War Stories – 23

And here we all are again.  Journal entries and a sprinkling of Mando’a.
Sorry for the delay – I’m currently back at college, blue-haired, and giving Qui-Gon as much time as I can spare, which isn’t a great deal and usually happens on the bus.
Also, real quick: did anyone else notice that tiny instant in tPM where Anakin just assumes Qui-Gon speaks Huttese?

I woke this morning to find Blaze nudging me with his cold, wet, txakurra nose.  As soon as I’d properly woken up, and swatted Blaze away, I remembered what happened last night, and I felt like someone had grabbed a fistful of my guts and clawed them out: aching, and hollow inside.  My Master was gone.  Although an echo of his aura, a breath of his familiar green-and-silver scent, still lingered in the room, it was almost worse than if there had been no sign of his ever having been there.

Seventh hour, which meant I was running out of time – I headed for the Archives, and through them to Kijé’s room.  Properly speaking, it’s just a kind of sideroom to the Archives, where Madame Nu has always kept spare books, and where now Kijé keeps his bed, tucked in a corner with his belongings in boxes underneath.  Kijé smiled slightly when I came in, and handed me a pair of earphones.

“I’ve been expecting you since fourth hour,” he said.  “I was going to give you the transcript, but I thought you might get more out of the recording.”

“Have you –”

“I haven’t listened to it.  Master Jinn said you needed to know before you went haring off across the Galaxy, but it’s no affair of mine.”  I couldn’t tell whether he meant Qui-Gon said it was none of his business or whether he just decided that for himself, but I put on the earphones and activated the recording.  For the next couple hours, I sat there on Kijé’s bed, listening to my worst nightmare.

I think what must have settled it for the Council was when Qui-Gon told them he had used the Sith lightning to blind Tahl, and that he thought he was trying to kill her, and Yoda asked him to explain.  There was a crackling noise on the recording just then, and my best guess is that he didn’t just explain.

Or maybe it was when he told them that he knew all along that Dooku’s occasional voyages were really killing sprees, as the former Sentinel disposed of the various enemies he had made over the years, leaving behind a trail of torture and murder.

“And you did nothing to stop him?” Master Gallia asked, gently sorrowful.

“Nothing,” Qui-Gon repeated.  “A few times I asked to go with him – I have enemies of my own, you know.”

I tore off the earphones so I didn’t have to hear whether he had gone with Dooku, gone murdering, but Kijé passed them back and took my hand in his. 

“He wanted you to listen right to the end.  I’m sorry, Nasriel – I can tell by your face it’s pretty bad.”

“No chizzk,” I muttered, but kept listening.

Master Windu was talking – maybe thundering is more like it.  “…done nothing strictly criminal, so we can’t pass this over to the civilian authorities or lawfully imprison you within the Temple.”  My blood ran cold – I hadn’t thought they would try that.  But even with the worst possible outcomes out of the way, what remained was still, as Kijé had said, pretty bad.  It started with you are no longer a Jedi, and went on from there.

“We cannot at this time consider you absolutely a Sith, but you should be aware that we will be actively watching for good reason to do so.  For this reason, we intend to keep an eye on you; you are being assigned to the outpost at Thalassia.  Jedi Yarzakawula and Jedi Ferens will accompany you there.”

“And if I refuse to go?” Qui-Gon asked.

“We are giving you a choice between going to Thalassia and going to a Force-blocked cell inside the Temple.  If you choose the former, you are required to have vacated the Temple and the Core by eighth hour.  You will not stop to take leave of anyone, and you will not return.  Either of these courses of action will constitute good reason.  We will ensure that anyone with a legitimate need to know of your departure is informed.”

Obi-Wan murmured, “Can he at least have a chance to explain to Nasriel and say goodbye?  She’s his Padawan, it’s her right.”

“Not-Jedi, is Qui-Gon Jinn,” Yoda cut him off.  “Train a Padawan, can one who is not a Jedi?  Impossible.  A right to speak to one who is not a Jedi, has any Padawan?  No.  Later, shall we consider the girl.”

And then Master Windu picked up again.  “I can see you don’t have your lightsaber – if you did, we would demand that you surrender it before you left.  Wherever it is, it can stay.”

“Can I keep my datapad?” Qui-Gon asked drily.

Master Koon had pre-empted Master Windu to answer, taking the question at face value.  “We’ll wake someone up in the Archives to clear it of classified data, and then yes, you may.”  I realized that that must have been when Qui-Gon asked Kijé to get access to this recording for me. 

“You may return to your quarters for your cloak and anything else you need, provided Padawan Threeb is not there at the time,” Master Windu had continued.  “Depa, can you get her out of the way?”

“Certainly,” Master Billaba acquiesced.  And then the session had been dissolved – temporarily – and the recording cut out.

Kijé had spent the last few minutes typing rapidly, one-handed, into the conversation function of his datapad, but now he was staring at me.  “Nasriel?  Um, I was just typing to Madame Nu… whatever you just heard… wasn’t the worst.”

“How the seven sages of Kal’Shebbol could there be worse, Kijé?” I exploded.

“There’s a holocron crystal missing from the Dark Side Artefacts storage in the sublevel.  You know the security footage down there is just a static holo at one-minute intervals, to save data?  Well, the thing disappeared between one holo and the next.  Um… right about half-past fourth hour.”

“I have to go,” I said.  “Thanks, Kij. I – I have to go.”

Seems like he knew what I wanted to do, because he shrugged, and said, “Well, if I don’t see you again… may the Force be with you.”

Hurrying home, I found Xanatos waiting for me at the door, looking more responsible, and sicker of being responsible, than I’d seen him since the time he almost got Bruck killed on a mission.  He reached to pull me toward him, and casually ruffled my hair.  I hate people touching my hair.

“You just missed Master Gallia,” he said.  “Um…  I don’t know how to put this, kid.  Qui-Gon has – has been reassigned, to one of the Rim outposts, and he won’t be back.  Feemor’s going to take you on, they say, and until he gets back…  I guess I will.”

“Why’d Qui-Gon leave?” I asked, hearing my voice tremble.  At least my uncertainty and shock weren’t a lie, even if the question I asked was.  “Can I go with him?”

“No!” Xan said forcefully, then sighed.  “I swear I would let you, and go with you, if I could, but you’re still under Central Court injunction to stay on-world… and I doubt the Council would want you to go.  We’ll just have to find something to do around here until Feemor gets home.”

“So you absolutely will not let me go after Qui-Gon?”  I had to check, because I wasn’t asking Xanatos’ permission here, I was asking Qui-Gon’s permission, and even an I don’t care from Xan would count for that.

I was not to be so fortunate: “No, sweetheart, I absolutely will not.”  He added, perhaps trying to be nice, “Is there anything you wanted to do on Coruscant?  Um… we could go looking for Dex?”

While there were many, many things I would rather have done than go looking for Dex, starting with going back to Kijé’s for tea and sympathy, I had a few reasons for what I said next.  First, whether he was here or not, Qui-Gon would never want me to just buckle under and cry.  Second, even if he is really gone and it is really forever, what better way of honoring his memory – because it will have to be a memory, I know I won’t be allowed to talk about it much – than using the man-hunting skills I learned from him, in searching for his friend?  And last…  I’m a Jedi.  I can’t let this hit me so hard I don’t get up again.  I have to get on with my life.

So, “Okay, Xan,” I said.  “I think we should start at the cantina.”

***

Qui-Gon has no desire to be here, but he has thrown away all that remained of his life for it, and it would be a shame to waste the sacrifice now.  Particularly as it is not solely his own – regardless of the Jedi truism that no person is any more important than any other, that everyone is expendable, replaceable, he knows he is forcing sacrifice on Nasriel as well, and on Xanatos and Feemor, who will have to rearrange whatever plans they had, to compensate for his absence.  And on Gree and Foz, who have deliberately flouted the Council’s orders on his word alone.

He stole the holocron from the secure storage area, with a key chip taken from Kijé’s room when the boy was distracted.  He hopes Kijé won’t get in too much trouble.  The rough sphere of crystal burns his hands, and the darkness that still hangs about it, relic of Zigoola from whence Obi-Wan retrieved it, erodes the light he has so carefully gathered up and brought with him.

Dooku will be pleased.

Dooku looks pleased, too, holding out his hand for the compact treasury of Sith knowledge, of which Qui-Gon is only too glad to be free.  Although it is the smallest, least valuable ‘cron he could find, Qui-Gon knows the former Jedi – the… other former Jedi – will take it as evidence of absolute betrayal of the Order.  Yoda, when he finds out, will no doubt think the same.

Now only one thing remains to tie him back to the Jedi Order, but it is the first thing Dooku and his enigmatic master will notice.  Qui-Gon takes one last breath as a free man… and lets go of the light.

***

Astri was at the cantina when Xan and I got there.  Dex has been gone for weeks, and I guess if I hadn’t been so worried about the trial, and about my Master, I’d have missed him – Qui-Gon and I used to stop by Dex’s every few weeks, when we were home.  It wasn’t a bad system.  Knowledge that there could be Jedi around at any time keeps the worst thugs clear of this whole street, and Dex’s web of contacts has bloodlessly solved more conflicts than the Council records will ever show.

I’ve spent the last hour hunting around the cantina, hoping to find any clue to where Dex might have gone, but it’s hopeless.  In an exact reversal of the problem I faced while searching Fett’s quarters on Kamino so many weeks ago, here I’m having trouble working out whether any of the dozens of hints I’ve found is relevant.  Xan was helping me for a while, but when I told him off for disturbing a pile of papers so badly I couldn’t tell their original order, he went outside to sulk.

Later: Well, that was weird.  Of all the people who could possibly have shown up at Dex’s cantina at ninth hour on a weekday morning, who should appear but Jango Fett?  With Boba in tow, naturally.  I guess they missed Xan on the way in, because I was sitting at the counter drinking cold black caf and sifting through a folder of travel documents – Dex’s as well as other people’s – and the only warning I got that I wasn’t alone was Jango’s voice, sharp, surprised.

“Su cuy’gar!” he said.  “Tion vaii gar ver’gebuir?”  Where is my Master indeed, I wanted to say.  While the phrase Jango used to refer to Qui-Gon literally means something like the Saalisan ray varetki, its connotations in Mando’a are slightly different.

Kaysh ru’payt,” I replied shortly.  “Uh… kyr’adysh be’chaaj.”

Wayii! Parer – me’ven?”  For the first time ever, I heard Jango Fett sounding actually shocked, and then realized I’d used a word that, in Mando’a, has two meanings – one of which is dead.  And while I’m still afraid I’ll have to use it in that sense someday… it is not this day.

“Oh,” I said, “Nu kyr’adyc, shi taab’echaaj’la.”  Not dead, just a long way away.  “I don’t want to talk about it, Jango.  Me’vaar ti gar?”

Eh, naas vutyce.  We’re here to catch up with my mentor,” Jango shrugged.  “Don’t look at me like that; you thought I was always the greatest bounty-hunter in the Galaxy?  But.  My mentor will only let me contact him through this Dexter Jettster.”

“Dex is missing right now, but I’ll find him,” I said.  “I’ll find him for you, and then you’ll owe me, like you owed Qui-Gon.”  At that point, Xanatos came in, and Jango switched back to Mando’a.

“N’epar nu pirur.”  But he was wrong – it can’t wait.  I can’t wait.  I have to find Qui-Gon.

“What’s going on, kiddo?” Xanatos asked quietly, pouring himself a mug of horribly tarry, brewed-all-morning caf.  When a few drops spattered onto the papers I had been studying, I noticed something strange, and quickly shuffled the page under so Jango wouldn’t see what I had seen.

I can find Dex without Jango’s help.  Dex knows where to find Jango’s mentor.  And then Jango will have to help me find Qui-Gon.  Now I just need a way of getting offworld…

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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7 Responses to War Stories – 23

  1. sarahtps says:

    Dragon’s teeth. Dooku, Qui-Gon? Really? Dooku? You’d better have a storming good reason. And the fact that you were thrown out of the Jedi Order is not good enough.
    On the upside, Jango’s back. 😀

    Like

  2. prods you WHY ALL THESE RED HERRINGS. GET THESE RED HERRINGS OFF MY WORDPRESS READER. ROSALIE.

    Like

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