Five Deaths to Die
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-Five Deaths to Die-
-Five Deaths to Die-
The street was alive with the bustle of people as Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi crossed the busy intersection on the designated crosswalk, headed for the Malti-Venba Embassy. Separated slightly by the press of the crowd, Qui-Gon reached the other side first and turned to wait for his Padawan, who was only about halfway across, to catch up. Suddenly, the desperate shriek of a warning horn split the air and Qui-Gon watched his life fall apart before his eyes. The pedestrians scattered in terror from the street as a huge, out-of-control public transport barreled down the middle of the road, headed right for the intersection. Both Jedi were taken completely by surprise. They had felt no warning, no indication of what was coming. A sudden dread washed over Qui-Gon, but it all unfolded too fast for him to move, think, or even breathe. Obi-Wan shoved the lady next to him, throwing her clear, and then intended to jump out of the way himself, but something went wrong. Terribly wrong. It was barely a second from the time the wailing blast sounded to the instant it was upon the crosswalk, but it should have been enough time for a Jedi, it should have, if everything were right, but all was not right. For a split instant Qui-Gon saw a look of confusion and alarm spread across his apprentice's face as something actually froze Obi-Wan in place, delaying him from action for that critical split-instant until it was too late. The Transport streaked through the intersection, plowing through everything in its path, including Obi-Wan, before smashing into the side of a building on the other side of the street. "Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon cried out in horror, his legs in motion before the Transport had even finished its disastrous course across the intersection. The impact had knocked the eighteen-year-old Jedi halfway across the street. Qui-Gon knelt beside his Padawan. "Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan!" he said in soft alarm. For a moment he hesitated to touch the boy, not wanting to do more damage by moving the apprentice before he was stabilized. But when Obi-Wan murmured Qui-Gon's name, reaching out weakly towards him, Qui-Gon threw caution to the wind and pulled the injured Padawan into his lap, holding Obi-Wan gently in his arms. The readings Qui-Gon was getting through the Force about Obi-Wan's injuries filled the Master's heart with dread as he cradled the young man close. Obi-Wan gazed up at Qui-Gon with shocked, pain-filled eyes. "Master," he whispered softly, his crushed chest impeding his ability to speak. "I don't understand... I-I couldn't move..." "Shh, shh," Qui-Gon stroked Obi-Wan's hair gently, cupping the apprentice's head in his hand. "It'll be okay, the medi-teams are on their way," he tried to sooth, pouring strength into his Padawan's failing body. But Obi- Wan's body was like a sieve, and his life was draining away too fast to stop. "I'm going to die, aren't I Master?" Obi-Wan whispered softly as the realization of his own injuries pressed in upon him. "No!" Qui-Gon shook his head, tears in his eyes because he could not believe his own words. "No, Obi-Wan! You're going to be all right, it's going to be all right!" Obi-Wan smiled faintly and shook his head as much as his injuries allowed. "You've never lied to me before Master," he gasped as his lungs shut down. "Don't start now." "Your focus determines your reality Padawan," Qui-Gon said, his voice thick. "You cannot die, you cannot!" "There is no death," Obi-Wan said faintly, his eyes beginning to glaze. "There is the Force... I'm sorry, Maste...r," Obi-Wan's voice trailed away and his eyes closed in eternal sleep as his spirit fled away from his broken body. "No! No!" Qui-Gon hugged Obi-Wan's lifeless body to his chest, but it was no good. He could not recall Obi- Wan's spirit. It had fled beyond the grave and he would not see the boy again until he too, became one with the Force. The sirens of the medi-team wailed, announcing their approach. The lights on their vehicles flashed red as emergency workers poured out of the doors, but Qui-Gon did not notice. He did not register the motion and noise around him; it was all unreal, like a dream. But it was no dream; it was a waking nightmare. Obi-Wan was gone. Qui-Gon felt as if a huge piece of his heart had just been ripped out of his chest, leaving a gaping hole inside him, the sheer emptiness of which threatened to crush him. The medi-teams gently tried to take Obi-Wan's body, but Qui-Gon would not let go, so they moved on to help the other victims who could still be saved. Qui-Gon was reeling in shock. This was all wrong! All wrong! It should not have happened, he felt sure of that. It was not just his need to deny the reality of the tragedy that had just taken place that made him feel so either. Something deep inside was telling Qui-Gon that this was all terribly wrong. It was not supposed to happen. After all the dangers they had faced together, all the life-threatening situations they had survived, to lose the boy this way, so pointlessly, was devastating. "Sir, we can't leave him here in the street, I'm sorry sir, I'm very sorry," the young paramedic was saying to Qui-Gon, once more trying to get him to relinquish Obi- Wan's body. Numbly, Qui-Gon let go, let them take the shell that had been his Padawan only a few short minutes ago. He rose to his feet, amazed that he remembered how to do so. Qui-Gon stood still in the middle of the street, life rushed by about him, but he seemed to have lost his grip on the flow of it all and it passed him by too fast to comprehend. He felt numb with grief and was not sure what he was doing or where he was going. "You seem lost Master Jinn," a deep voice made him turn. It spoke softly, but there was no compassion in its tone. "Could it be that you now see how painful it is to lose someone you care for?" Qui-Gon found himself facing the shadowy figure of a tall man in a dark, hooded cape. At least, it was shaped like a man, but he could not see the fellow's face under the hood. The presence seemed vaguely familiar to Qui-Gon, but he did not know why, and was in no mood to ponder riddles. "What are you talking about? Who are you?" Qui-Gon asked, somewhat sharply. "How do you know who I am?" "We've never met before," the being said. "But I've watched you for many years Qui-Gon Jinn. It should not be so hard to figure out, I am a Dacca, and how many Dacca's have you ever encountered? Come now, don't tell me you've forgotten Aminorthini? It's unseemly to kill someone and then forget all about it," bitter hatred seeped into the being's tone. *Dacca, Aminorthini...* Qui-Gon's brow furrowed deeply. That was so long ago it took him a few moments to remember. Then it came back to him. Aminorthini, a green little planet in the Rim Territories. He had not been there in over thirty years, but he remembered what had happened there well enough. He had lost his best friend on Aminorthini. "Yes, you see? You do remember," the being said with cold satisfaction. "My name is Rylos, offspring of Benthon, whom you murdered Jedi." Rylos' voice brought the memories rushing back to Qui- Gon. Benthon and apparently Rylos as well, were of a rare, but extremely powerful race called the Dacca. They had abilities and powers beyond what even the Jedi had ever seen. Dacca had no male of female, but when they were ready, they bore a single offspring. Knowing their great power was above that of most mortals; they had strict rules about interference with other sentient life and for this reason were rarely, if ever, seen. Benthon was a renegade who did not agree with the Dacca rules. He saw no reason why he could not use his great power for his own gain. He was the only Dacca Qui-Gon had ever encountered, and the memory was entirely evil. Aminorthini was Qui-Gon's very first mission after he became a Knight, which is why he had been paired with Muuli, who was also a new Knight. They had been best of friends during their Temple, and Padawan days and both thought it wonderful that they should share their first mission together. It would also be Muuli's last. No one had known that an evil Dacca was causing the problems on Aminorthini, and by the time the Jedi found out, it was too late. There was a confrontation and Muuli was killed. Qui-Gon had faced the greatest challenge of his life that day in overcoming the deep desire for revenge that burned inside him because of his friend's death. Yet in spite of it all, Qui-Gon had conquered his hate and subdued the Dacca by tricking Benthon into using his own power against himself. But Benthon did not want to be sent back to his own people for justice and had turned on Qui- Gon at the last moment, forcing the young Knight to defend himself and kill the evil Dacca. Qui-Gon had grieved for a long time for Muuli, but he had thought that that whole, terrible episode was ancient history, until now, when it came back to haunt and hurt him all over again. "I did not murder Benthon, Rylos. He tried to kill me and I defended myself," Qui-Gon shook his head, still trying to figure out the connection between that and what had happened today. "You lie Jedi," Rylos hissed darkly. "My parent would never have done such a thing! You were mistaken about him, but even after you knew the truth, you still killed him out of vengeance, murdered in cold blood while he was your prisoner! And after you murdered him, you spread your filthy lies about him to cover yourself and sullied his name until it may not even be spoken among my people! For this, I swore my revenge," Rylos' voice sunk low and menacing. "I swore that someday you would hurt the way you made me hurt, I just wanted you to know that Jinn. Wanted you to know *why*." All at once it made terrible sense to the Jedi Master. "You did this," Qui-Gon breathed, suddenly finding his air very short. "You kept Obi-Wan from being able to get out of the way in time!" He still could not see Rylos face, but he got the distinct impression of a satisfied smirk from the Dacca. Incredible rage welled up in Qui-Gon's heart. He tamped the anger down, but the pain remained, threatening to choke the life out of him. "You speak of murder Rylos, but you have killed an innocent boy today!" Qui-Gon seethed. "Obi-Wan had nothing to do with any of this, he was not even born yet when it took place! If you wanted to punish me, why hurt him?!" "Because it hurts you worse this way. He was the closest thing you have to a son and by Dacca law I may claim his life to pay your debt. Blood for blood Jedi," Rylos hissed with evil satisfaction. "Blood?" Qui-Gon asked, his voice dangerously low. "You have blood all right Rylos, blood of the innocent! It stains your hands like a curse! What does Dacca law say about that? What does Dacca law say about interfering in the lives of other sentients not on your level?!" "It is justified," Rylos' voice was tight. "But I am not unfair Jedi, you say you want the boy spared? I'm going to give you a chance, no, five chances, which is more than you gave Benthon, and more than you deserve! You're going to live this day five times, this was day one. I'm going to give you four more chances to relive these last 24 hours; the outcome of it depends on you. If you can change the way this day ends, I will renounce my claim to the boy's blood and leave you in peace. Save him if you can! If you cannot, if you fail, then when the sun sets on the fifth day, whatever has happened, will be fact, and will be the way it stands for all eternity. This is for you alone to know, the boy must know nothing of what has passed between us or it is all forfeit. Four tries Qui-Gon Jinn, four more tries..." Rylos' voice faded away and he vanished with it, like grey mist blown on the wind, leaving Qui-Gon alone under the shadow of the skyscrapers.
DAY TWO: Qui-Gon sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. Next to him, in the bed against the far wall, he felt Obi-Wan's sleeping presence. Sliding quickly out of bed Qui-Gon crossed the room, laying his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder to assure himself that the young Jedi was really there. Last night, when he had finally drifted into a troubled, fitful sleep, Obi-Wan had been dead, but this morning, here he was, sleeping soundly. Qui-Gon realized that, true to his word, Rylos was giving him the day to do all over again. Qui-Gon's hand tightened on Obi-Wan's shoulder. He would not let his apprentice fall prey to the Dacca's twisted sense of justice again. The motion woke Obi-Wan up. The teenager rolled over, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with a yawn. "Master?" he asked, slightly blearily. Obi-Wan was not a morning person, well, not if he didn't have to be anyway. "Time to get up already?" Qui-Gon nodded, his heart tightening at the familiar sound of his apprentice's voice, one which he had thought lost to him forever. "Yes, Obi-Wan. Get dressed. I am calling a service-driver to take us to the Embassy." "I thought we were going to walk," Obi-Wan said, rolling out of bed and stumbling over to the 'fresher. "I've decided we'll take a cab," Qui-Gon said quietly. "You'll hear no complaints from me," Obi-Wan flashed Qui-Gon a bright-eyed I'm-still-waking-up smile before disappearing into the bathroom. The cab ride was uneventful, except that Qui-Gon insisted, much to Obi-Wan's puzzlement, that they take a roundabout route to get to the Embassy, avoiding the main street. "Master?" Obi-Wan asked as he held the door for Qui- Gon to get out. "Forgive me, but you seem disturbed, or distracted, is anything wrong?" "We must be attentive Padawan. We must be careful," was all Qui-Gon said. They had avoided the situation of yesterday, but Qui-Gon was wary. It had been too easy and Qui-Gon doubted that Rylos intended to let him off so simply. "Yes, Master, of course," Obi-Wan nodded. He was still puzzled, but he attributed Qui-Gon's concern to the volatile situation they were walking into here at the Embassy, as well as to the fact that they had had to relinquish their lightsabers because no weapons were allowed within two miles of the Embassy, especially not today. Today, the Malti-Venba Government was holding a huge commencement to officiate the new order that had been created on the planet. The new order rose up from a stained history of brutal warfare and genocide, promising freedom from the brutalities of the past. However, it did not rise unopposed. Since it's formation six months ago, the leaders had been assailed with threats from dissenters who did not want to see democracy come to Malti-Venba. The situation had grown so serious, that they had finally called on the Jedi to oversee their commencement celebration. If ever there was going to be a terrorist strike, it would be now. Qui-Gon knew it was both dangerous and yet vital that with such a threat, no one carry weapons of any sort into the Embassy today. He had tried to see if he could have their lightsabers excepted, but was refused because the new leaders said that they must not show special treatment to anyone, they had just fought a war against an old régime who had done so unjustly and the wounds were too fresh. As concerned as Qui-Gon was about keeping Obi-Wan safe, he could not neglect their duties. They must go to the Embassy today, and they must go unarmed. Side by side, the two Jedi headed up the steps of the huge Embassy building. Nearby, the Governor's personal hover-car pulled up and the soon-to-be-appointed head of state got out. Above them, on the roof, two Venbian dissenters lay flat on their stomachs, long-range blaster rifles pointed down at the stairs below. One of them set their sights on the Governor. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both felt the prick of warning an instant before the shot was fired. Grabbing the Governor, Qui-Gon pulled him down, making the shot miss its mark. The Jedi sorely missed his lightsaber. At the same instant the second sniper fired. This one was not off mark and the blast headed straight for the middle of the big Jedi's back, even as Qui-Gon pulled the Governor down. Qui-Gon felt it coming, but not in enough time to change direction. "Master!" Obi-Wan cried, leaping in front of Qui-Gon and pushing him out of the way at the last moment. The shot caught the young Jedi directly between the shoulder blades instead, throwing him forward. "Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon shouted in anguished horror as his apprentice crumpled to the ground and rolled down the stairs, landing in a sprawl at the bottom. The Governor's guard's opened fire on the roof, driving the sniper's heads down. Dozens of security officers hurried to take charge of the Statesman, ushering him safely into the building while Qui-Gon rushed down the stairs, three at a time, to Obi-Wan's side. "Oh, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said gently, taking his apprentice's hands in his. He knew the boy had only moments left. *"You shouldn't have done it Obi-Wan!"* he cried in his heart. *"Why did you have to be so noble?"* Not for the world however, would Qui-Gon taint Obi- Wan's last moments with any word of reprove, it was the same thing he would have done anyway if positions were reversed, so the Master just held the young Jedi's hands tightly, feeling the pain of loss all over again. "Are you all right Master?" Obi-Wan asked faintly, his eyes closing. "I'm all right Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, his voice cracking despite himself. It was hard to believe that this could hurt so much again. This was what Rylos had meant. It was not going to happen the same way each time, only the outcome was the same. "Good," Obi-Wan murmured. "Good..." the young man shuddered slightly and his hand slid out of his Master's. It was quicker this time, but no less heartbreaking. Qui-Gon knew that, just like this morning, Obi-Wan would be alive once more tomorrow morning, that was the way that Rylos had set it up, but even that knowledge did not soften the pain of watching his Padawan die again. The attack and Obi-Wan's death shook the confidence of the Malti-Venbian leaders and the ceremony was postponed until the following day. Qui-Gon took the news in grim silence. It mattered little to him, because this day had not really happened. Tomorrow, he would live it all over again. Only he would not fail Obi-Wan again. He was going to do whatever it took, but he would not let this happen again.

DAY THREE:

"Master?" Obi-Wan's voice dragged Qui-Gon up from his
exhausted sleep. "Master?"

Qui-Gon awoke with a start, still seated in the chair
he had sat down in last night before he apparently fell
asleep. He had meant to wait up, he wanted to see what
exactly happened when the clock struck midnight and the day
started over again, but he had not been able to stay up,
whether because of his emotionally drained state, or
because Rylos would not let him, he did not know.

Obi-Wan was shaking Qui-Gon gently by the shoulder.
"Master, didn't you go to bed last night?" the apprentice
shook his head in concerned reprove. "We're going to be
late."

"We are not going to the Embassy today, Obi-Wan," Qui-
Gon said calmly, rising out of the chair and stretching to
relieve the stiffness that sitting there all night had
caused.

Obi-Wan looked at Qui-Gon in surprise. "But, Master,
isn't today the Commencement?" he asked, confused.

"Yes," Qui-Gon answered simply, heading over to the
'fresher.

"Isn't that what we came here for?" Obi-Wan was
puzzled to no end. Qui-Gon was acting very strange.

"I have my reasons Padawan," Qui-Gon said softly,
looking at the boy with an intenseness and determination in
his eyes that Obi-Wan could not comprehend. "Question me
no more."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said obediently, but he did not
understand.

Qui-Gon did not know if what he did was right, but he
would do almost anything to keep the sad scene of the last
two days from repeating itself again, to break this vicious
circle. If they did not go to the Embassy, if they did not
ever venture outside this room the whole day, then nothing
could happen to Obi-Wan, or at least, that's what Qui-Gon
reasoned.

Of course, once the cycle was broken, time, reality
and consequences would kick back into effect. Neglecting
his duty would be a very serious charge to answer to, but
Qui-Gon was willing to risk it. He was willing to risk
anything for Obi-Wan.

Unbeknownst to the two men, the Venbian Terrorists
were not at all pleased with the Jedi presence here on
Malti-Venba. They knew the duo was here to support the new
order.

"Wouldn't it be a good blow to this "New Democracy" if
it's Jedi puppet's strings were cut?" they asked
themselves. The answer appeared to be yes.

The first, and last warning the Jedi had was the huge
explosion that blew all the windows out as the terrorist
bomb ripped the boarding house apart. The horrendous blast
shook the earth, decimating the entire left side of the
hotel.

The Jedi's room had been on the sixth floor, but when
Qui-Gon opened his eyes, he found that he was on ground
level now, surrounded by, and partially buried under,
jagged shards and huge chunks of debris that had once been
part of the ruined structure. Breathing hurt incredibly
and his eyes refused to focus. He had a severe concussion
at the very least.

For a moment, he was too stunned and shocked to put
together any kind of coherent thought. Then there was only
one that blazed through his head. *Obi-Wan!*

Qui-Gon tried to move, but the ground shook
unsteadily, and the weight of the world seemed to press
down on him, crushing him against the rubble he lay on. He
realized the shifting was all in his own head, as was most
of the crushing pressure he felt.

Emergency workers were already on the scene. One bent
over Qui-Gon. The Jedi could see the woman's lips moving,
but could hear no sound. The explosion had shattered his
eardrums.

He must have looked dazed, because the woman and her
droid companion started administering hasty first aid.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon forced his sluggish lips to form
the word. "Obi-Wan," he rasped, wondering if he were
really speaking at all. It felt like he was, but he could
not hear even his own voice, and the pain confused him. He
searched for his Padawan, reaching out past the confines of
his battered body. His sweep revealed that Obi-Wan was
quite close by, and he was not going to make it. Qui-Gon
was not surprised. Deeply disturbed at his repeated
failure, but no longer surprised.

The Medic and the droid tried to quiet him, but Qui-
Gon would not be stilled. Rolling over, he crawled across
the rubble towards where he felt Obi-Wan, ignoring the way
the sharp surface cut his hands and knees and the way the
earth seemed to shake and heave below him.

Somehow, Qui-Gon managed to find his apprentice in the
midst of all that destruction and death. The young man was
almost entirely buried beneath a corner of the fallen
building. Qui-Gon thought it was already too late, but
when he touched Obi-Wan's face with one, shaky hand, the
young Jedi stirred just a fraction. His eyes opened for a
moment.

Obi-Wan was too crushed to speak, but Qui-Gon could
not have heard him anyway, so their eyes spoke for them
instead.

The world spun around Qui-Gon; floating black spots
and flashes of lighting clouded his vision and he could
barely breathe. He knew Obi-Wan was going to die, but this
time, he wondered dimly if he was too. Sinking down onto
the rubble beside his fading Padawan, Qui-Gon rested his
head next to Obi-Wan's as oblivion pulled them both under.

The Jedi Master was dimly aware of being lifted off
the rubble and placed on a stretcher.

"What about the other one?" he heard one of the
Medic's ask, doubtless meaning Obi-Wan.

"Too late for that one," someone responded somberly.
"He's gone."

"Well, there's still a chance for this one, get him to
the hospital."

The next thing Qui-Gon remembered was coming to in the
hospital ward. His head throbbed unmercifully and for a
moment he thought he was seeing things, because the hazy
form of a man hovered above his bed. Then he realized it
was Rylos.

"Better be more careful Jinn," Rylos shook his head,
mockingly. "You almost got *yourself* killed that time.
But that won't do you any good. You won't get off that
easy."

"Rylos," Qui-Gon rasped, strangely able to hear his
unwelcome visitor, but still unable to hear himself. The
Jedi's unfocused eyes burned into the Dacca. "Stop this!
Punish me, take my life, but leave Obi-Wan alone!"

Rylos just smirked and held up a ghostly hand. "Two
more tries," he said, indicating the number on his finger.
"You've failed miserably so far Jinn. But don't let
repetition dull you, the next few days won't be so easy,"
the Dacca threatened with icy amusement. Leaning close,
Rylos whispered softly to him. "Why don't you just give up
now, let me take him this way. I promise you it will only
get more painful," the Dacca hissed menacingly.

Qui-Gon's jaw tightened stubbornly.

"Good," Rylos grinned. "I was hoping you'd chose that
way. Keep trying Jinn, see how many times you can fail..."
Rylos disappeared and the room faded after him as
unconsciousness reclaimed Qui-Gon once more.


DAY FOUR:

Qui-Gon's eyes popped open. The sound of the air-
circulators and Obi-Wan's gentle snoring seemed deafening
after having been locked in complete silence. For a moment
he just lay there, wishing he did not have to live this
day, again. Never before had he so dreaded getting out of
bed, yet if he did not, something disastrous would no doubt
happen to them once more.

Qui-Gon sat up with a sigh. He could not hide from
this terrible game that Rylos had thrust upon him. He had
tried that, he had let fear make his decision and it had
turned out terribly.

*"Think Jinn,"* he told himself, holding his head in
his hands. It no longer hurt from the injuries of ... the
last time it was today, but he could feel a headache coming
on quickly from trying to figure out what he was going to
do. Forcing himself to be calm and center, he focused his
mind, driving away all the anxiety and fear.

Calmer now, Qui-Gon rose to his feet. They would go
to the Embassy. He could not hide them from danger, he
would have to face it head on if he hoped to conquer it.

"Wake up Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon called gently, hoping he
was not rousing the boy for another day of death.

They walked this time, because Qui-Gon was beginning
to see a pattern. If he tried to hide, some new,
unexpected danger would find them. But perhaps if he faced
the perils, they could be conquered.

As they entered the huge doors of the Embassy, it
seemed to have worked. He had been prepared. He had been
ready for the accident and made sure the road was clear so
that no one was harmed. He warned the Malti-Venbian
soldiers about the assassins on the roof and they were
apprehended without incident.

Qui-Gon sighed as he and Obi-Wan took their place
around one of the huge tables in the reception hall. They
had survived the morning, now he just had the rest of the
day to worry about.

Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon's prickling caution. "It's all
right Master, after all the things that occurred this
morning, what else could happen?" he whispered in an
attempt lighten his Mentor's heavy mood.
"Let us hope that we don't find out Padawan," Qui-Gon
said wearily.

"You sense danger?" Obi-Wan asked in concern, scanning
the area for himself but turning up nothing unusual.
"No," Qui-Gon shook his head. "But that does not mean
it is not there." Whatever Rylos had done had seemed to
dampen their ability to sense things before they happened,
or a least, to sense danger.

Qui-Gon was not usually given to paranoia, so Obi-Wan
knew that something was up. "We will have to be on guard,
Master," Obi-Wan assured.

"Indeed," Qui-Gon nodded, scanning the room once more.
Qui-Gon sat tensely through the hours of talks and
speeches, hardly registering a word said. He was, however,
very aware of everything else that was happening around
them.

The soldiers, there to protect the gathering, were
fanned out around the room, guarding all the exits, or, the
thought struck Qui-Gon suddenly, was it *blocking* all the
exits? A flash of apprehension gripped him. Not a moment
too soon. "Everyone get down!" Qui-Gon shouted. Shoving
his chair back and overturning the table like a shield, he
pulled the Governor, seated beside him, down as well. Obi-
Wan followed only milliseconds behind him.

The warning gave the unarmed diplomats and guests the
moment's notice that they needed to hit the floor just as a
thick barrage of blaster fire tore through the room from
all sides as the Venbian terrorists, disguised as the
Malti-Venbian soldiers, opened fire on the helpless crowd.

The gunmen blocked the exits, letting no one out, but
more of their own in. "Everyone cooperate, and no one gets
hurt!" one of the lead terrorists called out. "We want
hostages, not dead people!"

The Malti-Venbians however, were not inclined to
believe the attacking gunmen and some of them rushed the
soldiers.

"No!" Obi-Wan tried to hold back the people next to
him. The room was too completely surrounded; it was
suicide to attack the terrorists like that.

"Stay down!" Qui-Gon shouted, half to the people
making the foolish attack, and half to Obi-Wan who had
risen up in an attempt to stop the Malti-Venbians.

Obi-Wan obeyed, the Malti-Venbians did not.

Waves of terrorist blaster fire cut down the foolish
rush before it had moved halfway across the room.

Obi-Wan winced as dozens of people fell dead. He
inched forward a little, peering around the table that he,
Qui-Gon, the Governor and several other diplomats were
taking cover behind. Qui-Gon was inclined to pull him
back, but he stopped himself. If he allowed fear to cloud
his thinking again it could be disastrous to everyone here.

"Nobody move!" the lead terrorist shouted, the veins
on his neck bulging in rage. "I have a thermal detonator
here," he said, holding the rotund device aloft for all to
see. "And I'm not afraid to use it! I will die for my
cause and join the honored martyrs of my ancestors if I
have to, do you want me to do take you with me?!"

"Everyone be still!" the Governor barked firmly,
standing up and leaving the cover of his table.

The Jedi stood up as well, unwilling to leave the
brave Governor alone with no protection.

"These are fanatics gentlemen," Governor Naheel said
softly to the Jedi on either side of him. "They will do as
they threaten. I myself would rather die and take them
with me," the man said quietly, his eyes speaking the truth
of his statement. "But I would not take a room full of
innocent people with me," he murmured, glancing around at
all the guests who cowered behind tables and chairs. There
had to be over a hundred people here.

Qui-Gon nodded grimly. He understood.

"I am Governor Vim Naheel," the Governor announced
calmly. "If you are after someone gentlemen, it is me.
Let these other people go," he addressed the terrorists,
gesturing to the frightened guests scattered about the
room.

"You will not tell us what to do," the lead terrorist
snarled, walking over and pushing his the muzzle of his
rifle against the Governor's neck. "We are in charge now.
We decide what we will do!"

The terrorists grouped the civilian guests into one
corner of the room and put them under heavy guard with
orders to start shooting if any of them even batted an
eyelash.

Then they gathered the Governor, the diplomats and the
Jedi up onto the platform that was meant to have been used
for the commencement ceremony and forced them all to sit
down with their hands on the long table and in clear view.
"If any of you even look at me wrong," the leader ranted,
"Ten people over there are gonna die! Got it?!" he said,
indicating where his men held the civilian prisoners.

The twelve prisoners at the table nodded grimly.

A comlink was shoved into Governor Naheel's hand. "I
want this building evacuated, no one comes near this room
without my permission!" the leader demanded.

The Governor complied quietly, giving the necessary
orders. "Now," he said turning back to his captor. "What
are your terms?"

"You don't beat around the bush, I like that," the
Venbian sneered. "Our terms are simple! Our terms are
freedom from your tyranny!"

"You wish me to step down?" The Governor inquired;
hoping it could be that simple.

"Oh, yes, but that is just the tip of the iceberg
Malti!" the man snarled. "We already have you, Malti-Venba
is in our hands! But the Republic will try to take it away
from us! They back you, you filthy sons of waurmets! Send
a message to the Republic with out demands! Tell them we
demand that they step out of Venbian affairs! That we
demand 500,000,000 dactaryies in exchange for your pitiful
lives. And finally, tell them that we demand 5,000 ground
attack vehicles and 7,000 starfighters to rid our planet of
the cursed Malti race! Venba for the Venbians!" he shouted
and his men picked up the cry until the halls of the
reception room rang with it.

"You are mad," Governor Naheel informed the man icily.
"The Republic will never comply with such demands, they
cannot."

"You'd better hope you're wrong big man," the leader
threatened. "Or you're all dead men."

The Venbian terrorist's demands were sent to the
Republic officials, but Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both knew that
the Venbians were dreaming to think that they could coax
those terms out of the Senate, or even get the Senate to
decide on anything as quickly as they wanted.

As the hours dragged by and there was still no
response, the head terrorist became increasingly volatile
and edgy. He paced the length of the dais, sweating and
swearing heavily. "Why don't they answer?! They don't
think we're serious!" he growled, angrily snatching up the
comlink that was their connection to the outside world.
"Tell them they have one more hour to meet our demands
before we start killing people!" he nearly screamed into
the mouthpiece.

"You must be patient, these things take time," the
negotiator on the other end tried to reason calmly.

"I have been patient! One hour, do you hear me?" the
leader would have none of it.

Twenty minutes later, one of the terrorists brought
word that a squad of soldiers was trying to sneak up behind
the building.

"Get those men away from here or I'll blow this whole
blankedy-blank place!" the leader cursed into the comlink.
"You've just lost yourself forty minutes. We start killing
people now!" he threatened.

Everyone at the table tensed.

"This chamber is equipped for holo-transmissions is it
not?" the leader rounded on Governor Naheel.

Naheel nodded slowly.

"Good," the Venbian sent some of his men to operate
the controls. "We're going to send a message that the
whole blinking Republic will hear!" he stormed angrily.
"Maybe *then* they'll take us seriously!"

The leader walked slowly around the table, sizing
everyone up.

Eleven middle-aged men and a teenager.

On the second time around the table the terrorist
stopped behind Obi-Wan's chair, forcing the muzzle of his
rifle under Obi-Wan's chin. "Get up!" he barked.

Qui-Gon felt his heart clutch up.

Obi-Wan obeyed, slowly rising out of his seat. "You,
young spawn of a corrupt empire, how do you feel about
dying because of your government's stupidity?!" the
terrorist leader demanded, standing behind Obi-Wan with his
blaster pressed under the young Jedi's right ear, just
above the start of the Padawan's braid.

Obi-Wan's expression remained calm. "It is the pledge
of every Jedi to be ready to die that others might live. I
would not be the first to fulfill that pledge. I am not
afraid."

Qui-Gon's heart ached with both pride and apprehension
at Obi-Wan's brave words. *"NO!"* he was screaming inside.
*"NO! Not again!"*

"Is that so, Jedi?" the leader sneered, knocking Obi-
Wan's head painfully to the side with a swipe of his
blaster. "We'll have to see what we can do about that.
You will be afraid of us! The whole galaxy will learn to
fear us!"

The terrorists forced the other eleven men to rise and
move away from the table. Clearing away the chairs, the
terrorist stripped Obi-Wan of his tunic and shirt and
forced him to lie down on his back on the tabletop. As his
men bound the young Jedi's wrists and ankles to the legs at
the four corners of the table, the leader turned to address
the holo-recorder.

"Hear me! I am Macco Ry! Leader of the glorious
Venbian movement! Our planet is overrun by the evil
Maltis! We demand justice and an end to this curse! We
have been patient, we have given you time, but now you will
learn that we are not to be trifled with. Watch and heed
well what you are going to see!" Macco ranted.

*"He IS mad,"* Qui-Gon thought in horror. *"He's a
lunatic!"* That lunatic had his apprentice tied down to a
table and there was nothing he could do about it. The big
Jedi balled his hands into tight fists.

Macco pulled a gleaming knife out of his boot,
advancing slowly towards the helpless Jedi on the table.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, trying to still his pounding
heart. He was not afraid, he was not, he would not allow
himself to be! Obi-Wan felt the cool metal against his
throat and unconsciously tensed.

Macco smiled, but instead of cutting Obi-Wan's throat
he moved the knife over and slashed the veins on the inside
crux of the young Jedi's elbow.

Obi-Wan stiffened, but gave no other indication of
pain.

Circling the table, the insane leader slit the
apprentice's other arm in the same manner, moving the cruel
knife down to cut Obi-Wan's wrists and letting the
teenager's blood flow onto the table.

"Stop," Qui-Gon moved forward a step. "Let him go,
he's just a boy. Take me, it would make a bigger
impression on the Senate to kill a Jedi Master, would it
not? Isn't that what you want? An impression?" he
reasoned desperately.

"No, Master, don't!" Obi-Wan protested from the table.
Macco seemed to consider this for a moment, but then
shook his head. "People have an innately protective nature
towards the young," he said coldly, holding up his bloody
knife. "Let's see if his suffering can move them. I warn
you!" he turned back towards the holo-cam. "I am not a
patient man! Do you know how long it takes a man to bleed
to death? Fifteen minutes! Answer me, or this boy has
fifteen minutes left to live!" he threatened.

Turning back to Obi-Wan, Macco deliberately opened a
long gash across the boy's chest.

Qui-Gon realized stonily that the madman was not just
going for veins anymore. He was going for nerves. He
wanted a reaction out of the teenager and was determined to
get one.

Obi-Wan steeled himself. Pressing his eyes shut, he
tried to close out the pain and focus on his body, willing
the dangerous bleeding to stop. Qui-Gon felt what his
apprentice was doing and reached out to help him, urging
the cuts to clot and the veins to seal off.

Minutes dragged by and Macco grew more vicious as his
anger and aggravation mounted. He slashed Obi-Wan's wrists
again and again, frustrated by the way the obedient Jedi's
body kept sealing the injuries off.

Obi-Wan outlasted his fifteen minutes, but he could
feel himself weakening dangerously. His head was beginning
to swim from blood loss and the world became hazed in
yellow.

Qui-Gon desperately wanted to stop them, but what
could he do? If he tried anything it would cost the lives
of dozens of innocent people. He could not sacrifice the
many for the one, no matter how dear the one was, or how
badly he wanted to do it.

Macco, enraged by the Republic's continued stalling
and Obi-Wan's obstinate refusal to give in to his torture
decided he had let it drag long enough.

With a sudden downward thrust he stabbed Obi-Wan in
the chest.

The move caught the young Jedi by surprise. Obi-Wan
gave a startled, gasping cry as white-hot pain knifed
through him. Macco stabbed him several more times and the
world began to fade around the apprentice.

"Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon cried in anguish as blood began to
trickle out of the corner of the young man's mouth.

Only Governor Naheel's hand on his arm brought the
incensed Jedi back to his senses enough to keep him from
charging up to the table and ripping the knife out of
Macco's bloodstained hands.

Naheel caught Qui-Gon's eyes and shook his head sadly.
"It's too late," the statesman mouthed, his eyes betraying
the depth of his sorrow.

Macco too seemed to know that Obi-Wan was dying, so he
cut the cords that bound the teenager to the table. Some
of the terrorists hauled the bleeding boy off the tabletop
and dropped him at Qui-Gon's feet.

Obi-Wan could not support his own weight and crumpled
to the ground when they let go.

Qui-Gon was holding him in an instant, cradling the
Padawan close as Obi-Wan's blood stained his tunic red.
Obi-Wan melted into Qui-Gon's embrace, coughing
fitfully as his punctured lungs filled with blood and his
ruptured organs shut down. It seemed to be a race to see
which would kill him first.

"My Padawan," Qui-Gon held him tightly, wiping the
blood from Obi-Wan's face with the corner of his robe and
trying to warm the boy's cold body. "My brave Padawan," he
shook his head. "My poor, brave Obi-Wan."

Macco was ranting again, but Qui-Gon was not
listening. Right now, his whole world revolved around the
bleeding, dying boy in his arms. He could not keep Obi-Wan
alive, he knew that, but reaching into the boy's failing
body he did his darndest to relieve Obi-Wan's pain as much
as possible.

Obi-Wan reached up, holding onto Qui-Gon's arm and
leaving a bloody handprint on the big Jedi's sleeve. "I'm
so cold Master," he whispered.

Qui-Gon held the boy closer in his arms, wrapping him
in both his body warmth, and the warmth of his love.

Obi-Wan smiled faintly. "Master," he murmured,
burying his head against Qui-Gon's chest and sounding for
all the world like a little child. "I'm tired Master," he
lisped distantly. "I can't see you..."

"Then rest Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon soothed gently, running
his hand over his Padawan's short hair. "Rest, and I'll
see you in the morning," the big Jedi's voice choked.

The morning. One morning left. One last chance. He
had failed so far, would he do so again tomorrow?

Slowly, Obi-Wan's hand slid down Qui-Gon's arm. The
apprentice was not dead, but he was going.

Qui-Gon reflected somewhat bitterly that if Rylos
wanted to punish him, he could have done it in no better
way than to force him watch his beloved Padawan die in his
arms, not once, but five times.

Qui-Gon sat on the floor, cradling Obi-Wan's body long
after it grew cold and lifeless. The hostage situation
dragged on for hours, but Qui-Gon no longer noticed what
happened. It didn't matter. Obi-Wan was dead. Nothing
else mattered.


DAY FIVE:

Qui-Gon woke up long before the dawn and sat in a
chair by Obi-Wan's bed, watching the young man sleep. He
had the horrible feeling that this was the last time he was
going to be able to do so.

Obi-Wan had grown so much from the sometimes awkward,
but always eager child that he had met nearly five years
ago, but he was still so young. Too young to die because
of a dark enemy from his Master's past.

*"I don't want you to die for my mistakes Padawan,"*
Qui-Gon agonized. *"I want to protect you, but I don't
know how!"*

Morning came too soon. Much too soon for Qui-Gon.

Obi-Wan found his Master strangely quite as they
prepared for the day and when Qui-Gon looked at him, it
seemed as if the older Jedi's eyes were haunted with a pain
the apprentice did not understand.

"Master?" he ventured on the way to the Embassy.
"Have I done something wrong?" Obi-Wan had noticed the way
Qui-Gon kept looking at him and was beginning to think that
there must be something amiss.

"No," Qui-Gon shook his head quickly. "No, Obi-Wan,
you have done nothing wrong. You must forgive me, I am...
troubled."

"I noticed. Do you want to tell me why?" the young
Jedi asked sensitively.

Qui-Gon just sighed.

"Can I do anything?" Obi-Wan wanted to know.

"Just, be careful," Qui-Gon said at last. "I don't
want to lose you Padawan," he said softly.

Obi-Wan laughed. "I'm not going anywhere Master!" he
assured and Qui-Gon tried to smile back, but his heart was
heavy.

Once again, the familiar string of events was evaded,
the accident, the shooting, and this time, the terrorist
take-over was prevented as well.

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon sat through the ceremonies as
Governor Naheel was sworn in as Malti-Venba's new Head-of-
State. Afternoon shadows were lengthening when the two
Jedi left the Embassy and Qui-Gon was beginning to hope
that they were going to make it this time. His senses
probed every corner before they turned it and he cross-
examined every movement that stirred on their way back to
the hotel.

Crossing the lobby they entered the lift shaft.
Qui-Gon breathed a sigh of relief as he punched the
button for the sixth floor. He could not wait for this day
to be over. It had seemed years long to him.

The moment after the doors slid shut in front of them,
the hair on the back of his neck stood on end at the sudden
surge of trepidation that washed over him. It turned into
a cold lump in his stomach as the elevator took them *down*
instead of up.

"Master," Obi-Wan asked hesitantly. "Aren't we
supposed to be going *up*?"

It was the last thing either of them remembered before
a heavy stun beam radiated throughout the confined space,
rendering both Jedi unconscious.

When Qui-Gon woke up, it felt as if a Bantha had
stepped on his head. He tried to move but found that he
was chained to the cold, damp wall behind him.

Obi-Wan hung next to him, still unconscious. He tried
to probe, to see if the Padawan was all right, but he found
only blankness. With a start he realized that he could not
touch the Force. It was as if he were locked inside
himself.

The door scraped open and several of their captors
entered. Qui-Gon would have bet anything that they were
Venbian loyalists. He would have won too.

"Wake him up," a tall man with a scar on his right
cheek motioned towards Obi-Wan.

A shorter man touched the apprentice's bare side with
a shock bar.

Obi-Wan jerked and moaned, rudely awakened from his
stun-induced slumber.

"Okay," scar-face said, looking back and forth between
the two Jedi. "Let's get down to business right away shall
we? I need to know where the government is going to move
the new munitions factory, and one of you are going to tell
me. Are you going to cooperate, or are you going to make
me get nasty?"

"Only the Governor and his council members would know
that," Qui-Gon shook his head. "It was not discussed at
the meeting and neither of us are privy to that
information. You are wasting your time," Qui-Gon was
actually able to tell the truth.

Scar-face scowled. "I have it from a very reliable
source that it *was* discussed at the meeting. You want to
be difficult about this? I can oblige." He twisted a
cruel looking three-tongued device in his hands. "Who
wants to go first?" He seemed to ponder for a moment
before pointing at Obi-Wan. "Hmm, him I think," the man
said casually. "Youth can sometimes be weakness. Either
for him, or for you," Scar-face said pointedly to Qui-Gon
as his men unchained Obi-Wan from the wall and switched him
to a set in the middle of the chamber.

Qui-Gon pulled against his bonds ineffectually as they
clapped Obi-Wan into a set of chains that held his arms
crossed at the wrist in front of him.

"Perhaps he will tell me, or perhaps you will for his
sake, it makes no difference," Scar-face said in an overly
cheerful voice. He was obviously enjoying this.

"There is nothing to tell!" Qui-Gon protested
vehemently, trying to make his words carry into the
Venbian's mind, only to find once more that he could not
get past whatever was blocking him.

"Ah, now, none of your tricks!" Scar-face said. "Do
you think I am stupid enough to attempt to take a pair of
Jedi prisoner and not take some precautions?" the man shook
his head. "Your powers will not work in this room Jedi, my
pretty pets here assure that," the man reached through the
bars of it's cage and petted the neck of one of the Yslami
that Qui-Gon now realized surrounded the room.

"You cannot use them on us, and you cannot use them to
help yourselves. One last chance before I start on the
boy, are either of you going to tell me?" he asked, holding
the multi-pronged device ready in his hand, taking his
place behind Obi-Wan.

"We cannot divulge what we do not know," Obi-Wan shook
his head. Squashing the tremors of fear that tried to
clutch at his heart.

"Have it your way," Scar-face shrugged, raising his
device and letting it fall sharply across Obi-Wan's back
and shoulders.

Obi-Wan tensed, but remained still. Of course, the
chains on his wrists made sure of that anyway. The Padawan
bit his lip as the Venbian continued to flail him.
Fiery tendrils of pain crisscrossed his shoulders and
each cruel touch of his torturer's many-tentacled device
added three new ribbons of agony to the unfortunate young
Jedi's hurting body.

Obi-Wan stifled a cry, determined to take this in
silence. The device being used on him was insidious. It's
three tentacles resembled the thongs of a whip, only they
were soft, almost gelatinous. Whatever the substance was
that it was made of burned like fire upon contact with the
apprentice's skin. The harder the man behind Obi-Wan
struck him with it, the worse it hurt.

Obi-Wan grit his teeth hard, the pain wracking his
body. Twisting his wrists in the tight, iron cuffs that
held his arms crossed in front of him, Obi-Wan attempted to
bring the Force to bear on his chains, but found that Scar-
face was unfortunately telling the truth when he said that
they could not touch the Force here. He was cut off from
it, and he was on his own to withstand this torment.

The Venbian struck him a particularly savage blow and
Obi-Wan moaned softly between his teeth. Clamping his lips
shut tight, Obi-Wan resisted the urge to do that again. He
*would* be silent. He would not cry out. He would not do
that to Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon struggled against the chains that held him
until his wrists bled, but it did no good. He could not
get free. He was forced to stand there against the wall,
forced to watch as the merciless man tortured his
apprentice.

The Jedi Master's heart throbbed as raw as his wrists.
Cut off from the Force as they were, he could not feel his
Padawan's pain, but he could see Obi-Wan jerk as the blows
fell and hear the silent hiss of the air between his teeth.
He could see the nasty red welts beginning to spread across
Obi-Wan's young back and the agonized tension in his
shoulders. Yes, Qui-Gon could see the pain, which the
apprentice was trying valiantly to hide, and it broke his
heart.

Scar-face beat Obi-Wan until the young Jedi's blood
ran, then he changed methods, stabbing tiny needles into
precise points on Obi-Wan's body he sent horrible jolts of
pain through them that made the boy convulse spasmodically.

Through it all, Obi-Wan remained stoically silent.
But as the hours dragged by and the torture grew more
and more intense Obi-Wan started making sounds he couldn't
help.

Scar-face was no longer amused, now he was growing
annoyed, and as he did, his methods of torture became
increasingly brutal and damaging. Obi-Wan should have
passed out hours ago, only the stim-shots they kept giving
him kept him alert enough to continue receiving the cruel
treatment. It was dangerous to administer more than two
stim's every four hours. Obi-Wan had had over six already.

When the pain finally broke Obi-Wan to screaming, Qui-
Gon thought he was going to die. Each anguished cry from
his apprentice stabbed straight through his heart like a
vibro-shiv, ripping it to shreds.

"Stop it!" Qui-Gon cried in anguish. "If I knew,
don't you think I'd tell you, just to put an end to this?"
he half-shouted when he could take Obi-Wan's screams no
longer.

"I don't know what you'd do Jedi, so until I hear what
I want to hear, I'm going to do whatever I please, got it?"
Scar-face threatened, jerking Obi-Wan's limp head up by his
hair.

Obi-Wan's throat was raw from screaming and his voice
hoarse. He dangled from the chains in a terrible half-
consciousness. His body could not take much more and he
knew it. After this, death would almost seem a release.

He felt Scar-face jab a needle into his arm, only this
time it was an injection. *"Mind drugs,"* was all Obi-Wan
had a chance to think before his thoughts scattered and his
mind started whirling dizzily under the effects of the
drug.

Obi-Wan had resisted mind probes before, but it was
not even a matter of resisting this time. He knew nothing
of value to his captors. He had nothing to betray.

"The munitions factory, where is it to be?"

Obi-Wan's pale face wrinkled in confusion. "I don't
know..." he mumbled hoarsely.

Scar-face struck him with a shock-bar, making Obi-Wan
cry out.

"No more games, where is it?!"

Obi-Wan shook his head vigorously, his eyes blank and
distant due to the drug in his system. "I don't know."

Scar-face's lips clamped tightly shut. There was no
way in the boy's condition, and without the use of his
precious Force powers, that Obi-Wan should be able to
resist the effects of the truth serum, yet he still told
them nothing. The Venbian began to doubt whether the Jedi
knew after all, and that thought made him angry. He did
not like to think that he had wasted his time here.

"Double the injection," he ordered one of his men,
holding out his hand to receive the hypo.

Qui-Gon's eyes grew large in horror. "You can't do
that! You'll kill him! He doesn't know! He has nothing
to tell you, can't you see that?!" the Jedi demanded.

Scar-face just glared at Qui-Gon coldly. "If he truly
doesn't know, then he's of no use to me anyway," the
Venbian said heartlessly, pressing the hypo against Obi-
Wan's shoulder and flooding his system with a deadly dose
of the potent drug.

Obi-Wan sobbed for breath as the drug raged through
his system, disrupting his normal body functions.

"Where are the munitions factories!" Scar-face nearly
roared.

"I don't know, I don't know," Obi-Wan moaned,
beginning to tremble uncontrollably. He gave a gasping cry
as the drug wreaked havoc on his body. "Oh God, I don't
know!" he cried desperately.

Scar-face shook his head, at last convinced that the
boy truly did not know. He had made a mistake. A costly
one for all involved.

"Unchain them, lock them up in one of the holding
cells. I'll decide what to do with them tomorrow," the
Venbian declared, stalking away disgustedly.

Obi-Wan had to be carried out of the room.

It was dark in the cell when the door slammed shut,
but there was still enough light for Qui-Gon to see the
extent of the horrendous damage that had been done to Obi-
Wan's young body.

The Jedi Master's heart felt as heavy as a lead
balloon as he once more found himself holding his bloody
apprentice in his arms. This could not be! He would not
accept it!

Obi-Wan was shaking; his body trembling uncontrollably
from the drug over-dose that had been forced upon him. The
apprentice's mind was still hazy and he was only half-
there.

Even without the Force, Qui-Gon knew his Padawan was
dying. Only this time, there would be no tomorrow for them
to be together again. Qui-Gon had failed for the last
time.

Rylos had known all along, Qui-Gon realized bitterly.
This was no fair contest; the Dacca had stacked the deck
all the way along. He never intended to let Qui-Gon beat
him at his own games, he merely wanted to torture the Jedi
by forcing him to watch Obi-Wan die five deaths, each
crueler than the last.

Well, he had succeeded. Rylos could have devised no
more cruel punishment than this, no better way to break
Qui-Gon's heart.

"Master," Obi-Wan moaned softly, his voice shaky and
raw. "Master!" he held onto Qui-Gon with trebling hands.
"Don't leave me Master," he begged softly. "I can't do
this alone... don't want to be alone..." Obi-Wan was
mumbling incoherently, still under the effects of the mind
drug.

"I won't leave you Obi-Wan. I promise, I'm right
here," Qui-Gon soothed, tears gathering in the corners of
his weathered blue eyes.

"But they sent me away," Obi-Wan murmured sadly. "You
didn't want me, nobody wanted me..." the drug had left Obi-
Wan's soul wide open to all his worst memories, all the
things that had ever hurt him.

Qui-Gon's heart tightened painfully. He knew what
Obi-Wan was talking about.

"Obi-Wan," he said hoarsely, shaking his head, but
Obi-Wan did not stop.

"Then, then you didn't want me back..." Obi-Wan's
voice was plaintive and distant.

Qui-Gon pressed his fingers gently to Obi-Wan's lips.
"Shh, Shh," he hushed quietly. "That was a long time ago
Obi-Wan, and it was never *you* I didn't want. Taking you
as Padawan was the *best* thing I ever did, and I haven't
regretted it for a moment," he assured tenderly.

"I know," Obi-Wan whispered softly. "I know, Master,
I-I just can't seem to control... don't know what I'm
saying..." for a moment there was a flicker of clarity in
Obi-Wan's eyes, then they clouded again and a look of pain
crossed his face. "Don't know..." he mumbled. "Don't
know! I don't know! Leave me alone!" he thrashed
deliriously, reliving the torment that Scar-face had put
him through.

Qui-Gon held him tightly until the fit passed and he
could see a touch of Obi-Wan behind the Padawan's glazed
blue eyes again.

"Sorry..." Obi-Wan apologized weakly, miserably.
"So sorry Master... I wanted to, to be silent. Didn't
want to let them make me... Didn't want to hurt you..."

"Obi-Wan, you didn't hurt me," Qui-Gon's voice shook.
"You don't need to apologize, you were very brave. I'm the
one who's sorry! I failed you Obi-Wan. I failed you."

Tears slid silently down Qui-Gon's cheeks, falling down to
mingle with Obi-Wan's blood. "I wanted so badly to save
you, I was desperate to save you!" Qui-Gon shook his head
in misery. "I'm sorry Padawan, I am so sorry!" he
whispered, his voice choked with the sorrow that devoured
him.

"D-don't cry Master," Obi-Wan brushed Qui-Gon's face
with trembling fingertips. "Not your fault." The young
Jedi smiled wanly. "I guess, guess I'm going to have to go
after all Master," he coughed weakly. "But don't grieve,
you haven't lost me... it's - it's just going to be awhile
- awhile 'til we see each other again."

Obi-Wan knew how deeply losing Xanatos had scarred Qui-Gon's
sensitive heart. He did not want his death to do the same
thing that Xanatos' betrayal had. "Please, Master, for me...
Don't - don't be afraid to - to take another Padawan," Obi-Wan
gasped. The apprentice's breathing was racing rapidly out
of control, making his injured chest heave painfully and
his already blurry vision swim. "Somewhere out there,
there's another very lucky child for you, who needs you
like I did..."

Qui-Gon wanted to scream that he would never, ever
take another Padawan. He would never open himself to such
heartbreak again. But for Obi-Wan's sake he did not.

"I don't want another Padawan Obi-Wan," he choked out
instead. "I want you. I need you. There's so much I
never told you, so much I thought we would have time to do
together... I love you Obi-Wan. I've never said that to
you, but I do! I love you," Qui-Gon whispered, his heart
breaking.

Obi-Wan smiled, somewhat dreamily. "I know. You
didn't have to say, you said it by your actions..." the boy
coughed, his already white face going a shade paler. "I
love you too Master, and I always will." Obi-Wan searched
weakly for Qui-Gon's hand. When Qui-Gon gave it to him,
Obi-Wan entwined their fingers and squeezed the Jedi
Master's big hand as hard as his shaking body and failing
strength allowed him to.

"We will always be together," the Padawan whispered
softly.

A spasm seized Obi-Wan and he tensed, moaning quietly.

"Master," he choked softly, nearly sobbing in pain.
All Qui-Gon could do was hold Obi-Wan, hold him and
weep.

"It hurts Master..." Obi-Wan was sliding towards
delirium again, his fingers tightening around Qui-Gon's,
his other hand clutching at the Master's arm. "It hurts so
bad..."

Without the Force, Qui-Gon could not even ease his
dying apprentice's pain. This was what Rylos had meant
about it being worse. Qui-Gon didn't want this to be the
way it stood for all eternity. Did not want Obi-Wan to die
such a horrible death, but there was nothing he could do to
about it.

Swaying gently back and forth, Qui-Gon rocked Obi-Wan
in his lap like a little child who was afraid of the dark.
With no other comfort to give the dying teenager, Qui-Gon
started singing a soft Twi'Lek lullaby that he had learned
years ago from a little girl on a sun-kissed world far away
from this dark place.

Obi-Wan had never heard his Master sing before and it
had a soothing effect on him. As the soft, strange words
of the alien lullaby filled the small chamber, Obi-Wan
relaxed in Qui-Gon's arms and his breathing slowed. Qui-
Gon's voice cracked with emotion, but it seemed to help
Obi-Wan, so he kept singing.

"Nu ba ta ruul'k,
Fa be le, na tuura,
Nu ba ta haynah
Shii la tay da suura,"

He sang softly, cradling his apprentice close and
rocking gently as Obi-Wan's eyes began to close in a sleep
from which there was no waking.

The meaning of the words in the lullaby twisted inside
Qui-Gon's heart like a dagger.

"Hush, hush little one,
Don't cry anymore.
Hush, hush my child,
Sleep's at the door.

When you open your eyes
The darkness will flee.
And as the night dies
I'll see you smile at me."

As he sang, Qui-Gon felt Obi-Wan slip away quietly,
leaving only his body behind in Qui-Gon's strong arms.

Tears rolling down the big Jedi's cheeks, he clutched
the lifeless boy to his chest and choked out the last line
of the lullaby around the huge, raw lump that had formed in
his throat.

"Hush, hush and sleep,
Hear the twilight drums.
Hush, hush, my dear,
Then the morning comes..."

Then the morning comes, but it would not find Obi-Wan.
It would not find him ever again. Qui-Gon bowed his head
over the lifeless boy, his broad shoulders shaking with
silent sobs.

Somewhere outside the last rays of the setting sun
sank below the horizon, plunging Malti-Venba into a night
almost as black as the one that Qui-Gon felt surrounding
his soul. The fifth day ended and it was over.

This time there was no waking, no reprove. Obi-Wan
was gone for good and a large part of Qui-Gon's heart had
died with him.

Qui-Gon had no idea how long he sat in stunned, heart-
broken silence, holding Obi-Wan for the last time, but it
must have been nearly morning when a movement to his right
made him raise his blood-shot eyes.

One word echoed through the Jedi's stupefied, grieving
brain.

*Rylos.*

Rylos looked down upon the pair in grim satisfaction.
He looked more solid, more corporal this time than he had
on any of their previous encounters.

"Game over Jinn, you lose," Rylos said with a smile.
"I guess you've failed him for the last time. Oh, I
brought you something," the Dacca smirked, dropping Obi-
Wan's lightsaber carelessly on top of the deceased young
Jedi. "Tell me, will this burn with rest of his pitiful
body?" Rylos mocked cruelly.

It was a challenge and Qui-Gon knew it. Rylos was
tempting him, but right now he didn't care. Blind with
grief, Qui-Gon grabbed the weapon and leaped to his feet,
feeling an incredible rage and hatred swell up inside of
him. Sheer hate pounded in his veins and pulsed in his
temples as the blue blade sprung to life in his grip.

Rylos was making no move to stop the angry Jedi, no
motion to defend himself. It would be so easy for Qui-Gon
to cut the sneering Dacca in half. So easy...

The soft blue glow of Obi-Wan's lightsaber in his
hands brought Qui-Gon back to his senses. *What was he
doing?!* Giving into his hate this way would neither bring
Obi-Wan back, nor honor his memory.

He was a Jedi, and to kill Rylos in anger, no matter
what the Dacca had done, would destroy him. It would turn
him to the Dark Side and Evil would devour him.

His body trembling with the depth of the emotions he
was feeling, Qui-Gon flicked the blade off. For a moment,
only the sound of his own ragged breathing filled the small
room.

"Get out of here Rylos," Qui-Gon said at last, his
voice raspy, but no longer filled with hate. Now there was
only heartbreak and pain in his deep blue eyes as the Jedi
Master sunk down again, beside the still body of his former
Padawan.

Qui-Gon gently folded Obi-Wan's lifeless hands around
the handle of his lightsaber, letting it rest on the boy's
cold chest. "You've done your job," he said sadly, gazing
down at Obi-Wan's pale face as he spoke. "Revenge is
yours. You can hurt me no worse; nothing you could do
could hurt me any more than you already have. Let the dead
rest in peace now Dacca. I never want to see you again."
Qui-Gon did not look at Rylos, but continued to stare down
at Obi-Wan's body with eyes that could only look back, and
remember what had been.

Rylos stared at the Jedi in puzzled shock. He knew
Qui-Gon had wanted to kill him, he had been driving him to
do it, but he *hadn't*. "You wanted to kill me Jedi, why
didn't you?" the Dacca asked in confusion.

"I am a Jedi," Qui-Gon said hoarsely, looking up at
Rylos with pain-filled eyes. "Despite what you think I did
all those years ago, Jedi do not kill for revenge. We
cannot, it is wrong. I wanted to kill you, yes, but it
would not have been right to do so, just because I wanted
to. I *loved* Obi-Wan, Rylos. What kind of honor would I
be paying him if I let his death destroy me? He would not
wish it, I do not wish it," Qui-Gon answered with numb
conviction.

Qui-Gon's answer shook Rylos to the core of his being.
If what the Jedi said was true, then it was not possible
for Qui-Gon to have killed Benthon for revenge back on
Aminorthini, and if that were not possible, then it might
mean that Benthon had, in fact, been the perpetrator of
everything the Jedi claimed he had been. Rylos shook his
head. It could not be true. It could not!

But it had to be true. He had given Qui-Gon far more
compelling reason than Benthon had for the Jedi to want him
dead, but Qui-Gon had stayed his hand, even while his
beloved apprentice's body grew cold on the floor below
them. Qui-Gon had not struck. He was not guilty.

"I was wrong about you Jinn," Rylos said slowly. "And
I was wrong about Benthon," the Dacca's voice was soft and
sad. Rylos understood now why his people had the laws they
did. It was too easy for the Dacca to play God in people's
lives and hand out judgement as they saw fit, but they did
not always see everything. "I see now, that it was as you
said. I'm sorry, sorry for everything," Rylos apologized
stiffly. The door to the cell swung open. "You are free
to go Jinn, but better go slowly," the Dacca said, a
strange, almost soft smile spreading over his face.
"There's someone here who'll need your help." With that,
Rylos dematerialized, vanishing for the last time.

Qui-Gon was glad that the Dacca finally accepted the
truth, but did not understand what he had meant by that
last statement...

A movement below him made Qui-Gon start.

Obi-Wan stirred, one hand tightening on the hilt of
the lightsaber Qui-Gon had placed on his chest, and the
other going to his head. *"Ohhh..."* the boy moaned
softly.

Qui-Gon's heart swelled with hope. "Obi-Wan?" he
asked, barely daring to dream...

"Master?" Obi-Wan asked groggily. "Where are we? I
feel *terrible*!"

"Obi-Wan!" Qui-Gon exclaimed in joy, hugging the boy
tightly.

"Oh! Ow! Ouch! Easy, please!" Obi-Wan gasped as Qui-
Gon's strong embrace scrunched his sore body. The life-
threatening injuries were gone, but he had still been
pretty well worked-over.

Qui-Gon eased up, but he was still smiling. Helping
Obi-Wan to his feet and supporting the unsteady teenager
with an arm around his shoulders Qui-Gon helped Obi-Wan
walk out as they made good their escape.


It took several days for Obi-Wan to completely recover
from his ordeal, but everyone said it was a miracle that he
survived at all. Scar-face, who turned out to be Macca's
brother Dithe, and the leader of the entire Venbian
Supremacist Terrorist movement, was apprehended, and with
both leaders in custody, the dangerous group was
essentially quashed.

In the days that followed, Obi-Wan noticed a
difference in his Master. Qui-Gon smiled at him more and
seemed to be making a special point of letting Obi-Wan know
how much he cared for him. Obi-Wan did not mind that, but
Qui-Gon was also being, he felt, a trifle overly protective
of the younger Jedi. Obi-Wan knew it had been a close
call, but the apprentice had been through other close calls
before.

"Master, I won't *break*," Obi-Wan protested when Qui-
Gon's handle-with-care attitude finally got under his skin,
on his second day back from the hospital.

"I didn't say you were going to break," Qui-Gon
pointed out. "I just said you should get some rest. I'll
have dinner brought in to us this evening."

"Okay," Obi-Wan nodded. "I'll go place the order."

"I'll take care of that, you just tell me what you
want," Qui-Gon said patiently. "In the meantime, I've had
a hot bath made for you, I suggest you avail yourself of it
before it gets cold."

"Master..." Obi-Wan grinned in half-annoyed amusement,
folding his arms.

"What?" Qui-Gon asked innocently. "You're not
completely well yet. Allow me to spoil you a little."

*"Spoil me?"* Obi-Wan thought he must have heard
wrong. Qui-Gon was a good and fair Master, but indulgent
was not exactly a word that could generally be applied to
him.

"Who are you and what have you done with my Master?"
Obi-Wan asked incredulously.

Qui-Gon took a swat at the apprentice with one of the
hostel's towels, which Obi-Wan easily ducked, grinning
impishly and flopping back onto the bed behind him.

"You keep that up and you'll find out!" Qui-Gon
growled with a twinkle in his eye. "So keep quiet, unless
you would rather spend the evening doing push-ups..."

"Ah, now *that* sounds like my Master," Obi-Wan said,
grinning up at Qui-Gon as he tucked his legs up onto the
bed and folded them.

"Impertinent brat," Qui-Gon said affectionately.

A surprised look crossed Obi-Wan's face, then he began
to squirm slightly. "MAS-ter!" he said clutching his sides
as his face started to flush. "Stop!" the boy gasped
through the giggles that were fighting with him to come
out.

Qui-Gon grinned maliciously and Obi-Wan collapsed
sideways onto the bed, wriggling and giggling
uncontrollably as Qui-Gon tickled him through their
connection.

The big Jedi didn't need to physically *touch*
the apprentice to send him into fits of laughter.

"Stop it! That's not fair!" Obi-Wan laughed, trying
in vain to catch his breath as Qui-Gon's teasing made him
laugh until his stomach ached.

"You KNOW I can't do it back! Master!" the apprentice
whined playfully. It was true; tickling his Master in the
way that Qui-Gon could tickle him was one thing that the
Padawan had never been able to do, Qui-Gon's control was
too good. "Oh, oh, oh, stop!" Obi-Wan gasped, nearly
convulsed in laughter.

"No more cheek from you tonight?" Qui-Gon asked,
letting the Padawan squirm a little longer.

"Okay, okay! I promise!" Obi-Wan giggled. "I
promise, stop!"

Qui-Gon released his apprentice and Obi-Wan rolled
onto his back, wiping the tears of laughter from his cheeks
and attempting to catch his breath. "That's really not
fair you know," the boy pretended to complain, the smile on
his face belying his words.

"Mm," Qui-Gon cocked an eyebrow. "And whoever said
that life was fair?"

"Ohhh, ow," Obi-Wan sat up, holding his aching
stomach. "I think you set me back two weeks," he teased.

"Since you've only been recovering for four days that
would be an interesting trick Padawan," Qui-Gon said dryly.

Obi-Wan felt the tendrils of Qui-Gon's touch brush
against him and quickly back-peddled his statement. "I
take it back! I take it back!" Obi-Wan giggled, starting
to double over again.

Qui-Gon smiled and pulled away once more. "That's a
good Padawan," he patted Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Now go take
your bath. Dinner will be up by the time you're done."

"That's a dirty rotten trick is what it is," Obi-Wan
mumbled under his breath. Unfortunately for the Padawan,
his Master heard him.

Scooping the apprentice up in his arms before Obi-Wan
had a chance to react, Qui-Gon carried him across the room
and into the 'fresher.

"Hey, wha- wait!" Obi-Wan started fighting his
Master's unexpected action, but it was too late.

Qui-Gon dropped the struggling teenager, clothes and
all, into the bath, creating a rather huge and rather messy
splash.

Obi-Wan sat in the tub; spluttering in wide-eyed
astonishment and looking for all the world like a drowned
cat.

"Enjoy your bath Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said. His tone was
about the only thing in the room that was dry.

The boy opened and closed his mouth wordlessly,
reminding Qui-Gon of a fish out of water, only Obi-Wan was
definitely *not* out of water...

"Is this a new efficiency technique?" Obi-Wan
recovered himself enough to say, wiping away the water that
was dripping in his eyes. "To wash myself and my clothes
at the same time?"

Qui-Gon laughed, he couldn't help it. "You may have
hit upon something there," he chuckled. "Dinner will be up
in about fifteen minutes," he said, heading for the door.
"I'll lay some fresh night-clothes out for you. Unless,
you want to keep those..."

"Umm, no, thanks," Obi-Wan shook his head, plucking at
the drenched material.

"Fifteen minutes, or the food will be cold," Qui-Gon
warned with a smile, pulling the door shut behind him.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan grinned, beginning to shed his
soggy clothes.

Qui-Gon closed the door behind him with a smile.
Someday, he knew, time, space, or death would eventually
part he and Obi-Wan, but it would not be forever. Nothing
could separate them forever.

The End

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