War Stories – 13

Due to popular demand (ha ha ha)… another chapter drawn from Nasriel’s journal.
At least three of the family are not having a good day, and that’s not even counting Council members.  Something we’d all forgotten about pops back up, and Qui-Gon’s reputation with the Council continues into the next generation.
Onward.

We’re in trouble again.  Even the weather thinks we’re in trouble, laying it on heavy with pouring rain and menacing thunderclouds –the Council Chamber has the best weather of any room in town.  I swear They order up storms specially to help unnerve out-of-line Jedi.  As if any Jedi minded what the weather was doing.

Of course we’re in trouble: I don’t remember a single time Qui-Gon and I were called up to the Council and weren’t in trouble.  But usually it’s something we can – and do – laugh about the moment we’re out of the room.  This time I think it’s serious.

I guess Obi-Wan didn’t tell them, or didn’t know, about me with Dooku, because the first thing Master Yoda said was to me, asking if I knew the reason we’d been called in.  He then told me, so the question was irrelevant.

“Yeah,” I said.  I don’t like Council scoldings, because I’m not as slick as Qui-Gon, and my vocabulary tends to revert to twelve-year-old levels, and I always feel stupid.

“All you have to say on the subject, that is?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”  Then I remembered I should probably explain.  “It’s my fault, Master Yoda – I mean, now is my fault, I – chizzk happened –” and I remembered I shouldn’t say chizzk in the Council Chamber, “I was with some… strange people… and some interesting things happened, and I thought I’d Fallen for sure… and…”

Qui-Gon shook his head.  Usually, when we’re in trouble, he has time to remind me not to talk, because I think he thinks I sound stupid too, but this time we were in a hurry as well as in trouble.  “Padawan Threeb had the misfortune of spending three days with Count Dooku, who took it upon himself to divulge to her officially classified information.”

And Master Yoda said anything the Council didn’t know about was by definition not officially classified, and if Qui-Gon didn’t mind shutting up, deal with Padawan Threeb first, this Council would rather.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody but Tahl tell him to shut up.  And then everybody was asking me questions at once and the only person I could understand was Master Mundi.  So I told Master Mundi all I could remember about Dooku and about why I thought I’d Fallen, but I didn’t say anything about exactly what memories the Shaman had me redo.

Master Windu interrupted me partway through and dragged one hand over his face as if he was very, very weary, and said that they most emphatically had other things to talk to me about, but that this was not the best time or place.  “Padawan Threeb, you are hereby placed on probation pending further investigation,” he said.  “You will remain available to speak to members of this Council, and you will not leave the Temple unaccompanied, or the planet under any circumstances, until further notice.  You are now excused.  You may go and wait in the antechamber.”

“I may go, or you want me to go?” I asked.

Obi-Wan nodded toward the door, but I didn’t move.  In the end, my Master turned to me, looking more tired and disheartened than I’d seen him in a long time.  This whole case has taken a lot out of him, but he was still looking after me.

“Nasriel, go and wait outside.  I promise you, you do not want to be here.”

“Yes, Master,” I said.  On my part, that little play-act was just to tell the Council what I couldn’t put in words: namely, that I still trust Qui-Gon, and that this whole fiasco is a complete non-starter as far as I’m concerned.  See, because I’m his Padawan, I’m the one most affected if… if, completely against all laws of logic, and everything everybody has ever known, it turns out he is a Sith, not was.  Not that I believe that for an instant, but I had to prove it to the Council.

And to myself.

So here I am, sitting on the floor in the antechamber, writing.  I had this journal in my cloak pocket, and Qui-Gon gave me back my comlink – hang on –

Later: I’m going to be absolutely no use to anybody for a while, just as soon as this sinks in, so I have to get it down on paper as fast as I can.  Gree Yarzakawula called.  Gree’s the Sentinel who rescued me from the slavers three months ago, and she and her traveling partner stayed behind to help the local law enforcement mop up, catch what bad guys they could, see that all the other girls – and boys – and women – were in a safe place. 

And what turns up is that the…  I don’t want to say victims, because I’m one of them, but that’s the word for it… are from so many different worlds, and the slavers and their… clients are from so many different worlds, and so many of the clients are prominent public figures, that the only way to properly try the case in a court of law is to handle it out of the Galactic Courts at Coruscant.  The first hearing starts the day after tomorrow, which means those slavers are right this moment in law-enforcement cells somewhere on the same world as me.

The court has subpoenaed me as a witness.  They sent the papers to… my home, I guess… the quarters, but I haven’t been home in over a week, so I didn’t know about it.  Gree’s mad that nobody called me, and telling her nobody could have didn’t help.  She and her partner, Foz Ferens, were summonsed as well.  Either way, the day after tomorrow and for Force knows how many days after, I’ll have to be in the same room as those… men.  And if Bi-An gets his stiff-necked arrogant way, and this whole Sith mess ends the way I fear it will, I’ll be there alone, without my Master.

I have to tell Qui-Gon.

I can’t tell Qui-Gon; he has enough to deal with right now.

The Council don’t know what those misbegotten sons of vetches did to the girls they kidnapped, and I’m supposed to tell it in precise detail in an open courtroom.  They don’t clear the room for cases this momentous.  I can’t do that, I can’t, I can’t

Later: I’m not sure how I got home.  I vaguely recall sitting in the Council antechamber, trying to breathe, and someone helping me up and telling me I was hyperventilating, settle down.  On reflection, I think it must have been Kijé, because the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the sofa back in the quarters, with him standing over me looking worried.  He said he’d used a Force-suggestion to get me to calm down.

“You overdid it,” I said, because I wasn’t exactly conscious on the way home.

In the quarters, all the lights were on, and the thermostat up, so that it was warm and peaceful.  Outside, a winter thunderstorm raged across the city, driving rain against the walls of the Temple and against our windows, and every few minutes a flash of lightning blinded the bruise-dark sky.  It was the end of a mission: I was kneeling on the floor in front of the sofa, drinking tea, half-listening to Kijé talk about what happened while I was away, and Tahl was sitting on the sofa, wielding muja oil and a comb on the knots in my hair – the tidy binding off of another job completed, same as last mission and every mission before that, ever since I was ten and drank hot chocolate instead of tea.  Except this mission still isn’t properly finished yet.

That sank in quite forcefully not a moment later, when the door slammed open and the storm came inside, in the form of Obi-Wan holding forth about something, and Qui-Gon in the foulest mood I’ve seen or felt him in since… ever.  He spotted Kijé at once, and pointed into the corridor.

“You – out.”

Kijé stood up to go, but paused in the doorway.  “I’m very sorry, Master Jinn,” he said quietly.  I’m still not sure if he was apologizing for being here, or if he meant he was sorry about what had happened, but I can’t see how he could already have heard about it.

As soon as he had left, Qui-Gon continued what he and Obi-Wan were talking about, as if Tahl and I weren’t there.

“Where’s she supposed to go, then?”

Anywhere,” Obi-Wan said desperately.  “I don’t care, They don’t care, send her to Dex for all the difference it makes.”

I was observing Tahl in the window, watching her get more and more steamed up, and finally she snapped.  “Qui, my eyes may not work, but I could hear you boys coming halfway down the hall, the least you can do is say hello.”  She doesn’t know.  The idea sets my heart pounding.  Tahl doesn’t know I know why she’s blind.  She doesn’t know what the Council wanted with us, or even most of where we’ve been.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“The Council has decided,” Qui-Gon told me, very slowly, as if he was talking to a youngling, “that it is not wise – not safe, was the word used – for an impressionable Padawan to be left in my vicinity and under my influence.  If they meant any Padawan but you, I would agree.  However.  They have delegated Obi-Wan to see to it that you are no longer in these quarters by the end of an hour.”

“Where am I supposed to go, then?”

“You could come stay with me and Ben,” Obi-Wan offered, “or Anakin and Ahsoka… or Feemor, I suppose.  Xan and Bruck are offworld again.  You’re not in trouble, Sriel, you can go anywhere you want.”

Foz Ferens had sneaked up into the doorway and heard almost everything.  Sentinels are good at that.  “For someone not in trouble, she’s having Council-kriffed-up royally lousy day, isn’t she?” he said.  “Come on, Blue, grab your gear, we’ll shove Corri onto the floor and you can come stay with us downstairs.”  I wanted to.  The Sentinel quarters of the Temple are the best alternative I have, if I can’t be home.  But Obi-Wan stuck his oar in, of course.

“It’s winter, Ferens; even I know the Temp is full at this time of year… and it would be better if Nasriel could stay with family.”

“She will.  She’s one of us, on account of her Master’s one of us,” Foz said, pure obstinacy.  “Kid’s been drifter raised from the ground up.  And I don’t know what-all treacherous chizzk goes on up here, Master Kenobi, but the Sentinels look after their own.  Gree heard something was up, and sent me to tell Blue she has haven with us if she needs it.  You too, Master Jinn,” he added, shyly.

“Tell Gree I appreciate the offer,” Qui-Gon said, all serenity, layered on over not wanting me to be taken away, and his own worries about the Council.  He doesn’t often worry as such, but this isn’t really in the future – it’s in the past and the present as well.  “It would solve several difficulties if you could take Nasriel.  Behave yourself, minx,” he told me, offhand, but even with him blocking me out, I could tell he hated having to say it.  Because you don’t tell your kid to behave if they’re going to be with you all along.

I headed into my room to collect my things, and shut the door so Obi-Wan and Foz wouldn’t see me trying to not to cry.  Since one of the cleaning droids had already returned my rucksack to my room, it was a straightforward case of tossing in my academic notebooks and a few ink-pencils, grabbing the subpoena papers before Qui-Gon saw them, and picking the rucksack up.  Going back into the main room, I just about keeled over with grief; the scent of the muja oil was so strong, even more than what was in my hair anyway.  All my life, that has been the smell of everything is okay now.  But nothing was okay, and I was living in a nightmare where the air was so hard and heavy I couldn’t breathe.

I stumbled across the room, not really looking where I was going, and ran into Qui-Gon, who put his arms around me and held me tight, with my head against his chest – which is where it comes to when we’re both standing up, anyway. 

“I’m safer here than I am anywhere else,” I told Master Chosski-head Council Member Obi-Wan kriffing Kenobi.  He had the grace to look embarrassed, but Qui-Gon ignored him, holding me out at arms’ length, where he could see my face.

“Nasriel, the safest place for you to be is wherever the Force wills.  That won’t always be here, and right now, it seems to be with the Sentinels.  I’ll be around if you need me, but for now, go, and may the Force be with you.”

So I went off with Foz, and he had to hold my arm, because my eyes were so blurry with tears I couldn’t see where I was going.  And Gree hugged me, and said she was sorry.  I have Foz’s bunk, and he’s sleeping on the floor down the hall – with a couple guys called Jiron and Reseda.  They’re nice enough.  They’re all nice enough, but it isn’t the same as being home, with my family.  With my Master.

The only good thing to come out of this, so far as I can see, is that I can go to court with Gree and Foz… day after tomorrow… and I don’t have to bother Qui-Gon.

Not that I don’t want to bother him.  I wish he were around to be bothered.

I just want to go home.

TBC

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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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