"The darkness, I feel as well. Long have Master Windu and I spoken of its meaning, but no conclusion have we reached." -- Yoda
Two weeks later, and for the the third time in as many nights, Obi-Wan Kenobi awoke bathed in sweat, brushing away the tendrils of another nightmare tinged in red.
Again, the nature of the fear was quick to elude him, as were the details of this nightscape. Try as he might to reconstruct the images in his mind via the Force, all he could sense was the foreboding of something overlooked coming back to him, and the strange red light that burned inside his eyes each time he closed them.
When the dreams had initially started some three months ago, Obi-Wan accounted them to the stress of his generalship and the preknowledge that he sent men, clones or not, to their deaths each and every day.
The red tinges in the dream he felt certain were a leftover trigger of guilt from the death of Qui-Gon in the Theed reactor core ar the hands of the Sith whose name neither Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray or his assistant Rune Haako had been able to conjure up under intense interrogations.
Although Obi-Wan never felt either Nimoudian was lying, he always sensed that the blue-skinned aliens had once known the Sithís name, and had somehow forgotten it.
He himself would never forget the Sithís eyes, his bizarre tattooed body or the look of manical glee he let loose when he bore his double-bladed lightsaber through Qui-Gonnís chest.
Obi-Wan had originally thought the red tinges in his nightmares stemmed from the Sithís lightsaber, or perhaps the energy walls that had kept Obi-Wan from aiding his master before it was too late.
For a long year after the death of Master Jinn, Obi-Wan had replayed those last few moments of his Masterís life in his head while he was both awake and asleep. Over and over, Obi-Wan saw himself knocked off the platform by a vicious black-booted kick from the Sith, that had separated him from his Master, and with Qui-Gonís endurance at an end, had given the Sith the opening to strike down the greatest man Obi-Wan had ever known.
His remorse and guilt for Qui-Gonís death plagued him as he tried to teach Anakin and help the Jedi Council unravel the mysteries of the Sithís re-emergence, as well as explaining the Trade Federationís involvement, especially given Haako and Gunrayís bizarrely selective memories.
Despite words of advice from his former and present teachers and colleagues, Obi-Wan had never fully forgiven himself for allowing his Master to die. It had been Anakin of all people, just after his 10th birthday, who had suddenly unlocked Obi-Wan from the invisible chains that had kept his life in stasis for a yearís time.
For the boyís birthday, and to celebrate his passing the first of several trials Obi-Wan would lay out for him over the next 15 years, Anakinís Master had taken him out of the Temple to a restaruant for a special meal, something most Jedi rarely did and Padawans were never allowed to join in.
As they munched on a host of spicy foods selected by Anakin from the serving computer at the door, they had both caught sight of a video monitor touting news from the Outer Rim that had included the latest pod racing results from Tatooine, Anakinís home world.
The boy had squealed with delight, seeing the Mos Espa Arena fill the screen, and Obi-Wan had felt justified in using a tendril of the Force to usher a mobile video droid closer to their table so Anakin could see his homeworld up close.
The boy spoke excitedly as he called out the names of the pod racers he had known and competed with, including the Dug Sebulba who Anakin had bested for the first time the very morning that he and Obi-Wan had first met.
The video clip ended and the pairís conversation invaribly turned to starships, with Anakin so full of questions of the most minute detail that Obi-Wan was forced to search his memories to recall the specifications and top speeds of a dozen alien spaceships and Republic vehicles.
A love of technology, especially ships, was a strong bond between Master and Padawan, and Obi-Wan used it, giving Anakin the incentive of time on the Templeís various simulators when he performed his lessons particularly well.
In fact, Anakin had taken over Obi-Wanís former role as the one to ask for when something malfunctioned at the Temple. Unfortunately like Obi-Wan, Anakin was usually interested in making things that already worked fine, work a little better, which sometimes got him a look of disapproval from other Jedi.
As they sat at the table, winding down on their meal and talk of speedy vehicles, Obi-Wan could sense young Anakinís heart open up and cry forth as he remembered the greatest thing about Tatooine, his mother, who had stayed behind as the junk dealer Wattoís slave while Anakin had blasted off to the stars to become a Jedi.
Despite the boyís pleading, Obi-Wan knew that isolation from his mother was best for the Padawan. His emotional attachment to her was considerable, and if news of her came up bad, he would have difficulty masking it from the remarkably-astute Anakin. Anakin spoke of her in a quiet voice now, saying how he often dreamt he was back at home and woke up thinking she was just in the next room.
Obi-Wan gave as much tenderness as one who had no recollection of his own mother and father could, having been taken to the Temple before he could walk or speak, so high was his Midichlorian count.
"Iím sure she would be proud of who you have become, Anakin." Obi-Wan offered from across the table. "You will be a great Jedi, and you may one day save thousands of people just like your mother."
Anakin smiled shyly at the praise from his Master. "I would too, I would do anything in my power to save people who need help. Even if it meant sacrificing myself, the way Master Qui-Gon did for you."
Obi-Wanís attention had drifted toward a near-altercation between a Bith and a Rodian near the establishmentís back entrance, but his gaze and mind suddenly snapped back to Anakinís voice.
"What?? What did you just say about Qui-Gon?"
"That I would sacrifice my life for another, just like he did for you on Naboo..." Anakin tailed off as Obi-Wan gazed intensely at him.
Obi-Wanís mind raced at the boyís statement, was Anakin trying to mock him?
"Saved me? What do you mean, saved me? I failed him! I let the Sith separate us and it KILLED HIM!"
Obi-Wan realized he had nearly stood up from his chair and leaned across the table at Anakin, who had shrunk backwards from this unexpected aggressiveness from his normally even-tempered Master.
"But you didnít kill him, Master. The Sith did. Master Qui-Gon wore him down so you could finish him before he killed anybody else. He was worried about you."
Obi-Wan sat back down at the table as if all the muscles in his body had suddenly collapsed. His Padawanís words sunk in deep and suddenly the whole conflict in the hangar flashed back, but now he could see it all through Qui-Gonís eyes.
Twice the ferocious attack of the Sith had caught Obi-Wan off guard, once with a kick that had left a permanent dent in his jaw, the second time with a roundhouse that had sent the Padawan plunging more than 100 feet, and nearly cost him his lightsaber.
He saw Qui-Gon drop to his knees in meditation as the energy beams set up temporary walls between himself, the Sith and Obi-Wan and suddenly realized that his Master had not been healing himself, but casting himself forward into a vision of the future.
In those fleeting seconds before the energy walls reopened, Qui-Gon had realized that the Sith knew Obi-Wan was the more dangerous opponent. If Qui-Gon had retreated to allow Obi-Wan back into the fight, he knew the Sith would go after the Padawan first and given Obi-Wanís miscues in the earlier stages of the two against one combat, he knew the odds were good that the Sith would strike down the younger Jedi, a thought that chilled Qui-Gonís blood, making his decision to press the attack alone all that much easier to make.
And so the long-haired Master had come after the Sith in the cramped reactor room, determined to overwhelm him. Yet even in defeat, Qui-Gon felt he had worn the Sith down and that the dark oneís overconfidence in his own abilities would be his downfall against Obi-Wan.
Qui-Gon had been exactly right then, just as Anakin was now. Both of them, after a fashion, had saved Obi-Wanís life.
Snapping back to the present, Obi-Wan gathered his robe around him and set off down the hallway, none too surprised to see Master Yoda in the library, purusing a scroll recounting the earliest days of Jedi lore.
The aged Master glanced up and smiled softly at the greatest of his students. "The hours you keep, Master Kenobi, they are of a general, not a Jedi."
Yodaís face went from bemusement to concern however, as he read Obi-Wanís latent emotions.
"Your visions continue, do they? Feel them, I can in your thoughts and your flow in the Force."
"They have returned a third night, Master Yoda. The same as always, darkness, and the tinge of red that I cannot explain."
"The darkness, I feel as well. Long have Master Windu and I spoken of its meaning, but no conclusion have we reached."
Obi-Wan pondered the darkness a long moment before addressing his Master again.
"Senator Organa leaves this morning to return to Alderaan. I am going to escort him out of the system, by your leave."
Yoda nodded his wizened head at this. "Your concerns for his safety, I believe will-placed, Obi-Wan. Help to us, a strong Alderaan may be in times to come."
Obi-Wan took leave of his Master with a bow, and returned to dress for his rendezvous with Bail Organa.