Down the Wrong Path: Prologue

            Obi-Wan Kenobi coughed, even sneezed a couple times, as he blinked his eyes open, cautiously as he knew through the Force there was still a fair amount of dust and dirt raining down on him after it followed him into the hole.  Everything around him was dark, which was to say he couldn’t see a damn thing.  Either he’d fallen so far that the hole was just a speck far above.  Or, and he wasn’t sure which would be worse, the hold had been covered, by something or someone. 

            Stretching out with the Force, he could get a vague feel for the dimensions of the cylinder he’d fallen into.

            “Cylinder?” he asked the dust motes still cascading around him.

            Obi-Wan pushed himself into a crouch and spread out his arms.  He took a small step to his right, then another, and another, until his fingertips grazed a cool, smooth surface.  Not only a cylinder, but a metal cylinder.

            He ran a hand over his face, ostensibly to remove dirt, but also out of habit, a key to exasperation Jedi aren’t supposed to express.  The great General Kenobi, literally fell into a grafnar trap.  Someone really didn’t want him scouting the planet for the rumored hidden Separatist base, and he didn’t even sense it.  Perhaps the rumors were more than correct.  Perhaps they had found where Count Dooku had currently planted himself.  He patted dirt off his robe.  Still, even with Dooku somehow twisting the Force to hide his presence, that was no excuse for a Jedi Master missing a simple trap originally designed to capture a creature with a brain the size of a child’s fist.  Anakin was never going to let him forget this. 

            “Well, no point sitting in the dark.”  Again, the dust motes simply listened.

            Obi-Wan unclipped his lightsaber and animated the blue blade with a sharp snap-hiss.

            And immediately was surrounded by thousands of small insects that appeared to materialize out of thin air.  Their buzzing quickly drowned out the noise of his lightsaber as they swarmed it and him.  He moved gracefully, then hastily, swinging the blade to incinerate the winged creatures as their numbers seemed to solidify the horde around him.  The buzzing only took on an ominous tone.  He was only making them very, very mad.

            They roared around him, biting and pinching any exposed flesh, crawling into his hair and clothes.  Obi-Wan couldn’t see, let alone concentrate well enough to summon the Force.  Without a choice, he hastily extinguished the blade, freeing his hands to swat the little buggers from his face until he got enough clearance to clear his mind and summon the Force to less gently blast the creatures out of his hair, clothes, and general vicinity. 

            Now in complete darkness, his heavy breathing soon overtook the buzzing.  And then, all was silence once more.

            “What the blazes was that?”

            No one answered him, of course.  Worse, he couldn’t even sense any living creatures in the hole besides himself.  Just the dirt and the metal, which wasn’t making a big impression on his senses.  Actually, now that he focused on it, he couldn’t sense much of anything besides himself.  He wasn’t getting any sense of the world back on the surface, although he knew the tropical area he’d been scouting was teeming with life.

            “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he muttered, and moved to reignite his saber, only to pause.  Why hadn’t the insects swarmed earlier, when he first disturbed their nest by falling into it?  Were they only disturbed by his lightsaber?

            Steadying himself, feeling the Force flow through him and around him like a cool breeze on a hot summer day, Obi-Wan tossed the saber into the air, caught it to hover several meters over his head, and ignited it.

            As if waiting, the insects roared out of the cylinder’s walls and swarmed the blade, amassing so quickly and thickly the hole was plunged back to near darkness.  But he could still see.  And with the swarm diverted, he turned his attention to the walls. 

            The metal was just a dull gray, but not as smooth as he’d first thought.  He ran his fingers across it, pressing harder, and found the surface to be pot marked with holes, just smaller than his pinky.  He tried slipping his littlest finger into one of the holes, to see how far back it extended.

            “Ouch!” he yelped, quickly withdrawing it.  An annoyed insect buzzed at him and joined its swarm. 

            Obi-Wan brought the finger closer to his eyes, to see better despite the darkness that seemed to be spreading thanks to the horde.  He could just make out redness where he’d been bitten.  He turned his hand over, and noticed more red splotches.  And on the other hand.  And some of them were welting up, turning gray in the center.  A quick sweep of hand over face confirmed they were there as well.

            “Wonderful, the Negotiator done in by a swarm of insects,” Obi-wan mused, lips pursed.  “Anakin will love this.”

            Ever the prodigy of composure, Obi-Wan called on the Force further to stem the flow of the poison in his blood, to keep the darkness – he now recognized as not being caused by the swarm around his lightsaber – from overtaking his eyes.  And more importantly, he shifted his attention back to his besieged saber, flipped it vertically, and pushed it forcefully upwards.

            The insects trailed the rapidly ascending saber like a comet’s tale.  The blade sunk deep into whatever obstruction was covering the hole.  Closing his eyes, which were rapidly becoming very useless anyway despite his Force-administration, he saw the blade sticking into the obstruction and deftly began turning it around in a corkscrew, spinning the blade from the middle outwards.  He concentrated hard, split between keeping the poison from his heart and keeping the blade moving. 

            More and more dirt clomped around him, and he allowed himself a fleeting moment of gratitude that the covering did not appear to be anything more than a dirt plug.  Soon large clods of dirt were bouncing around him, which he made no move to protect himself from.  They were the least of his worries.

            He suddenly felt no more resistance on the blade and ventured to open his eyes. 

            Still surrounded by darkness, he now saw a speck of light above him.  It didn’t appear very big, but he brushed that observation aside as an effect of the poison.  Obi-Wan recalled his faithful blade to his hand.  He only had one shot at this.  His fingers and toes were going numb, and he could feel his heart beginning to slow.  If he hadn’t had the Force as his ally, he was certain he’d have been dead before he even had this shot.  So summoning all the Force from the life he again felt stirring above him, he launched himself at it.

            He couldn’t see where he could land, and trusted that the Force would help him make sure he didn’t just end up going straight down.  As it was, he landed on his side and skidded through mud and some very thorny underbrush.  He didn’t feel much of the thorns.  Wouldn’t know they were there if it wasn’t for the Force.  He just lay there, glad to be able to sense the Force again, and concentrating, like he’d never done before.

            He had to go into a trance, that was the only way he could turn his whole attention on the poison.  He only hoped Anakin or one of the squad would pick up his signal, as he weakly triggered the homing beacon on his comlink.  So he lay there, silently withdrawing into himself.

            But before completely blacking out, he had the vague impression that he was being watched.  By something of great intelligence.

            And then, all became black and silent once more…

Chapter 1…