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In Time

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“It’s a trap.” Anakin stared at the battered YV-series light freighter. From the bridge of the Vigilance, the freighter seemed small, easily dwarfed by the Star Destroyer. It drifted slowly just ahead of them, its long and narrow hull lazily rotating in the black. “I’ll bet ten credits that it’s a trap.”

“Maybe.” Obi-Wan stroked his beard, deep in thought. “Make it a dinner at Dex’s and I might be tempted.”

“Come on, a secret Republic operative sends an urgent transmission with just a set of coordinates? Coordinates that are in the middle of nowhere, but we just happen to be near of? Obi-Wan, this whole situation has a Separatist plot written all over it.”

“Perhaps.”

“We know nothing about this operative – I doubt they even exist. Who intercepted the message in the first place?”

“It came through a certain senator I am rather inclined to trust,” Obi-Wan said, lips upturning into a small smile.

Padmé? Anakin thought immediately, heart thudding, but knowing better than to ask. Not only because it was prudent not to discuss covert matters in the middle of the bridge, but because he feared his voice would reveal the aching longing he felt. It had been too long since he had held his wife, and the mere thought of her filled him with both deep pleasure and pain. As always, Anakin feared he would be too transparent for his Master’s discerning eyes, so he kept his gaze firmly fixed on the scene outside the viewport. “A politician? In that case, I would think you would be the first the scream trap, Master.”

“Lieutenant?” Obi-Wan asked, turning towards the bridge officer hunched over the sensor array console.

“No signals that indicate the presence of any Separatist ships in the area, nor any other ships but the freighter. There are no signs of life from the freighter. It seems we are alone, General,” the lieutenant answered, not taking his eyes off his instruments.

“No signs of life?” Obi-Wan furrowed his brow. “None at all?”

“None. I double checked it, sir.” The officer sounded slightly indignant, like Obi-Wan had just personally offended him. Anakin resisted the urge to roll his eyes – navy officers – and turned towards Obi-Wan, grinning.

“That is not suspicious. At all.” Trap or not, Anakin knew they would have to go inside the freighter and search it from the aft to the cockpit. In spite of his protests, Anakin was rather looking forward to it. Their efforts to engage the Separatist fleet in the Kalamith sector had so far been a spectacular bust and he was itching for any kind of action.

His Master, knowing what Anakin was thinking, grinned back. Obi-Wan was probably just as eager as Anakin to do something instead of the frustrating search and wait they had been engaged in. Still, thorough as always, Obi-Wan asked, “Scans for explosives? Anything unusual or out of place on that ship?”

“None detected – sir,” the lieutenant huffed, and that was it. No one spoke to Anakin’s Master with that tone of voice, least of all some second-rate subordinate navy officer. But before he could open his mouth to say just that, Obi-Wan clapped Anakin lightly on the shoulder. “Let’s spring this trap then,” he said and headed towards the exit.

Anakin followed, shooting a nasty glare towards the lieutenant. The man paled, most definitely getting the message. “I thought you didn’t think this was a trap?”

“Did I take your bet?” Obi-Wan parried.

“Alright, dinner at Dex’s it is.”

“Deal.”

--

After searching the freighter inside out, confirming that the ship was as empty and devoid of life as the scans had indicated, Obi-Wan still wasn’t quite sure whether he was in for a free meal at Dex’s Diner.

Rather than risking pulling the mysterious freighter inside the Vigilance’s hangar with a tractor beam, they had opted to board the ship with a small squad of clones. On high alert the whole time, Obi-Wan had been somewhat pleasantly surprised when nothing had tried to kill them as they entered the vessel. Nothing nasty waited them in the empty cargo hold either, nor in the cabins or the bridge; it seemed that the ship had been abandoned some time ago – all of which did not in the slightest put Obi-Wan’s mind at ease.

The Force was oddly ambiguous, telling him that something was or had been there, something not necessarily wrong but different. It made Obi-Wan anxious, for in his line of work, different was too often a synonym for dangerous. The feeling confirmed what logic had already deduced: the ship, which was the only thing in the coordinates the operative had sent, was the key to something important.

“Master!” Anakin’s holler broke the silence and made Obi-Wan startle; he snorted at his own jumpiness, glad that his former Padawan hadn’t been there to witness it.

He found Anakin standing in the middle of a small sleeping area, looking satisfied. In his hand, he was holding a cube-shaped object of crystalline material. It was instantly apparent to Obi-Wan that is was a holocron.

“Bingo, Master, bingo.” Anakin grinned wildly, eyes still glued to the cube. “This has to be what the operative left for us to find.”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan agreed, “let’s get it out of here.”

Still on edge, Obi-Wan wanted the holocron safely on board the Vigilance as soon as possible. They left the clones to finish the search and returned to the Star Destroyer. In silent agreement, they headed straight for Obi-Wan’s cabin, where they could talk and examine the holocron freely.

“Do you think this is a Jedi holocron?” Anakin asked, managing to restlessly twist out of his robe, while still firmly grasping the cube.

“Hmm…perhaps.” There were records of different kinds of holocrons, made by both the Jedi and the Sith, but also of other kinds, their makers and purpose lost to the oblivion of time. The cube in Anakin’s hand did not look like any kind of Sith holocron Obi-Wan had seen before, nor did it resonate with the dark malice of the dark side of the Force. That did not mean it was harmless.

“There has to be something really important inside it.” Anakin stared at the holocron intently – and then he was recklessly reaching with the Force and the cube’s sides were clicking and shifting and Obi-Wan shouted, “Anakin, wait! Don’t open –”

But they were engulfed by a blinding white light, and it was already too late.