Gladiator 7:
Fear Things Brought to Light
~ The Sojourner 3 ~

By Rina

10/27/99

Warning: Violence, death, and rape - not graphic, but it's there so be wary.

Disclaimer: Don't own them, George Lucas does. If I did they would have had a much happier ending! The planet Golgatha as well as the general idea of the Arena and the Games are borrowed from Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series - no copyright infringement intended as no money is being made off of this.

Two figures met on a broad featureless plain. Illumination came in the form of flickering light the shade of green that appears before a violent storm. There was no shelter, no protection from the approaching tempest, only the men and the harsh landscape of a shattered mind.

Eyes the exact same shade of blue-green met and held, each daring the other to be the first to look away. It was a battle of wills, of inner strength, and neither could afford to be defeated.

"You are afraid of me." The younger of the two spoke first. He was still more boy than man, slowly settling into his body, possessing the innate awkwardness of one who is not quite comfortable with who he is. His clothing was ragged and torn, tears in what was formerly an agri-corps uniform revealing a slim body covered in angry cuts and bruises. His expression held pain and defiance, but also a glimmer of hope, of life. Lusterless sandy red hair hung almost to his shoulders, falling forward to hide half of his face before it was nonchalantly flipped back out of the way.

The older man remained silent. Clad in well-worn black leather, a sword on his hip and a multitude of weapons at his disposal, he should have felt supremely confident - but he didn't. He recognized some of the injuries on the boy, wore scars in the same places on his body, though he lacked the knowledge of what had caused them. The body itself was the same. He was an inch or two taller, possessed more scars, and was harder of muscle tone, but the small subtleties of movement were identical. "Why should I be? You pose no threat to me."

"If you really believed that, you wouldn't be doing this. You would simply accept me and what I offer."

"You do not offer me anything that I want."

"Then why did you agree to go through with the removal of the block?"

The fighter made a dismissive motion with his hand. "There was no other way. Too many questions remained unanswered. Questions only you know the answer to."

"We lived the answer," the young agri-corps worker replied as he moved closer. "Tell me why you want to repeat it."

Ben studied the sky, watching as sullen spears of lightning cast a glow through the bruised looking clouds.

The younger man watched him for the space of a dozen heartbeats, a quiet contemplation that spoke of an inner serenity Ken'ba had never known. "It's because of him, isn't it?"

"Who?"

A small smile greeted the hissed out word. "It all circles back to him, you know. We would not have become what we are now but for what happened at Bandomeer. It is only fitting that he be the one to set the reconciliation in motion."

"I don't understand what you're talking about."

"Then take my hand, and see." The boyish smile widened into one of welcome as the younger man held out his hand. "See and learn."

"Fuck." Ben closed the distance between them in a single fluid stride. His hand closed around the other man's; scarred and callused fingers gripping their slightly smaller and less hardened twins.

The sky exploded, raining jagged forks of lightning down around the men. Power built until the atmosphere hummed with it. The smell and taste of ozone filled the air - a dangerous, portentous miasma. There was no shelter, no refuge. Violent winds twined in a cyclone of destruction, whirling closer, seeking to flay flesh from bone with their fury. In the center of the maelstrom, the two figures remained standing, hands linked as they braced against the tempest.

The landing platform was crowded. Bustling life forms hurried this way and that, loading belongings onto the cruiser or offering tearful farewells to loved ones leaving on trips or for other assignments. Obi-Wan shifted his shoulders slightly as he grinned at the approach of his old friend Si Treemba. His newest Agricultural Corps uniform may only have been a few months old, but it was already tight across the back and short in the legs. Not that he minded the reminder that he was growing; it just proved hard on the credits when he was continually having to replace parts of his wardrobe (or what there was of it) because they didn't fit any longer.

"Obi-Wan!" the Arconan cried, giving the young human a hug and pressing a small bag in his hand. "We were worried that we had missed you in the crush. We wanted to wish you luck on your next posting!"

"Thank you, my friend, but didn't you do that last night at the party?" Obi-Wan teased, "or did you drink so much that you can't remember?"

"We were not drunk! Not like Dar Milanee who cannot stand up this morning," Si Treemba retorted, stifling a giggle at the thought of the older Arconan staggering down the hallway singing an obscene drinking song at the top of his voice.

Obi-Wan clamped his lips together, trying unsuccessfully to stop his own laughter. Seeing the attempt for the failure it was, he hugged his friend tightly, then stepped back. "I shall miss you. We had some adventures here, didn't we?"

Si Treemba frowned slightly, remembering the wildest of their 'adventures'. "We only hope that the trip to Etralia will be calmer then our last voyage."

"No draigons or Hutt this time, please!" Obi-Wan laughed, ignoring the tiny secret ache inside him. It was the only reminder he allowed himself of what he had lost on that trip. Of the dreams that had died when Master Jinn had left the planet without taking him as his padawan.

Two weeks after that journey, he turned thirteen. Packing up his lightsaber and sending it back to the Temple had been difficult, but he had remained calm, almost detached. Accept what you cannot change and go on. Maybe if he repeated that enough, he would finally believe it.

"Obi-Wan?"

Si Treemba was looking at him curiously and the farmer ducked his head, feeling the heat of a blush stain his cheeks. "Sorry, was just thinking is all."

The Arconan nodded at that. "We understand. Changes make everyone think of the past."

"I can only hope that I can find friends as true as those I have had here."

"Have, Obi-Wan, have. Never forget that we are and always will be your friend." Si Treemba clasped the other young man's forearm, then took a step backward. "The ship is almost loaded, we must go now. Take care of yourself, we shall miss you."

"I'll miss you too. Maybe we'll see each other again someday."

"We will count on that."

Obi-Wan started toward the cruiser, then turned and raised a hand to wave at his friend when he reached the foot of the ramp. The Arconan called out a final farewell, then vanished in the crowds on the platform.

Settling the carrystrap of his satchel over his shoulder, Obi-Wan opened the small bag Si Treemba had given him then laughed aloud at the sight of the fruit it held. "Adventures indeed, my friend," he chuckled softly, remembering the night they had spent in the orchards not long after arriving on the planet. "And many more to come."

"C'mon Obi! We need a fourth for the game an' Sarrla's too drunk to sit in!"

"You just want another chance of getting the rest of my credits you mean!" Obi-Wan laughed as he tossed his datapad on the table and rose to follow the other man toward the rowdy group surrounding the largest table in the lounge. Maxen was eighteen, a tall, lean, dark-haired young man who flirted equally with women and men alike. By silent agreement he was the leader of the small group of teens who formed part of the agri-corps delegation heading for the new colony world of Etralia.

Grinning at the loud hails of greeting that accompanied his arrival at the table, Obi-Wan slid into place between the two other players. Har Nevad was a lanky dark-skinned youth from Correlia who always managed to pluck a winning card from thin air when he needed it most. On his right side was Tolin Ch-horu, a young woman whose pale violet skin and golden eyes had haunted Obi-Wan's dreams since they had met three weeks ago.

Manus and Darak, two thick-bodied types from a heavy gravity world, lounged nearby, calling out advice and making sidebets as they watched the gaming. T'alona, at twenty, the oldest and most seasoned of them, divided her attention between the sketch she was in the process of creating and the star-streaked view from the viewing portal. The final member of the group, the Rodian Sarrla, was sitting in a chair leaning back against the wall, his bare feet dangling six inches off the floor. His breath was a raspy snore that verged on the edge of annoying but never quite reached that point.

The eight of them made up a tenth of the agri-corps personnel on the cruiser. Early on, realizing that there was little chance of meeting any other young folk during their rotation, they had formed a tightly knit group. Personal foibles or eccentricities (such as Har's penchant for talking a subject to death if he was allowed) were handled by light teasing or good-natured resignation, and, as a whole, they got along well.

Their days were spent studying the geology and ecology of the destination (a planet commonly known among the younger farmers as 'Ick-tralia' due to the holo-images they had seen of it). The undergrowth covered a nutrient rich layer of mud and mulch. It was their task to stabilize the terrain by introducing other species of plantlife, ones that would leech enough water from the soil to firm it without depleting the resources.

It was going to be a long, arduous task, which was why such a large contingent of workers had been assigned to it, but it also looked to be a very profitable one when complete.

Tolin favored Obi-Wan with a warm smile as she dealt out the next hand. He managed to smile back without blushing too badly, then turned his concentration to his cards, studying the patterns before him. Opening bids were made, discards made and replacement cards dealt with Manus and Darak calling out bits of information that were of no help at all to any of the players.

The evening wore on and the advantage shifted hands several times along the way. The pitcher of Nelanga beer was emptied several times. The jokes grew more ribald and the cardplay sloppier with each refill. Sometime during the evening, T'alona had called it a night, gently reminding her younger cohorts that they did have duties the next day before she headed off to the cabin she shared with Tolin.

Obi-Wan was considering turning in himself at that point. He was about even as far as wins and loses fell, and if he went to bed now he'd still get enough sleep so that he wasn't too exhausted come morning. He laid his cards on the table and opened his mouth to speak when the whole ship shuddered violently, throwing furniture, cards, and gamers to the floor in a tangled mess.

"What the hells?!" Maxen exclaimed, rubbing the back of his hand across his bloodied nose as he scrambled to his feet.

"Damn, my arm!" Har exclaimed, cradling his right limb to his chest, his narrow features tight with pain.

"What happened?" Manus and Darak slowly extricated themselves out from under the still oblivious Sarrla, propping the Rodian up in the corner of the room and staring out at the now unmoving starfield.

Warning claxons hammered to life, causing all the young folk to cover their ears. They weren't loud enough, however, to hide the muted thud that announced another ship had come into contact with theirs.

He may not have continued his Jedi training, but Obi-Wan knew enough not to ignore the pulse of danger he felt through the Force. Pushing the toppled chairs from around him, he pulled Tolin to her feet as he stood, shivering with the strength of the warning. "We need to get out of here," he whispered, feeling the sense of dread growing with each passing second.

"What happened?" Darak repeated, hoisting Sarrla to his feet as if the green-skinned youth weighed nothing at all. "We weren't scheduled to stop until we reached Etralia."

"We'd better go check in. Find out what's going on." Maxen fell into his leader role, pushing his way toward the door, giving the others someone to follow.

Manus and Darak fell in behind him, supporting Sarrla between them. Har glanced over at Obi-Wan and Tolin, then followed, taking care not to jar his broken arm.

"We need to get out of here," Obi-Wan said, this time in a louder voice.

Tolin looked up at him; alarmed by the vehemence with which he spoke. "That's what we're doing, Obi. The commander will know what's going on, c'mon." She tugged gently at his arm, but was surprised when he held back.

Obi-Wan's eyes were clouded and he shook his head from side to side, sending loosened strands of his hair into his face. "Not that way, they're there, can't you feel it?" A dark chill had invaded the ship, one that was slowly inching their way, intent on devouring their souls if it could.

"Feel what? Obi-Wan, what are you talking about?!"

Maxen shouted for them from out in the hallway and the violet skinned girl glared at her friend in frustration. "We'll never find out what's going on in here, now are you coming or not?"

"I - " For the first time in two years, Obi-Wan wished he had his lightsaber at his waist. This was a transport cruiser, there was no weapons on board, and he had the terrible feeling that they would be needing them soon. "I'm coming." Better to stay together then run off alone; at least this way he would know where the others were.

"Good." Tolin slipped out of the door ahead of him, darting down the hall after the others. Obi-Wan took the time to take one more look out the viewport. A scream had him racing out of the lounge in the direction of its source.

The heavy scent of blaster fire hung in the air, the dense smoke growing more pervasive the farther Obi-Wan moved down the corridor. Every instinct was telling him to turn and run the other way, but he moved on, instinctually crouching, making himself as small a target as possible.

"Don't hurt her!" He barely had time to recognize the voice as Manus's before the sound of something solid impacting with a softer object sounded, followed by a low moan and raucous laughter.

"No lip or there will be more of that coming your way. We need the merchandise whole, but the buyers don't care if it's a little bruised..."

Another moan sent Obi-Wan careening around the corner, intent on helping his friends. The first thing he saw was Manus curled on his side on the floor, his arms wrapped around his torso. To take down a heavy worlder like that took incredible strength or concentrated effort.

"Don't ya just love it when they come to us?" The question snapped Obi-Wan's attention to the men surrounding his friends. "Get over here kid, and you'll avoid ending up like that one there." A heavily booted foot nudged the youth lying on the floor while the movement of a blaster backed up the motion.

Maxen's green eyes cut to a part of the corridor that Obi-Wan couldn't see, and the older boy swallowed visibly. "They mean it, Obi," he whispered his voice hoarse and strained.

For a moment, Obi-Wan was tempted to cut and run, counting on speed to help him escape to get help. Then one of the invaders shifted, giving him a clear view of what Maxen had looked at and he felt the beer he had downed earlier rise in his throat. Har's body lay there, looking somehow smaller in death, smoke still curling from the massive scorch wound that covered his side.

The member of this boarding party that seemed to be in charge smiled thinly as he saw the young man staring at the corpse. "No need to take the wounded on. No medical facilities for cargo, costs more than it's worth." Still obviously amused at the horror his captives felt, the slaver prodded Manus with his boot again. "Better get up, young one, or you'll suffer your friend's fate as well."

Ducking under the hand that grabbed at his shoulder, Obi-Wan darted forward, avoiding the kick aimed in his direction as he reached the blond boy's side and grasped his hand. "C'mon, 'Nus, lean on me. We'll be okay." He could feel the others in their group watching him, could feel Darak's desire to go help his lover and his anger and frustration at the slaver who was holding him immobile.

Tolin was weeping silently, trying to ignore the way her captor's hands roamed over her chest as he restrained her. Maxen earned himself a cuff on the head for daring to object to her treatment.

Once all the prisoners were secured with binders, the slaver in the lead started them moving down the corridor. Sarrla was only partially conscious and the others had to bear his weight to keep from dragging them all to the floor. A small trickle of blue ichor wept from a darkened patch of skin on the Rodian's skull, staining the collar of his shirt and making the others worry for his health.

Obi-Wan, who was trying to think of any way out of this mess, gave Har's body one last, grief-stricken look before he was hustled away.

Their route took them past the doors to the living quarters. Crashes could be heard coming from some of the rooms and pained groans from others. The door to T'alona and Tolin's room was ajar and the younger woman paled as she heard the harsh grunting from inside that almost drowned out the soft, feminine whimpers of pain.

It was too much for all of them. By the time they were herded to the breached airlock, the young people were in a state of shock. Sarrla wavered in and out of consciousness, so he missed most of the atrocities the others witnessed.

Those who were injured or considered too old to bring a good price on the block were executed without a second thought (though if they were good looking enough, they were shared around the invaders first). The crew was executed as a matter of course. There was too much of a chance they would find a way back to the Republic given their skills and no one wanted to take that chance.

They passed other groups of captives as they were hustled into the subdued lighting of the other ship. The corridors were narrow and twisted at odd angles, though whether it was by design or accident, Obi-Wan couldn't say. He lost all sense of direction, concentrating only on staying on his feet and helping the others to keep from stumbling as their captors had the tendency to strike out at those who didn't keep pace.

The slaver who seemed to be in charge of the group keyed open a door and pushed the boys through as the others removed their manacles. He neatly pulled Tolin out of the line, keeping an iron grip on the girl's arm. She gave a small shriek of fright, fighting against his hands to rejoin her friends.

"'Lin!" Obi-Wan whirled around, trying to reach her even if it meant going through the larger men first. He made it two steps toward the door before a fist crashed into his face, sending him sprawling on the floor, blood streaming from his nose, his eyes glazed over.

"No, don't let them, pleasseeee..." Tolin's screams for help faded away as the door slid back into place, trapping the five young men inside with their fears and helplessness.

There were four of them now. Sarrla had lapsed into a coma, never regaining consciousness. The second day into the voyage, the slavers had hauled his unresisting body out of the room when they brought in food for the others. They never heard from or saw him again.

Manus sat in the corner of the cell, holding his stomach. Any attempts at eating resulted in an immediate regurgitation of blood-stained vomit and the boy had finally stopped trying to keep anything down. Darak hovered over him constantly, trying to ease his pain or get him to take small sips of water.

"He's hurt bad," Maxen whispered to Obi-Wan. "I think they ruptured something inside when they kicked him."

The younger man nodded. Now more than ever he wished that he had better control of the Force. He could heal himself and help others to mend, but this - this was beyond his capacity. "They aren't going to help him, are they?" he asked, keeping his voice as low as possible so as not to disturb the other two.

"No." The dark-haired youth's tone was somber and defeated. "What's the point? He isn't of any use to them."

"Maybe - maybe we'll get to wherever we're going before - and someone there will be able to fix what's wrong."

Maxen shook his head at that, but didn't do anything to disabuse Obi-Wan's hope. He still doesn't understand, he sighed to himself. Maybe it's best that way.

Manus died two days later; screaming out his agony through blood-flecked lips as the others tried to do all in their meager power to help. Darak killed himself that night, sawing at his wrist with the ragged edge of his belt buckle while the others were asleep.

They woke to find him lying in a pool of blood, his sightless eyes turned toward Manus's body, the other boy's hand clasped tightly in his.

The slavers were not pleased with the loss of a healthy specimen and took out their frustration on the other two in the cell, employing laser whips that didn't mark the skin, but seared nerve endings until they begged for any kind of relief. The days merged into a never ending blur, broken only by the arrival of food and the sporadic torments of certain guards. Finally, it may have been anywhere from two weeks to a month later - the boys had given up counting - the incessant hum of the hyperdrive ceased.

All curiosity had been beaten out of them, so Obi-Wan and Maxen simply sat there, waiting. Their captors arrived, impatiently motioning them to their feet. Their wrists were circled with binders once again and they were pushed out of the cell, both much thinner and cowed then when they had entered it so long ago.

They joined a ragged line of captives, and while Obi-Wan thought he recognized one or two other people, he really couldn't be certain. Already the cruiser trip seemed like another life or something that had happened to another person.

The captives shuffled forward; one or two showing enough energy to snarl or spit at the slavers and earning themselves blows to the head or stomach for their trouble. The door at the end of the hallway kept opening and closing, devouring a single person at a time. None of the slavers ever went in and there was nothing to indicate what lay on the other side of the portal.

When Obi-Wan's turn came, he crossed the threshold only to be blinded by a bright light. Disoriented, he struck out with his manacled hands as he felt his clothes being stripped from his body. A blast of water; first scalding, then freezing, forced a shout from his constricted throat. The former Jedi initiate tried to calm himself by chanting the mantra against fear. It didn't work any more then it had the previous times he had attempted it during the voyage.

The sonics came on, forcing the water from his body, and rough hands grabbed his head, holding it immobile. The low purr of a razor reached his ears, then the use-dulled blades swept over his skull, shearing off his matted and tangled hair.

A thorough physical inspection followed, leaving not one inch of Obi-Wan's body unexamined or probed. Question were fired off at him during this period, ones that earned him a shock on the soles of his feet if he didn't answer quickly enough or in a wholly truthful manner.

After an interminable time, the barrage ceased, there was a sharp stinging as something pierced the skin over his right shoulder blade, and the youth was pushed through another door. Here he was handed a pair of shorts and told to dress. Another door, and he was in some sort of holding pen, mingling with other men, all wearing similar garments and identical looks of confusion and apprehension.

"Obi-Wan?" the whispered question came from another young man, whose yellow-tinged eyes stood out in sharp relief against his gray skin. "Is that you?"

"Theron?" He'd been introduced to the older man when he had first boarded the cruiser and had shared several shift rotations with him. As he had been a supervisor, he didn't socialize with the regular workers but he had seemed likable enough. Now the Zarabakian was pale and thin, looking little like the man Obi-Wan had known. "Do you know what's going on?"

"It's an auction, and we're for sale." The agri-corps official paused until he was certain the other man understood what he meant. "What about the others? Have you seen any of them?"

"They killed Har, Sarrla and Manus. Darak killed himself after that. Maxen... we were together until they brought us here but I haven't seen him since. Tolin was alive the last time I saw her..." He shuddered, remembering her screams for assistance when she was separated from them. "T'alona - I don't think she made it off the ship." The grunts and whimpers from her cabin filled his ears and he struggled to block them out.

Theron nodded sadly at that. "They only want those they can be sure of selling at a profit, anyone else is just so much useless weight."

"But why?" Although he was much less sheltered then when he left the Jedi Temple two years ago, Obi-Wan still could not comprehend what drove people like this.

"Because as long as there are customers, there will be people willing to take the risk to supply them with slaves." The older man looked around them, from the other half-naked captives to the guards who were watching them. "I wonder if those of us who died weren't the luckier ones."

Unable to take any more of the other man's morose commentary, Obi-Wan moved away from him, searching for Maxen or anyone else he recognized. The press of other bodies around him was maddening and only grew worse as he moved forward, drawn toward the one exit by the push of the crowd behind him.

"Next up!" A collar clamped around Obi-Wan's neck and he was dragged forward, out of the comparative safety of the group and onto a brilliantly lit stage.

"Our next lot is Number 23-64-V. Human male, 15 years standard, whole and uncut." Here the auctioneer paused to allow the bidders to study the lot. Noting several looks of interest, he continued. "Trained at the Jedi Temple, so he's Force-sensitive; this is indeed a rare lot, gentlebeings. A prime candidate for bedding or as a bodyguard. The medics assure me that he will grow several more inches and will fill out so do not be concerned with his current appearance."

There was something familiar about the auctioneer's voice. If he could only center himself, quiet his thoughts, Obi-Wan knew he could remember where he had heard it before. He tried to turn to see the man, but was brought to his knees by a blow from a padded staff.

"Still not completely trained, but that is part of the challenge with this type." Rich laughter rolled over the audience and Obi-Wan was hauled back to his feet so that the bidding could begin.

This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. His humiliation was completed with the removal of the one garment he wore, his body offered up for examination by the most interested bidders. Rage kindled deep within him and grew, refusing to be blocked by the well-conditioned methods of dealing with negative emotions.

A scaled hand wrenched his jaw open to examine his teeth, and everything exploded. Buoyed by a wave of the Force such as he had never felt before, Obi-Wan struck out, smashing the alien's hands away, breaking his manacles apart in the same motion. He whirled, kicking aside the staff the guard swung at him, then grabbing it and charging at the fleeing patrons, aiming blows at any of them slow enough to get within his reach.

He leapt from the platform, flipping over one guard and smashing the jaw of another one with a quick thrust with his staff. The door was just ahead and once he was through it he would run until he was free, until... Bands of the Force wrapped around him, holding him immobile, scarcely able to breathe. They remained in place as he was dragged back to the platform and dumped there, still struggling furiously to free himself.

"Well," the auctioneer chuckled, glancing at the prostrate boy, then out at the nervous crowd. "That certainly provided our excitement for the evening. I did warn you that he would be a handful, but there are ways of working around that as you well know. Now then, the last bid was..."

"I will take him."

All heads in the room turned to stare at the woman who had spoken and a low ripple of commentary spread outward as she was recognized.

She named a figure that had several of the other bidders blanching and the auctioneer grinning. "Is there a counter-offer?" None were forthcoming, so he signaled the bidding closed. "Sold, to Bidder G127. I wish you well with him."

"Thank you, darling, he shall make quite an interesting diversion once he has been properly trained. Restrain him and bring him to my ship." The regal looking blonde studied her new purchase for a long moment, then turned in a swirl of expensive furs and brocade, and left the room.

New, heavier manacles were fitted around Obi-Wan's wrists, and only then did the Force binding around him relax. "Good luck young one," the auctioneer chuckled as the younger man passed him by. His blue eyes sparkled with malicious glee and he rubbed a thumb over an old scar on his cheek. "You shall find Golgatha nothing like the Temple."

Obi-Wan trembled with the desire to wipe that sneer off the dark-haired man's face but he knew any try was useless. The auctioneer was the one who had channeled the Force so effectively, that much he could tell. Promising himself that one day he would make this man pay, Obi-Wan committed his face to memory, staring at the broken circle that marred his cheek until the guards forced him out the door.

The trip to Golgatha was spent in the confines of a tiny cabin. He was given far better food than he had been offered on the slaver's ship, and clean clothes to wear, but the manacles stayed on almost constantly and no one spoke to him.

Fear for himself, for his friends, for the future, began to gnaw at Obi-Wan until he thought he would go mad from it. Where were they taking him? He had never heard of the planet Golgatha, had no idea of what to expect and the uncertainty more then anything was getting to him.

Meditation didn't help. Every time he tried to relax into the flow of the Force, Obi-Wan saw the auctioneer's cold eyes and felt the constriction of the bonds around his body. After many attempts that ended with this result, he gave up even trying, unable to bear the continual failure.

He ate because he was punished if he didn't. He slept because that seemed the only release from the hell he was trapped in. Far-fetched plans of escape or rescue filled his thoughts and dreams but vanished like so much vapor at each entrance of the heavily armed guards.

The woman who had purchased him stopped by infrequently, usually accompanied by several lackeys who hovered nearby, waiting for an order or request from her.

She never said anything, simply studied him, her dark brown eyes holding both cruelty and contempt for the pitiful shows of defiance Obi-Wan attempted. On the last visit, though, the routine changed. "Do not worry, darling," she had purred, catching his chin in her hand and forcing him to look into her eyes. Her nails dug into his jaw until thin streams of blood ran from the crescent-shaped cuts. "Soon you won't remember any of this, all you'll know will be serving me and you shall do so gladly."

Something in his expression must have amused her, as she released him at that, smiling thinly as she ran her fingers across his chest, leaving red-tinted streaks in their wake. "Soon, my little fighter, tomorrow you will be reborn and your new life will begin."

Icy laughter chilled the stark room even more as the woman swept from the cell, her retainers trailing in her wake. Obi-Wan backed slowly away from the door, shuddering and nauseated. He wanted to wrap his arms around himself, but the manacles made that impossible. A premonition of impending doom enveloped him and the young man flung himself at the door, screaming himself hoarse and pounding at the durasteel until his hands were bruised and bloody.

Some time later, after he had collapsed in a miserable huddle in the far corner of the room, the lock disengaged and the door slid open. Hushed whispers roused him from his stupor and he blinked at the two forms entering the cell.

"... no harm in it. Won't remember anything come tomorrow anyway. Besides, he's a slave, who cares what happens to him?"

"But he's her slave. You know what she does to people who damage her belongings..."

"She won't find out if no one tells her. I know you've wanted a piece of him since he came on board. Now's our chance."

Obi-Wan watched the two guards approach through barely cracked eyelids. The door to the cell was ajar; if he could catch them off guard, he could get out of here, find an escape pod somehow get free of this hell his life had become.

"Mmm, you're right, he is a choice piece. Not going to have any chance at him once we make planetfall either."

"Exactly," the first guard chuckled. "And you can even go first."

"Am not going to turn that down!"

The shadows bent over Obi-Wan and he bolted into action, scrambling around them and darting for the door. A heavy hand clamped over his shoulder, yanking him backward, away from freedom.

"O-ho! Trying to get away, little one? Now why would you want to do that? Aren't we allowed our fun?"

The breath left Obi-Wan's lungs in a painful gasp as he was thrown to the floor on his stomach and summarily stripped of his clothing.

"Nice, very nice..." one of the men commented, running a hand over the youth's back and buttocks, then wrenching his legs apart. "This will be worth it."

This wasn't happening, it couldn't be, it... Searing pain dragged a scream from his throat, one that was cut off by the closure of a meaty hand over his mouth.

"Keep quiet and I'll let you breathe, slut." The words were growled in Obi-Wan's ear as the pounding agony continued, each thrust ripping into him, pulling his mind farther and farther from his abused body. One thought kept repeating in his thoughts, one thought that kept him anchored to sanity. "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"Obi...Ken...bi..."

"What is he babbling about?"

"How would I know? We're just supposed to take him to the med bay, not listen to what he's saying."

Obi-Wan flinched as the guards grabbed him, dragging him out of the cell and down the corridor. He didn't offer any resistance, only continued his half-whispered refrain. This continued as he was hoisted up onto an exam table and subjected to a body scan.

The med tech grumbled something to himself, and adjusted a few settings, letting the droids repair the internal damage the boy had suffered before returning to the task at hand. "Now just lay back, this won't hurt a bit - or if it does, you won't remember when you wake up."

"Ken...Ben... Ken...ba"

The whine of the laser drill overshadowed, but didn't completely block the tormented scream that took up where the recitation left off.

The mental howl tore through Qui-Gon's pleasurable dreams, yanking the Jedi Master from stated lethargy to total awareness in an instant. The bed next to him was empty and he flung the blanket aside, leaping to his feet in search of his bondmate.

"Ben?" His voice echoed back at him, a mockery of the intamacy they had experienced the night before. The scream still echoed through his mind and, even as he strode into the other room to look for the younger man, Qui-Gon knew he was alone.

Crushing emotions swirled around him, bringing the Jedi to his knees with their intensity. "What have you done?" he groaned, pulling his hands from his throbbing skull and dragging himself back upright, fighting the pressure of the other man's thoughts.

"Damn fool. Why couldn't you have waited? Didn't have to do this alone..." The words were grunted out between harsh gasps as Qui-Gon yanked on the first clothes he found and raced out of the room.

The time to face his past was here; he only prayed he was ready for it.

~end~

  since 02-04-07

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