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Untitled Document

The Sapphire Shaft.

And your eyes hold the blue-bird flash,
The sapphire shaft, which is truth.

Amy Lowell, A Dome of Many Coloured Glass

Part 31: Politics.

Next morning, the Cantham House Committee convened not in its usual location which gave the group its name, but around the sick bed of one of its members; Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in the Healers ward of the Jedi Temple. Such a feat was not accomplished without difficulty, as they faced opposition from the medical sovereigns of that domain, who were forthrightly vocal in their protests and guidance concerning the patient's stress levels and overall health. Whether their comments were entirely welcome was judged best by the patient, who was heard to grumble through the Force to his former Padawan several choice words relating to the medic's parentage and behaviour, causing the Council Master to take great pains to conceal a smile behind his customary Jedi serenity.

"The Chancellor's goal in this, unclear to me it is," Yoda murmured when he finished reading the latest amendments to the frankly now poor and tattered Constitution, his voice gravely and grave, his entire manner thoughtful. "Though nominally in command of the Council the Senate may place him, the Jedi he cannot control. Moral our authority always has been, much more than legal. Simply follow orders the Jedi do not!"

"I don't think he intends to control the Jedi," Mace remarked. "By placing the Jedi Council under control of the office of Supreme Chancellor, this amendment will give him the constitutional authority to disband the Order itself."

"Surely you cannot believe that this is his real intention?" Padmé queried, leaving forward in her chair. Obi-Wan's hand went to the small of her back, applying a gentle Force massage to the pain he could sense there, causing her to flash a smile at him.

"His intentions are irrelevant," Mace continued. "All that matters now is the intent of the Sith Lord who has our government in his grip. And with this Sector Governance Decree to blackmail the Senate into complicity, the Jedi Order may be all that stands between him and galactic domination."

Yoda shook his head in resolute denial. "Authority to disband the Jedi Order, the Senate would never grant."

Mace was equally just as firm in his grim convictions. "The Senate will vote to grant exactly that. This afternoon."

"The implications of this, they must not comprehend!" Yoda tapped his gimmer stick on the marble antiseptically cleaned floor.

"It no longer matters what they comprehend," Garm Bel Iblis added sadly, "they know where the power is and they will cling to it unless someone else appeals to their self-serving interests."

"But even disbanded, even without legal authority, still the Jedi would we be," Yoda reminded those Masters present. "Jedi Knights served the Force long before there was a Galactic Republic and serve it we will when this Republic is but dust."

"Master Yoda, that day may be coming sooner than we think," Padmé informed the revered Grand Master. "That day may be today."

"We don't know what the Sith Lord's plans may be," Obi-Wan added, "but we can be certain that Palpatine is not to be trusted. Not anymore. This draft resolution is not the product of some over zealous Senator, we may be sure Palpatine wrote it himself and passed it along to someone he controls to make it look like the Senate is once more 'forcing him to reluctantly accept extra powers in the name of security.' We are afraid that they will continue to do so until one day he is forced to 'reluctantly accept' dictatorship for life."

"I am convinced this is the next step in a plot aimed directly at the heart of the Jedi," Mace continued. "This is a move towards our destruction. The dark side of the Force surrounds the Chancellor."

Obi-Wan nodded in agreement. "As it has surrounded and cloaked the Separatists since even before the war began. If the Chancellor is being influenced through the dark side this whole war may have been from the beginning a plot by the Sith to destroy the Jedi Order."

"Speculation!" Yoda cried. "On theories such as these we cannot not rely. Proof we need. Proof!"

"Proof we have," Padmé reminded them. "Obi-Wan and I discovered the first clues back on Kamino three years ago. Plans for an army that was a decade old, bred for precisely the right moment, given to the Republic to be commanded by Jedi, until such time when order Sixty-six is activated. Consider what the war has done to the Order, by placing every Knight and Master in the field over the command of a legion, stationed in battles located at the furthest reaches of the galaxy. So when the order comes to pass, no one will be able to come to their rescue."

"The question now becomes what will he do with those in the Temple while this occurs," Mace remarked. "We must be ready to act. He cannot be allowed to move against the order. He cannot be allowed to prolong this war needlessly. Too many Jedi have died already. He is dismantling the Republic itself. I have seen life outside the Republic, so have you Obi-Wan, Padmé. Slavery. Torture. Endless war. I have seen it on Nar Shaddaa and I saw it on Haruun Kal. I saw what it did to Depa and to Sora Bulq. Whatever its flaws, the Republic is our sole hope for justice and for peace. It is our only defence against the dark. Palpatine may be about to do what the Separatists cannot; bring down the Republic. If he tries, he must be removed from office."

"Removed?" Senator Fang Zar echoed. "You mean arrested?"

Yoda shook his head in sadness. "To a dark place, this line of thought will lead us. Great care we must take."

"The Republic is civilisation. It's the only one we have. We must be prepared for radical action. It is our duty." Bail resolved.

"But you are talking treason," Fang Zar reminded him.

"I am not afraid of words, Senator," Mace remarked. "If it's treason then so be it. Who of us can recognise treason nowadays? The morality of the Republic and the Order as become shrouded in a twilight of darkness. I would do this right now, if I had the Council's support. The real treason would be failure to act."

"Such an act, destroy the Jedi Order it could," Yoda murmured gravely. "Lost the trust of the public we have already...."

"No disrespect, Master Yoda," Mace interrupted, "or to you, Senators, but that is a politician's argument. We can't let public opinion stop us from doing what is right."

"Convinced it is right, I am not," Yoda countered. "Working behind the scenes we should be, to uncover Lord Sidious. To move against Palpatine while the Sith still exist, dangerous and unwise. This may be part of the Sith plan itself, to turn the Senate and the Republic against the Jedi. So that we are not only disbanded, but outlawed."

"To wait gives the Sith the advantage," Mace countered.

"Have the advantage they already do!" Yoda cried back. "Increase their advantage we will, if in haste we act!"

"Masters, Masters, please," Obi-Wan broke in. "Perhaps there is a middle way."

"Ah of course; Kenobi the Negotiator." Mace commented mildly, his voice still grim but without sarcasm. "I should have guessed. That is why you asked for this meeting isn't it? To mediate our differences if you can."

"So sure of your skills you are?" Yoda mused. "Easy to negotiate this matter is not!"

Obi-Wan took a deep breath, glanced at everyone present, then began. "It seems to me, that Palpatine has himself given us an opening. He said, both to you Master Windu, and in the HoloNet address he gave following his rescue, that General Grievous is the true obstacle to peace. Let us forget about the rest of the Separatist leadership for now. Let Nute Gunray and San Hill and the rest run wherever they like, while we put every available Jedi and all of our agents, the whole of Republic Intelligence if we can, to work on locating General Grievous himself. This will force the hand of the Sith Lord, he will know that Grievous cannot elude our efforts for long, once we devote ourselves exclusively to his capture. It will draw Sidious out, he will have to make some sort of move, if he wishes the war to continue."

"If?" Mace queried. "The war has been a Sith operation from the beginning with, forgive me, Qui-Gon, Dooku on one side and Sidious on the other, it has always been a plot aimed at us. At the Jedi. To bleed us dry of our youngest and best. To make us into something we never intended to be. I had the truth in my hands years ago back on Haruun Kal, in the first months of the war. I had it, but I did not understand how right I was."

Yoda nodded solemnly. "Seen glimpses of the truth we all have. Our arrogance it is which has stopped us from fully opening our eyes."

"Until now." Obi-Wan added. "We understand now the goal of the Sith Lord, we know his tactics and we know where to look for him. His actions will reveal him. He cannot escape us. He will not escape us."

There was silence for a moment as everyone contemplated the words of the Negotiator. Rarely did they have the opportunity to see him in action except in edited media across the HoloNet. Now they could listen to the full measure of his voice, the cultured tone gently persuading their tempers to calm, their minds to see reason.

Yoda managed a smile of pride at his former pupil. "Seen to the heart of the matter, young Kenobi has."

"Yoda and I will remain on Coruscant, monitoring Palpatine's advisers and lackeys, we'll move against Sidious the instant he is revealed," Mace decided. "But who will capture Grievous? I have fought him blade to blade. He is more than a match for most jedi."

"We'll worry about that once we find him," Obi-Wan added.

"Until the possible becomes actual, it is only a distraction," Qui-Gon reminded them. "If we co-ordinate our efforts, we might catch Sidious off guard."

Fang Zar, one of the new additions to the Cantham House Committee, shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I'm not sure I like where this is going."

"None of us likes where this is going," Bail remarked. "That's exactly the point. We can't let a thousand years of democracy disappear without a fight!"

"A fight?" Giddean Danu echoed. "I can't believe what I'm hearing. Bail, you and Master Windu both sound like Separatists."

"Perhaps they had the right idea from the beginning," Qui-Gon mused. "Dooku only left because he distrusted the Senate in the wake of its growing corruption, the inability of the Order to remain unaffected. He turned to the dark side later, manipulated by Sidious, who has sought since to use the war as a means to advancing his power and influence."

"It has become increasingly clear to all of us," Mon Mothma added, "that Palpatine has become an enemy of democracy. He must be stopped."

"We have the organisation in place," Bail revealed. "And the resources for survival, both for the Republic, and for the Order. All that remains for now, is to force our enemies' hand."

A knock sounded upon the door to Qui-Gon's room, and the committee fell into silence as the Padawan entered.

"The Chancellor's shuttle just docked, Masters," she reported.

"Palpatine is here?" Mace sought to confirm.

"No, he has asked for Knight Skywalker to go and see him," the Padawan replied.

"Go, find him, I will," Yoda remarked, rising from his place on Qui-Gon's bed. The rest of the Senators and Masters followed suit, waiting for the venerable Grand Jedi to depart before following Mace to the secret entrance and exit back into Coruscant's busy byways.

"I better start the Outer Rim briefing," Obi-Wan remarked as he rose from his chair, his hand reaching out for that of his wife's. Deliberately he passed close to her on way out, his face pausing beside hers. "I'll see you this afternoon, my love."

Padmé bestowed a warm smile upon him in silent reply, her brown eyed gaze following his form as he exited the room, before she departed to follow her colleagues from the political arena.

Obi-Wan reached the entrance to the War room and turned to observe his wife, his blue grey eyes wordlessly admiring her regally serene form, the elaborate gown which somehow managed to hide her quickening. After the furore caused when they were expecting Cordé, they decided to keep further pregnancies unwraps for as long as possible. Neither imagined that it would be easy to conceal twins, especially with her slight figure, but so far few had queried or inquired. Being with her and knowing her so intimately, he could tell of course, even without the Force, for a certain glow cast itself around her, brightening her every feature, from the light of her eyes to sparkle of her smile.

He recalled the night before, as he surveyed her bare skin in the heady state of afterglow, the happiness which radiated from her as they made love. She was never far from his thoughts, whether he was in her arms or away serving on the front line of the Outer Rim. He could not imagine a life without her, or remember a time when he didn't know her or love her, nor could he believe, when he saw her like this, her regally serene features concealing the heart of a wise warrior, that there was a truth in Anakin's nightmare.

Now he just had to convince the Knight of that.

The briefing on the Outer Rim Sieges over and still no sign of his former apprentice, caused Obi-Wan to make his way to the docking bay where the Chancellor's shuttle, empty yet guarded, waited for Anakin to board. He was there because he wanted to warn Anakin about the trap he was about to walk into, one which might prove all his dreams, yet be soured by the restrictions which the Jedi Council would enforce. Yet how to go about it? Obi-Wan was still unsure, though his mind had been occupied with this matter all through the briefing, perhaps even before.

And he found himself still hunting for the right words even as the tall form of his once apprentice came out of the darkness, and began walking towards him. Obi-Wan looked up from his absent examination of the deck to observe the Knight's appearance, noting with confusion the neglect to put on fresh tunics since their return from rescuing the Chancellor, leading him to silently wonder where Anakin had spent the night, let alone most of the morning. Not sleeping, if the tiredness betrayed by his red rimmed eyes was anything to go by. Something else he needed to talk to him about, though he relished doing so just as much as he did airing this conversation.

"You missed the report on the Outer Rim sieges," he settled for first.

"I was .... held up," Anakin replied. "I have no excuse." He glanced at the shuttle, the Guards waiting beside it. "Is Palpatine here? Has something happened?"

"Quite the opposite," Obi-Wan continued. "That shuttle did not bring the Chancellor. It is waiting to bring you to him."

"Waiting for me?" Anakin sought to confirm. He patted his robes, searching for a device he mislaid as regularly as his lightsaber, which his mentor was grateful to see hanging off his belt. "But my beacon hasn't gone off, if the Council wanted me, why didn't they call?"

Obi-Wan was relieved to see him ignorant of the Chancellor's plans. He hoped perhaps vainly, that it would make his task easier if he heard their side first. "The Council has not been consulted."

Anakin frowned. "I don't understand."

"Nor do I," Obi-Wan admitted, though he was afraid that a part of him understood only too well. "They simply arrived quite some time ago. When the deck duty Padawans questioned them, they said that the Chancellor has requested your presence."

The Knight's frown deepened. "Why wouldn't he go through the Council?"

"Perhaps he has some reason to believe that the Council might have resisted sending you," Obi-Wan replied carefully, his blue grey eyes wordlessly noting Anakin's reaction. "Perhaps he did not wish to reveal his reasons for this summons. Relations between the Chancellor and the Council are ...... stressed."

For a moment there was silence on the docking bay as former pupil and Master ingested this information, inwardly speculating about its possible meanings, motives and consequences. Anakin then raised a face full of concern to meet that of his once teacher, a man whom he still considered a brother in arms, despite all. "Obi-Wan, what's going on? Something's wrong isn't it? You know something, I can tell."

Obi-Wan sighed. He yearned for those days when things were that simple. "Know? Only suspect. Which is not at all the same thing."

"And?" Anakin prompted.

"And that's why I'm out here, Anakin, So I can talk to you," Obi-Wan replied. "Privately. Not as a member of the Jedi Council, infact, if the Council were to find out about this conversation, ..... well let's say I'd rather they didn't."

"What conversation?" Anakin cried. "I still don't know what's going on!"

"None of us does. Not really." Obi-Wan ran a hand through his hair, reminding himself that he was committed now. "Anakin, you know I am your friend."

"Of course you are..."

Obi-Wan cut in. "No. No of courses, Anakin. Nothing is of course anymore. I am your friend, and as your friend I am asking you; be wary of Palpatine."

The frown returned, as did Obi-Wan's tiredness. There were times when Anakin's nonnescient was exhausting. "What do you mean?"

"I know you are his friend," he affirmed. "I am concerned that he may not be yours. Be careful of him, Anakin. And be careful of your own feelings."

"Careful?" Anakin echoed. "Don't you mean mindful?"

"No I don't. The Force grows ever darker around us, and we are all affected by it, even as we affect it. This is a dangerous time to be a Jedi. Please, Anakin. Please be careful."

It was entirely the wrong moment to try for a rakish smile, still Obi-Wan was half relieved his friend had the courage to muster one. "You worry too much."

"I have to..." he began to say, but his pupil finished the response before he could.

"Because I don't worry at all right?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. "How did you know I was going to say that?"

"You're wrong you know," Anakin replied, his eyes moving past Obi-Wan towards the outline of Five Hundred Republica. "I worry plenty."

Obi-Wan didn't need to follow the direction, he knew already what Anakin was searching for. Or rather who. "That's another thing I've been meaning to talk with you about. How long have you been experiencing this nightmare?"

"Last night was the first," Anakin replied. "How long has Padmé been pregnant?"

Obi-Wan brushed the question aside, too irritated by the tone to answer. You didn't need to be a Jedi to detect the anger which lay behind his 'brother's' words, it was all too clear, clouding the previous level of confidence between them. "That's hardly relevant." Nor was it difficult to work out, for they had both been absent from the Core for the same amount of time. "Why did you feel it was necessary to tell Padmé about it?"

"I wanted her to be careful, to prevent the future I saw, if I could." Anakin sighed. "Obi-Wan, I was right about my mother. I don't want you to loose Padmé the way I lost her."

"What would you have me do?" Obi-Wan asked him softly. "Persuade her to give the child up? She's too far along already. Surrogacy? Such a procedure at this stage would be risky to both of them. And you're forgetting something, Anakin. Padmé is a strong woman. Far stronger than you or I. She had no difficulty with Cordé, and according to the healers and the med-droid, she'll have no trouble this time either."

"Master, please," Anakin pleaded. "You can go into the archives. You have access to information I don't have. You can find a way to prevent this from coming to pass."

"And I am telling you Anakin, with all this information at my disposal, it will not. Now I understand your fears, coming from Outer Rim planet such as Tatooine, where death in childbirth is common. But it does not happen on Coruscant. Or Naboo."

"How can you not be concerned?" Anakin asked. "You were the same when she was expecting Cordé; the perfect picture of Jedi serenity. While I,"

"Were a gibbering wreck," Obi-Wan finished, mildly. "I was worried, Anakin, though you may not have seen it. But I had faith in the Force, and in Padmé. I would have let her down, as well all of those in the Order, by surrendering to such negative emotions. And you will too, if you continue to listen to your fears."

"It's hard not to," Anakin whispered as his eyes turned the shuttle which awaited for him. "So much is uncertain these days."

Obi-Wan had no response to that, because for once the Knight spoke the truth.

The motive behind the Chancellor's actions regarding Anakin were soon made clear to the currently Temple bound members of the Council, who summoned those stationed in the field for an immediate conclave on the matter. Such Masters appeared via holo, their blue transparent bodies adding a somewhat eerie quality to the room, where ruling was usually reached and decided by silent and mutual contemplation of the Force. Since Obi-Wan's recent elevation to the body however, the General had rarely experienced such a simple and exquisite form of communication.

Despite their initial doubts concerning the identity of Anakin Skywalker as the Chosen One, they now possessed faith in his abilities to prove their often extremely high expectations. It was a view which Obi-Wan had never shared, knowing the boy better than they, witnessing the young Knight's all too frequent defiance of orders in favour of doing what he believed was right. Something which he tried to convince the Council about time and time again.

But while they held agreement with him in never making the lad a Master until he showed a better control of his emotional state, they were determined to use this executive manipulation from the Chancellor's office to their advantage, at the risk for Anakin, to which they seemed blind, no matter how hard Obi-Wan tried now to make them see.

"Yes of course I trust him," he reiterated, for what seemed like the tenth time since this plan was first proposed. "We can always trust Anakin to do what he thinks is right. But we can't trust him to do what he's told. He can't be made to simply obey. Believe me I've been trying that for many years."

"An unintentional opportunity the Chancellor has given us," Yoda said, a pointed reminder to his former pupils, for most of those on the Council now had grown under his initial tutelage. "A window he has opened into the operations of his office. Fools we would be to close our eyes."

"Then we should use someone else's eyes," Obi-Wan advised, and with a tone of such authority, that the revered Master glanced at him with raised brows. "Forgive me, Master Yoda, but you just don't know him the way I do. None of you does. He is fiercely loyal and there is not one gram of deception in him. You've all seen it; it's one of the many arguments that some of you, here in this room, have used against elevating him to Master: he lacks the true Jedi reserve, that's what you've said. And by that we all mean that he wears his emotions like a HoloNet banner. How can you ask him to lie to a friend, to spy on him?"

"That is why we must call upon a friend to ask him," Agen Kolar countered confidently, his gaze directed at Obi-Wan.

Who shook his head, just as surely. "You don't understand. Don't make him choose between me and Palpatine...."

"Why not?" Plo Koon asked from the bridge of the Courageous where he was directing the battle against the Separatists in the Ywllander system. "Do you fear you would loose such a contest?"

"You don't know how much Palpatine's friendship has meant to him over the years," Obi-Wan persisted. "You're asking him to use that friendship as a weapon. To stab his friend in the back. Don't you understand what this will cost him, even if Palpatine is entirely innocent? Especially if he's innocent. Their relationship will never be the same...."

"And that," Mace broke in with, "may be the best argument in favour of this plan. I have told you all what I have seen of the energy between Skywalker and the Supreme Chancellor. Anything that might distance young Skywalker from Palpatine's influence in the future is worth the attempt."

"I will of course abide by the ruling of this Council," Obi-Wan conceded, albeit reluctantly, for inwardly he still held many doubts regarding the wisdom behind this proposal. A part of him was worried that by choosing Anakin, they were playing right into the Sith Lord's hands, and he feared that this part of him would be proved correct.

"Doubt of that, none of us has," Yoda remarked, smiling at the young man who never once proved wrong his expectations, or shifted his burdens towards someone else in favour of his own survival. Obi-Wan was the Temple's real prize, precisely because he did not realise it. "But if to be done this is, decide we must how best we use him."

Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke through his holopresence. "I too have reservations on this matter, but it seems that in these desperate times, only desperate plans have hope of success. We have seen that young Skywalker has the power to battle a Sith alone, if need be; he has proven that with Dooku. If he is indeed the Chosen One, we must keep him in play against the Sith, keep him in a position to fulfil his destiny."

"And even if the prophecy has been misread," Agen Kolar added, "Anakin is one of the few Jedi we can best hope would survive an encounter with a Sith Lord. So let us also use him to help us set our trap. In Council let us emphasise that we are intensifying our search for Grievous. Anakin will certainly report this to the Chancellor's office. Perhaps as you say that will draw Sidious into action."

"It may not be enough," Mace said. "Let us take this one step further, we should appear short handed and weak, giving Sidious an opening to make a move he thinks will go unobserved. I'm thinking that perhaps we should let the Chancellor's office know that Yoda and I have both been forced to take the field...."

"Too risky that is," Yoda broke in, "and too convenient. One of us only should go."

"Then it should be you, Master Yoda," Agen Kolar proposed. "It is your sensitivity to the broader currents of the Force that a Sith Lord has most reason to fear."

Yoda nodded thoughtfully. "The Separatist attack on Kashyyyk, a compelling excuse will make. And good relations with the Wookiees I have; destroy the droid armies I can, and still be available to Coruscant, should Sidious take our bait."

"Agreed," Mace spoke for all sensing the consensus through the currents and eddies of the Force. "And one last touch. Let's let the Chancellor know, through Anakin, that our most cunning and insightful Master, and our most tenacious, is our choice to lead the hunt for Grievous."

"So Sidious will need to act, and act fast, if the war is to be maintained," Plo Koon said, nodding approvingly.

"Agreed," Yoda added, verbalising the consent from all present.

"This sounds like a good plan," Obi-Wan added from his position as the main strategist within the Temple and the Order. "But which Master do you have in mind?"

His query was met with only silence, accompanied by gentle expressions of quiet amusement, until he realised that the Master they were talking of was none other than him.

From the moment he entered the room, Obi-Wan could tell that Anakin was angry. The negative emotion rolled off him in waves, disrupting the light side currents of the Force which still swirled round the room, clouding them with darkness. Not for the first time did he suspect that the Chancellor used his relationship with the young Jedi to manipulate him. However, for what purpose he was still uncertain. As he had said to his former apprentice earlier, suspect was not the same as knowing. Though if it was to turn him against the Order, to have one of their own bring them down, then the merits of the proposal they were about to make to him would lower considerably.

"Anakin Skywalker," Mace began, causing the wandering blue eyes to fix on him, "The Council have decided to comply with Chancellor Palpatine's directive, and with the instructions of the Senate that give him the unprecedented authority to command this Council. You are hereby granted a seat at the High Council of the Jedi, as the Chancellor's personal representative."

The long moment of silence which met this proclamation served only to increase Obi-Wan's worries. From his chair he observed the young Knight, who now had broken the record for the youngest Jedi to be offered a seat on the Council since that of Mace Windu. After appearing suitably shocked by the appointment, his face now held an expression which seemed to suggest that something had just been confirmed in his mind. That this move by the Council was predicted by someone else, establishing Anakin's loyalty towards that person even further than it was set already. Obi-Wan did not need to name the man in his mind. He knew who it was already, and far too well for his liking.

"Thank you, Masters," Anakin at last replied. "You have my pledge that I will uphold the highest principles of the Jedi Order."

"Allow this appointment lightly, the Council does not," Yoda remarked. "Disturbing this move by Chancellor Palpatine is. On many levels."

Anakin bowed his head in acknowledgement, but not perhaps in perception. "I understand."

"I'm not sure you do," Mace added. "You will attend meetings of the Council, but you will not be granted the rank and privileges of a Jedi Master."


Obi-Wan flinched from the sheer power which lay behind such a simple, small word. That Anakin didn't even bother to hide his disbelief from the Council spoke rather eloquently in favour of the argument which he attempted to make earlier. Though he had warned him only hours ago that his relationship with the Chancellor might put him in exactly this kind of position with the Council, Anakin had clearly not listened to any of it.

"How dare you? How dare you? No Jedi in this room can match my power, no Jedi in the galaxy! You think you can deny Mastery to me?!"

And, just as clearly, he hadn't listened to Obi-Wan's and Qui-Gon's lessons over the years about governing his anger, his ego and applying the attributes that made a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan directed a glare at his former pupil, slowly shaking his head.

"The Chancellor's representative you are," Yoda remarked, his tone as grim as Obi-Wan's inward ruminations. "And it is as his representative you shall attend the Council. Sit in this Chamber you will, but no vote will you have. The Chancellor's view you shall present. His wishes. His ideas and directives. Not your own."

Perhaps that was one thing the directive had failed to appreciate about the Council; the ability to take an request and use it in its literal, yet subtle terms. Obi-Wan understood, even if his former apprentice did not, the great need not to assign a political voice to the Order, who remained as the moral authority of the Republic, even in the twilight years.

"This is an insult to me and an insult to the Chancellor," Anakin warned, is voice still a fountain of unvented fury. "Do not imagine that it will be tolerated."

Mace shot a stare towards the young Knight that was as cold as the young man's voice, his strict discipline unusually strained. "Take your seat, young Skywalker."

Obi-Wan saw the look Anakin sent back towards Mace, and feared for the lives of several members of this Council. He knew that the youth's opinion of them was never positive; Anakin still resented them for their public rejection of him when he was first brought before them, thirteen years ago. And to give him his due, the Council had not done much to destroy that unhealthy perception of them either.

"Anakin," he uttered softly, bringing the young Knight's attention upon him, "please."

To his surprise, his former apprentice surrendered, releasing the anger and bowing before the members in an act of contrition. "Forgive me, Masters," he uttered before taking the seat by Obi-Wan.

The rest of the conclave was conducted smoothly, most of the plans for future strategy having been worked out before the new member was invited inside the chamber. Obi-Wan saw Anakin retreat into his own thoughts, only emerging when the plans for Yoda to go to Kashyyyk were proposed, his desire to be out in the field palpable, leaving his former Master to wonder if perhaps the battlefield would be the best place for him, safely away from the Sith Lord whom seemed to be more of a threat to the Chosen One than the Chosen One was to him.

Agen Kolar called Obi-Wan to his side after the meeting was declared to be over, and for a few minutes the Zabrak managed to allay the General's fears, as he inquired after Senator Amidala and young Cordé. Though Obi-Wan's demeanour remained solemn and grave throughout the conversation, there was a welcome warmth to his cultured accent, and a joy in his words as he answered the questions which provided him with the strength to face his next discussion with Anakin.

Who waited for him outside in the vast grand lobby of the Temple, that seemed to have sensed his temper and turmoil, by choosing to remain devoid of its usual occupants; Padawans, Knights, Masters and younglings, all walking from one room of the Temple to another, all in search of a deeper understanding in the wisdom of the Force.

"This is outrageous!" Anakin cried as soon as Obi-Wan stood before him. "How can they do this?"

"How can they not?" Obi-Wan countered, determined to make his companion understand. "It's your friendship with the Chancellor, the same friendship which got you a seat at the Council, that makes it impossible to grant you Mastery. In the Council's eyes, that would be the same as giving a vote to Palpatine himself!"

"I didn't ask for this," Anakin protested. "I don't need this. So if I wasn't friends with Palpatine I'd be a Master already, is that what you're saying?"

Obi-Wan sighed. Why was becoming a Master so important? He feared that he already knew the answer. "I don't know," was all he said, though really he did.

"I have the power of any five Masters," Anakin boasted. "Any ten. You know it, Qui-Gon knows it, and so do they."

Did he listen to anything they taught him? "Power alone is no credit to you..."

"They're the ones who call me the Chosen One! Chosen for what? To be a dupe in some slimy political game?"

"Didn't I warn you, Anakin?" Obi-Wan reminded him. "I told you of the .... tension between the Council and the Chancellor. I was very clear. Why didn't you listen? You walked right into it."

"Like that ray shield trap." Anakin scoffed, reminding him of their last mission. "Should I blame this on the dark side too?"

"However it happened," Obi-Wan replied, "you are in a very .... delicate situation."

"What situation? Who cares about me? I'm no Master, I'm just a kid, right? Isn't that what it's about? Is Master Windu turning everyone against me because until I came along he was the youngest Jedi ever to be named to the Council?"

Obi-Wan sighed in frustration. "No one cares about that."

"Sure they don't," Anakin remarked sarcastically. "Let me tell you something. A smart old man said to me not so long ago; age is no measure of wisdom. If it were Yoda would be as twenty times as wise as you are..."

"This has nothing to do with Master Yoda!" Obi-Wan raised his voice, which had no effect whatsoever in quelling the tirade from the Knight before him.

"That's right. It has to do with me. It has to do with them all being against me. They always have been, most of them didn't even want me to be a Jedi. And if they'd won out, where would they be right now? Who would have done the things I've done? Who would have saved Naboo? Who would have saved Geonosis? Who would have killed Dooku and rescued the Chancellor? Who would have come for you and Alpha after Ventress..."

"Yes, Anakin, yes," Obi-Wan interrupted the ego driven flow. "Of course. No one questions your accomplishments. But accomplishments are not the only attribute of a Master. Emotional and mental discipline, duty and service, moral purity, these are also requirements required from every Jedi. You are not a special case, just because you may be the Chosen One. Many believe you have only gotten this far because of your relationship with Palpatine. And it's your relationship to Palpatine that's the problem. And it is a very serious problem."

"I'm too close to him?" Anakin queried. "Maybe I am. Maybe I should alienate a man who's been nothing but kind and generous to me ever since I first came to this planet. Maybe I should reject the only man who gives me the respect I deserve..."

"Anakin, stop," Obi-Wan cut him off once more. "Listen to yourself. Your thoughts are of jealousy and pride. These are dark thoughts, Anakin. Dangerous thoughts in these dark times. You are focused on yourself when you need to focus on your service. Your outburst in the Council Chamber was an eloquent argument against granting you Mastery. How can you be a Jedi Master when you have not mastered yourself?"

Silence met this query, and Obi-Wan waited patiently as Anakin passed his flesh hand over his face. In a much calmer and softer voice, the Knight asked, "what do I have to do?"

Obi-Wan sighed, reluctant to speak to him about this. But he promised to abide by the Council's ruling. And the Council were determined to use this directive. "The Council approved your appointment because Palpatine trusts you. They want you to report on all his dealings. They have to know what he's up to."

"They want me to spy on the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic?" Anakin cried incredulously. "Obi-Wan, that's treason."

"We are at war, Anakin," he replied. "In such times, treason is often ambiguous. The Council is sworn to upheld the principles of the Republic through any means necessary. We have to. Especially when the greatest enemy of those principles seems to be the Chancellor himself."

Anakin's blue eyed gaze narrowed disapprovingly. "Why didn't the Council give me this assignment while we were in session?"

"Because this assignment is not to be on record," Obi-Wan replied. "And while it is in session, you are the voice of the Chancellor, the man who will report back to him what has taken place. With such orders, the Council has to be careful as to how they are delivered."

"You are trying to turn me against Palpatine," Anakin murmured. "You're trying to make me keep secrets from him, you want to make me lie to him. That's what this is really about."

"It isn't," Obi-Wan replied. "It's about keeping an eye on who he deals with, and who deals with him."

"He's not a bad man, Obi-Wan. He's a great man, who's holding this Republic together with his bare hands..."

"By staying in office long after his term has expired," Obi-Wan pointed out. "By gathering dictatorial powers...."

"The Senate demanded that he stay!" Anakin protested. "They pushed those powers on him..."

"Don't be so naive," Obi-Wan cut in. "I know how much Padmé fights to save what remains of their tattered Constitution. The Senate is so intimidated they give him anything he wants."

"Then it's their fault, not his," Anakin argued. "They should have the guts to stand up to him."

Obi-Wan did not bother to try and explain to him that no one in the Senate possessed that kind of power any more, because Palpatine had taken it away from them. "That is what we're asking you to do."

"He's my friend, Obi-Wan," Anakin almost whined.

"I know," he uttered softly. "I know."

"If he asked me to spy on you, do you think I would do it?"

Obi-Wan had no answer for that question. To be honest, he wasn't sure that he would like what his answer might be.

"You know how kind he has been to me," Anakin added, his resistance all but worn away now. "You know how he's looked after me, how he's done everything he could to help me. He's like family."

Obi-Wan frowned. He did not like where this was heading. "The Jedi are your family."

"No, they're your family. I'm not like you. I had a mother who loved me."

"And I have a wife and child who love me, Anakin. I'm not incapable of understanding your need for familial bonds. But such attachments are not what make us Jedi. By clinging to that love, treating it as something which is tangible enough to control, we are making ourselves vulnerable to the dark side. But that is not what I need to talk to you about, not today. We're not asking you to act against Palpatine. We're asking you to monitor his activities. Palpatine himself may be in danger. This may be the only way you can help him."

"What are you talking about?" Anakin asked.

Obi-Wan sighed. He held doubts about telling him this, but perhaps this was the only argument to which he would listen. "I'm not supposed to be telling you this. Please do not reveal we had this conversation. To anyone, do you understand?"

"I can keep a secret," Anakin said slowly.

"All right," Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "Master Windu traced Darth Sidious to Five Hundred Republica before Grevious' attack, and based on that, we think that the Sith Lord is someone within Palpatine's closest circle of advisers. That is who we want you spy on, do you understand? If Palpatine is under the influence of the Sith Lord, he may be in the gravest danger. The only way we can help him is to find Sidious and to stop him. What we are asking of you is not treason, Anakin, it may be the only way to save the Republic."

"So all you're really asking," Anakin concluded slowly, "is for me to help the Council find Darth Sidious."

"Yes, yes that's it exactly," Obi-Wan replied, sounding relieved. But from what he observed on Anakin's face, and what he could not sense from his tightly shielded Force presence, served to inwardly wipe away any trace of that emotion.

Part 32: Death Holds No Dominion.

It was a solitary ride in a hovercar back to the apartment of the Senator from Naboo, and Obi-Wan was glad, for the past few hours had given him a lot to think about. Many things troubled him; the Council's ruling, Anakin's reaction, Palpatine's motives, the curse of inactivity which seemed to have settled on the Cantham House Committee.

Strangely the only battle he felt confident about was his one with General Grievous. At least in that he could predict the strategy of his enemy and choose how best to defeat it. However, it meant being parted from Padmé and Cordé again, at a time when Sidious could reveal himself, a potentially dangerous moment for all of Coruscant. He had no doubt that she could defend and protect herself and their children, there was just something troubling about his absence on an Outer Rim world - for he believed that's where Grievous would be hiding -while the main conflict was taking place within the Core. Not that he believed his presence could dictate the outcome, just that only he and Qui-Gon understood Anakin enough to possibly predict his actions, and Qui-Gon was too frail to use that knowledge where it might do some good.

Deftly he brought the hovercar to the docking entrance of the Nubian penthouse at Five Hundred Republica. Thumbing off the ignition, he raised his blue grey eyes from the countless buttons and gauges that littered the control ledge to search what he could see of the rooms laid out before him.

A smile settled over his face as he caught sight of his wife playing with their daughter, quietly helping her in practising within the Force, floating one of her plush toys, frequent gifts from their friends in the Senate, the Order and the Naberries. Cordé was spoilt rotten, but the little girl had inherited his humble character, accepting the gifts as honoured tokens, happily donating them to others less fortunate than herself whenever her mother and father came into contact with such distressed causes.

Artoo beeped contentedly beside them, no doubt recording the moment for the future. The little droid would be accompanying him when he left to fight Grievous, indeed Obi-Wan could rarely persuade Artoo to remain behind the line of any battlefield. Normally he would not have such a close relationship with a machine, but there was something eerily human about the little unit who had first made their acquaintance as they cleaned him after he saved the shielding of the Nubian Royal Cruiser.

"Daddy," Cordé cried, and the spell was broken as the plush toy dropped to the floor and Padmé slowly rose to her feet. Artoo tootled his own greeting as the little girl toddled off towards her father, who quickly climbed out of the hovercar to Force catch her in his arms as he entered the apartment.

"How are my beautiful girls?" he asked as he settled Cordé across his chest, and reached out a hand to claim one from Padmé, who leaned forward to kiss his cheek.

"About as content as we can be without you," Padmé replied, drawing back a little to better examine the look which filtered across his face. She descried his future departure along with the reason behind it, before he even uttered a word. "They're sending you to fight Grievous, aren't they?"

Obi-Wan nodded solemnly. "I can stay until word is sent regarding the location of his bolt hole." He paused, gazing at her searchingly. "Have you seen Anakin today?"

She frowned. "No, why? Has something happened?"

"You could say that." He told her about the ruling of the Jedi Council in view of Palpatine's latest directives. "Understandably, he's not happy about it. Whether he'll actually do what they asked of him is another matter entirely."

"Do you think Palpatine will suspect?" Padmé asked. She knew all too well how incapable Anakin was of deception. She remembered what the Knight spoke of the Chancellor three years ago, his admiration for the man already set so high. Such a request made by an Order whom he did not hold in same amount of regard would not sit well with him.

"Part of me worries that by doing this we're playing right into his hands," Obi-Wan confessed. "But I don't see an alternative. There's no one else in the Order whom he trusts."

Cordé's little hands played with the hairs of his neatly trimmed beard, causing her father to turn his gaze on her, a dancing smile gracing his previously solemn expression. "Daddy has to go and fight again, sweetheart. Do you promise to brave and help your mother and your future siblings while I'm away?"

"The Force will be with me, Daddy," Cordé replied, sounding all too wise for her years. Obi-Wan titled his head to brush her rosy cheek with his lips. "Always, my child."

He let her down to the ground, and she toddled back to Artoo, leaving him to take hold of his wife, who gazed up at him with concerned brown eyes. "Come with me."

He led her through to their bedroom and helped her to sit upon their bed, sliding down behind her. Silently he pulled her close to him, resting his head upon her shoulder.

"What is this, some sort of Jedi Lamaze class?" Padmé asked him.

"In a way," he replied. "Close your eyes and empty your mind."

She complied, the request familiar to her from the early days of their marriage, spent in Varykino, when he taught her the ways of the Force, letting all the worry and stress caused by the result of the latest Cantham House Committee flow out of her, until she was left with the single bright current which belonged to him. "I feel you," she uttered.

"Good," he praised. "Now, memorise that signature."

Padmé concentrated her mind upon his unique sense in the Force, examining every part of it until she would know it instinctively. Unlike his previous lessons to her about in the ways of Force; basic meditation and defence with a lightsaber, this was completely foreign idea which seemed to delve into the mystical legends of the Jedi, one which had she not been with child would be beyond her borderline strength.

The twins growing inside her enhanced that sense, allowing her the privilege of seeing what other Jedi saw in her husband; a bright beacon of light surrounded by the loving tendrils of the Force. The being adored this man, nurtured and protected him, in return for the unswerving devotion with which Obi-Wan served.

Padmé recalled his stance Geonosis, when he surrendered his whole self over to the Force, trusting in its wisdom to grant him the day. Not once had he failed to prevail and though the victories came with a price, the Force protected him, always. Just as those around him felt driven to protect, so did the being who granted him this gift. Infinitely humble, he knew naught of it and it was precisely why the Force adored him so. Seeing this, Padmé knew who would survive the encounter with Grievous, and it would not be the robotic despot.

"Now, follow me," he whispered, his voice warm in her ear, his presence strong in her mind. She caught the course of the current and travelled along it. She reached a point where it fragmented into separate streams. A flash of light showed her which one to take, an old path, appearing shrivelled and darkly foreboding. She travelled along the darkness until there was a patch of light, bright enough to almost blind the universe.

"That's Anakin's signature," Obi-Wan informed her.

"Does he know I can sense him?" Padmé asked.

"No, this is the old training bond," Obi-Wan explained. "Severed upon his Knighting. Now I want you to memorise this one as well."

Padmé did so, looking at every aspect until she knew it almost as well as Obi-Wan's. In contrast to her husband's, Anakin's Force presence could not be more diverse. The blinding light was a shrouded facade, behind which lurked a terrible beast, its tail rattling, its mouth hissing venom.

For as long as she had known him the Knight always felt he had something to prove, and his current in the Force was no different. Gone was the precocious child, whose compassion knew no bounds, its replacement was a suspicious man who searched for the dark self-serving motive behind everyone's agendas. A tortured hero whom the Republic venerated. Not for the first time did she wonder if Anakin's life would have been better if Qui-Gon had not taken him from Tatooine.

She considered the monster hiding behind the light, wondering if it was an omen or if Anakin had been tempted by the dark side too many times. Dare she tell Obi-Wan what she could see? She had no desire to disappoint him or add a sense of doubt to his teaching methods. Her husband already possessed an unhealthy tendency for assuming misplaced feelings of guilt, the first seeds planted by his Master, who lost his previous Padawan to the dark side.

"No need to worry," he murmured in her ear, "I know already."

"Has he turned?" She asked him quietly.

"Not yet," Obi-Wan answered, the implication clear enough. "A lot of the conflict that lies within him has to do with his inability to master his emotions. Now I'll show you one who has what Anakin should have if he is to become a Master."

He took her back up the stream until they reached the single path, whereupon he led her along another current. Though this one appeared similar to Anakin's, the cracks of darkness seemed more contained.

"That signature belongs to Mace," he revealed, before asking her to memorise it.

Once more she examined the signature before her, the darkness within controlled and managed. She remembered when Obi-Wan taught her the basic lightsaber forms, learning that Mace was a Vaapad Master, a self-invented style which embraced and channelled the darkness of an opponent and surrendered to the thrill of battle. The form was entirely unique and no one practised the style without Mace's approval, because of the risk with the dark side. One of the foremost warriors of the Council and of the Order, Mace had been chosen to apprehend the Sith Lord when his identity was finally discovered. All of the Jedi who attended the Cantham House Committee were Masters with a blade and excepting Qui-Gon, Yoda and Obi-Wan, all would aid Mace when the time came.

Padmé expected Obi-Wan to show her the signatures of those Masters who would aid the Korun, but to her surprise, he only led her to Master Yoda's, whose signature filled her with a sense of calm unlike any she had ever known. She recalled her first meeting with the revered Grand Master of the Order, her young mind wondering how a so seemingly small and frail being managed to father an order and teach so many knights to face enemies like the ones she witnessed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight. She remembered when her husband told her of Yoda's duel with Dooku, his ability to save Obi-Wan and Anakin from being crushed. Lastly, she recalled when they presented him with their daughter, the lustre acquired by his eyes when he pronounced her to be the combination of everything good in her parents. Yoda was truly a remarkable being of many contrasts.

"And now for those of our children," Obi-Wan murmured, a slight catch in his voice, and his sense led her down short bright paths, showing her in turn that of Cordé, then the twins growing inside her. Padmé felt the awe in which he regarded them, unknowingly the same emotions with which the Force regarded him. Some times she worried what they would make of a world changing before their eyes, unlike the one that belonged to their parents, dark and full of suspicion, war. She worried for their survival, yet when she observed their signatures now, she found that concerned assuaged, as the Force assured them of their endurance through the dark times, into a brighter future.

"Why are you showing me all this?" Padmé asked her husband softly when he brought her out into the world once more.

"Because if any of them are in trouble while I'm away, only you will be in a position to do something to help them," Obi-Wan replied. "Such an ability might mean the difference between saving their lives and losing what remains of the Republic."

"Do you think we really can save it?" She murmured. "So much of it has already been lost. Whatever happens, the Republic our children know will not be the one we mourn."

Obi-Wan gave no response to that, her words were too close to the truth. For all of the meetings at Cantham House, began to gather incriminating evidence to check the balance of the power and restore the good back to the Republic, nothing but delay and stopgaps had been accomplished, making the decline all the more plain to those involved. There was conflict everywhere, from the front line battlefields to the Senate, even inside the Order itself, a sign of the growing darkness, and the growing fear that it would soon conquer the light.

Conflict existed inside all of them, including himself, as he yearned both to be on Coruscant sorting matters out, wherever Grievous was hiding, and in Varykino, where he and Padmé had nothing to trouble them, save boredom from a blissfully quiet retirement. Both of them were involved in duty since their youth, experienced so much that threatened the peace they strive to save. A sense of tiredness was understandable, yet they were well aware that if they surrendered to that selfish desire now, they would deserve the guilt and more offered in reprisal. The Force had called them to these paths a long time ago, to deny their capabilities would be to deny the very existence of that being.

Yet, the Force was infinitely generous, it sensed the need for two of its servants to rest and gather strength from the comfort of each other. Which was why it sang encouragement into their auras as she turned her face to his, lips moving to touch. Mouths explored first each other, then rounded cheeks and closed eyelids, until someone summoned the presence of mind to wave the doors to the room close with his hand, granting privacy. Beyond that barrier he sensed Dormé amusing her late friend's namesake, Artoo probably still nearby. Gently he withdrew them from their bonds with their children, shielding them from the love they were too young to comprehend, a difficult skill when such affection was involved. Quietly they broke to shift positions, remove layers of Jedi and Senatorial robes until nothing but skin sufficed to separate them.

Communion such as this was a rare event between them now, the war parting them from sight, sound and touch too much for nothing but snatched conversations, and brief, chaste embraces. In a way it resembled the time of their courtship, when she was a Queen and he a young Knight, thrust into roles of leadership by conquering a Sith and defeating an occupying army of droids, when all that granted them sight of each other was holo technology.

Now as with then, the encounters never seemed enough, the hunger sated only briefly, passions put on pause. However much time seemed to slow when they held each other in their embrace, too often did they feel in the afterglow the transitory nature of life, despite knowing that when the Force was with them, death held no dominion. Even with evidence of that love growing inside her, the double beings swelling her slight statue, causing differing positioning, yet still resulting in that same ecstasy of release.

Afterwards they emerged from the room in simple attire, capturing Cordé's attention, content to provide their firstborn with the unusual opportunity to spend time with both her parents at once. Her happy, contented nature seemed to be a calm eye in a storm of political chaos which those in the Order now found themselves too deeply involved in.

Geonosis thrust the Jedi into a combative situation which most would have eagerly chosen to isolate the Order from, protesting that it was a Republic matter and below the moral level of their service to the Force and democracy. In hindsight perhaps those naysayers were the wiser, for the action would have saved the lives of many Masters and Knights. But would the Republic be any better off than it was now? No one could be certain in answering that.

If the Order chose that course, Obi-Wan would have found himself torn, for by then he was committed not just to the Jedi but to Padmé as well. He was not the only Jedi married, but he was the only one married to a Senator, and not just a Senator but the leader of the Opposition, the foremost check on the Supreme Chancellor's constant grab for power. His loyalties would have been in conflict, doubtless forcing him to choose one or the other. It would not have been hard, yet he knew which side he would sacrifice, selfish though his choice may be, for it was moments like this with Padmé and Cordé that he remembered what he was fighting for, and found the strength to continue such a battle.

Dawn brought the moment to a close, rousing them from their bed as his hand emerged from the sheets to grab the comlink which always lay close beside him and bring the device to his mouth.

"Yes?" He answered, freeing another hand to wipe the sleep from his face, before resuming hold of the one he spent most of the night touching in some form or other.

"We are calling the Council into a special session," Mace Windu replied, "We've located General Grievous."

"Thank you, Master Windu," he acknowledged, even as the hand which held his gripped even tighter, causing slight pain. "I'm on my way."

He thumbed the device off and returned it to its resting place, before rolling round to face her, silently taking in the worried gaze. Solemnly he allowed a hand to grace the smooth line of her jaw, his fingers softly stroking the skin he found there. Blue grey eyes searched brown ones before moving forward for a brief joining of lips, the former eloquently assuring the latter that all would be well.

Quietly they moved from the bed, parting to dress, she in light robes more suited to the time of day, he in all the trappings of Jedi regalia. Finished before he, she watched him as he added the brown robe to his layer of cream tunics, clipping the lightsaber to his belt, running a hand through his hair to quell the last remains of sleep. His mind was already fully alert to what he would face in the next few hours; a meeting of the Council, travel to wherever it was Grievous had been found.

She was concerned by the speed in such a finding, another confirmation that whoever caused the war was deeply embedded in the inner workings of the Republic and through it the Order itself. Provenance of the source however was not something to worry about right now, quenching Grievous was the first part in a larger conspiracy to force the Sith out from the shadows.

Obi-Wan turned from the mirror to catch her eyes, rousing Padmé from her thoughts. She rose from her seat to follow him into the room which housed their baby girl, still sound asleep in her tiny bed. Careful not to disturb her, he cautiously approached the piece of furniture, and learned over to brush her rosy cheek with a farewell kiss. A part of him was thankful that she was still too young to be aware of all the horrors her parents faced, while another wondered what burdens she would be forced to bear as she grew older.

Padmé accompanied him to the landing dock, her thick robe sheltering her body from the morning mist and cold, while hiding her quickening from the hungry curious eyes that belonged to the early avian members of the press who were doubtless watching. Obi-Wan turned to wrap her into his arms, pressing his face against the curls of her long unbound dark brown hair, inhaling the unique scent which belonged to her. Closing his eyes his mind brushed the signatures of the twins inside her, another farewell which his heart struggled to perform.

A series of beeps roused them from the momentary sadness, as Artoo trundled out from the apartment to join his Master, having decided to accompany Obi-Wan on this mission as he had every mission ever since the Jedi married his Mistress.

"Keep him safe, Artoo," Padmé requested of the droid, before turning to her husband as he drew back from their embrace. "And you do the same. May the Force be with you, Master Kenobi."

"And with you, milady," he returned.

A final look of unspoken yet utterly acknowledged love passed between them, before he mounted the seat of the hover car and rode away.

The special session of the Council was remarkably short, yet about ten times as frustrating. Obi-Wan emerged from the chamber more troubled than when he went in, and with a desire to dodge another conversation with his former apprentice. Quickening his pace, he sought a turbolift to take him to the domain of the Healer's ward, his mind seeking the calming embrace of the Force, and wisdom which only that being, his wife and his former Master seemed to be able to provide.

As usual Anakin had arrived fresh from the Supreme Chancellor's office, with a holo projector of Utapau, where Senate Intelligence had located General Grievous. Previously neutral, the sinkhole planet was located just where they predicted, in the Outer Rim. It was disturbing, just as Anakin's new position now provided him with a valid excuse to frequently visit the Chancellor, not to mention learning that Senate Intelligence, along with direct command of the Galactic army were now both under the jurisdiction of that Office.

Naturally that office's representative had volunteered to lead the army which would face Grievous, and just as naturally the Council objected, voting to enforce what had already been agreed privately. Obi-Wan hadn't been surprised by Anakin's desire to leave the Core where his entire being was in turmoil to face an enemy that was in contrast easier to destroy, nor had he been surprised when Anakin objected to him going alone. The last time the Council split up the team brought the wrath of Ventress upon him. Also, he could not forget that fighting Dooku had rendered him unconscious, not while the man who defeated the Sith was there to remind him and the Council.

Unanimous vote to send him was the result, Anakin's silence taken for compliance, albeit forced as most of the Masters present were well aware. Obi-Wan sympathised with his frustration, but there was little he could do to convince his former apprentice of the logic behind sending one Master to Utapau, not without confiding in him the real motive in the Council's decision.

Reaching Qui-Gon's room, Obi-Wan paused, observing his former Master from the view point of the door. Seated in a chair, Qui-Gon's eyes were closed, his mind in quiet communion with the Living Force. With the light from the orbital mirrors dancing off his now pale skin, there was an added frailty to his former Master, one which over the years since the encounter with the Sith on Naboo Obi-Wan had seen steadily increase. That Qui-Gon had not long in this world was certain, but it seemed more apparent now, leaving him with a foreboding sense that this would be their last chance for conversation of any kind.

He crossed the threshold, causing Qui-Gon to turn and open his eyes. "How are you, Master?"

"Better than you, it appears," Qui-Gon studied him, peering through the facade of Jedi serenity into the turmoil lying beneath. "When was the last time you meditated, Padawan mine?"

"I'll have time during hyperspace to Utapau," Obi-Wan replied, moving across the room towards where he sat.

"So that's where Grievous sank himself," Qui-Gon quipped. "And the Council are sending you- a good choice. But I sense that is not what troubles you."

Obi-Wan lowered himself into the chair across from his Master. "Anakin."

"It is natural for you to worry, Obi-Wan, perhaps even doubt. But he is the Chosen One. He will bring balance."

"There are those who believe that prophecy may have been misread," Obi-Wan revealed, avoiding his Master's gaze.

"There are those who viewed my methods in teaching you as unsound," Qui-Gon countered, causing him to look at his Master with surprise. "Even unwise, trying to balance a sense of the Living Force in one so strong in the Unifying. Who said that my failure with Xanatos would affect our relationship. And in some ways they were right. But no one could deny that it was the will of the Force which brought us together." Qui-Gon smiled. "I regret that I caused you to be unsure of yourself, Obi-Wan, but I have never regretted training you. In many ways you are far more than a Padawan to me. Just as Anakin is to you. We can instruct as much as we like, but in the end it is up to them what path they follow. Whatever the future bodes, good or ill, it is his choice, no one else's. His fault or his triumph, no reflection on our teaching methods."

Obi-Wan nodded, all too aware why Qui-Gon chose to say this now. "I still have a bad feeling about all of this."

"Have you done all you can to prepare?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Short of meditation, yes."

"Then you must trust in the Force." Qui-Gon smiled. "Now, I must ask of you one thing before you go."

"Anything, Master."

Qui-Gon's eyes shone with as yet unshed tears. "Careful, Padawan mine. You may not like it."

Volume Three

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2021. All rights reserved.