It was early morning on Tatooine, and the suns hadn't yet burned off the night's chill. Obi-Wan was glad of that because he wasn't exactly dressed to walk through the desert any time near noon. Not that he disliked his clothes--even if he had any others, he probably wouldn't wear them.
As he walked, Obi-Wan wondered why his brother had invited him over. Ostensibly, it was to see his foster nephew, Luke, who was three years old. Obi-Wan didn't mind, he rather liked children--or what little he'd experienced of them. The under-five set was alien to him--he'd hardly even seen any, other than Luke.
But Obi-Wan sensed that reason was merely a pretense. The two biggest give-aways were simple: one, Obi-Wan could sense that Owen had an ulterior motive (but not exactly what that motive was), and two, Owen had long ago forbidden anything more than casual contact with the boy. Luke knew of Obi-Wan as almost everyone else in the small farming community did--just a crazy wizard.
At least they don't ask about my past, and the Hutts aren't bothering me, he thought. It was nice to have some privacy. Still, it wasn't good to be left alone with one's thoughts all the time.
Obi-Wan arrived and his sister-in-law, Beru, let him in. She showed him into a sitting room before abandoning him to check on her meal. As Obi-Wan looked around, he saw something that surprised him. Across the room, reclining slightly in a chair, sat Andriya Delvee. He knew that he was just imagining her--this woman had lived on Alderaan for the past three years.
It wasn't all that alarming, however. He'd imagined her once or twice right after she'd left. He realized now that he loved her, and she had similar feelings for him--whatever those were, they were strong enough that she felt impelled to kiss him before leaving. Then again, by now, he wasn't sure if he'd imagined that, too.
The hallucination stood and gave him an inquiring look before exiting through a door was behind her chair.
Obi-Wan exhaled slowly. He realized that he hadn't been breathing because he thought it might dispel the image he'd projected in his mind's eye.
He jumped slightly as someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, expecting Beru and wondering why he hadn't sensed her approach. Instead, he again saw the apparition of Andriya.
"Hello," she said. "Do you remember me?"
Obi-Wan was thoroughly confused now. Never before had any of his imaginings attempted to touch or speak with him.
"I'm Andriya Delvee," she continued after his dumb-founded look. "I brought you and Luke Skywalker here a few years ago?" She turned the statement interrogative, checking to see if it jogged his memory. He continued to gape at her. "Oh," she sighed dejectedly, "I knew you'd never remember me."
He finally recovered. "Remember? I could never forget you!"
A great presence of the Force suddenly flooded into the room as she turned on her Force sense. As Obi-Wan realized his wildest hopes were confirmed, and Andriya Delvee had actually returned, he threw his arms around her neck and embraced her. She returned the hug before they were interrupted by Beru.
"Oh, good!" Beru exclaimed with relief. "You did find her."
They quickly tore themselves apart and followed Beru to the dining room.
During the meal, Andriya said nothing. She seemed to prefer staring at her untouched food until Luke slipped out of his chair and toddled over to her. He climbed into her lap and began to eat her food.
"Hungry, Luke?" Obi-Wan asked. Luke nodded.
Andriya gathered Luke and stood, holding the small boy under her arm. She switched his empty plate with her larger, full plate before setting him down in his seat.
Luke grabbed a handful of food from his new plate.
"Eat it," he commanded as he emptied his fist into Andriya's outstretched hand.
"Yes, sir," she said, saluting and sounding serious. Luke returned the salute and Andriya threw the squished food into her mouth. She swallowed it without tasting any of it. Hoping Obi-Wan would soon follow her, Andriya left the room. She also wanted to wash her hand.
Obi-Wan found her doing just that. He waited for her to finish before speaking.
"What are you wearing?" He surprised even himself with that opening question.
Andriya paused, looking down at what she was wearing. "Oh, do you mean my skirt?"
"I'm sure I've worn this before. It's a Jedi skirt. Adi, Depa and I designed it," she added in a low voice.
He sensed the need to change the subject, and did so as quickly as possible. "What brought you back here?"
Andriya looked at him and tilted her head in an inquisitive way. "I did say I'd come back to visit, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did--"
"Do you not want me to?"
"Oh, no, I want you to, I just didn't think you would without a reason."
"Oh. You're actually right. I'm here because . . . because. . . ."
As she faltered, Obi-Wan felt his spirits rise with elation. Could she be trying to say-- He didn't even dare think it.
"I need your help," she finally finished. "You must come with me."
"Do you remember Tigo Baylind's home planet?"
"Vaguely, yes," he said after a moment's thought.
"Well, some of the people are having some sort of problem with some of the other people and they want our help."
"Do you know who they are, or what the problem is?"
"No, they only begged me to come."
"It could be a trap."
"I know. I want you to come with me."
As soon as she'd expressed that desire, the issue was settled for Obi-Wan. If that was what Andriya wanted, it was what Obi-Wan wanted to do.
"When do we leave?" he said.
"Is now convenient?"
Within minutes, Andriya and Obi-Wan left the Lars moisture farm for Mos Eisley and the planet of Cantley.
Andriya slowed, stopping Obi-Wan by placing a hand on his arm. He looked to her inquisitively, but she wasn't looking at him. She suddenly whirled around and pounced. He couldn't even see what she'd captured until he walked around them. Then Obi-Wan could see that she had straddled her victim's chest, pinned his arms down with her knees, leaned on one hand placed over his throat and in the other, held her lightsaber like a dagger ominously hanging over his head.
"Hi," she said, her bright tone contrasting her threatening actions. "My name's Andriya." She leaned dangerously close to her captive's face. "What's yours?"
"Stucki," he rasped, panting for breath.
"Andriya, I think you're overdoing it a bit," Obi-Wan warned her.
She shushed him. "Stucki, why are you following us?"
"We're looking for the Jedi."
"We?" Andriya asked in surprise.
"My family and I."
Stucki gagged in reply and Andriya realized that she was placing too much pressure on his chest and neck. She thumbed off her lightsaber and Obi-Wan lifted her to her feet. Stucki clambered to his feet.
"You're my prisoners!" he proclaimed.
"Your prisoners?!" Obi-Wan said incredulously. "She caught you!"
"No, Obi-Wan," Andriya said. She stepped forward, holding her arms out, one wrist crossed over the other and bowing her head in submission. "He's right."
Do it, Obi-Wan, she thought to him. More reluctantly, he followed suit.
Stucki cackled triumphantly. "I knew it!" He produced a length of rope and proceeded to tie the Jedi's wrists, one Jedi at each end of the rope with a meter of slack hanging between them. Stucki walked behind and then between them, tugging the two Jedi along behind him with the rope strung across his chest.
"I assume you have a plan," Obi-Wan whispered once they were in transit.
"Of course," she replied, but did not elaborate.
They soon arrived at the edge of Stucki's home village. Word of their capture preceded the procession, and Stucki received a hero's welcome.
Pity I have to do this, Andriya thought as she slowed Obi-Wan to a halt. Stucki was forced to stop as well. Andriya lifted her bound wrists and then stepped back and brought her wrists down in a sharp jerk, throwing Stucki backwards. In a single, quick movement Andriya drew her lightsaber and cut the rope connecting her to Obi-Wan. The loosely tied knots depended on each other to stay tied, and the ropes slipped to the ground. Stucki's neighbors and relatives were already coming to his aid, and the two Jedi defended themselves.
"No, no, no, no, no," Obi-Wan heard Andriya chatter like an angry tree rodent. The protest was not directed at Obi-Wan, and he turned around to see what was wrong.
A group of Stucki's relatives had come to his defense, throwing net after net over Andriya. She was quick to cut through them but the locals heightened their attack until they captured her and fastened the nets with ropes.
"Andriya!" Obi-Wan called, but he, too, was soon caught by the multiple net strategy.
They found themselves imprisoned in a small, wooded area.
"Think it was a trap?" Andriya murmured, surveying their surroundings. She rose to her feet and approached what appeared to be the perimeter of their cell, slowly extending a hand to see exactly where their boundaries were. She froze as Obi-Wan heard a noise akin to the hum of a lightsaber. Andriya's hand shook as a scream of pain rose involuntarily from her. Obi-Wan rushed to her side and pulled her away from the invisible retaining wall. Once freed, she fell back limply into his arms, bringing them both to the ground.
"That hurt," she whispered.
"It was stupid, too."
She opened her eyes and sat up slowly. Holding her hand out in front of her and flexing her fingers, Andriya examined her injured left hand. Black, charred burns streaked up each of her fingers.
"That looks bad," Obi-Wan remarked.
"It doesn't hurt," she assured him. "Much. But thank you."
Obi-Wan didn't reply, instead he gingerly took her left wrist and pulled her injured hand closer to inspect the damage. He lightly stroked the back of her hand.
Andriya looked alarmed, so Obi-Wan released her hand.
"No, no, do that again," she commanded, thrusting her hand back into his face. He repeated his earlier action and she began to look even more surprised.
"I . . . I can't feel that," she stammered.
Obi-Wan stopped short. He began to rub her hand, perhaps a little roughly, and she yelped in pain.
"I felt that," she said, slapping his hands with her right hand and pulling her left hand from his grasp.
"I'm sorry," he apologized weakly. Andriya appeared to be too busy blowing on her hand to notice.
She cast a furtive glance around, then reached into a pouch on her belt.
"Did they take your lightsaber?" she hissed. Obi-Wan nodded. From the pouch, Andriya produced her lightsaber handle and pressed it into his hands.
"How did you keep this?"
"I hid it."
"Why don't you use it?"
"I don't have to use it. But, more importantly, you are the best lightsaber fighter I've ever seen."
Obi-Wan looked down. "You've never seen Qui-Gon," he mumbled.
"Oh, but I have," she said, nodding emphatically.
Obi-Wan's head snapped up. "You have?"
"The Jedi," she said solemnly, "keep excellent records. We had several recordings of Qui-Gon in action, and you, my friend, have surpassed him."
"Do you really think so?"
Andriya nodded quickly. "Put it away," she whispered, looking around.
Obi-Wan had just barely done so when Stucki approached.
"I see you've tested your cell," he remarked. Andriya shook her arm, making her Jedi cloak slip down to cover her blackened hand.
"Why have you done this?"
"The Emperor has requested our help and, well, we simply couldn't refuse."
Andriya pursed her lips and glanced at Obi-Wan, who'd first suggested that the journey might be a trap.
"We'll hold you here until someone arrives to collect you."
Obi-Wan's hopes brightened. They had a better chance to escape if they were allowed to stay in this cell for a time.
"In the meantime, we're allowed to do as we wish with you."
Andriya felt her heart drop. She sensed trouble in his voice and intent.
"You, girl, come here," Stucki commanded. Andriya stood slowly, but made no move toward their captor. Stucki typed a command into a palm controller, then walked through the invisible wall he was closest to. Andriya noticed the goggles he wore, assuming they had something to do with their strange prison. Stucki grabbed her left hand, eliciting a cry of pain. Obi-Wan swiftly stood, but Andriya quickly quelled any of his defensive urges with a sharp look as Stucki led her away.
It was almost dark when Stucki returned Andriya, throwing her through the invisible boundaries that defined their cell. She fell and didn't get up.
She lifted her head, then made her way to her knees.
"I got your lightsaber," she said, handing it to him. "And this." She produced a small glow unit.
"That won't last long."
"What do you mean?"
"Stucki gave this to me. He said we wouldn't be safe without it. So when it gets dark, we get him out here."
"How is your hand?"
"Feeling better and hurting worse, thank you."
Obi-Wan reached out and took her chin in his hand. He turned her face so that he could see her right cheek in the fading light.
"What happened?" he asked in a grim tone.
Andriya pulled away and covered the gash on her cheek with her hand. "Nothing. I just got hurt. Do you think it's dark enough?"
Obi-Wan looked around, unwilling to forget about the cut, but assessing the other situation at hand anyway. She could probably wait until they were safe on the ship. "It's dark enough," he concluded.
"Stucki!" Andriya shouted as loudly as possible. After a few more shouts, they could hear their captor lumbering through the underbrush. It had become dark enough that Stucki would not be able to see them at all without a glow rod. And even if he had a glow rod, they were far enough away from the walls that he'd have to enter the cell to find them.
"What?" Stucki demanded.
"The glow unit ran out."
"I gave you a fuel extender pack."
"I think I dropped it."
Sighing and grumbling to himself, Stucki entered the cell. Within seconds, Obi-Wan and Andriya had "persuaded" him to free them.
All night long, they hiked through the forest. Finally, they arrived at the docking bay--and stopped short. Inside the bay, they could sense a familiar, dark presence--Darth Vader.
The two Jedi looked at one another. "What do you want to do now?" Obi-Wan asked.
"We have to get out of here, and this is the only way I know out."
Stealth was no longer an issue--if they could sense Vader, he could sense them. To enter the docking bay, the pair walked through the main door.
"I've been waiting for you," Vader boomed. The Jedi were surprised at his appearance--they hadn't seen him since he'd fallen into a pit of lava three years previously. Now, he was more of 'droid than a man, relying on the black suit of armor he wore to sustain his life. Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber and ignited it, readying for battle as Andriya sized up the situation. She noted that behind Vader stood, at most, two dozen stormtroopers, their transport, and Andriya's ship.
Just before Vader drew his lightsaber, the stormtroopers simultaneously toppled to the ground and Vader froze. Confused, Obi-Wan turned to Andriya, but didn't have to ask what had happened. It was obvious that she was using the Force to ensure their escape.
"Hurry, Obi-Wan, I can't do this forever."
Obi-Wan put his lightsaber away and ran past the storm troopers. Just as he reached the ship, he remembered something. "Andriya!" he called. "Your lightsaber!" He threw the handle to her.
She watched it grow closer, calculating exactly when she should release her "prisoners." Before the lightsaber reached her, Andriya relinquished control over them, and ran toward the lightsaber, snatching it out of the air as she passed. But she was not quick enough. Vader, finally freed from her grasp, sprang into action as quickly as he could, which wasn't very quickly at all. Nevertheless, he was able to engage Andriya in battle before she could escape. Obi-Wan rushed to her aid, but Vader seemed to ignore him at present.
No one saw what happened to Andriya. Vader had turned away to glance over his shoulder and was blocking Obi-Wan's view. Of course, at the moment, Obi-Wan was not most concerned about Andriya--until he took a few steps to his right and could see her.
Andriya was laying on the floor, knees drawn up to her chest, over her arms, which were folded across her stomach. Her face was contorted into a grimace of pain.
Vader, seeing his opportunity, approached the fallen Jedi. Obi-Wan moved to defend her, but was suddenly seized upon by the Force, rendering him unable to do anything but watch as Vader loomed over Andriya.
Because she offered no resistance, and Obi-Wan posed no threat, Vader felt free to take as much time as he wanted. He would relish every last second of the two Jedi's lives. Slowly, Vader turned his lightsaber around so that the blade pointed down from his clenched fists. Next, he came to stand at Andriya's raised feet. He leaned over her and raised his arms above his head. As he stood there, poised to strike, Andriya seemed to brace herself--taking her arms from her stomach to hug her knees as close to herself as she could.
Just as Vader was about to deal her the fatal blow, Andriya's feet caught Vader squarely in the stomach. The blow destroyed Vader's carefully-established balance, shifting his weight onto her legs. One hard kick sent Vader sailing over Andriya and sprawling on his back.
Andriya scrambled to her feet as Obi-Wan was released from the invisible trap. They could both sense the approaching second squadron of stormtroopers. The ones already in the bay were dazed, but held their weapons at the ready, blocking their way to Andriya's ship. The Jedi silently agreed to separate.
Within minutes, Obi-Wan and Andriya found themselves in the eerily silent corridors of the docking bay. Vader, by that time, had recovered and was pursuing one of the Jedi. Which one, he wasn't quite sure--he hadn't been able to see which direction Obi-Wan went.
Andriya, on the other hand, knew she was the one being followed. She knew she had to shut off her Force-sense, but she also knew that would make Obi-Wan an easy target for Vader.
Obi-Wan was alone, and he didn't like the ominous feeling he was detecting in the Force. It wasn't a dark presence like the Emperor or Vader, more of a foreboding premonition. Though he could sense no one approaching, Obi-Wan regularly peered around the wall that was providing him with cover.
Obi-Wan was easing back toward the protective wall after one such quick glimpse around when someone ambushed him from behind. Who ever it was, struck in an unconventional manner--waiting for Obi-Wan to back into them, then slapping one hand on his forehead, snapping his head back. He almost cried out from surprise, but his captor had their other hand under his chin, clamping his mouth shut.
Obi-Wan had never suffered from claustrophobia--no Jedi was supposed to suffer from any phobia--but as he stood there, trapped by some unseen power, he could feel the limits of his Force-sense creeping inward until he was the only thing left that he could sense. Then, even that disappeared. Confused and blinded, Obi-Wan collapsed.
When he regained consciousness, Obi-Wan found himself lying in a heap. He sat up quickly and felt dizzy--but that was all he felt. He was alarmed by a tap on the shoulder and whirled around. At first, he didn't see anyone. Then he heard a noise on the floor and looked down.
"Andriya? What's going on?"
"Get off!" she grunted, pushing at his back. Obi-Wan realized he was sitting on her and quickly moved to free her.
Then the pieces fell into place. "You turned off my Force-sense, didn't you?" he accused.
Andriya hoped she didn't look as guilty as she felt. "It's to protect you--Vader can't possibly find us now."
Obi-Wan searched for a camera or other monitoring device to refute Andriya's logic, but he found none. "Let's get out of here."
Steathily, the two Jedi made their way back to the bay, where they found dozens of stormtroopers waiting for them.
"Ignore them. Don't stop or react until they open fire," Andriya instructed softly. Obi-Wan nodded, and they headed for their ship.
They were only a couple meters away from their destination when the troops opened fire. Obi-Wan's first reaction was more reflexive than he realized--he drew his lightsaber even though the Force wasn't with him.
Andriya was behind him and saw him draw. In response, she roughly pushed him forward, urging him to run for the ship instead. He caught on, and the two made their escape from the planet relatively easily.
After they were in orbit, Obi-Wan again examined the cut on her cheek and her injured hand.
"I'll have them soaked in bacta when I get back. They'll be fine," she assured him.
"Back where?" Obi-Wan couldn't stop himself from asking.
"Alderaan," Andriya replied slowly. "I have to go back--Wherkane is waiting for me."
He nodded and looked away.
"Come with me," she exclaimed. Obi-Wan's head snapped back to face her, but the expression on her face looked even more surprised than he felt. He looked away again, shaking his head.
"No, I mean it," she insisted, taking one of his hands in hers. "Please."
Obi-Wan turned back to her again. He wanted to go with her, and here she was practically demanding that he did so. But he couldn't--he had agreed to watch over Luke. Obi-Wan trusted his brother, but having a Jedi around can make all the difference.
Andriya could see his reluctance and released his hand.
"It's not that I. . . ."
As Obi-Wan's voice trailed off, Andriya looked away. "Never mind. Stupid of me to ask," she muttered.
Obi-Wan stood and placed a reassuring hand on Andriya's shoulder, but she shrugged him off. Disappointed and dejected, Obi-Wan left the cockpit. He walked into the captain's cabin. Immediately after he entered, the ship listed sharply to the left and slowly righted itself. Obi-Wan barely kept his balance. A lock box that had been on an empty bunk didn't fare as well, tumbling down and spilling its contents on the floor.
"Andriya?" Obi-Wan called over his shoulder as he knelt to clean up the mess. The lights in the cabin flickered and died. Obi-Wan froze as he heard Andriya's approaching footsteps. She ran into the cabin and kicked Obi-Wan in the side. Obi-Wan gave an exclamation at the unexpected pain, and Andriya gave an answering call as she hit the ground. The lights returned to life, and Andriya and Obi-Wan both found themselves sprawled on the ground.
"What did I trip over?" Andriya asked herself dazedly.
"I think it was me," Obi-Wan groaned.
Andriya quickly sat up. "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," he said softly, sitting up more slowly.
"I was looking for you."
"What is it?" he asked, not without trepidation.
"We're being followed. Fighters. We're on our way to Zyro."
"I have a feeling they'll follow us to there. We'll need a new ship." She glanced at the emptied lock box. "I meant to throw that away." She quickly tossed the spilled holocubes into the box, then stood and left Obi-Wan alone. After he watched her leave, his focus shifted back to the lock box.
He began to look through the box. He found it contained three portrait holocubes--one of Andriya, one of Myndex, and one of a couple who bore a slight resemblance to Andriya and Myndex. Obi-Wan decided that they must be Andriya's parents. In each of their portraits, Andriya, Myndex and their father appeared to be about twenty, which meant the pictures could have been taken any time after they turned twenty.
Obi-Wan studied the holocubes for another moment before pocketing them. If she wanted them thrown away, I may as well take them, he rationalized. She certainly won't miss them. He closed the lock box, locked it, and put it in a closet.
"Andriya!" he called as he shut the closet. She didn't come, so Obi-Wan went to the cockpit, looking for her.
"I want the Force back," Obi-Wan demanded. While he'd always wondered what it would be like to be a regular person, Obi-Wan concluded that he didn't care for being Force-blind.
"I'm sorry," Andriya apologized. For the first few irrational seconds, Obi-Wan thought she was apologizing because she couldn't restore his Force-sense, but he realized that she meant that she was sorry for turning it off in the first place.
"I think you'd better lie down." Obi-Wan agreed, recalling how he'd reacted earlier. Andriya followed him to the captain's cabin, where he laid down in one of the bunks and closed his eyes. She placed a hand on his forehead. Within seconds, Obi-Wan felt his awareness expand to its normal boundaries.
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and looked at Andriya. She allowed her hand to linger on his forehead as she looked away without really seeing anything. He placed a hand on her shoulder and her focus turned back to Obi-Wan.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes," she said with an unconvincing, cheerless smile as she let her hand slip away from his forehead. She rose from her position kneeling beside the bunk and walked back into the cockpit.
"Collect your things, we're here."
"I don't have any things."
Andriya looked at him, and raised an eyebrow. For a tense moment, Obi-Wan wondered if Andriya knew about the holocubes.
"Okay," she said, clapping her hands once. "Then I guess we're ready to land." Andriya stopped in the doorway, pausing to relish the wave of nostalgia that passed over her. "I'll miss this ship," she murmured, and left the cabin.
"I'll miss you," Obi-Wan said to the closed door.
In the cockpit, Andriya slowly looked up from her hands clasped in her lap. As she began the descent onto Zyro, she whispered something, half to herself. "I'll miss you, too."