Jiron quite strongly hated the annual trip to Coruscant with his Master, Lusien Gorixo. Hated taking a public ship into the planet when all the other Jedi chartered something every time they needed to travel. Hated being shoved about and submitted to the indignity of a search at the immigrant processing center. Hated riding a third-class subway train to their lodgings – in Cocotown, never the Temple – and above all, hated being jostled and pushed past and sneered at by every Padawan who happened to be in town.
He was one of them, he was a Jedi too – but a Sentinel, one of the silent watchers scattered about the worlds, their mandate to observe and listen, but never interfere. In the twenty-four millennia of the Order, few beings had ever seen the bright, hot glow of a Sentinel’s yellow lightsaber.
This year, as usual, he had complained, as he had for the last seven years, without really expecting to be excused the trip. As usual, Lusien had sighed tiredly and explained, in his slow, careful, logical, infuriating way, that even though they spent most of their time wandering the Galaxy and only contacting the Temple when it was absolutely necessary that a ‘real’ Jedi be sent to tackle a problem, they were still Jedi, so Coruscant was still their home.
Stepping out of the subway car into yet another station to change train, Jiron disagreed. This stuffy, dark, smoky underworld, crowded with tens of thousands of vocally purposeful beings creating a wall of deafening babble, these tunnels stinking of discarded and rotting food, of acrid, stale sweat and choking soot: this was not his home. He swung the weary, aching dead weight of his rucksack onto his left shoulder – “Keep your sword arm free, Jados, you fool!” – and felt the bag jolt against his back, against the hilt of the lightsaber he carried in the waistband of his pants, in the only place a pat-down search wouldn’t find it, digging the cool metal into his warm brown skin, a painful reassurance.
Of course, whatever else he wore – today, a poor laborer’s shabby garb – Jiron would never part with his high leather boots. Not that he was worried they would get him noticed: they were well concealed under the faded blue canvas of his pants, and with the amount of dust a Sentinel’s boots accumulated, they could have been practically any sort of footwear anyway.
Somebody bumped into him, knocking him onto the side of the train, where a patch of gleaming near-white appeared as the grime of the tunnels was smeared on the young Sentinel’s shirt and hands.
For some reason, the shuffling tide of life was moving terribly slowly today, so Jiron decided to relax and look around. Master Lusien wasn’t in any hurry either, if his absorption in the lurid novel on his datapad was anything to go by. There wasn’t much to see. A few highly-colored posters advertising new holomovies and splashed with glaring orange warnings that this was Violent and Explicit and Unfit For Children. A greasy-looking Besalisk peddling death sticks and casting furtive, anxious glances at the security officer on the station platform, who, however, was leaning on a signpost, picking his teeth and looking the other way. A young Twi’lek woman in widow’s weeds, struggling with three small children and four large suitcases. Pushing his way apologetically past a fat, glaring businessman dividing his time between reading a terribly important financial review and studying his expensive silver chrono disapprovingly, and a flirtatious Gungan girl whose advances he courteously repulsed, Jiron moved to help the young widow.
She stared at him in distrust. “Whaddaya want?”
“To help you,” he replied with his usually disarming sincerity.
“I don’t need no stinking help,” the woman said defensively. “I’ve heard about people like you. Get lost.”
I’m a Jedi, madam, he wanted to reassure her, but Master Lusien had forbidden that, so he shrugged and headed toward the exit gates, to meet with a minor altercation with the ticket checking machine, which swore he was far too old to get through on a youth pass. As a matter of fact, Jiron was only fifteen, but looked at least five years older. There was no point in explaining the case, because there were so many freeboarders on the Coruscant subways that the machines were chronically bad-tempered. Eventually, Master Lusien grumblingly paid over ten more credits for an adult pass for Jiron, and the pair of them went on their way to the cheap inn where they would spend two days, and two only, before leaving again for another year.
Jiron knew the drill now – after seven such trips, it would be odd if he did not. Get to their lodgings, usually a dirty, cramped room, nearly filled by a pair of creaking durasteel bedsteads with thin mattresses, leave their things, and go out for a drink, because this was the one night in the year when Lusien permitted either himself or his Padawan to touch alcohol. Get at least slightly drunk: nobody knew who or what they were, so it didn’t matter half a kriff. Stagger back to the inn only when they were both adequately intoxicated to sleep on the beds that somehow contrived to be even more uncomfortable than the rocky ground of Geonosis.
Wake up early in the morning, Jiron with a splitting headache only allayed by plunging his head into a basin of the icy water that came from the hot faucet and that he would never dare drink. Three mugs of caf – each – later, feeling much more sentient, both of them would go to another cantina, one prearranged fully a month before, and meet whoever had been unlucky enough to be sent by the Council.
Usually, at these meetings, Lusien and the other Jedi, the ‘real’ Jedi, would talk very earnestly and very rapidly, and Jiron would stare into space. Afterwards. they returned to the inn, gathered their belongings, and set off back into the clean spaces of the broad blue Galaxy. Jiron perhaps naturally had a rather jaundiced view of the Core Worlds.
On this trip, he had had a more than usually terrible hangover, and was more than usually irritable, and Lusien had gotten more than usually far ahead of him in the crowd, so when a small boy smacked right into him on the street to the subway station, he didn’t stop to apologize and ensure that the child was all right.
“Hey!” the boy snapped. “Watch it! Get outta my way.”
“Why should I?” Jiron shot back angrily.
The boy gestured pointedly to his immaculate pale brown tunic and tabards and his spotlessly shining knee boots. A short beaded braid swung over his shoulder. “Maybe because I’m a Jedi. Are you blind or just dense?”
Not bothering to reply, Jiron turned and strode away down the crowded sidewalk after his Master.
A youngish man, similarly dressed as a Jedi, caught up to the younger boy. “Who was that, Anakin?”
Tossing his head disgustedly, nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker replied, “I don’t know, Master. Some arrogant tall barv with pink hair and no manners. He ran right into me and didn’t even apologize.”
Obi-Wan studied the throng of beings ahead of them to spot the shock of pale red hair bobbing away rapidly, and then looked down at the pavement. Somebody had dropped a cup of caf, and the stranger had accidentally walked right through the slosh of brown liquid, and left footprints on the grimy permacrete of the sidewalk. The prints showed a tread pattern worn almost to nothing, but nonetheless familiar.
When Obi-Wan looked up again, the flash of pink had vanished. A tall, pink haired boy in worn-out Jedi boots. “I wonder…” he murmured.