mattress, wincing as the torn muscles protested. Obi-Wan left him only when he was sure his Master was as comfortable as possible, and would get a good night’s sleep, then he went to tend the other wounded.

CHAPTER FOUR

It was a long hard night for Obi-Wan. He, Garret, and the old woman, whose name turned out to be Corena, hustled back and forth, administering bandages, medicine, and ale to the invalids around them. Obi-Wan used the Force where he could, coaxing broken bodies to heal faster, but the effort was draining him. He struggled to remember his lessons in healing from the Jedi Academy, but somehow he always found his thoughts straying back to Qui-Gon.

The night had not been kind to the Jedi Master. He tossed and turned in his sleep, disturbing the wound. When Obi-Wan had finally been allowed to tend to him, he found Qui-Gon burning hot to the touch. When he checked under the bandages, his worst fears were confirmed -- infection had already begun to set in, despite his best efforts, and Qui-Gon had a bad fever.

Obi-Wan dabbed on more disinfectant and tied on a clean bandage. He reached out with his feelings towards Qui-Gon’s mind, trying to find the calm strong Master he knew. Qui- Gon was still there, but he was engaged in a great battle against the limits of his own body. Obi-Wan sent thoughts of strength and comfort to him, asking him to try and hold still so his body could mend itself. Apparently Qui-Gon heard, for gradually his thrashing lessened until he lay still, but his breaths still came in ragged gasps, and grimaces of pain crossed his face.

“Master,” whispered Obi-Wan, “I need you.” He felt silly saying it, but it was true. He had come to depend on Qui-Gon and love him as a father and best friend. He felt a hand upon his shoulder and looked up into the wizened old face of the woman Corena. She smiled piteously at him and gestured to the floor beside Qui-Gon’s mattress, indicating that he should sleep.

“Can you not speak?” he asked softly.

A complex expression crossed Corena’s face as she shook her head.

“Ch’Andri?”

She nodded and Obi-Wan recognized the emotion imprinted upon her gnarled features -- hate. She hated the ambassador with a passion that seemed beyond her frail state. Obi- Wan wondered what Corena had lost to the Central Government other than her voice, but decided not to ask. Instead he lay obediently beside his Master, tucking his arm under his head. Not surprisingly, he did not sleep.

No one disturbed him for several hours in which he lay watching his Master, devising and rejecting innumerable plans of escape from the hostile planet, all the while watching helplessly as Qui-Gon sank deeper and deeper into the fever. Once or twice he tried to sleep, but his mind and spirit would not let his body rest.

His vigil was interrupted when he felt Garret’s eyes on his back. He smelled food and realized he was hungry. Garret’s foot prodded his back.

“Breakfast,” barked a gruff voice. Obi-Wan sat up, stretching his stiff muscles. Garret held out two bowls of gruel. “Can you wake him?” he asked, glancing towards Qui-Gon.

“I’ll try.”

“Good.” Garret turned and left. Obi-Wan glanced down at the bowls in his hands. The gruel looked old, but it was warm. The portions were frightfully small, and Qui-Gon would clearly need more than his meager rations. Obi-Wan let his eyes rest again on his Master’s face. It was still flushed with fever and was beginning to look haggard. Qui- Gon was breathing shallowly through clenched teeth, his brow knit with pain and effort.

Obi-Wan turned away and quietly spooned his own gruel into Qui-Gon’s bowl. //After all,// he thought, //he needs it far more than I do, and I can afford to miss breakfast every once in a while.// He took a deep breath and laid his hand gently on Qui-Gon’s arm.

“Master?” he asked gently, reaching out with the Force. Qui-Gon stirred and mumbled something under his breath, but he did not awaken. Obi-Wan shook the Jedi’s arm carefully. “Master, it’s Obi-Wan,” he said. “And I’ve got breakfast,” he added. It struck him only after he had said it that it was rather a stupid thing to say under the circumstances. Qui-Gon still did not awaken. Obi-Wan felt a stab of desperation. He tightened his grip on Qui-Gon’s arm. “Master,” he commanded, punctuating his words with Force power, “wake up.”

Slowly, as if it took superhuman strength, Qui-Gon opened his eyes. They focused wearily on Obi-Wan’s anxious face. The Padawan nearly cried out at the dull sheen which overcast his Master’s eyes, usually so sharp and clear.

“Um,” he said, trying to pull himself together, “there’s some breakfast here for you, Master, if you think you can eat.”

“Have I ever been one to refuse such generous hospitality,” managed Qui-Gon, “especially when food is involved?”

A short bark of relieved laughter escaped Obi-Wan as he pulled his Master up into a sitting position again. Qui-Gon glanced at the gruel and at his Padawan’s empty bowl. Obi-Wan held his breath, forcing his face and posture to be passive, shielding his thoughts.

“How is it?” asked Qui-Gon.

“Hmm? Oh. The gruel. Well, it’s, um...” Obi-Wan groped for words. “I’ve tasted better, Master.” He was fairly certain that was true, judging from the way the stuff smelled. There was a pause, and again Obi-Wan forced himself to look casual. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was lying to his own Master, and that was almost unthinkable, even under the gravest of circumstances. But Qui-Gon needed energy to heal, and the only way for him to get enough would be to eat a double helping. Obi-Wan would not dare request such a thing of Garret or Corena; Qui-Gon was not the most severely wounded person there, and if he was given extra, others would have to be given it also, and there simply wasn’t enough.

No, Obi-Wan was sure this was the only way. And if he had to deceive his Master to keep him alive, so be it. He supported Qui-Gon’s shoulders with one arm, careful not to disturb the wound, and held the bowl in his free hand at the Jedi ate. From time to time Qui-Gon would pause as a wave of dizziness swept over him. His brow was hot and dry, as it had been the past night, and the gray eyes never seemed quite to focus. Obi-Wan could tell the fever was getting worse, but Qui-Gon was shielding his Padawan from the full extent of it.

Qui-Gon finished the gruel and Obi-Wan set the bowl down. “That was horrible,” remarked the Master casually. “But it helped.”

“I’m going to have to take another look at that blaster wound,” said Obi-Wan.

Qui-Gon nodded grimly. “Before you do, Padawan, I have an assignment for you.”

“Anything, Master,” replied Obi-Wan, puzzled.

“It’s obvious now what these people suffer at the hands of the Government’s troops. We cannot let it continue.” He paused as the dizziness came and went again. “I want you to organize them. Lead them. Let them see they still have the power to fight back. I think that if they fight, they will win.”

“But, Master, what about all the lives that will be lost? Ch’Andri commands trained soldiers.”

“And if these soldiers see a Jedi leading the people in revolt, many will choose not to fight. They are afraid of us, Obi-Wan. Yemil Ch’Andri has taught them to be. Their fear will serve as our ally in this.”

“But this is so aggressive! What if we turn out to be wrong and innocent people lose their lives because of it?”

“You are still young, Obi-Wan, and there are things you cannot see yet. Trust my judgment, Padawan. If the people do not fight back soon, it will be too late. Please trust me.”

Obi-Wan had no choice. He knew his Master’s respect for life. Qui-Gon would never make so reckless and dangerous a move unless he knew it was the only option. “Yes, Master,” he whispered.

“I’d... better go on and see to your shoulder,” he resumed after an awkward pause. Qui-Gon nodded. “I’ll have to lay you down on your stomach,” he added. Again assent from the Master, who clenched his teeth against the pain as Obi-Wan began gently helping him reposition himself.

Obi-Wan could sense his Master’s pain at every movement, and it tore at his heart. Then his grip on Qui-Gon slipped a little and Qui-Gon gasped and collapsed. Panic swept over Obi-Wan as he felt for a pulse, but it was there, a little unsteady, but still strong.

The Padawan cursed his clumsiness in every language he knew as he unbandaged and examined the wound. The slip had caused the damaged muscles to tear even further. The infection was also getting worse, but slowly. Qui-Gon was clearly fighting it as hard as he could, but the fever was dulling his mental powers. If he could only hold out for a few more days, Obi-Wan might be able to organize the people enough for an effective revolt. Then they could find a ship and get Qui-Gon the medical attention he required.

If nothing went wrong. Once again, Obi-Wan had a very bad feeling.

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