A Simple Mission
By Berzerker_prime

Summary: Obi-Wan and Anakin have escaped the fire, but at what cost?  Where is the Sith and what is she up to?  And what will the Master-Padawan pair do now that they're flying solo?

Chapter Three:
Stars in Ascendance

AN: Okay, okay, okay, I know, I know.  I took too blasted long with this part.  Well, truth be told, I'm still not done with it.  This part, as it's going up now, is only about halfway finished.  But, I've finally reached a so-so pausing place, and I'm feeling really really bad for leaving you all with the cliffhanger that was the end of the last chapter, so I'm posting this chapter fragment.
Don't get me wrong, it's still fairly lengthy.  It's just... not at the end yet.  ^_^;
I'm still working out a few details for the end.  After having read the Jedi Quest novels, there's stuff from them I want to incorporate.  I'm working on making it all work out.  What can I say?  I'm a canon freak, I guess.
Anywho, thanks for waiting so long and apollogies.


     Finally!  He finally understood what his master had been trying to tell him.  Once again, floating among the stars, looking out, down, up, all at once, he held the bright star in his hand.  He had taken it.
     It was warm, understanding light that reached out to him, filled him with a certain sense of accomplishment and responsibility.  It was not pride; Jedi were never prideful, it led to mistakes.
     He held the star to his forehead and let its light fill him, give him strength.  And he offered it his own strength as well, whispering to it softly, promising it that he would help it fight the dark around it.  They would do it together, as it should be.
     Finally!  That was how it would be, finally!
     All the smaller stars around them both faded and went dark, one by one.  He held his star close, protecting it from the darkness, reaching out to it with his own thoughts.  But the star was no longer there.  Instead, a long thread laid across the palm of his open hand, glistening in its own radiance.
     “We are bound together,” a small voice whispered from the darkness, “we form a circle that cannot be broken.  Not in light.  Not in darkness.  Not in balance.”
     The thread pulled him and he plunged into deep, dark water and he struggled to find purchase.  He wasn’t sure what he was struggling against, but whatever it was, it held the impressive weight of the looming future.  The thread gave him power and he felt himself grow even stronger than it was.  And yet, the thread remained.
     “You are the end of the story which begins the next great story,” the voice of his master told him.
     The star returned to him, two smaller stars orbiting it, their combined light smaller than his star.
     He could help them.
     He focused within on the light the star had given him and found only his own light.  He called it forth and the water burned away.  His energies went to the two smaller stars, enlivening them with new fire and light.
     “They are the new fire, and you are the spark,” came the voice of a friend.
     “Awaken and face it,” came the voice of an old teacher, “begin with your star, now that it is with you.”
     He felt heavy, yet he rose to the surface of the fire and the water, breaking into the light.

     Obi-Wan slowly allowed his eyes to open, breaking out of the darkness that had been unconsciousness.  The first sensation he felt was a dull pain in his side.  It was followed closely by a general, prickling warmth which concentrated itself on his back and on his arms.
     Experimentally, he lifted his head up to observe his surroundings.  He found that his chest was expertly wrapped in white bandages and that he had been placed in a bed more comfortable than he was used to.  Blankets covered him generously.
     Anakin was there, of course, head resting on a relatively empty space on the bed, sleeping peacefully.  Obi-Wan gave a faint smile, almost not wanting to wake him up.  But the boy looked as though he had spent quite a bit of time there and the Knight could only figure it was because he had been worried.
     Besides, Obi-Wan wanted to find out just where they were and how long ago they had gotten there.
     Reluctantly, he reached a hand over and gently ruffled the sleeping boy’s hair.  Anakin snapped to attention, shooting his head up and looking at Obi-Wan with startled, worried eyes.  Obi-Wan smiled and sent as much reassurance through the training bond as he could.
     Training bond… it had formed, at last.
     Anakin’s face brightened and his eyes danced.  “You’re awake!” he exclaimed, launching himself off the chair he had been sleeping in and latching himself onto Obi-Wan in a hug.
     Something shifted in Obi-Wan’s ribcage and he suppressed a yelp.  “Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Ani!  Ani!  Not so hard!”  Anakin quickly backed off, an apologetic look on his face.  “Oh, good Force, that hurts!  What is that?”
     “They said you broke two of your right ribs,” Anakin blurted, “and you had a lot of burns, mostly second stage and some third stage, and-”
     Obi-Wan held up a hand.  “Slow down, Anakin.  I just woke up!  I’m not really a morning person.”
     “But it’s afternoon.”
     “Details, details.  But, where are we, anyway?  And how long have I been unconscious?”
     “In the details, the Force is, young Obi-Wan,” came a voice from the door to the room they were in.  Gimer stick clacking against the floor as he approached, Yoda entered and hopped up onto the chair Anakin had been in minutes before to regard the both of them.  “In the city of Bellici, we are,” he stated, “and unconscious for a day and a half, you have been.”
     “I contacted the Council, Master,” Anakin explained, “I didn’t know what else to do.”
     Obi-Wan nodded.  “It was probably the wisest course of action.  You made a very good choice, Padawan.”
     “Wiser than some Knights I know, was he in the matter,” Yoda agreed, then moved on to other things, “explained to us the situation, your Padawan did.  Quite burned, were you.”
     “They had you in a bacta tank for a while, though,” said Anakin, “it healed those right up.”
     “And the fire?”
     “Still burning,” stated Yoda, shaking his head grimly “water to put it out, the town cannot spare.”
     “I think I know where to find some, Master,” Obi-Wan said, “Anakin and I were attacked while investigating a farm outside of town, near the forest.  There’s some sort of a machine there.  I believe it may be pumping water out of the entire area and filtering it down toward the molten planet core.”
     “Curious, this is,” Yoda commented, “a reason for causing such a natural disaster on purpose, I cannot see.”
     “Has there been any sign of the Sith?”
     “I think it’s still here,” Anakin put in, garnering him two surprised looks, “I can feel it.”
     Obi-Wan looked to Yoda for confirmation, but the little, green Master of Jedi only shook his head, indicating that he could not confirm.  Instead, Obi-Wan turned back to Anakin and put a hand on his shoulder.
     “Listen to me, Anakin, I want you to concentrate.  I want you to show me what you feel.”
     “How do I do that?”
     For an instant, Obi-Wan was tempted to look to Yoda for an answer to Anakin’s question.  But he clamped down on the flash of uncertainty before it made its way along the bond and the boy felt it.  He pushed it aside and carefully replaced it with the same affection he had felt from Qui-Gon during his own lessons.  He allowed this to flow freely and Anakin looked at him in amazement.
     “You feel that, then?” Obi-Wan asked.  Anakin nodded.  “Follow it back and carry what you felt along with it.”  The Padawan nodded again and closed his eyes in concentration, as if having to brace himself for the images he had seen.
     Suddenly, a darkness raged along the training bond and hit Obi-Wan with a force so powerful he felt as though he had been hit in the jaw by a rather large Wookie.  It very nearly laid him out once again but he pushed back against it in the last second and made it swerve to the side where he could observe and not feel it.  Still, it pushed against him and Obi-Wan knew he had only a limited amount of time before he would have to banish it from himself completely.
     It was a black star that blotted out all serenity, hate-filled and spiteful.  It sought him out hungrily, angrily.  It was not far off, waiting for him… for them… waiting…
     … nearby.
     Yoda, who had been watching the both of them put one hand on each of their arms.  Both Obi-Wan and Anakin felt a soothing wave of the Force come toward them and they readily accepted it, allowing it to chase away the darkness that was chasing them.  Once the Master was certain both his students were in control once again, he looked to Obi-Wan.
     “He’s right,” Obi-Wan stated around a calming breath, “I felt it, the Sith is still here.”
     Yoda leaned heavily on his gimer stick and regarded the two of them with trepidation.  “Disturbing this is.  Not finished is the Sith’s work here.  What is the creature after, I wonder.”
     “Revenge,” the Knight stated which caused Yoda to cock an eyebrow at him in a gesture asking for elaboration, “when we fought, she mentioned knowing that I was the one who killed that Sith on Naboo a year ago.  She must have some connection to him.”
     “But explain her motives in causing famine here, it does not,” Yoda pointed out, “something more to this ordeal, there is.”
     “Master Yoda, there’s more,” Obi-Wan segued, “I assume Anakin told you about Master Keerina and Padawan Razeek?”
     “Yes, a tragedy is their loss.”
     Obi-Wan shook his head.  “It isn’t just that.  Tila-Shen may have fallen to the Dark Side, master.  Anger ruled the last thoughts that she allowed me to sense through the Force.  I believe she gave in to her anger over the death of Master Keerina.  But… was the Council aware she was a Diviner?”
     Yoda sighed and leaned heavily on his gimer stick, the sharp creases of concern in his forehead deepening.  “Aware we were,” he said after a substantial hesitation, “that she could calm her fears from her visions, Keerina thought.  Troubling it is that she failed.”  He shook his head warily.  “How distressing the visions must have been.”
     “She was afraid,” Anakin put in, suddenly, looking from Knight to Master and back again, “is this what you meant, Master Yoda?  Fear leads to anger?”
     Yoda’s ears perked up slightly as he looked at the boy.  “Precisely, young Skywalker,” he said, “seen the Dark Side at work now, you have.  Understand you now why mindful a Jedi must be?”
     “Yes sir.”
     “Then learned a hard lesson is,” Yoda replied, gravely, “deal with your realization now you must.  The full training bond with Obi-Wan you now have.  Learn from him you can.  To quiet your mind he will help you.”  He hopped off the chair and began to wander out of the room.  “Meantime, continue our investigation we will.”
     “Master Yoda,” Obi-Wan called after him, “who’s ‘we’?”
     “Masters Windu and Mundi.  Accompanied me they did.”
     Obi-Wan leaned his head back into his pillows and looked up to the ceiling in embarrassment.  “How many of the Council came after me?”
     “Only we three,” Yoda affirmed, “but sent a representative Master Gallia did.”
     “Siri,” Obi-Wan moaned, covering his face with a hand.
     Yoda allowed himself a small chuckle, taking note that it seemed to surprise young Anakin.  “Rest now you must.  Your urges to run for the hills you will not be allowed to entertain, Obi-Wan.”
     As Yoda left, Anakin resituated himself on the bed next to Obi-Wan and looked up at the Knight curiously.  “Master, who’s Siri?”
     Obi-Wan sighed.  “Siri and I go back a ways.  We were classmates years ago.”
     “You’ll probably be happy to see her again, then, right?”
     “Well,” Obi-Wan ventured, “let’s just say that when it comes to Siri I’m still working on the patience thing.  I’m sure she’ll think that… we are… simply a… precious pair.  But, that’s not important right now.  Anakin, I owe you an apology.”
     Anakin blinked, not fully following the sudden change in topic.  “What for?” he asked.
     “The past year.  I’ve been wrapped up in… things, issues, feelings of my own.  I built a wall around myself a year ago and it’s been in the way without my noticing it.”
     Anakin got off the bed and went over to a table across the room where he picked up something from it and went back over to the bed.  “This is about Qui-Gon, isn’t it,” he said, handing the object to Obi-Wan.  The Knight found it to be Qui-Gon’s lightsaber which Obi-Wan had been carrying for the past year since he had lost his own.    Anakin neatly folded his hands in his lap and looked at them studiously.  “He was kind of like your dad, right?  I mean, I always saw him looking at you the same way mom looked at me.  And I wouldn’t want anyone to mess with that, either.  So if you want me to-”
     He was silenced by Obi-Wan’s firm hand on his shoulder.  Looking up, he found the Knight smiling at him, having set the lightsaber aside on the nightstand next to the bed.  “I don’t ever want you to feel as though you have to suggest that.  It’s true, I wasn’t exactly enamored of having Qui-Gon leave you to me at first, but… you’re a very wonderful boy, Anakin.  And if anyone ever tries to tell you differently, all you’ll ever need to do is seek out our bond and you’ll know at once that it isn’t true.”
     Carefully, Obi-Wan shifted to the side and motioned Anakin to lean against the pillows next to him on his good side.  The boy obliged and Obi-Wan put an arm around him.  “When the Apprentice teaches the Master in return, the pairing is right,” Obi-Wan stated.
     Anakin shifted, getting comfortable while still being careful not to jar Obi-Wan’s healing body.  After a long moment of silence, he spoke up again, sleep coloring his tone.  “Master?”
     “Yes, Anakin?”
     “Do you still miss Qui-Gon?”
     “All the time.  Just like you miss your mother.”
     “Do you think that’s something we could work on together?”
     “That would be a singular pleasure, young one.”
     “You know something?”
     “I’m glad you’re my Master.”
     Obi-Wan looked down at the boy by his side and noticed that he had drifted off to a peaceful slumber, his last admission trailing off as he did.
     “I am too,” he agreed.

     It was another day and a half before the Algerogan healers, the three Jedi Council members and Anakin let Obi-Wan get out of the clinic.  Even so, Mace Windu had told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to do any investigating into the Sith matter and was to take it slow and rest.  Yoda, Ki-Adi, and Mace were looking into the matter instead.
     In more than one instance, Obi-Wan was grateful for the break from the Algerogan affairs.  As soon as the hidden water had been unearthed and the fire quelled, Kalicutt and Galagyula had returned to their opposite sides of the political fence and more than once Obi-Wan had observed their bickering trying the patience of the normally perfectly serene Ki-Adi.
     Obi-Wan decided to take his break as a chance to rethink his teaching strategies when it came to Anakin’s training.  The two had talked and debated between themselves until finally they believed they had come to a reasonable arrangement.  Presently, they were working on Anakin’s favorite part of Jedi training; the lightsaber.  It had been preceded by meditation and it would be followed by it as well, Obi-Wan having explained his concern to Anakin about the Padawan’s focus.  The two of them had managed to find a fairly private corner in the residence of the mayor of Bellici, which was being used as headquarters for the current events that were transpiring.  It was a small cloister in the middle of the complex that had been used as a garden in previous years but was relatively unremarkable this year due to the drought.
     Anakin moved through a practice kata that Obi-Wan had taught him and the Knight watched, not saying a word until the Padawan had finished.
     “You skipped a whole section,” Obi-Wan stated when Anakin had finished.  He felt a flash of uncertainty come to him through the bond.
     “Uh… the Force moved me?” Anakin offered.
     “Nice try.  But I used that with my master and it didn’t work either.”
     Anakin shrugged.  “It was worth a shot.  But, I can never remember that one part, right after that parry and lunge.  It always seems like I should jump ahead.”
     Obi-Wan unclipped his lightsaber from his belt and turned it on to low power.  Taking up a stance in front of Anakin, he lit it.  “Follow along with me.  We’ll go slowly.”
     “Sure,” Anakin acknowledged, mimicking Obi-Wan’s stance.
     They launched into the kata, fluidly but slowly, Anakin following the sequence a step behind Obi-Wan.  They had almost gotten to the problem area of the kata when a woman’s voice spoke up from the corner of the wall that outlined the garden of the mayor’s residence.
     “Like Master, like Padawan; Obi-Wan Kenobi is disobeying the council and is not resting.”
     Obi-Wan, who had been carefully focused on the kata, suddenly lost his footing and toppled slightly, his down swinging lightsaber scraping along the brick patio and leaving a black mark there.  He abruptly stopped the kata and froze, back to the sudden intrusion and a less-than-thrilled look on his face.
     “Hello, Siri,” he moaned around a sigh.
     “Well don’t be so thrilled to see me,” she responded, sarcasm dripping from her tone.
     “If you wish,” Obi-Wan responded thumbing off his lightsaber.  He motioned for Anakin to do the same as Siri and a girl who looked to be about fourteen approached them.
     “So, the Council sends you to deal with famine, you end up the harbinger of doom, once again,” Siri stated evenly, “what is it with you and the Sith, Kenobi?”
     Obi-Wan bit his lower lip and shook his head.  “Thirty three seconds, that’s a new record.  I thought absence was supposed to make the heart grow fonder.”
     Siri curiously looked to Anakin who was keeping strategically behind Obi-Wan in an effort not to get in the middle of the sparks he was sensing come off the two Knights.  “Is this the Chosen One I’ve heard so much about?”
     Obi-Wan motioned the boy forward and clutched both of Anakin’s shoulders.  “This is my Padawan, Anakin Skywalker,” Obi-Wan corrected, pointedly.  “Anakin, this is Knight Siri, my old… classmate.”
     Siri seemed unfazed by the correcting tone.  Instead, she introduced the young lady behind her.  “This is my own Padawan Learner, Lana,” she stated.
     “Hi,” Anakin said, in a jovial tone.  To his relief, Lana returned his greeting smile.
     “Hello,” she said.
     Obi-Wan and Siri, however, didn’t launch into similar pleasantries and somehow, Anakin could sense that they wanted a moment alone to speak.  So, he suggested a game of sabaac and soon the two Padawans were off in another section of the garden away from the Knights.
     “I’ll thank you not to refer to Anakin as the Chosen One,” Obi-Wan stated once the apprentices were out of earshot, “it makes him very uncomfortable.”
     “Regardless of how he feels, it’s what he is,” Siri argued, “he has a destiny that may be greater than all the Jedi combined and he should be made to face that.”
     Obi-Wan decided to let the issue drop and instead gestured to Lana.  “Is that…?”
     “The same.”
     “But last time I saw her, she was…”  He held up his hands about a foot and a half apart and let the statement trail off.
     Siri mimicked it.  “This big, yes.  But that was thirteen years ago on Kegan.”
     “And now, she’s your Padawan.”
     “I guess it was the will of the Force for us to be the ones who found her back then.”
     Obi-Wan blew out his cheeks and sat down on the edge of a nearby planter.  Siri sat down next him, carefully arranging her cloak as she did.  “In any case, I never thought I’d feel old at twenty-six,” he said.
     “You’re not going to grow a beard on me, are you?”
     “Of course not; a beard would look terrible on you.”
     Siri opened her mouth and rolled her eyes, feeling the inside of her mouth with her tongue and nodding sarcastically.  “Three minutes, twenty-four seconds,” she stated.
     “Who’s counting?”
     “Not me.”
     “Not me.”
     They both sighed.
     “Five seconds,” they said in unison.  A second later, they both turned their gaze to each other and shared a short laugh.  Siri leaned back on her hands and Obi-Wan rested his elbows on his knees, shaking his head.
     “Force, Siri, it’s good to see you again,” he said, “I haven’t had a descent match of wits since Qui-Gon died.”
     “I heard about Naboo,” she said, “I would have come by to see you at the Temple, but the Council has kept Lana and me quite busy.”  She sighed.  “That’s no excuse.  So, how are you?  Adi says that you’ve been moping about the Temple for the past year with a shadow rather than a Padawan.”
     Obi-Wan nodded in understanding.  “This mission has managed to… clarify a few things for both Anakin and myself.  He is my Padawan.  I just wish it hadn’t taken the loss of Keerina and Tila-Shen to do it.”  He paused and shook his head.  “Qui-Gon may have thought me ready for the trials, but… a Padawan?  This Padawan?  There are days that I just don’t know what I’m doing.  Some days, Anakin’s skills are present in full and they make my head spin.  Other days, he shows less skill than a third year crèche youngling.  It’s frustrating, but I know without a doubt that our pairing is right.”
     “And you worry about what that means for the boy’s future.”
     “I wonder,” he corrected, “I wonder what the Force has in store for him.  Can it be the Force’s will for something to go wrong?”
     There was a sudden rustling behind him and a brown, dried out branch of leaves whipped across the back of Obi-Wan’s skull.  Siri showed him the branch, then tossed it aside.  “Worry a Jedi should not,” she exclaimed, doing her best imitation of Yoda, which wasn’t particularly an accurate one.
     “Why Siri, what would Master Gallia say if she knew you were mocking members of the Council?”
     “She’d say it was about time I lightened up, anyway.”
     Obi-Wan blinked at her, looking at her for several moments in disbelief, wondering if this was indeed the same young Jedi who had reprimanded him at age eleven for not being committed to the Jedi Code.  “This is turning out to be a conversation to remember,” he finally stated.
     “If you repeat any of this to my Padawan I’ll just be forced to tell yours about a certain incident involving paint and a Senate taxi.”
     “Don’t give him ideas.  And that was an accident.”
     “So it was.  What’s your point?”
     “You’re incorrigible.”
     “It’s my best quality.”  She carefully smoothed out her cloak once again in a gesture that suggested she was changing the topic once more.  “Master Windu has decided that it would be best if you were to finish this mission with Anakin.  You know more details than Lana and I do, so you would be best to interact with the Algerogans.  So, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that the two of us will be heading back to Coruscant tomorrow.”
     “Delighted?  To lose your company?”  Obi-Wan asked in mock incredulity, “whatever do you mean?”
     “Who’s incorrigible now?”
     “Well, in any case, I just hope this isn’t an indication of what all my missions with Anakin are going to be like,” Obi-Wan said with a short chuckle, “you’re right, the Sith do seem to follow us everywhere we…”  Suddenly, he stopped, the thought trickling through his brain and his face brightening as if a glow rod had turned on over his head.
     “Obi-Wan?” Siri inquired.
     “Wait, what if that’s it?”
     “What is?”
     “She said it.  She came right out and said it.”
     “The Sith.  She didn’t deny knowing who I was and she didn’t deny my suspicions on what she was after.”
     “Whoa, back up, will ya’?  What did you say she was after?”
     Obi-Wan got up off his perch on the planter and began to pace back and forth.  “That’s what this is about.  That Sith wants me, she wants revenge for the Sith on Naboo.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering which leads back to fear and anger and on and on and a Sith won’t care how it happens or who it affects as long as it does.  Siri!  I’ve been thinking too much like a Jedi!”
     “And now you’re thinking like a lunatic.  I’m not following you.”
     “Think about it.  I’ve spent the past year in the Temple, beyond their reach.  They needed to lure me out, away from Coruscant, so what better way than a planet in distress.  But it had to be a fairly routine distress or the Council would have sent someone with more experience.”
     “Still, there are a number of others who could have gone instead.  How could the Sith have known the Council would send you and Anakin?”
     “But you’re forgetting; I was requested.”
     “By Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who I doubt is-”
     “Who speaks to the Council on behalf of worlds requesting Jedi assistance.”
     “So, the request ultimately came from here.”  Siri said, her eyes widening with realization.  “Someone in the Algerog government sent for you.”
     “This is it, this is the key to the puzzle.”  Obi-Wan turned toward the two apprentices who were still embroiled in their game of sabaac.  “Anakin, we have work, come along!” he exclaimed, then turned back to Siri.  “Ask Master Windu to allow you and Lana to remain on Algerog, I…”
     Siri waited, expectantly.  “Go on, you can say it.”
     Obi-Wan cleared his throat and his tone dropped.  “I may need your help.”
     “That wasn’t so bad was it?”
     “Siri, you’ve been a wonderful focusing aide,” Obi-Wan stated, excitement coloring his tone.  Without a further word, he grabbed her head and kissed her full on the mouth before darting away, knowing that it would leave her speechless enough not to get the last say in.  Anakin followed behind him a by a few steps and they both jogged inside the mayor’s residence to find Master Yoda and Master Mundi.
     “What was that all about?” Lana asked.
     Siri blinked and finally regained a modicum of composure, knowing that in the very last instant, Obi-Wan had managed to best her once again.  “Just the ravings of a mad man,” she finally said, then sighed, “even for an apprentice of Qui-Gon Jinn… he’s nuts.”

     Anakin very nearly ran right into his master when the elder Jedi came to a dead stop in a doorway.  As it was, Anakin skidded about a foot and a half before coming to a complete stop.  An instant later, Obi-Wan was again in motion, on his way through the door into one of the offices of the mayor’s residence.
     “Master Yoda!” Obi-Wan exclaimed.  “I think that I may have… oops.”
     This time, Anakin did run into Obi-Wan.
     “Hey!” Anakin exclaimed, rubbing his sore nose and shooting a slightly irate glare at Obi-Wan.  However, it dissolved in an instant when he looked around his master and found four pairs of eyes looking at them with less than enthusiasm.
     Not only was Yoda present, but he was accompanied by Ki-Adi Mundi, Minister Kalicutt, and Galagyula.  They had obviously been engaged in a conversation and Obi-Wan had apparently interrupted one or more of them.
     The young Knight’s expression abruptly turned to a nervous grin and he dropped into a courteous bow.  “Apologies Masters, Minister, Mister Galagyula,” he practically stammered out.  When he noticed that Anakin wasn’t following suit, he pushed the youngster into a bow with one hand.  When they both came up again, he found himself staring straight into the eyes of Master Mundi.  Obi-Wan’s nervous grin deepened.
     “I haven’t seen that look in your eye in a very long time, Jedi Kenobi,” Mundi stated, serenely, “you would do well to recall Master Qui-Gon’s teachings about it.”
     “Of course, Master Mundi,” Obi-Wan responded, “thank you for the reminder.”  Clearing his throat somewhat uncomfortably, he glanced down at Anakin for an instant.
     “Since you two are here, you may as well join the conversation,” Mundi said, returning to his place with Yoda and the Algerogans, “we were just discussing the machine you found that was causing the drought.  Most curious.”
     “Yes,” Obi-Wan agreed as he joined the group with Anakin in tow, “it puzzles me as to how it could have gotten there without anyone noticing.”
     “Ah!” Yoda exclaimed, raising one finger of his tri-digited hand into the air.  “Just so, the issue is.  Two possibilities, there are.”
     “One possibility!” Kalicutt corrected, somewhat irately, “Prime Minister being above such doings!  All ministers being above!  Crusaders willing to trying any doings to achieving their goals!”  The minister pointedly turned his gaze to Galagyula.
     The shorter Algerogan made a disgruntled “harrumph” and turned his nose into the air slightly.  “If anyone from Bellici is involved, they are not a Crusader.  My people do not endanger innocents.  We lobby.  That is all.”
     “And your past doing of attacking military outposts?”
     “In the past, minister.  That is in the past.  However, here and now, the central government sees a province where they are losing control because they will not listen to the people.”
     “Belliceans do voting, as everyone else doing on Algerog!”
     “Without proper representation!  When was the last time you bothered with a census around here?”
     “Gentlemen,” Obi-Wan finally decided to interrupt, “this is all very fascinating, and perhaps you should consider a… no, several negotiating sessions to deal with these issues.  But for now, we must investigate the issues that are putting your people at risk.”
     Kalicutt and Galagyula looked at Obi-Wan, then at each other stupidly for a moment.
     “Massa Jedi having a point,” Kalicutt admitted, shrugging to Galagyula.
     “Yes,” Galagyula snorted, “and as I hear they say on Coruscant, if he wears a hat it won’t show.  All you Republicans, always sticking together to get what you want.  One day someone is going to tear apart this decadent system of corruption and kick-backs that you have and then we will see who understands the people.  And I get the feeling that the Jedi will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.”  With that, Galagyula summoned up his legendary penchant for abrupt exits and stalked out of the room.
    In response, Kalicutt shrugged in apology to the Jedi.  “I being sorry for that,” he said and took his own leave.
     “Ruthlessly opinionated,” Anakin murmured.
     “This is not what I came to this planet prepared to do,” Obi-Wan moaned, his shoulders slumping in defeat and his hands massaging his temples in an effort to soothe the stress headache that was building there.
     “I don’t get it,” Anakin stated, looking from Knight to Master to Master and back again, “Galagyula wasn’t this annoying two days ago when Master Obi-Wan and I got back to town.  It seemed like he genuinely wanted to help us, then.  What’s changed?”
     “He’s a politician,” Obi-Wan responded, shrugging as if it were that simple.  Anakin expected more of an explanation, but there was none.  Mundi and Yoda seemed not to mind, however, and continued on with the conversation.
     “Most distressing, this is,” Yoda said, shaking his head, “if unable to work together Kalicutt and Galagyula are, be able to effectively investigate in Bellici, we will not.”
     “This issue would be solved if we were able to determine who helped the Sith construct the drought machine,” Mundi stated, “but then, of course, we would know where the Sith is and what she is up to and it would be a non-issue.”
     “What if she put the machine there all by herself?” Anakin asked.  “Why does anyone have to have helped her at all?”
     “Unlikely, that is,” Yoda reasoned, “Help for her plan, she needs.  Or use Silias Maht and Lapramiz Tul, she would not have.”
     Obi-Wan shook his head in momentary confusion.  “I’m sorry.  Lapramiz…?”
     “The assassin that attacked you at the farm,” Mundi told him, “they identified him as Lapramiz Tul of Corellia, a professional assassin who had gone to ground for quite a while.  Most accounts said that he had retired.”
     “What’s he doing here?” Anakin asked.  “And if he was just a hired gun, why kill himself when he was caught?”
     “Anakin, tell me,” Obi-Wan instructed, folding his arms into the sleeves of his robe, “do you believe in anything?”
     The boy blinked at the seemingly unrelated question.  “Yes, but I don’t see-”
     “How deeply?  What would you do to defend what you believe in?”
     “I suppose I would… fight for it, I guess.”
     Obi-Wan nodded, apparently having received the answer he wanted.  He knelt down in front of the boy and put a hand on his shoulder in what Anakin realized was a gesture of support.  Obi-Wan was about to talk about something he thought might make Anakin uncomfortable.  “Now, recall a year ago, back on Tatooine, when Qui-Gon first came to Mos Espa and found you.  You and your mother were the only ones who knew Qui-Gon was a Jedi Knight.  And you left with him.  Everyone else in Mos Espa does not know that you have come to be a Jedi.  What do you suppose they think happened?”
     Anakin shrugged, trying to feign unconcern in the presence of the two council members, but knowing full well he probably wasn’t doing a very good job of it.  “I dunno,” he admitted, “maybe they thought Qui-Gon bought me or won me from Watto.”  He sighed and looked to the floor sadly.  “Which I suppose isn’t too far from the truth, when you think about it.”
     Obi-Wan put a hand under Anakin’s chin and lifted the boy’s face back to his gaze.  “Qui-Gon did what he did in order to free you, Anakin.  You’re no longer a slave, not to anyone.  You’re a Jedi of your own free will.  But my point is that everyone back on Tatooine may assume differently because they don’t have all the facts.  As a Jedi, we must never assume anything.  Different points of view yield different stories to the same situation.”
     “So… we shouldn’t assume that Lapramiz Tul was just a hired gun?”  Anakin asked.
     “Exactly right,” Obi-Wan said, giving Anakin’s braid a gentle tug and smiling, “we’ll have you thinking like a Jedi yet, young one.”
     Yoda nodded and gave one of his groans of approval.  “Obi-Wan, glad I am to see that you are yourself once again,” he stated, “passionate.  Engaged in the situation once again.  Watched you grow up, I did.  Always when a loved one you lost, withdrew from yourself you did.  Much good it does my heart to see your old look to your eyes returned.  Much better teacher you are that way, I think.  But… a small consequence of the main problem, Lapramiz Tul is.  What is the Sith after?  And who helps her?”
     “I may have some insight into that, Master,” Obi-Wan stated, “she is after me, of that I am certain.  Her own words corroborate that.”  He stood back up to his full height so as to include Ki-Adi in the conversation once more and folded his arms back into his cloak.  “But to get me here and not someone else, someone from the Algerogan government had to have requested me.  Thus, whomever is working with the Sith has to be someone high enough in the political structure to speak directly to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.  This limits it to the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and the highest ranking members of local governments.”
     “Includes Galagyula, this does,” Yoda agreed, “but many people it is, still.”
     Obi-Wan nodded.  “But we can narrow it down further.  Keerina and I decided not to make it widely known that we were going to Bellici, yet the Sith came here.  She has instituted other disasters in other parts of the world, so why did she come here to confront us?”
     “Someone told her we were coming!” Anakin exclaimed.
     “Which leaves three people; the Prime Minister, Minister Kalicutt, and Galagyula.”
     “But which one?” Ki-Adi put in.  “We can narrow it no further than that.  And even if we could, that would not be enough to draw out the Sith once more.  We must deal with her if we are to stop the famine she is causing on this planet.”
     “Masters, if you’ll permit,” Obi-Wan said, “I have a plan.”

     Water was flowing in the fountain of the town square once again.  It was a welcome sight to Obi-Wan’s eyes.  It meant that Bellici would be prosperous again in short order.  True, it was late in the season for the summer crops, but Bellici was close enough to the equator of Algerog that different crops could grow year round.
     As for the Sith drought machine, Galagyula had his people taking it apart as soon as he could.  But somehow, Obi-Wan doubted that scrutiny of the machine’s parts would yield any useful information.  The Sith and her help would have seen to that.
     “You seem pretty sure of yourself,” Siri said to him as they walked through the town square toward Galagyula’s residence, “considering that you don’t know if this plan of yours will work or not.”
     Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at her.  “What makes you think that I don’t think it’ll work?”
     She gave him a skeptic look, but never broke her pace.  “You’re making those ripples in the Force that you always make when you come up with a hair-brained scheme.  I know it when I sense it.  It’s the same thing you’ve always had ever since that crazy plan to get into the reeducation center on Kegan.”
     “I was fourteen, then, Siri.  I’d like to think I control that it bit better now.”
     “You do,” she conceded, “but I’ve been on enough missions with you that, like I said, I know it when I sense it.”
     “We do seem to work well together,” Obi-Wan agreed.
     “Don’t get sappy on me.”
     “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
     They finished their conversation just as they came to a halt in front of Galagyula’s door.  Obi-Wan reached for the knocker and banged it against the wooden door three times.  Shortly, Galagyula came to the door.
     “Oh, it’s you,” he groaned upon seeing them, “what can I do to help you now?  Betray my cause for a price?  Disappear under suspicious circumstances?  Promise you my firstborn?”
     “We don’t steal children,” Siri snapped before Obi-Wan could stop her.
     “We came to find out what you’ve learned, if anything, from the drought machine,” Obi-Wan stated, neutrally.
     “Nothing of consequence,” Galagyula answered curtly, “all the parts are common ones manufactured right here on Algerog.  Anyone could get them.  Are you quite finished with me, now?”
     “For now,” said Obi-Wan, taking a small piece of paper out of the pocket of his tunic.  He handed it to Galagyula.  “We will be leaving Bellici before the day is out.  This is where you can contact us.  We would appreciate it if you would let us know if you find anything of interest.”
     Galagyula skimmed over the paper.  “Cheminarinie, huh?  Going to check out the flooding in the North, then?”
     “We suspect the Sith may be doing something similar to what she was doing here,” Siri stated, “except in reverse.  It seemed a logical place to begin our search.”
     “And… all seven of you Jedi are going?”
     “There is little else we can do here,” Obi-Wan pointed out with a shrug.
     “Hmph.  Well, at least you’ll be out of my hair, then.  Be gone with you.  And good riddance.”  And with yet another abrupt conversation ending, he closed his door and shut the Jedi out on his front step.
     Siri put her hands on her hips, indignantly.  “You know, I’m getting really tired of this guy’s attitude.”
     “Patience,” Obi-Wan said as he turned to leave, “we must have patience.”
     “You talking to me or to yourself?”
     “Are you certain Anakin knows what he’s doing?”
     “Positive.  He understands the situation completely.  We can trust him to accomplish his goal.”
     “There’s that ripple again.”
     “Don’t start with me.”

     Anakin made a very loud, disgruntled noise at the screen in front of him.  Despite the fact that he was a Jedi and technically wasn’t supposed to react in such a way, he pulled back a fist and slammed it into the wall to let out some of his frustration.
     The travel information terminal in the mayor’s residence was in Algerogan.  Anakin didn’t know Algerogan.  At least, not well enough to be able to navigate it very well.  It had already taken him four times as long as it would normally to exchange information with it and he was only about two-thirds of the way through the process.
     His frustrated ravings caught the attention of the passing Kalicutt and the minister made his way over to the boy, curiously.
     “Young Massa Jedi?” he inquired.  “What doing?”
     Startled by the Algerogan’s approach, Anakin whirled around to face the minister.  Upon noticing who it was, he dropped into a respectful bow.  “Sorry, Minister Kalicutt,” he said, “I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
     “You setting up travel plans?  To Viffidas?  I did thinking Massa Jedis going to Cheminarinie in north.  Viffidas being in east.  Having diseased livestock der.”
     “Well uh…” Anakin stammered.  “We just thought that, well… we’d make a stopover on our way and… you know… look around a bit.”
     “Viffidas being in opposite direction from Cheminarinie.”
     Anakin sighed, defeated by Kalicutt’s sharp observation.  “Well, sir, the truth is, we’re going to Viffidas instead.  We wanted to keep it a secret so that the Sith wouldn’t know we went and we could investigate without her interference.  They sent me to make the travel plans because I wouldn’t attract attention.”
     “Issa!  I understanding!” Kalicutt exclaimed around a laugh.  “Being good thing you only did attracting me, den.  Your secret being safe with Kalicutt, Young Massa Jedi.”
     Anakin’s eyes lit up, hopefully.  “Really?  You promise you won’t tell anyone, not even the Prime Minister?”
     “I promising.  And Kalicutt always keeping promise to young ones.”
     Anakin bowed again, a grin a mile wide on his face.  “Thank you, sir.  We’re all really grateful for your help.”
     “Safe journeying to you.”
     His apparent curiosity satisfied, Kalicutt left and made his way back to the room he had set up as his temporary office in the mayor’s residence.  Anakin heard the door close a moment later.
     The Padawan looked up and down the hallway, momentarily, then slowly fumbled his way through the rest of the sequence.  When all was said and done, he had made reservations to get three people to Viffidas.

*Part two of chapter three coming soon...*