A New Master, a New Life
Aedan tore voraciously at a slab of meat, grinning through a mouthful of food as a herd of scurriers scampered by. A slight breeze caused him to duck just in time as a baby dactilion from Utapau flew overhead. A condor dragon alighted onto his shoulder, playfully biting his ear. Aedan sniffed appreciatively as a sickeningly rotten smell wafted over to him from across the room, filling his nostrils with its putrid odor.
He suddenly laughed out loud, splattering chewed-up meat all over his already greasy tunic. Never before had his quarters smelled this WICKED. A boar-wolf, also called a borra, leaped to him, scratching vehemently at Aedan's legs.
Since he had an interest in all weird-looking creatures, Aedan learned as much as he could about them, so he knew technically all of their habits. But he didn't need a datasheet to tell him that his pet was hungry. Without even bothering to look up and take aim, he threw his slab of meat in the borra's direction.
He smirked with glee when he heard a satisfactory crunch as the animal's jaws snapped shut upon its target. He looked up to see it run off, the much-coveted piece of meat between its saliva-covered jaws.
He nodded with approval as it slashed viciously at a gorg that was apparently intruding upon its territory. Aedan encouraged his animals to roam free and act as nature would have them act. He was never bored when he had his vast menagerie of animals to watch and care for.
"You and Wicked would have been so WICKED together," he said aloud to the borra, who was too engrossed with his piece of meat to care about what his keeper was saying.
An Ikopi galloped past him, followed closely by a miniature krayt dragon with slobbering jaws wide upon. The Ikopi was too distracted by the all too close mouth filled with lethal rows of teeth to look where it was going, so it wasn't long before it crashed straight into several of Aedan's oopee sea killer exhibits. The aquariums fell over with a terrific crash of shattered transparisteel and sea creatures.
"NO! GOOD!" Aedan pushed the startled ikopi out of the way and began to hastily gather up the flailing sea specimens on the floor. "These WICKED things were expensive!" he shouted to the ikopi, who by now was calmly grazing in its feed bucket. "I can't have you breaking up my aquariums all the time! My WICKED fish have the right to live and be WICKED too! Next time you do this I'm going to roast you on a spit and feed you to the krayt dragon!"
The ikopi looked at him with a dull, blank expression. The krayt dragon smacked its lips, as if it could already taste ikopi fried on spit.
Just then the comlink signaled. Aedan frowned and dropped the armful of the fish he was holding. "This has been a GOOD day," he muttered.
A fallen oopee glared up at him reproachfully and bit him on the leg.
"OW! GOOD!" Aedan screamed, doing a wild, capering dance about the room. "GOOD GOOD GOOD! To the fish market! To the butcher! Ungrateful GOOD! Die!"
He tossed the offending oopee into the air. It landed back in its tank with a happy splash.
His comlink signaled again, louder this time. Annoyed, Aedan threw his comlink on the floor and stamped on it while it continued to ring. It was probably just dumb old Rei Saffron, demanding to see Aedan in his office for some WICKED deed that Rei didn't approve of. Rei didn't approve of anything Aedan did.
His face gleamed with amusement. It could be Minir, complaining about doing the baby-sitting shift. But then, everyone complained about doing the shift, because it was an easy, GOOD job. All they had to do was watch Jahn Pal and Sai'wer and make sure they didn't accidently kill themselves while playing. Jahn Pal and Sai'wer could drown in a one-centimeter-deep puddle of water.
Aedan picked his comlink up and switched it to caller I.D. Hmmm, that's funny. Obi-Wan rarely called Aedan these days. This could be interesting.
He turned it on. "WICKED-O, my brother-O!" he sang out. "Have you called to apply as a WICKED club member? There is a free test trial for thirty days if you are interested –––"
"Aedan?!" Obi-Wan shouted through the static. "A ferocious massiff has been shipped to my room; the intergalactic postal service must have gotten my name confused with yours. Hurry and pick him up now, before he breaks something!"
Aedan chuckled as he heard something crash in the background, closely followed by a hungry snarl.
WICKED. He had ordered a baby massiff from Tattooine by express shipment as soon as he had gotten home. He knew an animal dealer there that gave them away cheap, no questions asked. Aedan liked that.
"Aedan? He's tearing up the bed! Are you coming? Aedan! A-A-A-A-E-E-E-E-D-D-D-D-A-A-A-A-N-N-N-N!!!!"
There was another sound of breaking furniture and another growl, angry this time.
Aedan smiled. Well, it was back to WICKED duty.
Kan looked out toward the garish lights of Coruscant, a slight breeze stirring through his hair. He closed his eyes, breathing in the clear night air. Far below, he could hear the dull roar of air traffic as they crammed into the space lanes. This was everyday night life on the city-world, and he wanted to enjoy the moment he had with it.
Beside him, Adriaan stood, her luminous eyes reflecting the stars as she gazed up at the sky. Her long golden hair was loose, curling softly in the wind. Her hand rested lightly upon his shoulder, yet Kan could still feel her powerful strength even in her gentle touch.
She was now officially his Master, now that it had been formerly announced to the Council and the rest of the Jedi Order. All day, Kan had felt like a slide underneath a microscope ––– for he and his Master were a novelty now. It was a rare sight to see a Padawan chosen for the second time. This was the first moment since the day before that they could have alone.
She was very different from Ruru. Ruru had been very large and very strong, yet all the same, he knew how to be understanding and kind. He had a slow, lumbering grace, and he had always been a cautious and rational man. Until the very end.
She is so different from him, he thought as he stole a glance at her sad, withdrawn face. She had that airy, flowing quality about her, that casual, natural grace that few had. There was not one grain of fear or caution in her. She acted without a fear for her own safety. He had seen enough of her fighting style to know that. Her slim, lean body was all litheness when she fought ––– she made it seem more of a dance. One moment she was here, cutting away with a liquid-like motion ––– rolling, ducking, leaping, coming up over here, popping up several meters behind, now back to back with him, the next moment, gone like the swift passing of a breeze upon the water. She was very clever, yet she didn't rely on her intelligence to survive. She was the only person Kan knew that possessed both physical and mental ingenuity.
And, Kan also knew that she could be as strong and stubborn as a mountain.
Or as strong and stubborn as an Aedan.
"Master?" he said now. He liked the sound of her name. Master ell Talaan. Master Adriaan. Master. She would teach him. She would guide him. He would not have to be on his own.
She turned her head slowly, resting her head on one hand. "Kan," she said. "You know that I do not like to be called 'master' It's servile."
"I am sorry," Kan said, "but what else can I call you?"
She looked away, toward the stars. "In my student days, there were some who referred to me as 'darkling' I don't know why. Among my friends, I was known as 'Ree' Ayd-REE-an. Adriaan. Did you know that Adriaan is Rhoderion for 'darkness'? 'Ree' was a common name meaning 'light' in a language that has long since died out. It's odd."
"Yes," he answered, not quite understanding her.
"I know you don't know what I'm saying, so stop pretending."
"Okay," Kan said, keeping his face straight.
She looked at him, a smile quirking at the corners of her mouth. "So, if you don't mind not acting subservient to me, I would prefer that you call me 'Ree'."
Ree. Kan shook his head, bewildered. Adriaan was a strange character. What kind of a Master asked their Padawan to call them by a nickname? It was unheard of.
I wouldn't dare to call her Ree in front of Master Windu. He'd probably fall right through the floor.
"…War has begun, so I don't think we'll be bored for much longer," Adriaan's voice broke into his thoughts.
He started, half-guilty. An Apprentice not listening to his Master wasn't good. "Yes?"
"I mean we'll have an assignment soon. Yoda has sketched it out for me, but it will take a few days for it to come in as a positive. If the reports are confirmed, we'll be heading out by the end of the week. Is that okay?"
"Yah," Kan said, shrugging. Right now, he didn't really care whether he got an assignment within the week or not. He still felt too overwhelmed with Ruru's death, and with his sudden new Apprenticeship to Adriaan. And he had changed too much in such a short period of time. He had to catch up with himself.
If it hadn't been for Jango…
His blood began to boil. He tried to keep his emotion down, to stamp out his fury, but it was no use. His face tingled with the effort to calm himself.
"K-a-a-a-n." Adriaan's voice was stern.
His body felt hot. "I'm trying."
"Yes, you can." She sounded angry now. "You can. You will. I know you can do it."
He took deep breaths, trying to push down his anger.
I know you can do it.
Someone has said that to me before.
His eyelids popped open.
She looked at him curiously. "What is it?"
At first he was too excited to speak. He was replaying something in his mind, something that had happened not too long ago…
He ran around the arena.
"Kan!" Jordin had shouted.
"Kan, get up. You must get up."
"I believe in you."
Who are you?
He turned to her. "Mast –– I mean, Ree." He swallowed. "I need to tell you of something that happened before the…before the battle."
"Nnn ––– no," he stammered, "not really. I had ––– dreams; visions, of what was to come."
There was a brief pause. "Tell me about it."
"I saw the arena, and Aedan. He and the Wicked Club were screaming –––"
"––– 'wicked' yes, I know," she said with a grim smile. "And?"
"I heard Jordin calling for help. But I…I couldn't turn to help. And I didn't realize it at first, but I dreamed of you, too."
"Yes, you," he said. "In my vision, you were speaking into my ear, though I could not see you. You told me to get up and keep going. And it all came true –––"
She was staring at her boots. "On Geonosis I told you to get up and fight. That was all. And I pawned you off to the clones –––"
"No!" Kan said. "You didn't abandon us. You left us in what you thought was safe hands. You had a job to do. And yet, you still found enough time to encourage a disobedient student to get up and keep going."
"It is what the Jedi do for each other," she said. "We help up those who are down because it is the least we can do. I am no hero for that."
"In my eyes I saw you as a hero," Kan said softly. "I saw what you did for us. You protected us. I will always remember that."
Her eyes were lit with a strange light when she looked up at him. "Thank you, Kan," she said quietly.
Just then Jordin and Zett poked their heads through the door. "Kan Enik!" Jordin exclaimed. "I've called you at least a zillion times now to come in and see poor Zett ––– don't feel bad, Zett, he's still a little out of everything right now ––– and here you are, not even looking ready to come in and greet your friend? Where are your manners? Boys are sooo rude. Did I ever tell you about what Aedan got ––– oh, sorry, Zett, you don't know who Aedan is, do you? Frankly, I don't think you want to know ––– well, anyway, it is also too late for you to be out. It's past your bedtime. Don't give me that patronizing look, Kan Enik. Even though you are a teenager and supposed to be able to look after yourself, you still need to go to sleep. I'll bet you my breakfast tomorrow that Aedan never goes to bed. He is one of those naughty, shady characters that never go to bed ––– just stay out all night, drinking grog and screaming and fighting and getting into speeder accidents and stuff. Hey, if he doesn't go to bed, then why isn't he tired –––"
Aedan suddenly appeared out of nowhere, landing right on top of her head. "BE QUIET GOOD!" he yelled into her ear. "I'm trying to sleep so that I can be extra extra extra doubly triply quadruply infinitely W-W-W-I-I-I-C-C-C-K-K-K-E-E-E-D-D-D tomorrow!"
Jordin's mouth dropped open, too surprised to even get up from her position on the floor. Zett eyes were wide as he toppled over backwards. "Whew! Yuck!" he sputtered, holding his nose. "What is that smell?"
"ME." Aedan said, grinning.
To Kan's surprise, Adriaan suddenly began howling with laughter. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and tears were rolling down her cheeks. Jordin pressed her hands over her mouth to suppress her own giggles. Zett sat up on his elbows and chuckled in spite of himself. Even Aedan thought it was funny, for he opened his mouth wide and let out a loud guffaw.
Then Kan smiled.
At first he was startled. It felt so strange to smile again, when just the day before he had thought that the galaxy didn't deserve to see him smile.
But the truth was, he couldn't live his life thinking the galaxy didn't deserve anything good. There were both good and evil things in the universe. Life was not always happy, even for those who had done nothing wrong. Like Adriaan. He did not know what had happened to her, but he was confident that he would find out in his own time.
That small smile seemed to unlock something in his heart, for he grinned even wider. As he grinned, he felt as though a dark, heavy weight lifted from his shoulders, making him stand taller as he was released from the sorrow that had brought him down. He realized now that he had been burdened by something that he did not know had held him in an iron grip, refusing to let him cope with the loss of his Master. Perhaps it had been his own grief that had held him, or the result of seeing pain and suffering that he could not ease.
But was it really his deep, black hatred in his heart at Jango Fett that had weighed him down? The anger that had simmered and finally overflowed, flooding his body with an energy that was satisfactory when he used it, but brought guilt and shame upon him afterwards?
You do not know how terrible revenge can be until it has already been done.
Whatever it had been, the smile had, somehow, helped him to bear it better. It had helped him understand the galaxy, and, more importantly, himself more. He knew now that know matter what, everything would be all right, because he had Adriaan to look up to now.
You don't need to be afraid for me anymore, Master. I'm free.
"I know, Kan. I am proud of you, my young Apprentice."
I will never let you down.
A war had started. Kan and his new Master would soon be needed. He knew that there was more suffering to come. More death. But somehow, they ––– he and Adriaan ––– would see it through.
Seeing the laughter of his friends, and the beautiful, yet somehow sad joy of his Master, Adriaan ell Talaan, seventeen-year-old Jedi Knight of the Galactic Republic, his heart felt full. He was no longer alone. And he was free.
He couldn't resist laughing with them.
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