Before - Legends Peer Pressure (Kenobi, Vos et al. - humor)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ruth baulding, Dec 18, 2012.

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  1. ruth baulding Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    Peer Pressure
    by Ruth Baulding
    Obi-Wan comes to grips with an eccentric fellow Padawan and negotiates acceptable terms of coexistence.


    Obi-Wan stared at his mentor in abject horror.

    The tall Jedi master’s mouth tightened into a disproving line. “Master Tholme has asked me this favor during his absence, and I expect you to lend your considerable talent and charm to its accomplishment. There is no harm in asking you to keep company with a fellow student for a few days. What objection, Padawan, do you harbor against easing another Jedi’s path?”

    “This is Quinlan Vos we are speaking of, master. Need I say more?”

    Qui-Gon raised a brow. “You would be wise not to say any more, I think.”

    The young Jedi bristled. “Yes, master.”

    “Good. Off you go.” He watched his apprentice gather up his cloak with an elegant asperity, silently stalking toward the door and his onerous duty.

    “Oh – and, Obi-wan?”

    The young Jedi paused expectantly upon the threshold.

    “I shall consider this a fair measure of your progress in fundamental diplomatic skill.”

    The Padawan dipped his head, respectful posture displaying the proper attitude to be adopted toward his new assignment, flashing eyes eloquently conveying –by contrast- his actual estimation of its merits. And then he was gone.

    “Brat,” Qui-Gon grumbled to himself.



    The Kiffar Padawan was waiting for him outside the practice rooms, already stripped down to trousers and bare feet. He lounged against the outside wall of salle number four, idly turning a battered training saber’s hilt in his hand.

    “Kenobi!” he greeted the other young Jedi. “So we’re study-buddies today, eh?”

    “From a certain point of view.” Obi-Wan folded his cloak into crisp quarters and laid it on a low bench just inside the doorframe, then sat to remove his boots. They would learn the kata in the traditional manner, without the encumbrance of extra clothing.

    “Just like old times, out on Qotile,” Vos mused, still running a finger thoughtfully along the training saber’s hilt.

    Obi-Wan held his tongue. Diplomatic skills. But he longed to point out to his Kiffar acquaintance that trench camaraderie was rather a far cry from true friendship. Shared experience in the Stark Huperspace Conflict did not qualify him as Vos’… “buddy.”

    The dark haired youth prattled on. ”Last person to use this ‘saber is smitten with Ti-Lo Mei.,” he observed. “No accounting for taste.”

    “Vos!”

    “What?” The practice weapon flipped over in mid-air, suspended casually between them. “Want to trade?”

    “No.” Force knew what memories Vos’ telemetric abilities might exhume from his ‘saber’s hilt. “And a Jedi does not use his powers to pry into others’ private affairs or shortcomings.”

    The Kiffar Padawan snatched the levitating weapon out of mid-air, making a face. “A Jedi doesn’t use his powers to deliver self-righteous lectures, either. Besides, most natives of Kiffu can read objects, so it’s not a Jedi thing, properly speaking.”

    Obi-Wan set his boots aside. “And common decency and respect aren’t special Jedi traits either, “ he retorted, “So we seem to both to possess endowments of nature unknown to the other.”

    Quinlan Vos’ angular face hardened. “Maybe we should spar instead of practicing that kata,” he suggested.

    “Fine,” Obi-Wan readily agreed, unclipping his ‘saber and preceding Vos into the center of the wide training room.




    “Both of you,” Cin Drallig grunted, all but throwing the chastised pair out of the dojo by the scruffs of their necks.

    When the swordsmaster had retreated into the salles, the Force rippling vexedly in his wake, Quinlan Vos broke into a wide grin. “In trouble again, Kenobi.” He ran a hand through his sweat-stiffened bristle of dark hair. “You’re a bad influence on me.”

    Obi-Wan’s mouth dropped open.
    “Well,” Vos continued, with an indifferent lift of the shoulders. “It’s time for midday meal. See you there.” He swaggered down the corridor, his disorderly bundle of tunics and boots tucked beneath one arm.

    The other Padawan watched him go, drawing on the Living Force to bolster his rapidly dwindling reserves of patience, and then made his way to the shower rooms to render himself presentable.

    A half hour later he was happily ensconced in the dining hall with Garen and Reeft. Vos, mercifully, maintained his habitual outcast’s post by the far exit. A loner by temperament, the brooding Kiffar laid into his food with a good appetite, and a marked disregard for Core-world table manners.

    “Uncivilized,” Obi-Wan muttered, watching his acquaintance tear into a roasted hamma with his fingers. Across from him, Reeft stopped in the act of reaching for his own hamma and discreetly picked up the proper utensil.

    “You going on that industrial sector tour day after next?” Garen Muln inquired, with his mouth full. “Everyone who wants to qualify for the senior Galactic history exams has to do the field trip.”

    “Dreadful,” Reeft moaned. “If you don’t die of boredom, there’s always the carcinogenic smog.”

    Obi-Wan shoved his half-finished third helping across the table to the Dressalian, who gratefully mopped up his leftovers. “I’d forgotten. I’m sure Master Jinn will give permission – except –“

    Garen leaned back, smirking. “You might have to keep Vos company?”

    “Take him with us,” Reeft shrugged. “Bonds of brotherhood and all.”

    Obi-Wan scowled.

    “Blasted pity we can’t have a day off,” Garen mused, folding his hands behind his head. “Starside Expo’s this week, at the fairgrounds in the Sluisshi district. Now that would be a field trip.”

    “That,” Obi-Wan corrected him tartly, “Would be a frivolous distraction and an inexcusable occasion of self-indulgence.”
    “Exactly,” his childhood friend grinned.



    “Vos,” Obi-Wan hissed. “Would you pay attention?”



    The Kiffar Padawan propped both feet up on the table in the Archives study-alcove. “Why? You’re doing all the work for me, Kenobi.”



    “Precisely my point,” his disgruntled companion snapped. “How do you expect to pass this astronavigation test if you don’t focus?”



    Quinlan Vos studied the vaulted ceiling high overhead. “Relax, brother. The Force will find a solution.”



    Obi-Wan sank into his own chair again, sullenly tapping the datapad’s screen. “Fine. I’ll stop distracting you from your mediation, then.” He lapsed into a pointed silence.



    Five minutes later, Vos was sound asleep.



    “Stars’ end,” his study partner grumbled, using the Force to abruptly right the Kiffar’s tilted chair.



    Its occupant started awake. “Hey, Kenobi! What’s eating you?”



    One eyebrow crept upward, sardonic. “Some of us are trying to concentrate, while you practice your snoring katas.”



    Vos stood and stretched, yawning loudly enough to bring the formidable Archivist Jocasts Nu down upon their heads, were she close enough to hear. “I couldn’t help it. You bored me to tears with your lectures. So, where are we?”



    Diplomacy. Diplomacy.



    “Where we started, or possibly not quite that far yet,” Obi-Wan muttered. “You do the next problem.” He tossed the datapad across the way to his less than scholarly partner, and waited with folded arms.



    A half minute later, Vos had finished. “Easy as womprat pie,” he snorted. “Got it. Don’t know why they make such a fuss about this stuff.”



    Obi-Wan gritted his teeth and went back to work on his own calculations.



    “If you’re having a hard time, Kenobi, I’d be glad to help,” the other young Jedi offered.



    “That won’t be necessary.”



    It was going to be a long afternoon.







    “How did it go today?” Qui-Gon asked. He had always favored the direct approach.



    His Padawan’s brooding, articulate silence told all.



    “I see. Which confirms me in the belief that a few more days spent enjoying Padawan Vos’ companionship will be a salutary exercise for you.”



    “With all due respect, master, I would rather weed the outdoor meditation gardens. By hand.”



    The tall master cocked his head to one side, considering the matter. “But that would not teach you patience and tolerance for other sentients,” he objected.



    “I could roll naked in the poison okra,” his apprentice offered, darkly. “It would come to the same thing.”



    The Jedi master came to the end of his own patience. “Such sentiment toward another living being ill-becomes you. I expect better.”



    They left the balcony for the shelter of the Temple corridors. “I’m sorry, master… I do like Vos. I respect him. I wish him well. From a distance.”



    Qui-Gon laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Compassion does not always admit of distance, young one. Nor, for that matter, do the demands of peace-keeping. You still have much to learn.”



    Obi-Wan’s resigned sigh echoed in the Force.



    “Besides,” his teacher continued. “Master Tholme is a friend, and I expect my Padawan to honor his request as I would myself. He is aware that his apprentice struggles to maintain an accord with his age-mates; that even now, he is ill-attuned to the Temple’s lifeways and rhythms. The situation is closely parallel to some of the diplomatic obstacles we have encountered in unifying culturally disparate planets. Now let me see you rise to the occasion.”



    “Yes, master.” They ascended a broad flight of steps to the residential level in this wing. Obi-Wan risked an upward glance. “Ah… Garen and Reeft and I thought perhaps to take Vos with us on the industrial sector tour day after next. With your permission, of course, master.”



    Qui-Gon nodded in approval. “Much better. You see? It is not so difficult as you think.”







    Qui-Gon was quite right, as usual. It wasn’t as hard as Obi-Wan had initially supposed. It was, in fact, much harder.



    “So, you know, this whole thing with the Code,” Quinlan Vos mused, brushing a drooping yarbanna frond out of his path with a solid thwap, “I just don’t get it.”



    Obi-Wan inhaled the scent of the indoor arboretum, the riot of verdant life and rich soil, humid richly textured air. “The Code? It’s the foundation of our tradition.”



    The Kiffar waved this aside. “Yeah, yeah. The Force is the foundation of our tradition. Codifying it is a bit foolish, you know?”



    “I wouldn’t presume to judge,” his companion replied, dryly. If Vos picked up the hint, he laid it down again just as quickly, for he continued wandering down the path unfazed.



    “Ever go swimming in the river, Kenobi?”



    “Swimming in the river is forbidden.” Everyone did, though; but it was implicitly understood among countless generations of Padawans that the violation of this rule was never to be openly mentioned, and implicitly understood among generations of masters that the violation of this rule would never be openly noticed.. The arrangement was… traditional.



    Vos chuckled. “They’ve got pills for that, you know.”



    “What?”



    “Constipation.”



    Obi-Wan bit his tongue and led the way down another branch in the path. One thing was an absolute certainty: Vos would never be elevated to the Council. Which was undoubtedly a good thing.



    “Okay. That’s enough for me,” the Kiffar decided, halfway to the waterfall and the adjacent meditation grottos. “Let’s blow this joint and do something useful.”



    The other young Jedi gaped. “Master Qui-Gon will often spend hours here, meditating and discussing –“



    “I’m not Master Jinn,” Quinlan Vos shrugged diffidently. “We’ve got time before the lecture. Let’s check out the hangar bays. Enough nature. I want to get my hands dirty.”







    Vos wasn’t kidding. Within an hour, not only his hands but his arms up to the elbow and his conveniently dark-tinted tunics were irreparably stained with lubricant and oxidized metallic residue. There were always two or three dismantled aircars or other decommissioned vehicles housed in the lower maintenance bays, to be used by students wishing for practical experience in basic engineering. Junior and senior Padawans, and the occasional Knight or master who had a hankering for the challenges of mechanics, could be found in the bays making adjustments or attempting to put the dilapidated machinery back into working order.



    Obi-Wan was competent in such skills, but did not count tinkering among his favorite avocations. He sat, back to the wall, while Vos amused himself.



    “You ever hotwire one of these suckers?” Vos’ boots wriggled as the Padawan shimmied his way further beneath the air-car’s chassis.



    “No,” his companion confessed. “It would be a one way ride at best, and taking a vehicle out of the transport pool without permission is –“



    “Yeah, yeah, forbidden,” the other young Jedi grunted from beneath the dented hull. “You ever wonder what would happen if you did something forbidden, Kenobi?”



    He didn’t need to wonder; he knew. Qui-Gon Jinn would kill him. Before he so much as had opportunity to point out he was only following in the great man’s revered footsteps. “I have other topics of speculation to occupy my attention, “ he answered, repressively.



    “Like some good-looking girl?” Vos asked, in a sly undertone.



    Blast it. “Not everyone’s mind is mired in the baser aspects of our physical nature,” he retorted sourly.



    But it was near impossible to get a rise out of Quinlan Vos. “Whatever. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with a little Living Force appreciation. But if you’re that up-tight… better stick with the books, man.”



    Obi-Wan flushed, suddenly impatient to be done with this conversation. “We had better get going,” he told his acquaintance. “I don’t want to be late for Master Yaddle’s lecture.”



    Vos rolled his eyes, wiped his greasy palms on his disheveled tabards, and followed him out the broad exit.





    “Whoa,” Quinlan Vos groaned, popping several vertebrae as he gave his own head a swift one-handed jerk, “That was pretty dry, even you gotta admit.”



    “I thought Master Yaddle’s exposition was fascinating,” Obi-Wan replied, standing aside to allow a press of older students and masters out the lecture hall doors ahead of them. “The historical ramifications are-“



    “Dead as dust,” Vos finished. “Just like I’m gonna be if I don’t hit the sack soon. Been a long day,”



    For once, Obi-Wan found himself in agreement with his vexatious comrade. “And we’re meeting early for the industrial sector tour. Eighth hour, outside the south docking bay. Look for Garen and Reeft.”



    Quinlan nodded. “Right. Muln I know. Reeft’s the Dressalian? Got it. I’ll be there. Finally – getting out of this stuffy place.”



    Affronted, Obi-Wan led the way across the Hall of Unity-in-Fraternal-Purpose and onto the adjoining pedestrian arcade. “The Temple has been the center of Jedi culture and philosophy for a millennium,” he protested.



    “Right,” Vos absently agreed. “Hey – see if Master Jinn will clear us to take a private aircar. I can’t stand public transport. Makes me claustrophobic. Too many people touching stuff, you know?”



    Obi-Wan paused momentarily, an unexpected pang of sympathy for his fellow Padawan weakening his determination to remain annoyed. He had not considered before that Vos’ extraordinary abilities might be distracting or even burdensome in certain situations.



    But the irrepressible Kiffar quickly dispelled any empathetic urges when he landed a friendly punch square to his companion’s shoulder. “You’re the best, Kenobi. See you in the morning.”



    And off he went to his own quarters, leaving Obi-Wan to rub at his bruised arm and find his own way home in much-appreciated peace.





    “I trust Master Yaddle was as illumining as ever?” Qui-Gon greeted him upon his return.



    The young Jedi could not be certain, but he thought he sensed a facetious undercurrent to his teacher’s inquiry. Then again, perhaps he had simply been spending too much time in the company of Quinlan Vos.



    “If you suffer from headache, Padawan, you should take a nerve-blocker.”



    Obi-Wan stopped massaging his temples and pinched fiercely at the bridge of his nose instead. “I’m fine, master.”



    “H.” The older man raised a brow. “And are you still attending the tour tomorrow? With Quinlan?”



    “Yes, master.” It was difficult to keep the morose overtone out of his inflection.



    “Be sure to take your rebreather. Some of the controlled burn sites have been declared level three toxic atmospheric pollutants, especially for humanoids.”



    “Lovely.” The Padawan edged toward the invitingly open door to his own small bedroom.



    But the Jedi master wasn’t done yet. “A word with you, please, before you retire.”



    Obi-Wan obediently hesitated in the threshold. “Yes, master?” Perhaps he ought to take a nerve-blocker after all.



    Qui-Gon’s blue eyes seemed to look straight through him. “Sometimes patient endurance of discomfort is not sufficient, Obi-Wan. It is necessary on occasion to actively seek a solution, and to direct events toward a satisfactory conclusion.”



    His apprentice nodded, neutrally.



    The tall man’s mouth twitched. “Translation: you may need to meet Vos halfway. Make an effort to accommodate his unique perspective. We can learn many things from those opposite in temperament to ourselves. I have great faith in your ability to step outside your own comfort zone for the sake of the greater good.”



    “I understand.” Obi-Wan rubbed at the back of his neck. “Ah…master? That being said, do you suppose we might have permission to take one of the Temple’s aircars? Vos confided in me that he finds public transportation… uncomfortable.”



    Perceptive as ever, Qui-Gon needed no further explanation. His mien softened in approval of the discreetly courteous gesture. “I’ll see what I can do.”



    “Thank you, master.” For a moment, the young Jedi almost lost his nerve in the face of this paragon of compassion. But he reminded himself that it was a matter of the greater good, and steeled his resolve. “Good night.”



    Garen was the best pilot among them, so he naturally took the controls. Vos vaulted lightly into the passenger side seat, leaving Obi-Wna to cram himself in the back compartment with the lanky Reeft.



    “Besides, Obi, you fit better in compact spaces,” Garen grinned over one shoulder.



    The young Jedi crossed his arms. “Keep your eyes on the traffic lane, Muln.”



    “So, anyone else hear about the toxicity levels in this industrial sector?” Vos inquired, conversationally. “Supposed to kill womprats dead in a matter of days. And just think, that chisszk is floating all over Coruscant now.”



    “It’s dreadful,” Reeft concurred.



    “And we’re headed straight into it – makes you wonder about our basic sanity, doesn’t it?”

    Obi-Wan leaned back in his cramped seat. “I’ve been thinking,” he put it.



    “I have a bad feeling about this,” Garen said, deadpan, earning a round of appreciative sniggering from his puerile audience.



    They passed a sector boundary, marked by a flashing red holo-line. “We don’t have to go choke on pollutants this afternoon.”



    Vos turned round to peer at him with a new interest. “What are you saying, Kenobi?”



    The Padawan in question gazed blandly out the air-car’s side. “Simply that these older model aircars have rather unreliable navigation systems. One loose wire and the entire guidance matrix goes on the fritz. We could be headed to the industrial sector but end up far off course, all because of a minor computer glitch.”



    Vos grinned widely, cottoning on. “Like how far out of course?”



    “In theory?” Obi-Wan feigned merely academic interest. “As far as the Sluisshi district, I would say.”



    Their vehicle lurched as Garen nearly let go of the yoke and accelerator. “Who are you and what have you done with Obi-Wan?” he demanded. “Wait – don’t answer that. Just keep talking. I’m game. Vos?”



    The Kiffar Padawan beamed at his new friends. “Count me in.”



    Reeft spread his long fingered hands in an amicable gesture. “So long as they have food.”



    “Kenobi!” Quinlan Vos leaned into the back compartment to slap the other Padawan’s knee. “Nobody told me you had a hidden side, you cunning barve!”



    Obi-Wan chose to interpret this in a complimentary fashion.





    The docking bay attendant permitted them entrance free of charge, assuming that they were a security patrol sent expressly from the Temple.



    “Our reputation precedes us,” Garen remarked, guiding the air-car into the allotted space.



    “Let’s hope it doesn’t follow us,” Obi-Wan muttered. Then, “How long do you think it would take to fix a faulty nav system?”



    Reeft, a diligent cybertronics enthusiast, pondered the question gravely. “Well, by the time you made your diagnosis, and found the relevant fused wires or circuit breakers, and then effected repairs, it could take as long as two hours.”



    Garen shut the vehicle down, frowning. “Of course, a responsible Padawan would call the Temple for assistance as soon as he set down.”



    “No,” his friend argued. “A responsible Padawan would not waste the Order’s resources on a problem he could solve himself, He would assess the situation, find a solution, and get himself to his original destination in a tardy but acceptable time frame.”



    “He has a point,” Reeft agreed.



    Garen chewed on his bottom lip, peering with critical acumen at Obi-Wan. “What’s got into you?” he asked, bluntly.



    Vos inserted himself between them. “Enough talking. Let’s check out this place.” He leapt gracefully over the car’s side panel. Reeft shrugged and followed suit.



    In the pilot’s seat, fixed his friend with a disbelieving stare. Obi-Wan placidly returned his gaze, making a polite gesture at the hangar deck. “After you.”



    They left the vehicle docked in the crowded public bay, some with more reluctance than others, and took a lift tube to the pedestrian plaza overhead. Holoboards blared flashing images; pulsing Uuntzi music throbbed from massive amplifiers; milling sentients swelled in a herd toward the fancifully bedecked entry gates. A striating marquee proclaimed this to be the site of the 154th Annual Starside Expo.



    The boys stood in a dizzy cluster for a moment, sorting out the overpowering influx of emotion and excitement pounding through the overwrought Force.



    “Heady stuff,” Vos remarked.



    Garen’s reservations dissolved in the face of the much-longed for reality.



    “Mmm… fried mollu…. Shneppel cakes… roasted yorn….” Reeft intoned.



    Obi-Wan braced himself and led the way forward. “Well? What are we waiting for?”



    “I like your style, Kenobi,” Vos informed him, socking him in the shoulder again. “Let’s go.”



    They had not calculated in the one factor that any pedestrian resident of Coruscant would easily have foreseen as an impasse: between them, they carried sufficient credits to purchase only one admission



    But, as Qui-Gon Jinn was so fond of saying, a solution will often present itself to those who are patient and trust in the Force. The lightsabers at their hips and their obvious youth conspired to bring about a change in fortune: a helpful ticketing clerk – of the buxom humanoid variety – determined that since both students and members of the clergy were entitled to a half-price reduction, the Jedi should each be charged only twenty-five percent of the going .price. The Padawans did not feel it was their duty to point out her mathematical or logical fallacy, and after a few minutes of flirtatious small-talk with Quinlan and Garen, who proved disturbingly adept at such questionably appropriate social exchanges, she sent them on their way with a heartfelt sigh of appreciation intended to encompass the entire foursome, with the possible exception of Reeft.



    The entrance tunnels issued them directly into a domed midway, replete with adrenaline pumping rides and amusements from every corner of the Core systems. The noise was deafening. Spinning, tumbling, speeding and grav-repulsor attractions offered the siren call fo lights, sounds, and – in a few exotic cases – a heavy cloud of pheromone-laden scent. Choking, they bypassed the latter entertainments and headed for the exit on the far side.



    “None of this looks like fun anyway,” Garen Muln consoled his friends. “Except maybe that.” He pointed to a colossal anti-grav simulator which styled itself Crash Landing.



    “Only four credits for a near death experience,” Vos read the appended notice.



    Obi-Wan shuddered. “People do this for pleasure?”



    “We don’t have four credits anyhow. Pity.”



    A street performer somersaulted and cavorted along the center of the main thoroughfare, drawing applause and wide stares from small children milling along the path. Vos playfully accompanied him several paces, performing seven traveling backflips alongside the clown. The performer came to a standstill, fixing the interloper with an icy glare until Obi-Wan tugged on his tunic and drew him away.



    “I don’t think he appreciated the competition,” he gently informed his Kiffar companion.



    “Huh.” Vos watched the acrobat recede down the path, now walking on his hands. “Whatever. Look – what’s over there in those booths?” And he was off, enthusiastically jogging through the crowd toward the gambling and gaming pavilions.



    By the time his three companions had pushed through the uncooperative mob and caught up to him, he was already in possession of a hefty bag of winnings.



    The docking bay attendant permitted them entrance free of charge, assuming that they were a security patrol sent expressly from the Temple.



    “Our reputation precedes us,” Garen remarked, guiding the air-car into the allotted space.



    “Let’s hope it doesn’t follow us,” Obi-Wan muttered. Then, “How long do you think it would take to fix a faulty nav system?”



    Reeft, a diligent cybertronics enthusiast, pondered the question gravely. “Well, by the time you made your diagnosis, and found the relevant fused wires or circuit breakers, and then effected repairs, it could take as long as two hours.”



    Garen shut the vehicle down, frowning. “Of course, a responsible Padawan would call the Temple for assistance as soon as he set down.”



    “No,” his friend argued. “A responsible Padawan would not waste the Order’s resources on a problem he could solve himself, He would assess the situation, find a solution, and get himself to his original destination in a tardy but acceptable time frame.”



    “He has a point,” Reeft agreed.



    Garen chewed on his bottom lip, peering with critical acumen at Obi-Wan. “What’s got into you?” he asked, bluntly.



    Vos inserted himself between them. “Enough talking. Let’s check out this place.” He leapt gracefully over the car’s side panel. Reeft shrugged and followed suit.



    In the pilot’s seat, fixed his friend with a disbelieving stare. Obi-Wan placidly returned his gaze, making a polite gesture at the hangar deck. “After you.”



    They left the vehicle docked in the crowded public bay, some with more reluctance than others, and took a lift tube to the pedestrian plaza overhead. Holoboards blared flashing images; pulsing Uuntzi music throbbed from massive amplifiers; milling sentients swelled in a herd toward the fancifully bedecked entry gates. A striating marquis proclaimed this to be the site of the 154th Annual Starside Expo.



    The boys stood in a dizzy cluster for a moment, sorting out the overpowering influx of emotion and excitement pounding through the overwrought Force.



    “Heady stuff,” Vos remarked.



    Garen’s reservations dissolved in the face of the much-longed for reality.



    “Mmm… fried mollu…. Shneppel cakes… roasted yorn….” Reeft intoned.



    Obi-Wan braced himself and led the way forward. “Well? What are we waiting for?”



    “I like your style, Kenobi,” Vos informed him, socking him in the shoulder again. “Let’s go.”







    They had not calculated in the one factor that any pedestrian resident of Coruscant would easily have foreseen as an impasse: between them, they carried sufficient credits to purchase only one admission



    But, as Qui-Gon Jinn was so fond of saying, a solution will often present itself to those who are patient and trust in the Force. The lightsabers at their hips and their obvious youth conspired to bring about a change in fortune: a helpful ticketing clerk – of the buxom humanoid variety – determined that since both students and members of the clergy were entitled to a half-price reduction, the Jedi should each be charged only twenty-five percent of the going .price. The Padawans did not feel it was their duty to point out her mathematical or logical fallacy, and after a few minutes of flirtatious small-talk with Quinlan and Garen, who proved disturbingly adept at such questionably appropriate social exchanges, she sent them on their way with a heartfelt sigh of appreciation intended to encompass the entire foursome, with the possible exception of Reeft.



    The entrance tunnels issued them directly into a domed midway, replete with adrenaline pumping rides and amusements from every corner of the Core systems. The noise was deafening. Spinning, tumbling, speeding and grav-repulsor attractions offered the siren call fo lights, sounds, and – in a few exotic cases – a heavy cloud of pheromone-laden scent. Choking, they bypassed the latter entertainments and headed for the exit on the far side.



    “None of this looks like fun anyway,” Garen Muln consoled his friends. “Except maybe that.” He pointed to a colossal anti-grav simulator which styled itself Crash Landing.



    “Only four credits for a near death experience,” Vos read the appended notice.



    Obi-Wan shuddered. “People do this for pleasure?”



    “We don’t have four credits anyhow. Pity.”



    A street performer somersaulted and cavorted along the center of the main thoroughfare, drawing applause and wide stares from small children milling along the path. Vos playfully accompanied him several paces, performing seven traveling backflips alongside the clown. The performer came to a standstill, fixing the interloper with an icy glare until Obi-Wan tugged on his tunic and drew him away.



    “I don’t think he appreciated the competition,” he gently informed his Kiffar companion.



    “Huh.” Vos watched the acrobat recede down the path, now walking on his hands. “Whatever. Look – what’s over there in those booths?” And he was off, enthusiastically jogging through the crowd toward the gambling and gaming pavilions.



    By the time his three companions had pushed through the uncooperative mob and caught up to him, he was already in possession of a hefty bag of winnings.



    “Vos!” Obi-Wan protested. “Jedi don’t gamble.”



    Quinlan shoved the money in a belt pouch and rolled his eyes. His fellow Padawan cast a disgusted look about him. “All I sense here is greed.”



    “And all I sense is self-righteousness,” the Kiffar shot back.



    Garen snorted in amusement. “That’s not greed, that’s brilliance. Quinlan has earned us some lunch.”



    Reeft beamed. “Technically, gambling isn’t strictly against the Code,” he pointed out. “You’ve told us yourself that Master Qui-Gon is fond of sabaac.”



    “That’s completely different!” the maverick Jedi master’s loyal student objected. “It’s a game of strategy! This is just…. uncivilized.”



    Vos took an appraising look at the swindling Rodian whom he had just out-swindled, and brushed off the criticism like a bantha swats away a bothersome fly. “Let’s go find the Gantuuan exhibit,” he suggested.







    “There it is. Biggest fungus in the galaxy.”



    The four young Padawans contemplated the Gantuuan in reverent silence. The bulging mass of soft reticulated flesh stared back, not moving but giving off a faintly sulphurous odor. The effect was, admittedly, anti-climactic; the specimen’s name had lured them in with the promise of something more… dramatic.



    Reeft wandered away down the Ag-pavilion’s main aisle, Obi-Wan in tow.



    “Look at this. The Agri-Corps has a booth here.”



    They passed to examine the educational display provided by the Republic Service Corps.



    “Pest Reduction: Organic Non-invasive Kinetoflora Experimental Research,” the Dressalian read from a small placard. “A new method of eliminating hostile organisms without the use of environmentally dangerous chemicals. Interesting.”



    Obi-Wan folded his arms and leaned backward against the display railing, only to leap forward again with a startled yelp, skidding inelegantly into Reeft. One of the non-invasive kinetoflora’s writhing tentacular appendages still groped in mid-air, seeking the prey it had so narrowly missed.



    Garen and Vos arrived just in time to witness the amusing spectacle.



    “Pest control is right,” Garen remarked dryly, earning a sardonic look from his friend.



    Vos tickled the undulating tendril with one finger. “Cute,” he said. “Let’s keep going.”



    Outside the Ag building, they were accosted by a bedraggled indigent. “Hey! Jedi,” this pathetic individual wheedled. “Ain’t you supposed to help the oppressed?”



    The group came to an indecisive halt.



    “I’m starving, young sirs,” the ragged beggar implored them, the Force bearing testimony to the bitter truth. “Coruscant’s a heartless place.”



    Obi-Wan extended a hand and summoned the small bag of winnings from Vos’ belt. “Here. Eat.”



    Wide-eyed, the ill kempt an shuffled away, clutching the prize to his chest.



    “Hey!” Vos objected. “That was our lunch money. Next time, give him half and keep a fair share to alleviatethe suffering of other hungry beings.”



    Obi-Wan scowled. “There is no fair share of ill-gotten gain,” he snapped.



    They walked on in disgruntled silence.



    I’m starving,” Reeft lamented.





    The commercial exhibit dome housed a cacophonous bazaar worthy of any legendary trading space-post from the galaxy’s early Expansion Era. Vendors hawked wares from a thousand systems; eager patrons jostled to gain better view of the exotic and outré merchandise; the deafening gibberish of a live auction in full swing blared over the public address system.



    “Utter chaos!” Garen joyfully hollered over the din. “This way!”



    One did not simply stroll forward in such a close-packed mob. The young Jedi were carried by the tidal pulses of impulse shoppers, pushed and shoved and swept this way and that on the currents of acquisitive urgency. The seething crowd eventually washed them up against a novelty toy-monger’s stall.



    Vos barked with laughter, wielding a tiny replica lightsaber. “Ha! Nice.” He brandished the plaything threateningly at Garen Muln.



    Obi-Wan’s brows rose in outrage at the sacrilege. The sacred symbol of his Order – a Jedi’s very life - reduced to a tawdry bauble for the amusement of grubby-fisted children? What was the galaxy coming to?



    Vos slapped him heartily on the back. “Relax, brother.” He levitated the toy weapon back into its bin, garnering the shrieking attention of several over-excited younglings in the vicinity.



    “Oh dear,” Reeft moaned, leading the way out before the gaggle of juvenile enthusiasts could swamp the exit.



    They edged their way toward the next point of interest, a bright kiosk advertising fancifully decorated undershorts tailored to accommodate a wide range of species-specific anatomy and an even wider range of tastes in mascots and personal mottos.



    Garen grinned wolfishly. “Which shall it be, Obi: ‘Heartbreaker’ or ‘Fragile: Handle With Care’?”



    The subject of this teasing address blushed violently. “Neither! None of the vile star-forsaken things!”



    Vos looked bored. “Yeah, me too. Extra layers just cramp your style, know what I mean?”



    An awkward silence.



    Ever the aspiring diplomat, Reeft attempted to smooth things over. “Well, technically, the Code doesn’t specify –“



    He stopped mid-sentence, his head snapping about toward the source of a sudden, panicked tremor in the Force. Jest forgotten, his companions mirrored the action, a foursome of young hunting akks eagerly catching a scent.



    The disturbance was caused by a very tiny Aqualish girl huddled in a makeshift alcove between two vendors’ stalls. “Ma----- ma!” the distraught child wailed.





    With the aid of much cajoling and a bit of Force-suggestion, the Padawans extricated the girl from her hiding place and convinced her to stop shrieking. In the end, it was Quinlan Vos to whom she took a hankering. She sat sniffling and blinking in the crook of his arm, her puckered mouth turned down in an expression of pure despondency.



    “Where are her parents?” Garen demanded, turning a slow circle to encompass the riotous disorder beneath the dome. But no other Aqualish were in sight.



    Vos held the girl’s stuffed bantha in his free hand, eyes closed. “Lost ‘em,” he announced. “A while back.”



    “There’s a security booth on the next plaza,” Obi-Wan decided. “We’ll take her there – surely the parents will have made inquiries with the authorities.”



    “Don’t count on it,” Quinlan put in. “Aqualish don’t trust the establishment, and besides…. I saw them. I mean, her memory of them.”



    Reeft’s pensive frown deepened his natural wrinkles. “What do you mean?”



    Vos shrugged. “Not everybody grows up in the Temple,” he grunted darkly , pushing ahead to avoid further interrogation. Reeft opened his mouth to demand clarification, but Garen tugged at his sleeve, silencing him.



    “Let’s go.” Obi-Wan knew more of Vos’ peculiar personal history than most other students in the Temple, but he was not about to betray what little modicum of trust existed between himself and his Kiffar agemate. Privacy – and the need for it -was a thing he understood well.



    Their short journey to the security booth took them past the food courts. Reeft moaned quietly as they passed through the haze of smoke and spice-scented air, mouths salivating and stomachs grumbling from neglect.



    “This is more important. Besides we haven’t any credits,” Obi-Wan observed, perhaps a trifle ruefully.



    “There is no lunch, only the Force,” Garen grumbled. “Thanks to Master Kenobi.”



    Mutually peeved, they sat on a convenient bench while Vos dealt with the security officials. The scent of oily, salty foods was torment.



    “Whose idea was this?” Garen demanded..



    “You agreed readily enough.”



    “Look on the bright side: we could be on the industrial sector tour,” the Dressalian Padawan pointed out, reasonably.



    Garen’s own diplomatic skills fell short of the mark. “Shut up, Reeft.”



    Vos returned from the adjacent booth with the Aqualish toddler still in hand. ‘No inquiries have been made. I convinced ‘em to let us find the parents, being Jedi and all.”



    “What?”



    But Obi-Wan rallied to Vos’ cause, before he could pause to consider the unlikely nature of their alliance. “No- he’s right. We’ll find her people. We can do it, easily.”



    The other two apprentices glowered.



    “We should leave her with the proper authorities,” Garen argued.



    But Vos would have none of it. “Not dumping her with a bunch of strangers. You don’t get it.” His eyes hardened, giving him an appearance of feral implacability.



    Obi-Wan stepped between the two sides of the brewing altercation. “The Force led us to her; we would be remiss to leave the duty in others’ hands.”



    “Damn it, Obi.” Garen fell into step behind the others, rolling his eyes but capitulating to superior firepower. Reeft followed glumly in line.



    “Let’s try the Demolition Derby arena,” Vos suggested.





    “Kill ‘im! Let ‘im have it!” the maddened crowd shouted, gesticulating wildly to the droid-piloted vehicles careening about the wide arena floor.



    Obi-Wan gingerly stepped over a pool of spilled hassha-beer and extended his overworked senses through the plenum, seeking some flutter of concern or anxiety. It was difficult work. Across the massive stadium, Garen and Reeft threaded their way up and down the corresponding rows of bleachers, seeking the Aqualish girl’s parents.



    Vos halted in front of him. “Over there – by the refreshment stand.”



    The audience surged to its feet, cheering as one of the automata below was blasted to smithereens by a ceiling mounted cannon.



    “It’s all choreographed,” Quinlan confided in him. “Don’t sweat it.”



    Obi-Wan spotted the pair of inebriated Aqualish first. “Vos…. there they are.” His heart sank. The pair were far from… civilized.



    The Kiffar straightened his spine and accosted the fishlike arena-goers directly. “Your daughter,” he said, setting down the tearful girl, who hesitated and then flung herself into the startled mother’s arms. The male Aqualish looked sheepish; the female, alarmed.



    A heady blend of relief and fear swirled in the Force; the girl resumed her previoius bout of weeping, the mother jabbered in the Aqualish native tongue to the father, who hastily shoved a large credit chit into Vos’ hand. The threesome scuttled away between the legs of other patrons before either Padawan could follow them.



    Obi-Wan watched them go, non-plussed. “What was that about?”



    Vos snorted. “Thought I was some kinda police. Bribing me to keep it quiet - told you, those folks don’t trust anything or anyone.”



    Somberly, they watched the jumble of bodies swallow up any trace of the reunited family. “Will they… care for her properly?” Obi-Wan wondered aloud, a pang of doubt seizing him.



    “Their own kid. None of your business. Better’n some kriffin’ orphan-house, anyway.”



    “Yes, I know… but…still.”



    Vos tilted his head to one side. “Kenobi – you have a soft spot,” he said. “That’s… cute.” A solid punch in the arm accented this remark, and the Kiffar instantly swept all sentiment under his usual gruff exterior. “Let’s find the other two. It’s lunchtime.” He tossed the credit chit in the air and caught it again with a flash of white teeth.



    And that, at least, was a cheering thought.





    By the time they had made their way back to the food courtyard, Obi-Wan had privately formulated several compelling moral arguments against using bribe money to satisfy their needs- but the seductive aroma of the hot comestibles and the determined looks on his companions’ faces made him think twice before giving voice to his eloquence.



    After all, he was practicing diplomacy, not his debate skills.



    The Aqualish’s funds were sufficient to supply the appetites of four adolescent males. The Padawans retreated to the outside entry plaza to enjoy their extensive repast, one including Shneppel cakes, roasted yorn, hammas on a stick, fried mollu, salted plintzi, and fizzing sweet drinks of a variety never seen in the Temple refectory. Soon enough, tunics and tabards were irrevocably spattered with the grim evidence of unbridled gluttony, or near enough.



    “On Huttese worlds, it’s ill manners not to show your gratitude after a feast,” Vos declared, illustrating his point with an impressive belch.



    Reeft added his own sonorous baritone to the display, chuckling broadly. Even Garen played along, with a shame-faced smirk.



    “Well, Kenobi?”



    “I don’t think so.” Reluctant to subject his clothing to further abuse, he settled for licking his fingers clean, though it made him cringe.



    He risked a sidelong glance at Quinlan Vos, as the Kiffar Jedi and Reeft set about demolishing the last crumbs and scraps of their shared meal. He had to admit to a new appreciation of Vos’ unique perspective, perhaps even a moment of understanding between them, when they had insisted on restoring the lost child to its parents. He had demonstrated to his fellow Padawan that he was capable of doing something forbidden, and he had ingratiated the struggling boy into the affections of his own best friends. All in all, a satisfactory outcome.



    “You know, “ Garen pointed out. “We’d better get going. We’re already well past that theoretical two-hour time frame.”



    “We can linger a bit longer,” Obi-Wan assured him, placidly. Qui-Gon had advised him to meet Vos halfway, it was true; but he had never been one for doing things by halves. And in this case, there was far too much at stake.



    Quinlan grinned at him. “I think I underestimated you, Kenobi. You’re not half the prissy barve I thought you were.”



    Obi-Wan smiled back, tentatively, deciding that his diplomatic aims had been properly secured. He did like Vos. He respected him. He genuinely wished him well. But …. from a distance.



    The other three sprang to their feet a moment later, as a cloaked and cowled figure made its way across the wide plaza, directly toward them.



    The dark-haired man surveyed the scene with a tight-lipped inscrutability, one hand resting on his ‘saber’s hilt.



    “Master Tholme!” the Padawans chorused, making hasty bows.



    Tholme’s rugged features conveyed no emotion. “Excuse me,” he addressed them. “Perhaps you can help. I am looking for four young Jedi apprentices, just your age. Three humans and a Dressalian.”



    The boys exchanged wary glances. Vos worked up the courage to answer his mentor. “We’re right here, master.”



    Tholme’s brows twitched upward, sarcastically. “Stars, Quinlan… I did not recognize you as Jedi.”



    The foursome squirmed on the spot, writhing beneath his scrutiny.



    “Clean this mess up,” the master sternly ordered. “Your irresponsible lark is at an end.”





    Garen having been dispatched to fly the borrowed aircar back to the Temple hangar bay, the remaining three culprits found themselves jammed shoulder to shoulder across the narrow backseat of Master Tholme’s transport.



    “The matter of concern is not how you chose to spend your time, but that you felt obliged to do so in a devious and disobedient manner,” the Jedi master informed his prisoners.



    “Yes, master,” they intoned. Reeft’s expression was even more morose than normal.



    “I am grateful that some observant citizen at the Exposition Park had the wherewithal to put in an anonymous call to the Temple, informing us that four Padawans were roaming the fairgrounds without proper chaperonage,” Thome, continued, sternly.



    Next to Obi-Wan, Vos shifted testily. “Busybody,” he muttered.



    Quinlan.”



    “Forgive me, master.”



    His mentor guided them across Coruscant’s cityscape at an economical pace, the better to chastise the Padawans while they were a captive audience. “Which one of you, may I ask, was the mastermind of this scheme? Or need I ask?”



    A brief moment’s hesitation, in which Vos flashed a querying look at his companions, clearly willing to take the blame if need be.



    But that wouldn’t do at all.



    “I was, Master Tholme,” Obi-Wan spoke up, quickly and emphatically, forestalling any heroism on the others’ part.



    It was clearly not the answer the older man had been expecting. He craned his head over one shoulder, fixing the speaker with a penetrating stare. “You, Padawan Kenobi?”



    “Yes, master. I am sorry. I suggested the idea to the others and arranged for transport ahead of time. I am to blame.”



    “You are all to blame,” the Jedi master corrected him. “But you…. I –I will have to speak to Master Jinn about this.”



    With that threat he lapsed into a shocked and uncommunicative silence.



    Vos nudged his companion’s knee in a mute gesture of gratitude, or else gallows humor.



    From hanging out together to hanging together, Obi-Wan reflected dryly, as the Temple’s graceful spires appeared on the near horizon..





    “Stop fidgeting, Obi-Wan.”



    “I’m truly sorry, master.”



    Qui-Gon Jinn interlaced his fingers loosely between his knees and gazed up at his Padawan, standing at uneasy attention directly before him. “I am disappointed,” he confessed, as though surprised to find himself so.



    “I’m sorr-“



    But the tall man held up a hand for silence, stemming the tide of repeated apology. He released a long breath. I’ve not had time to speak with Master Tholme at length, but we have agreed to handle this matter individually, rather than opting for a formal disciplinary hearing. Primarily because, “ he added, “It is Master Mundi’s turn to sit on the panel, and he is far too lenient.”



    “Oh. Yes, master.”



    The Jedi master leaned back, contemplating his apprentice with a small, puzzled frown. “I have to admit, I find this behavior out of character,” he said at last.



    “Vos is a challenging personality,” Obi-Wan hesitantly pointed out.



    “Precisely why I set you this task. When have you ever failed to rise to a challenge?”



    “I ..”



    “This is not like you, Obi-Wan. What were you thinking?” the older man pressed, exasperation edging his tone.



    “I – I have no excuse.”



    “Indeed not.”



    “You did say that I should meet Vos halfway, master… to accommodate his unique perspective.”



    Qui-Gon snorted. “I should not have to point out to you that there is a difference between making a diplomatic gesture and plunging wholesale into a compromised situation. A young man of your subtlety should not have committed such a blunder; indeed, if your aim was to be a good influence on Vos, as I requested, then you have overshot the mark rather badly.”



    “Yes, master, I agree,” the Padawan meekly concurred.



    “What? No torrent of rhetoric in your own defense?”



    Obi-Wan’s eyes lifted briefly to meet his teacher’s. “Ah…no. It was a diplomatic disaster. I accept your correction and the due consequences of my actions.”



    “Hm.” The Jedi master held his apprentice’s steady gaze for another few moments, still unaccountably bemused by the youth’s sudden and egregious departure from his habitual diligence and sobriety.



    “I did not disobey lightly,” the boy said. “It was.. for the greater good.”



    Qui-Gon allowed his expression to soften, slightly. “Of that, I have no doubt,” he assured the younger Jedi. “But, for now, I think we should discuss an appropriate penalty.”







    Qui-Gon Jinn strode down the neatly groomed path and stopped near an ornamental fountain cast in golden light by the late afternoon sun. He smiled down upon the sight of his Padawan, dutifully weeding the outdoor meditation gardens. By hand.



    “How much more have you to finish?” he innocently inquired.



    Obi-Wan glanced up at the wide arrangement of beds and tiered planters not yet treated to his painstaking attentions. His mouth tightened. “Quite a bit.” He wiped one grimy forearm across his brow, where sweat beaded freely.



    “Well, then, I see you will be healthily occupied for a day or two,” the tall man observed.



    “Yes, master.”



    Qui-Gon was pleased to note the air of serenity and contentment radiating off his student in the Force. It was a sign of new maturity to accept a deserved punishment with such grace and humility.



    “I have just had a most unfortunate conference with Master Tholme,” he informed his apprentice. “It has put some things in perspective. Apparently, Quinlan, though under censure, seems far better adjusted to the other students now. Indeed, he specifically mentioned that he enjoyed your company.”



    Obi-Wan nodded, grunting as he wrested an obstreperous thorn-barbed root from the unyielding earth.



    “So it would seem you did in the end accomplish the end I intended, though your means were a bit… unorthodox.”



    “You are my guide in all things, master.”



    Qui-Gon raised a brow. “You missed something.. just there.”



    The young Jedi sighed and set about pulling up the miniscule but deeply-anchored weed.



    “The bad news is that despite all my argument to the contrary, Master Tholme is quite set in his determination to severely limit Quinlan’s exposure to you in the future. He deems you a bad influence, Padawan.”



    Obi-Wan took the news with impressive equanimity, another sign of burgeoning maturity. “It is the will of the Force,” he said. “I understand Master Thome’s perspective.”



    The master’s chest swelled with pride. He almost lifted the sentence… but the gardens could certainly use some care. “I’ll leave you to it, then,” he said, stepping away again.

    “This won’t happen again?” he asked.



    “No, master,” Obi-Wan promised. “I don’t think it will.”



    Qui-Gon nodded and continued on his way, pleased that Quinlan Vos had at least benefited from the experience, and that his own student seemed to have learned some important lessons in acceptance and humility along the way. Even Obi-Wan seemed to have been attained his openly stated wishes: he had been granted his preference regarding a more distant relationship with Vos, and with respect to weeding the gardens….



    The tall man stopped in his tracks, casting one last look over his shoulder at his Padawan. It would only have taken a moment… there were public comm. booths all over the Expo fairgrounds…. the anonymous informant had known precisely what channel to use to obtain a reliable comm relay….and this had worked out to a happy conclusion suggestive of masterful strategic subtlety, far in excess of mere diplomatic skill.



    He dismissed the paranoid thought.. Nobody was that cunning. He continued on his way back into the Temple proper, shaking his head at his own foolish suspicions.



    Behind him, deeply involved in fitting penance for his misdemeanors, the future Negotiator smiled very, very softly to himself.



    FINIS























    Cade87 likes this.
  2. Valairy Scot Backpacking One Pack a Day Mod of New Films

    Moderator
    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 6
    =D= [face_laugh] Loved loved loved [face_love] that ending - Obi-Wan is the master of subtlety and manipulation, just as we suspected.
  3. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    :p I also loved the ending, and also Qui-Gon's way of dealing with Obi-Wan's... disobedience. Also got a kick out of how you wrote Quinlan. Wonderfully enjoyable story, as always.
  4. earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    A wonderful and funny story giving us the Quinlan Vos we have seen in the DH-comics.
  5. ClaudiaR Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2007
    star 1
    Well, well, it seems our Obi's flair for strategy is already showing itself... bad influence indeed.
    I loved how Qui-Gon suddenly dismissed the possibility of it being planned
Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade