Qui-Gon looked up as he felt the presence of his friend at the door. Mace did not bother knocking; he entered silently, meeting Qui-Gon's gaze as he stepped inside. Qui-Gon did not ask why he had come; too often it was only more disheartening news.

"There has been another report," Mace said quietly.

Qui-Gon nodded. He wasn't surprised.

"If Master Galgan is correct... it is a Sith we are dealing with."

That was new. In the last several months, someone -- an individual or small, well-organised group -- had been disrupting the Republic's efforts at peace and commerce. Nothing too terrible, not yet -- nothing that could not be waved off as pirates.

Except that the first four times the Jedi had gone in to defend a striken planet, the Jedi had died.

The first survivor, three months ago, had not seen the ones responsible, though she had seen and felt their presence. It was a dark, evil presence, and the first whispers of "Sith" had been heard in the Jedi Temple.

Qui-Gon had not, at the time, been involved in the situation. His own investigation was still consuming him, though he still had nothing more than he had found the day after Obi-Wan had disappeared. He'd questioned the Padawans who had been at the party, as well as every Senate page he'd been able to find. None could tell him more than Obi-Wan had been there, apparently been enjoying himself, and had not left with the other Jedi. He had stayed, though when he had left and with whom, was unknown.

All he knew was that Obi-Wan had left the party and had not been seen since.

Mace sat down across the low table from Qui-Gon, and looked at him, sadness and sympathy clear in his face and his being.

Qui-Gon lowered his head. Obi-Wan had disappeared. But, if reports were true, he had finally been found.

"Is he alone, or does he work with others?" Qui-Gon asked, shaken.

"There are two." Mace's next words shocked him further. "And neither is a Master. Master Yoda thinks there may be three, all together."

the end

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