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Knightrise

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„Strong enough to fight the Sith Lord, you are not.“

And just like that the fight drained out of Obi-Wan, the barely scraped together agitation running out of him like water from a broken glass. He looked at Yoda, the other Master already hobbling towards one of the back exits, his presence burning with focus, obviously expecting Obi-Wan to follow.

“And you are?”

The words were quiet, but in the grave-dead-(oh Force so many dead)-silence it carried like a shout.

Yoda stilled, his head turning to look back at Obi-Wan, the large eyes narrowed.

“Question me, you think you can? Above petty provocations, I would have thought you are!”

“I know I am not strong enough to defeat the Sith Lord,” Obi-Wan said. “But neither are you at the moment, Master Yoda. And neither are we together.”

He didn’t even dare touch the Force at the moment, not with what he knew he would find, the ripped-apart shreds where the comforting presence of his brothers and sisters used to be, the gaping wounds in the Temple’s Force aura. His mind felt like he had been burned from the inside, scraped raw from where the bonds to his family had been ripped out, and left to bleed dry. Even far away from Coruscant he had felt the overwhelming presence of the dark side coalescing, with each death, each light his siblings had carried that had been snuffed out, growing stronger in the black left from their absence.

The sheer horror and grief was tearing him apart from the inside out, but he knew that Master Yoda was very likely even worse off. He had seen each of the Jedi lying murdered on the ground grow up, had guided them, had been the cornerstone for the network of bonds across the Order. And with his entire being much stronger connected to the Force… Obi-Wan did not want to imagine it.

“If the Sith Lord let live we do, ruin he will bring over the entire galaxy,” Yoda said.

“What you want to do is suicide,” Obi-Wan said. “The dark side of the Force is stronger than ever with all the death it has been fed, and the Light around us is as weak as we are unbalanced and unable to reach it.”

“As long as a chance, there is, bring an end to him, I will.”

“Not everyone is dead,” Obi-Wan whispered, his arms wrapping around his torso. “There will be Jedi who have escaped the clones, who ran from the Temple, who weren’t with any clones when it- it happened. They need us. I will not throw away my life for a hopeless assassination when I can save what is left of the Order.”

Yoda was silent, his back to Obi-Wan, his ears turned down.

“I too feel anger-“ hatred rage burning like suffocating fire muted somewhere under the thick blanket of grief “-but we cannot led ourselves be controlled by it. If you truly think that we can beat Sidious then I will follow, but if you are letting your emotions blind you…”

The silence stretched, turning near unbearable, until Yoda turned fully around to face Obi-Wan.

“Wise, you have become, Master Obi-Wan,” Yoda said. “Maybe even wiser than your old lineage master, hm?”

“Just maybe,” Obi-Wan said with a weak, but relieved smile.

 

 

Even using a cloaked ship from the hidden Shadow hangar, Obi-Wan’s heart still hammered in his throat as they soared away from the Coruscantian orbit, and didn’t calm down until they jumped to hyperspace.

“Hunt us, Sidious will,” Yoda said, his eyes fixed on warped space streaking past them. “Hide, where you want to?”

“Mandalore,” Obi-Wan said, already running possible routes through the ship computer.

“Not a hidden place, that is,” Yoda said.

“I know what state the army of the… former Republic is. Sith Lord or not, even he cannot take a planet alone, and he does not have the forces for a conflict of that scale.”

“The Separatists, he plans to unite with the Republic. Together, powerful enough they will be.”

“He will get some of the key players he himself has probably brought into position, yes. The rest however would only follow should they have no other option beside the Empire.”

“And another option you wish to give, hm? The Council of Neutral Systems think you can convince to stand against the Empire?”

Obi-Wan looked at the screen where the computer had finished calculating their route. The ship dropped out of hyperspace, a moment of waiting and deliberation in between.

“I will have to,” he said, pressing the ‘Confirm’ button. The dark expanse of space turned into streaks of blue.

 

 

The familiar picture of Mandalore came into view as their ship dropped out of hyperspace. Marring the sight were the Sabres, the Neutral Council’s equivalent to the Republican Destroyer class. At least no ship sporting the Republic or now Empire insignia could be seen, making Obi-Wan feel a small measure of relief.

Obi-Wan had deactivated the cloaking the moment they had dropped out of hyperspace, not wanting to risk provoking aggressive fire. As consequence, they were hailed mere moments later.

“Unidentified vessel, you have entered Mandalorian airspace. State identifier and purpose of visit, or leave immediately.”

Obi-Wan breathed in, and typed out a code that hadn’t ever meant to really be used again.

“Unidentified vessel, please standby, your request is being processed.”

Tense silence filled the ship as minutes ticked by, Obi-Wan’s hand resting uneasily on the hyperspace activator, in case things should go truly bad.

The interspace transmitter lit up again, this time with a request for holo-transmission. Obi-Wan and Yoda exchanged brief looks, then he pressed the ‘accept’ button.

“Ben!” Satine’s face popped into view, and the tension drained from Obi-Wan’ shoulders.

“Satine,” he said, a weak smile on his face. He could practically feel her eyes flitting over him, cataloguing every small detail.

“You have landing permission for field 3 of the palace grounds,” Satine said, sensibly avoiding asking for further information as long as they were communicating over hackable transmission lines.

Obi-Wan nodded, then cut the connection.

 

 

The consequences of fighting had raked their claws over the usually so pristine Mandalorian capital, the darkened burns of blaster fire, smashed windows and rubble littering the streets. But there were no still burning buildings with smoke rising from them, and a few people were already outside, removing the duracrete chunks blocking the road and setting new windows in to replace broken ones.

What looked like the jigsaw puzzle to a statue was lining the perimeter of the landing field, the debris moved out of the way just enough for their ship to land and no more.

A woman was waiting for them when they exit the ship, looking entirely nondescript and bland, which judging by the sharp glint in her eyes was also entirely on purpose. She lead them into the palace without any words, the hallways they walked through empty, too empty to be a coincidence.

She opened a seemingly random door, and motioned them through.

Satine was standing in the middle of the room, her eyes lighting up as she saw them.

“Ben,” she said, crossing the remaining distance with a few strides. Obi-Wan clasped her outreached hands with his own, the warmth of them suffusing his cold fingers. He bowed his head to let his forehead rest against Satine’s, for the first time in too long feeling a small measurement of safety in her presence.

“We heard about the… the supposed usurp of the Jedi here,” Satine said quietly. “I had been fearing the worst, until the message reached me that someone had used the code I’d given you.”

“I’m afraid the worst you had been fearing might still not be far off,” Obi-Wan whispered.

“I expect you will tell me everything soon enough,” Satine said, finally straightening and breaking the contact between them. “But first, there is someone who needs to see you – and vice versa I suppose.”

With a gesture from her hand the other door of the room opened, a figure stepping through.

“Ahsoka,” Obi-Wan breathed, abandoning decorum and running up to meet her, nearly toppling over as she threw herself into his open arms. They sank to their knees together, his too-tight grip on her matched by her own. He could feel her trembling where she had buried herself against his chest, or maybe it was he who was shaking as he curled around her, one hand coming up to stroke her montrals. He hadn’t dared to hope that she was still alive, not when he knew that she had come here with a contingent of the 501st, not when he had seen the armors of the same troops in the security recording, mercilessly slaughtering even the youngest members of his family.

“Master...” Ahsoka looked up at him, her eyes shining wetly, Obi-Wan’s own relief mirrored in them. He unsteadily rose to his feet, half-pulling her with him.

“Master, I…” Ahsoka began again, but his attention was dragged away from her by the sound of heavy boots resounding on the floor. He looked at the still open door she had stepped through, and the steps came to a stop as another figure appeared in the doorway.

He recognized him, the blue marks, the dark shoulder pauldron, the helmet with the jaig eyes resting under one arm, taken off to reveal the abnormally blond hair.

In less than a blink of an eye he wrenched Ahsoka behind him with one arm, his lightsaber hissing to life in his other free hand. His ears were filled with a roaring, still fresh images of blue marks blue blaster bolts red blood blank eyes overlaying everything else. Distantly he could hear sounds, but all he could focus on was the figure standing before him, his own body tensing and readying to defend his charge to the last breath.

“Master Obi-Wan!”

Ahsoka’s voice cut through the haze. He startled, his attention shifting for a moment, even as he never took his eyes off his enemy. Smaller, but still strong arms wriggled out of his protective hold, reaching for his sword hand, and gently pressed it down until he lowered his weapon. Nimble fingers pushed his own aside, and thumbed the off switch, the blue blade snapping back into the hilt. His perception slowly settled back into normal, beginning to register more than enemy-distance-harm-defend, seeing the clone captain’s deliberately slowly raised hands, the empty weapon holsters, Satine who had been slowly coming over to lay a calming hand onto the dark pauldron, and the heartbroken expression on Rex’ face.

“I think,” Satine said slowly, “that you should all sit down for a moment. There are a few things you need know.”

 

 

General Kenobi looked more tense than Rex had ever seen him, his battle-ready posture out of place in one of the polstered chairs of the room the Duchess had shoved them all into. The commander – Ahsoka, as she kept telling him to call her – was sitting next to him, and her presence seemed to calm him down enough that he didn’t seem to be intent on jumping at Rex’ throat at the drop of a pin. Not that Rex would have blamed him for it.

The Duchess was the one briefing General Kenobi and High General Yoda, which Rex was glad for, as he wasn’t sure that he would have been able to regale the entire tale without breaking down halfway through it. There had been shinies on Mandalore who hadn’t been de-chipped like Rex and his older brothers, who had tried to shoot down their commander and had only stopped after being tranquilized. And while news from the core where close to non-existent at the moment, there still was how their commander had collapsed in the middle of the fire fight, screaming and clawing at her head, until she suddenly went silent and unresponsive, not reacting as Rex shook her, as blaster bolts sliced through the air inches away from them, as he dragged her catatonic form away… they had been drawing frightening conclusions even before she woke up again, crying and telling them how she couldn’t feel any other Jedi anymore.

Rex watched as the Duchess slid one of the chips they had taken from a shiny over to the generals. General Kenobi was watching her with wide eyes as she went into detailing how the chips worked, and into Order 66. Disbelief turned into mounting horror, and by the time the Duchess had finished it looked like he was going to be sick. One trembling hand rose to cover blue-green eyes clenching shut as if in pain.

“Oh Force…” Kenobi whispered. Rex could see Ahsoka reaching for where his free hand had curled into a fist on the table, gently rubbing her thumb over the back of it, even as she threw Rex a helpless glance.

“Cody… everyone...” Kenobi murmured, “…how could I ever have thought they would do something like this…?”

“Sir…?” Rex asked, a sudden bad feeling in his chest. They had all been glad to hear that Kenobi was alive and had made it to Mandalore, but suddenly he couldn’t help but wonder how exactly he had survived Order 66. What he had done to escape from his own men. “Did you… that is, Cody and the 212th…”

“They shot me from a cliff and pronounced me dead,” Kenobi said quietly. “I escaped using stealth. None of the 212th were harmed. But…” He glanced from behind his fingers over at High General Yoda.

“Had to kill two men of the 89th on Kashyyk, I did,” Yoda said, his ears lowered. “And when return to the Temple, we did, …”

“There was a ten men patrol of the 104th,” Kenobi continued. “When they shot at us… I didn’t even think to only attack with the intent to disable…”

“Sirs,” Rex said, “Even if you had knocked them out, they would have warned the Emperor about you the moment they had woken up. And personally, in their situation, I would have preferred death to knowing that I had your blood on my hands.”

“Even so…,” Kenobi started again.

“You hadn’t known,” Rex said, his voice getting stronger. “You couldn’t have known. Their blood is on the hands of the Emperor, not on yours.”

“I suppose,” Kenobi said, finally uncovering his eyes again, but the guilt in them remained, and Rex knew it was one he wouldn’t be able to absolve the other man from. Even as he mourned the death of his unknown brothers, he couldn’t help but be glad that the 212th was alright – for now. If Cody and the other vod’e believed that they had killed their General… he tried not to think about what how they would react, what they might do, especially what they might do to themselves. From the chips they had under observance they knew that the programming for Order 66 was still active, but what if they decided to turn it off?

“Master,” Ahsoka said, drawing his attention back to her, “what happened at the Temple? And Anakin, is he… why isn’t he with you?”

Her bright blue eyes were full of desperate hope, which died a brutal death as grief bloomed in Kenobi’s eyes when she mentioned the name of Rex’ general.

“No!” She flinched away from the other Jedi, but Kenobi’s grip kept her in place.

“Please wait,” Kenobi said, “I… Anakin… I will tell you what happened, but please sit down.”

 

 

Looking into Ahsoka’s despairing eyes, he had wanted to lie. He had wanted to tell her that Anakin was dead, that he had died during the Temple massacre like everyone else, to tell her the version he in a perversive way had been wishing was true.

Instead he forced himself to tell the truth that burned like acid on his tongue, to describe the Battle of Coruscant, the rescue of the Chancellor and Dooku’s death at Anakin’s hands, of Anakin’s increasing unrest, of how he had been trying to have faith in his brother even as he continued to turn away from him, how he had left for Utapau and had returned to see the still smoldering blood-stained Temple, the slaughtered dead within left where they had fallen, and the security recordings where he had seen how Anakin had-

Even when his words failed him as he tried to continue, Ahsoka had already pushed to her feet, her lekku swinging with the violent motion of her shaking her head in denial.

“No!” she nearly shouted at him. “No, you are mistaken, Anakin would never do such a thing! The Sith was tricking you, Skyguy could never-“

Instead of saying anything else, he slid the holo-disk with the security recordings onto the table, letting it flicker to life to show her just what he had seen. He could hear Satine’s sharp intake of breath as the projection showed the Jedi being cut down, from the eldest Master to the younglings not even old enough to hold a training sabre, Anakin moving through them without any hesitation, without mercy. The saber work that had earned him respect and renown in the Temple now used to plunge through hearts, to slice through bodies even as the person at the other end of his blade looked at him with stunned disbelief. Near the end, the small younglings that had sought refuge in the Council Tower, looking with blind trust at the Knight they had though was there to save them, up until the moment Anakin re-ignited his saber. Their expressions so full of faith, the next moment full of pain, and finally full of nothing. And then Sidious appearing amidst the carnage, naming Anakin as Darth Vader as the blood of their family cooled under his knees.

He didn’t look up as Ahsoka turned away, didn’t try to stop her as she ran out of the room, leaving behind only the fading sounds of her hitched breathing. He flicked the hologram off and silence spread over the table they had gathered around.

“I need to speak to the Council of Neutral Systems,” Obi-Wan finally said. “As soon as possible.”

When he looked up from the holo-disk, Satine was calmly returning his gaze.

“What for?” she asked.

“To request asylum,” he answered, observing her drawing up one eyebrow.

“They might not be that forthcoming over that matter,” she said.

“Now, that is their problem,” Obi-Wan said.

“You will need to reach a majority.”

“I’ve done much harder convincing than just for fifty percent,” Obi-Wan said forcing the shadow of a grin on his face. The corner of Satine’s mouth twitched upwards, even as they ignored the fact that never before had he had such high stakes.

Chapter Text

“Did you put everything up?” Obi-Wan asked Ahsoka, his eyes fixed forward on the door to the holo-conference room, where they expected Satine to walk out of any minute. Master Yoda had gone into the gardens, and Obi-Wan knew that the Grandmaster didn’t want to bear the wait when there was nothing he could do to help them. Ahsoka however had wanted to come, even if she wouldn’t be going into the session with Obi-Wan.

“Yes,” Ahsoka said with a sigh. Obi-Wan glanced towards her to see her looking down, her montrals drooping slightly. He reached out to lay a hand on her shoulder.

“I too wish that we didn’t have to do this, dear one,” he said quietly.

“It feels like I am… defiling their memory somehow,” Ahsoka murmured. “I don’t know if I can look any of the others in the eye should they ask me about it.”

“It feels like something that should be kept private, doesn’t it?” Obi-Wan asked, feeling her nod through his hand on her shoulder. “If the others disdain us for it, then that is their right. But I think most of them will understand our reasoning behind it.”

The door opened slightly, Satine stepping through halfway to motion for him to come in. Obi-Wan moved, but Ahsoka’s hand clasping his arm made him pause for a moment.

“May the Force be with you,” Ahsoka said, and Obi-Wan nodded.

The inside of the conference room seemed empty, until he stepped into the projector field, and suddenly the walls disappeared behind blue shimmering rows and rows of seats, a representative of the Neutral System seated in each one of them, and all of them staring down at him with impersonal expressions on their faces.

“Esteemed Council,” he greeted, affording them the customary bow of one dignitary to the other. “I stand before you today to request asylum for my people.”

None of the Councilors reacted, but then they hadn’t been elected by their people because they wore their emotions on their sleeves.

So Obi-Wan recounted the Fall of the Republic to them, the last battle for democracy, how Palpatine had been playing both sides of the war and had finally accumulated enough power to call for himself to be made Emperor. He told them of the so-called treason of the Jedi and the massacre of the Temple in as few as many words as he could manage, trying his hardest to keep his voice from breaking.

He was used to doing this for other people, other civilizations, he was even used to be the one who as a Republic representative was being plead to, instead of doing the pleading. He had never wanted to experience the quiet helplessness he had seen in other refugees’ eyes, the desperation, the knowledge that their fate didn’t rest in their own hands anymore, and that they couldn’t afford to be turned away.

The Council was quiet for a few moments after he finished, contemplation heavy in the room.

“Master Jedi,” one of the Councilors said. “You are asking for asylum due to your people being hunted by the Empire, yes? And how do you plan to hide from said Empire?”

“That’s simple,” Obi-Wan said, “I don’t plan to hide.”

“You… do not plan to hide?”

“I expect it to be a waste of energy to try to hide,” Obi-Wan said, the fabric of his sleeves shuffling as he shrugged. “Even at this point, there are already over a hundred people only in this call that know our current location. Any attempt at a secret will slowly trickle down, the number of people who know will increase exponentially and sooner or later someone will have mentioned something to the wrong person.”

“So you expect us to take in a large group of highly wanted people, in a move that would definitely draw the Empire’s ire on us? You are aware that we have regulations as well as a contingent for refugees, yes?”

Beside him Satine tensed in a way that made Obi-Wan suspect that said contingent didn’t get resolved upon with a full majority.

“I am aware, yes,” Obi-Wan said nonchalantly. “Let me alleviate your fear about going against the regulations of the Neutral Systems. I do not wish to apply my people as refugees. Instead I am officially petitioning that we may join the Council as a recently from the former Republic separated system.”

A murmur went through the rotunda, but the same Senator as before seemed quick to gather themself again.

“You need to have a planet to join the Council, Master Jedi,” they said between gritted teeth.

“Oh, but we do,” Obi-Wan said, having to do his best not to laugh at the representative’s face. He took out his comm unit, putting it on the holo-table in the center of the room. Keying up the right data set, the projection of an ice-blue planet appeared in the air. “This is Illum. It is located in the Unknown Region, and has belonged to the Order since before the era of the Old Republic.”

There was a half-stunned silence around the room.

“Master Jedi,” another representative spoke up. “Correct me if I am wrong, but you did mention at the beginning that you do seek asylum on Mandalore, did you not?”

“That is correct,” Obi-Wan said with an incline of his head. “Illum has an average temperature of only shortly above zero Kelvin, and is in general just rather uninhabitable and not self-sustainable. In any case, I expect the new Emperor to know about it, so returning there on a permanent basis wouldn’t be too healthy in that sense either. Still, a planet is a planet in your convention, is it not?”

“Indeed it is,” the same representative said, hiding an amused smile behind a hand. Obi-Wan managed to keep the answering grin from his face, instead reaching out to turn off the projection.

The first chancellor butted in again: “The status of your planet will mean that you are still dependable on us for sustenance, won’t it? How exactly do you plan to offset the cost of living for your people? You cannot act as diplomats anymore, not when there is a warrant for your arrest going around the Republic, and we are a Council that has devoted itself to peace – we do not need your warriors.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “While it is true that there is a contingent of the Jedi Order that acts as Knights, and therefor in the capacity that you have just described, we have more divisions than just that.”

“And which would those be?”

“The Jedi Corps. An organization with four subdivision, respectively the Educational Corps, the Medical Corps, the Exploratory Corps, and the Agricultural Corps,” Obi-Wan said, ticking off his fingers. “While I expect the Educational and the Exploratory Corps to be of little interest to you, the Medical Corps is filled with professional healers, many of whom are specialized in Force healing. The Agricultural Corps usually specialize in feeding worlds struck by disaster, and while half of them is supposed to help the inhabitants of the planet itself to build up their own sustainable structure, the other half of personal and material is devoted to hydroponic ships.”

“Hydroponic ships?” The Councilor who had been so amused before was leaning forward.

“Yes. They are supposed to act as first-aid, in those months were a planet is unable to produce harvest. The ships produce an enormous surplus, which used to go to Coruscant, but that won’t be necessary anymore. They have been rather dispersed across the galaxy lately, but should even three of those ships come into the Neutral Systems, they will be more than enough to produce enough food for my people, and enough surplus to sell that all our basic needs would be filled.”

“Good to hear,” the Councilor said, leaning back with a satisfied smile as their colleagues murmured around them.

“Still,” the first Councilor spoke up again. “We have a responsibility towards our own people too. If it gets out that we are providing you with protection, we will have to fear retaliation from the Empire, even against our civilians. How would you have us justify that risk to our constituents?”

“Honored representative,” Obi-Wan said, any previous humor he had felt evaporating, “You are misunderstanding something fundamental about the Empire. The Republic was largely content to let you be, because they were a democratic body, led by many, and with decent people among those leading. The Empire is led only by one man, Palpatine. This man has no interest in adhering to laws. He won’t make compromises. He will ask you to join the Empire, and once you’ll refuse, he will take what he wants by Force.” Obi-Wan looked through the rotunda, addressing all present. “I know that none of you here liked the Republic. Some of you may have even downright hated it. Well, whatever you thought about the Republic, about its power grabbing, its tyrannical laws and its oppression – all your worst fantasies are now truth when it comes to the Empire. The Republic and having to pretend to keep within its laws so that he could amass enough power were the only things holding Palpatine back. They’re gone now. And he won’t stop until he has each one of your constituents kneeling before him.”

“Surely you are exaggerating,” another Councilor interjected, a frown on her face.

“I have just told you that the entire war was engineered by him,” Obi-Wan said. “Palpatine readily killed millions just so he could have complete control over the Republic systems. You have all been in politics for quite some time. Are these the deeds of someone who will ever be content with what he has when he knows that there’s more yet outside his current reach?”

The room was quiet as the people in the projections exchanged looks.

“Master Jedi,” another Councilor said into the silence. “The official stance of the –former, I suppose – Republic is that the Jedi have been the one who have committed treason. While I am sure that many here know you as a man of integrity, in that matter it is your word against theirs. Why should we not believe that you are the traitor in this scheme?”

Obi-Wan lowered his head, looking at the comm unit still lying on the holo-table. He had known that this question would come, had planned for it even, but that didn’t make it any easier.

A few button presses, and the security recordings began to play in the air above the table.

He could distantly hear a few gasps, and he tried to not look up, not wanting to catch even one more glimpse of the massacre if he didn’t have to. Watching it for Ahsoka had been bad enough, but he had owed her that much. Now, playing it for a group of total strangers, who had no right to be privy to his pain… But it was necessary.

That thought didn’t stop him from switching off the feed after less than ten seconds. Behind him he could hear fabric rustling ever so faintly, knew that it was Satine who wanted to reach out to him, and as much as he would have found solace in her freely offered comfort, they couldn’t have her appear to be playing favorites any more than they already were.

“If any of you are unsure of the credibility of the footage,” he started, and damn it, his voice was hoarse again, “the entirety of the recordings we took from the Temple has been uploaded on the Holonet half an hour ago. While it is of course not everything, I think the few hundred hours should be enough to assure you that the footage hasn’t been doctored.”

When he looked up many of the Councilors were staring at him with widened eyes. Of course they all had heard him before when he had talked how a battalion of the GAR had marched onto the Temple and killed most of its inhabitants, but watching it happen still gave an entirely different view on the same facts, especially for civilians, for most of whom the horrors of battle were something to be read about in reports, and not the burning hot memories of blood-screams-pain-death-death-death.

“If there are no more questions, I would take my leave to let you discuss our petition,” Obi-Wan said into the stunned silence. No one protested immediately, so he bowed (too quick too shallow), and exited the room, his forcibly regular breathing pattern falling apart the moment the door closed behind him.

“Master,” a voice said, and Obi-Wan closed his eyes. Ahsoka. He forgot that Ahsoka would still be standing here. Shit.

“Everything’s fine, I’ll be back in a moment,” he said, stumbling in the direction he remembered the freshers to be, not daring to look at her. Half-blind he shut the fresher door behind him, then the door of the nearest stall, feeling too much like he was building a barricade.

He plopped down onto the lid of the toilet, burying his face into his hands. His breath was loud in the small space left in between.

In.

Out.

Air filled his lungs, yet he still felt empty.

Something was eating at him from the inside out, and all he wanted to do was to let it, to hope that it would devour even the last bits of him.

In.

Out.

“Ben?”

His head rose from the little cavern his fingers had made, staring at the opposite stall door. It didn’t reach all the way down, so he could see Satine’s elegant yet practical dark boots.

“Yes,” he said quietly.

“The discussion is through,” she said, “there is a brief period for quiet contemplation, then the votes are placed. You should start to get ready.”

“I’ll be out in a moment,” he said.

“Alright,” Satine said, the boots walking away from the door.

He waited for a few seconds, then crept out of the stall. There were mirrors above the sinks in the washroom. For someone who had just half-hyperventilated he still looked rather good, he thought as he examined his image. He brushed through his hair with one hand, then decided that there wasn’t much he could do to improve how he looked, and left the bathroom.

He walked into the hallway with the conference room to see Satine and Ahsoka standing before each other, Satine’s hands resting on Ahsoka’s shoulders as the young girl leaned into her, Satine’s lips forming words he couldn’t quite make out.

Satine looked up, and he sent her a look that he hoped conveyed his gratitude, smoothening it back out again when Ahsoka too noticed his arrival.

Ahsoka didn’t ask him how he was doing, and he was grateful for it.

“I’ll call you in when the vote is done,” Satine said, going into the conference room and leaving the two of them in the hallway.

Obi-Wan didn’t know who reached out first, but their hands found each other, saber-calloused fingers curling into tight grips as they stood shoulder to shoulder.

It felt like half an eternity, until the door opened and Satine looked out again.

“It’s a yes,” she said, and Obi-Wan’s legs nearly gave out from under him because of the immense relief. Ahsoka turned into his side, hugging him, and he put his arm around her shoulders, squeezing tight before he had to let go.

“Go and tell Master Yoda,” he said to her, a smile on his face mirrored by her own. She took off with a nod, and he watched her leave for a moment before he turned to Satine.

“I imagine there are now quite a few details to our membership that need to be hammered out?” he said with a grin.

“Some, yes,” Satine said, a small grin on her own face. “Now come, you wouldn’t want to keep your new co-representatives waiting, would you?”

Chapter Text

By the time they had hacked out the further details the sun was setting, painting the glass and steel of the Mandalorian city in golden hues. Satine and Obi-Wan stood outside on the balcony, watching.

“Did you not even contemplate to hide?” Satine asked, looking at the horizon.

“I did,” Obi-Wan said. “We could have formed a planet-bound colony, maybe somewhere in Wild Space. There are more than enough uncharted planets out there. But then how would we have helped stand against the Empire? Even if we’d travel back and forth, sooner or later we’d be tracked, and then the Empire would crush us by means of aerial assault. Or we could have become space nomads, never staying in one place, ensconced in ships – but how would we have sustained that way of living for so many people? No, out in the open is the best bet we have.”

“We will need to fortify against infiltration, I assume,” Satine said with a sigh.

Obi-Wan glanced at her. “I am sorry that we are bringing the war to your doorstep once again. I know that this isn’t what you wanted-“

Satine held up a hand, and he stopped. “It is not you that brings war to our doorstep, but Sidious. I will admit that I am reticent about your plans to fight the Empire, but I would still rather see us standing united than divided.”

Obi-Wan put one hand on the one she was using to grip the balcony railing, her skin smooth and soft under his fingertips.

“I am glad,” he said with a small smile, which she returned.

“We will need to begin with the preparations soon,” she said. “Actually, you never said when you expect the first other Jedi to arrive. How will you contact them?”

“Uh,” Obi-Wan said precariously, “there is actually… I really never mentioned that to you, did I?”

“Ben…” Satine said slowly, eyeing him from the side.

“In my defense, I have omitted it knowingly before the Council,” Obi-Wan said, “because I don’t think they would have been too thrilled about it.”

“Ben,” Satine said, this time more forcefully, “when will the first Jedi arrive?”

“Tomorrow?” Obi-Wan said, the tone of his voice going up at the end of the word. “In the morning, I suppose?”

“I- How?” Satine asked, her face scrunching up with disbelief. “When did you contact them?”

“Well, if we’re technical about it, when I was at the Temple on Coruscant.”

“At the- Ben, that was yesterday!”

Obi-Wan sighed. “Look, the Sith had set up a beacon in the Temple, which is usually used to call all Jedi home. I changed the message, and told all recipients to go to Mandalore.”

“You had no way of knowing whether your request for the Council would go through,” Satine said, crossing her arms.

“Which is why it was so imperative that we succeed,” Obi-Wan said. “Failure was not an option.”

“It doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me,” Satine said, her voice dropping in temperature. “Moving everyone here puts my people into danger, and while by now I agree to that risk, you had no right to take the decision from my hands.”

“If there had been another way, I would have taken it,” Obi-Wan said.

Satine threw up one hand. “Then why didn’t you simply change the beacon to warn everyone away, then later tell the Jedi to come to Mandalore!?”

“Because the protocol for this kind of situation is to go dark,” Obi-Wan said, trying not to sound frustrated. “How would I have gotten word out to everyone where they should go? Most would have fled to the Outer Rim, where it would have taken months for any broadcasted message to reach them, if it would have reached them at all!”

“So what? Then it would have taken them months! The end result would still have been the same!”

“And scattered across the galaxy, most of them would be easy pickings for Sidious! Not everyone in the Order is skilled in disappearing, there are Healers and Padawans out there who have no experience with it at all! Of course I would have waited for your decision if I had the choice, but that wait would come at the cost of even more lives!”

“And if I hadn’t agreed it would have come at the cost of the lives of my people!”

“Look, I understand your position, but I could have never decided to do something that results in more death, even if it meant to take away your agency. It is a sacrifice I was willing to make, for my people.”

Satine took a deep breath through her nose. “I understand why you did it. I am still angry about it. But right now I think we are both too exhausted and too tired to have this argument. I suggest we both go to sleep and continue this tomorrow.”

“I agree,” Obi-Wan said after a moment of contemplation.

Satine made to leave, then turned back to raise one finger at him. “This does not mean forgiveness, just so we are clear.”

“Of course,” Obi-Wan said, watching her stalk away. He waited for a moment, chancing one last look at the horizon where the sun had disappeared by now, then left as well.

 

 

He returned to their quarters to find Master Yoda sitting on a pillow, scrolling through a data pad. Glancing over his shoulder, he recognized it as the protocol for the session of the Neutral Council.

“Where’s Ahsoka?” Obi-Wan asked.

“Went to the clones, she did.”

Obi-Wan nodded, internally feeling relieved. While he worried about Ahsoka, and wanted to help her, he knew that at the moment he was too unstable, and any attempts at comfort might just be more than he could handle. At least with the clones he knew that she was safe and cared for. Objectively speaking, at least. Subjectively, there was an irrational part of him feeling massively anxious about the mental image of his grandpadawan surrounded by people in white and marked armor.

Trying to ban the thought from his mind, he looked at the beds that had been provided for them. The prospect of sleep had rarely been so unappealing.

“Master,” Obi-Wan said, and Yoda looked up. For a moment Obi-Wan couldn’t meet his eyes, feeling ashamed about having to ask for something young padawans learned to do for themselves in their first year of training. “Can you put me under?”

When Master Yoda looked at him and nodded, his eyes were free of any judgement, but that somehow didn’t make him feel much better.

He washed up and got changed within a few minutes, before lying down in one of the single beds that occupied their room. Master Yoda pulled up a small stool, so that he was sitting beside his head.

A clawed hand reached out to lie gently on his forehead, the leathery skin rough yet comforting in its familiarity. Seconds later he felt the grandmaster’s presence in his mind, cradling his spirit with the utmost care before slowly lowering him into the depths of unconsciousness.

Obi-Wan’s eyes fell closed without him even noticing, his breathing evening out. He wasn’t awake anymore to see the shadow fall over his face as Yoda bowed his head, fathomless grief in his eyes as he looked onto the bright and yet so broken man before him.

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan came awake with a jolt. He sat up abruptly, dizzy and disoriented, taking in his surroundings without recognizing them.

Out of instinct he reached for the Force and recoiled immediately, repulsed by the coiling black mass that reached back for him, hissing like something hot and molten that met water, curling and winding around him until it was choking him, squeezing the light out of him. Even as he struggled he began to feel faint, the darkness encroaching wherever he could feel, threatening to engulf him and swallow him whole.

And suddenly there was a white light, batting away the darkness, forming a protective cocoon around his mind. The vice around his head disappeared, leaving him to finally be able to think again. As soon as he had enough of his wits gathered back together he set on re-erecting his shields, which had fallen flat like reed bowing to a hurricane.

When that was done he at last turned his attention outwards, only now noticing that his eyes had been open the whole time as his mind slowly began to detect the incoming signals again. He blinked hastily, his eyes having turned a bit dry during his brush with catatonia, then looked to his right side where he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Master Yoda was looking back at him from where he was standing on the bed, his tense posture slumping with relief when he saw Obi-Wan moving again.

“Scared me, you did,” Yoda said with a rough exhale, hopping down from the mattress.

“My apologies, Master,” Obi-Wan said, bowing his head.

“An apology, I do not think I asked for,” Yoda said with a huff. “Support, we should all give and receive, even more so in these dark times.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been so much on the receiving end,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“Too old, you think one can be for receiving support, hm? Think me too old for it, you do?”

Obi-Wan groaned. “No, Master,” he conceded.

Yoda looked at him smugly. “When compared to me, younglings, you all are anyway. Invalid, your arguments are.”

“Yes, Master,” Obi-Wan said with an eye roll. “I admit defeat in the face of your superior argumentation.”

“Especially insolent, this youngling has been and still is,” Yoda said, narrowing his eyes.

“Always, Master,” Obi-Wan said, sketching a mock bow and earning a snort from Yoda.

The chime of Obi-Wan’s comm interrupted their playful banter.

“Master Jedi, this is the flight communication center,” an unfamiliar voice said. “We have a request for landing from an unknown call sign, please come to the communication hub at once.”

 

The call sign had been of Jedi-category, yet as the new Empire was bound to be familiar with many of said signs, they decided to take no risks and set the landing space somewhere outside of civilization. An anti-air force was cloaked and waiting for standby, which left them alone on the field, around them only grass and scrubs, an effort to re-nutrition the earth which was still necessary even years after the Mandalorian Civil War had ended.

With Obi-Wan were Satine and Ahsoka, around them an invisible protective shield, just in case that there should be an unexpected aerial bombardment. Satine and he had rescheduled their arguments with a quick glance and nods, and despite the security risk Obi-Wan was glad that she was with them as they all waited anxiously.

They watched together as a big-bellied ship broke atmosphere, its form looking like a technical emulation of a space whale. Astrofighters buzzed around it as it slowly descended, like small agitated remoras flitting through the air beside their host.

As it came closer Obi-Wan recognized the sign painted on the side of the big ship as that of the Medical Corps. On some of the more reasonable Separatist worlds, that sign had acted as protection. On others it had made its ships the prime target. Needless to say, the shielding of medical ships had become an even more popular venue in a very short time during the Clone War.

With the distance to the ship shrinking, Obi-Wan could see that that shielding had been necessary once again, scorch marks and missing plating decorating the ship’s battered hull.

The pilot of the mother ship switched into hover mode and the entire formation halted, except for one astrofighter, which sped towards them and landed elegantly in the grass about twenty meters away from them. A lone figure hopped out, wearing a pilot helmet and the modified version of a pilot Jedi’s tunics with an attached oxygen system and a dark blue obi, their lightsaber attached to it.

They pulled the helmet off as they came closer, revealing a male, humanoid face and dark hair, and Obi-Wan began running without thinking, ignoring Ahsoka and Satine behind him calling his name. The other man broke into a sprint too, and they met in the middle, all but smashing against each other. The duraplastic of the oxygen compressor probably left bruises on Obi-Wan’s chest, but he didn’t care, simply hugging the other man tighter. He didn’t know if he was laughing or crying, maybe both, as the man lifted him off his feet and spun him through the air as if he weighed nothing.

He felt dizzy when he touched the ground again, and he was pretty sure it was not from vertigo.

“Garen,” Obi-Wan whispered, looking at the other’s tear-stained but smiling face, knowing that he himself probably didn’t look better. “Oh, thank the Force.” He reached out to frame the other’s face with both hands, pushing their foreheads together, a fresh wave of tears dribbling down his face as he felt Garen do the same.

“Ben,” he could hear Satine behind him say. “Could you please fill the rest of us in about what’s going on?”

Obi-Wan and Garen un-entangled themselves, Obi-Wan quickly wiping down his face with one tunic sleeve in hopes to get rid of the worst of it, before he turned around.

“Satine, Ahsoka, this is Master Garen Muln,” he said as Garen beside him bowed. “Garen, this is Duchess Satine Kryze, and Ahsoka Tano.”

Garen smirked at Obi-Wan from the side, knowing fully well who the two women were from their frequent correspondence, causing Obi-Wan to respond with a glare. Satine was watching the scene with barely hidden amusement, even as she nodded her head as greeting.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Master Muln,” Ahsoka said with a small bow, showing that she could be polite when she wanted to. Obi-Wan briefly felt a wave of sadness. His former grandpadawan and former crèche-mate shouldn’t be strangers. Due to the war, most of his contact to Garen during the last two years had been via holo-messages. On the rare occasions that they were both in the Temple at the same time they had been too busy to properly meet up, at most being able to catch a hasty meal in the mess hall.

Garen held up one hand, three fingers outstretched as an all-clear signal, and the medical ship slowly lowered to the ground, blowing up dust and bits of grass as it set down.

“Would you come in for a moment?” Garen said, seriousness banishing his impish expression. “I need to talk to you for a bit. The other two can come too.”

Obi-Wan nodded, and Garen led them to the medical ship, the ramp lowering for them to climb aboard.

“My squadron wasn’t originally assigned to this ship,” Garen told them as they walked down the white hallways. “It was just me and five pilots from the ExplorCorps, doing surveillance around a hyper lane. The Caspia was supposed to do relief after battle only, without direct involvement in fighting, so we were pretty surprised when we got an emergency signal from one system over. By the time we got there they were being bombarded by their own clone protection squadron, their shields nearly gone. We were very lucky that we were so close, they wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.”

Garen stopped in front of one door, looking down. “I think the small hyperspace jump buffered us a bit from what happened – not that we knew what that was until we got your beacon. Enough that we survived the fight anyway. Not all of us had that amnesty though.”

He palmed the door open, revealing a med-room. Obi-Wan stepped through behind him, noticing the high humidity in the air, then froze when he saw who was occupying the single bed inside.

Lying in the bed, hooked up on life support, was Bant, her usually soft pink Mon Calamarian skin ashen and grey, her eyes closed.

“She was actively healing someone, when the purge happened,” Garen explained, fresh grief audible in his voice. “From- from what I’ve been told the Force use coupled with the highly empathic Force nature of a healer resulted in a mental backlash. Four of the other healers are in the same state, and the two who remain say that they cannot help them without risking to end up like them. They-“

Obi-Wan looked away from Bant and to the side where Garen stood with his fist pressed against his lips, trying to suppress the sobs that heaved his chest.

“They say… t-that even if they manage to use their Force healing ability on her, they don’t know when she’ll wake up. Or- or if she’ll ever wake up at all.” At the last words Garen dissolved into tears, muffled sounds of crying beginning to escape from the hand clasped over his mouth.

Obi-Wan knew that he should be reaching out to his friend, that he should at least try to comfort him, but instead he stood still as a statue, wishing that he could still be able to cry at the sight of yet another friend being ripped away from them.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka had given them free access to the raw footage from the Jedi Temple. Not that it mattered much anymore, now that they had uploaded everything to the Holonet. The primary goal back then had been distribution, to make sure that no one would be able to say that the Temple massacre had been a lie. That most wouldn’t be able to say it, anyway. As Rex scoured the Holonet, there still remained a few staunch Palpatine supporters, who had the gall to pronounce the footage faked, or staged, or even said that the Jedi had it coming, which, seeing as he knew for a fact that the videos showed babes shot in their cribs, Rex found absolutely unbelievable.

The uploads had gone viral after less than ten minutes, and been taken down after eleven, which meant that the new Empire had to have had a rather smooth transition in administration. Not that surprising when General Kenobi had told them that this was the result of more than a decade in planning.

Many of his brothers had specialized in computer technology and slicing, so re- and re-uploading the data package to various sites from time to time without immediately getting busted wasn’t a problem.

What was the problem was that no one had yet dared to watch it.

In fact, Rex had to been the one who had watched most of it, that being the thirty seconds or so of footage General Kenobi had shown Ahsoka. That had been… he didn’t really know what it had been.

He knew that the Jedi hadn’t really wanted to publish the footage. Had seen it in Ahsoka’s face when she had told him about the plan. And yet she and General Kenobi had readily handed the footage over to him and his brothers. He knew that the Duchess had offered to set her own people on the task of putting the footage up for everyone to see and yet… they had been given the right to refuse, of course, but Rex was convinced that there wasn’t a single brother in his company who would have done such a thing.

So in a way they had been given blanket permission to watch everything. And Rex knew what it had been General Kenobi hadn’t wanted to spell out. That only one nearly full battalion had been stationed on Coruscant, only one battalion ready to be deployed.

His previous viewing of the footage may have been brief, but that didn’t stop the burning knowledge that the clones who had marched on the Temple had been the 501st. That they had been the one who slaughtered the Jedi.

And, as selfishly as Rex felt for even merely thinking it, who had been killed by the Jedi.

Even surprised, and turned on by their own supposed allies, he knew that not every Jedi would have fallen under the first firing barrage. That many of them had to have tried to defend themselves, and that restraining themselves from using lethal force hadn’t been an option.

During the war, there had been check-ins after every battle. They rarely had the chance to retrieve the bodies of their fallen brothers, so the only way to know who had died was by checking off everyone who still lived. It was a hope they could always cling to, that even if they fell, at least their names would be spoken in remembrance by those who lived on.

They had no way of knowing which of their brothers survived the march on the Temple. None without watching the footage, that was.

As Rex looked around, taking in the slumped form of his brothers sitting in the barracks they had been assigned, he knew that they couldn’t go on like this. He stood up, and immediately all eyes were on him.

“I will go and watch it,” he said, his voice ringing clear through the large room. “If there is anyone else with whom I could split the time they can follow me, but I will not blame anyone who chooses to remain here.”

Without turning around he walked into the communications room, taking in the fourteen seats outfitted with screens. Behind him he could hear faint murmurs from everyone else, but he tried to pay them no mind as he sat down on the nearest seat.

He was in the middle of keying up the package, when he heard the sound of armored boots. When he turned around there was a group of thirteen brothers standing in the doorway.

“We had to decide who should go in first,” Zems said with a strained grin on his face.

“I think we should take turns anyway,” Grappler said. “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to stomach in the long run.”

“Good idea,” Rex said with a nod. He hesitated for a moment before speaking up again. “I have a secondary request. I want to register every name, or at least every face, of the killed Jedi. I don’t-“ He looked out of a window for a moment to collect his thoughts. “I don’t want them to have to watch through all of it as well. I know that we probably won’t know most of them, but I’m sure the Generals will recognize those we don’t if we show them the faces.”

The vod’e around him were quiet, and for a brief second he feared that he may have asked more of them than they would or could give. Then Halm stepped forward, and thumbed his fist twice against the right side of his chest, with the other brothers echoing him a minute after.

“We’re proud to call you brother, Rex,” Halm said, briefly clasping his shoulder as he stepped forward to take his own place at one of the screens.

There were dozens of camera spots with their separate recordings, and they picked out the first fourteen, each of them taking one. They knew that not every corner of the Temple had been under surveillance, and even that not the entire security footage had been taken from Coruscant when the Generals had taken their hasty departure. But at least for some of the names weighing down their hearts, they would have certainty.

It took less than ten minutes for the first brother to walk out. He was quickly replaced, then another, and then another. Never was a screen free for more than half a minute, military efficiency once again at work.

Rex tried to hold out for as long as he could. He had seen battle footage before, more hours of it than he cared to admit, had been forced to watch it again and again in tactical meetings, had to watch his brothers fall but knowing that it was necessary, that the more they learned about how their enemies fought, the less names he would have to recite later.

But then he always had the solace that his brothers had died for a purpose. That they had died honorably, as much as there could be honor in war. But this… watching his brothers walking around like droids, moving in too perfect synchrony, too perfectly aligned, too identical to the brother beside them, every step, every twitch picture-book-perfect. No individuality left, just puppets dancing on strings. No hesitation as they shot at the very people they had wanted to protect.

He wrote down names, brothers and Jedi alike, he took pictures of those whose names he didn’t know, he used every ounce of his iron-will to keep his head clear.

Until Skywalker stepped into the frame.

He didn’t know it was him at first. The hood of his robes was up, his face lying in the shadows, only his lightsaber faintly illuminating a few outlines. Not that it would have been needed had Rex been thinking clearly, as the way the troopers swarmed around him as they killed everyone else would have been more than enough of a tip-off.

Skywalker turned, and Rex froze. Yellow irises burned like liquid sulfur, the white of the eyes bloodshot. For one crazy second Rex thought he was looking at the camera, until he noticed that the man was actually staring at something out of frame. His mechanical hand rose up, the fingers forming a beastly-looking claw. For a few seconds he remained like this, then his fingers closed to a fist. He turned away, obviously dismissive, and only then did Rex realized that he must have just seen his former General break someone’s neck with the Force.

He stood up so quickly that the chair behind him nearly toppled over, his eyes fixed on the monitor to see Skywalker moving out of the frame. Rex still had enough of his wits gathered to remember to pause the video, then he was walking out of the room. Someone else stepped in behind him, but he didn’t pay them, nor his brothers in the main room staring at him, any attention, only intent on getting out.

In the center of the barracks there was a small square garden, dotted with a few trees and bushes and lined with marble and glass plates. He dropped behind one of the trees, giving in for a brief moment into the illusion of privacy.

His hands were clenched into fists and he slowly and deliberately relaxed them, inch by inch. Rage was flying through his veins like a mad harpy, screeching and clawing at him, calling traitor traitor TRAITOR BROTHER-MURDERER louder with every second that he couldn’t banish Skywalker’s face from his mind.

He knew his former General had been a slave. No one had ever told him, but he’d been on the mission on Zyggeria. There had been nothing subtle about Skywalker’s thoughts and feelings towards the Slave Empire, rolling off of him not like the quiet simmering rage and grief of General Kenobi, but with the force of a forest fire, roaring, all-consuming, laced with revenge, with the call for blood and more blood, a thirst so great, so uncontrolled that even with the entire planet stained red it would never have been sated.

He had been afraid of his general, back then.

But now, fear was the furthest thing from his mind.

He knew that, above all, Sidious was the one to blame. The one who had been behind everything, who had engineered their birth and who had engineered so many of their deaths. But it hadn’t been Palpatine they had protected in every battle, it hadn’t been Palpatine at whose feet they had laid their lives, whom they had trusted, and who had been there at the Temple, who took them as they were unable to resist and who plunged their hands into the blood of those they had wanted to protect.

Anakin Skywalker, the man he would have thought would know best what it was like to have one’s free will taken, who had known the horror of it himself, who had had the gall to rage and rave at every instance of slavery they came across, this man had looked at his brothers and not only took the last thing they could still call their own from them, not only hadn’t even hesitated to make them into tools. He had used that violation in the worst way, had used them to do something so anathema to what they believed in, so horrific that he hoped that his brothers never woke up again from the influence of the chips. He had used them to kill the Jedi they had sworn to protect.

The Jedi had fought for them, fought with them, died beside them. Skywalker had regularly ranted about the Council, their supposed uncaring attitude towards the war, how most of them didn’t know what was really happening during the campaigns, that their bureaucratic ways made them completely ineffective. But Rex had seen General Kenobi and Cody sitting together night after night, had seen them put together proposal after proposal to get the Senate to grant the clones even the most basic of rights, had heard from Cody how his General and the Council kept revising them in hours others might have thought could better be devoted to the war. All of it just so that his brothers, seen by the general public as convenient, interchangeable soldiers they could send off so they wouldn’t have to draft and risk ‘real people’, would someday be more than just numbers to be crossed off. And all that meticulous work just so the Senate couldn’t reject the inconvenient proposals due to some technicality.

The Jedi had seen them as more than just replaceable pieces. And now most of them were dead, slaughtered by one of their own.

When Slick had betrayed them on Christophsis, Rex had been unable to understand how one could cause the death of their brothers, no matter how noble their goal was. He had thought that Skywalker had held the same feelings towards his Jedi siblings even if they didn’t share blood. General Kenobi certainly had, often sharing stories of other Jedi with the brothers, a fond smile fixed on his face. When their campaigns were at their worst, their darkest, the happiness of his memories and bonds would be like looking out of a window into a sunny day, reminding them that there could be more to life than just this endless war.

Slick at least had been trying to help his brothers, in a backwards way. He had shown regret for the deaths he had caused, even though he ultimately hadn’t felt remorse for what he had done.

There had been no hesitance on Skywalker’s face in the recording. No sorrow for the lives he was taking. No guilt. Only intent, as if the genocide of the Jedi and the violation of Rex’ brothers were just a necessary step, some obligation that had to be fulfilled.

Rex was crying, unable to tell whether it was due to grief or rage.

Whatever Skywalker’s reason had been for committing things that even atrocity would be too kind a word to describe, the traitor should better enjoy the spoils while he still could.

 

 

Rex stood alone before the door to General Kenobi’s room, the data chip containing the vod’e’ s collected findings in one hand.

When he had left the barracks, the others had been a mess. There had been a few brothers who had foregone participating in the watching, which in the end had been rather advantageous, as they now had at least some not-as-emotionally-compromised brothers who could keep watch over the others.

Rex knew that his brothers were strong, that they would recover from this. But right now they were sleeping from emotional exhaustion, crying alone or together, or trying in vain to quench the range by emptying a few blaster cells at the target range. Grappler had even packed out several bottles of alcohol, which Rex had pretended he hadn’t noticed.

Rex turned the chip over in his hand, before taking a fortifying breath. The door’ electronic security system recognized the wristlet he had been given, and the door opened for him.

General Kenobi was sitting crosslegged on the carpet in the middle of the room, his form hunched over where he had clasped his hands together in his lap. He looked up when Rex stepped closer.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your meditation,” Rex said, feeling awkward.

General Kenobi gave a self-deprecating chuckle. “Oh, I wasn’t meditating. Reaching the Force has been… I accidentally tried this morning, and it didn’t go well, to say the least.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what have you been doing, if not something Force-related?” Rex asked, leaning forward curiously.

“Ah, just because I cannot reach the Force doesn’t mean it isn’t here anymore. So I’ve been praying for everyone’s safe return. Those… those that are still alive, at least.” Kenobi looked away for a moment, wrapping one arm around his torso, before he turned back to Rex with a forced smile on his face. “And what have you been up to, Rex? I somehow doubt you are here to hear me prattle about religious rituals.”

If Rex had thought he had been feeling bad before, that had been nothing compared to now, when he looked into the General’s eyes and saw the desperate hope glimmering in them, the thought that someone else ought to have survived the last flimsy life line for a man drowning in the dark.

The chip in his hand felt like it weighed a metric ton.

The temptation to make some hasty excuse and walk out was stronger than ever, but Rex hadn’t earned his jaig eyes for nothing. Kenobi- Obi-Wan had a right to the information he was holding, and it wouldn’t be right to withhold it from him, no matter how painful it might be.

“My brothers and I, we… we went through the footage,” Rex explained haltingly. “We catalogued who of the 501st died in the Temple. And… who of the Jedi died.” He could see a barely perceptible flinch going through Obi-Wan’s frame at his last words, yet he forced himself to open his hand to present the chip containing the results of their efforts. “We mostly took pictures, as we didn’t know many of their names, but…”

“I see,” Obi-Wan said. His hand was trembling ever so slightly as he reached out. Rex gently dropped the chip into his opened palm.

For a moment Obi-Wan simply looked down at the inconspicuous piece of silicon, conflicting emotions flickering over his face.

“Ha-How many?” he asked haltingly, looking up at Rex.

“2247,” Rex said. Obi-Wan flinched as if Rex had physically hit him, curling in on himself as a choked whimper escaped him. For a few moments Rex just stood there, not knowing what to do, only hearing the quiet, hitching breaths. Finally he knelt down next to the crumbled figure. A slight upward tic of the bowed head told him that he had been noticed, yet Obi-Wan didn’t look up. Rex reached out to first touch the rigid fingers that had curled around the chip, then when he wasn’t pushed away carefully trailed his touch up to the other man’s shoulders, before pulling him close.

Obi-Wan was trembling against him, the muscles under Rex’ fingers so tense that it had to hurt. Slowly, some of the rigidity bled out of Obi-Wan’s posture, molding against Rex’s body, his head coming to rest in the crook of Rex’s neck where he could feel the irregular breathing against his skin.

“Th-Three thousand,” Obi-Wan murmured after a few minutes had passed. “There c-ouldn’t have been more than three thousa-and Jedi in the Temple. And even then-“

The rest of the words got caught in his throat, but Rex could all too well imagine what it was he couldn’t say. Even then we didn’t have the complete footage. Even then those that may have escaped could as well have been gunned down in the streets, or shot out of the sky as they tried to flee the planet.

Rex’ grip tightened for just a fraction as he looked out of the window, watching the moon travel through the night sky as he listened to the Jedi in his arms trying to breathe.

Chapter Text

Without anything else to do, the vod’e fell into their usual down-time busykeeping. Some were training, sparring hand to hand, or maintaining their blasters and armor. Others who had gotten glimpses at civilian life might have engaged in a hobby or two. Most of those included watching or reading fiction, something that had been very sparse on Kamino, unless you knew the rare brother who would write on a fixed-up datapad they had fished out of the trash.

Rex had gotten himself dragged into watching some kind of musical with Zems, and he had to admit that he was impressed by the music and dance, even if he could already tell that he still preferred written material.

Steps echoed from behind the door that went to the communal room, and the vod’e inside perked up. They’d all recognize the footsteps of a brother in their sleep, and the Jedi favored nearly silent boots. But whoever was coming was wearing heavy combat gear, yet had less body mass than a clone.

The vod’e looked at Rex, who got up without making a sound, walking forward until he stood in front of the door, his body angled slightly with one hand resting on his right blaster holster. Behind him everyone else got into a loose formation, not overly anxious, but still cautious.

The door opened, and Bo-Katan Kryze stepped in, clad in beskar’gam without the helmet on. Her eyes swept over them, taking in the battle-ready stances. Finally she fixed her gaze on Rex.

“Greetings, captain,” she said.

“Lady Kryze,” Rex answered, not relaxing for one bit. When they had arrived here they had been told that Bo-Katan was on ‘their’ side now, but this woman had still been a leading figure in a terrorist organization until less than two years ago.

Kryze’s smile widened.

“Good instincts,” she complimented.

“Not the usual answer to being implicitly threatened with a blaster arsenal,” Rex responded.

“What shame is there in being ready to defend one’s family?” Kryze asked.

“Aggressiveness begets aggressiveness. Isn’t that also one of your sister’s maxims?”

“Well, I cannot completely deny that, though neither can my sister completely prove that.”

“So you’ve really gone from trying to overthrow her to having philosophical discussions?”

“Me and my sister, we are now Mand’ad, a binary ruler body.”

“And your days of violence are behind you?” Rex asked, not bothering to hide his doubt.

Kryze smiled, showing sharp teeth. “The traditional Mandalorian ways are of blood and battle. And I still stand by them. But I have also been a commander, and a leader. I know that there is no one solution. I do not shy from a fight, but I also love my planet and my people, and to protect them I can recognize that there is wisdom in other ways than just the one I follow.”

“Is that all you have come here to say?” Rex asked.

“Ah, right to point, very well,” Kryze said. “I am here because I want to make you an offer.”

Rex waited.

“Many years ago, I met your progenitor, Jango Fett,” Kryze continued. “I cannot say that I truly knew him, but we all knew of him. He was a true Mandalorian, which even then was already a rare thing to find. And if I judged his behavior back then and your behavior now right, he taught you at least part of what being a Mandalorian means, which code we adhere to and which rituals we honor.”

“And what’s it to you?” Rex asked, defensive.

“You are warriors, of Mandalorian descent,” Kryze said. “And here on Mandalore, we still honor birthright. So as Jango Fett’s offspring, you can appeal for citizenship.”

A twitch went through the group of clones, all of them taken aback by the sudden proposition as they struggled not to break stance. Even Rex was gobsmacked, having a hard time finding a quick response.

“I’ve heard that you were against the Jedi taking residence on Mandalore,” Zems said, surprising everyone around him. “Yet you’re fine with taking in what could end up to be thousands of clones?”

“I don’t like the Jedi,” Kryze said. “I don’t intend to make a secret out of that. In interest of full disclosure I also want to say that I especially don’t like Kenobi. When my sister called for the vote on whether or not the Jedi could stay on Mandalore, I voted no. But now they’re here, and even if I loathe him, I know that Kenobi is a good fighter and strategist. And that there is a bigger enemy at play here, who, if Kenobi told the truth, may have been systematically destabilizing my planet for years. So I will use the cards I have been dealt with to my advantage.”

“It still doesn’t answer the question of why us,” Rex said.

“There’s a war coming,” Kryze said calmly. “My sister and her optimistic outlook may think that we’ll get away without direct fighting, but we are letting the age-old enemy of the same Sith who is now in charge of an Empire stay on our planet. So if they come to our door, I want to be prepared. Yet thanks to the efforts of my sister, our military is at a low head count, and most of the warrior haven’t seen large-scale combat in years. But you and your brothers have. You are trained, experienced fighters, even with some knowledge on how to deal with Force users.”

“You want us to fight for you,” Rex stated.

“Yes, to put it simply.”

“What if we say no? Does that get that citizenship offer redacted?”

Kryze looked amused. “My sister would have my head. Also while some of you might say no, I imagine that you hate the Empire, a lot. And if you honor family, you will try to save your brothers. Even if half of you say yes to the fighting that will be more than enough of a plus on my side.”

“We could always fight the Empire without tying ourselves down,” Rex said.

“But if you’ll join our warriors we can share knowledge and equipment with you. Give you actual beskar’gam if you are proven worthy, instead of those duraplastic knock-offs. Mandalorians have a long history of fighting Force users. We can teach you.”

“And in return we do what? Protect against an invasion as we are already planning to do? Fight on the battlegrounds which are decided by our generals anyway? That we end up protecting Mandalore even if only as a by-product is a given. It seems we would be getting a lot more out of the deal than you are,” Rex said, suspicious.

Kryze raised an eyebrow. “I devoted my life to my planet and my people since I was old enough to understand our code. I adhere to the values the resol’nare teaches. To the principle of supporting the tribe. Some may describe your creation as unnatural, but all that matters to me is that you carry Mandalorian blood.”

“We’ve never even set foot on Mandalore until three weeks ago,” Rex argued.

“Yet you are closer to our code of morals than people who have been here their whole life. I have seen the way you support each other. How far you went to honor the deaths of your brothers in the Jedi Temple. You and your brothers are a clan in all but name.”

Rex looked to his sides, taken in his brothers’ expressions. There was apprehension there, yet also longing. None of them had ever had a true home. To be offered one now… it was a bit overwhelming.

“We will need time for consideration before we can give an answer,” Rex finally said.

Kryze nodded. “I will come to you again in a few days.”

 

 

 

The day after Garen’s arrival, twenty-one more Jedi had turned up on Mandalore, either alone or in small groups, most of them young knights. Which made sense, as anyone who had attained Mastery or was at least close enough to it had been assigned to a clone battalion. The younger knights had been doing information gathering, diplomatic work or monitoring former battle fields.

They may not have seen the effects of Order 66, but they had all felt it, their eyes haunted. Only a week ago Obi-Wan had thought that the war had broken his family in horrible, unsurpassable ways, yet that had been nothing to the state they were all in now.

And him… They looked at him with a desperate hope, with a blindly grasping trust he had proven himself undeserving off, and with more faith than he could bear.

Luckily for him they had more than enough work to do that he didn’t have time to think too deeply about that. In fact they didn’t really have time for anything – every passing second allowed Sidious to strengthen his hold on the former Republic and Separatist worlds.

At least by now the Council of Neutral Systems, which Obi-Wan still had a hard time believing they were now an official member of, had drafted and published an address, reaffirming their independence as well as not so subtly reminding everyone that they were open and hiring. Nothing yet of the fact that the Order had joined them though.

For the moment the Council had been adjourned, and Obi-Wan and the other Jedi on Mandalore were using the break to discuss logistics with Satine’s minister for inner security. For now everyone was staying in the diplomatic wing of the Senate building, but that couldn’t be the permanent solution. For a security reasons alone, a complex only to house the Jedi would be needed in the long run. And while with the recent fighting there was for once enough free space to build something that could harbor all the Order’s fugitives, getting workers and resources to construct a whole new building proved frustratingly difficult in a half-ravaged city.

Obi-Wan could tell that the minister wasn’t indifferent to their plight, but the man was also aware of the families currently sleeping hastily modified sports halls and setting his priorities accordingly, something that Obi-Wan couldn’t begrudge him for. Yet he couldn’t help but feel anxious as he tried to bargain for earlier dates to start working on the new building. The diplomatic suites had been built a lot more with comfort, and a lot less with security in mind, especially security against threats of the Dark Force nature.

“Master!”  Ahsoka’s voice made him look up from the charts they had been studying to see where and what could possibly be spared.

“Ahsoka,” Obi-Wan said, surprised by seeing her hurry to the table. “What happened?”

“There’s something you need to see.” Ahsoka placed a holoprojector on the table. She looked at the minister, who thankfully was quick on the uptake and left so the Jedi were among themselves. Ahsoka turned back to the projector, keying up a video. “This just happened ten minutes ago on Coruscant.”

The device flickered to life, showing a wide lane, flanked by crowds of civilians. They were mostly silent, held at bay by rows of soldiers. The white armors they were wearing were identical, making them look like droids. On the road an open speeder made its way down, Sidious standing inside, waving at the people like he wasn’t seeing their stone-faced expressions.

The speeder halted at the bottom of the steps and Sidious stepped out, ascending to the first platform of the stairway. At the sides large screens were hovering, and they switched on when the emperor spread his arms. On the screens close-up live recordings of him were being shown.

“My fellow citizens!” Sidious began, his voice projecting along the entire avenue. “Today I stand before you to take us one further step into the glorious future of the new Empire!”

Reluctant applause from the rows of spectators.

“The Jedi and their machinations have cost the lives of millions of innocents, but together, we have succeeded in defeating them. And to truly show the change of our Empire to a better path, I am glad to announce that the traitors’ so-called Temple will be remodeled into the Imperial Palace!”

One wide gesture, and banners with the Imperial insignia unrolled down the Temple’s walls.

“How dare they,” one of the Knights, Valara, hissed.

“Hold your banthas,” Ahsoka said, her eyes fixed on the footage where Sidious was turning back to his audience.

“From now on forward, we will-“ A loud gasp went through the masses, and Sidious halted, whirling around to follow where some of the people in the audience had begun pointing.

Up on the wall, the Imperial banners were burning. Flames had started from the bottom and were rapidly eating their way up through the dark red fabric. And underneath the frizzling tapestry, other banners with a white background and wine-red lines were being revealed.

Sidious’ face deformed from rage, as the symbol of the Jedi Order once again hung from the Temple walls. Seconds later the footage cut out.

Stunned silence settled among the Jedi gathered around the table.

“That’s not all,” Ahsoka said, keying up a set of images. Photos taken of flowers and candles lain down before the front entrance at night. Then more pictures of them being carried away by storm troopers, only to be replaced again once the next patrol was out of sight.

“And this was posted during that speech just now. Guess they made use of most of the security being elsewhere.” Shown was the Senate building, and alongside its wall, written in dripping red pain, were the words Empire of Blood.

The picture switched off.

“They didn’t forget us,” another Knight, a female Rodian by the name Ultei whispered. “They’re openly taking our side. They’re not looking away from what happened.” Her eyes shone wetly.

“We need to let them know that we are hearing them,” Obi-Wan said, his eyes fixed on the recorder, one hand stroking his beard as he thought. “If people are resisting so publically… there already is a spark of rebellion flickering on Coruscant. But if we don’t feed it, Sidious will extinguish it.”

He looked up, turning to Ahsoka. “Thank you for showing us, little one.” Ahsoka nodded, even as the corner of her mouth twitched at the ‘little’ bit. Addressing the group as large, Obi-Wan continued: “I will speak to the Duchess about going public. I hadn’t expected things to progress so quickly, but with this we cannot stay silent. We need to make a statement, even if it means prematurely giving away our status.”

Chapter Text

This is Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.

For years, we have all been manipulated, as someone has been pulling the strings in the back, sowing mistrust and discord. Sheev Palpatine is a Sith Lord by the name of Darth Sidious, who has facilitated the war, who has controlled both the Republic by his position as Chancellor and the Separatist systems by way of his apprentice, Darth Tyrannus, also known as Count Yan Dooku. The war was never meant to be won by either side, it was only to weaken us, our beliefs, and our bonds.

The Jedi Order has fallen as the Empire has risen. Our future is dark and uncertain. Many have been torn from us, yet the Light lives on in us who remain. The belief in freedom and equality is as old as sentience. It has existed before the Republic, and it will continue to exist even now that the Republic has fallen. For every sentient out there, I ask of you, preserve. Hold onto your Light. Hold onto your hope. They may beat us down, but we will rise again. We are many. We will not stay placid. Our time will come again.

May the Force be with you all.

 

 

Obi-Wan came awake with the suddenness born from long years on the battle field. There was no abnormal sound, but he knew that he was not alone in his room. The hand he had under his pillow curled around the hilt of the lightsaber hidden there, as he waited to see what the intruder would do.

A soft swoosh of air, and the snap-hiss of a lightsaber ignited were his only warning, and he swung up and ignited his own blade just in time to stop the plasma beam dangerously close to his face.

The face of the intruder was hidden in shadows of a hooded coat, but the red blade of the weapon told him that it was very likely that they didn’t mean well. Standing over him, they had the larger leverage, and slowly the crossed blades came uncomfortably close to his face.

In a split-second he angled his blade so that the weapon of his opponent slid off, slicing through his pillow and the mattress as he rolled away, nimbly getting to his feet. He didn’t get a moment to catch his breath, as the other person vaulted over the bed, swinging their saber in a horizontal arc that had him bending over backwards to avoid having his head taken off.

Their fight continued in that vein, his enemy slashing at him with increasing aggressiveness, and him dodging and sometimes blocking as they danced around the room. It gave him the opportunity to observe, noting that whoever they were, they were well-trained, strong and dangerously quick. They were using what looked like some bastardized version of Makashi, unconventional enough that he was sure they weren’t Temple trained, yet too reminiscent of the rare form that their training couldn’t have been without at least some Jedi influence. Despite their obvious experience, the style seemed somewhat ill-fitted to them, a slip here and there revealing a certain unbalancedness, holes in their defense that shouldn’t be there at their level of skill, even as they were quickly compensated for. Against a lesser opponent they might not have mattered, but Soresu was designed to take advantage of the slightest faltering, and there had been already more than enough opportunity for Obi-Wan to slip through their furious sword storm and deal an incapacitating to potentially lethal wound. However, the Force urged him to stay his blade with surprising clarity, and he obeyed.

The slips grew, until finally a pulse from the Force told him to act. He slid to his knees under their blade and hit their sword hand with the back end of his saber hilt, causing their grip to open. Snatching their saber, he turned back to his feet behind them.

“Gah!” the intruder screamed, clutching what had to be at least a fractured wrist. “You fucker!”

Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed. “Ventress?” he asked disbelievingly, having recognized her voice. The two blades in his hands switched off with a quiet hiss.

The figure roughly tore back the hood of their coat, revealing the familiar face, now drawn into a sneer.

“Give me back my weapon, Kenobi,” she said, scowling.

Obi-Wan carefully weighed the hilt in his hand. “You want me to give you back the weapon you just tried to take my head off with?”

“Oh don’t be a baby, I didn’t really try to kill you!” Ventress said. At Obi-Wan’s raised eyebrow, she groaned. “Well, maybe a bit, but since when do you die just because someone tries to kill you, eh?”

“Maybe I’ll just hold onto this until you tell me why you are here, hm?” Obi-Wan suggested.

“Did anyone tell you recently that you are a pain in the ass, Kenobi? Because you really are.”

“I try,” Obi-Wan said, with a smile that he knew would rile her up. Ventress’ scowl deepened. “Now, my dear, you still haven’t answered my question.”

For a moment it looked like Ventress would just keep continuing to insult him, but then she seemed to calm down a bit.

“I heard about your pet project,” she said.

“Pet project?”

“The whole Fuck the Empire, Rebellion, whatever shtick,” Ventress elaborated.

“And what is it to you?”

“I want in,” Ventress said. That did surprise Obi-Wan, his eyes widening just a fraction. Ventress huffed and crossed her arms at his disbelieving look. “Listen, you are not the only one who has beef with the Sith, okay? I want to get back at Sidious. I mean, I would get back at Tyrannus, but that’s not possible anymore now that your charming barnacle killed him before I could.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help the flinch as she mentioned Anakin, and Ventress honed in on it with the swiftness of a shark tasting blood in the water.

“And what’s up with him and the whole name change anyway?”

“Leave it, Ventress,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“I would, except I’m pretty certain we’ll be crossing blades sooner or later, so I’d rather know how he’s gone from obnoxious, over-ambitious Jedi to over-ambitious Jedi-slaughterer.”

“I said leave it!” Obi-Wan shouted. The loud words seemed to continue to echo in the silent room. Ventress was staring at him, her eyes widened ever so slightly.

“Hit a nerve, did I?” she asked, her expression quickly returning back to the annoyed normal. When he glared at her, she raised her hands in mock-surrender, all the while rolling her eyes. “Okay, fine, whatever. No mentioning of that topic. Back to the revolution business. I’m thinking a mutually beneficial alliance if opportunity arises, and immediate parting of ways whenever I say.”

Obi-Wan sighed. “So you do not want to actively stay and work, but if it’s convenient for you, you’ll help?”

“It’ll be just like friends with benefits!” Ventress said, a smirk on her lips as she spread her arms wide. “All the joyous maiming, and none of the pesky commitment.”

“Maiming is not what friends with benefits do, Ventress,” Obi-Wan said.

“Well, maybe in your boring friends with benefits arrangements they don’t,” Ventress shot back.

“I will need to ask the others before I can confirm our new… working relationship.”

“Okay, “ Ventress said, crossing her arms before her chest as she fell into an easy resting stance.

“Don’t think that you can just stay here. You’re coming too,” Obi-Wan said.

Ventress put one hand over her chest as she feigned a surprised gasp. “Don’t you trust me?”

Obi-Wan palmed the door open, then turned to look at her with a blank expression.

“You wound me,” Ventress said.

Obi-Wan motioned with one hand towards the exit.

“If someone attacks me, I will use you as human shield, just so you know,” Ventress said, but she walked through the entrance nonetheless.

“How did you manage to get here anyway?” Obi-Wan asked as they went down the hallway. “The exo-atmospheric space should be highly monitored.”

“Tagged along to a big merchant ship,” Ventress said. “If your own ship is small enough, and you fly close enough to whomever you’re shadowing, they don’t register you.”

“I’m familiar with that method,” Obi-Wan said. “It certainly was often enough done in our space battles. But land-based sensors are much better, even if slower than what a Destroyer is equipped with, so wouldn’t they be able to tell the energy signals apart?”

“Not if you fly close enough to the thrusters,” Ventress said smugly.

“Oh dear,” Obi-Wan said. Fly too close, you burn. Fly too far away, you get spotted. “Well, at least it’s a gap in our defense that’s hard to exploit.”

They walked down the hallway, until Ventress suddenly stopped, her head tilting to one side. Obi-Wan halted slightly ahead of her, the quiet allowing for the faint snap and hiss sounds to be heard.

“Battle?” Ventress asked him.

Obi-Wan shook his head. “Training salle.”

Without a further word Ventress slipped into the next side hallway leading into the direction of the sounds. Obi-Wan spared a moment to let out a long-suffering sigh, then followed her.

He caught up to her where she had stopped in front of a viewing windows to one of the halls. When Obi-Wan stepped closer, he could see that it was Ahsoka who was training, several flying probes swirling around her as she sommersaulted through the air, her eyes closed as she dodged bolts by the width of a hair. As they watched, Ahsoka jumped onto one of the probes that was flying at least five meters above ground, letting it shoot wildly as it tried to locate her and accidentally taking out two of its companions. Just before it realized where she was she let herself fall, tagging it and one that had been buzzing below them with her sabers as she went down. Her blades snapped off a fraction before she hit the floor and rolled to lessen impact, then back on to deflect the bolts from the remaining probes that had circled her back at them, the bright arcs of plasma forming the afterimage of a sphere, a perfect guard.

The deactivated probes fell to the grounds with a clatter, and Ahsoka moved to collect them, unaware of the audience she had gathered.

“She’s gotten even better,” Ventress said, something that sounded suspiciously like begrudging admiration swinging in her voice.

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said simply, not bothering to hide his pride.

“There’s always room for improvement, of course,” Ventress added quickly.

“As is for all of us, I am sure,” Obi-Wan said, repressing once again the urge to roll his eyes.

“I could teach her,” Ventress said, making Obi-Wan’s head snap around quickly enough that he was afraid he’d get a crick in his neck.

“Pardon me?”

“Come on, Kenobi. While I’m sure your dual-wielding isn’t too horrible, your mastery is in a one-blade form. You can’t tell me that you have much left that you could teach her when it comes to the finery of dual-wielding.”

“I suppose,” Obi-Wan said. “But-”

“But you don’t want the darksider near her, whispering evil stuff from behind her montrals?” Ventress said, crossing her arms.

Obi-Wan chuckled. “Actually, I was just surprised that you were offering when you've just stressed your want for independence. About the darksider thing... Ahsoka has a very strong moral compass. I have full faith that she will continue to do what is right to the best to her ability. Even if you should try to tempt her, which I don’t actually believe is your design for the record, she will stay in the Light.”

“Even though she’s not a Jedi anymore?” Ventress asked.

“The Jedi don’t have a monopoly on the Force or the light side,” Obi-Wan said. “We are but one of many organizations who devote their life to the Force. In the Republic we were simply the only ones who would and could train ourselves to use the Force in high-profile work.” He looked through the window again. “Plus she was part of my lineage. All Jedi are family, but one’s lineage is usually even closer to you than everyone else.”

“Heartwarming,” Ventress said drily. “Say, since Tyrannus trained me, doesn’t that mean I’d be part of your lineage too? If we go through the hierarchy, that would make me your lineage-aunt, wouldn’t it?”

Obi-Wan turned his head to see Ventress smirking at him. “Sure,” he said, feeling a tick in his eyebrow. “You can be the weird aunt, who drinks too much cheap rum and gives bad life advice.”

“Aw, my cute little darling nephew!”

“Never call me that again.”

While Obi-Wan was keen to simply lead Ventress straight to Satine and avoid any further pitstops, luck was not on his side, as the next training salle was also occupied.

“Who's she?” Ventress asked, watching with keen interest as Bo-Katan of all people plunged a knife into the chest of a training droid, then used its momentary stationary to wrench its head off with her bare hands.

“That's Bo-Katan, Satine's sister.” As if she had heard him saying her name, the former Death Watch member turned around, her eyes narrowing as she spotted him. Obi-Wan flashed her his most winning smile. Without looking behind herself, Bo-Katan ripped out the dagger in the droid's chest and threw it. It embedded with a dull thud in the wall beneath the viewing window, just at the height where Obi-Wan's heart would be.

“She doesn't seem to be a fan of yours,” Ventress said, studying the trembling dagger handle on the other side with no small amount of amusement.

“I'm aware,” Obi-Wan said, watching as Bo-Katan pounced on the poor remaining training droids with renewed fervour.

“So, is she single?”

Obi-Wan choked. “What?”

Ventress flashed him a smile full of teeth before turning back to the viewing window.

Oh Force, give me strength, Obi-Wan thought, watching Ventress lick her lips as Bo-Katan ripped another droid in half.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka found him in his own room, a pad perched in his lap as he sat cross-legged on a meditation map.

“Catching up on the new My stepmom from Iago episodes?” she asked as she sat down next to him.

“How do you even know of that horrible soap opera?” Obi-Wan asked, looking at her with a crooked smile.

“A few of the brothers from the 501st are fans,” Ahsoka said with a shrug. “They’d have regular binge-watching nights.”

Obi-Wan sighed. “Well, I cannot claim that I wouldn’t take over-the-top acting over this.” He turned the pad so that Ahsoka could see.

“Seppie news?” Ahsoka asked with a frown, recognizing the displayed news sites.

“Some of them are actually rather independent news sources,” Obi-Wan said, taking the pad back. “Better than anything coming from Empire space anyway. Though what is most interesting are the discrepancies. Apparently, an increasing number of leaders from Separatist worlds have gone missing.”

“Like who?” Ahsoka asked.

“Mostly people from the more influential planets, though then there might be a bias because they are more likely to be reported on. For people you may be familiar with, the leaders from the Tech Union, the Trade Federation and the Banking clans are among those unaccounted for.”

Ahsoka pulled a face. “Well, good riddance to those.”

Obi-Wan gave her a look. “While I am not overly fond of them either, I fear their disappearance is working very much to our disadvantage. Many regions of Separatist-controlled space are destabilizing, and becoming easy pickings for the Empire.”

“You think that Sidious did this,” Ahsoka stated.

“I’d bet Garen’s beloved astrofighter on it,” Obi-Wan said with a grim face. “It’s not even that subtle, but then I suppose Sidious is very assured in his victory, and there isn’t exactly anyone in the position to call him out on it AND have there be consequences for it.”

“But even the Empire public would find it odd, wouldn’t they?”

“Well, for those people there are a few choice Separatist news blogs which heavily implicate the Jedi Order as the culprit.”

“What?” Ahsoka sputtered. “But how would that even have worked? It’s logistically impossible!”

“Apparently it’s all part of our large-scale coup to take over the Republic,” Obi-Wan said with a shrug. “A synchronized take-over and all that. What’s interesting is that when I asked a few of the brothers to do a bit of slicing on those sites all their addresses led back to Coruscant and Senate-owned servers, though they were very cleverly routed over proxies to make it seem like they were Separatist- or at least Neutral-based.”

“Of course,” Ahsoka nearly growled. “Please tell me that the counter-Empire movement at least caught on.”

Obi-Wan winced. “They did. But… at the moment they are rather preoccupied with something else I’m afraid.”

“And what’s that?” Ahsoka asked, understandably confused about his reaction.

Obi-Wan minimized the Separatist news sites and re-opened another tab group. He held the tablet out for her to take and watched as her eyes went wide and she sharply inhaled through gritted teeth.

DEATH TO THE TRAITOR CLONES – the website banner screamed. Underneath it were texts detailing patrol routes of the newly re-named ‘stormtroopers’, and videos and pictures of smaller clone cells being ambushed and beaten before their masked assailants ran off.

“They…” Ahsoka’s hands were shaking, and Obi-Wan feared that she would break the pad in her tight grip. Tears of rage were forming in her eyes. “How… how fripping dare they??”

Obi-Wan swallowed the reflex of reprimanding her for her language, instead opting to gently pry the pad out of her fingers before something happened to it. “They are focusing their anger in a direction where they can achieve immediate results,” he said calmly.

“But the clones didn’t-“ She trailed off, realization hitting her. “They… they don’t know about the chips. They think the clones are willing participants in this.”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said. “And while we know that to not be the truth, we don’t have actual proof, only circumstantial evidence. Not enough to stop the mob that’s forming.” His fingers drummed against the pad.

“What are you planning?” Ahsoka said, recognizing the expression on his face.

“I want to go to Kamino,” Obi-Wan said. “Sneak in, get proof.”

Ahsoka’s eyebrows rose. “That’s risky. They should still be well fortified.” The planet certainly had been a target for the Separatists often enough during the war.

“But we are very familiar with their defense systems,” Obi-Wan said. “And… if Sidious has already been targeting the Separatist leaders, then I think the Kamino facilities won’t be far behind.”

Ahsoka nodded.

“The timing is very bad,” Obi-Wan continued, “what with all the fortification work still going on here on Mandalore. I had planned to wait until we were more secure in our establishment before we start running off-planet missions. But I had also thought that Sidious would keep the supporters he had already used during the time of the Republic. Continuing to pull the strings on the figureheads of the Separatists would have gone a long way to stabilizing the region quickly and making it easier to govern. However, he seems to prefer to eliminate anyone who could pose a threat to him, even at his own detriment. And if that line of thought is correct, I fear we may only find ruins on Kamino by now.”

Ahsoka nodded. “So, who do you want to take? And do you plan to ask Asajj?”

Obi-Wan pulled a face. Ventress had stayed for less than a day, first holding a closed meeting with the Kryze sisters, from which she somehow emerged with an actual compromise of working together in the future. Satine had had a pinched look on her face when Obi-Wan greeted her after she came out of the door, and hurriedly went on to get herself a caf. Bo-Katan had left throwing a not entirely decipherable look at Ventress over her shoulder, which could have either meant that she wanted to beat her into the ground or take her up on all the flirting Ventress had let loose in her direction. Actually, now that he thought about it, those things weren’t necessarily mutually exclusive when it came to those two.

The rest of Ventress’ time on Mandalore she had used to chase Ahsoka from one end of the training salle to the other, and then left after stealing some food from the Mandalorian Senate’s cafeteria.

“I admit that Asajj is good at infiltration,” Obi-Wan said, “but I think we need the vod’e for this, and expecting them to work together with her is just too much to ask.”

“Yeah…” Ahsoka drawled. “Alright, when do you plan to have us leave?”

 

 

They set off as soon as had been possible, but it turned out that no soon would have been quick enough.

Sidious had been even faster than he had feared. Only ripped apart, half molten durasteel scraps remained of Tipoca City, most of it submerged and sunken into the sea. There was no rising smoke left in the ruins, and even without the never-ending rain he thought that the remains would have been long gone cold anyway.

On the comm channels between the aethersprites, the clones were quiet. Obi-Wan knew that the sterile and inhumane conditions in which they had been raised and trained would have hardly induced fond feelings, but the Kaminoan facilities had still been the place where they were born and where they had grown up with their siblings. The best consolation they could offer in the face of this destruction was that near the end of the war, nearly all of the clones had left the facilities, and the production of new ones had been mostly halted as the Senate had cut down on the respective funds. In hindsight a very convenient timing.

“This is AzureTiger 3, hailing any survivors, please respond,” Obi-Wan heard Ahsoka over the open frequency. She needn’t have bothered, he thought. No one could have survi-

“This is Lama-Su, hailing AzureTiger 3, please state your affiliation.”

Obi-Wan choked on empty air. Over the private frequency Mandalorian expletives were whispered.

He flipped two switches on his own board, setting to sending.

“This is AzureTiger 2, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. We have no hostile intentions and are not affiliated with the Empire.”

“Prove your identity,” came the tense response.

“When I first came to Kamino, you let me walk around in a wet cloak for half an hour before you thought to ask whether I was really a cold-blooded poikilotherm species as you had first assumed.”

Silence rang through the comm frequency, and Obi-Wan nervously wondered if it would be enough, though there wasn’t much more he could think of that wouldn’t be public or at least Empire knowledge.

“…pah, mammalians,” Lama-Su finally said. “We’re resurfacing now, transmitting coordinates for meetup.”

There was no land at the coordinates, only deep black water, the currents beneath the surface drawing out waves. But then the water started to churn, white foam crowns marring the darkness, forming small whirlpools until the top of a chrome structure broke through. The form rose, revealing itself to be shaped somewhat like an enormous egg made of metal. Anti-gravitational thrusters clapped out from the underside, levitating the structure until it was out of the water and at the same height as their fighters.

A hatch opened at the top, flanked with airspace guiding lights illuminating the way into a dark hangar.

“Sir?” one of the brothers asked over the comms.

Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a moment of contemplation. If this was a trap, they were screwed the moment they flew in. While the odds for the Kaminoans to be working together with the Empire were slim, they were still there. He desperately wished that he could ask the Force for guidance, but… no, that still wasn’t happening.

“Spotter, stay in air in case something drops into planet ‘sphere,” he finally ordered over the comms. “And should something happen down there, you’re the black box. Everyone else, with me.”

“Yessir,” the answer came.

 

No one ambushed them after they landed their sprites in the sub-ocean craft. Rather they were greeted by a somewhat underwhelming committee consisting of two Kaminoans, who introduced themselves as Sa-Rin and Wen-Le. Obi-Wan hadn’t spent much time on Kamino during the war, but from Shaak Ti’s reports he knew that Sa-Rin had been one of the scientific directors in charge of monitoring new clones.

“I am afraid our political leaders are all preoccupied at the moment,” Sa-Rin told them as they led their small procession through neon-lit hallways. “We are currently relocating back to under-sea-location to join one of our cities there. Salvaging Tipoca has kept all our hands full.” They palmed the lockpad to a seemingly random door, taking a step back as it opened.

“If you wish to discuss business, I ask that you leave your clones outside,” Sa-Rin said.

Obi-Wan turned back to the clones behind them.

“We’ll try not to be long,” he said, hoping to convey his apology for being forced to exclude them.

“Yessir,” Rex said, the smallest upward twitch of his lips telegraphing resigned amusement towards something they had long gotten used to.

The door locked behind the clones, leaving Ahsoka and him alone with the two Kaminoans.

“What exactly happened to Tipoca City?” Obi-Wan asked after they all got seated.

“The new Empire attacked,” Wen-Le said. “From what we’ve heard they wanted to ensure that no more clones are produced which could be used against them. So they sent down their battleships to destroy Tipoca.”

“And how did you manage to survive their attack?”

“They made the mistake to attack us with our own clones. They miscalculated in that they didn’t expect us to have put in a reset switch in the chips we used during production,” Sa-Rin said, making the impression that they would be wrinkling their nose if they had one. “We always make sure that our products won’t be used to harm us. So after their assault failed, the Empire decided to bombard us. Our shields gave us enough time to evacuate to under-sea, but we had to leave most of the equipment behind. And we had just ordered new tubes too, because we had to replace some of the old ones. Billions of credits lost, it’s really quite the tragedy.”

Obi-Wan could practically hear Ahsoka’s sharp teeth screeching from how hard she was gritting them together. Nonetheless, he kept a polite façade.

“Very unfortunate,” he said as non-sarcastically as he could manage. Not that he necessarily needed to have bothered – most of the Basic inflections were lost on the Kaminoans anyway. “Now, we are currently trying the topple the Empire. Discrediting them further would be a step in the right direction, and for that it would be most convenient if you could give us some manufacturing and coding information on the chips.”

Wen-Le tapped their long fingers together. “While we don’t have a problem with giving you the information you ask for, we feel the need to warn you that it is unlikely that the switch will work again. As the Empire knows of it now, they are sure to modify them accordingly to prevent repeated exploitation of it.”

“I feared as much,” Obi-Wan said with a sigh. “Still, spreading the information about the existence of the chips would serve us well in making people doubt the Empire’s intentions.”

“If I may, I’m not sure I understand how information about the chips would work to ‘discredit’ the Empire,” Sa-Rin said, their big eyes narrowing.

“Well, under Core values, controlling people is a violation of sentients’ rights.”

“I thought clones weren’t classified as people under Republic Law,” Sa-Rin contemplated.

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said. “But before the law and before our set of ethics are two different things.” He briefly thought mentioning the advantage of their humanoid form, but then decided that he’d rather not get into explaining Core-specism on top of it all.

“Does it really matter that much? They won’t live all that long anymore anyway.”

Obi-Wan felt like someone had thrown him into the cold Kaminoan sea. “What?”

Sa-Rin waved one hand. “It’s the accelerated aging. When we make clones for combat, knocking the accelerated aging back out is kind of a waste of money, since they never get old enough for it to matter anyway.”

“Ah,” Obi-Wan managed. “And how… how long would you say until they…”

“Until they scrap?” Sa-Rin asked. They turned to Wen-Le. “What aging routine did we implement for them, I don’t know from out of my gills.”

“K5,” the other Kaminoan answered.

“K5, that’s… hm, about ten more years, give or take one or two.”

“How do you turn it off!?” Ahsoka snapped, taking a threatening step forward.

“Turn it off?” Sa-Rin asked, surprised. “They’ll still be operating within acceptable perimeters for five years, and with the general mortality rate they’ll probably die in battle before they age out, turning it off really isn’t necessary.”

Ahsoka opened her mouth to say something that might get them kicked into the ocean, and Obi-Wan interjected.

“We’d prefer it. If you could indulge us?”

“Well, you can deactivate the subroutine via gene therapy. Think we even have the sequence for a fitting vector somewhere that can be modified to fit your production line… but gene therapy is rather expensive, I would just recommend some new clones, that would be cheaper.”

“Just the vector and the plans for the chips will be fine, thank you,” Obi-Wan said with a strained smile.

 

Back on Mandalore, as they watched the med-droid starting on cultivating the vector into a fitting vehicle, Obi-Wan turned to Rex.

“Were you and your brothers aware of this?” he asked, trying to keep his voice devoid of agitation.

“In a way, I suppose yes,” Rex said. “We didn’t know about the genetic modifications, but the Kaminoans never made a secret out of the fact that twenty years would be the most we would see of life. That we weren’t build to last as long as natural borns.”

“I hope that with this you will exceed those twenty years by far,” Obi-Wan said quietly.

“Feels odd,” Rex remarked. “During the war and the fighting, thoughts of what to do after didn’t exactly come often.”

“You know that you don’t have to keep fighting, right?” Obi-Wan asked. “You all have already paid far more than anyone could ever ask of you.”

“We know,” Rex said. “And I think that there will be some brothers who’ll decide to walk away from the Republic and the Empire. But for most of us, after everything the Sith did, we cannot simply let it stand. For what has been done to my people, and to your people as well, we will see justice served.”

 

Chapter Text

Timestamp: Coruscant, 8:59 AM

The camera zoomed into focus, revealing the grand hall located in the bottom of the Senate building. Subdued chatter was filling the room, echoing slightly as the hall was nowhere near filled to maximum capacity. Where usually diplomatic guests or other senators would mingle, reporter teams with set up cameras and other recording equipment were scattered. And along the edges of the room stood lines of the white armor of the stormtroopers, their helmets steadily facing ahead, so unmoving they could have been mistaken for decorative statues.

The lights on the balcony switched on, and with slow steps the Emperor walked into their shine, wearing heavy, formal robes.

“Citizens,” he said, subtly placed microphones easily distributing his voice over the entire hall. “I stand before you today to announce the birth of a new security division. While the strengthening of the Core Security’s numbers has already gone a long way to give our people the safety they deserve, deep in Space, a grave threat remains. There are still Jedi traitors out there, who evade their just punishment, and who seek to take away the peace, prosperity and security the Empire brings to us all. With their inhumane powers, I cannot in good conscience ask the upstanding officers of CorSec to confront them. Which is why it fills me with great relief and satisfaction, to introduce to you the Inquisition division, and its new head, Anakin Skywalker.”

Out of the shadows behind the Emperor, a tall figure emerged, clad in black, reinforced garments and wearing a long cloak. The man’s face was expressionless, but as he came into the light his piercing eyes shone like precious metal.

“He recognized the threat of the Jedi,” the Emperor continued, and in the back a video started to play. Security footage from the Chancellor’s chambers, showing the attack of five Jedi on the defenseless Chancellor, before showing Skywalker fighting against Mace Windu, ending with him severing his weapon arm. “Even as they tried to manipulate him, he stood firm in his loyalty to our principles. And so henceforth he shall not be known as Jedi Anakin Skywalker anymore, but instead as the protector of the Empire, Darth Vader! He will train a new generation of Force users, loyal to the Empire and its citizens, and together they will eradicate the threat of the Jedi once and for all!”

 

-

 

Obi-Wan was sitting on one of the Senate’s terraces, surrounded by carefully maintained greenery and flowers, a stack of pads next to him just waiting to all be read. Form here he had a perfect look-out over the empty square, where construction would begin soon.

Their new home was in the last stages of planning, and building was projected to last about two weeks, so they would finally be able to leave the wing of the Senate building. Not that they necessarily needed more space, seeing as they were only… 94 people, Obi-Wan himself included, but it would be good to have something of their own. So that was positive, wasn’t it? A success?

It was an odd sort of limbo they were living in. They were all trying to make themselves useful in some way, helping with rebuilding, collecting information on the Empire, and anything else that came up.

Building up a routine was one of the best ways to battle effects of trauma. Sentient psychology, beginner’s class. A Jedi’s work was fraught enough with danger that they were all well-educated on managing mental health.

But all the theories stopped working when their home was far, far away and forever stained with blood, when everyone they would usually rely on to support them through difficult times was dead or struggling just as much as them, when the Force, the one thing they could seek refuge in when everything else failed, was locked behind a veil of Darkness and out of their reach.

What was the point of it all? He kept pushing his siblings on, the vague idea that they should be fighting the Empire stuck in his head, but was he doing this because he thought it was the best path, or was it because it was the only path he could see? Just running on and on, because he was scared what would happen if he stopped.

And when they finally would start confronting the Empire… with how they were, his siblings couldn’t fight. With- with Vader and his disciples, more likely taught by Sidious than the younger Sith, meeting them head on, they would lose. The Dark Side was more powerful than he had ever felt it in his life, and they couldn’t even touch the Light Side enough to move a pebble. All he would have done was to delay the inevitable massacre and prolong their suffering by giving everyone false hope that they could actually do something.

A hand slapped on the stone railing a few steps away from him, and he flinched, nearly throwing the pad he had been holding.

The tips of blue and white striped montrals followed the hand, and then Ahsoka was pushing herself over the railing, landing on her back in the grass, out of breath.

“Freeclimbing?” Obi-Wan asked, putting the pad aside with a deliberate motion and without shaking hands.

“Asajj suggested it,” Ahsoka said in between of trying to get more air in. “I’m starting to think she just wanted me to suffer. Do you have any water by chance?”

“I have cold caf,” Obi-Wan said, holding up the cup that had sat forgotten on the bench next to him.

Ahsoka drew a face. “Ew, no thanks.”

“Please tell me you warned the building security before you-“ A beep interrupted his question, and he fished out his communicator from his robes.

“What is it, master?” Ahsoka asked, sitting up.

“We got a send from exo-airspace. It’s a councilor’s code,” Obi-Wan replied, surprised as he looked at the read out. “But how in Force’s name-“

“Sir!” the line to the monitoring center suddenly sounded. “The vehicle that sent the code has broken atmosphere and is on course for the city! They are ignoring our requests for further identification and change of landing area. The center is asking permission to open fire.”

“Denied,” Obi-Wan replied sharply. “We will take care of this.”

 

-

 

The upper levels of the building had open spaces, originally designed for leisure and events, but also large enough that an errant aircraft of this size could abuse it as landing area. Ahsoka and he had just come sprinting out of the building’s doors when the shuttle crossed into city airspace. Smoke was trailing behind it as was getting level with its chosen landing platform.

“They’re not slowing down enough,” Ahsoka said beside him. The platform was large, at least 50 meters across, large for public gatherings, but small for a vehicle approaching with orbit-speed.

The shuttle reached the platform, its belly skimming over the stone railing with an ugly metallic screech. They touched ground, but their leftover speed had them skidding across the tiles, scattering them far as they broke through the ornamental bushes and flowers that littered the area. Even with their diminished momentum, they still were headed straight towards the center piece of the area, an artful fountain. Whoever was piloting the aircraft was trying to turn, managing to angle the nose of the shuttle away so that it wouldn’t make for a frontal impact, but not enough to prevent them from a collision course that had them flank first into the obstacle.

“Cover!” Obi-Wan yelled, pushing Ahsoka down and shielding her as he pulled his cloak over them both. A moment later, the shuttle met its final destination and stone shards rained down on them, swiftly followed by a spray of water.

When he lowered the cloak, the plaza was filled with dust, the fountain broken beyond repair, the shuttle seemingly melded into the rim of the water basin. Water from the damaged outlet was spraying in a fine shower over everything.

“Oh, this is so not going to be cheap,” Obi-Wan muttered.

Ahsoka and he approached the wreck swiftly, taking in the damage. The shuttle would never fly again, but the hull was only dented, not broken through. Amongst the affected areas was unfortunately also the door.

“Step back from the side!” Obi-Wan yelled, igniting his saber. In a swift motion he plunged it into the metal, the plasma blade slowly carving an oval shape into the shuttle. Meeting the beginning again, he switched the saber off and stepped back, letting the piece of the thick metal shell fall outward and onto the ground.

The inside of the shuttle was dark, the electronics of it probably too damaged from the awry landing to still be providing light.

A single, massive silhouette separated from the dark, taller than Obi-Wan as it stepped forward, looming over them. One last step forward, and light finally met tangled, brown fur and sharp claws.

“Gungi!” Ahsoka exclaimed, practically lunging forward to envelop the person into a hug.

“Gungi?” Obi-Wan repeated with slight disbelief, the name faintly ringing a bell. “One of the younglings you accompanied to their Gathering?”

The wookie nodded over Ahsoka’s shoulder even as he carefully pushed her back.

“We have someone who needs medical attention as quickly as possible,” he said gravely, stepping to the side to allow them to go inside the shuttle.

The small room was cramped, five other younglings standing inside whom Obi-Wan recognized as the rest of the group Ahsoka had travelled to Illum with. Except for some minor abrasions from the less than gentle landing they seemed fine, and he was just about to ask what the matter was when their group parted to reveal one person lying on the sole cot of the ship.

“Mace,” Obi-Wan breathed out, putting his lightsaber back on his belt as he hurried his fellow councilor’s side.

Mace was unconscious, sweat gleaming faintly in the light coming from the outside, his face drawn in exhaustion and pain. Obi-Wan’s eyes wandered further down, zeroing in on his lower right arm, or more accurately, on where his lower right arm had been. He took a small flashlight from his belt, turning it on and training it on the wound.

“Oh Force,” Ahsoka whispered behind him as they took in the severity of the injury. The stump was just slightly above the elbow, the flesh cauterized to black. The skin around it was a dark red, and the jagged cut itself was showing a wet shine that Obi-Wan didn’t like at all.

“Does he have any other major injuries?” Obi-Wan asked, his head turning back to look at the younglings, who mutely shook their heads.

Quickly, Obi-Wan opened the bindings that had been put on the other Jedi, presumably to stop him from flying through the cabin during the landing, and then heaved him over his shoulder, tightly gripping around his lower legs and onto his single healthy arm in a fireman’s carry. He could feel Mace seize against him with the pain of the sudden movement, but even that didn’t seem to be enough to wake him.

“Ahsoka, take care of them,” Obi-Wan said, motioning towards the younglings with his head before he jumped out of the shuttle, setting off in a sprint towards the medical facilities. He stormed down the hallways, turning heads with his unusual burden but not paying any attention to them, too focused on the worrying heat permeating through his layers of cloth.

He burst into the healers’ room without as much as a knock, the few nurses present recoiling from the entrance.

“He needs a doctor, now,” Obi-Wan snapped, ignoring the stunned gazes.

The employees seemed thrown off balance by the nature of the ailment, too unused to violent injury on this pacifist planet, but moments later their professionalism kicked in. A stretcher was brought in, and Obi-Wan laid Mace onto it as gently as possible. He took a step back and the doctors swarmed their new patient like a swarm of busy bees, calls for prepping an operation room and antibiotics heard over their bustling. They wheeled him away and out of Obi-Wan’s sight.

He wanted to go after them, but his pragmatic side with experience of many years of battle knew that he would only get in the way of the people who could really help Mace. A single nurse asked him questions about how the injury had happened, but beyond telling them that the severing had been done with a plasma blade he didn’t have anything else he could share with them.

With a heavy heart he turned his back on the medical wing, retracing his previous route to the upper level. He reached Ahsoka and the younglings in the entrance hall leading to the plaza, clustered together. They all looked at him as he marched towards their group.

“Tell me what happened,” Obi-Wan demanded as soon as he reached them.

The younglings exchanged looks, shuffling slightly before a young Rodian stepped forward. If Obi-Wan recounted things right from what Ahsoka had told them of her adventures, the Rodian’s name should be Ganodi.

“We were in the Garden of a Thousand Fountains when it… happened,” Ganodi recounted haltingly. “We managed to hide in the pipes leading away from the Temple, and made our way out through there, and landed somewhere in the lower levels of Coruscant. There was… that is, no one at the Temple…”

“We had hoped someone would come and call us back to the Temple,” the Wookie youngling took over when the Rodian’s voice became too strangled. “We just barricaded ourselves into an abandoned apartment, and waited there, for over two days. After that… well, we realized no one was coming. And we started to need food and water. So, we ventured out. Together, because we didn’t want to risk leaving someone behind.” He winced at Obi-Wan’s widening eyes. “Yes, in hindsight it wasn’t the best strategy. We did get some things, but when we tried to return to our hideout, we got stopped by a clone patrol. I don’t think they immediately realized that we were Jedi, or they would have shot us then, but they were definitely going to take us with them. And then Master Windu appeared.”

“He killed all of the five clones before they even realized that he was there!” the Twi’Lek youngling burst out. “Even though he only had one arm! And it wasn’t even his saber arm!”

“He protected us,” the Wookie youngling continued a bit more diplomatically. “It took us a few days, but he managed to get us a ship… he didn’t say how, but we were all pretty sure he mind-tricked someone into giving theirs up… someone not nice, because that ship was… interesting.”

“Some shielding modifications that were definitely not legal under Republican law,” a female humanoid said, anxiously wringing a strand of her hair.

“But without it we wouldn’t have gotten away undetected, that’s what he said,” the Twi’Lek added.

“He entered the route we took. I’m not sure where exactly we went, we didn’t have that much Astronavigation yet… and then he wrote down the code he said we should use, and pretty much immediately after that he passed out.”

“And he didn’t wake up during the whole flight,” the jittery female human said, her eyes beginning to shine suspiciously wet. “A-and we tried to wake him, we really did, but nothing worked! Will he be alright Master Kenobi? He will be, yes?”

Obi-Wan sighed, closing his eyes. “I don’t know, young one,” he said, his words rewarded with dangerously wobbling lips. “I don’t want to promise something I cannot guarantee, but I know that Mace is very strong. He won’t go down easily.”

 

-

 

The younglings had been checked over by the medical staff, but they really had been telling the truth when they said that they had been uninjured. There was some mild malnutrition and dehydration, on top of physical and emotional exhaustion, but nothing that would further require the help of medical professionals. After all that, Obi-Wan had led them to the wing that currently housed the Jedi on Mandalore.

There were definitely more people present than usually during a weekday afternoon. Obi-Wan had sent a quick message outlining the arrival of the younglings to everyone else, mostly to ensure that no one would think they were under attack because a spacecraft crashed into the palace.

He had somewhat underestimated the reaction his siblings would have to their new arrivals.

The younglings didn’t notice the difference, too exhausted, and the Jedi knights too well-trained at hiding what they didn’t want to be known, but Obi-Wan could see it. How they all clustered around the small group of children while trying not to crowd them, gently urging them to drink and eat at least a bit before they were pretty much shepherded into a hastily prepared room.

When Obi-Wan looked into the room, the younglings had already crawled into the beds, heeding the call of exhaustion, and the four knights who had led them into the room had taken up strategic positions at the door and single window, pretending to be relaxed while standing or sitting in a meditation pose. None of the younglings were protesting their presence, with the anxious human girl even scooting her bedroll closer to a Nautilan knight.

As the eyes of the younglings closed, the knights focused on Obi-Wan.

He probably should have told them that they were safe here. That the palace was guarded, that there were currently no threats on Mandalore. But he would be lying if he tried to claim that he didn’t want to join them in their vigil, so instead first pressed the knuckles of his hand against his mouth and then let his fist rest over his heart, in a silent gesture of gratitude. He was met with decisive nods, and after one last glance he silently closed the door.

Chapter Text

Finding Master Yoda was somewhat tricky these days, but the best bet and this time also the successful one was one of the more overgrown gardens that ringed the diplomatic wing. Ahsoka had accompanied him, too full of energy to keep quiet watch over the younglings. Master Yoda was sitting on one of the stone benches with small tables in between them, seemingly meditating but opening his eyes when they sat down opposite of him. On the horizon the sun was setting, bathing their surroundings and them in an orange glow.

“A safe place, we will need, for the younglings,” Yoda said once Obi-Wan had finished relaying the news. “A place where they can learn to defend themselves, and to hide from the eyes from the darksiders.”

“You sound like you have a place in mind,” Obi-Wan said.

“Dagobah,” Yoda said. “Rich, in the Living Force it is. Very thick, vegetation is. Natural protection against scanning with the Force and with droids, it will bring.”

“Is it uninhabited?” Obi-Wan asked. That planet sounded too suspiciously convenient to not have a downside.

“By sentient life, yes,” Yoda hummed.

“It’s a swamp, isn’t it?” Ahsoka deadpanned. When Obi-Wan looked over towards her, she had her arms crossed and one eyebrow drawn up.

“Luminous beings we are. Need more than the Force gives, we do not,” Yoda cackled, and Ahsoka groaned.

“I already feel sorry for the people who’ll go there,” she grumbled under her breath.

“Ahsoka poses a good question,” Obi-Wan said. Ahsoka looked at him with a face that directly spelled out ‘I do?’. “Who will go to teach and guard the younglings? It would have to be a semi-permanent position, switching around too often could land the planet on the Empire’s radar.”

“Go, I will,” Yoda said, the previous humor turning sober.

“What?” Obi-Wan exclaimed before he could stop himself. “But Grandmaster, we need you here!”

Yoda shook his head, looking old and weary. “Happened during my tenure, the war and the purge did. In good faith, continuing to lead the Order, I cannot.”

“I thought we had agreed to not play the blame game,” Obi-Wan said through gritted teeth.

“Thinking, I have been a lot during the last week. See, I can now, that too secluded the Order became, when Grandmaster I was. Too easy to alienate us from the public, it was for Sidious. Too focused I was, on the Force, forgot, that co-exist with non-Jedi, we also do. That the Force surrounds all, not just the Jedi. Turned away from us, everyone else did.”

“That’s not true,” Obi-Wan said. “There are a lot of people out there who support us!”

“Because good martyrs we made!” Yoda snapped, his eyes glaring. “To show them how our youngest were slaughtered, we had to, or believed us, they would not have!”

Obi-Wan lowered his head, unable to meet Yoda’s gaze. He wanted to counter-argue, but deep down he knew that Yoda was right. The public’s opinion had been all too easily swayed, and in hindsight he could see that Sidious had done an excellent job with it. He had thought that the man had wanted to divert blame from the Senate, when it had been just a side-effect of him shoving exactly that same blame on the Jedi’s shoulders.

It hadn’t mattered to the public how much the Jedi tried to negotiate before each conflict. How hard they tried to prevent loss of life. They saw their position as generals and began shouting that they should cease fighting, freely ignoring that the Jedi had to act on behest of the Senate, and the casualties that came whenever they didn’t go and fight. After all, until the Battle of Coruscant the war had never reached the core planets. None of them had ever seen the devastation a Sep Star Destroyer left behind, the uncaring slaughtering that came with using battle droids who indiscriminately would gun down anybody standing in their way, may they be an armed trooper or a small child.

“If you go,” he said, not wanting to dwell on the memories any longer, “then who will lead us? We cannot afford to splinter apart in these times.”

When his words were met with silence, he looked up to see both Ahsoka and Yoda staring at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Not me, who has been leading the Jedi these past weeks, it was,” Yoda said, his voice strangely soft.

“What?” he repeated, his voice taking on a panicked edge as he looked at Yoda, then at Ahsoka who wasn’t meeting his eyes, then back at Yoda. “No. No, I only was- this was never meant to- I only stepped in temporarily! I’m not- you cannot ask this of me, please don’t ask this of me.”

“Master-“ Ahsoka started, but Obi-Wan didn’t want to hear it.

“No! I’m the bloody last person who can be trusted with anyone’s life! I cannot- I will not do this!”

“Obi-Wan,” Yoda began, and suddenly it was too much, the rare use of his given name the last straw that had him standing up abruptly and marching out of the door to the garden without a look back, slamming its wings closed behind him.

 

-

 

The vod standing watch before the door let Obi-Wan into the dark ward without a word. Daylight had gone by, but he didn’t turn on the overhead light, instead only letting the soft shine of Mandalore’s moons illuminating the white beds.

Mace had been put in the latest place of the row, nearest to the door. Obi-Wan knew that five beds further down there’d be Bant, but for once he didn’t sit down with her. The scrape of the chair made him wince, irrational when waking any of the room’s occupants would be an achievement of its own.

Even in the near black and white of the twilight, Mace looked bad. His brow was furrowed, and his skin gleamed with sickly sweat.

His one remaining arm was lying above the blanket, and near unthinkingly he reached for it, but then flinched back just before his fingers touched the too warm skin, as if the sheer proximity had already burned him. Irrational fear that his touch would only cause even more pain – and haven’t you done enough already – coursed through him.

It should be him lying in this bed, not Mace. Vividly he remembered the footage from the Senate’s chambers, the genuine surprise on Mace’s face when Anakin had turned on him. His apprentice, his fault. Others reaping the destruction he had sown.

And now they wanted him to lead? What a fucking joke.

Mace’s prognosis was bad. His vitals were way out of normal range, and they weren’t improving. The Mandalorian doctors were trying their best, but Obi-Wan knew there wasn’t much they could do. Not when he had seen the footage of Mace taking the direct brunt of a Sith lightning attack to the chest.

The Force was balance. Using the Force meant being in harmony, with others, with nature, with oneself. Directing the Force meant giving while taking, the user guiding the Force just as much as the Force was guiding them.

Sith lightning was an abomination against these principles. It meant taking so much, so quickly, that the Force tried to balance the sudden hole in its energy flow. A surge, to counter what had been taken. Except that a Sith took the surge, and directed it at others, filling them with an unnatural energy that belonged elsewhere. In the bodies of their victims, the lightning remained trapped, continuing to damage long after the fight was over.

A Force healer could dissipate the harmful energy, but Force healers were the people who filled all the other beds in the hospital wing.

Everyone in here was dying, Obi-Wan realized with sudden clarity. He had been clinging to this absurd thought that they were somehow going to make it, but now, looking at the situation with detachment he knew just how much of a fool he had been.

Mace was going to die because there was no one able to help him. Bant and the other healers were going to agonizingly slowly waste away, comatose and yet always knowing that they were cut off from the Force, and that hole in their being was going to drain them dry, drop by drop.

He stood up suddenly, unable to bear being even a second longer in this moratorium.

The vod standing guard didn’t stop him as he walked out, but he could feel his eyes on him, burning into his back. Just like so many others. His siblings, turning towards him whenever he entered the room, not speaking but their eyes on him in silent question.

What will you do? He could hear them ask. Always asking, always looking to him for the answer, but he didn’t have any answers, did he? All he had was blood on his hands, broken memories in his eyes, death burned onto his skin. The lives of everyone around him slipping through his fingers like sand in an hourglass, falling down down down.

He was supposed to be a guardian, but he couldn’t even protect his own family. He remembered the so small too small bodies lying in the Council chamber, and suddenly their faces overlapped with those of the younglings sleeping downstairs, leaving him choking on a sob trying to claw its way out of his throat.

He didn’t know where he was, where he had run, some other hallway in this large building, unmarked and unlit and away from everyone he failed. Except what did a few hundred meters of distance matter when his mind was more than happy to show him their faces and their corpses. Only when he fell to his knees did he realize that he wasn’t breathing properly, that the spots dancing across his vision weren’t stars but signs of oxygen deprivation.

His pitiful attempts for breaths shook and trembled as he shook and trembled, curled in on himself, his face buried in his hands. Each second was too long and too short, unmeasurable as he lost his connection to the process of time, everything becoming unsteady and uncertain, his breaths to irregular to provide a point of reference, the floor under his knees feeling like it was tilting, his ears filled with a rushing noise.

He preserved. Time stretched and stretched, but in the end it relaxed back into its original form. The shaking left his body weak, but it subsided. His breath returned to its normal pace, like there had never been anything amiss. He picked himself up, and he dragged his body back to his quarters, because that was what he did.

He preserved.

Force how he hated it. Getting up again used to be something he valued as a strength. Now it felt like he did it because he missed the lesson on lying down and perishing.

He discarded his robes and lay down onto his bed to fall into a dreamless, but still restless sleep.

Hidden inside the folds of his cloak, his comm started blinking, the screen flashing for a second, displaying the notification for a new message.

 

from: Yoda
:
Coordinates: 32xe, h39k, 4902u;
Illum

Chapter Text

A mutual friend suggested a sabbatical to help you.

When he woke up and saw the message, he had been angry. Everything that was going on, the people depending on him when they really shouldn’t, and he should just go up and take a bloody vacation. He, currently Force-deaf like a rock, should travel to one of the most Force-intertwined place in the galaxy. It wasn’t even worth the thought.

Though his schedule was conveniently clear. Some of it had definitely been arranged – there were at least two meetings this week he had been supposed to go to but when he asked the chairs were apparently already filled by this Jedi knight or the other. But most of it… with the construction underway, there really was a gap where there had been busy-work before.

Why not go, Yoda had sensibly said when Obi-Wan had confronted him about the message. And of course he wouldn’t say who the ‘mutual friend’ was. He wouldn’t put it past the troll that said mutual friend didn’t even exist. Also, the coordinates definitely weren’t one of the typical entrances to the Illum cave system. Always shifting, the ice is, Yoda had said, at which point Obi-Wan had deemed the conversation to exhausting to be worth the effort, and left. If Yoda didn’t want to give him answers, he wouldn’t be getting any.

In the end, he went. Mostly because he didn’t want to find out where else he would go if he stayed.

 

-

 

The landing spot the coordinates indicated really was unfamiliar. There also wasn’t an actual landing spot, instead he had to search for a halfway planar ice floor where he could anchor the shuttle. He had to walk to the exact coordinates, decked out in full cold-weather gear. He trudged through the deep snow, his breath forming small clouds before him.

All around him was white and ice-blue, and nothing that indicated that sentient life had ever touched even a single snow-flake.

Only when he was nearly upon the coordinates did he see what nature had cleverly concealed. Hidden from any ship passing in orbit underneath a ledge below the usual surface level, a ginormous double-winged door loomed, seemingly leading into the crystalline mountain. Geometric forms had been carved into the thick crystal. Stairs hewn into the never-melting ice led down to the gate.

It was definitely a temple, from what he could derive from the surrounding structure, but none he had ever seen before. Even as he walked down the stairs and got closer to the symbols, they didn’t pluck on any memories. Of course there were many crystal caves on Illum, and he wasn’t one of the scholars who had dedicated their lives to either kyber crystals or the relics left behind by the Jet’ii, the Jedi who had devoted themselves to the Force before the Ruusan reformation more than a millennium ago. But an entrance as grand as this… there would at least be pictures of it shown in classes at the Temple.

The ice shifts, he remembered Yoda telling him. Had this entrance lain buried underneath a glacier all this time?

The old doors creaked as Obi-Wan pushed them open, one hand on each door wing as he leaned against them with his body weight to get them to move. A long sliver of light fell into the dark hall beneath it. He only opened the doors enough that he could slip through, then pushed them close again.

It took a moment, but his eyes got used to the lack of direct light quickly. Inside the temple it wasn’t dark as he had feared, but bright and airy, a diffuse light filling up what seemed to be a great entrance hall. It was at least a hundred meters long, and about half of that across – big enough to fit in the population of a small city.

He looked up, trying to discern where the light was coming from. For a moment he thought that maybe the high ceiling was glowing, until he noticed that it wasn’t the ceiling itself producing light, but rather it was letting the sunlight through, a thick layer of crystal that kept away the other elements, yet functioned like glass, with its thickness diffusing the light.

His steps echoed on the crystalline floor as he walked further in, all the while studying the walls and arches that gave the hall form. A dim sound made him look down to see that the dark crystal floor was interrupted by some sort of white inlay. He tapped it carefully with the tip of his boot, and it was just as hard as the rest of the floor. It transformed to dark again after a few feet, then white, though this time it branched off.

Narrowing his eyes in confusion, he took a few steps back, tilting his head in hopes to get an idea what the inlay was meant to depict. His eyes went wide as realization hit him. It was a giant symbol of the Jedi Order! The first inlay he had stepped on was the circle, the weird branching off formed the saber and the wings.

Obi-Wan stepped forward, until he came to the part of the symbol that depicted the star at the base of the saber. There was… something there, that felt different from the rest of the hall. The hairs on his arms were standing up, like there was an electricity to the air, unseen but strong.

Illum was naturally strong in the Force, ages of Jedi travelling to this place for the crystals having slowly diffused it with energy. There was no pollution here, no other sentients, so the energy remained over centuries, the natural drain countered by the continued pilgrimage of younger generations.

Yet even on Illum, there were spots stronger in the Force than others, knots in the web of the Force’s flow, and this seemed to be one of them if he could feel it while not even sunk into the flow himself.

As a Jedi, opening oneself up to the Force always brought a modicum of danger. The Dark Side could taint the Force, polluting it like poison in a river. In places where the Dark Side had been used, it lingered, a continued drain on the environment until the Force itself could slowly fill the spot to balance itself again. But until then, an unexperienced light sider could get dragged into the Darkness themselves, not to Fall, but suffering mental damage to the point of comatose.

An unexperienced light sider, or one who’s carefully built up shields had been shot to hell by what he had witnessed, and who hadn’t been able to connect to the Force to rebuild them ever since.

If he opened his mind here, and the natural Force energy of the planet didn’t protect him against the Darkness clouding the galaxy, then he’d die. There was no one here to get him out of the coma a mental injury who’d cause, and his body would die from the cold, or thirst and hunger, whichever came first.

His hands shook as he knelt down to trace over the inlay, even through the glove feeling the grove between the dark and light crystal.

Faith. He needed to have faith. In the Force, and into himself. But the Force was beyond his reach, and he himself was weighted down by what had happened these past days, past weeks, past three years.

He put his hands on his thighs, straightening his back, and closed his eyes.

A fine tremble kept running through his body, not caused by the cold. He felt battered and bruised and vulnerable, and so terribly alone in this giant, empty hall.

It was like he was standing before a cliff, before him the yawning void of the abyss, just one step forward away.

His senses opened, stretching out.

He stepped over the ledge.

The Force flooded into him, and he gasped, his eyes opening but unseeing. The energy was a torrent, unheeding of what was standing in its way and with an exhale he dropped the last tattered defenses he still had left, surrendering to the flood.

Falling in free-fall.

There was nothing to hold onto. Like a speck of dust in a sandstorm he was at the mercy of a power so much larger than him.

But instead of tearing at him and tossing him out, the storm turned calm. No, not calm, it was still raging, everlasting and everpowerful, but he was no longer an obstacle in its path but a part of it, riding on its winds, embraced in its turning.

He distantly was aware of his body slumping over, but this time it was the euphoria that was robbing him of his physical strength, old and new life being breathed into him by the storm.

“Thank you,” he whispered, his hands curling over his chest, feeling the energy pulsing through his being with every heartbeat. “Oh Force, thank you.”

It felt like he could finally breathe again, like he was coming up for air after a deep dive. With his senses open, he could feel the connections between everything around him and himself re-establishing themselves. Like a star rotating in the sky, he was at last back his place in the constellation of the universe.

He was distantly aware of his ties stretching out across lightyears of space, far far away on Mandalore he could feel the lights of his siblings, could almost see Yoda shining in the Force as he meditated, could almost feel Ahsoka’s flame burning bright in the darkness. A normally insurmountable distance reduced to nothing in the relativity of the Force.

But when he looked past them, he could sense others, on the same planet as he was. For a second of shock he thought darksiders acolytes from the Empire had somehow found this place, but there was no darkness in the contact he felt. Still, it remained weirdly faint and diffuse, too mottled to be mistaken for the natural flow of the Force, but too well meshed into its transcendence to be normal people. And so close that he thought they were standing in the hall with him, but there had been no one here when he had entered.

He felt ridiculous, opening his eyes to check, and indeed for a few moments he was sure that he was indeed utterly alone. But then he noticed that there was a shimmer in the air that hadn’t been there before, like a fine mist, but without any substance. He got to his feet, one hand rising in an aborted motion, instinctively wanting to touch it, but instinctively he already knew that there was nothing to feel. As he watched, the mist seemed to separate, taking on shapes. The shimmering forms coalesced, turning into figures that spread out across the entire hall, filling it out entirely.

With a start, Obi-Wan realized that the faces were familiar, that he had seen these people before. He had taught them, they had taught him, together they had fought, or laughed, or sat together in quiet meditation.

Thousands of dead Jedi were looking at him as he nearly stumbled over his own feet in his haste to turn around and take in all of them.

As the strength left his legs, leaving him to sink to his knees, he realized that he never should have come here. That assuming he had the right to be here, to stand here in these sacred halls, had been nothing but hubris on his part.

There was no accusation on the faces around him, no anger, no hatred, only gentleness and serenity. Thousands of light filled beings, looking upon him without blame. And that was what made it all so much worse. Everywhere he looked there was peace, except at the center, where he was standing. Amidst the pure expression of the Force, he was the faulty element, the intruder, the fraud, the deceiver. The dissonant chord in a harmony.

A rustle went through the mass of intangible bodies like a drop causing ripples as it splashed a calm surface, and the lines parted. One lone figure stepped through and into the free space around Obi-Wan. The imposing height, the sharp eyes, the long hair moved by an unfelt breeze – it was all just like he remembered and suddenly, even looking felt like too much.

His forehead hit the cold floor with more force than necessary as he doubled over in the deepest kow-tow possible.

His breathing was too loud in the grand hall, the only sound, tearing through the silence sharp and ragged and wet with unshed tears.

Obi-Wan, he heard-sensed-felt. His body tensed, the barest tremble in his limbs from how tightly he was holding himself, wanting to be as small as possible, to vanish.

With his senses still open to the Force he could feel immaterial cloth swishing through the air, could feel something reaching out to touch his shoulder, but his material senses didn’t register anything, even as a faint sense of someone else’s sadness drifted through the Force like a cool breeze.

Obi-Wan, please, the voice in his head came again, and he choked on a sob. Don’t, he wanted to shout. Don’t speak to me, don’t ask me, don’t ask this of me.

Please, look at me, it spoke, and he crumbled, his resistance rendered meaningless before the plea made in a voice he had not heard for so terribly long.

Slowly he raised his head.

Qui-Gon was kneeling before him, his being without corporeality, but unmistakeably him in appearance and in the Force. A gentle, soft smile was curling on his face, and the tears that had been gathering in Obi-Wan’s eyes dripped down his face.

There you are, Qui-Gon said, and Obi-Wan sobbed.

It’s alright, his old master tried to soothe, but Obi-Wan shook his head violently.

“Alright!?” he repeated, his voice breaking on the word. “I-I failed! I failed you, I failed- I failed all of you.”

You didn’t, Qui-Gon said. You tried. You tried more than anyone could ever ask of you.

“I tried, and everyone died!” Obi-Wan shouted. “I tried to train Anakin, and he fell. I tried to keep the Order alive afterwards, but I am just leading them to the same fate as everyone else!”

Even when you faltered, you kept going, Qui-Gon said. Even when you stumbled, you weren’t deterred. Even as Darkness grew closer, you continued to stand up. Things always could have been done differently. But there is nothing more you could have done. The fault lies with Sidious and his machinations, it lies with Anakin and his decisions. Their deeds are their own, their blame is theirs and not yours.

“And for all of my trying, they still murdered our family! They still set the galaxy ablaze!”

But it matters, that you tried. It matters.

The firm belief in his words was reflected in Qui-Gon’s eyes, and for a moment the intensity of it was too much. Obi-Wan averted his eyes, but everywhere else he looked was the rest of his family, and Qui-Gon’s conviction was mirrored in their faces.

I’ve watched over you all this time, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon said, the words drawing him to look at his old master again. And in all this time, you never failed me.

“Master-“ Obi-Wan started, before the emotions rose to high in his throat, choking his words and instead coming out as a sob. He burst into fresh tears, feeling them freely dribble down his face, but for once they tasted less of helplessness and more of relief, like clear spring water washing away the grime on a wound.

He cried for what had to be minutes, until his tears ran dry. He felt exhausted, but at the same time to turmoil that had been tearing at him for so long was quiet, his soul calm at last.

He could still feel his family in the flow of the Force around him, patient and warm.

“You’re… you’re all here now,” Obi-Wan whispered, in awe of the light around him. “Wait, you told Master Yoda that I should come here?”

Yes, Qui-Gon said.

“But why?”

Qui-Gon smiled. Well, obviously to help you. In all ways we currently can.

Obi-Wan cocked his head. “I am assuming you mean more than talking to me?”

So much has been taken, Qui-Gon said, so for once, something more can be given. The massacre fed the Dark Side, but a Jedi is never truly gone. Our will has simply moved elsewhere, and where we are now, we can help you in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

He rose to his feet, one arm motioning wide to encompass the grand hall. Knowledge once held within these walls, forgotten but not lost, for the Force renders time meaningless.

“What knowledge?” Obi-Wan asked, intrigued.

Qui-Gon smiled at him, a quirk in his lips. Even we don’t know. We only act as conduit. We can show you, but we cannot see, and you will have to learn on your own and in your own time. We can warn you that it will take you time to come into it, so there is something else we will give you. With what we have taken to our next step of existence, we will give you a blessing, to bestow upon those the Dark Side has harmed. One gift from the Force, and one gift from us.

In Qui-Gon’s outstretched hand, energy began to gather, coalescing into a shining orb. It was small, about the size of an apple, but its light shone in the Force like a sun.

Obi-Wan reached out for it almost reflexively, but hesitated before his fingers touched it.

“Is this goodbye?” he asked quietly, staring at the small thing.

We will always meet again in the Force, my padawan, Qui-Gon said, but yes, for now, it is goodbye.

Obi-Wan swallowed thickly. A part of him wanted to stay here forever, among his family. To keep basking in the presence of all he had lost. But he had a duty to the living, and he would not and could not abandon them.

He looked up into his master’s eyes, and there was so much he wanted to say, but he knew Qui-Gon already knew all he could say.

“I love you,” he said, and Qui-Gon smiled.

I love you too, he said.

Obi-Wan reached out and touched the light, feeling its energy travel up his arm and fill his eyes with a blinding intensity.

Take my love and our love, and bring it back to our family, he heard Qui-Gon say, and then he was lost to the all-encompassing embrace of the Force.

For a moment he could feel each spirit inside the hall, could feel the energy of their being. Almost instinctively he reached out, and they reached back, their energies intermingling, the flow through their soul synchronizing and feeling more powerful than ever before. His eyes were blind, but he could see the hall lighting up as the white crystal symbol below him began to glow, snow particles lifting off of it and glittering in the light like precious gems. He felt like he himself was floating, like he was being carried, the swell of the Force inside him unlike anything he could have ever achieved on its own. But now he wasn’t alone, instead he could feel how the Force fed through every other person in the hall, and when he gave them of his own energy they gave back, a circle between all of them like a nexus in the Force.

And then he was gently set back down, and his consciousness fell away.

Chapter Text

Looking back, Obi-Wan didn’t remember the way out of the Temple and to Mandalore. But when he opened his eyes next he was in an infirmary. The lights were unnaturally bright and he quickly pressed his eyes shut as he felt his head throb.

“Master!” a voice next to his ear shouted and he groaned.

“Quieter, please,” he pleaded.

“Quieter?” the voice repeated, only minimally reduced in volume. “I’m already damn close to whispering!”

“Language,” Obi-Wan said and the owner of the voice groaned. He carefully tried opening his eyes again, the light still merciless as it stabbed into his skull, but he could see enough to discern Ahsoka who was leaning over him.

“I think I have a migraine,” he said.

“A migraine?” Ahsoka asked, incredulous. “Everything that happened and all you say is that you have a migraine?”

“When did you get so contumacious?” Obi-Wan muttered. Ahsoka gave him a flat look. “Can you at least tell me how I got here?”

Ahsoka crossed her arms before her chest. “Your ship dropped out of hyperspace. We hailed you, but you weren’t responding, so we had to land you per tractor beam. When we opened the ship you were unconscious in your seat and you wouldn’t wake even though there were no injuries we could find. So you got transferred to the infirmary for the time being. You’ve been here for ten hours, before you woke up.”

His headache was slowly subsiding, and he sat up carefully. The hospital room that had been given to the Jedi was very familiar at this point, but at the same time it felt so… different. It felt more. The fabric under his fingertips whispered silently as he dragged his hand across it. The air was slightly humid, and he could taste the laundry detergents, the disinfectants, the flowers left beside filled beds.

“How are you feeling?” Ahsoka asked, and each syllable echoed, stretching like ripples in a pond. He looked at her and he saw light, so bright that it should be hurting his eyes, yet at the same time as gentle as a cool breeze to fevered skin. He reached out, his fingers reaching the edge of the light and finding warm, smooth skin.

“Master?”

The Force was gently prodding for his attention and his head turned towards the other filled beds in the room. He carefully let his own thoughts and feelings subside, and the Force swelled inside him, guiding his movement. Discarding his covers, he stood, the thin cloth of his hospital shirt and pants fluttering with the movement.

“Master, your eyes-“

He stepped to the first bed, touching the forehead of the being lying there. He felt the flickering of energy inside them, but it was waning, like a fire caught in a storm. He caught the flame, cradled it carefully, protecting it from the winds buffeting it, so that it might flare back to its former glory. Inside himself, the Force was roaring, and he fed some of it into the fire, gently pouring its liquid heat onto the hearth, giving just enough that it could sustain itself.

The Force and he walked onwards to the next bed, and once more he shared the nurturing energy inside him, watching another flame burn brighter once more. Like candles in a row, ignited again, he went through them one by one. Distantly he could feel the bright light he had seen first flitting around him, then going towards the door, where a trapple of feet had come into the room but were held at bay. Not important now, the Force whispered to him and he nodded, again letting his hand be led towards another sleeper.

He didn’t count, for each flame was unique on its own and unquantifiable, but his hand lost its connection to another person and he was standing in a room full of lit candles. The hearth inside him was dim, the nexus of the Force still open but slowed to a trickle.

Rest, the Force whispered, and he felt his lips repeat the word. We will wake again in a brighter tomorrow.

The light flitted to his side, a questioning touch at his hand, and he felt the Force release its hold on him. Exhaustion hit him like a freight train and he crumbled where he had been standing. The last thing he felt before unconsciousness were steady arms catching him.

 

*

 

His eyes opened, and he was back in the infirmary. Again. He knew he had awoken before, that Ahsoka had been there, but things were weirdly fuzzy, and he didn’t know when he had fallen asleep again.

Looking out it seemed to be early morning, just after first meditation probably. When he turned his head the first thing he saw were fresh flowers on his nightstand. Three white royal Mandalorian lilies stood proudly, their calyces open towards the sunlight coming in through the windows and he reached out to touch the soft petals with a smile, knowing that Satine must have brought them.

He slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, and realized that he felt surprisingly well, especially compared to when he first had woken up. Between the hyperspace travel and his infirmary stay he must have been out for two days at the very least, but he felt like he could do 20 katas in a row without getting tired.

“Obi?”, a voice said, and he looked up to see Bant in the bed next to him, propped up against a pillow, her big eyes shining as her lips drew into a smile.

“Bant,” he said, relief stark in his voice. Bant threw back the blanket, getting to her feet and taking two very shaky steps to his bed before she practically let herself drop onto him.

“Oof, Bant,” Obi-Wan groaned under the sudden weight of a fully grown Mon Calamari. “You’re not so small anymore, you know.”

“Still going through muscle regrowth therapy after weeks of coma, and I know you have no physical injuries, so tough love is where it’s at,” Bant from where her face had smushed into his chest. She carefully manouevered herself upright so that she was sitting on his legs and they were face to face.

“There you are,” she said softly, leaning in to peck his cheek, her wet skin cool against his.

Obi-Wan smiled back at her, taking one of her hands into both of his, pleased to see that the grey colour from before had given way once again to a healthy rosé.

“How long have you been up? How long have I been asleep?” he asked, rubbing gentle circles into her skin with his thumb.

“Two days, to both,” Bant said. “Apparently someone without a finished Force healer training dragged me and the rest of my cabal out of our comas. And then collapsed without explanation while everyone else woke. The Mandalorian healers have been in quite the dizzy over it.”

“Everyone?” Obi-Wan asked. There were memories slowly trickling back to him, but they were weirdly fuzzy in places. Bant nodded in response to his question. “What about Mace?”

“The other healers and I took care of him,” Bant said. “We had to have our carriers pushed to him because of the muscle atrophy, but the Force healing went off without a hitch.”

Bant paused, glancing out of the window. “Which was a bit surprising, given what we had gone through. But I had read the reports on his health, I knew that we couldn’t afford to delay, not with how long he had been in this state already.” She looked back to him. “But yes, he’s on the mend. He’s woken two times the past day, but hasn’t been lucid so far. His prognosis is good though, but then with his massive midichlorian count it’s hard to give a bad prognosis. Your resident expert healer says he’ll be up again without lasting damages in no time, sans the arm of course, but the Mandalorians have already assured us that their prosthetics department is more than up for the task.”

“Well, I will trust the resident expert healer then,” Obi-Wan said, a grin on his face.

“Hmph,” Bant said. “All that being said, what in Force’s name did you do? I’ve read all our sheets these past two days, and we were so deep in Force trauma shock, even with a good team to help us things would have been difficult. And you’re one person, and not even a Force healer. There’s only so far the Force can carry you when you don’t have the skills to back it up.”

“I was not alone,” Obi-Wan said, the words true in more ways than he could describe.

Bant cocked her head, considering. “No,” she said slowly. “I suppose you were not.”

“I would wait with the explanation until more people are here, if that is alright,” Obi-Wan said. He thought for a moment. “Or maybe… I could show.”

“Show?”

“Shared meditation,” Obi-Wan said, certainty settling in as he spoke the words. “Yes, I think that’s what I should do.”

“Hmm,” Bant said, “Quite.” Her eyes seemed to be scrutinizing him, as she tilted her head to the other side.

“What is it?” Obi-Wan asked.

“You know, I watched the footage when you healed us. Your eyes were always blue, but not as blue as they were in the footage. Or glowing.”

“I don’t actually remember most of that,” Obi-Wan admitted. “I know you took a focus in archivist in your padawan years, but could you wait with the research until later?”

“Ah, I’m just thinking,” Bant dismissed his words with a wave of her hand, her focus on him finally breaking. “Though I know Sarela and Kin-Ra are also both here. I worked with them during one of my research thesis and I cannot guarantee for their interests.”

Obi-Wan groaned.

Bant laughed. “They’re nice people.”

Her mirth subsided and her face took on a more solemn expression. “Obi?”

“Hm?” Obi-Wan asked, distracted by her fingers curling around his.

“It’s late, but I’ve only just woken and I couldn’t say it any earlier, but… I’m sorry about Anakin.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help it, he flinched. He nearly withdrew from where her hands were gripping his, but she held on.

“Is it a thing you should be sorry about?” he asked hollowly.

“I know you probably feel very conflicted about this-“ Bant started.

“That’s putting it mildly,” Obi-Wan muttered.

“But one way or another,” Bant continued, unheeding to his words. “You lost a padawan. To what end, we will only know with time. There’s a lot more to it than just that, but for now there’s nothing bad about grieving that loss.”

Obi-Wan took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Thank you,” he said, his voice thick.

Bant nodded. “Come here,” she said, and pulled him into a hug.

Obi-Wan went without resisting, resting his head against her shoulder, and feeling her heartbeat against his chest.

 

*

 

During the days he had been gone, construction of the new temple had finally finished. From what he had been told they were still in the process of moving in and fine-tuning everything, but the middlepoint of the temple, the garden, had been finished.

The Mandalorian night air was cool from where it had been flown through the air ducts into the enclosed hall. An enormous glass roof stretched over the green scenery, showing the slowly rising moons and glittering stars, while an occasional lightbug or night moth fluttered across the view.

They had set the meeting for the centre of the garden, where a large, perfectly round pool had been filled with clear water. White, lotus-like flowers drifted silently over the calm surface, larger than the span of a grown human’s hand. The dwindling light from the outside had prompted them to unfurl their petals, and they had begun to glow softly to attract insects. It was a beautiful display of nature, the light of flora and fauna reflecting on the geometric patterned mosaic inlays that made up the path that ran around the pool.

All the Jedi currently on Mandalore had gathered around the pool, even the younglings, still hovered over by some of the Jedi knights, and an unconscious Mace, whose bed the healers had pushed all the way into the garden.

He had only told them that he wanted to do a shared meditation, because he hadn’t known how to put into words to even begin to explain what had happened and what he wanted to do. But still, everyone had come, though he was fairly certain they all knew that this wouldn’t be an ordinary meditation, after all his trip to Illum had hardly been a secret.

He sat down cross-legged, beginning to steady his breathing. Without opening his eyes he knew that the others were following his lead, and quiet settled over the garden, only the background noises of water and rustling leaves remaining. A brief surge of sadness welled up within him, as usually this would be the point in a shared meditation where the Jedi would deepen their connection with the Force, but the atmosphere around them remained empty, too many connections still broken.

Not for much longer, he heard, and he nodded. He breathed in deeply, and then slowly exhaled, and with the breath leaving his body so did all his personal thoughts and feelings, everything fading into the background. For this moment, he was only the messenger, only the vessel through which the Force would flow.

And flow it did.

Energy surged inside him. It felt like flood gates being thrown open, all he had carried within him being released, and he didn’t resist as the Force flowed from within the universe, through him, and out towards his family. For a moment he could see what they were seeing, his memories of Illum, and then the light that had been given to him, that he had carried all the way back to here, the light of the love of their family that had been taken from them too soon, but that was never gone.

And now this light was handed down, a universal bridge to the Force and to the other Jedi, dead and living.

Without hearing or seeing he could feel a band of light stretching between all of them in a ring, connecting, soothing hurts and healing. And going out even further, lights all across the galaxy flaring up where there were still more siblings out on their own paths.

He kept the flow from the Force open for as long as he could, the initial burst gradually slowing and ebbing out, before he finally, reluctantly, had to close the gates. The stream was once more a gentle river, the gift he had been given spread out amongst the others.

When he opened his eyes there were tears on the others’ faces, many of them clustering together in small piles, some still shaking from the experience.

But there also was a newfound sense of peace that settled over the garden. In the pool, the flowers glowed just a bit brighter.