Li'wa dashed around the room, searching for clothing that had, of course, in the middle of an emergency, disappeared. The kitten dashed around her ankles, just scared enough to make herself a nuisance beneath her caretaker's feet, before darting under the largest object in the room. She pulled on her clothing and rushed outside, amidst the panic and mind screams of the students.
She knew that in the time of disaster, the Temple would be well prepared. There had been shelters constructed out of the hardest material known in the galaxy to be used in only extreme emergencies. As the building continued to shake, Li'wa decided that this was obviously an extreme emergency. A tremor large enough to shake the entire Temple walls was not something to be ignored.
She opened her mind and felt the instructions given by the Council. Many of the members were directing the Knights and their Padawans out onto the landing platforms and off planet.
*Master?* She added her voice in the offer of assistance.
*Help evacuate the young ones, you must,* Master Yoda's voice floated back to her.
*The Masters? You must leave as well.*
*Leave we will, when all are safe.*
*Time to argue, it is not.*
*On my way, Master.*
Li'wa did not like the fact that he and the rest of the Council would stay behind, but she had been given no choice in the matter.
As the door slid open, she turned around to see two beady eyes peeking out from the darkness. She sighed in frustration, and reached for the ball of fur. All she received for her efforts was a hiss and a bloody scratch running the length of her arm.
"Damn it to the seven Corellian Hells!" she hissed. She stood, grasped her cloak and wrapped it around the hissing animal, pinning its claws so that it would do no damage to her or anyone else she came into contact with. She could feel the brief touch of Master Yoda's mind and his approval of her decision.
She stalked down the crowded hallways with her bundle, carefully avoiding the Knights who rushed past her, determined looks on their stoic faces.
*Qui-Gon, what is going on?*
*One of the reactor cores beneath the planet has exploded. It's caused a chain reaction affecting everyone in this section of the city.*
*You mean the Cores that supply the power to the planet?* Her gasp was audible over their link.
She took a deep breath. Not in living memory had the reactor cores so much as leaked power from their bowels. They were situated deep underground; pulling the energy needed to illuminate Coruscant from the planet's very core of molten rock. In turn, the reactors converted the heat's power into energy that could be used all over the planet.
*Was it deliberate?* She was almost afraid to ask.
*No one knows. We are working on it.*
*I'm on my way.*
*No!* The command caused her to come to an abrupt halt as she reached the lifts that would take her to the landing platforms.
*What? Don't you even think about leaving me behind on this one, Master.*
She could hear him sigh across their bond. *All right. Get to Senate headquarters immediately.*
*On my way.* She rushed to another lift that would take her to a different vessel, one not leaving the planet.
When she reached the small ship, she launched herself into the pilot's seat without looking to see if the ship already had a pilot.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but I'll be glad to take you to headquarters," a rough voice rumbled from behind her.
Li'wa whirled and smiled. "Please hurry. I need to assist my comrades."
He took her place as she stood, and fired the throttle.
"Please strap in. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
She sat in the copilot's chair and strapped herself in, grumbling in annoyance as the covered kitten in her arms howled to get free.
"You can put that baby in the back cabin if you don't want it to get away." She could sense his amusement and hear it in his voice and she chuckled.
"Thanks, I just might do that."
They quickly reached the Senate Headquarters. The tremors had stopped momentarily but that didn't mean the problem was fixed. Clearance had been granted for her to attend a closed session of the Chancellor and his advisors. Qui-Gon greeted her before entering.
"So what's happening?"
"They are just about to begin. Good timing." He led her into the chamber and she was surprised to see a few of the Council members present. She was hoping they would have evacuated the planet with the Padawans. Speaking of which, she turned to Qui-Gon and he cast her a knowing smile. He'd pulled the thought from her mind.
*Obi-Wan is on the transport.*
*Mine I would assume?*
*None other. Someone else has to keep that little hellion company.*
She laughed along their bond. The cat was Sith-spawn and she knew Obi-Wan wouldn't have the patience to deal with it.
*He is never going to forgive you.*
*Yes, he will. He'll just find a way to get me back.*
*You knew about that animal and you didn't tell me. I should be the one thinking of ways to get you back.*
*You took the animal from Depa, it's not my fault you didnt consult me.*
Chancellor Valorum addressing those gathered in the office cut off her smart remark.
"Thank you for coming. I had hoped that something like this would never occur, but since it has, we have limited provisions set up to counteract the problem." The man looked around at the gathered men and women. He was a diplomat and a politician to the last. No emotion whatsoever clouded his features or his mind. Right now, the facts and the information needed to be disseminated to those gathered as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Gathering himself and his thoughts, Valorum continued. "It appears that a saboteur has tampered with the underground reactors. The planet core has become unstable with the heat. Core crews are attempting to temper the reaction but the fires are burning out of control. We have sent word off world for anyone close enough to ship us as much extinguishing compound as they can spare."
"If they fail, what will happen?" Li'wa questioned and all heads turned toward her. She felt very small, and silently wished she had thought before she spoke.
Valorum smiled at Qui-Gon and turned kind blue eyes on the woman. "Greetings, young Knight. I am pleased that the Jedi have sent so many important representatives to help us combat this situation."
He nodded to every Jedi Knight present. "In answer to your question, the planet will internally combust, destroying everyone and everything on the surface. In theory, the planet itself could be destroyed."
"If we release the pressure building within the core slowly, we could relieve a bit of the stress on the rock layers," Qui-Gon offered.
Valorum conceded the platform to his expert theorist.
"Yes, we could release the pressure, but in doing so, we could give the reactors more of an outlet for oxygen and thus fuel the fires even more. By keeping it contained within, the fires are simply burning the core, where there is fire and heat anyway."
Li'wa narrowed her eyes. Those gathered began to murmur amongst themselves.
"But, there is a problem with that as well."
The crowd silenced.
"The gasses being released due to the fires is not a natural occurrence since it is so deep within the planet. It is superheating the core, causing the tectonic plates beneath the surface to melt and shift."
"Causing the tremors." Qui-Gon nodded in understanding.
"Yes, Master Jedi."
"Bode well for the city, this does not," Yoda murmured, exchanging glances with the rest of the Jedi present.
Half of the Jedi Council had been sent off world, others were still yet assisting to evacuate the Temple. Yoda and Mace were the only two Council members present.
"Is the entire planet being evacuated?" Li'wa asked, her attention split between the Chancellor and diminutive Jedi Master.
"It would appear necessary," Qui-Gon added, turning to Valorum. "The reactors cover the planet, do they not?"
"Yes, indeed, they do."
"Assist in the evacuation, the Jedi will," Yoda nodded, preparing to leave. He had heard enough; no more information was necessary.
"We thank you, Master Yoda." Valorum bowed deeply and every Jedi in the room could feel the sincerity in the gesture.
"Master Qui-Gon, Jedi Li'wa." Windu turned to face the couple. "Please assist Chancellor Valorum in whatever he needs."
The hairless Master turned to the Chancellor. "And may I suggest you evacuate the planet as soon as you are able."
"I will go when the last person has been evacuated." The tension the statement caused could have been cut with a lightsaber as Valorum's advisors turned to protest.
"Take our leave, we will." Yoda rose and made his way toward the large double doors. " May the Force be with us."
At a mental probing from the diminutive Jedi Master, half of the gathered Knights excused themselves after the Masters. A few Jedi, Master Qui-Gon being the ranking Knight among them, remained.
"It's going to be difficult evacuating the planet," Qui-Gon observed. "The city is large, not only in width, but in height as well."
"Yes," Valorum agreed. "We have every available transport relaying people to larger ships that wait in orbit. We're working as fast as we can."
"The lower levels," Qui-Gon began, and he could feel the contempt and disdain radiating from a few in Valorum's cabinet at the mention of those beings.
The Jedi Master pushed back his disgust with their reactions and continued. "They will need to be evacuated as well. This is a large task, one that will require the assistance of everyone possible."
"All visiting dignitaries were evacuated some hours ago, Chancellor," an aide volunteered. "Most of our fleet has moved into safe position away from the planet and transports and dropping in regular intervals to pick up those waiting at the designated areas."
"Are those areas accessible from the lower levels of the city?" Qui-Gon asked, turning piercing blue eyes on the jittery aide.
The man took a deep breath before responding. "No, Master Jedi. The transports are set up to retrieve passengers only from the higher levels."
Qui-Gon 's eyes flashed, causing the aide to step back. Li'wa cast a curious glance in her lover's direction. She could tell through their bond that he was irritated. The lower levels of the city, as it was built over the millennia, had turned into cesspools for the less fortunate residents of Coruscant. Many would not only have no way of knowing what was happening, but also no means of transportation to leave the planet
"The Jedi will have use of some transports," Jinn turned to Valorum, his voice terse with anger. "We will take care of the lower levels of the city. I would hate to have your people be subjected to the varying degrees of poverty located there."
Qui-Gon turned to the Knights waiting patiently beside and behind the Master.
"I will outline a plan that will enable us to evacuate them in the most efficient way possible. Send out a communiqu specifically directed into the lower levels, informing the people what is happening. Give them an easy way to find pickup locations. And scatter them around the city. I don't want them to have to travel far to escape."
The gathered Knights nodded, bowed in respect and left to carry out their task.
Qui-Gon turned back to Valorum's aide. " If you have no desire to put these people on your ships orbiting the planet, I suggest you find me some empty ones that will be willing to house them for an indefinite amount of time."
The man was about to speak when Valorum took a step forward to answer the Jedi Master. "Transports will be made available for everyone evacuating the planet."
"Thank you, Chancellor," Qui-Gon bowed deeply to his friend. "We will take our leave. Contact me if there is anything else that we can do."
Li'wa followed as Qui-Gon turned toward the ornate double doors.
Valorum lifted his head, causing his voice to carry a bit further. " There is."
The Jedi turned at once, their cloaks billowing out from the sudden movement.
"I'd like a Jedi to accompany the crews to the reactors to see if there is anything they can do to save this planet."
Li'wa could feel Qui-Gon's deep breath, his hesitation in answering. To Valorum, there was no hesitation.
"When does the next crew leave for the reactors?"
"In two hours."
"We will grant the request. You will have your Jedi escort."
"This could very well be the last mission this Jedi completes." Valorum wanted to make it perfectly clear that he did not think this Jedi would make it back alive with the rest of the crew.
"I will make that clear."
Valorum nodded as Qui-Gon turned on his heel and strode out the doors, Li'wa close behind.
"You aren't thinking?" The doors had no sooner shut than Li'wa stopped short, causing Qui-Gon to do the same.
"Li'wa.." A wry smile split his lips. It seemed as if he knew she would protest. "A request has been issued. I, as a representative of the Jedi Council, cannot refuse."
"You won't come back." Li'wa's eyes brightened with determination. She wasn't going to let him go so easily.
"How often do you go on missions in which you fear you will not return?"
He chuckled, reached up to brush the back of his hand against an inflamed cheek. "I'll return, if only to see that you do not torture my Padawan."
Obi-Wan rounded the corner, a determined look on his young features. "There is no chance that she won't do that, Master." The boy's eyes held a sadness, something very unlike him.
Qui-Gon had kept their mental link open, so that Obi-Wan could hear what transpired in the meeting.
"You've been quiet. That is unlike you. What do you have to say?"
Qui-Gon knew his Padawan's silence had to do with what was discussed. He had abruptly cut off the link before they exited the chambers. Now Qui-Gon knew why.
"I don't want you to go." The boy leveled his eyes at his Master. "And if you go, then I will accompany you. No arguments." Qui-Gon was about to object when a sense of protection and love washed over him from both sides. Li'wa and her intense passionate love, Obi-Wan with a growing man's admiration and love for a mentor. Neither of them wanted to see him die. And neither of them was going to allow him to go without a fight.
"And I will be right beside the both of you." Qui-Gon opened his mouth to object only to find a slim finger pressed to his lips. " And don't bother to argue."
"Then it will be up to the others to evacuate the lower levels," the outnumbered Master conceded. "As much as I don't like this idea. I can see when I am outnumbered."
"Wise decision." Li'wa continued walking, as the two men exchanged glances.
"We don't have much time," Qui-Gon muttered, arching his head back to direct his next comments to Obi-Wan. "Gather the bare essentials from our quarters. Li'wa and I will meet you there."
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan turned away and strode down the opposite lift which would take him to a waiting transport.
"And what we going to do?" Li'wa's eyes sparkled as she stopped, causing him to skid to a halt.
"We are going to make sure that those transports are indeed picking up citizens living on the lower levels of the city."
"How are we going to do that? Stow away on one?"
She shook her head when he said nothing, simply moved around her and continued walking.
"No, Qui-Gon don't even think it." He didn't stop until she wrapped slim fingers around his wrist and pulled him backwards.
"Send another Jedi. You can't do everything yourself. Prepare for this mission which we, most likely, will not be coming back from."
His eyes were soft as he gazed down at her lovely face. The hallways had emptied, everyone having already evacuated, so there was no chance they would be interrupted.
Her fingers slid into his hand, holding it tightly. "I don't want to lose you now that we've"
He bent and kissed away the comment, his lips sliding easily over hers, devouring the words he didn't need to hear. She leaned against the wall, pulling him against her. He held her tightly, bracing his bent knee on the wall beside them. Her hands tangled in his mane, pulling him deeper into the kiss. Her tongue slipped into his mouth, warring with his own.
"We can't," his voice rumbled in the back of her mind. But his actions did not mimic his words.
"Quick," she whispered, arching her hips into his groin.
"Li, the mission," he murmured against her lips, fighting against the growing erection in his loose fitting trousers.
He was spared a response as the decision was made for him. The rumbling sounded like twisting metal as the floor rolled beneath their feet. Qui-Gon was shoved off balance into Li'wa, and he immediately shielded her from the flying debris with his massive bulk.
"We don't have any time to make sure the people are evacuated from the lower levels," Qui-Gon hissed over the scraping sounds.
The building was re-shaping itself with the tremors, with themselves, and probably most of the Chancellor's cabinet, still trapped inside its walls.
Li'wa nodded. "We need to get down into the reactor and see if there is anything that we can do to prevent these tremors from tearing the planet apart."
Qui-Gon flipped on his comlink. "Obi-Wan, I want you to see to it that the lower levels of the city are evacuated. Once completed, get off this planet."
The comm crackled with silence, as if the young Padawan was considering refusing to let his Master go down into the reactor without him.
"Master, I don't--"
"Padawan," Qui-Gon's voice was harsh, demanding. "You will do as I say. We don't have time to disagree."
"Yes, Master." Again the hesitation and Li'wa could feel Obi-Wan's indecision.
As Qui-Gon moved to sever the connection, Obi-Wan's voice came across one last time. "May the Force be with you, Master."
Qui-Gon smiled at the boy's restraint. He could tell Obi-Wan was upset about not being included. Qui-Gon was simply not willing to place his Padawan in this kind of danger. He was too young to die, and the Jedi Master knew another would take over where he left off, should he die with Li'wa in the reactor.
"And you too, Obi-Wan."
He turned to Li'wa. "Let's go."
The two ran down the corridor, their cloaks billowing out behind them like dark clouds.
Tremors continued to rock the building and Qui-Gon opened his comlink again, this time contacting Chancellor Valorum's personal guard.
"This is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn," He didn't wait for a response. "Get the Chancellor and the cabinet out of this building and off planet now!"
His tone left no room for argument but the link was cut before a response could be received.
"The low level transmitters must have been knocked out," Li'wa commented as they rounded the corner to the landing platform.
"There are many along the way. I'll keep trying to switch to another receiver that can get a signal back to the Chancellor."
The large double doors slid open and the Jedi were met with harried core workers and the most horrendously beautiful sight that they had ever seen. From high atop the Senate Headquarters building, they could see the city below and the brilliant array of colors spiraling into the sky. The tremors had caused many less stable buildings to collapse onto their foundations. Buildings that should have been torn down, but instead had been built up over the decades had been the first to crumble. The weight on their foundations had been too much to bear with the continuous shaking of the unstable ground. Small and large fires alike had begun in other buildings as the brilliant multicolored smoke and flames spiraled into the already darkened sky.
"Oh, Sith," Li'wa cursed, watching the flames consume the buildings as if they were made of the most flammable wood.
"The heat radiating from the core is causing the ground to become even more unstable," the chief core technician greeted the Jedi. "It is melting the ground, for lack of a better word. And we need to get down there and find a way to cool it."
"We will be accompanying you." Qui-Gon extended his hand. "I'm Qui-Gon Jinn and this is Li'wa Bucali."
"An honor to meet you, Jedi. I wish it could be under more cordial circumstances. We are ready to Deppart. Please get on board."
The Jedi nodded and followed the technician onto the small transport.
"We've managed to procure two cooling hoses from neighboring systems and we are going to try to counteract the reaction with the spray. With such a large fire, we don't know how successful it will be."
"Perhaps it would be to our benefit to wait as long as possible for more of these cooling hoses to arrive?" Qui-Gon asked. He was not fully versed on how these reactors operated and wanted to be absolutely clear before he and Li'wa began to tinker with machinery he did not fully understand.
"That would give the fires time to spread. By using the hoses, we will be able to stop the fire from reaching parts of the reactor that are untouched. If we do nothing, then the fires will spread and it will be too late."
"It may be too late anyway," Li'wa commented, taking her seat and locking the belt securely around her body.
"Indeed it may." The man sighed, taking his place across from the Jedi. Turning, he spoke into the comm unit.
"Secured. Take off."
The steady path of the ship changed as soon as the vents to the underground tunnels were opened. Superheated air was released, buffeting the ship, testing its shielding. The temperature within the cargo areas doubled, and Qui-Gon could feel his clothing dampen immediately.
*I love you, Li'wa. Don't forget that. No matter what happens.*
*Well, if it is our destiny to die together, than there is no place I would rather be. I love you too.*
The ship was sucked into the air vents, its shields holding against the scalding temperatures.
"We will be dropping in on the other side of the walls." The captain offered. "It won't be so hot and it will be easier for us to unload men and equipment."
Large underground transport doors slid open, admitting the small craft. Several more opened and closed, enclosing the ship and its crew in the underground dangerous depths. The landing platform groaned under the weight of the small ship, its structure weakened by the heat radiating from the core.
Donning protective suits, the Jedi and technicians waited as the landing ramp was lowered. A blast of hot air rolled up the platform, striking the group, knocking some off their feet.
Only the Force and balance formed from long years of proper training, kept Qui-Gon and Li'wa standing. The temperature was manageable with their cooling suits. The fires had not made it to these structures yet. Others began to unload the hovercraft and speeders that would carry the coolant hoses to their designated areas.
More heavy blast doors greeted the group as they ventured deeper into the core of the planet. Several opened with little resistance, until they came to another one, which looked seriously like it was melting from the inside.
The head technician's voice cracked over the comm headsets they wore. "As soon as those doors open, the hoses are going to activate. They are set to go off when a room reaches a certain temperature."
"I'm surprised they haven't gone off already," Li'wa muttered, beads of sweat rolling down her face. "It's hotter than a sauna in here."
Klatt grinned, pointing at the door in front of them. "It's even hotter in there."
"Are you sure opening them completely is safe?" Qui-Gon asked, concerned that the flames would rush in and burn everything to a crisp before the hoses could smother the fire.
"We have no way to control the doors. They open all the way. There is no middle ground." Klatt explained sadly.
"The designers made a big mistake with that one," Li'wa muttered with a frown.
"What can we do to help?" Qui-Gon asked, determined not to send any discouraging thoughts to the workers.
"I'm not entirely sure. You are not trained to use this equipment. I don't know why the Chancellor requested that Jedi accompany us." He stared hard at the Jedi. "He has condemned you to death with the rest of us."
"We'll find a way. I can't believe this is how the Republic Government is destined to fall." Li'wa stared at her lover. The words sent shivers down her spine but she couldn't place the reason for the feelings.
"Sir," Another workman rushed up to Klatt. "We can't open the doors."
"The locking mechanism is fried."
"Let us help with that." Qui-Gon stepped forward, Li'wa following closely.
*Concentrate and see if we can open the doors.*
*es. Just enough for the hoses to smother what they can of the flames.*
"Activate your hoses and get ready," Qui-Gon bellowed as the doors groaned at the pressure the Jedi put on the metal.
The workers readied their speeders and flipped the switches necessary for the coolant to be released once there was an opening in the doors. The doors groaned and the sound of metal grating on metal was ear piercing. Seconds before the fires could be seen, Klatt yelled a warning to the Jedi.
"Step back! The gasses will..."
He was unable to finish the sentence as the doors opened wide enough for the poisonous gasses to escape with the velocity of a megaton torpedo. The Jedi and the rest of the workers were thrown back against the adjoining wall like dolls; many mercifully rendered unconscious from the blow.
The lifts carrying the coolant quickly reached the temperature where manual operation was not necessary and activated with a hiss. The liquid barreled out of the hoses, smothering the flames licking at the unconscious forms of many of the workmen. Qui-Gon crawled over to Li'wa, flexing his arm where it had been twisted in the explosion. He turned her over and smiled. The woman was wide-eyed with fear, something he had never before seen in her eyes.
"That didn't work!" she hissed, struggling in the protective suit, to stand.
Qui-Gon helped her and they quickly assessed the rest of the men. Some had just been tossed aside and were uninjured; some had badly broken bones where their bodies had collided with the blast door. None, mercifully, had been killed.
"Those gasses need a place to be vented," Qui-Gon yelled over the roar of the coolant.
That, at least, was doing the job of containing the fires to the other side of the doors.
"We've discussed that." Klatt frowned. " There is no place that we can drill to vent it."
"We have a choice," Qui-Gon muttered. " Either vent this into a less populated or already evacuated part of the city, or risk the stability of the entire planet."
"There is still the problem of who started the fires," Li'wa offered, dodging the slippery mass of the coolant as it dropped from the overhead hoses.
"We can investigate that after we have put out the fires."
"It appears to be working." Klatt smiled, watching as his men chased the fires through the doorway.
"How many have been closed off because of the fires?"
Klatt sighed. "Almost all of them."
"And how many is that?" Li'wa asked.
"Servicing the entire planet, about twenty-four."
"Ah, hells!" Li'wa grumbled.
"You don't have enough coolant to put out that many fires," Qui-Gon stated.
"No, we don't. We need at least two per reactor. These are doing nicely. But they will be empty soon."
"What is the ETA on more arriving from off world?"
"Not soon enough." Klatt frowned.
"Then bring in your drilling equipment and drill air vents into the ground above us."
"Master Jinn, with all due respect, that would cause"
"And we have no time to argue. We must weigh the good with the bad." Li'wa smiled as Qui-Gon put the man in his place.
Klatt was a good man, but he was apparently unwilling to make any decision that might adversely affect his career.
"How many people will be killed if we vent these toxic, explosive gasses into a less populated part of the city?"
"Depends on where--"
"I wasn't finished," Qui-Gon interrupted, his tone harsh. "Now compare that with how many will die if we wait for coolant to arrive from wherever Chancellor Valorum has put in the request. And we do not know if it will be enough to do the job. We need those vents and we need them now."
"Master Jinn, are you overriding my authority?" Klatt was looking for a way out of this obviously bad decision making process.
"If I must, I will exercise my authority as an Ambassador of the Jedi Council. I am responsible for the safety of those in my charge. Chancellor Valorum would not have requested my presence if he wanted the Jedi representative to simply stand by and watch."
"Then I will consider myself relieved of responsibility for what you are suggesting we do."
"Yes." Li'wa stepped forward to defend her love. "Qui-Gon will take full responsibility for killing however many people this plan of his requires. Their deaths will not be on your head, have no fear." Her tone dripped sarcasm and Qui-Gon gripped her wrist.
"Look at your plans and find out where the least populated areas of the city are, get back to me as soon as you find out."
Klatt took one last look at the dimming firelight though the other door, and rushed to carry out his task.
*Obi-Wan.* Qui-Gon concentrated on reaching his apprentice.
*Master? What's happening? How are...*
*Silence. I need you to tell me what areas have been evacuated so far. What areas have the least amount of people per square foot? Get back to me quickly.*
*Working, Master.* Obi-Wan paused during his frantic search. *The outskirts of Amalda Province. There are observatories there and artificial greenhouses. They are surrounded by virtual businesses.*
Qui-Gon sighed. The Amalda Province housed rare and endangered, and sometimes one of a kind, plants, flowers and trees, unable to be found elsewhere. Destroying them would be a shame.
*We can't knowingly destroy all of those rare, endangered plants.*
*And then there are the expensive resorts located around the domes.*
*A person's status within a community does not dictate in a crisis whose safety is more important.*
*I know, Master.* Obi-Wan could feel his Master's frustration.
*Keep looking and let me know what else you find.*
Klatt returned amidst another tremor, which tossed him into Qui-Gon's massive bulk. The Jedi Master held the much smaller man until the ground beneath their feet became steady once more.
"I cross-referenced the location of the fires burning in the five reactors with their locations if we were to vent each of them."
"It sounds like you had thought of this plan earlier," Qui-Gon stated.
"Yes, but I felt it was too dangerous to act upon."
"And for the gasses to be vented, where would the holes need to break the ground on the surface?"
Klatt took a deep breath. "Too close to the center of the city. The Senate Headquarters, Chancellor's building and the Jedi Temple are all under main reactors."
Qui-Gon closed his eyes. "Show me the readouts. We will determine how many vents we must drill based on the need and the danger of the fires burning in each reactor."
A thought just smacked Klatt over the head and his eyes brightened with fear. "What about the oxygen we will be feeding the fires when we drill?"
"This is all going to have to be taken into account." Qui-Gon sighed. "I am not the expert with this. I expect you to come up with something that will alleviate this problem."
"That is easier said than done," Klatt muttered, casting another look at the data pad.
"Why can't we stuff coolant down the tunnels as we drill from above, so when the gasses are vented, the fire will be smothered before it reaches the surface?" Li'wa offered, her eyes bright with hope. Her suggestion sounded good.
"That's an idea. But the fire will follow the gasses up at an alarming speed. It's possible that it will burn the coolant hoses before they can do their work."
"Flood the vents we dig with the coolant?" Qui-Gon suggested.
"But then what would happen is the gasses would shoot it up like a volcano when they are released, doing no good whatsoever."
Li'wa frowned. This man was shooting down every single one of their suggestions and she was getting fed up.
"Then we are left to coating the hoses with flame retardant materials until we can put the fires out."
Klatt put a hand to his ear, trying to make out the voices crackling over his headset.
"I believe the coolant has arrived from neighboring systems."
"Then get drilling. Make sure that the surrounding areas where the vents are going to be dug are covered as completely as possible with flame retardant liquid."
"Buildings are still going to burn, Master Jedi," Klatt frowned. "There is no preventing that."
"But we can minimize the chances."
"Yes, we can." Klatt backed down with an exasperated sigh.
The tremors began again, this time knocking everyone off their feet. Fortunately, the fire in reactor four had been put out, but the strain on several surrounding doors had been doubled with the shaking of the ground once again.
"Those doors are not going to hold!" Li'wa exclaimed, gripping Qui-Gon's forearm as he helped her to her feet.
"Let's get back out into a safer area." Qui-Gon backed toward the exit.
"Yes, you can't do any more down here. We will carry out your instructions and hope that it works." Klatt turned away and began shouting instructions to his men.
Their task completed, the workmen followed the Jedi out the doors, leaving one man behind to monitor the reactor and the damage done to it because of the fires.
Qui-Gon turned to Li'wa. "We need to find out who set this chain of events into motion."
"You can say that again," Li'wa agreed with a nod.
As the doors slid shut behind them, glowing eyes appeared in the darkness behind the technician left to monitor the reactor. Searing pain from the deathblow caused the man's eyes to widen in shock. The blow through his chest silenced any scream of horror that would have torn from his throat.
A black-gloved hand pushed the lifeless body over the edge of a charred railing and into the molten core of the reactor.
No body, no questions.
When they reached a less toxic portion of the underground reactor, the Jedi removed their breath masks with a gasp.
"Whew! Always hated these things!" Li'wa breathed, surveying the area.
"They will begin drilling soon. We'll need to stay out of their way."
"I'm sure we'll be able to feel it when they begin."
"Not until the bit's near our location," Qui-Gon countered and Li'wa could see that fatigue marring his brow. "Let's get back to the ship and see where they have decided to drill."
They found Klatt, hunched over a console, looking at a flat 3D image outlined in red. The overworked technician looked up as the Jedi entered.
He pointed to the specs he was standing over. "The red spots are where we are going to drill. All the preparations have been made and we are hoping this works. If not, it could cause a chain reaction and suck the oxygen into the underground tunnels spreading the fire.
"Three vents and two are going to be put out by our coolant systems."
"We are going to try." Klatt sighed. "We are going to try drilling one vent first and see how it works. We want to be able to keep our resources in one place should we need them. There will be extra vats of coolant waiting on the surface should explosions occur."
"You've thought of everything. There is nothing else to do but wait."
"And pray we don't become one with the Force much sooner than we had planned," Li'wa muttered.
Qui-Gon wrapped a large hand around her waist and she leaned into the small, but comforting, embrace. Klatt noticed the gesture but ignored it and began tapping instructions into the elaborate computer console in front of him.
"I can control all of the coolant systems from here if need be. But I will need your help if the temperature goes up in one area."
Qui-Gon took a step forward. "What do you want me to do?"
"Just keep your eye on these readouts. If the maximum allowable temperature is exceeded, then we need to increase the coolant pressure or need to activate it. I can't watch all the monitors."
There were vid cameras placed at each drill site and live pictures were being transmitted on short-range transmitters recently re-embedded in the stone.
The cameras set up at each drill sight allowed those inside the ship to watch the progress as each task neared completion.
Qui-Gon tensed as the vents were drilled deep into the ground. Li'wa noticed this and rested her hand on his wrist, stroking it in an effort to calm him. She could feel the muscles bunch under her touch, and she began to rub his wrist and arm.
*People are going to die today, Li'wa, regardless of the decisions made today.*
*You are not responsible for those who die, my love. You've done everything in your power to make sure that people were evacuated before they began drilling.*
Li'wa wrapped her arms around his waist, oblivious to the blank stare Klatt was bestowing upon the couple.
*We simply ran out of time. We had to drill now or risk internal combustion.*
His arm tightened around her shoulders as they stared at the screens. The drills were nearing the pressure point and soon the gasses would be released, along with the fire, into Coruscant's atmosphere.
The ground shook violently as the first vent was opened, poisonous gasses rolling out the vent. Coolant was being hosed in from fire retardant tubes, smothering the fires burning within the reactor.
"So many will die just from the poisonous gasses released," Qui-Gon sighed.
Klatt turned to look at the distressed Jedi Master. "Yes, but the fire did not escape the vent! The coolant worked."
"We have sent word to have the Chancellor's personal toxic investigations and cleanup teams surrounding the areas to make sure the gasses and toxins do not spread. I believe the damage will be minimal."
The next two vents were created simultaneously with little or no problems amidst a sigh of relief from all involved.
"I hope you are right," Qui-Gon murmured as the ground shook, moments later, with another violent tremor. The next vent was finished by the gasses pushing their way through the weakened soil, sending dirt and debris into the air with the force of the escaping gas.
Fire followed the toxic gas, fueled by the oxygen rushing into the vent. The bright flame was an enormous contrast to the dark of the city buildings. The power had been disconnected hours prior, and as darkness fell over this portion of the planet, the flames reflected off the sheer glass of many high rise buildings.
The glass closest to the drill sight was shattered instantly with the force of the escaping toxins and the tunnel of fire that was released into the open air. The vid feed was instantly fried and the small group watching beneath the surface could only wince in despair, knowing that their worst fears had been realized. They turned to the live feed coming in from the foolish videographers who had stayed behind to capture this sequence of events for all to see.
As the cameras panned over the vent, all that could be seen were charred debris. Buildings had been rocked off their foundations and had crumbled beside and over the vent. The only thing keeping the vent clear was the steady stream of fireballs being released from the reactor.
Coolant engines could be seen rushing to the area, spraying the liquid extinguishing compound into the vent, hoping to put the fires out from within. It worked, for a time, and then the fires would explode once again, sending fireballs into the atmosphere.
"We have one more to go, but the drilling is taking longer than expected." Klatt sighed. "Apparently there are harder minerals and stone here that we are having a more difficult time drilling through.
"The stone should be cool and make it more difficult for the fire to escape, " Qui-Gon offered, still unable to take his eyes from the destructive scene in front of him.
Qui-Gon's eyes narrowed. Sudden feelings of deception and deceit radiated within the Force. Li'wa felt it as well and they turned to Klatt.
"What is it?" The man narrowed his eyes.
"Your saboteur is still down here. I can feel him."
Klatt's eyes widened. "Here? That would be foolish. Seeing as we don't expect to live through this."
"Perhaps neither did he," Li'wa remarked.
Suddenly the ground shook again as the last drill broke through rector room four. The stones did cool the fires and the coolant did the rest of the job, smothering the flames before they could reach the surface. For now, there was only one reactor burning out of control. The rest had been effectively put out by a combined effort of planet side crews and underground reactor technicians.
"Get into the reactor rooms and drop the temperature as low as possible!" Klatt shouted into his comm unit. Communication with the planet side workers was shaky but transmission was now possible without transmitters.
"We want to make sure there is no way for the fires to ignite again."
"May I suggest you keep the coolant spread between the five reactors?" Qui-Gon directed his full attention to Klatt. "Until we catch whoever started these fires, there is a danger that he may set them off again."
"I agree. Are you going to look for him?"
"Yes, as soon as you give the okay. "
Klatt smiled. It appeared Master Jinn's authority over the situation had just been transferred back into rightful hands. "As soon as we pump out all the toxic air from the reactors, we can let you in to investigate."
"How long will that take?"
"A few minutes. Most of the gasses were released into the atmosphere, so it shouldnt' take long."
He turned his attention back to the fire still burning into Coruscant's starry night. Fueled by the molten core of the reactor, the abundant oxygen supply in the atmosphere, the fire burned and crackled, toppling anything within its range with its fury.
The fear, barely hidden, could still be felt and Qui-Gon was anxious to begin looking for the culprit who had started the fire. Klatt turned back to continue giving orders to his crew as Li'wa stepped forward to put her arms around Qui-Gon's waist.
*Soon. Soon we will find out who has done this.*
He turned within the circle of her arms and bent to press a quick kiss to her parted lips. She held him tightly when he moved away, her tongue probing, requesting entrance, her fingers squeezing his back. He sighed and her tongue slipped into his mouth, tasting, exploring. He responded by covering her mouth with his own, enveloping her within his arms. Passion sparked between them and only the violent shaking of the ground was enough to jar their minds from their current position in one another's arms.
The last reactor suddenly leapt to life, giving off more fumes, fire and sparks than it had been before. Something had been added to fuel the fire, and it was not something natural that would have come from the planets molten core. Someone had added flammable chemicals and now the fire was burning even further out of control.
The dark clad figure slipped through the blast doors with a smile. Settling the helmet over his head, he made his way toward the next reactor.
There would not be enough coolant to put out any more fires. By creating ventilation shafts, the Jedi and the Chancellor's technicians had caused more harm than good. The escaping fire and toxins would combine to burn the great and powerful center of the Republic to ashes.
*You have done well. Come home now.*
A voice could be heard in the darkness of the room.
The largest reactor was burning out of control. And this was not the one they needed to have no control over. This reactor powered the Senate Headquarters, the Jedi Temple and many other important structures within the city proper.
Qui-Gon heard the dark voice in his mind seconds before the vidcam in the second reactor room went dead.
A scream could be heard seconds before the cam lost its video feed and the Jedi rushed out of the transport toward the burning reactor.
"I've closed off all the blast doors. Nothing is getting out of there!" Klatt roared. "We've set barrels of coolant outside each door, but we haven't tried opening the last. Let my people go in and release the oxygen so that the fire has nothing to fuel the flames."
The Jedi stopped, clothes covered in sweat, and nodded, allowing Klatt to relay the orders to his technicians.
The dread and death emanating from the doors before them was almost palpable. Li'wa shivered as cool air was piped in from cooling vents around the reactor.
Rendered inoperable when the fires began, the technicians had been working frantically to get them working once again. They too, would keep certain fires at bay should they be rekindled once again.
"All clear." Qui-Gon heard over the crackling of his comm unit. "Be careful. Those fires are s till burning."
As the first layer of doors slid open to allow the workmen through, Qui-Gon and Li'wa shuddered at the intensity of the hatred released by the doors sliding apart.
"Wait!" Qui-Gon raised his hand, the other instinctively resting on the hilt of his lightsaber. "Something is not right."
"Of course it not." An angered technician spat, "Some fool is down here starting these once we extinguish them. What maniac would do that?"
"You put this reactor fire out first. We will search for the being responsible for the fires."
"We need to get in there or it is going to blow the Jedi Temple and the Senate Headquarters right off their foundations!" Klatt argued.
Qui-Gon nodded. " Send your men inside. We will search the other reactors."
"Be careful! We haven't gotten all of the cooling vents active yet so it may still be very hot."
"We are working as fast as we can."
"Then we will make sure that we do not interfere with your work." Qui-Gon stood back and closed his eyes.
Clearing his mind, he focused on the source of the hatred, the dislike emanating from the underground tunnels. Sifting through the technicians' hatred for this situation, Qui-Gon was able to hone in on a different kind of hatred. The energy fueling this feeling caused Qui-Gon to step back, gasping for air. Li'wa was beside him in a heart beat, holding his arm, her concerned gaze burning his own with its intensity.
"Whatever caused this, it was no ordinary saboteur."
"We've cooled reactor three and its surrounding corridors if you ant to begin there," Klatt suggested.
"We will do just that."
Klatt shook his head as the Jedi moved away. "Keep your link open so we can let you know when we have the others cooled."
"We will manage." Qui-Gon said, his mind clearly elsewhere.
Klatt shook his head as the doors slid shut behind the Jedi. "Let's hope you manage to keep yourselves alive."
The corridors were eerily empty; the only sounds were the hissing of over heated machinery and the cooling vents that had been repaired to keep more damage from being done.
They walked slowly, keeping their minds open, feeling where the Force led. There was nothing. No trace of an evil signature left in the cooling corridors.
"What is it?" Li'wa asked silently.
"I don't know. It was something that I have never felt before. But it was something very evil, very dark. Very hateful."
"The stories told to frighten us as small children were all encompassing as that mind met mine for an instant. Those stories told to us as children were not myths, I believe they were a warning of the future."
His voice was calm and cool, but when Li'wa slipped her hand into his, she could feel the slight trembling.
"Those stories are so old I don't think the oldest Jedi Master could remember their origin," Li'wa chuckled, amused that her big, strong love would be scared of a few children's stories.
"Not even Master Yoda does," Qui-Gon turned to stare at her, confused at her amusement. "The tales are rooted in Jedi legend, and precious few lived to tell the tales."
"You think this presence you felt is a being from those legends?"
"I don't know, Li," Qui-Gon sighed, unable to shake the dark feeling the sensations buried deep within his heart.
"Those legends were repeated for a reason, not just to frighten little Padawan's into never succumbing to evil."
"We'll..." She stopped, the vents unable to put out enough cool air to chill her the way the momentary feeling just had.
"What was that?" Her eyes wide, she stared at Qui-Gon, who had felt the same presence.
"That was the stuff legends are made of." Qui-Gon began striding quickly towards another reactor.
"They haven't given us the clear to go."
The doors opened and the cool air greeted them once again.
"I guess they forgot to contact us," Li'wa grumbled, her hand resting on her lightsaber.
"It's possible our links are down. We are moving farther away from the center of communication. They may not have yet rebuilt the transmitters."
"Maybe," she grumbled.
They walked slowly around the second reactor, marveling that there was very little of the main power harnessing equipment left undamaged. It would take a lot of manpower and equipment to get this reactor fully functional again.
"Who would want to do this?" Li'wa asked, astounded at the destruction laid out before her eyes.
"Someone one who obviously wants the government of Coruscant to fall or be irreparably damaged."
They walked in silence for a few minutes, each wondering why someone would want to drive the Republic to its knees.
Each, on their own, could think of only one faction, one group who would want the Republic to fail. But that was impossible. It had been so long that no one thought of this group to be harmful any longer. They had been extinct for a millennia, there was no way that they could have emerged without the Jedi knowing.
Li'wa stopped him with a soft touch to his shoulder. He turned and they could see identical scenarios mirrored in one another's eyes.
"It can't be."
"No, by all that is right and understood, it should not be," Qui-Gon began, taking her hand and rubbing it between his own. "They have been gone for so long, we have become lax in our suspicions. Perhaps we need to look to the unbelievable when there is a problem not easily explained."
"That will be difficult to do." She rubbed a thumb pad over his hand, finally bringing it to her lips and pressing in a small kiss.
"We must learn and adapt as well."
She nodded, casting another look at the empty reactor well. "Let's go find your legend." She slid her arm beneath his and they walked out of the empty room, unknowingly leaving behind a mental signature that the intruder could easily follow.
Qui-Gon reached up to activate the second set of blast doors.
As they slid away with a sharp hiss, Li'wa mumbled, "They haven't given us the okay to look through this one either. But I suppose since we were wrong about the last, then..."
As the last set opened, the warm, uncoiled air slammed into their faces, causing them to blink back the uncomfortable sensation.
Before they could react, a blur leapt between them, shoving Li'wa into the wall between the open blast doors.
With a gesture, the doors began to shut.
Li'wa shook her head and stood, her lightsaber ignited and ready.
Qui-Gon had been pushed toward the reactor railing and one powerful grip was all that held him from tumbling over the side and into the molten core.
The man attacked Qui-Gon immediately, the deep red, almost black, blade arching towards his shoulder. Qui-Gon lifted long legs and managed to kick the man's wrist, deflecting the blade into the railing instead of Qui-Gon's arm.
The blade sliced through the metal railing easily, taking away one avenue of support for Qui-Gon's weight.
Qui-Gon reached to hold on with both hands, as Li'wa raced to help her lover.
Her blade raised over her head to attack, but the helmeted man turned, gesturing and snapped the lightsaber from her grasp.
She stumbled, twisting as the man thrust the deadly blade towards her midsection. All she received for the effort was a singed midsection. She rolled, putting more distance between herself and the deadly blade.
Qui-Gon gathered the Force around him and flipped, unclipping and igniting his green blade as he did so. He landed firmly on the platform and took no time in locating his attacker.
His green blade arched toward the armored body, unaware of just how mobile the being would be in such armor.
Qui-Gon severely underestimated the being's mobility and was rewarded with a back kick to the midsection as his blade connected with the armored shoulderand bounced away.
Qui-Gon blinked back his shock as he fell to the ground clutching his stomach.
He had no more time before the being turned from Li'wa and raised the deadly blade for a killing blow.
"NOOOOO!" Li'wa cried as she reached the red blade seconds after it sliced through the air toward her lover.
Her own blue blade collided with the beings back plate of armor and she heard him hiss, pulling his blade from where it had imbedded itself through Qui-Gon's outer tunic and into the plastasteel flooring.
Another back kick landed to her cheek and she was knocked off her feet, her lightsaber clattering across the walkway. She dropped to the floor, stunned.
Qui-Gon grunted and stood, swinging low toward the man's legs.
He whirled and parried the Master's blade low, reversing the angle and sweeping his blade beneath Qui-Gon's.
The Jedi Master jumped back to avoid the blow aimed now at his midsection. The jump jarred his bruised and burned ribs, where the man's blade had singed his clothing to his skin.
The armored man moved quicker than Qui-Gon thought possible, attacking the Jedi's head.
Qui-Gon stepped back, parrying the move easily and moving himself into position to attack. He pushed the red blade up from the parry and used his arm to push the armored man back. Off balance now, the man stumbled and Qui-Gon pounced, his green blade a blur as it arched towards the man's sword arm. Again, much to Qui-Gon's disbelief, his blade bounced off the armor.
"How?" he mumbled, blinking back the questions. He couldn't let this man gain the upper hand with surprise. Qui-Gon would just have to devise another tactic.
He backed away, getting a better look at his attacker. There was not much of the body that was not covered by armor, and what was not, was well guarded with the deadly lightsaber.
The young woman shook the dizziness from her head and answered her love, hoping the mind conversation could not be heard.
*Find a gap in the armor, attack there.*
Qui-Gon continued to back away, making the armor-clad warrior advance if he wanted to engage.
The warrior twirled his blade, advancing on Qui-Gon. On a downward twirl, Qui-Gon attacked high and Li'wa attacked low from behind.
The armored man leapt over Li'wa's blade and she had to pull the strength behind the swing or risk hitting Qui-Gon.
The man spun away from Qui-Gon's attack and he was forced to pull his blade or dismember his lover.
This gave the armored intruder an advantage and he used it. Flipping over Qui-Gon, he kicked the Jedi in the back, pushing him into Li'wa.
The red blade descended towards the to Jedi but missed as they rolled away from each other. The red blade sizzled through the walkway and Qui-Gon leapt to his feet.
The Jedi Master used a Force push to knock the warrior off his feet, and for the first time the Jedi had the advantage.
Qui-Gon and Li'wa attacked, but the blows they landed were bittersweet as the energy blades simply bounced off the armor.
But the warrior was on the retreat now, unable to gather his bearing, center himself on the battle.
The Jedi pushed and soon they had reached the end of the gantry way.
The warrior opened the first series of blast doors with a gesture and backed into them. The Jedi pushed him back, feeling the heat rising from the inside of the room. Without looking, their opponent opened another set of security doors with the Force.
Li'wa and Qui-Gon exchanged knowing looks as they continued to push the warrior towards the third set.
A silent communication and a nod were all that was necessary before Li'wa attacked, catching the warriors blade and twisting her wrist, flicked the blade from his grasp.
Qui-Gon pulled Li'wa back towards the second set of doors as he triggered the opening mechanism with the Force.
The sound of crackling fire and the smell of melting metal was overwhelming as the man's attention split form the Jedi to look at the wall of fire racing towards him.
Using the distraction, Qui-Gon used the Force to shove the armor-clad warrior into the sweltering
Fire, simultaneously slamming shut the second reactor door to protect them from the one reactor that was still burning out of control.
They could hear the screaming as the doors closed, and rushed from the third one and used the Force to close that as well.
"NOOOOOO!" a female voice could be heard moments before the blast doors sealed themselves shut.
The exhausted Jedi looked up to see another armored being rushing toward them, two lightsabers ignited and twirling effortlessly in its hands.
Qui-Gon and Li'wa barely had time to exchange exasperating looks before the being was upon them, one red blade aimed toward Qui-Gon's head, the other aimed toward Li'wa's legs.
Li'wa leapt over the blade and countered with an attack to the being's shoulder.
Qui-Gon parried easily and slid his blade beneath his attacker's and forced it out of its deadly line.
The slimmer being stepped back, carefully keeping the two Jedi at arms length, but continuing to parry each of their attacks.
This creature was well trained. How she was able to carry on two distinctly different parries and counterattacks with deadly accuracy, Qui-Gon would probably never know. But this was certainly something he would have to learn and adapt to himself. Providing he lived through this encounter.
Li'wa's blade finally got through and struck the helmeted head. The distinctly female grunt there caused the two to step back and break off their attack.
"Who are you?" Qui-Gon breathed, tired from his battle with the first armored individual.
"You killed my father, you will pay!" The woman hissed.
She apparently didn't need much time to center herself and gather her equilibrium because she attacked Qui-Gon with a ferocity that would have knocked many men senseless.
Her anger and lack of center would be her downfall.
Li'wa, having carefully watched for the exposed sections of the armor-clad body, exploited one.
As the woman's blade impacted high above Qui-Gon's, Li'wa slammed her parried blade to the ground, causing the woman's center of balance to shift. Risking being cut off at the legs, Li'wa arched her blade up and caught the woman beneath the arm holding Qui-Gon at bay.
The resulting horrified scream, enabled Li'wa to leap out of the way of the other flailing blade.
The Jedi didn't even watch as one red blade tumbled into the fiery mass of molten rock below.
The armor-clad body backed away, hissing in pain.
"Come with us. We don't want to hurt you."
*You know your duty.* All three heard the ominous voice, echoing around the reactor. But they could not place where it was coming from.
"Yes, Master." The armor-clad woman nodded.
Before Li'wa or Qui-Gon could stop her, she twisted the hilt of her remaining lightsaber and a small cylindrical item slid from it.
Qui-Gon immediately recognized the liquid-filled vial as an extremely potent explosive.
"Get out!" He yelled to Li'wa as the being tossed it, and herself over the railing.
"Oh, Force!" Li'wa turned on her heel and ran as fast as her legs would carry her. She knew what the vial contained as well as Qui-Gon did and she also realized that they would probably not survive the impending explosion.
As they rushed through the first of the blast doors, Qui-Gon shut them with the Force, praying they could reach the other two in time.
They felt the explosion before they heard it.
The ground beneath their feat shook violently, knocking them into the second closed set of blast doors.
Qui-Gon used the Force to open them and shut them quickly, feeling the ripples of power straining the first set of doors. He knew they wouldn't hold.
He took Li'wa's hand as they could feel the force of the blast impact with the first set of doors.
When they reached the third set, they were already open, the sound of twisting metal ringing in their ears.
Qui-Gon shoved Li'wa through it just as the second set of blast doors ruptured from the force of the internal blast.
They could see the fire, metal, and their own deaths, approach as Qui-Gon used the Force to close the third set of doors.
He launched himself through the small opening just as the doors sealed shut.
He rolled and stood running as the explosion struck the thick plastasteel wall.
They could hear the metal being burned, melted and twisted as the force of the blow extended into the catwalks leading to the other reactors.
They were tired, the battle with two unknown and powerful warriors having sapped their strength. They raced down the catwalks, teetering dangerously close to collapse due to the tremors. Their legs began to burn from the exhaustion.
Qui-Gon used the Force to fling open another set of plastacrete doors that to another section of reactors they had previously checked.
The heavy doors slid shut behind them as they heard the rush of the storm approach from behind.
They were thrown to the ground with the shock of the blast, but the thick walls held back any further damage.
He held her tightly as the explosive tremors rocked the underground reactors. Unsure if they would survive this, Qui-Gon whispered unsaid endearments into her ear, soothing her fears as well as his own.
He concentrated, seeing the destruction they had just ran from, wondering if they did survive this, how difficult was it going to be to rebuild.
Fortunately the explosion seemed to be contained within the plastacrete walls, hopefully it hadn't extended into the crust of the planet.
The ground continued to shake and for a long while, they sat their huddled together, calling on the Force to provide a protective bubble around them.
They shuddered from the slight chill that swept over their bodies as the tremors subsided. Luckily, they had sheltered themselves in one of the reactors that had sustained no damage, the cooling vents still pumping out air to compensate for the heat rising from the core. The blast the mysterious warrior had caused as she fell to her death should have killed them. Force knew why it had not.
The two Jedi stood on shaky legs, holding onto each other for support. Their clothes, sweat drenched and sticking to their battered and bruised bodies, made the gusts of air very uncomfortable. Qui-Gon contacted Obi-Wan and explained what happened, while Li'wa leaned against the railing, looking down at the molten core. When Li'wa shivered one too many times, Qui-Gon enveloped her in a tight embrace. Wordlessly, he began to peel soggy layers of belt, stoles, sash and tunic from her body, depositing them on the floor.
"What are you doing?" She arched a curious eyebrow in his direction.
"Removing these so you don't catch a cold. We'll probably be down here to make sure everything's stable for the next few days. I'll make sure Obi-Wan brings us some fresh clothes when he arrives in a few hours, but until then, you need as much of these off as possible.
She took a step back and eyed him cautiously. "You sure this isn't an excuse to get a good look at my prunified body?"
He backed away, shaking his head and turned around before she could catch that familiar glint in his eye.
"It is!" She all but leapt at his back. "Wanna do it here, huh, Master?"
Her voice hid nothing of her amusement as her eyes traveled the length of his backside. She twined her fingers into his belt and gave a sharp tug to pull him off balance.
"It's amazing what a brush with death will do to the libido," she whispered hotly against his neck.
He caught himself and held his stance, moving very little as she tugged at him. She couldn't see the grin that played across his face as she continued to pull. Finally, she gave up trying to turn him around and unfastened his belt. The clasp was, after all, staring her in the face, begging to come apart. Just as, she convinced herself, the rest of his clothing would beg as well. The belt slid to the floor with a clang and she winced.
"Well, the possibility of getting caught does add a bit excitement."
Through their bond she could feel his heart rate quicken. Making quick work of his sash and stoles, she reached her arms around his waist to pull at the ties in his tunic. Expertly pulling them open, she reached up and slid the outer tunic off his broad shoulders. She frowned when he didn't help her, simply stood there, back to her, as still as a statue. The soggy tunic did not come off as easily as she would have hoped.
When she reached around to pull at the ties to his under tunic, her hands skirted the waistband of his trousers. Her cool fingers coming into contact with his wet, overheated skin, sent shudders through his large frame and she could feel his excitement. She hooked her thumbs into the waistband and trailed them around his waist before settling on removing the under tunic. She could feel him shudder once more when she pressed herself against his back, her tongue darting out to taste his salty skin.
She bent slightly to kiss the small of his back before once again sliding her hands around his waist. They caressed his taught stomach, feeling the well-toned muscle mass flex under her ministrations. When her fingers moved to his chest and clamped around a nipple, his whole body jerked, and she chuckled silently. She traced the areola with a feather light touch before pinching the hardened bit of flesh once more. She alternated between the two, bringing the rosy peaks to new hardness.
Her other hand, in the meantime, trailed slow circles on his abdomen, alternating between dipping between his burning skin and the fabric of his pants. When she found the fastenings for them and began to release them, his hand covered hers stopping her movements. He stood unmoving, waiting for her to decide what to do. Instead of fighting his grip, she pulled it down along with her, to brush along a very sizable bulge in his pants. His hand flattened atop hers, guiding her, showing her where he wanted to be touched.
She moved to his back once again, her lips kissing and caressing. His erection throbbed and lurched under her touch, and when his hand released hers, she quickly unfastened his pants and let the sizable member free of its confinement. He leaned forward to grasp the railing for support. Her hands did not immediately encircle the member standing tall at his hips. Instead, she reached around and stroked the sensitive area where his thighs met his groin, rubbing and caressing, sliding her hands over the smooth skin.
His breath caught in his throat and he arched against her light caress. She teased the curls with her fingertips before cupping his sac, rolling it over her fingers. A deep, guttural groan escaped his lips and she stood on her tiptoes to press kisses from his shoulder to his neck. She ran her fingers lightly up his shaft, providing no relieving pressure, stroking him slowly, and deliberately making him squirm under her caress.
When she closed her fist around his cock and began a much firmer stroke, the muscle beneath her fingers vibrated with anticipation. Again, his breath caught in his chest and his thinly veiled control began to snap with each long stroke. She heightened her pace until he could take no more and he all but wrenched himself from her grasp. Whirling, he stripped the last remaining tunic from her shoulders and pulled her into his arms.
"Gods, woman. Are you trying to make me come all over the walls?"
She smiled coyly, arching her hips so that they brushed teasingly against his enflamed shaft.
"Weeeellll..." She cocked her head to the side, as if trying to decide what really was the purpose of her ministrations.
She leaned closer to him, pressed her lips to his ear. "I'd rather you come all over me." Her tongue licked the fleshy lobe before she settled onto the balls of her feet.
In one smooth movement, his muscles flexed and she was in his arms, his body pressing her against the rails. He bent and devoured her lips so forcefully that had he not been holding her she would have lost her balance. Her fingers tangled in his hair, pulling at the hair tie that he continuously wore. She loved his hair down and flowing around his head. It gave a wild and abandoned look to the normally calm and serene Jedi Master.
"How about in you?" he asked, one hand holding her neck, the other sliding to the fastenings of her own pants.
She broke the kiss and his lips slid to her neck. "Always, love, but not on this rail. It's a bit warm through clothing and would scorch my bare skin."
He lifted his head, a sparkle appearing in the endless depths of his eyes.
"Oh, no." She shook her head. "No pain tonight."
Even as she denied it, the thought excited her. He stepped back, drawing her off the railing to stand before him. He easily slid the wet pants down her legs and she obliged by stepping out of them. Before she could protest, he lifted her and placed her sensitive backside onto the simmering metal railing. She flinched, but held his eyes, until his lips met hers again, tongue slipping between the heat.
*Tell me if it becomes unbearable.*
*Sex with you never could be, love.*
She spread her legs and wrapped them around his hips. One hand rested in his hair, playing with the strands she had managed to separate from the rest of the length, the other slid between them to grip his vibrating cock. She stroked it a few times before deciding she was ready to have it inside her.
"As hungry as I am," She gave the delicate member she held so intimately a gentle tug. "I want you to fill me, now."
He chuckled, his voice deepened from passion, "I've never refused a woman's request. I don't plan to begin now."
He allowed her to guide him into her moist place, sighing as she took him to the hilt, arching her hips sharply against the intrusion. The railing shook as he began to thrust, and in the back of his mind he wondered if they shouldn't move the activity elsewhere.
*The danger adds to the excitement.*
*As does the pain.*
She chuckled, giving his hair a sharp tug, which pulled his lips from hers. "A pain that will be returned to you in all due time."
A few more thrusts and he was ready to change positions. He lifted her burned rump off the rail and deposited it upon their carefully discarded clothes. She smiled when he knelt between her thighs and reached forward, caressing the sensitive inner skin. She inched closer and wrapped her fingers around his cock, slick with her juices, brushing a finger pad over the sensitive tip. She was rewarded with a muffled groan and a bead of liquid that pooled from the tiny slit there.
She smiled and leaned forward, stretching her legs into a split, and licked the saltiness from the tip. His hands gripped her hair, pushing her forward, impaling her mouth on his throbbing cock. She teased him with her tongue, swirling it around the base, tasting herself, licking the vibrating shaft. She nipped lightly, causing a powerful tremor to wrack his broad frame. Before he could beg for more, she sucked him in, causing his hips to arch off the floor in surprise.
Using her hands, she cupped his sac, beginning long, slow strokes. Her fist curled around him and began to move along with her tongue, causing unexplainable sensations to course through his veins like a most volatile virus. She cleaned him of her essence completely before pulling back with a smile.
"You're all clean now." She leaned back against the clothing, spreading her legs, inviting him.
"Not for long," he murmured, gripping her hips in his large hands and leaning over her.
She lifted her hips to accept him, his cock sliding in with practiced ease. Her muscles constricted, almost milking him then and there, before she willed her body to relax. Slick with sweat, her legs, even wrapped tightly around his hips, began to slide down his back. Grunting, he leaned back and took an ankle in either hand, holding gently as he pulled almost completely out of her. Slowly, he slid back in, savoring every inch of her tight space constricting around him.
Her fingers clenched the rumpled clothing that was shielding her nakedness from the hot metal floor. She arched her hips into his on each thrust, moaning as he filled her. His pace began slowly, his cock sliding inside an inch at a time. As his control began to falter, she could feel him shaking, muscles clenched in concentration. His hips bucked into her as she tore down his rigid control, thread by thread. The fine strands finally snapping as she slipped her hand between them to touch herself and his slick cock.
He grunted when her fingers lightly caressed him, her wetness slicking them and making them slide easier along his shaft. No coaxing was necessary as he leaned over her, his chest in her face, and began to pump harder. He was careful to make sure to touch her sweet spot, making her shudder with the beginnings of her climax. A few more hard, swift strokes and they were both ready to plummet over the edge of ecstasy brought about by fear of death.
He arched back, his lips capturing hers, drawing her breath as his own. With each thrust, their bodies shook, nearing the brink. Footsteps could be heard on the gantries above and below, and Qui-Gon grunted.
"Hurry," Li'wa urged in a breathy voice, showering his lips, beard, neck with soft kisses.
"I'm trying." He grunted, eyes squeezed shut as his head rolled back onto his shoulders. His hips slammed into her a few more times and she clamped her mouth around his arm, biting back her cry.
Passion slammed into her senses as she rode the waves of her climax and his. She could feel the chaotic spurts of his seed spill into her. His hips jerked a few more times until he collapsed onto his forearms, driving his cock deep into her. The foot falls of the workmen were coming closer and one deep, penetrating kiss later, they were on their feet pulling their damp clothing over very relaxed muscles. Qui-Gon had no sooner fastened his belt than a reactor worker stepped around the corner.
"Master Jinn." He bowed quickly to the Jedi Master. "We were worried when we felt and heard the explosion."
"No need." He struggled to control his ragged breathing. "We're fine. I'm not sure what that reactor is going to look like however."
"We've got men working on it now."
"Wonderful," he replied with a gasping breath. "We will be along shortly."
The man turned and walked away, completely oblivious that Li'wa stood behind Qui-Gon, half dressed.
"Whew, too close," she remarked, rubbing her backside.
"You are going to pay for this, you know."
She cocked her head to one side as he reached up and helped her fasten the tunics. Once fastened, his hands slid around her and cupped her sore rump.
"I'll be sure to pay special attention to everything that hurts when we get back and take nice, long showers."
"You're damn right you will." She grinned and stalked down the gantry. "And I think it will be a nice hot bath"
He followed her with his eyes until she disappeared around the corner.
"C'mon, Jinn. The cat is waiting for you. She's going to be furious that you left her on the ship alone," she called out.
He blinked. Cat?
Uh oh, he thought. He rushed after her, following through walkways and sealed doors that would lead them towards the landing platform.
*I didn't bring her along. You thought it necessary.*
*C'mon, you love helpless creatures.*
*That cat is far from helpless!*
His voice became soft and tender over their bond as he caught up with her and slid an arm around her waist. "And neither are you..."
They shared another deep kiss as the transport that would bring them to the surface of the planet, loomed over head.