Mea Culpa

Halloween Special 2014. I believe in Happy Halloween and Creepy Christmas, at least where specials are concerned – watch out for December! (My exams are not over. And I have a date for tonight. I just love the WordPress schedule function.)
Erin: Kijé playing Hiccup. As requested.

Dear Foxtan,

“What is this I’m hearing about a Sarkos Eve debacle?” you asked. Well, I’ve got some free time right now, so I’ll tell you.

For a few weeks, as you know, I had been in the habit of slipping out every couple afternoons, just to wander. You’d be amazed how much you can learn just by listening to the corner gossips and the cantina owners, about how the average guy on the street thinks. While it doesn’t affect the Order directly, public opinion affects Senate policy, which affects the war, which does affect us. So the Boehme Gang in the west wing watch the streets too, and report quietly back to whoever in the spire cares to listen.

The day the chizzk started, I was off on my rounds, when Master Obi-Wan stopped me on the main staircase.

“Where are you going?”

“Um… out,” I said, trying to sidestep him.

“Not alone, you aren’t. Anakin will go with you – tell him I said so.”

“Since when? I’m over fifteen, Master, remember?”

You’ve probably forgotten by now, Jedi Dubh, but the Jedi Order, like most organizations involving children, has levels of freedom. You can go about the Temple alone at five. Into the city in company of a Knight or better, on making Padawan. Into the city alone or with peers at fifteen. Fifteen is a pretty big deal. So I was quite insulted that Master Obi-Wan wanted Anakin to go with me. But then he explained.

“Think of all that’s happened the last few months. We’ve had… let me see. A framing for murder, a kidnapping by a Sith, a ‘ring-breaking’ mission gone wrong, the disaster at Saalis, that last fiasco you and I were involved in… I could go on.”

“Please don’t,” I said. “I understand. As a team, the three of us are accident-prone. So?”

“Every one of those accidents could also be seen as a very clever trick, using you two to target me, and through me, the Council. Masters Mundi and Tii have noticed similar patterns with their own apprentices. So the Council have determined that Padawans of high-profile Masters may not leave the Temple without a Knight as escort.”

“I hate HoloNet,” I said.

“A Jedi shall not know love, or anger, or hatred. So do I.”

“Who else is stuck with this lame rule?”

“Dama Montalvo, Maris Brood, and Ahsoka Tano. Form a new gang if it amuses you, but you are not going out.”

So, because he’s my Master, I went to hunt down the guys. To talk strategy. For ages, our whole crowd – from lame Kijé right down to little Zait from Melida – had planned to go out for Sarkos Eve, in disguise, and, as Elimyo Zahani put it, go on a bender. With the two Knights of the Gang offworld (yes, I mean you!), it seemed those cursed with Council Masters couldn’t come.

We had some quick work, because this was all the very day before Sarkos, but the free Padawans arranged to go, and the rest of us had permission to dress up anyway and watch an action/thriller holo in Kijé’s room in the Archives. (He stayed too, in sympathy.)

At least… that was the plan. We were at the gate, all six of us: Dama, Maris, Ahsoka, Kijé, and us Kenobi Padawans, to wave the rest of the gang goodbye. And then Maris stepped past the gate and onto the sidewalk. Kijé dragged her back by the hair – just because his leg doesn’t work, it doesn’t follow that his reflexes don’t. Of course, Maris didn’t take this any too well, and she pivoted around and headbutted Kijé in the guts. (In case you haven’t met her: Maris is a Zabrak!)

While everybody was being all solicitous to Kijé, and Maris was sulking, I started to get that tingling in the back of my mind, the one Master Obi-Wan calls a bad feeling about this. Looking up and down the street, I couldn’t see anything wrong, but my bad feeling was getting stronger all the time. We’re Jedi; we take hunches pretty seriously – so I kept watching. By the time Kijé was back on his feet, or foot and prosthetic if you prefer, and apologizing to Maris for pulling her hair (he’s so nice sometimes…) I saw what was wrong.

Along the way, about six floors down, there looked to be some sort of fight going on. I’d ignored it at first: brawls are a credit a dozen on the lower levels. But now I could see that the belligerents this time were about five big, tough, bouncer-looking thugs of guys, and two kids my age or younger. Naturally the kids were getting the worst of it. Right across the street from the Temple. Well, you know, Jedi and all that, and there were six of us, and that’s our job, defending the weak, so I collected the others and we leapt into the fray, as the saying goes.

If you’ve never been in a street brawl before (though I wouldn’t put it past you) be aware: they travel. A fight that starts outside the Temple can easily finish in eastern CoCoTown. And in eastern CoCoTown, the law officers are more interested in breaking up quarrels with minimum damage to themselves than they are in finding out basic facts such as who started it. As a result, they decided not to arrest the five toughs, but the two kids. And the other three kids. That would be us. (Dama, Maris, and Ahsoka beat it. I learned later that they got home safe and undetected.)

Incidentally, as you’re so old you’ll have forgotten this too, getting arrested is bad even by normal-Padawan standards. Practically everybody, including Master Obi-Wan, has been there, done that, but it’s still bad. For us new-rules Padawans, getting arrested was very bad. Getting arrested because we were in a fight was extremely bad, and being out of the Temple unaccompanied… let’s just not go there.

We ended up in a cell with the two kids we’d been trying to help, who turned out to be locals, and professional pickpockets. Kijé got a cop to let him use the comm channel, and called Madame Nu right away, to get her to send Jax Pavan to pick him up (as you were conveniently absent!). Unless you count the girl pickpocket’s flirtation as such, Kijé was the only one not in trouble.

Man, Foxy, she was all over him! Was he okay? She was so grateful… was someone coming for him? Kijé muttered that his grandmother had arranged something, and that yeah, his parents were dead. Pretty typical: not-quite-lying when you can’t say outright you’re a Jedi. Unfortunately, the friendly girl next turned her attention to me.

“Your dad coming for you, or what?”

I laughed, but even I could hear it sounded hollow. “Not he!”

Which was true. My father’s never going to bail me out of anywhere. Given that I haven’t seen him since I was a baby. However, this did raise the important and difficult question of how we were going to get out before Master Obi-Wan discovered that we weren’t at Kijé’s. The Kenobi Padawans withdrew into a corner for a whispered conference.

The opening speech: “He’s going to kill us. Seriously. We can’t call any of the other Masters, because they’ll just tell him straight off. Look, I checked with the officer, on the way in: it’s not a criminal charge or anything, they’re just holding us because they have to be sure we’re safe and with a responsible adult before they can let us go.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll call Dex.”

So I called. Oh… Dex is an old friend of Master Obi-Wan’s. He runs a cantina in CoCoTown, so he was close, and he’s not averse to some shady dealing. I figured he could be relied on to sympathize, come for us, and most important, not shop us to the Council. Over the comm, he sounded like he thought the whole thing was pretty funny, but he did promise we’d be picked up within the hour, depending on traffic.

When I returned to the cell, my fellow Padawans were crouched whispering in the corner, Kijé having apparently rebuffed the young pilferer’s advances. I joined them, but held off telling the good news until Kij was done talking. Although I dropped in in the middle of a sentence, I could hear he was mimicking Master Obi-Wan – none too badly, either, given that they’re totally different in every possible way.

“…precisely what you thought you were doing. But you both know why the rule was instituted, and you both know that you have endangered the Order by breaking it. And no, of course I never did anything so stupid in my life – I don’t know why you’d bother to ask. You deserve everything the Council said and then some, so don’t hope for any sympathy from me.” In his normal voice, Kijé added lightly, “Worst-case scenario only.”

“Ha, ha,” I grouched. “Best-case scenario.”

Fortunately at that moment the cop returned to pull Kij out: Madame Nu was as good as her word, and Jax had come. Kijé worked some more of his charm, and talked Jax into signing for the two other kids too. Because otherwise they’d be there all night. He pressed my shoulder for an instant on the way out.

“May the Force be with you. I’ll see you guys at home.”

After he left, we just had to wait for Dex to come through. Which about ten minutes later he did: the cop stood by the door, and asked in quite a different and respectful voice if we were Ben Kenobi and Nasriel Threeb, and if so would we mind coming with him please? Of course we answered yes, and not a bit, though we soon found cause to regret the latter.

Waiting in the watch-room for us to be brought upstairs, with an expression colder than the wastes of Hoth, was Master Obi-Wan. We realized within seconds that Kijé had been right all along, and, to use a vulgar expression no doubt entirely familiar to you, that we were in deep chizzk.

Master Obi-Wan didn’t say a word in the speeder going home. Not one to scold until he knows what’s happened, he has to be absolutely seething furious not to even ask for our side of the story. Which he didn’t do, of course. He left that up to Master Windu. In the Council Chamber. After deciding that we would each face the Council alone and I would go second. So for ten minutes I was in the antechamber freaking out, before anything happened at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Foxy. They’re as good a bunch of Masters as there is, taken one by one. But all twelve… whew. Talk about intimidating.

“You left the Temple, after dark, unaccompanied, in flagrant violation of an explicit Council mandate. We do not believe you to be stupid. Why did you do this?” Master Windu has a nasty concise way of putting things, which he used that night to full advantage.

Now, you may have noticed that when I’m under a lot of pressure, I develop a slight stammer. It’s inconvenient, to say the least. So having tried and failed a few times to admit that I had no excuse, and feeling the eyes of the whole Council on me, I blurted out what I was really thinking.

It was, unfortunately, this: “The rule was meant to keep a specific group of Padawans safe. By going out together, we achieved its purpose. I don’t see the problem.”

“A group?” Master Mundi repeated, sounding ominously interested. “When Dexter Jettster called Master Kenobi away from this Council, he only mentioned two Padawans. Tell us, who went with you?”

“If there were more than two of us,” I said, phrasing my words carefully now I saw my mistake, “and I told you the names, what would happen to them?”

Master Obi-Wan almost smiled; whether pleased that I was attempting diplomacy or amused at my near-total lack of expertise, I couldn’t tell. But it was Master Depa Billaba who answered, her voice gentle and her aura serene. I’m not sure which was more scary – her, or Master Windu, who lets you know when he’s steamed.

“No more shall happen to them than should happen to you,” Master Billaba replied. “Come, we are all friends here.” I refrained from saying no we are not, and told only those Masters who were concerned. I know, I know, how the blue Wilds did you – very carefully, pal. Very carefully. I blanked out my aura, and turned right around to study all the faces, but paused for an instant at Master Mundi and Master Tii. Confident that now Maris and Dama’s Masters knew who was involved in the night’s escapade, but equally confident nobody else did, I turned back to Master Billaba.

“No. I can’t betray my comrades like that.”

“Enough,” snapped Master Yoda, and my heart sank into my boots. “On this matter enough time have we wasted. Uncooperative and defiant you are,” he scolded, shaking his walking stick at me. “Much like another of your lineage, hmm? Master Qui-Gon Jinn – yes. In your mouth, his voice do I hear.”

“Oh, yes, by all means blame the dead!” Master Obi-Wan stood up suddenly, and I think – I think – Master Yoda was surprised. I sure as the black holes of Kessel was.

“You may leave,” Master Windu told me, a more-than-transparent hint. I left.

For a few more minutes, we two remained in sole possession of the antechamber. Kijé came by to tell us that he and Jax had dropped the kids off at their home… not that he would have dignified it by such a name himself… but finding us indisposed to chatter, halted away again. Before long, however, Master Obi-Wan emerged, alone, and trudged wearily to the far door before turning back to us.

“Well done, the pair of you.”

“I know we’re in trouble,” I said, “but how much?”

“A week confined to quarters and classrooms. Informal censure: you’re in disgrace, but it won’t be recorded.”

“And you?”

“Formal censure for speaking out of turn and raising recalcitrant, rebellious, refractory Padawans,” he replied lightly. “Three weeks suspension from the Council, effective this instant. You both know what that means, of course?”

I would have nodded, but that would have been a lie. So instead I said, “No. I haven’t a clue.”

“It means -” Master Obi-Wan glanced back at the Chamber doors, and shepherded us into the lift-tube before replying. “It means, children, that you have a week of no obligations outside of your studies. It means that we will then have a fortnight to ourselves. It means that I am very, very grateful to you for getting into this mess, and to Dex for calling to let me in on it as well. It also means,” he added hastily, “that we had better not rejoice too openly too near the spire.”

“You’re not mad at us?” I checked.

“No.”

“You don’t mind losing out on the Council?”

“No.”

“This has been such a great Sarkos,” I said. “We could do it again next year.”

“No.”

“But you said you didn’t mind -”

Mind? I enjoy the challenge of being on the Council, but sometimes even I need a rest. Three weeks’ holiday, remember, Padawan. Still. Please don’t ever do that again.”

So, Foxtan, that’s you all caught up. Kind Regards from

No. If you haven’t worked out which of us it is by now, I won’t tell you.

The End

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About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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8 Responses to Mea Culpa

  1. Oh, wow. 😛 That was fun. I wonder who Obi-Wan would dress up as on Halloween… cough cough Erm, sorry about that. Inner snark :-S

    Like

  2. Heh heh heh… I think I’m getting a new idea… X-P

    Like

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