Saga Inheritance (Mace, Obi-Wan, Anakin)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ruth baulding, Sep 16, 2012.

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  1. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    Inheritance
    Mace Windu decides to bond with the younger generation; the younger generation struggles to establish rapport; and trouble waits for all of them, a short hyperspace jump away. A tale in many short chapters.


    1.

    Wizard.

    This place is better than anywhere I’ve seen – even Watto never got stuff like this, even when that big Federation ship crashed in the Dune Sea and we beat the Jawas to the scavenging site. I mean, on Tatooine you had to scrape and scrounge to find decent junk; here, I’m up to my waist in the castoffs, things people have thrown away as trash. The compacting walls are only activated every other day, that’s what the droid in the magrail train said, so I figure today’s an off day. This is rugged. There’s about a million different droid components and a bunch of stuff I don’t even know the name for. And I know pretty much everything there is to know about cybernetics and astromechanics. Mom always said I could fix anything, and it’s true.

    And everybody just seems to be taking what they want – that fat guy on the docking platform called it the Dumps, but maybe it should be called the Treasure Trove. There was a cantina in Mos Eisley called that. The guy that owned it was really nice, too, until some bounty hunter sleemos from Anchorhead got in a brawl and accidentally killed him with their blasters. Anyway, it’s like everything here is free for the taking. And the ‘cycling droids are scooping up bits and pieces into their hover bins, so really what would it matter of I just picked up a couple things that might be interesting later on? You know, just for fun.

    Too bad this converter diode won’t fit inside my tunic or a belt pouch. I wish I could have brought a satchel or something. These Jedi clothes are kind of annoying that way- you can’t carry around a lot of stuff. Master Obi Wan says its an impediment to anyone trying to neglect the rule about possession, but I think it’s just kind of dumb. Cause sometimes possessions can come in handy. Master says there is a line between possession and neurotic hoarding, and I’ve not only crossed it but left it a parsec behind. He says a lot of stuff like that, with his voice all flat so you can’t tell if he’s mad or not… but he hasn’t made me clean up my room yet, so I guess that’s all that really matters.

    I think I’ll keep this coil transceiver, and these little universal binary plugs.

    There’s seriously nothing in Master’s room. I mean nothing. Not even a holo or a decoration or something. I guess he must have taken a vow of - what do you call it?- chastity or something. It’s like nobody lives there at all. It kind of reminds me of the way the Tuskens drag a cloth in the sand behind their scouts, to wipe out their tracks. They can cross the desert at night, and you would never know anybody was there, cause they leave no footprints. I wonder who Obi Wan thinks is trying to follow him?

    His own memories, or something, I guess. People are weird.

    But Mom says that everybody should be appreciated for themselves, not for what we want out of them. I mean, she used to say that. Before. I really miss her still, even though I’m not supposed to. I don’t just appreciate her. I love her. And someday, I’m gonna go back and free her and all the other slaves. Cause I promised. And I bet I can even get Master to help me do it, if I’m really good and all and do all the right Jedi stuff first.

    ‘Course, I’m not exactly, technically being good right now – I mean, I’m supposed to be on the Legislative District tour with the other initiates, but that is so boring. When I came to Coruscant the first time, and got to stay with Padme and all the handmaidens, I saw everything, and they let me go everywhere. So I’ve been there, done that. This is way better any day, and I’ll figure out how to get back to the Temple before evening meal, so nobody gets their knickers in a twist. I mean, I used to go out all night past Mos Eisley’s outskirts on collecting trips for Watto. And these Jedi kids can’t even take a field trip without about a million chaperones. It’s kind of annoying how sheltered they are.

    Uh oh. That guy in the uniform looks like business and he’s pointing to me like he wants to talk. Maybe all these spare parts aren’t up for grabs after all, but then again, he doesn’t seem mad. More like worried or something. I better tell him it’s okay. Prob’ly when he figures out I’m a Jedi he’ll just leave me alone. Master says the Order commands a great deal of respect in the Republic’s coreworlds, so that should count for something, right? Here comes that policeman or whoever he is. I’ll just shove this piece of microwire in my pocket and tell him straight up that I don’t’ need any help.
  2. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5


    Sounds like "parents" the world - and galaxy - over.
    [face_laugh] I think Anakin doesn't quite understand what "chastity" means! And if he ever thinks back on this when he's a bit older and does understand, I can just see his face.

    Glad to see you posting this one.
  3. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    2.

    “Yes, the Misplaced Persons Office of the Subdistrict Constabulary.”

    I should have added, Subdepartment for the Deliberately and Habitually Lost, Special Division for AWOL Jedi Padawans. I do hope there aren’t any tiresome forms to be filled out; I would rather this particular repeating nightmare not be kept on record. The boy likes any kind of game that involves keeping score .. and on this vexing account, I fear I must admit to not winning at the moment.

    If he gets himself misplaced one more time, I shall be tempted to leave him in such dire straits permanently. It might save time and trouble in the long run.

    Thankfully, the air-gondola pilot knows precisely where this obscure department of the local planetary police is located. One good reason for using a conventional means of transport, rather than a private Temple air-car. Another good reason would be the need for discretion. After all, I –better than most – know to what extremity of fervor gossip can reach, even within its hallowed walls. One can return home from a mission to find oneself transformed overnight into a scoundrel who exchanged acrimonious words with his own master, an object of pity who has been cruelly cast away and then orphaned, or –even worse- an instant celebrity, a legendary “Sith Killer.” There is no limit to the dark transmutations of fact wrought by certain Padawans’ overactive imaginations. There is no limit to how many speculative questions can be raised in the minds of so many bright-eyed and prurient observers. And a vehicle cannot be checked out from the transport pool without certain questions being answered.

    The boy is going to be the death of me. Well, unless I am the death of him, first, of course. Were I a gambling man, like my former master, I should say that the odds presently stand evenly weighted in favor of either eventuality. I leave the final disposition of the question to the Will of the Force; but it is an established certainty, at this point in time, that neither of us shall obtain to a ripe old age so long as we are shackled together by mutual obligation.

    I didn’t want a Padawan. Not yet. Six months ago, I was headstrong and had much to learn. I was capable, at best. Now somebody calls me master. And not just somebody…. No. The Chosen One, if the prophecy is to be believed. I am responsible for the safe delivery of the Force’s redemptive promise.

    An intimidating burden, placed on willing but completely unworthy shoulders. And the Force’s Chosen instrument of balance is not helping matters along any, either.

    Now, as we draw nigh to the pace where the kind officer of the peace has stowed my truant apprentice, after discovering him cavorting, unsupervised, in a scrap pile outside the Legislative district, I must once again decide what in the blazes I am supposed to do with this boy. What would Qui Gon have done? Stars’ end, how would I know? Certainly I never put my own mentor through such a trial. Nor would I ever have dared such blatant disregard for the rules and expectations laid down from time immemorial for the conduct of younglings in the Order. That business at the annual Starside Expo with Garen and Reeft all those years ago doesn’t…. doesn’t count.

    “Shall I wait, sir?”

    “Oh…yes. Thank you.” My pilot looks as though he hopes Jedi tip well. I suppose we do. Certainly I will; the Code does not forbid us to buy discretion at the current market value.

    The policeman who found Anakin earlier is swelling with the pride of accomplishment. It is not every day a member of his profession is able to one-up the Order, and in person, no less. He hitches his thumbs through his belt and rocks back and forth on his heels, superciliously. “You lost something, Master Jedi?”

    Ha ha. Gloat while you can, my friend; and be thankful you will not witness a Jedi losing his temper. “I appear rather to have found something,” I retort, as Anakin peeps out from the confines of the Waiting Area, so designated by a dingy plastoid sign on the wall.

    “Master!” he chirps. He hasn’t the sense to feign contrition, or even regret. He has much to learn.

    “Found him hanging out in the Dumps earlier – lucky the compactors weren’t scheduled to run today – grisly way to go. Saved his life, I’d like to think.”

    Behind the man, Anakin rolls his eyes, eloquently refuting this assessment of his previous danger, and of his incompetence to save himself from ordinary peril. “He may live to wish you hadn’t,” I address the boy. So help me, Anakin, this is not happening again.

    Our new acquaintance is shoving a datapad beneath my nose; his murmured explanations regarding the various scrolling forms requiring my attention and thumbprint go barely noticed. My Padawan is filthy – covered in splotches of oil, or grease, and distinctly disheveled. Even his tiny learner’s braid is looking a bit frayed and tattered.

    “You don’t need to document this incident,” I suggest, mildly, handing the data pad back.

    “Ah, well, I don’t really need to document this incident,” the fellow obligingly agrees, bestowing an indulgent smile upon the boy standing behind him. “Off you go, young scamp.”

    “Wizard, Master! Did you just-“

    This way, Anakin. Good day, and thank you.” A short bow to the somewhat befuddled officer and I am chivvying my wretched apprentice back into the air taxi. I slip the driver a sizeable credit chit – shiny and new, somewhat less battered and jaded than my expectations regarding the joys of teaching- and push Anakin back into his seat when he tries to lean over the outside panel.

    He doesn’t even apologize.

    There is no emotion. There is peace. “Anakin. You left the scheduled field trip and its chaperones without permission, and engrossed yourself in a garbage heap. Would you care to explain that egregious violation of both the accepted rules and my direct order?”

    He merely shrugs, his nose wrinkling in a peculiar mannerism of his own. “I tried to go with the other kids, really. At first. And I even paid attention and everything like you said. But the Legislative District tour is so boring, master! You said so yourself! And Master Muln told me how you and he –“

    Thankfully, he possesses a sufficient glimmer of prudence, or survival instinct, to stop before he actually blurts out the entire tale in front of the taxi pilot, whose perked aural tubes widely broadcast his desire to hear said rumor. The story is not nearly so amusing as Garen seems to think, and I shall personally see to it that Master Muln exercises better custody of his tongue in the future. We had planned to spar later today, anyhow. And that is a cheering prospect.

    Anakin smiles tentatively, mistakenly interpreting my resolution to thrash Garen as forgiveness of his own malfeasance. “It’s just a garbage heap, master…. Nothing to get upset about.”

    Oh really? “Believe me, Anakin, you have yet to truly understand what being down in the Dumps means,” I promise.
    earlybird-obi-wan likes this.
  4. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    ^:)^ You write in Obi-Wan's voice as no one does - wry, long-suffering, funny.

    Wonder if there'll be any consequences to his mind-tricking the cop.
  5. earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    Love these musings, funny and sure that's Anakin getting into trouble and getting Obi-Wan along with that.
  6. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    3.

    Here he comes, and without his Padawan, I see. No surprise there; Kenobi is nothing if not intelligent, and he has doubtless sensed in the Force – or simply made the rational inference- that this meeting concerns the boy’s recent lapse of conduct. I spare Yoda a sideways glance, but the old master is intent upon the newcomer, his eyes hooded in that special way that heralds a thorough grilling ahead. I wince on Kenobi’s behalf.

    It was not fair of Qui-Gon to burden the young man with this; but what could the Council say, when all was said and done? Skywalker proved himself a prodigy that day, dangerous whether or not he was trained; and Kenobi proved himself a prodigy as well, though he will never admit it and does not seem to realize it in the slightest. What the Force brings together so dramatically, we cannot sunder – not even out of pity for the one so burdened. The Council will not contend with the clearly revealed will of that which indwells us all.

    Kenobi bows and takes a quick, assessing look at all our faces, confirming his suspicion that this special session is disciplinary in nature. I can see the certainty settle in – his mouth thins into an expressive determination, and that soft line appears between his brows. He’s let his hair grow out since being Knighted – why all the young members of the Order do this upon reaching full rank, I will never understand. In this case, it gives the wearer a slightly rakish appearance that does nothing to recommend leniency.

    Still, a part of me must admit that the debacle is only technically his fault. The Skywalker boy is a walking, talking disaster. We might as well be asking his master to contain a seismic event or turn aside a class three ion storm.

    “Know do you, why summoned before the Council you are?’ Yoda asks, skipping the preliminaries.

    Kenobi has wariness stamped all over his youthful features, and only a keen observer would notice the slight twitch of one eyebrow, that barely contained insouciance threatening to overturn his construct of deferent calm. “I do not presume to know, master, but I have a fair notion, yes.”

    The ancient one shimmies backward in his chair, grunting. “Fair notion, say you. Explain.”

    I steeple my fingers. One thing I will grant readily: if anything outdoes Qui-Gon’s bygone antics in this chamber, it is those of his former Padawan. In this case, the student has far exceeded the master, for while the old rebel used to habitually drive the Council to distraction, and occasional outrage, his protégé could charm a gundark out of its meal and leave the thing purring. I can sense that Masters Mundi and Piell are already amused; they lounge at ease in their seats, anticipating a pleasant diversion. Their vote will be of no disciplinary value. I sigh.

    Kenobi catches my eye, ever attentive to audience. I scowl back at him, but he doesn’t bat an eyelash. That’s a sign of good training, but I know better than to believe the ruse. He addresses himself to Yoda, whose face is wrinkled into a mass of dubious lines, nose crunched in vexation, clawed hands resting atop his stick.

    “I imagine that the Council wishes a report on my Padawan’s progress. There was a small incident, yesterday, which has been turned to proper benefit of the Temple community.”

    “You refer to the discovery of your Padawan in a refuse disposal site yesterday, without proper chaperonage?” Ki Adi prompts, eager to hear what defense will be employed to deflect criticism away from the impetuous Skywalker boy. This has grown into a kind of game over the last months; one which must soon come to an end.

    Kenobi has the good grace to blush a little, but he doesn’t break stride. As a side thought, I note that it might be a good idea to send him to the annual Chandrilan unity convention instead of Master Unduli; the Chandrilan planetary leadership is exclusively humanoid female, and notoriously fractious. It may be time to apply some underhanded diplomatic tactics, and by that I mean that Obi -Wan here might not have to open his mouth to make headway – or at least, it won’t matter what he says. I stow this idea away for later consideration.

    “…there was no incident, master, at least if you ask the constabulary or the local transport services,” Kenobi almost smirks.

    It’s a pleasing sales pitch, but Yoda is not in a buying mood today. “Abuse of power, to save Order embarrassment,” he snaps. “Use mind trick on common citizenry you will not, again.”

    Ouch. I press my fingers to my lips, smoothing away any trace of amusement. Kenobi’s face blanches just a little, but he holds his defensive position a bit longer. “Yes, master… I will find some other way of ensuring that Anakin’s indiscretion does not extend beyond these walls.”

    “You might consider containing him within these walls for a start,” I suggest, infusing the words with a bit of acid. Sorry, young one, but we have a tradition, and it holds that the Padawan’s commission is the master’s omission.

    That earns me a meek “Yes, Master Windu.” In the ensuing awkward silence, I have an opportunity to observe how much progress we’ve made since the first meeting of this nature, no more than a fortnight into Skywalker’s apprenticeship. And with a pang of concern, I note that there has been almost none; we’ve brought this up time and again, all but publicly censured Kenobi for the boy’s undisciplined hijinks, and yet neither the frequency of the Padawan’s offenses nor the master’s frustration have abated. We are, it would seem, at an impasse, a stand off in which the limits of precedent have grown alarmingly blatant.

    Something will have to be done. For both their sakes.

    “He is polishing the initiate level dojo floors by hand, over the course of this week,” Kenobi explains. “So his actions have been turned to a dual benefit – the work needed to be done and his peers have a clear example by way of deterrent.”

    Yoda snorts out his contemptuous dismissal of this rhetorical trick. “Deterrent, hm? Perhaps needed such a thing, you do. Indulgent the Council has been so far, Obi-Wan. But perhaps a stricter approach required is?”

    And the look on Kenobi’s face at this moment is unaccountably alarming. He just nods, miserably, all the fight seemingly knocked out of him. “Yes, Master Yoda.”

    I stir, but the old master waves my objection aside. He favors the young Jedi with a singularly piercing expression and raps his stick against his seat. “Stop him from doing this again, you must. Another such incident – tolerated it will not be. Your responsibility is this boy. Remind you of that , I need not, hm?”

    “No, master. I understand. It won’t happen again.”

    Twelve and a half years, Qui Gon had this man as his apprentice. Twelve and a half years, and nothing- nothing - that old gundark could do would quash his Padawan’s spirit. And now a street urchin from Tatooine has managed the impossible in a matter of months? Something is not right here – I sense a disturbance.

    But this is not the time or place to raise such doubts. And besides, Yoda has already dismissed Kenobi, sending him on his way without a word of encouragement. They say I am the stern one, the intimidating face of authority. But I beg to differ. I don’t like what I just witnessed, and Yoda knows it. His green eyes, half-hooded, slide sideways to regard me with a knowing light.

    We will discuss it later. For now, other business awaits. But I won’t forget. And I will take the matter into my own hands, if need be. For the Order’s sake, for Qui-Gon’s sake… for my own sake.

    And Force forgive me if I mull on this during the entire remainder of the long Council session.
  7. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Force, I love your Mace in these stories.


    Plot bunny! [face_tee_hee] I'm expecting that story now.

    Called it! I think Obi-Wan got off easy, actually as I'm sure Yoda was NOT AMUSED.



    Yoda is doing the "Mace" stern-thing here; no softness. But that's okay, why do I sense Mace is plotting something to benefit them all?

    BTW, my reviews over "there" aren't posting.
  8. FARK2005 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 2
    It never ceases to amaze me how you can dig deeply into the thoughts of these very different characters and just nail them. Excellent work! ^:)^

    I can hardly wait to see where this is going - especially with Mace now having entered the stage
  9. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    4.

    I hate it here. I hate all the other kids. I don’t want to be with them in their stupid clan dormitory. They don’t like me, and they don’t understand me. They just stare and whisper and look at me like I’m poodoo. That’s why I live here now, in Master’s quarters, instead of down there where I supposedly belong. I don’t know where Master Obi-Wan is, but being here is better than being there. I think somebody came looking for me a minute ago, but I’ve figured out how to lock the door from the inside and jam it, so they had to go away. Maybe they know I’m hiding in here – they can tell a lot of stuff just with their minds, without seeing it. That’s part of what I don’t like. On Tatooine, I was the one who could see things before they happened and tell if folks were lying or cheating. Here, it’s the other way around. Everybody is looking through you all the time, like you’re made of transparisteel or something. Master says he will teach me how to shield- that means, make your mind so other Jedi can’t shove their nose in your business. I think Master is pretty good at that – I mean, I can practically never tell what he’s thinking, and I figure he’s been practicing since he was like a baby or something.

    It’s kind of weird to think about, but Master Obi Wan prob’ly doesn’t even remember his mother. I hope she was nice, even though she gave him away and all.

    I miss my mom. I want to go home. I hate it here.

    And here comes Master now – I can feel him before he even opens the door. It’s easy, really. I can’t really explain, but he kind of shines. So then I open the door, ‘cause I jammed it pretty good, and he comes into the room all in hurry, not even looking surprised to see me there. But he never looks surprised. Last month, when we got sent to that boring summit on Whatsit Minor, but there was those angry protesters in the spaceport and that guy with the big blaster just went crazy right in front of us, Master didn’t even blink. That guy’s arm was on the floor before he could even blink. And Obi Wan just put his lightsaber away and watched the policemen come and then he told me to keep walking, we were going to be late for our transport and that would be rude.

    And when I asked why that man was so insanely angry, he just said he would explain it later, like the whole thing was boring. So I guess being a Jedi means nothing really shocks you anymore, or makes you sad.

    Master looks kind of sad right now, though. Mom used to hold me when she was feeling sad, and then she would brighten up again. I wish maybe Obi Wan would do that but I think it’s against the Code because he doesn’t make a move or anything. He just runs a hand through his hair – it’s all floppy now, much longer than when I first met him, and he looks at me with one of those expressions I can’t make out, and he says, “Anakin.”

    “Why are you upset, Master?” I ask. “It’s ‘cause of what happened yesterday, isn’t it?”

    He just walks across the room and tosses his cloak through his open bedroom door, which is pretty wizard ‘cause he just sorta backhanded it without looking and it landed on the sleep mattress all perfectly, and also because Master Obi Wan is never sloppy or rude and never throws anything. It’s funny to see him act this way, but also a bit scary. And then he sits down on a meditation cushion, folding his legs up criss-cross like they taught us to do the other day – I mean, when I had to go to the little kid class that I really hated – and closes his eyes.

    See? Mom always gave hugs, but Obi Wan just meditates. Frustrated? Meditate. Hurt feelings? Meditate. Confused? Meditate. Tired? Meditate. Lonely? Meditate. Bored? Meditate. It s a big load of bantha poodoo if you ask me, cause Mom had a better solution and she wasn’t even a Jedi, but he says Master Qui-Gon used to do the same thing, and that I should too, so I guess it’s all right. I mean, it prob’ly doesn’t do any harm but it would be easier if he would just talk about what’s bothering him.

    So after a while when I can’t wait any longer I just blurt it out. “What’s wrong, master? Am I in more trouble with the Council?”

    He takes this really big, deep breath and opens his eyes. “No, Anakin. You answer to me; and we have already discussed your mistake. It’s in the past. If anyone is, ah, in trouble with the Council, it is myself.”

    What? That is absolute boshuda. “They busted you for what I did?” I can’t believe how unfair that is. It’s like something Watto would think up. Jedi are way better than that.

    Master’s eyes go sideways. When he’s thinking a lot of stuff in his head that he doesn’t think is proper to say aloud, he does that. I can always tell when he’s just saying the polite thing on the outside, because his eyes will always shift focus like that, and then come back to you after he’s had this private snark on the inside. I wish he would just get it over and be mad, but I guess Jedi don’t do that, ‘cause actually I’ve never seen him really throw a fit. “That is not your concern,” he tells me.

    “They did! How can they do that?”

    Now his eyes get all narrow, which means I better shut up pretty soon. “It is my responsibility to teach you, Anakin. If you do not learn, does that not indicate some deficiency on my part?”

    Oh, boy. There is no way I am answering that one. “Sorry,” I say, wondering if maybe I should go away. My feet start to fidget around even though I’m not supposed to do that. “Sorry.”

    I guess I’ll just go to bed. I can tell Master Obi-Wan is hurt, but he doesn’t believe in the simple things that Mom did, so there’s nothing I can do to make it better. Everything is complicated with him. With the Temple. And I guess that means everything is gonna be complicated for me now, too.

    And I’m not crying here in my bed either. It just looks that way, but it’s not true. Because Jedi don’t do that, right? And I'm a Jedi now.
  10. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Aw, Anakin, even Jedi cry. (Sound familiar, Ruth;)). Love his view on meditation as Obi-Wan's answer to everything, although it seems it was a punishment when he was younger.


    Well, we've always said Obi-Wan's eyes were the window to his soul. The shifting of same apparently is a window to his inner thoughts.
  11. Alexis_Wingstar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    This is great. You have each characters' voices down pat.

    Anakin's reaction when he finds out that Obi-Wan is in trouble because of him is heartbreaking.
  12. earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    Val; when will that story continue?

    And Ruth: love these insights
  13. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    Just caught up--and I love the voices in here. Each one is so wonderfully spot on and honest. This was very enjoyable to read through at once... and I especially enjoyed your word choice fitting the characters' personalities. If you do PMs at all, I'd love to be on your call-list. Looking forward to more.
  14. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    5.

    There are times when the pressures of the present moment outweigh the burden of the past and the nebulous threats of the future, when the Force burns with such singular clarity that doubt and longing are reduced to ephemeral ash, and even the impossible promise seems easy to fulfill, illumined from within by overwhelming Light.

    Such times come rarely for me any more, even deep in meditation, and more often than not they come in the dojo. Since Naboo.

    I don’t know why.

    But this is one of those times. Seven remote training droids, stun cannon set on highest power, all inhibiting programs disabled, are no match for the Force. This blade is not mine; it is the blade of the heart, a ‘saber wielded by Light. It was once my master’s weapon, and as he is now one with the Force itself, this blade now sings in unison with the universal energy. It is a weapon which vanquished a deadly foe, and saved the vanquisher from a far worse fate than mere death; its emerald fire is purer by far than the heart of he who bears it now, the Force itself wielding the hand that wields the blade.

    The droids attack simultaneously. I cannot think what would happen should even two stun bolts find their target, but I do not need to think of it. The Force is armor and shield, liquid blazing fire, a perfect defensive sphere repelling all assault. At the center of this furious storm resides absolute peace, utter stillness, the fulcrum of existence. Without: passion, violence, chaos. Within: serenity, wisdom, harmony. There is no motion, no opposition, no danger. There is only the Force.

    This is Soresu. In this storm’s eye, I can rest in the present moment.

    Qui Gon did not live to see it, to see his admonition obeyed, his teachings realized. I pray that somehow, within the Force, his spirit can know that he did not fail, that he was a good master, a wise man, a great Jedi, and that his last and unworthy student did at last learn this one simple lesson at his feet. There is only the present moment and that which indwells it.

    The droids fall, clattering like hailstones to the floor as their own disarming shots are rebounded into them. They crash, they roll, they spin and bounce off the walls. The assault ceases; the storm ceases; and I am alone, blood thrumming in my veins in chorus with the blade’s deep and resonating growl, self and Light now two things, luminous spirit and gross matter congealed into an uneasy alliance, the very air in my lungs sharp and sweet with the scent of ozone, of scorched plastoid. Destruction lies at my feet, but it has not touched my heart.

    Not like it did on Naboo.

    This is balance, and if I could but cling to this moment, to the insight of this precious and already fleeting present, then surely I could keep my word and fulfill my promise. I have sworn to train the Chosen One; I have given my oath that I will show this child how to bring balance to the Force. And one cannot teach that which one does not understand oneself. I have much to learn – an infinity of yet-undiscovered truths, a terrifying abyss of wisdom to encompass. If not for the Light, I would cower in the face of it. But here, now, there can be no doubt. There is only the Force.

    And yet, the certainty fades, for it was never mine to begin with. It was the Force’s, and lent to me for only the briefest of time. It would be folly to think that even this seeming apotheosis could last. It is forbidden to grasp, to be attached, to anything, even those gifts the Force bestows.

    Qui Gon’s blade disappears, just as his spirit did, back upon the brink of hell, in Naboo.

    And now, my mind unfurling from the Light’s obliterating embrace, I am once again aware of here and there, and when and where, and the fact that this practice session was observed, by an unexpected guest. I bow, because Mace Windu is a Jedi Master, and a peerless swordsman, and a Councilor.

    He is not here to discuss Anakin. I can sense this much. But this leaves me wondering why he is here. For I can feel his regard settle upon me as solemnly as Qui Gon’s hand used to settle upon my shoulder, the one no longer brushed by a learner’s braid.

    “What have you named that saber form?” he asks.

    I blink; admittedly, not the most articulate response. But Master Windu of all people should be familiar with the traditional disciplines, and he does not often speak in riddles.

    “It is Soresu, master.” What reply besides the bare truth does he expect? Have I transgressed, again, without being aware of it? Was there something Dark in my actions, some hidden seed of corruption unperceived by me but lurking still, apparent to the keen observer?

    “That was not Soresu, son.”

    Humiliation is a gift from the Force, as much as anything else. I let this one sink in. “I am still learning…I used to practice Ataru, master, before… recent events. I have just applied myself to this new form. I would welcome any correction.”

    “You misunderstand,” he says, in his resonant voice. A smile lights his eyes and then disappears again, veiled by the depths of his gaze. “That was not pure Soresu. That was a new variant, one I’ve not seen before.”

    “I – it is merely Soresu, master.”

    He does not agree; and yet he does not press the argument. “Obi-Wan. Would you walk with me in the gardens for a while? There is something I wish to discuss with you.”

    Oh, Force. But of course one does not simply decline such an invitation, any more than would refuse Master Yoda’s offer of tea. It is unthinkable- and better to face whatever lies ahead than to defer its unpleasant revelations to a later date. I bow. “Of course.”

    He nods, and I retreat to the shower rooms, without the faintest notion what this is all about. Because, apparently, Anakin is not the only one in my life bent on catching me off guard at every available opportunity.

  15. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    6.

    We choose the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Given my druthers, it would be the ordered geometry of the outside gardens, not the unbridled riot of the arboretum. But the industrial sectors of the City have a scheduled burn tonight – the ashes of their waste and debris settling like a pall over everything in a hundred-kilometer radius, and carried even further by the diurnal winds. Don’t’ let anyone tell you Coruscant is beautiful; the glitter and pomp seen from orbit is tawdry make-up applied on a syphilitic face.

    Except the Temple. We have kept the heart of the galaxy pure, or pure enough. For now. And while I live, it will not succumb to the mantle of the Dark, the clinging grit that settles in nooks and crannies, and accumulates in to a hard enamel of indifference and compromise.

    The Jedi Order will not come to that. Unlike the Senate.

    Obi-Wan is an easy man with whom to walk in silence. He makes no demands, and his own self-sufficient quietude would be a balm to any restless spirit. We could likely enough traverse these well-worn paths several times over before either of us broke the wordless peace; but I know that the first breach will have to be of my making , for I have seniority and he won’t act contrary to protocol so soon again after that.

    I mean after telling Yoda that he would train the Skywallker boy without the Council’s approval, if he must. I heard about that. We all did. Yoda was the only one who found it in any degree amusing, but there is not a soul living who can truly fathom the ancient one’s sense of humor. After all these years, I can predict it; but understanding remains elusive. I sometimes thinks he laughs when the Force laughs. It takes eight and a half centuries to be able to know when the cosmic joke is being played upon one’s self.

    My companion stirs when we reach the yarbanna grotto, with its dappled roof of red-gold leaves. “Master Windu,” he says – against all expectation – “What was it you wished to discuss? I am at your disposal, of course… but , if you will forgive me, I am loathe to leave my Padawan unattended for extended periods of time.”

    I would wager he isn’t. And that is part and parcel of the difficulty. A master should not be tethered so closely to his fractious young charge; Anakin is far too young to be apprenticed, and far too old to be inducted into the ranks of initiates. The Council decided against his acceptance into the Order; and then, in the wake of his astounding feats on Naboo, we decided to remand our own careful deliberations – on one condition. By permitting Kenobi to take on the boy’s training, we relieved ourselves and the clan-masters of the primary burden of making the impossible possible. We thrust an unprecedented burden onto the only shoulders willing to bear it.

    That wasn’t wise. I see that now.

    “I’ve been watching you the last six months,” I tell him. Another man might be less forthright. I am not another man.

    He stiffens.

    “I think you’ve earned a bit of leave. The negotiations on Rallax were grueling, I have no doubt.” I know the place and its obstreperous Committee for Public Safety well. Too well. That was another assignment delegated, by unspoken mutual consent, to whomever was most capable and possessed the least seniority: Obi-Wan again. I’m told the obnoxious Rallaxi Overseer actually expressed his gratitude and admiration to the Supreme Chancellor. “You’re the first diplomat he’s taken a liking to in twenty years. We all wonder how you managed it.”

    One eyebrow lifts upward. “I drank him under the table. After that, the negotiations were considerably easier.”

    I know better than to believe that bit of nonsense, but I also know that Kenobi deploys humor like a smokescreen, and this self-deprecating tale is a way to avoid congratulation. I wonder if his allergy to praise stems from a belief that he does not deserve it; that his perceived failures outweigh any good he might have accomplished, thus rendering the latter null and void. I’m sure Qui-Gon could have answered that query, but he is with the Force.

    ‘I’ve also applied for a short respite from duty. I was wondering if you would accompany me on a trip to Outer Gola.”

    He takes this proposition in stride, at least outwardly. But it is nearly thirty seconds before he speaks, so I know that caught him off guard.

    “Outer Gola…? To visit the Feorian Cultural Reservation?” he inquires, neatly divining the motive for such a visit. He was involved in the mission which originally saved the last remnant of the Feorian race from slavery – years ago now. The whole debacle was of that scoundrel Jinn’s making; but it turned out well in the end, and did some good. It is natural for those of us who were instrumental in liberating this unique people to wish to see their progress toward true freedom. Sadly, merely casting off physical shackles is seldom enough to free the heart. Not after so many generations.

    “Yes.”

    “I would be honored, master…but, my Padawan-“

    “According to you, he can’t be left behind. So he won’t be,” I sigh. Besides, my ulterior motive for this journey is one which demands the boy’s presence, as troublesome as he might be. “Unless you have some objection.”

    Obi-Wan falls silent again. We round a bend in the path, and set off down a new branch in the meandering footways. “He may struggle a bit with their history,” he admits. “Slavery still has great emotional resonance for him.”

    He sounds apologetic. Neither I, nor any of the Council, expects the boy to eradicate the memory of his past; to accept is not the same as to forget, to suppress. Clearly there has been a degree of misunderstanding cultivated here. I sigh – another unwitting scar left by inexperience on one hand, and a communal silence on the other.

    “Then it will be a good learning experience for him,” I say.

    “Of course, master.” Nobody else could suffuse gracious deference with so much doubt and irony. And yet I take no offense. He’s quite right. We will simply have to deal with the storms and squalls as they come. And I quite frankly want to observe the fallout; I have a feeling that a more seasoned perspective might ease their shared path.

    This should have been Qui-Gon’s role. But I was – am – his friend. I will have to suffice.



  16. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    7.

    So now it’s like the middle of the night, and Master is waking me up already. It’s not as nice as when Mom used to get me up before dawn – she used to kiss me and stuff, even though I was too old – but it’s still nice, not like Watto finding me asleep behind the shop counter. He used to fly off the handle and try to hit me, ‘cept I was mostly way too fast for him. Master Obi-Wan hasn’t hit me even once yet. So maybe I’m being really exceptionally good. Or I guess maybe Jedi just don’t do stuff like that. That’s prob’ly what it is. Jedi don’t use violence.

    But they do kill people. Bad people, I mean.

    “Anakin, for stars’ sake, your tunics are filthy. Put on your spare set and meet me in three minutes.”

    “Um… the other ones are kinda dirty too. Are we going somewhere fancy?”

    Master puts a hand in his hair and runs it backward, making the top of it stick up completely straight like a krayt lizard’s fringe when it’s mad. But he doesn’t feel mad. Just sorta frustrated. He tosses the not-quite-so-dirty clothes at me and stuffs the really dirty ones into the laundry chute.

    “Sorry,” I mutter. He makes me feel squishy on the inside when he gets that expression. It’s like a mixture of Mom being disappointed and something way, way worse, like yesterday when he came home after the Council meeting and he actually threw his cloak. “Sorry,” I say again.

    The thing is, we never washed our clothes back home. Sometimes we could sprinkle some deodorizing powder on them or something, or if a new owner bought you then maybe you got some new pieces to wear, but it’s not something I think about. And then the laundry chute is kinda weird. I mean, how do they keep track of whose clothes are whose? Especially ‘cause pretty much everyone here wears the same thing. On Tatooine, if you owned something, it stayed on your body. Leaving your stuff lying around was like asking for a thief to come ‘round. And we definitely did not have laundry chute things or droids to do all the cleaning.

    Master sighs very softly and jerks his head toward the common room. “The discussion can wait,” he says, and I can tell he means it. Clothes aren’t that important. “We aren’t going anywhere fancy, at least by Coreworld standards.”

    “We’re leaving planet?” I ask. Yippeeee! A trip! “Where’re we going, master? Naboo?”

    Ooops. Wrong thing to say. “Outer Gola,” he answers, all tight and short. No more questions – I have to get dressed and pack a few things … you know, something to pass the time. Space travel is really boring and if I fidget or anything then Master will make me meditate and there is no way I can do that when we are on our way to somewhere new. I ‘m gonna be the first person to see every single star system, so this Gola place is just getting added to my list.

    And, for the record, I am out the door and ready to go in less than three minutes. Master’s eyebrows go up like he’s impressed and I give him a great big smile. I can do some of this Jedi stuff right, after all. Then he’s dropping my cloak over my shoulders. It’s dark brown and a tiny bit too long but Master says I’ll grow into it soon and I can’t go running down the Temple corridors like an uncouth savage if I’m in danger of tripping over the hem.

    What’s wrong with running? It gets you where you’re going faster.

    “Do I have to wear it?” I ask. I mean, couldn’t I just stuff it in my bag in case it gets cold? I feel silly with this big heavy thing hanging down off me all over the place, and the hood is like a zillion times too big and all. And my hands get lost in the sleeves.

    “A cloak covers a multitude of sins,” Obi-Wan says, with his voice all flat that way he always does. He shoves his hands into opposite sleeves and bam! He pretty much looks like the perfect Jedi, all stern and wise and kind of scary like he might kill some bad people any second now. I mean, Master did do that, to that assassin on Naboo, so it’s not like he’s pretending, and that makes him kinda scary if you think about it too much. Not that I’m scared. And anyway, his eyes are twinkling too much to be really scary.

    Hey. I think he’s joking, at least a little bit.

    “So what sins are you covering?” I ask.

    Look! I got a real smile, not just a little hint, but an actual grin. And for a second he looks really mischievous, like a little kid like me. “I would not dare tarnish your innocence by relating the tales,” he says, and his voice is still flat, but the Force – I can feel it dancing all around us, like glowbugs in summer, all flittery and bright. It feels good. I think Master Obi-Wan and me could actually be good friends if I could just figure out his sense of humor and if he would be a bit more like Mom sometimes and maybe if I remembered to put my clothes in the laundry chute every once in a while.

    “We mustn’t keep Master Windu waiting,” he says, and that good feeling goes away, and my stomach kinda drops into my legs. Master Windu really is scary. He’s prob’ly killed a zillion bad people, some of them just by looking at them. I’m gonna be like him someday, actually. When I’m a Jedi Knight. But that doesn’t mean I want to talk to him.

    “Master Windu?” Boshuda. “Are we going to talk to the Council?”

    “No.” Now we’re in the hallway, and going along pretty fast toward the lifts. There’s no turning back, and I have to jog to keep up. So much for not running in the corridors. “We are accompanying him on a journey to Outer Gola.”

    Poodoo!

    “Anakin.”

    It’s not like I said it aloud. Master doesn’t approve of vulgarity. He says it’s unbecoming. I’m trying to remember all the words and phrases that aren’t allowed for Jedi. Mostly it’s the really good juicy ones that help you say what you think about stupid bugsquat and stuff. I guess Jedi have to be polite all the time, even when they’re killing bad people. I wonder if Master ever cussed his head off when something bad happened – but it’s sort of hard to imagine, so prob’ly not.

    And I’m still kinda glowing ‘cause we could, just maybe, be really good friends, so I say “Sorry,” and keep trotting along, even though I don’t want to go anywhere with Master Windu.

    Maybe they’ll let me pilot the air speeder on the way to the spaceport. That would be totally rugged.











  17. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Anakin's got quite an interesting - perspective - on things.
  18. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    I adore Anakin's voice in this. It is perfect. So are a lot of phrases throughout this. I love the idea of Mace, Obi-Wan, and Anakin going somewhere together, especially the possibility of Anakin getting into some trouble. Truly one of the most enjoyable reads I've had here. Looking forward to more.
  19. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    8.

    “No, Anakin, you are not piloting the air speeder.” For stars’ sake, I’ve seen how you fly – and beyond that, how many dozens of times have I been subjected to a recitation of the grand epic of your Podrace Victory? And what sane being, after hearing that chilling tale, would ever let you set foot in a cockpit again?

    He clambers sullenly over the running board and into the passenger compartment, casting me a wounded look over one shoulder. He settles in the broad seat with a passable imitation of demure acceptance, but I am not deceived. The taxi driver pulls away from the docking pad with a gentle lurch, and we swoop into a restricted air-lane heading directly for the municipal spaceport. Our pilot tactfully raises the privacy shields, enclosing us in a sound and wind-free bubble of shimmering blue.

    “I know how to fly one of these things,” my Padawan insists. “So why don’t you trust me to do it?”

    I am already weary of this tired rhetorical trope. Anakin reduces every matter of simple discipline to a question of trust. It confounded me at first; but upon due consideration, I think it may be another indelible scar of slavery: for every restriction placed upon a slave is, in the last analysis, a testament to distrust, a caution against escape or rebellion. That anyone should willingly submit to a rule of life, to a code of conduct, to obedience motivated not by fear but by love of the higher good – this he finds utterly absurd, a notion so foreign to his untrammeled spirit that it strikes him as a personal insult.

    Where do I even begin to correct that profoundly skewed perspective?

    “Not me; and not just you. The entire legislative body of this planet has declared all persons of your tender years ineligible to pilot air cars, until attaining the age of sixteen standard and passing a rigorous competency examination. You are the victim of a sweeping generalization.”

    This rational argument would likely have been likelier to turn an angry stampeding bantha from its path than to deflect the boy from his established point of view. “But we’re Jedi,” he protests. “How come the stupid laws have to apply to us? Don’t any of the other Padawans drive air cars around the city?”

    “Not this city, Anakin. We follow local law and custom as far as possible. The planetary security could arrest you for piloting without a license.”

    “You would come bail me out,” he asserts, blithely. “Like you did the other day.” He folds his arms across his very small chest in the most vexing posture of smug self-assurance I have ever witnessed. Qui-Gon Jinn would have had his hide for such a languid display of disrespect. I should know.

    …Qui-Gon.

    There is no death. There is the Force.

    “Master, are you okay? Why are you looking at me like that?” Anakin demands, the pout transforming into an even more unwelcome curiosity.

    I’m not looking at you like anything, my very young apprentice. I’m saved from making any awkward reply by a sudden disturbance in the traffic ahead; our air car takes an evasive turn too narrowly, sending us into a sharp swerve. Centrifugal force sends Anakin sliding across the bench, practically into my lap. The pilot shakes his fist at another vehicle’s driver; thank the Force our privacy shields block out his imaginative deployment of obscenities. Anakin needs no help expanding his idiomatic vocabulary.

    “Wizard!” the boy yelps as we bump and jolt our way back into the assigned free-fly lane. “We almost got crisped right there! This is intense!”

    I am being tested. There is really no other plausible explanation. I firmly scoot the bundle of gangly limbs and disorderly tunics back onto his own side of the bench, and peer over the speeder’s side. The spaceport is mercifully near- one or two more districts, a twenty minute flight in this appalling mid-day traffic, but near enough to provide assurance that present torment will be of short duration.

    “You know how you said the legal flying age is sixteen?” Anakin’s nimble mind returns to the topic of unresolved dispute like an akk to its vomit. “Master Muln said that you and he –“

    “Master Muln is not a reliable source of historical narrative, Padawan,” I inform him. Severely. After last night’s sparring session, I wager Garen will not so readily disseminate any further ill-chosen tidbits of information to the younger generation. Not unless he wants to be a piece of history himself.

    “What’s so funny, master?”

    Never you mind, my young friend. “Nothing. I was reflecting on what a fine pilot Master Muln is.” His skill is far superior to my own; after all, he has spent over a decade perfecting it. Perhaps he should have spent that time perfecting his defensive saber form instead… but who am I to criticize my colleague, one who even now sports a number of bruises directly proportionate to his unchecked garrulity? Garen is a good comrade, and I will draw a discreet veil over his shortcomings. I covered for him all those years ago, too, taking the blame for that whole unfortunate incident even though the idea was his to begin with.

    “I bet he got to start before he was sixteen,” Anakin sniffs. “Maybe I could join the Pilot Program, too.”

    “It’s been discontinued, at least officially. Besides, last time you were in a spacecraft’s cockpit, you blasted a capital ship to smithereens.”

    The boy lights up, reveling in the memory. “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he accuses me.

    “Anakin. Do you aspire to leave a trail of unprecedented wreckage in your wake, or is that merely an unfortunate side effect?”

    His mouth twists to one side, and his eyes squint at me with a mettlesome blue light. “You do a lotta collateral damage, too, master,” he points out, fair brows drawn together into a fierce scowl. “I’ve been watching. Or do you call that aggressive negotiations?”

    Block, feint, and counterattack. I am not engaging in a semantic battle with a child – of the Chosen or the common garden variety. “I call it the consequences of impertinence,” I decide, airily. “You may call it what you like.”

    I will grant this much: Anakin Skywalker is a very bright boy. And so he wisely changes the topic. “So where are we going? I mean, Outer Gola – what kind of a place is that? And why are we going there?”

    The Gola system boasts three inhabitable worlds – Inner, Prime, and Outer. All three have been colonized by the unscrupulous descendants of original settlers. That is to say, the progeny of Gola’s earliest pioneers, a motley assortment of exiled criminals and outcasts who chose a difficult existence on a barely civilized planet over incarceration in a standard Galactic penal institution. And who can blame them, really? Outer Gola is an ice-crusted wasteland, a world occupied by measureless tundra except in its narrow equatorial regions, where hardy beings can scrape together a pathetic existence as miners or manufacturing laborers for off-world industrial interests.

    This cesspit currently plays generous host to a small group of refugees called the Feorians, a people thought to be utterly extinct until five years ago.

    “I’ve not told you the story of the Feorians?”

    No.” Anakin looks at me suspiciously, doubtlessly anticipating a dull academic lecture ahead.

    “It was one of Master Qui-Gon’s most infamous stunts. We paid dearly for his defiance of the Council on that occasion.”

    This, naturally, piques his interest. “What happened?” he prompts me, beaming with eager attention.

    I am going to regret this. But it’s too late now, and better that he hear the tale accurately, from me, rather than in one of its fanciful retellings. “They were slaves,” I begin, simply enough. “And…” - Oh dear. I am going to regret this, aren’t I? - “…we freed them.”



  20. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    Oh, yes, he is going to regret that very much. I love seeing how Anakin and Obi-Wan "spar" in these conversations. It feels perfect. Looking forward to Obi-Wan's story!
  21. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Unfortunately, I don't think the Jedi ever figure that out.
  22. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    9.

    “It’s not a first class accommodation, but the steward has issued us a private cabin,” I inform the two newcomers.

    The spaceport is unending cacophony, a paroxysm of disorder. The Skywalker boy is peering out into the clamor, awe-struck. I doubt he heard a syllable of what I said; but his master nods once, a corner of his mouth twitching upward. He understands that the beleaguered ship’s steward intends to show us the maximum degree of respect possible without compromising the profit margins of his company; the free berths assigned to us reflect his painstaking tabulation in which the loss of a first class cabin fare was weighed against the potential displeasure of two Jedi. “Well,” Kenobi remarks, “At least it’s not the cargo hold.”

    I don’t miss the subtle nudge he gives his Padawan, to reel the boy’s wandering attention back to the present moment – but I pretend not to have seen. Skywalker starts a little and immediately looks up at his teacher, carefully folding his hands into opposite sleeves and adopting a slightly swaggering gait as I lead the way up the wide passenger ramp into the ship’s interior. It’s strange to see Kenobi trailed by his own personal shadow; not so long ago, it was Qui-Gon Jinn who was perpetually attended by a gangly and hero-worshipping echo of himself, one that imitated his every gesture and habit with profound dedication to form and detail.

    Force, I suddenly feel old.

    A porter droid importunes us halfway down the interior corridor. “”Luggage, good sirs?” it inquires politely, tugging an already heavily laden trolley behind it.

    “No, thank you,” Kenobi replies. Seldom would a Jedi bring more than he can carry, and that in a small satchel. We flatten ourselves against the bulkhead as the porter drags his trolley past, the precarious stacks of valises and travel cases wobbling comically atop its hovering platform. The luggage droid is followed by another, this one pushing a food cart down the narrow aisle, heading for the first class cabins on the starboard side.

    Skywalker tugs at Kenobi’s cloak as we move on, blond head craning over one shoulder in the direction of the disappearing droids. A savory aroma mingles with the scrubbed tang of ‘cycled air.

    “Patience,” Kenobi tells him, a soft line appearing between his brows.

    Our cabin door is battered and the pressure pistons emit a discordant shriek when it slides open, but the space within is clean – by Galactic spacefaring standards – and comfortably outfitted with cushioned acceleration couches, the sort that can be converted to bunks for longer journeys.

    The Skywalker boy knows enough protocol by now to wait until his elders are seated before flopping unceremoniously down beside his master. His feet swing a few centimeters off the floor. “When’s breakfast?” he whispers in Kenobi’s ear.

    “At lunch, if you mention it again,” the latter person warns him, casting me an apologetic look before turning a severe eye back upon his apprentice. Skywalker’s gaze flits from his mentor’s face over to mine and then back again, before he subsides into a sullen knot of oversized cloak and bristling gold-tipped hair.

    A little patience would do the Padawan some good. I decide to overlook this first display of less than perfect comportment. Even I was a growing and famished boy at one time. Old Yoda could tell the stories, if he ever desired to publicly humiliate me – and though I’ve not given him occasion to exercise his magisterial rights in any number of decades, I would be foolish to say that he never would. Yoda is nothing if not unpredictable.

    And we do not always see eye to eye, whatever common Temple opinion might dictate.

    Yesterday’s private conversation regarding Kenobi and Skywalker was a paradigmatic example. My old master was in one of his moods.

    “Defiant, the boy is,” he chuffed at me. “Defiant, too, the master. Reap the fruits of a shared flaw, they do. Speak not to me of leniency, Mace Windu. Hear you I do not."
    I prepared his favorite tea. Such cantankerous statements are nothing more than the dross of his displeasure, a hedge of thorns and barbs erected against the faint-hearted. I learned long ago to push through such psychic obstacles. Besides, he does not frighten me. Not with his needling words.

    “Sweet-cane in your tea?’ I offered. Yoda hates the stuff.

    “Vile. How drink such filth you can, I know not.” he snorted back.

    “So you do hear me.” Ha. And no, he did not acknowledge the hit, but I had his real attention at that point. This is the only way to speak to him when he’s in a snit. I should know.

    All I received in reply was a wave of the hand and a wrinkle of his nose. But I know what that signifies. I sat down opposite, like any youngling ready to receive instruction, and leaned forward earnestly. “It’s not right that we should so burden any one Jedi with the training of that boy. He’s… unique. Possibly in history. Obi-Wan deserves the benefit of the Council’s wisdom, the experience of centuries. He can’t be expected to reinvent Jedi training single-handedly, when he’s barely completed his own.”

    And that’s when the old one caught me completely off guard. He can do that, even now. “Underestimate him, perhaps you do,” was his laconic retort.

    Fierfek. There are things about Yoda I will never comprehend, vast canyons and abysses lying deep beneath the ocean of his long experience, places deep in the Force where I have never yet penetrated. Some of it concerns the future, the great balance, the shifting of Light and Dark. I hope I have the wisdom to know when to back away, however.

    I bowed my head. “I merely plead the cause of compassion, master.”

    He can never resist that. Fifty years ago – yes, a full half-century – I was already taller than he is. We both had more hair then. And I called him master, morning noon and night, and developed the first foundations of Vapaad while dodging playful strikes at my shins from that infernal gimer stick of his. He won’t turn a deaf pointed ear on an appeal to such a hallowed bond.

    He grunted at me, crosser than ever. “Very well, youngling. Interfere at will, you may. Perhaps learn something also, you will.” One blunt claw was thrust under my nose, and then he lapsed into peevish silence, wrinkled lips pursing as he sipped at his revoltingly bitter, unsweetened tea, green eyes regarding me sagely over the bowl’s rim.

    And maybe I will indeed learn something. But Yoda’s threats to that effect don’t frighten me, any more than the Force itself would. I decide that none of us – neither Kenobi nor Skywalker, nor myself – should embark upon such a purportedly educational venture on an empty stomach. I summon an attendant from the outer corridor and watch in amusement as my two traveling companions’ blue eyes widen in surprise at my demand that the droid bring us the most extensive breakfast available on the shipboard menu

    “Wizard,” the Skywalker boy reverently intones, and for once, Kenobi omits to reprimand him for it.













  23. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    10.



    I can’t sleep.



    Mostly ‘cause it’s too cold. It’s always like that in space. It’s funny ‘cause when I was growing up I always thought space would be like home, kinda hot. I mean, with all those stars burning all over the place, I figured it would be like the desert without any atmosphere to shield you, and a spaceship would have to keep you cool and safe, the way home always kept Mom and me safe during a sandstorm. But it’s not like that, really. Instead, it’s cold and empty.



    I kind of feel empty inside, too. We ate plenty today but mostly other than that it was boring, lots of sitting around talking and then of course we had to meditate and I couldn’t make an excuse in front of Master Windu and they kept going forever and forever with it and I thought I was going to die of sitting still. I feel kinda hollow, right here inside my chest - ‘cause guess what we talked about all day?



    Slaves.



    I wish the stupid steward droid gave us more than one blanket apiece. I’m freezing and my chest feels funny. If Mom were here, she would know without me saying anything and she would bring me another blanket and maybe stay for awhile until my chest stopped hurting so much. She would understand. But she isn’t coming, is she? I mean, she’s stuck on Tatooine and all, working for that sleemo Watto. She’s a slave. Still.



    Nobody freed her.



    Master Qui-Gon tried, that’s what he said. It’s true ‘cause he said it.



    Except Master Obi-Wan always says there is no try, only do or do not.



    So how come Master Qui-Gon did not free Mom? Did he not like her or something? She liked him, and I thought he really meant it when he said he was sorry, after the podrace when I got all the prize money and Watto wouldn’t let us buy Mom too. Now my chest really hurts, so bad that it’s making my eyes leak, and it’s so cold. I’m shivering like I might be sick. One time at home when I stuck my hand under some junk to get this credit chit I saw down there, a baby drassil bit me. I was really, really sick and Mom was scared and I was shaking like this only worse and the local medic came and said I was gonna die. But I didn’t, ‘cause I decided not to. Mom needed me too much. So I just made the poison go away out of me – kinda by thinking really hard about it.



    Maybe if I do that now…. But I can’t make the cold go away, or the bad feeling either. It’s different from just stupid old poison. It’s inside me in a different way.



    If I squint in the dark, I can see Master Windu up on the top bunk that folds down from the bulkheads near the ceiling. He looks like that picture of a jungle colwar I saw in the Archives the other day. He’s all still and quiet and he blends into the dark so you can only tell he’s there because of his breathing and the way he sort of fills up a room , like when it’s gonna be a lightning storm and all the old folks can feel it in their joints before it comes. It’s kinda hard to believe that Master Windu actually sleeps, but I guess he does, at least sometimes.



    I thought the same thing about Master, too, when I first met him, After Naboo, when we got back to the Temple I mean, he didn’t sleep for like five nights running and I started to wonder if maybe Jedi just always stayed awake and didn’t need to rest. And then he just passed out one night and he was dead to the world for like a whole day. That’s when I met Master Muln the first time. He’s nice, mostly, and he came by that day and talked to me and took me around with him all over the place while Master Bant stayed with Master Obi-Wan. She said he was out of commission for a while but he would be all right and he didn’t know what was good for him, either. It sounds bossy, but I could tell she was a little bit worried actually. And she said that even Jedi have to sleep, so that answered my question. She’s a healer, I think, and she looks kinda like a fish, which is rugged. She has these enormous round eyes and everything. Master Muln said that grief claims a heavy toll, or something like that, but I don’t think he got it quite right. Master Obi-Wan didn’t even cry at Qui-Gon’s funeral. I watched him super carefully and he just didn’t.



    But anyway, he’s definitely asleep right now. And he doesn’t fill up the room the same way that Master Windu does. It’s more like a night-light, the kind Mom used to leave on for me when she thought I was afraid of the dark. I’m not afraid of anything - but I didn’t tell her ‘cause I really liked the way the little glow-lamp made everything in my room seem more beautiful and softer, like Mom and me were really free and all, and how it kept shining all night long no matter how dark it got outside, like it didn’t care or anything. It was a nice lamp but Threepio broke it when he was stumbling around before I got his motivator circuits installed right.



    Master won’t care if I just kinda snuggle up next to him. After all, now we’ve got two blankets to share and besides, he’s pretty warm anyway and he has a good smell – clean and a little spicy, ‘cause he’s a fanatic about being neat and all. My shivering starts to go away, so maybe I’m not really sick or at least not too bad. What do they do to you if you get sick when you’re a Jedi? Watto used to get mad ‘cause I couldn’t work… and then he would call the nasty veterinarian. Animal doctors cost less than people doctors and there’s not much difference between a slave and an animal anyway, I guess.



    “Anakin?” Master says, all groggy, and frowning even though his eyes are closed.



    “I’m cold.



    He says something else, all mumbling. I think it might have been stars’ end. He says that one a lot. But then he’s quiet again, and I think maybe he’s gone back to sleep. “Cept he’s hogging the whole bunk and there’s not much room for me so I push him just gently toward the wall to make more room, with both my hands shoving in his side. Only that wakes him up again.



    Anakin,” he grumbles, with more of an irritated sound this time.



    “I think I’m sick,” I tell him. When we did that braiding thing, he promised that he would protect me and stuff. I hope he won’t call the veterinarian. His hand comes up and touches the side of my head, and he doesn’t say anything for a long time. Maybe I am sick, really bad this time. “What happens to a Padawan that gets sick?” I wonder. It might be pretty severe. Jedi are strict.



    “Oh, his master generally maroons him on the nearest asteroid and promptly finds a healthier replacement,” he tells me, with his voice all flat again.



    He’s joking. I can tell ‘cause if that were true, then he wouldn’t tell me. He would tell me something else instead, that was only kind of true depending how you look at it. “So did Master Qui-Gon ever do that to you?”



    “Several times,” he decides, and then he scoots over onto one side, not with his back to me though, which gives me lots more room and I can scoot even closer and maybe I’m not so sick after all. I feel warmer and that weird hurting feeling in my chest is going away, so I won’t have to worry about that marooning thing, even if it weren’t just a big load of bantha poodoo Master Obi-Wan made up to tease me.



    Mom never teased me, not like that – but it feels all right. Sort of friendly. Maybe.



    “Our conversation with Master Windu earlier disturbed you,” Master says, all soft and quiet. He mostly doesn’t say things that way. When he promised that I would be a Jedi, that night on Naboo, his voice was the same way – and I knew he really meant it. “I’m sorry, Anakin,” he adds, and I know he means it this time too.



    “’S okay,” I say, even though it’s not really. But it kinda is right now. It’s nice to be warm and safe and for once I don’t mind that somebody can see right through me into the inside where it’s confusing. “I really hate talking about slaves,” I tell him.



    “I know,” he says, and then he pauses like maybe he was going to say something else, but he doesn’t. He puts his hand on top of my head again and then suddenly it’s really warm and cozy and there’s light everywhere, and..



    I was going to say something else… about the Feorians and slaves and stuff… but I can’t remember….cause I’m getting all sort of…. sleepy…. and….
  24. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    11.



    There is something amiss here.



    I felt it before we even set down upon Outer Gola’s most extensive spaceport docking pad – a slab of cracked duracrete poured with casual indifference to symmetry or evenness, located in the middle of a non-descript stretch of tundra. At this time of year, the ice pockets have all but thawed, revealing the intrepid clumps of native flora that have taken shelter beneath them all the long months of winter – hardy flowering things, just peeking out beneath a watery sun, shy of being discovered. Our ship’s back thrusters inevitably wilt a good swath of them as the pilot sets down. Alas that my former master is not here to mourn the passing of these pathetic life forms….



    Mourning is the shadow of attachment, of greed. I must be more mindful.



    Anakin is still hovering underfoot, seemingly oblivious to the unspoken rules of personal space. One moment this child is dashing headlong into the fetid pits of lower Coruscant, without a backward glance; while the next, he is hanging on my proverbial apron-strings the way Bant used to cling to Master Troon’s fur in the crèche. I take a discreet step to the left and backward, but he gravitates in the same direction, a small blond moon determined not to leave its ordained orbit.



    But of course, he can feel it too. This place is off-kilter. The Force is disturbed.



    And Anakin is very young – all but untrained.



    We descend the passenger ship’s ramp alone; this is the last destination on its far-flung itinerary, a mere refueling stop at the end of a jagged series of hyperspace jumps. Besides the crew, we are the only ones left aboard the massive vessel; and I doubt the pilots will wait much beyond the time requisite to replenish the fuel cells before they depart again. After all, there is no settlement in sight, not a scrap of building or storehouse beyond the pump-station and its droids, and certainly no spacer’s lounge with the customary cantina.



    This is the middle of nowhere, by anyone’s definition. It makes Mos Espa on Tatooine look like a bustling center of commerce. I glance down at Anakin, trailing behind me a pace, to see what his reaction to this desolate landscape might be. His wide eyes are surveying the empty horizons with an innocent wonder.



    “Where are the Feorians, master?” he asks, when we reach the cracked platform. The ship’s drives provide ambient warmth, but already the chill air is cutting beneath that artificial balminess. I pull my cloak tighter.



    “Eastward, about a hundred klicks,” I answer, squinting at the dully-textured rise of hills in that direction. The morning sunshine is painfully bright – reflected on melting ice and in the pale dome of the atmosphere. Tundra and scattered glacial rock outcroppings – nothing more.



    Beside me, Master Windu releases a sigh. “Our welcoming committee appears to be late,” he observes dryly.



    Well. That’s not good; but then, it certainly is preferable to a welcoming committee armed with blasters and grenades. Much depends on one’s point of view, with respect to such inconveniences.



    “I’m cold,” my Padawan complains, taking up the litany which he began many hours ago in transit. This could be a very long wait, and I don’t fancy being stranded here once the passenger freighter leaves.



    “Perhaps the ship has a small ground transport on board,” I suggest, though it’s doubtful I will be able to convince the crew to let me appropriate it – not without a bit of mind influence, anyway. And that’s a touchy subject at the present moment.



    “Skywalker,” Mace rumbles, withdrawing a pair of macrobinoculars from his belt pouches, “Why don’t you scan the horizon- see if you can locate any vehicles coming this way.”



    The boy eagerly accepts this unnecessary task, and for a moment I wonder why Master Windu has assigned him such a pointless endeavor. After all, we will sense the approach of any incoming craft; and looking for something in the distance does not make it arrive any faster. But Anakin eagerly sets to adjusting the ‘noculars to his small face, and then fiddling with the focusing controls. And I have to admit that the ploy keeps him happily occupied and quiet.



    And the pleased gleam in Master Windu’s dark eyes tells me that this was all he intended, anyway.



    I see.



    There is more than one way to skin a gundark, particularly when it comes to younglings. I’ll remember that, for future use. It’s not as though my many years of training included preparation for this. Diplomacy is one thing; childcare quite another. I’m beginning to cultivate a new and profound respect for the crèche-masters, my own former caretakers not least among them.



    Anakin moves to the edge of the solid docking pad, in order to gain an unobstructed view of the eastern ridges. I suspect he might actually be watching some native springers bounding among their slopes, but that keeps him occupied, does it not?



    I hate to say it, but… “I have a bad feeling about this,” I confide in Master Windu.



    He issues no decrees about constraining one’s focus to the at-hand. “I feel it, too,” he says, in his deep baritone.” A moment’s consideration, in which he dwells in the Force, inhaling Light with the frost-laden air. “It is good we came,” he decides.



    I nod. Yes. If there is something wrong here, then it is indeed good that Jedi should stumble upon it. In this star-forsaken wilderness, how many would have the initiate or resources to call halfway across the galaxy for help?



    “They’re coming! They’re coming!” Anakin hollers, as though heralding the advent of some celebrity podracer and his entourage. He trains the macro-nocs on the tiny cloud of approaching dust and watches the grav-sled train meander its way across the intervening plains.



    And when the ramshackle conveyance – a sort of bedraggled convoy of salvaged sleds and hover barges – does come to a halt beside the duracrete platform, Anakin is too engrossed in examining its magnetic coupling mechanisms and primitive repulsorlifts to be of any use. I glance at Master Windu, but he seems unconcerned by the boy’s distraction. Already more than once, Anakin’s inherent mechanical genius has saved us from certain… complications… on a mission; and so, permitting him this moment of curiosity may not be an unwise thing in the end.



    The driver of this ingenious and dilapidated contraption is a Feorian. I have not set eyes upon one of his people in five years, since the last time Qui-Gon and I were able to visit them, before they were manipulated by unscrupulous politicians into moving here to their permanent “Cultural Reservation” on Outer Gola. But his drooping posture and haggard face seem even more pathetic than I recall. Surely freedom should not weigh so heavily upon its possessors?



    “My lord Jedis,” this tall, gangly fellow addresses himself to us. “Sorry, I am, to be so tardy in fetching thee. But the jabbuur-weki struck again last night, and all is in an uproar. There are several more of the living dead among us, and the village must be purged of evil spirits yet again.”



    Oh. So it’s going to be one of those sort of trips, is it? … Just lovely.
  25. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    12.



    Our Feorian escort is not a gregarious fellow. He sits hunched at the guidance system of the foremost hover-car, the makeshift engine of this cargo-tram, keeping his sunken eyes trained steadily upon the ice-crusted plains, cautiously veering in long arcs around any stony protuberances that thrust up from the frozen soil. Slabs of broken granite are embedded helter-skelter along the curves and dips of the land, evidence of some ancient glacial erosion.



    The train is neither heated nor enclosed, but our skinny, bent-backed driver was kind enough to provide us with hand-woven blankets, a rare artifact in this day and age. I sit behind the engineer’s seat, watching the bleak swells of land rise and fall like the waves of some forlorn sea. Kenobi and his Padawan rest against the opposite side of the rattling cab, the frigid wind whipping at their hair, raking bright spots of pink across fair cheeks. Skywalker is huddled close against his master’s side, practically under his wing like the famous sculpture of the dove and its hatchling in the Alderaanian Peace Garden.



    In truth, the pair of them remind me more of that late Scozzi period painting – “The Orphans,” I believe it’s titled. It’s displayed prominently at the Coruscant Intergalactic Museum of Art in the classicist wing. You would think that these two boys were the original models. A fanciful person might describe the scene as picturesque. But I am not a fanciful person. Were I not Jedi, I would say the Force made a mistake; Qui-Gon should have survived to this day and well beyond, the old scoundrel.



    Kenobi’s eyes meet mine briefly, and the barely perceptible frown-line between his brows amply conveys his ironic perceptiveness. . Apparently my thoughts were not well shielded; and apparently, he finds my pity slightly irksome. As he should; a Jedi is never truly bereaved, while he has the Force, and the Force cleaves to Kenobi as it does to few others. You could strip this man of everything, and yet he would not be alone. Yoda sees it – I’m convinced of that. Underestimate him, perhaps you do. I lean back, crossing my arms, and direct my gaze forward, past our hunched driver’s form, to the rolling tundra beyond. In the distance, the irregular geometry of a flat village can be spied, peeking between two dull swells in the land.



    “This jabuur-weki,” I address him. “A native predator?” Or perhaps a band of roaming outlaws or thieves? – Outer Gola is far from the reach of Galactic Law, in all but name. This may be part of the Republic, but it’s a forgotten part.



    The Feorian turns mournful eyes upon me, allowing his gaze to stray dangerously from the road ahead. “The jabuur-weki,” he declares solemnly, in his rasping voice, “Hast thou not heard of it, lord Jedi?”



    “Not lord,” I correct him. “And no, we’ve not heard of it.”



    Kenobi waves a hand, tumbling a heavy stone out of our path at the last moment. The train hurtles onward, its guide still studying me intently. The Force smoothes again. “Beware the jabuur-weki,” the Feorian intones, theatrically. “It comes for those who hath violated the Old Ways. His head wobbles atop his scrawny neck as he finally returns his attention to our distant goal. “It has punished many, of late. A spirit, it is, a guardian of our people.”



    The Skywalker boy’s face is twisted into a skeptical grimace, but he holds his tongue. This may be due to the restraining hand placed on his knee. Kenobi merely flicks his own gaze in my direction, once, and then asks the obvious question.



    “Has anyone seen this apparition?”



    But our new acquaintance scoffs. “Seen it? Thou knowest nothing, truly. Reveal itself only to those it comes to claim, the jabuur-weki does. Do not wish to see it,” he advises, with a shudder. “Many have seen it of late, and the jabuur-weki is that which hath taken their souls and left their bodies to linger on like empty gourds.”



    “Naturally,” Kenobi concludes with a droll lift of the brows.



    “Master,” his Padawan interrupts, in a low whisper.



    “Later, Anakin.”



    And by some miracle of the Force, the boy remains silent.



    “Perhaps we can help,” I offer. We are duty bound to render assistance where it is needed.



    But my suggestion is met with stony disapprobation. “The jabuur-weki is an avenging spirit,” the Feorian mumbles. “We do not wish to rebel against its judgment. Your help is not needed, lord Jedis.”



    I see. Now Skywalker’s mouth is hanging open in disbelief. I fix him with a sober look and he seems to remember his place, clamping his jaw shut and looking up at Kenobi again, blue eyes glittering with a hundred unasked questions.



    I know how you feel, son. I have a few of those, myself. But it is clear that this ignorant if well-intentioned fellow is not the one who will answer them. We must have patience, and learn more.



    Eventually, the clattering hover-train bumps and jostles to an inelegant halt on the outskirts of the village, which upon closer inspection proves to be no more than an orderly cluster of long-houses, constructed of hardened earth and roofed in scrap material from some industrial smelting-house. There are no roads, and no vehicles in sight beyond this one ersatz passenger line. Out of low-slung doorways emerge Feorians, in twos and threes, and then in clusters of a half-dozen, all of them mournful and gangly, and staring at us with large, unblinking eyes. There are hardly any children among them, and many elderly. Among them is an ornament-bedecked elder, hoary and hobbling on aging joints. He leans heavily on a carved staff of office, and is attended by a bevy of others, their slanting shoulders draped in rudely-embroidered stoles, a sign of rank or authority. The women, I notice, remain sheltered within the gloom of the houses. I can feel their regard settle with juridical interest upon our ‘sabers and the sweep of our dark cloaks as we exchange bows with the leaders.



    “Welcome,” the chieftain greets us, with a ceremonial gesture. “Please – we are honored to host you, lord Jedis. But daylight dwindles. Beneath a roof, should we be.”



    And so we proceed, across the hard-packed, still-frozen earth of the village square, into one of the squalid shelters that ring it, where we will spend our first night among these lost people, this mysterious and exiled race. Kenobi enters the darkened hut first, followed closely by Skywalker.



    I take one last look at the village, the long dusking shadows crawling over the trampled dirt. And I bring up the rear, already aware that this will be no simple ambassadorial visit.



    Because the Force here is acutely disturbed.





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