Star Wars AU Episode I: The Puppet Master

Chapter 13

As the taxis moved away, Qui-Gon said, "Your Honor, the situation has become more complicated."

"I see that," replied Finis. "Please, come with me."

Yet another air taxi pulled up, and the two Jedi got in with Finis, followed by his own guards.

Once again ensconced in the room in which he had gotten his mission, Qui-Gon sat down as the luxury droid brought drinks to the three men.

"What happened?" With less preamble than before, Finis began. "I sent you to ..."

"It seems, your honor," interrupted Qui-Gon, "that the Federation had no intention of speaking with any ambassadors. It was ... most unlike them."

"And the ship?" asked Finis. "Have you any idea what happened to them? They haven't been heard from."

"Not for certain," answered Qui-Gon. "I do know that I felt a disturbance as though several people were suddenly consumed with fear, then silenced as in death. I do not know for certain that the Federation is responsible, though it is the likeliest explanation."

"It is a disaster," stated Finis. "I've called the session, but ... My position is too weak to help Naboo."

"The queen can be persuasive, I am sure," said Qui-Gon. "I regret that we were unable to do more, but the Federation was prepared to invade as we arrived. We were fortunate to be able to get off Naboo with the queen, as the droid army of the Federation was moving to control the planet."

"I see," said Finis. "I regret that negotiations were less than fruitful."

"Indeed," replied Qui-Gon. "As the negotiations never took place, we must continue with the situation as it is now. With your leave, I shall need to speak with the Jedi Council on some of these matters."

"Of course," agreed Finis.

"Thank you, your honor," said Qui-Gon. With a final bow, he and Obi-Wan left.

"This is not the way to the temple," observed Obi-Wan, as they rode in yet another taxi.

"No, we need to fetch the boy first," explained Qui-Gon.

"Is that wise?" asked Obi-Wan. "You do not know that the council will accept him. The boy won't pass the tests, Master, and you know it. He is far too old."

"I promise you," stated Qui-Gon, "Deak will become a Jedi."

"Master ... not again," pleaded Obi-Wan. "Don't defy the Council."

"I will do as I must," said Qui-Gon.

"You could be sitting on the Council by now yourself, Master," said Obi-Wan. "If you would just follow the code ... they won't go along with you this time."

Qui-Gon smiled. "You still have much to learn."

Qui-Gon conferred briefly with a guard at the apartment designated for Queen Amidala. Word was sent in to the guards inside the apartment proper that Deak was to be leaving with Qui-Gon.

Now that he was to go to the Jedi temple, Deak found himself desperately wanting to see Padmé, whom he had not spoken to since some time before their arrival in Coruscant. Going to the door of the series of chambers that had been designated for the queen and her handmaidens, he knocked, to find a handmaiden other than Padmé answering the door.

"I'd like to speak with Padmé, if I could," said Deak.

"I'm sorry, Deak," said Rabé. "Padmé is not here right now."

From further within, the queen's voice called out, "Who is it?"

"It's Deak, to see Padmé, madam," replied Rabé.

The queen took a few steps, and stood in a doorway which aligned near enough with the doorway in which Deak now stood.

"I've sent Padmé on an errand," said the queen.

"I'm going to the Jedi temple to start my training, I hope," said Deak. After an awkward pause in which the queen simply looked at him, Deak forged ahead, "I may not see her again ... and ... and I just wanted to say good-bye."

"We will tell her for you," replied the queen. "We are sure her heart goes with you."

Deak made a bow and turned to leave.

"Thank you, Your Majesty," said Deak. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you." With that, he headed through the apartment back to Qui-Gon.

"Bye, Dee," called Naiia. "Have fun. Me, I'll just stay here in the streetlight ..."

The temple, its five spires gleaming, seemed to beckon as the air taxi approached.

"You will wait with Obi-Wan," stated Qui-Gon, "here. It should not be long."

"Wow," said Deak, craning his neck as he looked up to the ceiling far above, innumerable arches admitting the light. "This place is great."

Obi-Wan said nothing, seeming to be trying to enter a meditative state while he waited for Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon in the meantime had continued down the hallway to reach a tall, stately room. Like the others, this room was ringed with arches, and twelve Jedi sat in a semi-circle, Mace Windu in the center, flanked by Ki-Adi-Mundi and Yoda.

"It is good to see that you have returned," said Mace.

"With your permission," said Qui-Gon, "I should like to begin my report with a convergence in the Force which I encountered."

"A convergence?" asked Yoda.

"Located around ... a person?" said Mace.

"A boy," said Qui-Gon. "I sensed his presence when we landed on the planet of Tatooine—a presence more powerful than any I have ever encountered."

"You believe this boy is ... the one prophesied to bring balance to the Force?" said Mace.

"I don't presume ...," said Qui-Gon.

"Ah, but you do," said Yoda. "Unhidden is your opinion."

"I request that the boy be tested," said Qui-Gon.

The Jedi looked from one to another, then all to Mace Windu, and he nodded.

"Trained as a Jedi," said Yoda, "your request for him?"

"Finding him was the will of the Force," said Qui-Gon. "I have no doubt of that. There is too much happening here."

"Bring him before us, then," said Mace.

Qui-Gon bowed, and then went to the waiting Obi-Wan and Deak. "They will see him," said Qui-Gon. "This way."

Obi-Wan's lips formed a line, but he said nothing.

Back in the room, Qui-Gon gestured for Deak to bow and then said, "This is Deak of Tatooine."

A young Jedi padawan who had not been in the room before, said, "Please, come with me, Deak of Tatooine."

With a backward look at Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Deak followed the Jedi out of the chamber.

"You are very fortunate," said the Jedi. "Not many outside our order enter these halls."

"I want to join you," said Deak. "Is that why I've been allowed?"

"It's not for me to know," replied his guide. "By the way, my name's Tan."

"Nice to meet you, Tan," said Deak. "Where are we going?"

"I've been instructed to take you and show you to the testing hall," said Tan.

"What kind of testing?" said Deak, curiously.

"I can't tell you that," said Tan. "Honest, I'm not allowed. And I probably said more than I'm supposed to already."

Deak followed through the halls, all of which seemed nearly identical—tall ceiling with many pillars and arches, light streaming into the halls from all directions. Yet, as he led the way, Tan seemed to have no difficulty discerning one hall from another.

As sunset tinged the light red, Deak entered a room.

"Good evening," greeted the red-skinned Mon Calamari. "I ask that you sit in that seat there," and she waved toward the chair. "You will be shown a succession of images. Your task is to then name what you have seen. We shall begin."

Deak watched the images swim past, and then there was blackness.

"Name them," ordered the Jedi.

"A ship ... a cup ... a speeder," recited Deak.

"Good, young one," encouraged the Jedi. "How do you feel?"

"Cold, ma'am," replied Deak.

"Afraid?" asked the Jedi.

"No," said Deak, "no, ma'am."

"Afraid to give up your past life?" persisted the Jedi.

"I don't think so," said Deak. Why would I be?

"Your thoughts dwell on your mother," said the Jedi.

"I do miss her," admitted Deak.

"Afraid to lose her, I think," said the Jedi.

"What's that got to do with anything?" said Deak, feeling his temper rise.

"Everything. Fear is the path to the dark side ...," said the Jedi. "Fear leads to anger ... anger leads to hate ... hate leads to suffering."

"I'm not afraid!" snapped Deak.

"A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind," said the Jedi tester. "I sense much fear in you."

"I am not afraid," said Deak firmly.

"Then, we shall continue," replied the Jedi tester.

More images, and then the pause.

"A cruiser ... a half moon ... a man," said Deak, naming the next images. This is too easy.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan returned to the chamber to stand before the twelve members of the Jedi Council to learn the outcome of the testing.

"Correct you were, Qui-Gon," said Yoda.

"The Force is unusually strong with him," said Ki-Adi-Mundi.

"He's to be trained, then," said Qui-Gon.

The twelve looked from one to another, clearly uncomfortable before all eyes had turned to look at Mace Windu.

His voice tinged with regret, Mace said, "No, he will not be trained."

"No!?" said Qui-Gon in obvious disbelief.

"He is too old," said Mace, seeming not to note the smile on the face of Obi-Wan. "There is already too much anger in him."

"He is the chosen one," pleaded Qui-Gon urgently. "You must see it."

"Clouded, this boy's future is," said Yoda.

"I will train him then," said Qui-Gon, sounding determined. "I will take Deak as my padawan learner."

Even his Jedi training was insufficient to prepare Obi-Wan to mask his surprise at this statement, an eerie feeling of being bereft coming over him. What have I done wrong?

"An apprentice you have already, Qui-Gon," said Yoda, with a slight nod of his head toward Obi-Wan. "Impossible, to take on a second."

"We forbid it," said Mace, firmly.

"Obi-Wan is ready ...," said Qui-Gon.

"I am ready to face the trials," said Obi-Wan hopefully.

"What do you know of readiness?" said Mace dismissively.

The tension that had been building between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan since they had brought Deak along was evident in the looks that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged.

Turning back to the Council, Qui-Gon said, "He is headstrong ... and he has much to learn about the living Force, but he is capable. There is little more he will learn from me."

"Our own council we will keep on who is ready," said Yoda. "More to learn, he has..."

"I understand," said Qui-Gon.

But I don't, thought Obi-Wan.

"There is another matter of concern which I wish to bring before the Council at this time," said Qui-Gon. "While we were delayed on the planet of Tatooine, we came under attack. There were probe droids, which I discovered just before we left, but they drew an attacker to us. The attacker was quite well trained in the Jedi arts, but clearly was not of the Jedi, for I could sense the dark side emanating from him as we fought. My only reasonable conclusion is that it was a Sith lord."

"A Sith Lord?" said Mace, sounding simultaneously disbelieving and horrified.

"Impossible," said Ki-Adi-Mundi. "The Sith have been extinct for a millennium."

"The very Republic is threatened," said Yoda, "if involved the Sith are."

"No," said Mace firmly, shaking his head. "I do not believe they could have returned without us knowing."

"I believe he came to attack the queen," said Qui-Gon. "I believe he was meant to stop her from reaching Coruscant, as there have been no further attacks. We sensed an unusual amount of fear in the Federation, and their behavior was ... unusual for them. The Sith might have been directing them—it is not impossible."

"Hard to see, the dark side is," said Yoda. "Discover who this assassin is, we must."

"I sense that he will reveal himself," said Qui-Gon. "Particularly if the senate does not decide in favor of Naboo."

"This attack was with purpose," said Mace, "and I agree that the queen was the target. We will use all our resources here to unravel this mystery and discover the identity of your attacker."

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