Note: story originally posted on tf.n on 18-Jan-2010. Reposted here due to truncation of the original story. DIPLOMATIC MEDITATIONby ardavenport Primate Crevaz climbed the short steps to the stage platform and beamed down at the assemblage below. A Humanoid of middle years, stoutly built with golden skin and silvery hair, he stood resplendent in layered white ecclesiastic kaftans. His cylindrical hat reached a third his own height over his head, glittering with intricate, curling patterns that matched the wide borders of his clothes, along the sleeves and on the hem. "We have all done well." The gathering hall's speaking enhancers amplified his voice. One hand on his tall staff of office, the glittering headpiece of it rising higher that the crown of his hat. "We know each other much better than we did three days ago," he beamed, proud of their accomplishments, "though we may not like each other any better. We now know we can work together on a common cause." Many in the assemblage of over a hundred people seated on the floor cushions in a semi-circle under him looked neither happy nor content. But the group of negotiators in the middle were no longer wasting their energy and initiative insulting each other, especially the senior ones in the front. They had regained their focus on their duty. And they had learned to unite in at least one common cause. They now all thoroughly loathed Primate Crevaz. Who had made them suffer through three days of contemplative exercises that included: - staring practice - making lists of one another's good points - discussing their feelings and then play acting them - banning negative words - good and bad hand holding - non-verbal communications drills - long group meditations led by the Primate. Sitting on the far left of the stage with other observers to the proceedings, Qui-Gon Jinn did not expect any newfound mutual respect from the participants who had needlessly complicated the already delicate negotiations with their own personal animosities. But thanks to a determined, popular and respected religious leader, they could at least continue on with their work. Qui-Gon exchanged a brief look with his twenty-four year old Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, a shared, covert glance under their brown hoods. The Jedi Knights had been sent to the Primate's diplomatic retreat, a sign from the Galactic Republic of how seriously they took these proceedings. The Republic's ambassador, who had been following the negotiations since the beginning, sat with his four staff members in the row behind them. The two Jedi sat cross-legged on cushions next to each other in the front row, closest to the side of the stage. Neither the Galactic Republic nor any of the outer rim systems had any authority over the disputed navigation corridor past the Hizquak Nebula, but they all certainly cared if the route became impassable because of the ancient competition between the Greeov System and Nikkrck Union. In ten-thousand years that narrow route would become impassable because of the expanding nebula, but for now, there was something worth fighting over. The Greeov and Nikkrck ambassadors sat, front and center, on their raised green cushions under the crystalline dome in the bright hall; random shards of color scattered from the morning light, caught and fragmented by the angular geometric patterns above. "After this morning, you," Crevaz extended a hand, glittering rings decorating his fingers, to the Reeov ambassador, Chazkuz, "and you," the Nikkrck ambassador, Draytoz, who lowered her long dark brows when the Primate looked down at her, "have learned to value your purpose more than your personal grudges against each other." His styled and wing-like silvery eyebrows seemed to broaden Primate Crevaz's smile and the two diplomats frowned their displeasure at being patronized. "There will be plenty of time for you to punish each other later." Muffled chuckles from the less senior members of the negotiating teams annoyed Chazkuz and Draytoz. Not all of the Nikkrck and Reeov hated each other. The Primate had been very adept at using this when dealing with the more combative ones on the sudden retreat he had called. "You completed the tower. And you did it well. And you did it together," Crevaz congratulated them calmly. He began to pace on his stage, carrying the heavy staff with him. He was a strong, powerful man in his prime, commanding respect and even love from his audiences. At least, most of the time. The 'tower' was the culmination of their three days of 'learning exercises' led by the Primate. It was a monument of stacked tables and chairs still standing in the temple's dining hall. When they had finished it the night before, Crevaz led everyone in a group meditation on their accomplishment. Qui-Gon had observed them carefully. Most of the senior participants contemplated their mutual hatred of the Primate. But they did it together. "Now that you have proven to yourselves, and your guests, that you can work together, you will continue. And you will bring peace to both the Greeov and Nikkrck." The Primate stopped pacing and faced them. "We will meditate before you return to your task." The negotiators fatalistically slumped with a subliminal groan. None of them had either inclination or motivation for such contemplation, but it was an integral part of the ways of the Sherrizops Order that Crevaz led. But instead of laying down his staff and seating himself on the raised cushion at the center of the stage, the Primate's eyes scanned the rows of observers. And finally settled on the two Jedi. "Perhaps we should, for this last session, include some of our observers who have so patiently waited for you to recapture your purpose.. The Jedi are renowned for their patience - - which has certainly been tested here - - and their meditations. Master Qui-Gon," Crevaz extended a hand, "we would be honored if you would share some of your wisdom and lead this final meditation." Qui-Gon inclined his head and stood in one smooth motion. He walked down the few steps from the observers' platform and then up to the central stage platform, its surface pale gray and smeared with the bright prism colors from the crystalline dome above. The Primate stepped back. Leading a Jedi mediation among non-Jedi was, of course, impossible. All Jedi meditations centered on one specific thing: communion with the Force. But if the participants were not Force-sensitive, nothing could come of it. Obviously Crevaz did not fully appreciate this. Sherrizops theology did include their interpretation of the Force as a pervasive connecting energy between all living things in the universe. But the Sherrizops also believed that all sentient beings were composed of layered consciousness and that disciplined meditation would reveal the deeper, hidden layers, including the Force. Qui-Gon could not say if this was possible, nor was he particularly interested in inquiring about it, but he had never heard of anything like it ever happening, either. Crevaz bowed deeply and backed up to the rear of the speaker's stage. He laid his staff down, removed his tall hat and took a seat in the row of cushions at the back of the stage. Qui-Gon threw the hood of his robe back to address the group. They looked up at him, many with curiosity. He and Obi-Wan had arrived on the first night when Crevaz had hosted a reception for all the participants before their three days of 'togetherness exercises' were to begin. But since the Jedi had been brought in to impress the Greeov and Nikkrck about how strongly the Galactic Senate wanted the peace negotiations to succeed, they remained aloof and mostly stayed with the Republic representatives. There seemed little to gain from socializing. The only time he and Obi-Wan had even removed their robes was when Crevaz had asked them to demonstrate a partnering exercise for the others where they had to work together to keep a ball in the air. Since any means available had been allowed. he Jedi had used the Force to roll the ball on the ceiling. Crevaz had seemed impressed and now Qui-Gon wondered if this had inspired him to make his current request. "Thank-you Primate, for your generous invitation." He nodded back to Crevaz before addressing the crowd. "Delegates. The Galactic Republic deeply appreciates your hard work of the past few days and we look forward to your future success in these negotiations. So, perhaps this would be a fitting subject for us all to meditate upon." A Jedi meditation among non-Force-sensitives was impossible. But Master Qui-Gon Jinn knew exactly how to handle the situation. He extended an arm. "My apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, will lead you." Everyone looked at Obi-Wan. He stood, folding his arms before him. The hem of his robe dragged on the steps as he descended from the observers' platform. His Master bowed to him as he ascended the main speaker's stage and approached. And glimpsed a very irritated glare under the hood of the robe. Qui-Gon ignored it; sometimes there were occasions for justifiable insolence, but only as long a Padawans did what they were told. Content, he went to the back of the stage and sat next to the Primate. Taking his place in the center of the stage, Obi-Wan sat down and crossed his legs on the same cushion that the Primate occupied for their morning meditations. The light of the advancing morning increased, brightening a subtle haze in the air above. The white primary sunlight splashed many colors all over the large hall, but it shone most brightly on the group of a hundred or so with its new leader, in the middle of the large floor under the dome. "With the Primate's consent," Obi-Wan began, inclining his head to his right, "and my Master's," his hood tilted to the left, "we will meditate on stillness. The stillness of body and mind that brings focus to task and duty." His head lifted, his back straight. Qui-Gon saw all the delegates do the same, their aggression beaten down by three days of the Primate's merciless drive for togetherness. Now, near the end of their mandatory retreat, it was clearly more work to object than to simply comply and get through these last few hours. The stage vocal enhancers picked up Obi-Wan's voice. "Breathe . . . . " Even with the audiences' lack of sensitivity to the Force, the actual methods of Jedi meditation were common. Breath control and body awareness, concentration and focus. But with a group meditation, the Sherrizops Order always had a leader. Qui-Gon hadn't spoken through a meditation with Obi-Wan in years, nor had he been directed through one since he himself was a Padawan. He found it subtly irritating, but only a minor distraction. For the past few days, whenever everyone sat down for group meditation time, both Jedi had just ignored the treacly idyllic stories about waterfalls, garden groves and special places, and focused on what everyone else was thinking about. With no distractions in a room full of people sitting quietly stewing in their own thoughts, both Master and Padawan, communing with the Force in their midst, easily divined the jumble of sordid personality clashes that had threatened to sink the Hizquak peace negotiations. ". . . . relax your thoughts. Let them drift away . . . . ." Qui-Gon Jinn wasn't always sure who had betrayed whom. Or who were sleeping together. Or who had sex. Or been sniped at or stolen from or deceived. But there was enough history between the delegations to make a whole series of trashy holo-dramas. The Jedi had heard the gossip at the reception on the first night, but the meditation sessions on the following days confirmed that much of it was true. All those intrigues, glowing and twisted, illuminated in the Force, exposed themselves in the private meditations of the Jedi. Qui-Gon Jinn supposed that if the other people in the room were Force-sensitive then the peace negotiations would have never started. " . . . . . let go of those stray thoughts, gently push them away . . . . ." Next to him, Crevaz's thoughts had stilled as well as any Jedi Master's might. If the Primate had any intrigues, he was fully capable of letting them go. And he didn't seem to mind that Obi-Wan was just repeating the Primate's own mediation lead, word for word. Qui-Gon supposed that he would have done the same thing. If he hadn't assigned this task to Obi-Wan. Crevaz led most of these meditation monologues, though sometimes it was Sub-Primate Tchokle or Sub-Primate Jupple. But now it was Obi-Wan's turn. " . . . . . relax your shoulders, your upper arms, your elbows, your forearms, your wrists . . . . " The relaxation introduction stretched out longer and longer than Crevaz's usual routine with Obi-Wan taking a lot more time with it, going over every anatomical element of the body. He even amended the details for the observers who didn't have the same body parts as most of the other participants, like claws and tails and extra digits or appendages. After he got down to everyone's toes and hooves, he started listing internal organs. ". . . . . the heart beats slow. The lungs fill with air . . . ." He inhaled noisily to demonstrate. And very, very slowly. ". . . . . and then they hold . . . . . and exhale . . . . ." A long, slow, noisy exhale. In the time that Crevaz might have led the whole group through a peaceful field of flowers and back (the choice of which flower each participant imagined would be discussed later) Obi-Wan was just finishing up with the preliminaries. The colored splashes of sunlight from the dome above had crawled a noticeable distance, the sunlight coming down at a higher angle. ". . . . . Now we begin . . . . " Now the real resentment in the room started to build from the senior delegates. Their earlier anticipation of the end of Crevaz's tortuous togetherness retreat had evaporated. What surprised Qui-Gon was that some resentment was also growing in Primate Crevaz as well. After such a tedious beginning, an increasing disappointment marred his initial calm. Instead of a meditation led by a real Jedi Master, he was getting a Padawan Learner. Who obviously wasn't going anywhere with it. ". . . . Concentrate on quieting every part of the body and mind. Think of nothing. No thoughts, no worries, no grudges, no animosities, no lies, no insults . . . ." Obi-Wan's spoke slowly, the same low relaxing tone that the Primate used. But Crevaz at least had a story to tell. Obi-Wan just listed things for people not to do. ". . . . We will contemplate. In complete silent. The stillness." And then he kept talking. ". . . . You should be a void. Through which all past offenses pass. Don't dwell upon what someone else said about you yesterday . . . . . " The delegates' minds had emptied of all animosity toward each other. And refocused, with increasing intensity, toward Obi-Wan. And possibly the whole Jedi Order. A couple of people in the crowd needed to use the refresher. ". . . . You are an impartial observer. Unaffected by the minor distractions of the body. The itch on your foot. Or lower appendage. The tickle in the back of the throat. The minor pains. The long hair on the back of the neck. The scratchiness of the hair on your face . . . . " Qui-Gon's jaw twitched, just once. Perhaps in his apparent goal of making himself more disliked to the delegates than Primate Crevaz, Obi-Wan had gone past 'justifiable' insolence. Even the earnest young staffers in the back of the room, the ones who had been so attentive and admiring of Primate Crevaz, were getting fidgety. ". . . . exhale the discord . . . ." Long, extended exhale. ". . . . inhale the void . . . ." Under his robe, a single food capsule on Qui-Gon's belt trembled with the Force. One sharp pull upward would land it right on Obi-Wan's hooded head. A sense that he was being badly parodied emerged from the Primate. ". . . . inhale . . . . " Qui-Gon's eyes opened and then narrowed at his Padawan, who was slowly rising in the air, the back of his robe sagging down to the floor of the stage behind him. Obviously aware of Master's intentions, Obi-Wan was finally coming to a conclusion. The elementary display impressed the crowd, though it was hardly anything that couldn't be done with an anti-grav flat. At least the people in the back had stopped fidgeting. But the senior delegates looked openly hostile. Some of them needed to use the refresher now. After rising high enough in the air, Obi-Wan stepped down. Standing above the room again, Obi-Wan bowed. "Thank-you for your attention." He turned back toward the rear of the stage. "Thank-you for allowing me to serve." Then he turned and left the stage, returning to the observer's area. Qui-Gon and Primate stood. Qui-Gon bowed. "We come to serve." Crevaz did not reply, nor did he bow back. He frowned, his expression stony. Qui-Gon went back to take his seat again next to Obi-Wan. He replaced the hood on his head. They were once again two anonymous Jedi observers. The tension in the room had broken. The senior delegates knew that there would be one last mid-morning meal shared before they would be free to depart. Catering droids were already setting up tables on one side of the hall. Obi-Wan had managed to take up most of the time in which Crevaz had promised 'one last exercise', if time permitted. But now there was no more time for anything other than one last blessing from the Primate. Sub-Primate Jupple rang the ceremonial bell, swinging it from its chain. They were done. People got up and stretched, clumped together into grumbling groups before heading for the food and the doors leading to the refreshers. The Jedi remained where they were. They had not socialized much during the retreat, and there was no need now. The Republic ambassador paused uncertainly next to them before moving on, saying nothing. He needed to use the refresher, too. Primate Crevaz easily circulated among the participants. But the people gathered around the food sometimes looked toward the two brown robed figures by themselves on the observers' platform below the speaker's stage. The Greeov and Nikkrck diplomats spoke in non-hostile tones over the light meal that they ate, standing, holding small plates and silver cups. Long anticipated relief dominated. The peace negotiations that would resume now did not seem so arduous after what they had endured. Gradually the people thinned out in the hall. Taking their noise and chat with them, they headed toward transports that would take them back to the central government buildings to finish their work. Eventually, only Primate Crevaz, a few young staffers and senior functionaries of the Sherrizops Order and the droids remained. Crevaz left the others and approached the Jedi. He had removed his tall, ceremonial hat. He stood before them, between them and the empty stage, his head still slightly above the two seated Jedi. "Master Qui-Gon," he nodded his head, his expression critical under his winged, silvery eyebrows. "Do the Jedi ever follow a guiding leader for their meditations?" Qui-Gon peered back calmly from under his hood. "Only for instruction. For younglings." Making a sour expression, Crevaz lowered his eyes. "It seemed like such a good idea to be inclusive. But. . . . " He paused, his eyes flicking back up to first Obi-Wan, then Qui-Gon. "I suppose that I should have asked beforehand. . . . . . if either of you was capable." Qui-Gon shrugged, a barely visible motion of the shoulders. Obi-Wan just looked back at him, his expression mild, like his Master's. The Primate was clearly unsatisfied with any lack of reaction to his criticism. Large and imposing, he addressed Obi-Wan. "Tell me, young Jedi, what you thought you were accomplishing with what had to be the worst, most uninspiring meditation lead that I've seen in a long time." "Well, at the moment, your Grace, the delegates very likely hate us a bit more than they do you." Crevaz didn't reply, obviously having trouble processing Obi-Wan's answer. Qui-Gon smiled. "Now that you have involved yourself, you will have to follow the negotiations to their conclusion. Which will presumably be successful, thanks to your intervention. Our mission is finished. Our ambassador will resume his post as the primary representative for the Republic. We will return to Coruscant. It is of no consequence if we are liked or not. Though it might give you something to talk about with others on the trip back to the negotiations." Crevaz's eyes went back toward the food tables where a few staff and observers still lingered. "You are already a topic of conversation, Master Jedi. More than one person told me that they had gained a new appreciation for my guidance." He looked back at them again. "So, you're not concerned that they now all dislike you. Or the Jedi." Qui-Gon shrugged again, another barely visible motion. "No more than you are." The annoyance had quite left the Primate's face. Qui-Gon sensed his thoughts. His estimations of the delegates. The negotiators. The goal of a long overdue peace. "Being liked doesn't matter here." A smile curved the Primate's lips, though there was no warmth in it. He did not like them. He'd had expectations of Jedi when he invited Qui-Gon to lead that last meditation. Both Jedi had disappointed him badly and he was still feeling mocked by Obi-Wan. But he now appreciated their purpose. "I must prepare to accompany the delegates back to their task. They will succeed." He spread his arms and turned about. "You are welcome to stay here as long as you wish." He turned back to them, his arms and the long trailing sleeves held close to his body. "It is an excellent place to meditate. If you are feeling up to the challenge." He strode away. As he crossed the polished stone floor under the crystalline dome, he called out to three young staffers. They seemed delighted that he wanted to join them and they all left together The droids began cleaning up after the meal, the containers and utensils clattering as they were put away into bins. Soft, electronic honks and cheeps from the clean-up crew accompanied the noise echoing up above. The angle of the sunlight coming down through the dome had shifted again, illuminating the room in colored light more evenly. The bare speaker's stage no longer looked brighter or more distinctive than the space around it. The Jedi remained in their places after the machines broke down the tables and left only a floor cleaner sweeping up and scrubbing away all traces on the smooth polished stone. Qui-Gon supposed that the smugness he sensed from his Padawan could be attributed to justifiable insolence. And the Primate was right. The hall was an excellent place to meditate. %%% ! %%% ! %%% ! END ! %%% ! %%% ! %%% Disclaimer: This story first posted on tf.n on 18-Jan-2010. All characters and the Star Wars universe belong to George and Lucasfilm; I am just playing in their sandbox.