Title: As Clear As Mud
Characters: A/O, A/P
Time: Anakin is twenty.
Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.
Summary: After being thrown into a survival situation, Anakin and Obi-Wan question their Master/Padawan roles. AU. Slash later on.
The planet Trow was a study in blandness. Its Galactic-Average-sized humanoids ate plainly, eschewing any spices for a nutritious though monotonous diet. Its terrain had hills, but no mountains; its oceans had no islands whatsoever, and its trees never topped five meters. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, newly appointed to the High Council, hated to bring excitement into its ordered existence, but his SoroSuub V-35 Courier was on fire.
"Master! Look out!"
Kenobi's twenty year-old Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, tore his gaze but not his hands away from the ship's dual controls, in time to see their little dejarik table torque loose from the cargo space behind the two pilot seats, rotate in midair, and crack the viewport, clipping Obi-Wan's skull along the way. The Master slumped in his seat, his hands still loosely clasping the control yoke. The approach vector wavered onscreen while Anakin watched. It blacked out for a second, then flickered into a sharp clear diagram before a final flare into blankness. Kriff. System after system shut down. He pressed the distress beacon signal just before it, too, winked to blackness. A quick visual above Trow's rapidly approaching surface confirmed that their destination, the southern regional capital of Nepsa, lay some fifty kilometers away. Anakin would worry about getting there when and if they set down onplanet.
Growling deep in his throat about funding for the Jedi Temple's Fleet Maintenance Program and grateful that this did not happen when he took the Supreme Chancellor out for a much-needed private getaway spin around Galactic City last week, Anakin spared a hand to snug down the straps on the crash webbing surrounding Obi-Wan. The Courier's ablative shielding kept them from incinerating as Anakin's firm grip guided the ship bumpily from the clear upper atmosphere through high clouds and then dense low fog. He cast about blindly, though in the Force, he was sensing a flat meadow with a broad river snaking through its wide expanse. The river could break their momentum if they hit it at the right angle. A last tug at the controls and then they hit, bouncing, splashing, finally settling half-submerged.
Fast-moving brown river water surged over their viewport as the Courier slowly sank. Flood conditions. Anakin scrambled for food pellets, shed his cloak, checked for his rebreather in its pouch on his belt as he tucked in the food pellets in the pouch beside it. A final tug to ensure his lightsaber's position and he was ready. The raging water now blocked the viewport completely. The ship began to plane slowly to the river bottom, who knew how many meters below. "Come on, Master." He undid Obi-Wan's crash webbing, said the Respect-for-Master's-Authority release in a breathless gabble while grabbing Obi-Wan's collar with his left hand as the Master slid forward. Anakin's eyes watered as he shucked Obi-Wan's rich chestnut travel robes and he began to cough in the growing smoky atmosphere. Fighting the deck's slant with difficulty, he swiveled Obi-Wan's seat before opening the man's legs widely and reaching in to grip one thigh for a shoulder carry. He clenched Obi-Wan's upper right arm over his shoulder and heaved.
Obi-Wan's eyes flickered open as he felt himself hoisted, swaying into the air giddily. "S-s-s-stop, Anakin. I can walk." They coughed together as flame finally overcame wires and safety circuits, touched the spilled nerf shortening in the galley from lunch and flared into something to fear. Anakin steadied a woozy Obi-Wan as the Master pointed to the emergency raft rolled around two segmented oars, all an easy-to-spot yellow. Their teamwork need no words at this point. Still with an arm about Obi-Wan's shoulders, Anakin punched the button to lower the ramp, hoisting the raft away from the ramp's sharp edges. The river attacked the Courier, swirling muddy water into the passenger space, up to knees, thighs, necks quickly. Seeing that Obi-Wan carried a purpling bruise on his temple, but no other outward damage, Anakin lunged into the murk and stroked far enough away to twist the nipple that released the pressurizing gas. The raft leaped into being. He flung himself onboard with a loud squelch before grabbing Obi-Wan by arm and thigh, dragging him roughly over the gunwale.
They gasped together, wet though not cold in Trow's reddish sunlight. There was no sign of the Courier. Obi-Wan lay back, blinking in returning Masterly form as he asked, "Any idea where we are?"
"About fifty kilometers from Nepsa. River seems to be heading towards it." Anakin nodded in satisfaction. His Master was back with him; he had no desire to revisit the circumstances of Sugnid, when a variant of sleeping sickness claimed Obi-Wan for its next victim and Anakin had toted his Master in Tatooine-like heat for two solid days, all the while hydrating him forcibly. Anakin didn't think he would have made a very good healer then and he didn't think so now. The feeling of absolute helplessness during a loved one's suffering rankled his pride, and his knowledge of disease etiology was minimal.
"So the best place in the entire galaxy to be is here, floating towards our destination," Obi-Wan said with a small grin. "We're alive, my Padawan, we're alive."
The river abided.
Night fell quickly in Trow's summer. Both Anakin and Obi-Wan felt awed by the sheer width of the river, its shores barely visible in the thinning fog, as they moved along with no effort needed to steer. Such uncontrolled power made Anakin a bit nervous, while Obi-Wan rode through the darkness asleep, his form barely visible in the weak light of Trow's two small moons. When Anakin did fall asleep at dawn, Obi-Wan stirred.
"Gnnnnngh, by siduses ... bust've choked od da wader or idhaled or sobedig, Adakid ... oh." Obi-Wan glanced at his slumbering Padawan, arms and legs asprawl in heavy just-post-adolescence sleep. When Anakin was like this, Obi-Wan knew better than to disturb him and truly, there was no need. Barring disaster, they would arrive near Nepsa late day after tomorrow, although Obi-Wan didn't recall if the capital was precisely on the river or simply nearby. He moderated his time sense to alert him at that point and ran some internal diagnostics while he was at it: earache, headache, sinuses thumping against his brain or so it felt, bruise an unholy shade of purple on his right temple. He relaxed in a cross-legged position on the rippling floor of the raft, acknowledging and bending to the river's omnipresence. The bruise took a few minutes to heal, capillaries caressed with needle-fine shards of Force-power to stimulate his body's natural healing and if Anakin had been awake, he would have seen the bruise shade to brown, greenish-yellow, and finally dusky rose. The headache took longer. Neck muscles responded to thicker, finger-shaped pulses of the Force that kneaded and rubbed, trailing bliss from cervical vertebrae to occiput and back again. A delightful twenty minutes and he was done. Obi-Wan saved the most difficult healing for last, using a delicate technique he had learned from Luminara Unduli in a few weeks' lessons. It was his sinuses that throbbed and since they lay inside bone, Luminara thought that in emergency situations far from her gentle ministrations, he could learn to self-heal. So he breathed deeply and attacked his frontal sinuses with a molecule's width strand of the Force, sifting through skin cells and cartilage, arriving at a hollow almost filled with humid secretions. Obi-Wan sensed pressure and a nearly clogged release duct; he thickened the strand at the far end to a half-centimeter and drifted through the muck to probe gingerly at the opening. "Nyyynggh." Five minutes later, the technique worked and he gave his body a chance to adjust, refraining from clearing his throat or coughing, which would only start up the headache again. Then he proceeded to maxillary sinuses and finally he cleared his ear tubes, at last allowing himself a thorough hawking and spitting over the side of the raft. Really, he must treat Luminara to dinner for those lessons.
Anakin slept until late morning before lurching to his knees in the unsteady raft. "Gotta go, Master. Don't look." Obi-Wan and Anakin knew each other's habits so very well; Anakin had a shy bladder. Obi-Wan did as he had done on innumerable occasions and closed his eyes.
"Of course, Padawan."
By midday, the river had narrowed enough for them to spot jungle on each shore, multi-trunked trees festooned with tiny-leaved vines that had pale yellow blossoms. Shrill screams called across the water to them, evidently from flittering birds in large flocks. Now and again a groaning roar echoed. Narrowing the river had increased its speed and instead of a smooth ride, little bumps marked their progress. To avoid spinning, Obi-Wan traded coxswain duties with Anakin on an hourly basis, leaning into the paddle made into a rudder. It all could have been a vacation rafting tour had not the Billaqori Congress of Tribes been meeting in six days to discuss whether or not to allow Republic forces to establish a base near their equator. "Reps, not Seps," chanted a few groups of demonstrators in the holovid shown during the briefing last week.
"Show the Billaqori the Republic way of doing things, Obi-Wan. You and your Padawan have an opportunity to demonstrate how democracy works, in reasoned debate and persuasion. Yet, if the Billaqori prefer the Separatists' way, be gracious in defeat, but before you leave," Mace Windu's voice hardened, "show them the Ohma-D'un holovid. The unedited one with the dissolved Gungans, the one even the Galactic Intruder refused to broadcast."
"Yes," Obi-Wan said slowly. "I hear now that the Gungans show it to their younglings from first school year onward. They pledge each morning to remember the atrocities."
Mace nodded grimly. "As they should." His face turned stony. "Before leaving their system, wait just out of orbit. I predict old Strenghis and his Cabinet would call you back double-quick."
Anakin had held his peace with difficulty. Indoctrination. Jar-Jar was responsible for this policy, he was certain. The last time they had seen him, Representative Binks' overweening attitude galled Anakin and disturbed him a bit. The lack of political training, much less ability, spurred Binks to bouts of patriotic speeches and even Boss Nass deferred to him sometimes. Padmé indulged Jar-Jar, Anakin thought, when she placed him on Propaganda committees. She wanted him out of her way, certainly. and designing slogans to go with enormous floating billboards must have seemed innocuous. Anakin wasn't so sure. He'd speak with her the next chance he got.
The river continued.