He was at it again.
He was surrounded by females, two-deep, and the crowd was growing. Not shouting or getting angry as some groups do but standing there, staring at him. Rapt eyes and open mouths and once in a while a tentative touch as if he were some kind of holovid star.
As if they wanted to take a piece of him home.
I don't know how he does it. He isn't that attractive, although my friends tell me that he is. Quite handsome, I believe Siri said although she's only just fourteen and shouldn't be thinking such things about my Master. But I've seen older girls and women watching him, too.
In fact, when she thinks no one is looking, Master Gallia gazes at him like he's water and she is dying of thirst.
I don't get it.
He's too tall and has that broken nose. Long hair that gets knotted and stuck to things. Slouches when he thinks no one is looking. Beard and mustache that must scratch if he kissed someone - not that he ever would. After all, he's my master, Qui-Gon Jinn, and pretty old.
Besides, he snores.
So I just don't understand what they see in him.
But there must be something because it's the same every time we land in a system that's even vaguely humanoid. Females circling him like planets around a star. It's embarrassing.
And it was happening again.
At least, our mission here was done and we can go back to the Temple tomorrow - thankfully. It was nothing exciting, just treaty talk and a few heated words once in a while. For the most part, it was very routine and I was getting bored by the end of the sessions.
The only cause for alarm - or amusement depending on your point of view, was my Master's constant and unwanted companion, Erelia Zadros, the elder daughter of the Prime Minister of Septemus IV. In the past few days, he hadn't made a move without tripping over her. She had become irritatingly affectionate, watching Qui-Gon with those intense brown eyes, always a few steps away - or less - whenever he was in public, touching his hand or his arm or any other part that she could reach. She'd even tried to get into his room but without success.
Obviously enamored with Qui-Gon Jinn.
She was pretty enough but had a high-pitched giggle that grated after a while and her attitude was that of an annoying little tyrant, assuming that everyone and everything was hers to do with as she wanted. She was very spoiled.
I wasn't the only one irritated by her actions, apparently. Master was never one to brush off a pathetic lifeform but he came close with her. The set of his mouth, the way he drew himself up, crossing his arms, the hint of a frown on his face as he stared down at her, all told me that he was unhappy with the situation. He wouldn't be impolite - that was not his way - but he grew silent around the woman and avoided her whenever he could. Which wasn't often.
I don't know what he finally said to her but she flounced off, decidedly upset and didn't come back for hours. Of course, he maintained the stoic Jedi Master persona in front of our hosts but I could tell he was relieved.
The treaty was signed soon after that. The Prime Minister called for a party, and since his daughter was in charge of all celebrational festivities, Erelia returned at her father's command, her manner sullen and uncooperative.
But after a while, she seemed to relax into her role and began preening as the hustle and bustle of a party and her role in organizing such an affair became clear. She was in her element - queen of all she surveyed.
I didn't really pay much attention to Erelia. After all, festivities with food and drink, so soon after a treaty signing, could turn nasty if everyone was not satisfied. Both my master and I were on alert, looking for potential problems, hunting for the ordinary, everyday sort of thing that a Jedi faces - assassinations, bombings, hostage situations - the beginnings of aggressive negotiations.
There was nothing of the sort, thankfully, just delegates having a good time, enjoying the inventive, remarkably bright food offerings and cool exotic drinks. It would seem that Erelia knew how to throw a party, at least.
She must have been quite busy because I didn't see her for a lot of the evening. And when she did show up, she was all smiles and sweetness. I overheard her apologizing to Master Qui-Gon for her behavior, and offering up some kind of chocolate confection as a way of recompense.
I knew he wouldn't be able to resist. He loved chocolate in all its forms.
With some females, the situation might have called for more caution. Revenge could be sweet or so I've heard. But I didn't feel any danger in the candied treat that Qui-Gon was being offered. So I turned away and started toward some of the drunker delegates who had begun to argue a bit loudly.
I assumed that Master Qui-Gon accepted the chocolate and all was well. I was busy with other things for a while and didn't have time to watch him closely. He was a master after all. Any problems would be taken care of with finesse and his usual calm grace.
But now, as the party was beginning to wind down, things were heating up a bit around my master.
I'd never seen such a large group of women around him before. Usually, it's three or four females, humans and near-humans, that would cluster near him. There was a Hutt a few years back. She was a crowd all by herself, using that tail to keep others away from Master Qui-Gon. But for the most part, it's been humanoids.
Usually, though, he kept things under control. A nod, a soft thank-you and the flocks of admirers would melt away. Until the next set of females step in and he'd be surrounded again.
But this time, it was getting a little crowded. And then, as I watched the growing mob, I realized why. The women weren't leaving. They were trying to get closer - with mixed results. A squashed foot here, an elbow there and pretty soon, voices were raised and bodies were scrambling for position.
The swarm of beings surrounding Qui-Gon was now four-deep and growing every minute. As I watched, a cadre of security guards stepped in and began hauling some of the women away. The screeches of protest could be heard across the ballroom. But what was worse was that the few female guards present weren't helping. Instead, they were pushing aside members of the crowd and wading into the growing chaos, trying to get closer.
What was going on?
A head taller than the rest of the crowd, I could see that my master was concerned and not a little puzzled. The Force was muddied and I could feel him trying to use mind manipulation on the mob without success.
He couldn't move, certainly couldn't take out his lightsaber and scare them away and he couldn't push them aside, either. That would only cause injuries and after all, these were innocents. It was getting dangerous, though.
Our eyes met and I could feel Master Qui-Gon's apprehension. A clear plea for help in the Force.
Time to rescue my master.
I knew I couldn't force my way into the crowd so we had to figure out a way to get him out without the women following. He couldn't go back or forward or to either side, couldn't really move at all. There was a chandelier high above and it looked like it would hold him if he could just get up to it. Unfortunately, he couldn't reach behind him to get his cable launcher, not with the press of the crowd.
At the moment, he was trapped. Women were pulling at him and I could see him shrugging off the brown cloak that had entangled him in the mob, that hampered his movements. The women seemed to enjoy this, lifting it high into the air and then they began to tear it to pieces, making happy noises while they shredded it.
This was not good. They were eyeing him like he was a wrapped present and it was Life Day. As one women, bolder than the rest, started to reach for his tunic, he was able to get one hand free and raised it high. I threw my cable launcher at him.
With a slight nudge in the Force, pushing the women back just enough to get some breathing room, he caught the launcher and then he was suddenly in the air, scrambling up the cable toward the chandelier.
There was a low collective moan and some of the more athletic in the mob were jumping up, trying to reach him. Frustrated that they could not.
He may be a large man but he's in good shape and Force adept. So he had no trouble climbing out of reach. He hung there, swaying slightly, looking down at the agitated crowd, a stunned and rather confused look on his face.
Some of the women were calling to him, begging him to come down, hands raised in entreaty. A few of them were crying. Others were still hopping around, trying to reach him any way they could. An enterprising woman, shorter than the rest, had taken one of the high-backed chairs, climbed up onto it and was using the added height to try and grab his ankle. Without success.
If it hadn't been so troubling, it would have been amusing - the chandelier with a Qui-Gon ornament attached, the crazed mob swaying back and forth in time with the fixture's movement.
But more women were gathering in the balconies surrounding the ballroom, pointing to his master, looking for ways to get him down and do whatever they planned to do with him. It was not a pretty picture. It was also only a matter of time before they figured it out and then Qui-Gon could be in big trouble.
The Prime Minister was shouting, calling for more guards, yelling at his master to get off the chandelier before someone got hurt. Behind him, his daughter was watching with avid eyes and the slightest of smiles on her face. She must have been behind this, whatever it was, but I didn't have time to wonder about the how or the why.
Qui-Gon's refuge was starting to disintegrate. Bits of dust and ceiling were floating down, covering the mob in white powder. And he was lower than he'd been just a few moments ago.
His eyes flicked to mine and then out toward the door leading to the kitchens. Looking in that direction, I could see that it was relatively female-free and, if I remembered correctly, beyond the pantry area, there was an exit to the delivery docks and, hopefully, speeder bikes.
I nodded, a single slight movement of my head, and started moving slowly toward the kitchen door. Luckily, no one was watching me. All eyes were on my master.
There was a soft sputtering sound, and larger pieces of duraplast clunked to the floor. Qui-Gon and the fixture he was clinging to slipped again and now he was only a few meters above the mob. Jumping distance if the person was athletic enough or standing on a chair.
It seems impossible but the chair-grabber launched herself into the air, hoping to catch my master's foot and drag him down. She missed, falling instead into the center of the pack, collapsing the crowd. For a moment, there was a scramble of arms and legs as the women tried to stand up again.
And this gave Qui-Gon the opportunity he needed. Using the Force, pulling up his legs and using them to gather enough momentum, he and the lamp began to swing wildly, first one way and then another and finally, in one final desperate move, past the edge of the rabble. He let go, leaping free and sprinting for the door.
With a collective groan, the mob realized that their prey had escaped and they turned, almost as one, and pelted after him.
I was a few steps ahead, barreling down the corridor toward the kitchen area. I could hear Master's footsteps clattering behind me.
He was catching up fast. Long legs and the added incentive of an aroused swarm of demented women would do that.
I forced myself to go faster, clearing the way. But unfortunately, the hallway was the main conduit for food and drink to be moved from the kitchen into the ballroom. Hovercarts piled high with desserts choked the passageway and the remainder was filled with droids carrying trays of drinks.
We were in trouble.
Qui-Gon sprinted past, hair flying and tunics askew. "Keep up, Obi-Wan. Those women are..." And then, without missing a beat, he ducked under a mechanical arm and leaped over one of the floating dessert trays. All grace and style. "Irrational."
How he could fly through the air seemingly without effort was beyond me at the moment. But now was not the time to ask, not when a rabid mob was closing on us both.
Behind me, I could hear the rasp of heavy breathing, chaotic snippets of conversation, mutters of wild desire and a few colorful descriptions of what the women would do once they caught my master. Normally, this type of talk would have made me blush or else sent me into the fresher for some alone time but this wasn't erotic. This was insane.
Qui-Gon glanced back at me, then pushed ahead, forcing some of the droids out of the way. I could tell that he was trying to make a path for me but I wasn't the one with the problem. He was.
Still, I didn't want to slow him down. So I followed his lead, dodging droids, leaping over the hovercarts, trying to catch up.
Unfortunately, I didn't have Master Qui-Gon's Force skills. An over-laden cart was my downfall.
Jumping over the mountain of sweet treats floating down the hallway, tucking in as much as possible to avoid an accident, I thought I'd left myself enough room. Unfortunately, I was a little too cocky. Making it past most of the desserts, I came down on the other side of the hovercart but my boot clipped the edge.
There was a sudden scatter of muffins and honeycrust and rainbow berry pie sliding across the floor behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a frothy-white tower of glaze cake with its thick layers of sweetcream tumbling into the crowd and splattering the walls, floor and mob with icing.
Several of the women went down, sputtering cream and cake. One persistent admirer, I think it was the chair-grabbing woman, ignored the danger, reaching out to try and catch my master, and then she fell, arms flailing madly, and skidded into a droid carrying drinks. The contents went flying.
There was a chain-reaction. As the crowd surged forward, more and more people were slipping on spilled liquids and crushed desserts, causing a pile-up of frantic bodies and food.
Someone could get hurt. I called after Master Qui-Gon, "Shouldn't we try to help them?"
He looked back, slowing to a stop as his natural inclination to help overcame his worry about being man-handled by a bunch of crazed women.
But the writhing horde seemed to collect itself. A couple of females had risen and were actually walking slowly across the slippery floor, stepping carefully over their fallen comrades, determined to reach my master. Getting closer with every heartbeat.
My master shook his head, "Ordinarily yes. But not..." But he never finished. His eyes widened and he grabbed me, pulling me toward the kitchens. "Hurry, Obi-Wan, before they catch us."
Twisting my head around, I could see disaster heading our way. More of the women had realized that cautious steps would get them beyond the chaos. Now, their clothes dripping sweetcream, their hair matted with cake and berry pie, a dozen or so were racing toward our location, their hands out, faces ravenous with desire.
Uh, oh. Time to go.
I turned and hurried after Master Qui-Gon. He was pushing past droids as he forced his way down the hall. He sent me a worried frown and I sped up, not wanting to be left behind.
The growls of frustration told me that his admirers weren't far away. Shoving some of the mechanicals into their path slowed the women down somewhat but they'd learned from my clumsiness. They merely waited a moment and then slid past the mess.
We entered the kitchen area at a run.
There were droids everywhere - at the ovens, at the counters beating on white doughy masses, at blocks cutting into bright fruit - mechanicals of all shapes and sizes weaving back and forth as they baked and broiled and cleaned and dispensed. It was controlled mayhem but at least there were no humanoids and especially no females. Thankfully.
One of the droids, a huge brute, clearly in charge of the kitchens, raised its four arms and shouted to us to leave. A second mechanical started toward us, mallet high, but Qui-Gon flowed past it and I followed in his wake. The droids trailed us for a bit but melted back into their stations once they realized we were just passing through.
I was beginning to breathe a little easier. By now, I had expected lunatic hordes of females stampeding into the kitchen, fighting off droids in an attempt to reach Master Qui-Gon or else sliding across the floor on feet covered in sweetcream and cake, shouting wildly for his attention.
But for precious seconds, no women appeared. It looked like we might have outrun Qui-Gon's admirers. Better yet, hopefully the effects were wearing off and they'd finally given up.
We slowed to a trot, reaching the other side of the kitchen and were just about to retreat to speeders and freedom when our luck ran out.
It doesn't happen often but there are times when I question the Force. In most situations, it would give us guidance, send us a clear signal, a kind of warning that prepares us for what is to come. But, and it's a big but, there are other times when I swear the Force is laughing at us.
Two wild-eyed women cut right across our path, blocking the way. And the Force had given us no hint of approaching doom, no sense of danger, nothing at all to tell us that our escape route had been cut off.
Quicker than thought, before we could do anything, the females rocketed toward Qui-Gon, hands reaching out to touch, to caress, to do whatever women everywhere seemed to want to do with my master.
Trying to help, I grappled with the nearest one, pulling her away from Master Qui-Gon and suddenly there was teeth and claws and she was like a sandpanther, desperate to reach her goal.
The other female, hair still matted in cake and sweetcream, latched onto my master and, grabbing his tunics, pulled him close and kissed him. It was a wild, passionate embrace - with groans from the woman. At least, I think it was the woman making noises although I couldn't be sure.
Master Qui-Gon stilled for a moment, not fighting to get away. Letting her kiss him. We were in the middle of a fight for our lives, well his life since, thankfully, the women seemed to be ignoring me, but he was just standing there. Not even trying to escape.
Getting kissed by a woman covered in dessert.
But the odd thing was that my old master seemed to be enjoying it. That couldn't be right, could it?
I tried to put that traitorous thought aside but it kept coming back, gnawing at me. In all the years I've known him, Qui-Gon has always been unfailingly polite and compassionate, sometimes too much so. He's never knowingly turned away from any lifeform, pathetic or otherwise, when they were in need of help.
Was this helping her, though? I couldn't see how it was. And I certainly don't remember anything in the Jedi Code about kissing.
Besides, we needed to escape and that... that type of contact wasn't in the plan.
It was only a moment later when he pushed her away. The look on her face was utter happiness, as if she'd found paradise. But as she leaned in for another kiss, Qui-Gon touched her face and said softly, "Sleep."
As she collapsed, he sat her gently down on the floor, propped her up against the wall near the exit. Slumping there, she seemed almost at peace. She was still smiling.
I tried to follow his example with my writhing, Master-fixated prisoner. Oh, not the kissing part since the woman was old enough to be my mother and the thought of kissing someone, anyone, would have sent me into hiding, but I shoved a sleep suggestion into her mind - and then another and then harder with another.
It wasn't working. Either I wasn't adept enough or else she was so intent on reaching my master that it just didn't take.
"Obi-Wan, hurry." Qui-Gon was past me, waiting impatiently, looking in all directions for the other hundred or so insane women that would be arriving at any moment.
I tried not to notice that he had icing in his hair - and mashed cake on his tunics.
Letting out a pained oomph as the woman jabbed me in the stomach with her elbow, I kept my grip. "I'm trying but she's too strong." With an annoyed grunt, he hurried back, one hand out to finish up what I'd started.
A plea in the woman's eyes must have caught his attention. One hurried brush of his fingertips and she slumped forward, asleep. But as she started to slide down next to the first woman, for a second, Qui-Gon hesitated and then his lips touched hers. She let out a happy sigh.
Shaking my head, I tried not to roll my eyes. Qui-Gon Jinn, ladies' man. My friends back at the Temple would never believe this, even if I were going to tell them - which I was not because it's just too embarrassing.
Unfortunately, the waste of precious seconds with Master using mind tricks on those two women - and the... kissing part which I refuse to think about right now - had cost us both dearly. As the rest of the horde stormed into the kitchen, a chaotic melee broke out.
Maniacal women everywhere. The mob was trying to push past the droids but the larger mechanical beings were pushing back, their programming clearly upset by the presence of so many humanoids. A roar of electronic blats and whistles and annoyed beeps filled the kitchen.
The four-armed droid was flailing about, each of its appendages clutching one of the women. The dough-droid was trying to protect its mounds of rising bread and several of the others were either hovering over their preparations or else helping the more aggressive droids attempt to remove the females. Without success.
Master Qui-Gon shouted above the noise, "Let's go before it gets any worse." Turning away, he sped off toward the exit.
There were several hysterical shouts and some quite anatomically-detailed pleas for attention from the mob. I knew I was blushing bright scarlet at the descriptions but I ignored them. Well, I tried to ignore them as I fled the kitchen.
Women could be really inventive, sometimes.
Pausing at the pantry door, still trying to rid myself of images that were disturbing and yet strangely exciting, I looked back to see if the droids had pushed the horde back out of the kitchen.
It wasn't going well. The electronic noise was rising in volume and almost all of the mechanicals were now struggling with the women. There was a wave of flesh and metal going back and forth in the kitchen as they fought for territory and it was only a matter of time before it got ugly.
And then it got ugly. Trying desperately to get past the droids, the mob was fighting back. I ducked as the first of the fruit sailed into the air. The high-pitched whine of unhappy droids and the screeches of women thwarted in their attempts to reach their desire collided with the splat of food hitting walls and people and metal.
Pastries and cubes of bright produce were coloring the room as they were thrown back and forth in a volley of food. The dough-droid, dripping with ruined bread, was fighting with two women, their clothes festooned with strings of white glop. Some of the floating droids were trying to catch the flying debris and return fire. Others were huddling in corners, still arranging now-ruined food into decorative displays. Hand-sized droids were trying desperately to clean surfaces - without success. The head mechanical stood there, still trying to hold onto one struggling woman since the others had apparently escaped, looking almost bewildered.
The kitchen was utter chaos.
Time to go.
I was hot on my master's heels as we entered the pantry area, wonderfully empty and silent after the pandemonium of the kitchen. We reached the speeders in no time.
However, considering how things were going so far, I kept expecting a rabid mob to appear at any second.
Qui-Gon stood guard. While muttering under my breath about Jedi Masters and the impossible things they expect their innocent padawans to do, I managed to disable the other hovercraft so that the crowd would not be able to follow us.
Then, unbelievably, female-unencumbered, we zoomed off in our lone speeder. Qui-Gon's unrestrained rabble hadn't found us. The Force was with us after all.
Just in time. Flying high and fast away from the building, I looked back to see the first of the mob appearing at the door, the women wild, their bodies painted in dessert. When they realized that we'd escaped, the resulting howl echoed for kilometers.
For a few moments, neither of us said anything. I was just glad to get away but my master kept looking back and shaking his head. He mumbled something about crazy females and hiding in the Temple from now on but when I asked him to repeat it, he sent me a calm, inscrutable look and said, "Watch for hovercraft. I'm sure the women have their own speeders and it won't take them long to figure out where we are going."
"They... those women wanted..." I kept my eyes on the skies, focused on reaching our ship, but my master leaned back in his seat, clearly bewildered by the whole situation. I blurted out, "They were insane."
"They did seem irrational at times." Master of the understatement was Qui-Gon Jinn.
"Irrational? Did you hear what they wanted to do with you? It was... "
He sounded almost amused. "Inventive, I must admit."
My face must have been flooding scarlet again. I was certainly embarrassed and I had to admit a little curious as well. When I had the chance, I'd have to do some research on the holonet when I got back to the Temple. Alone, of course. I muttered, "Oh, so you heard that, too."
"Every word." His voice held an odd note, seemingly appalled but with just a touch of intrigue.
If I didn't know better, I would have said that maybe Qui-Gon would be doing some of his own research when we got back to the Temple. But I shoved that thought quickly out of my mind. It was just too disturbing.
Looking back, Master Qui-Gon muttered, "Padawan, there are a few speeders coming up behind us. You might want to increase velocity, gain some distance."
"I'm at full throttle now." Much as I was glad to change the subject, I kept thinking about him kissing those women. I knew it was none of my business and I'm sure he didn't mean to kiss them. But it wasn't a part of our escape plan. It seemed a bit excessive.
But I kept telling myself that I wasn't going ask him about the kissing part, wasn't going to say a word, wasn't going to... blast...
"We'd have been there already if... did you have to kiss them? It only slowed us down."
He said what he always says. "It was the will of the Force."
And there it was. The will of the Force.
Standing in front of the Council or getting berated by Master Yoda or arguing with the people we partnered with at times or his friends, his enemies, his Padawan. The will of the Force. He would do some reckless thing that made him look ridiculous or deranged and sometimes both and then he'd tell everyone the same thing. The will of the Force.
I tried not to roll my eyes. If he would only follow the Code more often, he'd be on the Council and then his Force-willing might not get him into trouble so much.
To be perfectly honest, sometimes his strange behavior actually worked out and it might have been the Force guiding him. Sometimes, the Council was wrong, much as I hated to admit it, and Qui-Gon Jinn's will of the Force was actually the right thing to do.
But kissing women was the will of the Force? Sure it was.
No, it wasn't. And when he had to explain this whole fiasco to the Jedi Council, there would be repercussions and long hours of arguments and he'd be on their Rogue List again.
He kissed those women. Deliberately kissed them. And he seemed to enjoy it.
I knew I should keep quiet, that a Padawan should not question his master's actions except for enlightenment. I tried to always follow that advice, hoping to be as perfect an apprentice as I could be but sometimes it's just too much.
"The Force told you to kiss them? Both? On the lips?" I tried to keep the exasperation out of my voice.
I must have crossed some boundary, maybe pushed him too far. I should have known better but the whole escape with dessert and kissing attached was just so absurd that I couldn't hold back.
Master Qui-Gon's voice was flat as he started to speak, "Padawan, you..."
I didn't hear the rest. The blue haze of a stun bolt splattered into the night sky next to the speeder followed by several more. Sending the vehicle into an immediate nose-dive, I started evasive patterns, trying to avoid getting hit.
"They've found us," Qui-Gon turned around to see how many were following. "I see at least five speeders behind us, Padawan. Those women are certainly persistent."
"Wonderful," I muttered. I turned all my attention into escape while Master Qui-Gon pulled out his comlink and began talking urgently to the pilot of our ship.
When we finally reached the shuttle, I was beginning to feel nauseous from all the banking and diving and twisted turns that I had to use in order to avoid those pesky females. We had almost gotten hit several times and I had to wonder at their choices. After all, shooting at us might have caused an accident and, if my master had died, they certainly wouldn't have had their way with him. But I guess clear and responsible thinking wasn't exactly on their minds at the moment.
As we skidded to a halt and ran for the ship, I felt tingling in some of my fingers. I think one of the stun bolts must have grazed me but I was too far away for the full effect. Master Qui-Gon was already at the entry, waving me in. He kept looking behind me and I could almost feel the heavy breath of insane women at my back. I pelted up into the ship and the ramp closed shut.
Just in time. As Qui-Gon yelled to the pilot to raise shields, I could hear the clank of frustrated fists pounding on the hatch.
We'd made it.
We were both standing there, staring at the exit when the pilot sprinted into the hatchway, calling out, "Master Jinn, Padawan Kenobi, what happened?"
Before we could answer, she turned to Qui-Gon, sniffing at the air, taking a deep breath and then said softly, sensually, "Is there anything I can do?"
I'd forgotten our pilot was a woman.
Captain Maeva Antilles had always been strictly business, a no-nonsense, brusque woman, with little time for polite small-talk. But she'd also been friendly in a distant, working sort of way. I just didn't want her getting any more friendly, especially with him.
I moved in front of Master Qui-Gon, hoping to keep her from trying to attack him. She towered over me, her body whipcord thin but I figured I could take her on if necessary. I was Force-strong, after all, and she was not.
Eyes narrowed, she glared at me, sizing me up for a moment, and then her gaze fell on Qui-Gon. As she slinked toward us both, voice throaty with desire, she said, "Qui-Gon, could I speak with you?" Her smile was full of promise. "Privately?"
As I attempted to block her, hoping to deflect any unnatural advances from the woman, I was stunned when Master Qui-Gon gripped my shoulder and pushed me to one side. "Padawan, go up to the cockpit and see what the others are doing outside. We wouldn't want them to get hurt."
My shock deepened when, unbelievably, he said, "I'll be... unavailable for a time. Captain Antilles and I have business to conduct."
I looked up in horror. He wasn't going to accept her invitation, was he? After all we'd be through?
Had he lost his mind?
But before I could protest, he stepped past me, his eyes flicking to mine and sending me a look that I knew meant I'd better obey him or else the consequences wouldn't be good. As I stood there, mouth gaping open, his hand reached for the woman and they walked away toward her cabin. Her body was practically molded to his and I swear she was giggling.
From over his shoulder, he said, "Padawan, now."
I was still in shock as he disappeared into her quarters and shut the door. I couldn't believe it.
Stunned, annoyed and thoroughly disgusted with the whole affair, I turned away and stomped to the cockpit. After all, we'd just battled insane women of all shapes and sizes and now he was off doing who-knows-what with Captain Antilles. It didn't make sense.
I flipped switches on the control console, little sharp snapping noises that matched my temper. I knew I should calm down but it almost felt good to take out my frustration on the equipment.
I didn't want to think about it any more. Instead I was going to do what he told me - try and see what was going on outside. It was certainly better than imagining what Master and our pilot were up to at the moment.
Not thinking about it, definitely not.
I finally found the right switch and turned it on. In the viewscreen, I could see a dozen speeders parked next to the ship and at least that many women prowling around the edge of the forcefield. They seemed intent on breaching our defenses but without success, thankfully.
At least, the sound of pounding on the hatch had stopped.
I stared out into the night, trying to get some idea about what to do next. Returning to Coruscant seemed like a failure of our mission and yet we couldn't go back to the Prime Minister's house. It was just too dangerous for Master Qui-Gon with all those crazy females after him.
Focused on what the women were doing outside, at first I didn't hear the muffled noises inside the ship. But then, when I realized that the sounds were coming from the pilot's cabin, I tried to block them out. I really didn't want to know what was going on in there. But the more I ignored the noises, the louder they got until finally, abruptly, the sounds stopped.
How could he do this? First those women and now Captain Antilles...
I couldn't take it. I'd had all the requisite education courses but I never thought I'd need them around my old, seemingly-stoic master. He'd never shown this side of him before. I knew that Jedi didn't have to be chaste, that as long as they didn't form attachments, they could explore the physical side of that kind of thing as long as they were old enough. And my master was certainly old enough. Besides, a Living Force Jedi like Master Qui-Gon, with his focus on life in all its forms, might be more active than most. Theoretically.
But really, the idea of my master doing it with anyone was just too disturbing.
Focus, Kenobi, I kept telling myself, maybe there's something else going on here. Deliberately, I started thinking about my past experiences with Master Qui-Gon, trying to make sense of it all.
He'd never shown any interest in women, at least in my presence, always turning them aside with a calm nod and a few words of thanks. Always.
Now, he was acting oddly, almost like he wanted to be alone with a woman. More than that, he'd looked so eager. Even his voice had gone rumbly and low, like hers.
It was at that moment when a horrible thought crossed my mind, shaking me to the core. What if Master Qui-Gon was becoming as crazy as the women? What if he'd fallen under the spell of whatever was turning normal females into rabid, lust-filled demons and he didn't know it? Would he start kissing everyone in sight? Start doing things he shouldn't?
And if he was susceptible, was I far behind?
I was utterly appalled at the idea.
Breaking into a cold sweat, I shivered with the possibilities. Muttering under my breath, I was growing more and more worried as improper, arousing images of women surrounding me and demanding things kept pushing into my mind.
Was I going mad? Was I losing what little control I had over my own body? Was I going to end up like my master, kissing every female within reach?
I was trying to talk myself out of the overwhelming, depressing and inevitable conclusion that I was headed straight to the Dark Side, that I would be kicked out of the Order for turning into a depraved, sick padawan or worse that maybe I'd wander through star systems having strange women following me and laughing when I tried to kiss them.
I admit it. I was panicking. So I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings and nearly jumped out of my skin when my master said, "Padawan, what is the situation?"
Abruptly, I turned around, frowned confusion at him. "Master, I thought..." My eyes flicked toward the pilot's cabin.
Master Qui-Gon looked distinctly unhappy. "The Captain is suffering under the delusion that we would become more intimate. I tried reasoning, threats, mind persuasion. Nothing worked." He shook his head. "I did not want to put her under a sleep suggestion in case we needed her flying skills later." Behind him, muted pounding sounds started up again. "At the moment, she's locked in her cabin, venting her anger. She did not take my refusal well."
I let out a long, relieved sigh, happy that my master wasn't turning into someone with unnatural hungers but I must admit I was even happier that I wouldn't have to kiss a female any time soon. My fears had all been for nothing.
For a fleeting moment, Master Qui-Gon's mouth quirked amusement and then he turned solemn again. "What is our status?"
Flicking my eyes toward the captain's cabin, I said, "At least a dozen women are surrounding the ship, Master. We can't take off since they would get hurt if we did so. They've tried to get in but we're locked tight."
He nodded, "So it's a stand-off."
"The way things are now, we can't go back to the Temple, anyway, Master. Your...ummm condition... " I hesitated.
Sitting down in the co-pilot's seat, his eyes staring out into the night, Master Qui-Gon sounded shaken, almost angry. "Yes, my condition. There had been stories about men whose powers of persuasion were enough to drive women mad. But I'd always thought them mere fiction, something to entertain. But this is..." He glanced at me for a moment and then back out into the night again. "Disturbing."
Any other discussion was disrupted with the insistent beep of an incoming message. It was an irate Prime Minister on the comm, a dozen dessert-covered females standing behind him. He looked almost purple with indignation.
"Jinn, you will get back here this minute and stop whatever you are doing to these women. If I had known that Jedi would dishonor us this way, I would never have asked for assistance. It's an outrage. That blasted Council of yours will hear about this in full detail and the Senate, too. Unless you fix it right now!" He paused for breath and then turned aside, speaking to someone just out of vid-range. "Mother, I'm talking to him at the moment. Stop crying, will you?"
Master Qui-Gon and I exchanged looks. This was not good.
"Half of my cabinet, my daughters and my mother of all people," he sounded almost embarrassed, "are demanding that you return. The men are calling for blood and the women are... well, let's just say that they are getting more descriptive by the minute," he flushed a deeper purple, "including my eighty year-old mother. I didn't know she even knew about that sort of thing."
Speaking calmly, Master Qui-Gon said, "I had hoped that the effects would have worn off by now."
"They haven't and the women are getting more agitated the longer you stay away." Prime Minister Zadros was adamant. "You have to reverse whatever it is that you've done or I'll have a full-scale riot on my hands. And it will be all your fault."
"Sir, I have reason to believe that if I return, more women might be affected. My pilot is the latest victim. I cannot return until I know what is making them act so irrationally."
Zadros was horrified. "Are you telling me that you don't know what it is or how to stop it? Or even if it is reversible?"
Taking a deep breath, Qui-Gon said carefully, "It began shortly after I ate something that your elder daughter, Lady Erelia, made for me. It may be a coincidence..."
"That little... Erelia!" His face a thundercloud, the Prime Minister twisted away from the comm, shouting for his daughter. "Where is that girl?" He sounded even more exasperated than before.
Cutting off the sound for a moment, I asked, "Master, do you think it was her doing? Something in the chocolate?" I didn't think it would be a good idea to accuse her of sabotage, not with all the other problems we were having . No need starting an interplanetary incident with false accusations.
"Most likely. Lady Erelia is a strong-willed young woman and determined to get her way. When I wouldn't submit to her advances, she swore that I'd regret it." Qui-Gon sat there, frowning at the comm. "I didn't think it would come to this, however."
I didn't like the sound of that. "What do we do?"
He gave me his typical non-useful response. "Patience, Obi-Wan. The Force will guide us."
Sure it will. Personally, I think the Force was laughing at us again. But I kept silent. We had enough problems.
Turning the sound back on, we could hear arguing in the background but instead of the Prime Minister on-screen, there was a sudden sea of female faces. They were all waving at Qui-Gon, making kissing motions with their mouths, sending him sultry looks and several of them were writhing seductively. At least I think it was seductively. They were undulating their bodies and their hands were... I turned away, cheeks hot.
When I got back to the Temple, I swear I was going to have to scrub my brain clean.
Sir Zadros must have found his daughter. With the sound of their voices growing louder, I looked up to find one of the women in the crowd had pushed her way forward and was trying to kiss the viewscreen, smearing lip color and saliva on it. As she was shoved back by one of the male guards, the Prime Minister and Erelia came into view.
The guard did a quick swipe of the holovid camera, cleaning it. The Minister nodded his thanks and gestured for the room to be cleared of intruders. It took a few moments, mostly because the women didn't want to leave. Their shrill protests made my ears ring but it quieted at last.
His eyes narrowed in aggravation, the Prime Minister said, "My daughter claims that it was your own fault. That if you had just accepted her proposition, there would have been no problems." But before Qui-Gon could protest, Zadros snapped back, "She has been nothing but trouble ever since she went to Carida for training in food preparation last year. Even her mother can't keep her in line."
The woman in question came around to the viewscreen and frowned at her father. Erelia's eyes were flashing fire. "How could you? I thought you were on my side."
"Erelia, I could overlook the piles of burnt and discarded food stuffs from your pastry experiments and the obscure, exotic, expensive herbs that you use for flavorings. I can even overlook the wild parties that you and your friends have and the hordes of men that tramp through here dazed and happy. You have been a thorn in my political career but I love you and had hoped you would outgrow this childishness. But this is too much." Zadros looked like he was ready to explode. "You have caused an interplanetary incident. You have possibly ruined a treaty that I spent months setting up and you have almost gotten several people hurt, including a Jedi Master."
Tossing her head, dismissing her father's words, she snapped back, "Qui-Gon had no right to ignore me like he did. I am the daughter of the Prime Minister of Septemus IV. He should have been grateful for my attentions, not pushed me aside like some spoiled brat."
But the Prime Minister was not amused. His face froze into a thunderous frown and his voice lowered into ice. "Erelia, listen to me and listen well. Your mother and I have tried to forgive your spitefulness and your pride but this is the last time. You will tell Master Jinn how to reverse this situation and allow him to do his duty to our people and the Republic. Then I will discuss this with
your mother and we will make sure this never happens again. Do I make myself clear?"
She must have realized that she couldn't talk her way out of this one. "But I... "
Zadros was adamant, each word clipped. "Do.. I.. make.. myself.. clear?"
"Yes, father, very clear." She seemed close to tears. I couldn't tell if they were real or not but at least she was being more cooperative. "But I'm not sure he'll like the antidote."
"Just tell him." The man sounded like he was on the edge.
"Well, I've used it before. At the parties. It's an attractant and a mild aphrodisiac. There's no real harm and the effects clear up in a couple of hours usually. Besides, most men seem to like it..."
Covering his eyes with one hand, Zadros was shaking his head. "I can't believe I'm hearing this." Then he looked up, staring at his daughter with fury in his eyes. "It's not going away, Erelia."
"Well, I did up the dose quite a bit. He's a Jedi and he wasn't very friendly so I thought I'd teach him a lesson." Her chin came up, and she stood there, unrepentant. The tears were gone.
"What's the antidote?" Fury wasn't a strong enough word for the look that the Prime Minister gave his daughter.
She smiled at Qui-Gon, her face triumphant and then she said eight little words, eight little words that convinced me that the Force was indeed laughing at us all.
"He has to kiss them... on the lips."
I was horrified. This couldn't be happening. Was she saying that Qui-Gon would have to kiss everyone who had been chasing them, all the women covered in desserts and liquids and the remains of fruit and the ones waiting outside? All those rabid, out-of-control females? This was insane.
Of course, my master wouldn't act like it was insane or even out of the ordinary. Certainly not. He would be his calm, stoic self in front of the Prime Minister and do whatever needed to be done in order to smooth over this disaster.
Considering that he'd been a Jedi Master for many years, I was sure he'd be able to talk his way out of this situation. After all, he'd been able to get the Jedi Council to back down before and they could be pretty stubborn. So this should be no problem for him.
Glancing over at Qui-Gon, I could see that he was composed, resigned, standing there so solemn and still, just as I had expected. But there was something else - a gleam in his eyes, almost a hunger that I hadn't seen before. It was very odd.
If I didn't know better, I would have said that he was looking forward to kissing a bunch of women… or maybe even something else, something more embarrassing. After all, Lady Erelia said that it was a mild aphrodisiac. Would it be more intense with the large dose that she used? Would he be feeling the effects even now? Would he possibly be thinking about more than just kissing? Surely, he wouldn't want to do that, not my old master. Or would he?
My head was whirling with ideas, depraved images of women wanting my master and him wading into the crowd, giving into the moment, feeling and definitely not thinking as the crazed females surrounded him. And somehow, I was on the outside of the mob, unable to help.
Would this be my master's fate? Kissing women for the rest of his life? I shuddered at the thought.
Somehow, I managed to shake myself free of some of my fears and calm down just in time to hear Qui-Gon say softly, "Lady Erelia, are you sure that more physical expressions of intimacy aren't required? The reactions of the women were quite strong in some cases."
And my brain exploded even as I broke into a cold sweat. My worst fears were about to come true.
I would never live this down; we would never live this down. Somehow it would get back to the Temple and we'd be branded as rogues forever - my woman-mad master and me, the permanently-embarrassed padawan.
The Force was laughing at us again.
I think my mouth was hanging open but one quick frown from my master and I closed it, straightening up, turning my attention back to Erelia. I'd have to have a long talk with him later. Maybe. If I didn't die of mortification first.
Lady Erelia's smile was predatory. Apparently eager to make him squirm, she gave a strident laugh. "Are you hoping for more, Qui-Gon? I thought you Jedi were celibate monks or so you would have me believe. Or did you lie about that?"
Before my master could say anything else, the Prime Minister glared daggers at her, hissing out, "Erelia!"
"All right, Father, all right." Shrugging, she growled out, "You just have to kiss them. Maybe you'll have to kiss them pretty hard and use some…" She slowed to a halt as her father cleared his throat.
The man was livid. "Are you lying about this? Because if you are, I'll let the women who have been humiliated by this debacle take it out on your hide." As he looked toward the viewscreen and then away again, he said, "And I won't lift a finger to stop them. Do you understand?"
Petulant but clearly startled by her father's words, Erelia whined, "I'm not lying. I found out a while back. It has something to do with antimonies or antibodies or something else completely anti. It doesn't hurt anyone... usually. Most of the time they enjoy it. And there are no lasting effects."
Glaring plasma bolts at her, Sir Zadros said, "So he has to kiss a hundred women or so, including your sister and grandmother."
Erelia shrugged again, "I'm sure gramma won't mind, Father. In fact, she might insist on it."
Her father grated, "Enough of that, young lady. Is there no other way to nullify the effects? Something less drastic?"
Glancing at Qui-Gon, smiling in triumph, she said, "If you wait long enough, it goes away. But otherwise no. And I did give him a large dose so it may be days. Possibly weeks."
Zadros exploded, "Weeks! At this rate, my house will be demolished and the women rampaging through the streets in less than a day. I can't even imagine weeks like this."
Bowing, my master said, "Prime Minister, I will be happy to assist in any way to remedy the situation," Qui-Gon glanced in my direction for a moment before continuing, "including kissing any and all of the unfortunate victims in this situation. Please arrange for the women to be sequestered into several rooms so that we can maintain crowd control. I will return as soon as the situation here is remedied."
The Prime Minister was beside himself with gratitude. "Master Jedi, I can't thank you enough for understanding. I will make sure all is ready for your return."
"No thanks are necessary, Minister Zadros. I think it best to remove myself from any other contact with your people, however. Do you need further assistance with the treaty?"
That was my master. In the midst of a ridiculous situation like this, he was still all business.
"No, Master Jedi, none," Sir Zadros said hurriedly, "I will arrange for the rooms. And now, if you will excuse me, I await your return."
With a quick nod from Master Qui-Gon, the viewscreen went black. He turned to me. "Obi-Wan, I know you are reluctant to participate in this but I need your help, especially with the crowd outside."
Gulping back my embarrassment, I said, "A padawan's duty is to guard and protect their master from harm. Since I usually guard your back, Master, I guess I could guard your front as well."
I hadn't meant it to come out quite like that but Master Qui-Gon chuckled anyway, "Well put, my young apprentice." He clapped one hand on my shoulder and shook me a little. "Captain Antilles is a very persistent woman and I find it difficult to hold her at bay. I know it's hard for you but she will be less likely to succeed in her efforts if you are present."
My face flamed at the idea of watching them kissing but if Master Qui-Gon asked for my help, I could do nothing else but say, "Of course, Master."
Qui-Gon smiled and started to walk toward the captain's cabin when something struck me as odd. Did my master just say that the captain could succeed, that he would kiss her just to break the spell but that she might want more? That she had a chance to ravish my master and that he'd let her?
"Master, did you…." I blurted out, "did you say she could succeed? You aren't thinking of having…ummm intimate contact with Captain Antilles, are you?"
Master Qui-Gon stopped abruptly, stood there silent and formidable, looking down into my scandalized eyes. I knew that I'd stepped over the boundary again - I seemed to be doing that a lot lately, and I wished that I'd never said anything. What he did was his own business and none of mine. Besides, the Code said that a padawan should not question his master.
But the Code never covered this.
"You are old enough to realize that I am a Jedi but I am also a man." He sent me just the hint of a smile. "Celibacy is not one of the Order's requirements, young one."
I didn't think my face could get any hotter but I was wrong. I wanted to sink into the ground and vanish with embarrassment.
"However, a hundred women or so is a little beyond my capacity at the moment."
With that, he turned away again, leaving me dumbfounded. I couldn't believe that I was having this conversation. Was he serious? As I stood, rooted to the spot, my mind kept whirling with possibilities – a hundred women? At a time? Was that even possible? I knew, then, that when we returned to the Temple, I'd be doing more research, a lot more research.
"Padawan, pay attention." While I'd been bewildered by this whole fiasco, my master was already at the captain's door.
The muffled sounds from inside her quarters had stopped a while back but as Qui-Gon unlocked the cabin, a whirlwind of energy burst out and tackled him.
My master and the captain tumbled to the floor.
I would have thought that a Jedi Master would have had more control but Maeva Antilles was all over him, sitting on top of him, nuzzling his neck, her hands trying to dive into areas that she should not be trying to reach. She was making noises, too, sounds that were troubling and exciting all at once.
For an instant, Master Qui-Gon seemed to enjoy the attention; the look on his face was both passionate and strangely satisfied. Then he stiffened and tried to push the pilot off his chest - without success.
She was like a Tagorian sucker-fish, all arms and legs and intensity and she absolutely refused to move. Master couldn't even thrust her aside enough to get around to kissing her and she was pretty good at removing Jedi tunics, too.
Finally, after extracting a hand that had snaked in past his guard, he gave up and called out, "Padawan, don't just stand there."
I reached down to grab her waist, hoping to loosen her hold on him when one of her feet jabbed me right in the thigh. It hurt - a lot. I was sure there would be a bootheel bruise next time I looked there but, for now, I gritted my teeth and wadded in again. Watching out for limbs that seemed to be everywhere at once, I managed to grab hold of one arm.
Growling out Huttese, she snapped at me, trying to bite my hand but luckily, my master took hold of the other arm and somehow, between us, we got her off him and down onto the metal floor.
Her eyes were black as pitch and she had a look of absolute hunger on her face as she watched Qui-Gon's face. He talked softly to her, calm nonsense words that seemed to quiet her down and then I heard him say, "I'm going to kiss you now. If you don't object..."
She shook her head, never taking her dark eyes off his face. Then my master dipped his mouth to hers and his head, thankfully, blocked my view.
In all this chaos, there was still sweetcream in his hair. I'd have to remind him later.
Finally, after she had gone limp and wasn't fighting us any more, Master Qui-Gon sat up and asked, "How do you feel?"
Blinking for a second, Captain Antilles frowned first at him and then at me and, coloring bright pink, she huffed a long sigh, "Embarrassed. What happened, Master Jinn? I don't usually attack men and try to rip their clothes off. At least, not without their permission."
"You were under the influence of an attractant, one I ingested without my consent. I have been told that kissing is the only remedy."
"I'm sure it is." Sending my master an unreadable look, she said, "Can you let me up now, please?" In all the excitement, I'd quite forgotten that she was still being held down by the two of us.
I let go and when Master Qui-Gon offered his hand to help her to her feet, she ignored it, clamoring upright on her own.
Frowning at us both, fingering her blaster while she talked, she seemed more standoffish than before. She growled out, "You know, Master Jinn, you're a good-looking man. I don't think you need an attractant to get women. And you're not a bad kisser, either. Next time though, maybe you should just ask me. But lose the kid when you do. It sets a bad example. I do better one-on-one."
"But I..." Qui-Gon seemed mortified.
If I didn't know better, I would have thought that she didn't believe him. I had to speak up. "He's telling the truth, Captain. The Prime Minister's daughter, Lady Erelia, gave him something without him knowing. Out of spite." When she looked doubtful at the idea, I pointed to the viewscreen, the line of women outside clearly visible. "He's been in danger ever since."
Her hand still resting on her blaster, she leaned over to check out the situation. A soft humph and I knew she'd seen the other females.
Rocking back on her heels, she nodded toward the mob outside. "You've collected quite an entourage, Master Jinn. Do they all want a piece of you?"
"Unfortunately, yes and there are about a hundred or so women in total that have been affected." Qui-Gon said it calmly but the Captain was apparently beginning to see the ridiculousness of the situation.
"And you have to kiss them?" She looked back out the viewscreen and shook her head. "All of them?"
From the way she said it, I knew then that we were in big trouble. Captain Antilles flew Jedi all over the galaxy and she was often called upon to give accounts of the trips to the Jedi Council. She never embellished her reports as far as I had heard but, when asked, she did tend to be very, very complete in her descriptions.
If this disaster remained a secret after we got back to the Temple, I'd eat my left boot.
"You are correct, Captain, and the sooner the better. The effects are quite strong and these women are as much victims of this as you were."
But Maeva Antilles wasn't about to be lectured. "I must admit that the effects are quite pleasant, once the object of one's desire is in sight. And the kissing works very well, especially when the man knows what he's doing. And you certainly do that." She sent Qui-Gon a long, measuring look. "Are there any lasting effects?"
Master Qui-Gon shifted uncomfortably as the captain continued to stare. "Apparently none, Captain. But now that we know Lady Erelia was telling the truth about the antidote, I need to help the other women outside." He turned toward the hatch, clearly ready to do whatever was necessary to fix the problem.
But I blocked his way. "Master, you can't just go out there. They'll attack you like they did before."
Qui-Gon looked down at me, weariness and just a touch of longing in his eyes. "I have to make this right, Obi-Wan. What would you have me do? Ignore the situation?"
"Your presence excites them, Master. Just look at what Captain Antilles did when she got close to you." Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her face flush pink at the memory and there was the slightest curve of a smile. "Since they don't care about taking my clothes off, I could go out there and bring them in one at a time."
I wasn't too keen on the idea but my master was right. We had to fix this problem before it got any worse.
Maeva spoke up, "I could stand by the ramp and stun anyone who got crazy. It might make them think twice about rushing the ship."
Looking first at the pilot and then at me, Master Qui-Gon nodded, "Very well. But if there is any problem, I will go out there alone and draw them away from the ship. I will not have either of you injured because of this."
"Yes, Master. Understood." I turned to Captain Antilles. "We could have them line up and take turns, maybe by age - oldest first."
She turned to me. "Listen, young Padawan. First of all, it's my ship so I make the announcements and secondly," Maeva paused, obviously for effect, and then, looking at my puzzled face, she laughed out loud, "you haven't been around females much, have you? Most women won't admit their age, especially around handsome Jedi like Master Jinn here. Lining them up that way would be a disaster." She laughed again. "Do it alphabetically by first name. It will be easier."
So that's what we did. Her plan worked perfectly - well as perfectly as it could seeing that the whole situation was insane. After a booming announcement over the comm that the women needed to line up in order to see Master Jinn, there was a slight altercation when two of the women had the same first name and refused to yield to the other and another female started complaining that she was always last with a name like ZZara and could she go first and then a few of the women started fighting over how much time they'd spend with my master. For a couple of minutes, it looked like it would degenerate into a riot.
But when Qui-Gon got on the comm and threatened to leave if they didn't settle down, they stopped fighting immediately and lined up, hyperdrive-quick.
I must admit that I was worried. I've faced draigons and Togorian pirates and Master Yoda's gimer stick but this was really much worse. Those women were crazy and they weren't afraid to do whatever they could to get to my master. I just hoped that they didn't try to kiss me or worse, pinch my cheek like some baby. I hated that.
Luckily, the first woman ignored me once I let her pass. She bound up the ramp and tried to jump into my master's arms but after his struggle with the Captain, he knew what to expect. He grabbed her and held her at arm's length for just a moment and then leaned in to kiss her.
I was looking back to make sure everything was okay and I'm sorry I did. People look silly when they go to kiss someone. Master Qui-Gon had his eyes open at first and then closed them as he reached the woman's face. As far as I could tell, his mouth was slightly open as he pressed in. I bet the women liked it but I don't think it's very sanitary.
All I know is that I'm never going to kiss anyone like that... ever.
From my location, I could hear the female give a pleased little sigh. As I glanced back, my master whispered something to her and she turned around and started down the ramp, humming under her breath, a huge smile on her face, a happy woman.
One down and ninety-nine or so to go.
I have to admit that the women who flew out to our ship in the middle of the night on speeder bikes were certainly among the most relentless beings I'd ever encountered. It didn't matter if they were clad in elaborate ball gowns or embarrassingly-small traces of almost-clothing, they were determined to get the most out of my master. Even Qui-Gon, strong in the Force, one of the Jedi's top negotiators and the best swordsman in the Order, was barely able to cope.
But my master was stubborn, too. Ignoring their demands, he made sure that each and every one of them got, not what they wanted, but what they needed - a kiss. It took quite a while but at long last, I was finally able to escort the last of them off the ship and sent the now-happy women on their way home.
Now, if nothing else, my poor master could finally rest - at least for a few moments. He'd been kissing women one right after another without taking a break and he looked tired.
He was also a little rumpled. The females had been persistent in their attentions, grabbing at things that they shouldn't have, their fingers trying to dip in past Jedi tunics and testing Jedi reflexes. I swear that every one of those women had had tentacles instead of hands.
Female number five was the worst, though. She'd gotten in past his guard and was playing with his hair while he was trying to give her the antidote-kiss. It had also been really hard to get her loose afterwards.
I was actually a little suspicious of that one because she kept coming back for more kisses long after she should have been cured.
At least they were gone. But Master Qui-Gon looked like he'd been wrestling with a Sarlacc and lost. Tunics were twisted around and his hair - one side was all knotted up and the other side was glued to his neck with hardened sweetcream. There was even icing in his beard.
Not exactly the model Jedi.
I know it shouldn't matter. After all, Master Yoda would say that we were luminous beings and appearance wasn't important. But we were supposed to be representatives of the Jedi Order and have a certain aura to maintain and Master Qui-Gon was not... clean. Coated in mashed cake and sweetcream, he also had some kind of red fruit splotched across one tabard and a blue streak on his leggings where one of the drink-splattered women had rubbed up against him. He was a mess.
But he didn't really have time to change. The women at the Prime Minister's home were likely driving everyone crazy and duty came first. Always.
Sauntering over to my master, her mouth quirking with a not-well-suppressed smile, Captain Antilles was obviously amused by the whole thing. "That's the last of them at this location. The Prime Minister commed to say that you should not come back by the main entrance but go through the kitchen area. There will be guards to escort you to the rooms and also to maintain order when you get to where the women are sequestered."
As Qui-Gon nodded thanks, she leaned in close to him, murmuring. "When you return to the ship, I'll be glad to help with any... problems you might have, Master Jinn."
I hope she didn't mean what I think she meant. I don't think I could take the two of them doing anything.. ummm personal in front of me while we were on the ship. And, although Qui-Gon said that Jedi weren't celibate, that didn't mean that he did that kind of thing, did he?
I knew I was blushing again but Master Qui-Gon thankfully ignored her remark. He turned away from the captain, tugging at his tunic, trying to straighten the tabards and conceal the stains. But it was impossible. His clothes were ruined and the only way to hide the mess would have been to cover it with his cloak and that was in pieces back at the Prime Minister's house.
So I offered him mine. I was much shorter than he was but my cloak was huge on me. I had thought to grow into it, hoped really, but it was beginning to look like I'd always been short. Still, I kept the garment long - just in case, and, besides, it was the only one I had.
Master Qui-Gon looked at me in gratitude and then with one smooth motion, he shrugged into it. It was a bit short on him or, to be truthful, a lot short on him. Luckily, he could still move well enough in it and, surprisingly, it hid the majority of the mess.
At the top of the ramp, he looked back at Captain Antilles and nodded. "I thank you for the offer of help but I'm still on a mission and it would be inappropriate to discuss personal matters while on duty."
"And off-duty?" she asked.
To my relief, he said, "I can't discuss off-duty activities while on duty. My apologies."
She laughed softly, "Nicely done, Master Jinn." Then with a shrug, all business now, Captain Antilles nodded toward the entryway. "I'll have the ship prepped and ready to depart when you and Padawan Kenobi return. May the Force be with you."
Most of the ride back was uneventful. It was late and quiet and the speeder trip would have been almost enjoyable except for the circumstances.
I was worried. Master was tired after the day's events and then having to kiss twelve very active and energetic women - he wasn't a young man anymore. How tired would he be after he had to deal with all of the females back at the Prime Minister's home? And was the drug or candy or whatever Lady Erelia gave him still working? Was he feeling the effects of the aphrodisiac?
And there was one more worry. Would news of this reach the Temple?
At least this time, I wasn't flying avoidance patterns. There were no trail of females following us, trying to force a landing. So I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have.
As I powered down the speeder by the back-entrance to the kitchen, the place we had escaped just a few hours before, there was suddenly a blinding flash of light. Blinking rapidly, I could see a dozen or more bright beacons shining straight into our eyes and behind those lights was my worst nightmare.
Reporters. Somehow, they had found out about everything.
My master dismounted the speeder, pulling my cloak tightly around his chest to hide most of the mess. His head came up, all dignity and stoic calm and he began to wade through the crowd. Ignoring the questions shouted at him, he glanced back to indicate that I should follow him and then kept walking toward the entrance.
In the glaring light, I could see the encrusted sweetcream in his hair. I tried not to groan, knowing that the swarm of holocams following him was sure to record Master Qui-Gon's scruffy image and smear it all over the net.
This was a disaster but it got worse.
When he got through the door without answering a single question, the mob turned as one and looked at me.
I was alone with reporters. Blast!
The lights all swung in my direction, pinning me in place. The glare was so bright that I couldn't see where the entrance to the kitchen was and I kept blinking, hoping to clear my vision and escape.
But no such luck. Holocams were shoved into my face and questions started to come fast and furious.
"Is it true that your Master started a riot?"
I shook my head and tried to push through the mob but another voice shot out, "Is Master Jinn going to have to have sex several times a day to stop this epidemic?"
My face turned hot and I stepped back, horrified when a man to the left of me snarled, "Don't be ridiculous, Le'tn, he couldn't possibly do that. He's a Jedi, not a machine."
A comlink appeared under my nose as he continued, "Is the Prime Minister going to put Jinn in prison for debauching his daughter?"
Another shake of my head as I kept looking for a way around the crowd and the reporters only got more aggressive.
"Is the Republic going to be sending in more Jedi to use as sperm donors?"
"Is he trying to topple the government here?"
"Will he have to have sex with every woman he meets?"
"Is this a plot to lure our women away to Coruscant?"
This was insane. Usually, my master would have smoothed out the problems and turned this chaos into a calm and logical discussion. But he was nowhere in sight.
"Will Jedi Jinn be quarantined until the crisis is over?"
I looked up, startled by the sensible question and opened my mouth to answer when another reporter said, "Will he be selling his secret with women on the holonet?"
"Does he use sweetcream as a way of attracting women?" A couple of people snickered at that.
Gulping back embarrassment, I started moving sideways, trying to edge past the crowd. I didn't think I could get more mortified but I was wrong.
"Will Jinn be having sex in public? Will the government insist that Jinn do it naked?"
Absolutely stunned, I stuttered out, "My master is a Jedi. He wouldn't... "
From behind the reporters, a welcome voice rang out, "Padawan, I need your assistance." What a relief! There is nothing like rescue to make things better.
Over the heads of the reporters, I could see Master Qui-Gon waiting by the door and a couple of women were next to him, looking well-content, their faces radiating happiness. How the female reporters had gotten in without the others following, I don't know but it looked like my master had given them the antidote and had little trouble doing it. Maybe he was getting better at delivery.
As the holocams swiveled toward Master's position, I was able to dive into the crowd and push through. A few hard jabs with my elbow and I was suddenly next to Qui-Gon.
More questions were shouted out, the bright lights following our every move. Master Qui-Gon shoved me behind him into the pantry area and, with much finesse, he stepped inside and closed the door Force-fast. The sudden silence was wonderful.
"I am sorry, Padawan. I was detained." He said it with calm detachment but his mouth was red and some of the icing had moved on his beard.
I didn't want to think about it. "Where were the guards? I thought they would be here."
"Apparently, there were several dozen reporters at the main entrance. I would imagine that the guards are helping to keep them at bay."
My heart finally stopped racing and I said, "I didn't know what to do, Master. They kept asking those awful questions."
Looking solemn, Qui-Gon nodded, "You did well, Obi-Wan. But next time, stay close to me when faced with a crowd like that. It wasn't dangerous but the potential for problems was high. I'm sure the Jedi Council won't be happy when the news hits the holonet."
Suddenly I couldn't breathe.
If the news spread to Coruscant, everyone at the Temple would see. The younglings and the Knights, all the other padawans, they'd all know about it - Master Yoda and the Council, too.
I'd be branded forever as the padawan of the sex-mad Qui-Gon Jinn.
I couldn't go back and face them, not after this.
As my master started toward the kitchen area, my legs wouldn't move and my voice refused to work. Finally, I barely managed to choke out, "Do you think it will? Vids of this on the net?"
"Absolutely. I'll have much to explain when we return to Coruscant." Master Qui-Gon looked serene, even in this kind of disaster, even with his clothes rumpled and his hair covered in food. He didn't mind being called rogue.
He turned back and clapped me on the shoulder. "Don't worry so much, young one. The Council is more forgiving than you think. Besides, it will be forgotten soon enough." With a gentle push, he got me going in the right direction. "Your friends will understand. But for now, we must live in the moment. And the moment says that we need to reach the remaining women and break the spell over them."
He was right. Duty came first and my friends would understand. It was everyone else that would laugh and call me lover boy or Padawan Imperfect or even Sexy-Wan Kenobi.
I tried not to whimper.
I was worried.
While I knew that we'd have to face those rabid women again and I had to admit that it wasn't something that I looked forward to but it was nothing to the concern I had about Master Qui-Gon. His behavior was becoming more and more troubling.
The brush with the reporters had been enough of a problem but at least my master had handled it with his usual grace. However, in the last few minutes, unlike his normal, serious, focused self, he had begun to act strangely. For one thing, he was sauntering, his arms swinging loosely at his side. For another, there was a smile on his face and it was broadening with every step he took. It was really odd. He was acting as if he didn't have a care in the galaxy.
Worse than that was, if I didn't know better, while we were walking through the doors leading into the kitchen, I would have sworn that he was humming under his breath. Humming!
I suppose I should have been glad to see him so relaxed and happy for a change. Usually, he was either frowning or looked like he had something bad for lunch. In fact, I hadn't seen him smile so much in all the years I'd been with him.
On the other hand, his humming concerned me. I can't remember a time when he'd ever sung - no melodies, no songs of love or adventure or tragedy, and certainly no humming. But I couldn't think of what else it could be.
Of course, there was a possibility that he was playing some kind of prank on me, having fun at my expense, tormenting the Padawan. But that was something my stoic, serious master would never do - or so I thought.
I looked up at Master Qui-Gon, making sure that he saw me staring at him. Sure enough, the noise stopped. As I turned away, that tuneless melody started up again.
I wasn't imagining things after all. He was humming and then trying to hide what he was doing.
That was disturbing in so many ways.
I didn't know what to do but it didn't seem to be something dangerous so I tried to ignore it. It wasn't easy, especially when the humming got louder and I recognized a Togarian love-chant from my music class a few months back. My master and love songs, two things that just didn't seem to go together.
I could only hope that it was because of the drug Lady Erelia gave him. Otherwise... I didn't want to think about the possibilities.
Besides, I kept telling myself that the sound coming out of his throat was the least of my problems. I had to admit that I wasn't all that happy to be walking back toward the scene of the crime, back to where it started. The terror of running from those uncontrollable, relentless women was forever imprinted on my brain. I certainly didn't want a repeat of that horrible escape.
My master didn't seem to be upset about going back, though. In fact, he looked a little too eager, with a spring in his step and the way he kept smiling - and that sound.
I flinched at the thought of what the women would do with a smiling, singing Jedi Master. Harmonize with him? Get him to try other melodies? Sing while they attempted to get under all those Jedi clothes?
Just the thought made me shudder.
I'm not sure we'd be able to outrun them this time. The way Master Qui-Gon was acting, I wasn't sure that he'd even try. Normally, he'd fend off their advances, doing everything he could to elude the rabid women that wanted to have their way with him but he was not normal, not right now.
What if Master Qui-Gon didn't want to avoid their wayward hands? What if he was becoming more... ummm, eager every moment?
I pushed that thought aside. He'd fight them off. I was sure of it - well, pretty sure anyway. I hoped.
But this happy, light-hearted behavior was suspicious. I figured I'd better be prepared for anything.
Keeping that in mind, I looked around the kitchen, trying to anticipate trouble.
Captain Antilles had said that the guards would meet us here but they were nowhere in sight. I would have thought that they would be positioned just inside the door, or even outside to keep the reporters at bay but there was nothing but silence.
The kitchen area was empty of droids and females but it looked as if there had been a nova-sized food fight in the room and no one had managed to clean it up as yet. The floor and some of the walls were coated with the remnants of cake and icing; dribbles of color stained the countertops. On the cooling unit, I could even see a few woman-sized outlines, edged in sweetcream.
It looked as if the mechanicals had tried to battle their crazy intruders and had used icing as ammunition. The dessert topping was everywhere.
Carefully, taking it one slow step at a time, trying not to slip on icing and land on my face, I managed to get across the kitchen. "Master, where do you think everyone is?"
As he navigated toward my location, instead of treading carefully as I had done, Master Qui-Gon skated across the slippery floor in a controlled slide. I suppose that was as effective as walking but it was still disturbing to watch Master Qui-Gon doing something a youngling would do when no one was watching. As he reached me, he looked very smug. And that was even more disturbing than the method of transport.
At least the humming had stopped.
But before he could say anything, a cluster of guards strode into the room and stopped just short of the spilled desserts. Several of the men looked surprised, at first their faces open in shock, looking from the mess on the floor to the mess on my master's clothes and then fighting grins. I could hear someone in the back snickering.
Although his eyes were full of amusement, the head of the squad was solemn as he bowed. "I am Captain Plaka. My apologies, Master Jinn, Padawan Kenobi, for our tardiness. We were detained by reporters at the front gate. Several of them had entered the building but we managed to escort them out before they could get to you."
My master nodded, his smile disappearing as he gestured back the way we came. He seemed to gather himself together, becoming all dignity as he said, "Captain, there are more at the back entrance. They have holocams and I'm afraid that they have footage as well." How Master Qui-Gon could stand there, covered in streaks of colorful dessert, wearing a short, ill-fitting robe that barely hid the mess, with icing in his beard and cake on his boots and yet able to look regal and calm after sliding across a food-slicked floor, was beyond my meager skills.
They probably don't teach it at the Temple, either.
"The Prime Minister will not be pleased to hear that, Master Jinn, but there is little we can do about it at this time." The man glanced at two of his guards. "Borden, Rown, go to the back and clear out the reporters and then meet up with us when you are done."
As they nodded and slowly started making their way across the kitchen, slipping and sliding and grabbing onto counter-tops already slimed with mashed fruit, the Captain turned back to my master and pointed toward a side-door. "If you will follow me, Master Jinn, I will take you to your destination. They are waiting."
I couldn't help but watch the two guards. They seemed to be having a bad time of it, fighting their way across the room. For an instant, I had to admit that my master's method had been easier and quicker. But there was nothing to be done and I was certainly not going to suggest that the guards skate their way to the exit. I turned and followed Master Qui-Gon into the corridor.
Captain Plaka cleared his throat, "Master Jinn, you may need to be aware of possible problems with the male..."
From behind us came a sharp yelp and then a string of mumbled curses. The head of the guards turned around sharply, hurrying back into the kitchen. The rest of us were right behind him.
I could hear the faint choke of suppressed laughter coming from the direction of Master Qui-Gon but he merely looked serene when I glanced at him. I had to admit that I wanted to laugh as well but didn't think it would be a good idea - Jedi appearance and the honor of the Temple and all.
At least it wasn't us looking ridiculous this time.
On the floor, the two guards sat there, softly swearing away. Painted in sweetcream and mashed muja fruit, Borden and Rown were splattered from head to toe in dessert, even more so than my master. It looked as if they'd fallen and kept sliding for a while before ending up against one of the cabinets. Trying to scrape off the food from their clothing, they'd only succeeded in smearing the sticky stuff around. They were a mess.
The captain was not amused, however. Annoyed, he muttered, "If you are finished playing with your food, I suggest you get going. The reporters are still there."
One of them, Rown I think, gulped, looking down at his uniform, "But Captain..."
Shaking his head, Plaka huffed in defeat, "There are additional tunics in the laundry area near the exit. They may be dirty but they will suffice for now. Try not to get them covered in dessert, will you?"
As the two men tried and failed to stand, Plaka sent them a death glare and then turned back to us, gesturing to follow him. "My apologies again, Master Jinn, for the delay."
My master bowed gracefully but I see the gleam of amusement in his eyes. "It is understandable."
I didn't say a word. I kept glancing back to look at what the unfortunate guards were doing. As I turned the corner and out of sight, I could just make them out - moving slowly on hands and knees that kept sliding out from under them, trying to reach the other side of the kitchen without falling flat on their faces again. I hope they made it.
A soft clearing of a masterly throat and I snapped back to attention. The captain and his guards were waiting for me to catch up. Blushing, scurrying to Qui-Gon's side, I mumbled, "Sorry, Master."
Walking quickly toward their destination, Captain Plaka explained, "The male relatives of the women affected are not happy with the situation. Several of them have called for your arrest."
As if it wasn't enough that the women would be molesting my poor master, now this problem could make things worse. It might get ugly. It is well known that human males can be very territorial when it comes to mates and family.
Continuing, the captain said, "The Prime Minister has already explained to them about the drug that you were given but some of the men have claimed that you did it on purpose." Frowning, he huffed annoyance, "We have been trying to calm the situation but since most of them are high in the government, it is difficult to arrest or even remove them without repercussions."
"If I discussed the situation to them in more detail, they might be reasonable."
That was my master, ever the compassionate one. I would have relaxed a bit since Master Qui-Gon sounded a lot like his old self in that last comment but his eyes were gleaming mischief and I thought I heard a bar or two of humming under his breath.
I sent him a warning glare. We needed to be prepared for problems. He needed to focus. This dilemma was getting worse by the second and I could only imagine how the Council would react when we returned. His humming and whatever else was going on under that seemingly calm facade wasn't helping a bit.
"Master Jinn, they are not inclined to be reasonable at this time. Prime Minister Zadros has asked that you try and quell any violence that might come from confrontation," Plaka said distinctly, "by any means necessary, including mind tricks and other Jedi sorceries."
I tried not to roll my eyes. Why did people always seem to think that Jedi are some kind of wizards and use magic all the time? The Force isn't magic - it's just there like the air we breathe and the food we eat. Just because they couldn't touch it, doesn't mean it didn't exist.
My master must have heard it all before. He didn't even protest about the sorcery stuff. "Violence is always a last resort, Captain. I'll be glad to do whatever is necessary to help end this - mind tricks, delivering antidotes, demonstrating how a lightsaber works, whatever it takes. The Prime Minister only has to ask."
But as he turned away, his mouth was quirking again. Oh, dear. Luckily, the rest of them didn't see it.
"Thank you, Master Jinn." Plaka stopped, opening an unremarkable door and escorting us into a small conference room, thankfully female free. "We've arranged to have the application of the antidote done here. My men will bring a set of five women and when you are done, they will escort them out and bring in the next set. Hopefully, the situation will remain calm. I've tried to keep your location a secret but be prepared for anything."
"It is fine, Captain. My thanks." He turned to me, "Obi-Wan, go with the guards and help in any way you can."
He couldn't be serious. After the last disaster with those insane women, he wanted me to leave him alone? I wasn't going to give in that easily. Master Qui-Gon needed me, even if he didn't know it yet. Besides, with this disturbing new behavior, I wasn't letting him out of my sight. "But Master, what if they attack you again? The ones so far have been intense. I should be by your side to help."
Leaning down, he murmured in my ear. "Are you sure, Obi-Wan? I thought you didn't want to be around me when I was," he hesitated, a kind of hunger in his voice, "kissing them."
"You need me, Master." I said firmly. Never mind that I wanted to make sure he didn't succumb to the drug that was obviously still causing him such confusion; I had to help him get past this.
Standing up straight, he smiled, a broad happy grin. "Thank you, Padawan."
Oh, blast. He was smiling again. That had me more worried than I wanted to admit but at least he wasn't going to send me away. Of course, him not sending me away was also a hint that all was not right. If he was thinking more clearly, the old Master would have insisted.
This newer, more drugged master was confusing me but I'd get past that - for his sake.
Captain Plaka nodded toward us both. "I'll leave you then and be back in a few moments with the first batch." Then with a wave of his hand, he and his guard troop filed out of the room and we were left alone to ponder what would happen next.
I had to admit that I was growing apprehensive. Master Qui-Gon seemed to have had everything under control at the ship but now he was relaxing more and being less like his old, stern self with every passing moment. I would have thought that the drug was most potent when he first swallowed it but now I wasn't so sure.
He was wandering about the room, his arms swinging loose at his side. He seemed very relaxed, and he was humming again. I think it was another love chant but I don't know many songs of that kind so I couldn't be certain. I sent him a glare or two but it didn't seem to faze him. He just hummed louder.
Finally, I couldn't stand it any more. "Master, do you know that you are humming? A love song?"
Suddenly silent, he frowned down at me. "There isn't a rule against it, Padawan."
Oh, oh. I hoped I wasn't in trouble. We had talked about rules a lot lately, me wanting him to follow the Code a bit more and him telling me about feeling and not thinking and how the Force didn't always follow the rules. Of course, that confused me.
After all, if the Council insisted on everyone following the Code, shouldn't we as Jedi be bound to accept it? I know that my master got scolded enough for ignoring the rules at times - and punished on occasion. We'd probably get punished for this one, too, even though Master Qui-Gon didn't deserve it this time.
But that wasn't what this was about. He was acting strangely and getting stranger by the minute. "Master, I've never heard you hum before. Is everything all right?"
He looked as if he were actually thinking about the question. Slowly, he said, "Perhaps not. The drug may be affecting me more than I had realized."
"Do you think it will make things worse with the women? They're pretty crazy as it is." I hoped I didn't sound as worried as I was feeling. I might have to be the strong one here with my master acting this way. It could get bad.
"I'll be glad to give them whatever they want."
I didn't like the sound of that. I figured at this point, though, the women weren't the problem.
I just hoped that he wouldn't want more than just a kiss. A Jedi Master can be pretty persuasive and I'm not sure I was strong enough to counter any Force suggestions - not that he'd do that kind of thing - certainly not. Well, maybe not.
I wasn't sure of anything at the moment.
Then there was no more time to worry as the first set of women came scrambling through the door.
The guards had had a rough time of it. Their uniforms were smeared with all kinds of crushed fruits and cake and it looked like the females had wrestled with some of them. They looked worse than Master Qui-Gon, if that was possible.
But the women were no better off, covered in dessert and icing, and it was clear that they had been in the food fight with the droids in the kitchen at some point earlier in the evening.
More than that, though, the females looked like a pack of boar-wolves straining at their leashes - not civilized beings at all. Some of the guards were grabbing onto the women's sleeves or the nearest piece of fabric, being pulled along while trying to stop the rabid mob from attacking my master and having their way with him.
When the women saw Master Qui-Gon, they let out a collective howl of joy and fought to jerk away from restraining hands. Luckily for him, the guards were stronger - for now.
My master's face turned intense. There was a hunger in his eyes and I could hear him breathing funny, too. But I didn't think he was getting sick, at least with an illness that would send him to the Healers. This was a different kind of sickness and one he needed to fight.
But before I could stop him, he started forward, smiling happily, "My ladies. Now that you have arrived, we will be able to share a moment together, a kiss between a man and a woman that..."
While the guards were grumbling about leaping into a gundark's nest, and the females growing even more excited, I was yanking on his arm, trying to get him to stop, whispering, "Master, please. What are you doing? Remember what we are here for? The antidote?"
He just blinked down at me, confused. I hissed sharply, "If you tell them you are going to kiss them without any rules, they'll start fighting again and you don't want that. Remember what happened last time."
Frowning, he also seemed to hear what I was saying. A few more blinks and he nodded. Loudly, looking at the eager women still straining to reach him, he said, "My wise Padawan has reminded me that you will all have to wait your turn."
That just made things worse. I don't think Master Qui-Gon was remembering what happened at the ship. And he was getting more and more confused. Blast!
Shoving my master behind me, I stood up straight and shouted out, "Listen. If you want a kiss from Master Jinn, you are going to have to line up in alphabetical order by first name. And don't try anything because if you don't, there will be no kiss. Is that clear?"
One of the guards muttered, "Who put the kid in charge?" But I ignored him. I had bigger problems.
Luckily, my master was still aware enough that he said, "My padawan is right. Line up in order and I'll make sure each of you gets what you want."
At least the women listened to him, eventually. With much grumbling and a few sharp elbows, a line of dessert-covered insane females formed and it wasn't long before he'd given them each a kiss and sent them away contented.
What concerned me was that the kisses were getting longer and more... ummm personal with every woman. I hoped that Master Qui-Gon would remember his duty but it seemed as though it was up to me to make sure he didn't go too far.
I swear that I was going to be traumatized for life after this.
And he was humming again. Blast!
I was beginning to wonder if I was caught in one of those weird dreams I get sometimes - the ones where I watch my master making a fool of himself over and over again in the most ridiculous way possible. I'd had them often enough, especially in the first few months of my apprenticeship.
I guess I didn't know what to think that first year and my brain would go into hyperdrive while I slept.
But Master dancing in front of the Council with them rating him on his performance or Master Yoda and Qui-Gon dueling with bruikli stalks or my master whipping up a frothy dessert and then throwing it at Master Windu's bald head - although the last one sounded suspiciously like our mission here - dreams like that were nothing to this disaster.
The never-ending stream of rabid women attacking my master and the fact that he seemed to be enjoying it so much was just about the worst nightmare I could ever imagine.
Yet here we were. Granted there were only five females in at a time in the room and the guards were getting better at how they handled it with each new bunch but after a while, the old and young, the fat and the thin, just seemed to melt into a blur of flailing limbs and crazed smiles and kisses. Endless kisses.
I think I'd rather take the dreams. At least there I could wake up.
On the other hand, we were getting faster with each group - just line up the women, get them to kiss my master, push them out the door, and then do it all over again. Providing the cure with a droid-assembly precision - it was strange but it worked.
There were a persistent few in the mix that slowed down the process. I remember one woman in particular - I think it was the chair-wielding one from the initial riot. She wouldn't let go once my master had administered the antidote. Instead she jumped up, burying herself into him, her legs wrapped around his waist, her arms tight around his neck as she moaned her excitement into his mouth when she started kissing him again.
It was really embarrassing to watch.
What was worse is that he didn't want to let go either. They were kissing rather passionately for several seconds and it took three guards and me to get them apart. Luckily, she was the last one of her group so there were no women behind her objecting to the display.
I did send Master Qui-Gon a death-glare at that but he just shrugged it off. He also looked remarkably smug about the whole thing. After she left, the humming got very loud and he kept adjusting his tunic. There was a smile on his face and his eyes were full of satisfaction.
Who would have thought my old master would enjoy kissing so much?
It was much to my relief when Captain Plaka said, "That's the last of them except for the Prime Minister's family. I've been asked to escort you to his private chambers."
The tuneless melody abruptly stopped.
My master should have been happy to hear that it was almost over. After all, he'd been doing this for a while and it must have been exhausting for him, fending off all those women, trying to be in control enough to hold them at bay and yet give them what they wanted. Plus I'd read once that kissing took quite a bit of energy and he was not a young man.
Instead, the smile on his face vanished. It was astonishing to see him become so miserable in such a short time. It was pathetic in a way. With slumping shoulders and a downturned mouth, he looked like he'd just lost his best friend.
Thinking that I should support him in his hour of need, I leaned in, whispering, "Master, are you well enough? You could take a break if you needed one. I'm sure Prime Minister Zadros would understand."
Blinking at me for a moment, looking as distracted as I'd ever seen him, he shook his head. "Padawan, I am," he hesitated, glancing at the captain and then back at me, "able to continue until this is finished and our mission complete."
I tried to give him an encouraging smile but he didn't see it, turning toward Captain Plaka, "I am at your disposal. Lead the way."
The guards flanked us, boxing us in. Plaka said, "We are still on the alert for several males who have vowed revenge for this incident. My men and I will run interference. I don't want any further problems."
With a slight nod and a stealthy jerk at his tunic, Master Qui-Gon agreed, "As you wish, Captain."
Luckily, the hallway was empty and it wasn't long before we reached the Prime Minister's private apartments. Inside, the Prime Minister, an old woman that I recognized as his mother, a younger girl about my age and that Erelia person were there - and several guards gripping onto the females.
An excited squeal shot through the room and I could see the old lady trying to get away from the guards that were holding her back and reach my master. The Prime Minister just rolled his eyes and thundered, "Mother, control yourself."
She shot back, "Kriff that. Let me go!" But the guards were a lot younger and a lot stronger than one old woman. She gave one of them a sharp kick in the shins but she was caught fast.
Zadros growled out, "Mother, watch your language." He turned to Qui-Gon and said, "Master Jinn, this is my mother, Noteri Zadros. I would like you to administer the antidote as soon as you can." He sent a glare back at the old lady. "So she can calm down and act with dignity and go... to... bed."
Bowing solemnly but with eyes sharp and hungry, Master Qui-Gon agreed, "Lady Noteri, with your permission." As he reached for her, the guards let her go and she scampered over, grabbed onto his cake-encrusted tunic, jerking him down and she kissed him squarely on the mouth. There was energy there and sound effects - from both of them.
I wanted to hide in some deep dark place and never come out again. This was so embarrassing.
My master - the sex-crazy Qui-Gon Jinn, willing to give women what they want when they wanted it, anytime, anywhere. He wasn't even picky about the women.
The Force was laughing at us again. I swear it was.
Finally, Minister Zadros signaled for two of the guards to pull them apart. The old lady was reluctant to let go but with pressure and a lot of prying, she stepped away. Smiling, she said happily, "Thank you, Master Jinn, for that kiss. Best one I've had in years."
"Any time, my lady." He grinned back at her and began to sing something under his breath, some indecent little tune we'd heard in a cantina once.
I didn't think most people could hear it but I could. I had to wonder if he would ever get past this stage and go back to being the solemn, stoic master that I knew. I hoped he would but I wasn't going to bet my lightsaber on it.
For a moment, no one said anything. Finally, as she sauntered over to her son, the old woman sent Qui-Gon a quick wink. The Prime Minister must have seen it because he huffed in annoyance. "Mother, if you are quite finished..."
She snorted indelicately. "I'd never been finished with the likes of him. A fine speciman, even with cake in his hair. Willing to kiss an old lady and do it right. He's welcome back here any time." But before the Prime Minister could object to that unbelievable statement, she waved her hand in his direction. "I'm going, I'm going. But it's you that's the old woman in all this, not me."
Glaring at her, Minister Zadros shook his head, muttering, "You'll be the death of me, Mother."
"And cranky, too." With a short scowl to her son and a long, sly smile sent Master Qui-Gon's way, she nodded to the guards. She chuckled, "I believe that my son wants me to go to bed. Lead the way, my escorts, and take it slow. I'm not as young as I used to be." Entwining her arms with two of the guards, she let them slowly shuffle her to the exit.
And as the door closed behind her, I could have sworn I heard her singing the first few words of the same obscene little tune I'd just heard Master Qui-Gon mumbling a few moments ago. Oh, dear.
Luckily, I don't think the Prime Minister heard it or, if he did, he was ignoring it. Instead, turning back to us both, he waved the girl over to his side.
Pretty with large blue eyes and mousy-blonde hair and just about my age or maybe a little younger, she seemed nice enough. The girl kept glancing at my master with a look that was both hungry and horrified. It was clear that she was under the influence of the attractant and not happy about it.
I didn't really blame her. After all, Qui-Gon looked like an Wooly-nerf, old and tired and covered in dried slop that had stiffened into duracreet. Here was no cultured, calm Jedi of a few hours ago but a man humming off-color songs and kissing eighty-year-old grandmothers.
Master Qui-Gon must have recognized that the teenager was reluctant to kiss him. As he straightened up, I could see him shaking a bit, obviously trying to control his own needs and not to scare her any more than she already was. And thankfully at the moment, he wasn't humming one note.
Prime Minister Zadros said, "This is my younger daughter, Aleta. She was not supposed to be at the celebration but snuck in because her sister was there." He smiled down fondly at the kid. "I would ask that you be gentle with her, Master Jinn."
Sending her a slight smile, Qui-Gon bowed, all graciousness and constraint. He may have been deep into the drug-induced need to kiss every female in sight but he was also a Master. His control would not waver in this instance - I was sure of it.
"My apologies for this, Lady Aleta. Your sister has said that the effect will disappear eventually. You don't have to do this." Softly, he murmured, "Give it time, young one."
"I don't think I can. I know it isn't something I want to do but I need to." She looked unhappy and trapped by circumstances. "If you please, Master Jedi."
"Oh, just get it over with, Aleta. It's only your first kiss after all. It won't scar you for life."
With that announcement, the temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees. We turned as one to the owner of that voice, Erelia Zadros.
She was standing there, trying to pull out of the guard's grasp and make her way forward. She looked wild and bitter and about as rabid as any of the other women I'd seen so far. She couldn't escape but I could see that the hunger brought on by the attractant had turned into fury.
She wasn't the only one. I had never seen my master so upset. He looked as if he wanted to strangle Erelia and I don't think I'd be far behind.
Apparently, her father wasn't so controlled. He snapped out, "That's enough. You vindictiveness has brought us nothing but shame. Keep quiet before I lose what little restraint I have left."
Face hard as stone, my master said, "Jealousy is ugly work, Lady." Then he turned away, back toward Aleta, saying more gently, "Is this true, young one?"
When she nodded, he said, "A first kiss should be shared with someone your own age."
I could see my master trying to fight off the drug, trying to think about what to do in this case and not turn this into something awful for her. Adults were one thing; a teenage girl was something else. It was taking all of his control to remain calm but as he turned to me, he began to smile brightly, as if he'd found the perfect solution. "I'm sure my padawan would be glad to oblige."
Blind-sided, I couldn't stop from yelping, "What?"
I was sorry for her but the idea of kissing a girl, any girl, was not something I wanted to think about just then. It should be between people who knew each other, a long time knowing each other, and only when they were much, much older - like Master Qui-Gon's age or maybe Master Yoda's. This wasn't right. I couldn't do it.
Besides, I was panicking at the thought.
Unfortunately, Aleta's smile was planet-wide. "That would be wonderful. He's..."
I didn't hear the rest. I pulled my master to one side and hissed into his ear. "What do you think you are doing? I can't kiss her. We just met. Besides," I hesitated, glancing her way and then back again, "she's a girl. I don't know how to kiss a girl. I'd do it all wrong and make everything worse."
My master took one shaky breath and I could see how much effort it was taking for him to remain calm. His hands were tightly fisted, gleaming white with tension. He growled back, "She needs this. Do you want her first kiss to be with some debauched, reckless old fool?"
He smiled back toward Aleta and her father and then dipped down again to hear me pleading with him, "Master, I don't know if I can do this."
"Compassion is central to a Jedi's life."
Blast, he had me with that one. I had hoped my first kiss would be a long time coming, a very long time in coming - when I was ready. Not like this, not in front of everyone who could see how inexperienced I was. Stupid Oafy-Wan who didn't even know how to kiss a girl right.
Trying to hide my embarrassment, thinking I'd better just get it over with and then we could escape to our ship, I bowed to Aleta. "My lady, I would be honored." My voice squeaked high; I hoped she didn't notice.
As I took a few steps forward, her father let her go. Tentative, wary of the circumstances and not a little afraid of each other, we met somewhere in the middle of the room. Everyone was watching us which only made it worse.
She was just about my height and as I leaned in, I could see the shy way she mirrored my movements. Neither of us had any idea of what to do. My sole experience had been watching my master kissing all those women but that wasn't any help at all.
Sending me a gentle smile, she closed her eyes and waited. I knew enough to tilt my head slightly so that we wouldn't bump noses and then, after drawing a deep breath, I touched her lips with mine.
The kiss was as soft as shimmersilk, hesitant and warm. It felt weird and right at the same time. I was kissing a girl I didn't know and I liked it. I wondered if that was how my master felt when he was kissing all those women, if it was as good and sweet as this was.
My second thought was that I shouldn't be enjoying it as much as I was and maybe I was turning into my master. And that thought led to panic. If they found out back at the Temple, I'd never live it down. Sexy-Wan indeed.
Horrified, the image pulled me out of the kiss and back to reality. When I opened my eyes, I was drenched in sweat. I stumbled back, trying to get some distance, but I couldn't go far. Her hand was tucked in mine. I let go as soon as I could, hoping she wouldn't be offended, hoping that she didn't notice the terror in my eyes or the way my hands were shaking.
At least, she hadn't run screaming from the room after me kissing her like that. In fact, her eyes were shining and she looked as if she'd enjoyed it.
Smiling, Aleta said softly, "Thank you..."
I realized that she didn't know my name and she was waiting for me to tell her. I stammered out, "Oafy... ummm, my name is Obi-Wan."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan." But her smile faded as she looked at Master Qui-Gon. It looked like she was still a bit scared but less so than before. Maybe my kissing her was a good thing after all.
He was standing next to me, as still and controlled as I'd ever seen him - no humming, nothing to show that he was under the influence of that awful drug. With a small nod in my direction, he said, "Thank you, Padawan. It was well done." Then he murmured gently, "Close your eyes, Lady Aleta. It will be finished in a single breath."
She sent me a look of gratitude and then, squaring her shoulders, did as my master asked.
With the utmost care, Master Qui-Gon bowed low, brushing quickly across her lips and straightening up again. If I hadn't been standing next to him, I wouldn't have guessed that he'd even kissed her. We both waited to see if it would be enough.
The antidote must have taken. With a shy smile, Aleta opened her eyes and said, "Thank you, Master Jinn, for everything."
There was a collective sigh of relief among the crowd and I could see that the Prime Minister was pleased. "Arela, time for bed. We'll talk about this again in the morning."
Glancing at me, pleasure in her voice, she murmured, "Thank you, Obi-Wan." Then with one final long look, she turned and walked away, the door closing behind her.
And now it was almost done.
One final unpleasant task remained. Lady Erelia Zadros, elder daughter of the Prime Minister of Septemus IV, the woman who started this debacle, who had used and abused others in order to get what she wanted, was waiting for her kiss.
His face etched in fury, Minister Zadros twisted around to glare at his rebellious daughter.
Erelia didn't seem to notice that her father was angry. She was too focused in trying to escape the guard's solid grasp and get that blasted kiss she so desperately wanted. Staring eagerly at my master, her breath coming in fast and furious, she looked like she wanted to eat him alive.
I was certainly glad that she didn't want to kiss me. Her sister's kiss had been warm and energizing, like a muja muffin straight from the kitchen but I'd have hated to be on the receiving end of Erelia's embrace. I'd never be the same again.
I felt really bad for my master, though. He was the one that would have to give her the antidote and he wasn't looking very happy about it, despite the fact that he was still under the influence of the kiss-inducing drug. I could tell he was upset, with those frown lines and the way he was standing and not looking at her. His mouth was flat - never a good sign. He wasn't humming, either.
But I couldn't see how he could avoid it. After all, Jedi are supposed to be compassionate to all beings, not just the ones we liked. And Erelia was in need of the antidote, badly in need.
Even from a distance, I could see that her eyes were wild and black as pitch with desire. Her mouth was wet, too. I suppose it was from her licking her lips so much as she watched my master kiss the others but it was really disgusting.
I'd heard from my friends that people actually liked wet, sloppy kisses but it was so unsanitary that I didn't see how they could - although I had to admit that Master Qui-Gon seemed to like it quite a lot, more than a lot in some cases. It had to be the drugs, though. He would never do such a thing otherwise.
But now he'd have to kiss one more woman, just one, and then his kissing days would be over - thankfully.
Too bad the one he had to kiss was Erelia.
"Let me go. It's my turn now. Mine." Trying to get away, she gave another hard yank but the guard grabbed onto her arm with both hands and wouldn't let go. Not happy with the situation, she twisted sharply, almost pulling free but a second man grasped the other arm and she was caught tight between them.
If anything, her father grew more furious than before. "There isn't enough that I can do to punish you for this. You are a spoiled, self-absorbed women with all the instincts of a rancor beast." He stopped for a moment, trying to control himself. "However, I am a fair man."
Blinking at his tone, she seemed to draw back a little, but instead of trying to placate her father, she only fought harder to get free. "I want..."
Interrupting her, he said calmly, distinctly, "I am sending you to Aurolies, to the abbey there. You can cool your hot blood among the rocks and the ice."
Her voice cracked, "What? You can't be serious." She stopped fighting for a moment, staring at him as if he'd gone insane.
"Dead serious. You've caused quite enough problems for this family, this administration and our world. I'll be lucky to remain in office after this and I can only hope the treaty stands after all our hard work. You may have ruined it with your selfish desires." Standing there, glaring down at her in distaste, Zadros continued, "The abbess at Aurolies owes me a favor. She'll provide you with lodging and food but the place is completely isolated. Women only. No men, no drugs, no pleasures other than that of hard work and a job well done. Apparently, something your mother and I have failed to instill in you."
Swallowing hard, obviously unhappy with the decisions he had to make, he said, "That will change. Abbess Ylet will send me regular reports. If your behavior improves, we will rethink this after a year."
"You're sending me to a damn prison." Erelia was struggling again, trying to kick at one of the guards but he must have known how she fought because he deftly sidestepped her efforts. The other guard only tightened his grip.
Her father shrugged. "Aurolies is a place of contemplation and peace. However, if you would prefer a prison, I'm sure there are dozens who would be willing to testify to help you achieve that end. You have only to say the word and I'll be glad to have the guards take you there."
She stilled at that. Erelia must have realized that he was not going to change his mind. "Father, you've gone mad."
"No, I've finally woken up to reality." His face hardened, "I would remind you that you are here of your own free will, that you chose to drug a representative of the Republic and a Jedi master. I cannot tell you how ashamed I am of you at this moment and I hope that someday Master Jinn will forgive me for this outrage."
She looked unrepentant. "He led me on, letting me think that we had something together. I only... "
"Don't start lying now, Erelia." He let out a long breath and stared down at her, "I suppose you expect me to let you kiss Master Jinn since you've maneuvered him so brilliantly into it."
The look she sent my master was hungry, intense. Passionate, I think. If she had gotten hold of Master Qui-Gon somehow, I don't know what she would have done but it wouldn't have been good. Maybe she might have held him prisoner and had her way with him over and over again.
Master Qui-Gon was pretty old and I'd heard from other padawans that you could die from that kind of thing. One night with her and it might have killed him.
But Erelia looked like she was willing to take that risk. Smiling up at him, she said, "Qui-Gon is a compassionate man. I'm sure he'll see that I'm just as affected as the others. More than most."
Master may have been deep into drug-induced lust but even so he looked furious. She was right, though. Qui-Gon had reminded me earlier about compassion and I'm sure he would do whatever was necessary to help her, even if he didn't like it.
But he never got the chance. The Prime Minister only shook his head. "He may be but I am not - not in this case. You will get no kiss, no antidote for this debacle. Nothing."
Horrified, she stopped struggling, looking from her father to Master Qui-Gon and back again. "You can't do this."
Shrugging, he said, "As you have indicated many times, it will wear off eventually. You will find out just how long it takes, my daughter."
"No, you can't..." she looked rapidly around the room, apparently hoping to garner some support but there were only stony faces and justice.
The Minister gestured to the men holding his daughter. "Please escort Lady Erelia to my ship. I've already notified the pilot of their destination, the icefields at Aurolies." As she began to fight against her captors in earnest, he said slowly, emphasizing each word, "Where... she... will... stay."
"Father, no." Erelia was kicking out now, trying to catch at anything to slow down her forced retreat but the men were very capable. Avoiding her flailing limbs, they dragged her across the room and away with little effort.
As the door closed, I could hear her screaming out, "But I only wanted..."
We never got to hear the rest.
I must admit that I wasn't thinking very Jedi-like thoughts but I was really glad that she wasn't going to get her hands on Qui-Gon. I know I would probably get a lecture on compassion later but forcing Master to kiss all those women was a trial he should not have had to face. And kissing her would have been wrong.
At least, now he could get some rest. My poor old master must be exhausted.
Slowly, his eyes filled with emotion, the Prime Minister turned back to Master Qui-Gon. "I love my daughter very much. I'm just sorry it had to come to this." Bowing his head, he said softly, "I have to apologize once more for this grievous injury to you. I can only hope that it will not impede the treaty or the Republic's stand on our world. Don't let one foolish woman ruin months of work, Master Jinn."
Shaking, his hands clenching and unclenching as if trying to keep from doing something rash like trying to find more women to kiss, my master said carefully, "I... will... do... everything... I... " And then he swallowed hard, looking at me. His breathing was labored and he looked like he was ready to start humming again. "Padawan."
I could tell that he wanted to finish this himself, wanted to make sure that the treaty wouldn't fall through or that these people wouldn't think less of the Order just because he was having problems with control, but sometimes my master knew his limits.
Stepping forward, I bowed to Minister Zadros. "Sir, my master isn't well and needs to go back to the ship. I'll contact the Temple and explain things. I'm sure that this will not reflect on the treaty or your planet, but I really need to get him away from here and isolated before anything else happens."
But it was too late. Master was humming again. Blast!
I tried to ignore the sounds of that vulgar little tune - didn't he know anything else? - and focus on the Prime Minister but much as I tried not to, I kept glancing at Qui-Gon. At least, he wasn't singing it. I didn't think Minister Zadros would appreciate all the obscene words and the little hand gestures that had made this smuggler's song the hit of Nar Shaddaa.
Luckily, the Prime Minister must have recognized the problem. "Of course, Padawan Kenobi. I've arranged for your ship to relocate here. It is at docking bay 3 awaiting your arrival. Captain Plaka will escort you both there. Through the back entrance to avoid any further problems with reporters."
I started to panic when he mentioned 'back' and 'reporters'. I kept thinking, Not the kitchen, please not the kitchen again! Seeing my master sliding his way through sweetcream and mashed cake had left a permanent scar on my brain. Another memory like that and I'd be a drooling wreck.
Plaka must have read my mind. He said quickly, "If you will follow me, I will get you to your ship in a few minutes. The kitchen is under repair so I will take you a different route."
With much relief, I bowed once more to the Prime Minister and then hooked one hand around my master's arm, dragging him away. He was still humming that tune and it was getting louder by the minute and I was afraid he'd break into words and gestures before long. I thought it would be better to get him out of the room before everything went to blazes and Minister Zadros got offended because of Master's song choices.
One of the men in the group snorted softly, obviously recognizing the melody. But the Captain just sent him a glare and everyone quieted down except, of course, for Master Qui-Gon.
He seemed to enjoy the sudden silence. He must have thought it was a tribute to his humming skills because his eyes lit up and he opened his mouth to sing.
Knowing my padawanship was in jeopardy if I didn't do something quickly, I jerked at him, pulling him toward the exit, all the while growling out, "Not now, Master. Not while anyone can hear you."
Giving me a hurt look, he must have understood something of what I was telling him because he lowered the volume. He didn't stop humming, though. I think he was just being stubborn. He looked smug enough about it.
We had gotten out of the Prime Minister's private apartments, walked down a long empty hallway and had just turned left toward the docking bay when I heard a shout behind me.
A crowd of men were coming up fast, their faces full of anger. One or two of them had blasters in their hands and I would have bet my lightsaber that they weren't set on stun.
The guards quickly formed a barrier between us and the mob. My master slowed down, I guess to try and help mediate the problem, but he was in no shape for anything like that. I got in front of him, shoving him behind me, shielding him as best I could. I didn't take out my saber. The hallway was too small for it with all the people there and I was afraid I'd hurt someone. But I was prepared for the worst.
A blaster in his hand, Captain Plaka was aiming it at the agitated men near the front of the crowd. It stopped them all in their tracks.
One of the rabble pointed at my master, snarling, "That's him! That's the man who ruined my wife."
It didn't sound good. Apparently, the men we'd been warned about had finally found us. I don't know if they could be reasoned with but I don't think Master Qui-Gon was in good enough shape to try and they certainly wouldn't listen to a fifteen-year old Jedi apprentice right now.
Captain Plaka must have realized the same thing. His eyes watching the crowd, he said quietly, "Padawan, get Master Jinn out of here. We will take care of this."
Another angry voice rose up, "He defiled my sister."
There was a roar from the mob and they began to surge forward, only stopping when Plaka shot into the air.
"Enough! Invasion of the Prime Minister's home and attacking a Republic representative is a criminal offense. I will use force if necessary."
While the captain was handling the situation, I backed up, pushing my master down the hallway. The big stubborn Jedi oaf - did I just think that? - stumbled along. He was clearly trying to go back to where the guards and the crowd were having words. But he was in no shape to help and he would just make things worse. Better to remove the problem and let the locals work it out.
But the first man was having none of Plaka's threats, yelling, "He did something to Lena! When she got home, she just sat there, looking out the window and humming that disgusting smuggler's song."
That blasted thing! I was really, really beginning to hate music.
Then other voices shouted out their anger. "He's a home wrecker. My wife's can't stop talking about him."
"He grabbed my sister and kissed her so hard, her mouth was swollen."
"He ravaged my wife and now she won't look at me."
"Amera came home covered in sweetcream. And look at him. Same thing. What the hell were my wife and him doing?"
"My wife, too. Covered in mashed cake and fruit slime. When I asked her, she just smiled and said he was magic. Did he mind-trick her into it?"
"Jedi scum. Using their powers to take what they want."
And then the crazy words merged into "Sloppy kisses and who knows what else... had sex with... crying for him... she wants a divorce... says I'm not good enough... "
Every word making the mob more furious and I thought it couldn't get any worse. Then it did.
Arms waving, a blaster in one hand, a flustered, red-faced man shouted above the others. "My wife's having his baby."
There was stunned silence.
Everyone - the men in the crowd, the guards, Captain Plaka - all wheeled around, looking at Master Qui-Gon. I know I was staring at my master in disbelief.
I didn't think it was possible for such an occurrence but I hadn't been with Master every second of our stay here. At least, I didn't want to think it was possible but I had to wonder why that man had accused my master of such a thing.
Besides, we'd only been here a couple of weeks. I didn't think it worked that fast, even if Master started right away with... that kind of stuff.
But was it true? Could it be?
For his part, Qui-Gon was silent. He was frowning, too, as if trying to comprehend what the man was talking about. Finally, he said softly, "You must be mistaken." He hesitated a little too long before he continued, "I think."
The chaotic roar of the crowd was instantaneous. Some of the men were gesturing toward my master, calling him names that I assumed were obscene; others were waving their blasters around, threatening who knows what.
Blaster bolts began to spray the area: the ceiling, the wall next to Master Qui-Gon's head, the lighting fixtures that burst into shards of fused glass.
Unfortunately, I couldn't defend anyone at the moment. The guards were in front of us and if I took out my lightsaber and batted the bolts back toward the mob, the men shielding us could get hurt.
The mob surged forward, plowing into the guards, struggling to get past them and at my master.
Realizing the situation was on the verge of chaos, Captain Plaka glanced at me and shouted, "Run."
Master Qui-Gon looked as if he were going to ignore Plaka's command and try to deal with the situation on his own. Grabbing at his lightsaber, Master stepped forward but I knew it was futile. The man could hardly speak. In his condition, he wouldn't be able to defend himself and he might just hurt someone else.
Knowing he could be unhappy with me later, I still had to do what I must. I batted his hand away from his saber, yelling, "No, Master. Not now. Just go."
For a moment, he stood there, blinking at me, uncertainty in his eyes, looking around at the blaster bolts and the mob struggling with the guards. Then he nodded - thankfully - and turned around, pelting for the far door. Right behind him, I kept pushing him forward, urging him away from the riot.
A couple of blaster bolts sprayed past us, hitting walls just above our heads as we turned another corner. One last glance back and I could see the crazed hoard was gaining the upper hand. The guards were doing the best they could, trying to keep them back but it wasn't going to be enough. So I ran faster.
I could hear the splatting sound of stun guns and more shouting behind us. I kept going, shoving, pulling, prodding my master, anything to get Qui-Gon away and to our ship.
The Force must have been with us this time. Even though I had no idea where the docking bays were, I was able to find them quickly. I must admit there were a few dead ends along the way but at least we made it.
I could see our ship at the last bay. Pelting down the space, pulling my now-humming master along, I was able to get him to the ramp just as the first of the rioters entered the docking area.
There were more wild shots, a few of them pinging off the ramp struts. But I stumbled into the entryway and closed the hatch just in time.
Captain Antilles was on the ship's comm unit, telling us to hold on. I was about to signal back when the ship began to vibrate suddenly and then we took off.
Luckily my master was holding onto one of the safety straps but I was off-balance, skidding into one thing and then another as the ship tilted wildly in some kind of evasion pattern. I didn't know what she was trying to evade but I could guess. Those men had been pretty angry with my master.
Qui-Gon was not helping the situation. I finally grabbed onto one of the interior pillars and hung on but he just stood there singing softly, some kind of battle march. At least it wasn't the obscene thing he'd been humming earlier but he was getting louder with every breath.
I couldn't do anything about it but I had to admit I was getting annoyed. A little silence would be very welcome just about now but it didn't look like I'd be getting that any time soon.
At least the floor stopped tilting and the ship's ride began to smooth out. We had escaped!
With the captain's announcement that we'd entered hyperspace, I let go and went over to Master Qui-Gon. Loosening his fingers from the strapping was easy. He was surprisingly docile. Draping one arm over my shoulder, he smiled and started bellowing in my ear with another blasted song.
I tried not to sigh. Who would have thought that Master Qui-Gon would like to sing so much. I certainly don't ever remember him doing such a thing before and I hoped that he wouldn't do it again when this was over. My ears were beginning to hurt.
Trying to keep my voice gentle but firm, I said, "Come on, Master. You need to get to your cabin and rest."
It didn't work. Instead, he was getting irritable. He stopped singing, "Don't want to rest. Want to kiss Maeva."
"Master, you need to rest. This mission has been..."
Bantha-stubborn as only my master could be, he said "Maeva." He tried to pull away from me and head for the cockpit but I jerked him back. Last thing we needed was for him to start kissing the pilot again. I could see the determination in his face and I was tired; I knew he could outlast me. He had before.
So I decided to get sneaky. "Master, I don't think Captain Antilles would like to kiss you right now. You're a mess."
Frowning down at me, he looked suspicious of my motives. But when I pointed to his cake-encrusted, stiffened cloak and tunics, his face suddenly cleared and he nodded.
Gesturing toward his cabin, I tried not to sound as relieved as I felt. "You need to clean up. I'll tell the captain that you want to see her when you're finished."
If I could just get him in there, I could Force lock the door and he'd be contained - at least until he was in his right mind again. I just hope that he'd understand when he was better. I hope.
Nodding, starting to hum that blasted smuggler's song again, Master Qui-Gon stumbled forward into his small quarters and sat down on the bed. As he was glaring at his boots, obviously trying to figure out how to take them off, I backed away and, before he could say or do anything, closed the door and locked it.
I don't think he noticed. There was no sudden protest, no stern sounds of retribution, nothing but an increase in singing volume.
Captain Antilles poked her head around the corner, looking at me with questions in her eyes. It was clear she had heard the whole thing.
I did sigh, then. Embarrassed and thoroughly weary of this mission, I said, "Master Qui-Gon is still under the influence of that drug and it has had some... interesting effects."
"Does he usually sing?" she asked, sounding both amused and concerned. She walked over and stood next to me, both of us looking toward his cabin.
I could only imagine what was going through her mind. I know I was wondering what was next with my wayward master - juggling, dancing half-nude in the gardens, creating sculptures out of cake and sweetcream, maybe howling at the moons of Coruscant.
Shaking my head at such thoughts, I muttered, "I've never heard him sing before. I just hope the effects wear off eventually. It has been difficult..."
Then I got worried. The obscene melody abruptly stopped and there was a soft thud inside the cabin. Waving the captain behind me just in case, I opened the door and peered in.
There, lying on the floor, amongst a pile of discarded and thoroughly filthy clothing, my master lay snoring, sleeping as if he hadn't a care in the galaxy. He looked remarkably peaceful considering what he'd just been through.
As for me, I was relieved. If nothing else, we'd have a few hours of peace.
But Maeva Antilles looked disappointed. She murmured softly, "I guess I won't be getting any more kisses then."
Master Qui-Gon was unconscious for most of the way back to Coruscant. I suppose that was a good thing although it looked like Captain Antilles was upset about it for some reason. I caught her checking on him a few times, bending down, and whispering something too low for me to hear.
She'd always have a good excuse when I asked her about it, something about health concerns or worrying about his well-being with him just lying on the floor like that. Then she'd get up and saunter away, casual and innocent-looking. I didn't know whether to believe her or not. Adults can be so devious sometimes.
At least she didn't try to kiss him again - as far as I could tell.
I swear that I'd be scarred for life if I had to go through that drug-induced kissing-a-woman mess again. It was hard enough the first time and I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep those two apart this time even if I wanted to. I may be a Jedi Padawan but if Master and the captain wanted to be together badly enough, doing things that I'd rather not know about, I couldn't stop them, not without help.
Luckily for me, it didn't matter. He didn't wake up, even with all her urgings and whispers - thankfully.
He was more restless than usual, though. He might have been sleeping but he wasn't quiet: snoring, mumbling words to that horrible song. He was also making some embarrassing and very disturbing sounds - breathy kissing noises I think - whenever he snuggled up to those disgusting cake-encrusted clothes on the floor.
I tried not to listen.
Not knowing what to else to do, getting desperate after several hours of suggestive sounds and humming, I was ready to try anything. I didn't want to leave him alone in case he needed help but this was getting to be too much.
I know I was being selfish but I wanted him to wake up and go back to being my solemn, grouchy old master. Was that too much for a loyal and suffering padawan to ask?
Apparently it was.
Finally, I took my life in my hands and went into the cabin. Master was sprawled on the floor, mumbling words, once in a while singing a few off-key notes to that horrible song, smiling as if he were enjoying it all. Even asleep, he was Qui-Gon Jinn, unconventional, independent and a Jedi Master for whom the rules didn't always apply. My master.
I didn't dare wake him up, at least not deliberately. But I told myself that if I tried to get him off the floor and into bed, he'd be more comfortable. Of course if he woke up while I was moving him, so much the better.
As always with my master, he didn't do things the ordinary way. When I started to push him upright, Master just flopped back down, still smacking his lips and murmuring something that sounded vaguely obscene, still asleep.
He was too heavy to lift by myself and I certainly wasn't going to ask the captain for help. She'd probably be a little too enthusiastic about it. Trying to figure out what to do next, I realized that I could drag him over, get his torso onto the bed first and then shove the rest of him up. That might work.
I had a problem, though. I didn't want to have the bed full of mashed cake and growing-ever-more-rancid sweetcream. The room was already smelly enough as it was.
I'd have to get the food-encrusted tunics away from him first. But he turned even that small action into a tug of war. He held onto the clothes as if his life depended upon them, even grumbling a bit as I tried to jerk the garments away.
I had to admit that, awake or asleep, the man was bantha-stubborn.
Finally, I gave up. He wasn't going to wake up any time soon, no matter how much I might want him to and there was nothing I could do about it. So after putting a blanket over him for warmth, I let him alone. As I left, my master was stretched out on the floor, clutching his smelly clothes and noisily snoring away.
At least, he wouldn't be going anywhere and with the captain was busy piloting the ship, he'd get his rest.
Now, much as I had been avoiding it, someone had to contact the Jedi Temple and it looked like I was going to be it. Master was in no shape to tell the Council that our mission had been cut short and they needed to know the situation.
I never liked giving reports to the Jedi Council and luckily those times were few and far between. When I did, the Councilors always stared at me like I was an idiot, a child idiot at that. I'm sure that it wasn't really the case but as often as I could, I'd avoid the whole mess and let Master Qui-Gon handle it. It was better all around that way.
Not this time - this time I'd have to do it. There was no one else.
Gritting my teeth, wishing my grumpy master would wake up and do this himself, I opened up a comms channel and waited for a reply. It wasn't long.
I didn't know the Temple Communications Docent but she must have known me because she started smiling the moment she answered the comms. I'd hoped to leave a brief, very brief message with her, one she could pass on to the Council but no such luck. She kept grinning, even when I told her that I didn't need to talk to the Council, that I just wanted to report in, that Master Jinn would talk to them when we arrived, that they shouldn't believe everything they might hear otherwise.
The more I protested, the wider her smile. It didn't help that I could hear snickers in the background and a couple of oomphs as if someone or someones had put their hands over their mouths to keep from laughing out loud.
Blast, I hope that didn't mean what I think it meant - that the news had reached the Temple first.
I certainly didn't want the Council to learn about what happened from someone else, especially from rabid women or angry husbands, or worst of all, reporters. But through the static wash of the transmission, I could hear more than one person laughing. The Docent looked like she'd be breaking into giggles at any moment.
Something was up. Much as I didn't want to do it, I knew I'd better talk with one of the Masters. At least, I hoped that it would be someone sympathetic to my master's tendencies, someone like Master Gallia or even Master Yaddle - anyone but Master Windu.
Master Windu and my old master don't exactly get along. He'd always be looking down his nose at Master Qui-Gon, making calm, scathing remarks about how the Code wasn't just a guideline and would my master please follow it once in a while.
He wasn't fond of me, either. I don't think he ever forgave me for my mistakes when I was younger and a good deal more foolish. Or maybe it was guilt by association - the Master leads and so follows the Padawan or something like that. Either way, he's never really warmed to me.
More than anything, I didn't want to talk to him and have to explain this mess. If I was lucky, any of the other eleven members of the Jedi Council would be available and I wouldn't have to deal with Master Windu.
So, of course, it was him. Of course.
His dark eyes glanced around me at first, obviously looking for Master Qui-Gon but, after a few seconds, Master Windu must have realized that it was only me contacting him, the padawan and not my master. I know I was a poor second but I was trying to do my best.
I stood straight and as tall as I could, not fidgeting because I knew he hated that, hoping that I looked like the proper Jedi Padawan. I don't think I succeeded, though, because when he turned toward me, he was frowning - hard. I don't think he was in a good mood, not that I'd ever seen him in a good mood but he seemed more on edge than usual. His tone was especially sharp. "Padawan Kenobi, where is Master Jinn?"
This was not a good start. Clearing my throat, I said, "Master Windu, my master isn't well and can't be disturbed at the moment. I'm just letting the Council know that we are on route back to Coruscant from Septemus IV."
The frown got sharper but he did look concerned. Maybe he was worried about my master after all.
"How badly is he injured?"
Oh, dear. I wanted to explain everything right then and get it over with but I didn't think it would be a good idea without Master Qui-Gon here. Instead, I stumbled my way through, trying not to say too much. "He... isn't injured, Master Windu, but he might still be contagious. He will need to see the Healers when we arrive."
With every word, Master Windu's frown deepened. But I couldn't stop now, especially since it was important not to spread this contagion any further than could be helped. Force-sensitive females fighting to get to Master Qui-Gon would not be a good idea. "I think it would be better if they were only male Healers or non-humans." My courage faltered as he stared at me and I finally stuttered out, "Mmm... Master."
I swear his eyes flashed yellow for a moment. Leaning back in his chair, he glared blaster bolts at me but his voice was deadly calm. "Ah, so the holovids are true."
My heart stopped beating. If there were vids of what my master had been doing, it would be all over the Temple. Everyone would see them. Everyone would know that Master Qui-Gon had been kissing women for hours, that he'd been covered in cake and sweetcream and loving it - that he'd been singing that obscene smuggler's song in public.
Blast! Master Qui-Gon would be known as the sex-crazy, singing Master for the rest of my life. I'd never hear the end of it and no one would understand what I'd gone through. Instead, I'd be linked forever with kissing and riots and flying dessert.
I'd be Kissy-Wan Kenobi, pathetic padawan to that rogue womanizer, Get-me-some Jinn; even Oafy-wan would be better than that! I tried not to whimper.
"Hhhh... holovids? As in more than one?" I couldn't keep the horror out of my voice.
Master Windu's eyes got colder. I don't think he liked the situation and the fact that my master was at the heart of it just made it worse. "As in dozens, Padawan Kenobi. They started appearing on the Holonet shortly after you left the planet. And there have been complaints as well. Your Master has a great deal to explain to the Council."
"It wasn't his fault. Master Windu, it really wasn't."
I was babbling now. I just hoped that Master Windu wouldn't try to have Master Qui-Gon expelled. Much as I don't always like what my master does - he confuses me sometimes - he's the greatest Jedi in the Order and he didn't try to do this. It just happened.
"We shall determine that when he comes before us." With the look Master Windu gave me, I think he could have frozen Coruscant. He certainly didn't believe me. "When do you expect to arrive?"
Swallowing hard to keep from making more of a fool of myself than I'd already done, I said, "In about five hours, Master."
"The Isolation unit will meet you at the landing platform. Windu out."
The transmission static died as Master Windu clicked off but I didn't see it. Instead, I stood there, panicking, my brain in total shut-down.
I'd never make it to Knight. Master Qui-Gon would be kicked out for bringing disgrace to the Order and no one would take on the padawan of a rogue Jedi. I'd be cast off as well and we'd have to make our way in the galaxy without the backup of the Order or the friendship of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Force.
No money, no friends, no way to pay for food or shelter or anything, we'd be disgraced, poor pathetic fools living on the streets of Coruscant, begging for our supper, the example to Jedi everywhere. We'd probably even be written into the Archives as the epitome of failure.
All because of kissing.
I wish Master Qui-Gon would wake up and be in his right mind for a change. I know that he'd be able to figure out something. If only he would wake up.
I swear if we get out of this in one piece and I'm still in the Order, I swear on my honor, on everything that I am and ever will be, that I'll never kiss anyone ever again. Ever!
I don't know how long I stood there, staring at the spot where Master Windu's image had been a few minutes ago. The memory of his eyes, cold and yellowy-brown, glaring at me, filled me with dread. I don't think I was even breathing for a while, certainly not paying any attention to my surroundings.
I must have made some kind of noise because Captain Antilles came in and asked, "Padawan Kenobi, are you well? Do you need assistance?"
Shaking my head, I mumbled, "I'm.. I'm fine. I just talked with Master Windu. He told me some things that were... nothing to worry about, Captain." Much as I wanted to talk to someone about it, there was nothing she could do and it was Jedi business after all.
Looking at me with concern, she patted my shoulder a few times in comfort. "Master Windu takes his role on the Council quite seriously. Sometimes too seriously in my opinion. But he does have a good heart. He's probably just got a lot on his mind. Don't let it upset you too much."
I couldn't do anything else but nod. I don't think she understood just how bad it was that Master Windu was angry with me and Master. The man could destroy everything I'd worked for. If he had his way, I might be out on the streets tomorrow, begging for food, my braid cut, my lightsaber confiscated, little kids running after me and laughing.
I knew she was trying to make it better by defending Master Windu but she didn't know the Master like I did.
"Don't worry about the holovids, either, Padawan Kenobi. They'll be up for a while and then something else sensational will appear and the images of Master Jinn will be forgotten."
I stopped breathing again. Slumping down into the chair next to me, I gulped out, "You knew about the vids?"
Shrugging, she said, "Of course. I saw the reporters outside the Prime Minister's house and they had recording devices with them. I figured it would be showing up on the 'net even before we blasted out of there."
I remembered the reporters, their blaring lights, their embarrassing questions. They had taken holovids of Master Qui-Gon covered in cake, pushing his way through the crowds, wearing my robe.
Reliving that horrible moment, I kept seeing Master in my mind's eye. The robe had been too short on him and his arms had stuck out, too. He had looked like a trash-miner, like one of those people who dug through garbage for clothes and things to sell on the street, covered in food from head to boots.
The holocameras had recorded everything and now it was on the 'net. No wonder Master Windu was upset.
For a moment, I couldn't find my voice. I finally squeaked out, "And you didn't say anything about it."
"Why? You couldn't do anything about them and you had your hands full with that handsome Master of yours. No need to make things worse than they already were for you or for him." It was obvious that she was trying to make me feel better but I was too upset to do anything but stare back toward Master's cabin. "Don't worry. It will be over in no time."
Huffing softly, amusement in her voice, she teased, "At least they don't have vids of him sleeping on the floor, half-naked and groaning into smelly piles of clothes."
My head snapped back as I stared at her in horror. If that kind of holovid ever made it to the 'net, there would be nothing left for Master or me but to leave the Jedi and never return. Even Tatooine wouldn't be far enough away to escape the humiliation.
I must have looked like I was about to throw up all over her boots. I certainly felt that way.
Quickly, seeing how upset I was, she promised, "And they won't. They won't. My word on that, kid."
Putting my head in my hands, I sat there, trying to keep it together and failing miserably. She patted me on the shoulder again and said gently, "Padawan, if you don't mind my saying so, you look like poodoo. Go lie down and rest. I'll let you know when we get to Coruscant." When I started to protest, she shook her head. "I know Master Jinn would tell you the same thing. Go rest. If anything changes, I'll be sure to wake you, I promise."
I didn't think I'd be able to rest with everything going on in my head. But she wouldn't take no for an answer; instead she hooked one hand under my arm and pulled me up, holding on tightly when my knees started to buckle from fatigue. She was right. I was exhausted.
Walking me slowly to my bunk, she didn't say anything. I could feel her eyes on me but honestly, I was glad for the help. I didn't think I'd make it otherwise.
As I laid down, she murmured, "Rest, kid. It will be all right." Then she smiled at me, giving me one more pat on my shoulder and then walked out, closing the door behind her.
I don't even remember falling asleep.
"Not now, Master." Mumbling into the bedding, I tried to ignore the hand shaking me and the low rumble of insistence that I wake up. I had not gotten enough sleep and my brain was muzzy and I wanted just a few more hours, a few more hours. But the hand was insistent.
Giving up the idea of going back to sleep, I cracked one eye open and glared at the blurry figure. Then blinking rapidly to clear my vision, I realized that it was Master Qui-Gon.
He was standing over me, waiting, frowning thoughtfully. He'd obviously cleaned up - no cake in his hair, no smeared and smelly clothes being held tightly against his chest, no icing in his beard. He looked normal. He looked like my grouchy, solemn, stubborn Master.
Voice husky from sleep or singing or maybe kissing too many women, he insisted, "Padawan, you need to wake up. We'll be landing at the Temple in a few moments."
It sounded like such an ordinary thing, something he would say at the end of any mission. He was cool, calm, a bit gruff but stubborn, too. Waking me up just before we landed was a ritual that we had repeated more than once when returning to the Temple.
And then it hit me. He sounded like his old self! No moaning or singing those rude songs or looking at the captain with lust in his eyes. No women hovering over him and demanding kisses and other things that I'd rather not think about.
I wanted to jump for joy or hug him tight, something to show how relieved I was, but I wasn't sure how he'd react after all we'd been through so instead I just sat up and straightened my tunics. "How are you feeling, Master?"
He shot me a look of pure annoyance. "Captain Antilles asked me the same question but then refused to elaborate when I questioned her about our mission. She said that you were the one with the answers."
His arms wrapping around his chest as he went into his stern and not-very-happy-about-this Master stance, he stared down at me and frowned again, still thoughtful but edging toward real trouble.
I had to admit that I hated when I was on the receiving end of his frowns. He had had years to perfect them and I could usually tell just with a single glance how much poodoo I was in.
Master Qui-Gon could smile, too, even laugh, but those were saved for younglings or when I did something unexpectedly funny. Sometimes I went out of my way to get him to smile. But he had scowls that could make experienced Senior padawans and even some Knights scamper away in terror at times.
It wasn't quite to the hiding-under-the-bed kind of frown yet but he wasn't happy with me for some reason. "I want an answer, Padawan. Why was I covered in dessert when I woke up?"
It was a good thing I was still sitting down.
My heart stopped beating and I couldn't breath. It couldn't be that he'd forgotten. I must have heard it wrong. After all the problems we'd had with this mission, after the food fights and the endless stream of women moaning for him, after his blasted singing and those obscene gestures, after holovids and reporters and speeder chases, for him to forget about it all would just be a disaster. My mind must be playing tricks again.
Terror blocking my throat, I finally managed to get out, "Master, do you remember what happened?"
The scowl was definitely edging toward doom. His eyes narrowed and his mouth was flat - not good signs. "Answering a question with another question is not the correct response, Padawan Kenobi."
He rarely used that title when talking to me and only when he was very upset. It was usually 'Obi-Wan' or 'Padawan' or sometimes 'my Learner' but a 'Padawan Kenobi' meant that I was in big trouble.
I knew I sounded pathetic but it just came out that way. "It wasn't my fault."
"Then whose fault was it?" Master Qui-Gon's glare was nearing supernova status.
I couldn't quite keep the whimper out of my voice, "Yours, Master." And then I waited for the explosion.
"What?" He wasn't happy. I could tell by the way he stepped forward and looked at me, angry and puzzled and impatient.
I wasn't even thinking, just trying to get everything out before my courage failed. I didn't take one breath the whole time. "You ate that candy from Lady Erelia and went crazy. And so did everyone else. All kinds of women assaulting you because of the drug. Wanting kisses and other things. We got stuck in the kitchen and they started throwing food and making gestures. And you were singing that horrible song. That's why we're landing near the Healer's area. You have to go into isolation until they're sure you aren't contagious and affecting the women here."
"Slow down, Padawan." Master Qui-Gon was looking less angry and more confused with every word that came out of my mouth. "Clearly and calmly, please."
Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, I said, "Lady Erelia gave you a drug that made you irresistible to women. They started fighting each other to get to you. We escaped but not before about a hundred women were affected. Lady Erelia said that the only antidote was kissing each woman. On the mouth."
The memory of crazed females waiting to be kissed, of shoving and smacking sounds and moans when he had given them the antidote, was burned into my brain. Even a mind wipe wouldn't be able to erase those horrible images. I could only hope that Master Qui-Gon would get better and remember all this. If he didn't, I would be the one explaining it to the Council.
Master Windu would tear me into shreds. There would be nothing left but a pool of blood and a couple of teeth - maybe.
"Don't you remember any of this?" I was begging and I didn't care. I did not want to be the one giving the report to Master Windu.
At least Master Qui-Gon's frown turned back into thoughtful. "I remember the party quite well. Lady Erelia apologizing and handing me the candy. I felt no danger in her actions so I ate it. Then a feeling of euphoria came over me that only intensified with time. Women gathering around, asking me questions, demanding, grabbing onto my cloak." He turned away, looking inward, struggling to remember. "Only bits of memory after that. The sound of tearing cloth. Kissing an old woman, sliding on something, playing catch-me, and," he stopped, hesitant, questioning, "hanging from a chandelier?"
"Yes, Master. All of those things happened and more. I..."
But before I could tell him anything else, Captain Antilles stuck her head in the doorway. "We've landed. The Healers are outside, demanding to come in and take you two to the Isolation ward. They have containment suits for you both. Are you ready to go?"
Master Qui-Gon looked back to me. "Padawan, can this discussion wait until we are in the ward? We will have time there while they run tests."
I didn't want to wait. My head was so full of memories and things that I wanted to say that I felt I was about to explode. I blurted out, horror in my voice, "Master, you need to know that there's more. There were holovids."
The captain ducked back out of sight and I heard the distinctive sound of suppressed laughter, sort of a choked-oomph that echoed back into the room. I didn't see what was so funny. She didn't have to face Master Windu.
Glancing at the empty doorway and then back at me, he asked carefully, "What holovids?"
I couldn't sit still. Jumping to my feet, I started pacing, my hands curling and uncurling in anxiety. Master Qui-Gon had to remember; he just had to. "They are all over the 'net according to Master Windu. Of you and this whole mess."
He thought about that for a moment. "Have you seen them?"
"No, but Master Windu was furious. He looked like he was going to grind me up and spit me out when he mentioned them." I must have looked desperate. I certainly felt that way.
But Master Qui-Gon wasn't one to jump to conclusions, even if those conclusions included a captain who laughed at the mere mention of holovids and a padawan about to die of embarrassment. Catching me as I flew around the room, putting both hands on my shoulders to stop me, he leaned down and stared straight into my eyes.
My stoic, solemn Master. He had no idea of what he'd done but I knew he'd accept it as the will of the Force, no matter how silly or strange or insane it was. It drove me crazy sometimes how he'd be so accepting of things. It had gotten us into trouble more than a few times.
"Master Windu has had issues with some of our missions in the past but he is knowledgeable in the Force." A squeeze of my shoulder and a nod, he said clearly, "Don't center on your anxiety, Padawan. Keep your focus on the here and now where it belongs."
I tried not to roll my eyes at that. He'd said it on every planet we'd visited and if we somehow managed to survive this and not get kicked out of the Order, he'd probably say it a thousand times more. Some things never change.
"There is nothing we can do about the holovids at the moment. But we can cooperate with the Healers." He sounded so reasonable.
I knew he was right but I still wanted to erase everything from the holonet, starting with those blasted vids. Instead, I just nodded unhappily and tried to be brave. I'd need every gram of courage I could muster if I was going to face Master Windu and survive the next several hours but I didn't want to let Master Qui-Gon down.
Captain Antilles must have calmed herself because she returned, looking business-usual - no smiles, no amusement in her eyes, no little hints that she'd just been laughing about the whole mess. "Master Jinn, the Healers are becoming more insistent by the minute. What do I tell them?"
Looking down at me, he must have seen that I was as prepared as I was going to be. He nodded toward her, saying, "Thank you, Captain. We are coming."
My Master, Jedi Master, one of the finest swordsman of the Order and the most stubborn man I'd ever met. At least, this time he didn't go after Captain Antilles and try to get another kiss.
As I shuffled toward my doom, I was thankful about one thing. It looked like the singing was over.
Isolation suits are a lot like spacesuits - not easy to walk in and incredibly clumsy to use. At least in space, you can float from place to place but with gravity constantly tripping you up, it was more like being inside rusted droid armor.
The trip between the ship and Healer's ward wasn't long but I kept stumbling over my own feet. I hoped no one was watching but with my luck, they would be recording it for the holonet - Oafy-Wan all over again.
I guess I was just being sensitive at the moment. The thought of holovids and going before the Council and Master Windu was making me crazy.
I knew that the isolation suits were necessary. The Healers weren't taking any chances with contamination - not that I blame them. I wouldn't want to have to deal with a Temple full of Force-sensitive lust-filled insane females. The last group had been quite enough to last a lifetime.
I felt bad for Captain Antilles, though. They'd quarantined her ship until further notice, just in case. She'd shrugged it off, saying that she needed a vacation anyway but the Healers should have been more understanding. She couldn't help it if she was flying Master Qui-Gon around. She didn't ask to have rabid women in her ship. It wasn't really fair. I just hoped it wouldn't be too long.
But there was nothing I could do for her except wish her well.
It took forever but we finally made it to the isolation ward and could take off those dratted suits. I only tripped eight or nine times. Of course, Master Qui-Gon just strode through without a single mishap.
The ward was thankfully empty. I knew that we'd have to be checked out but I began to get a funny feeling that all was not well. Beings of all types kept going past our room; I could see them clearly through the glass and I could hear muffled laughter, too. The word must have spread. Blast!
My master just sat there on the cot, serene as ever, as a couple of apprentice Healers poked and prodded both of us. Meanwhile, Master Healer Tsen'tai kept asking all kinds of questions - onset of the problem, intensity of exposure, how much of the drug had been ingested, how long it lasted, that sort of thing. I was hesitant to answer while there were others in the room. He must have sensed something was amiss because I kept looking past him, trying to see if anyone else was listening.
He finally got the idea and shoved the others out of the room and opaqued the hall window, just in case. "Padawan Kenobi, we now have privacy. I need answers if I'm going to be able to clear Master Jinn for duty."
Nodding, I said slowly, "Master Tsen'tai, it was several hours before Master Qui-Gon was back to normal. We were told by Lady Erelia that he was given a high level of the drug and that the effects were supposed to last a couple of days."
"This drug is an attractant?" The Healer was all business but it didn't help. I was so flustered to be talking about all we'd been through that I could hardly speak above a whisper.
"Yes, Master and it also causes euphoria and... " I hesitated, blushing furiously as I glanced at my master and back toward the Healer, "a drive to please the women that came after him. He really... "I looked away, gulping my anxiety and forcing out the words, "liked it. A lot. Especially the kissing part. He was making all kinds of noises when he was doing it."
My face got hotter. "I had to stop him a couple of times from doing other things, touching the women and... just other things."
Looking down at my feet, trying to avoid Master Qui-Gon's eyes, I could feel furnace-heat embarrassment on my skin. I must have been brilliant red, maybe all over and not just my face.
While I knew that I had to do the right thing and explain what had happened, my thoughts were scurrying around like fire beetles. I desperately wanted to hide on some obscure little planet where no one could find me and make me think about kissing ever again - or at least until I was as old as Master Qui-Gon.
At least Master Tsen'tai didn't burst out laughing. "It sounds like one of the new KSeds sweeping through the lower levels. A feeling of joy in the victim, lucid but unable to remember afterwards. Those under the attractant's pheromones are eager to get close to the one given the drug. And there is usually a counterbalance of antibodies in the blood and breath."
He sounded as if he knew what he was talking about. I just hope that it didn't last forever or that there wouldn't be any relapses. I don't think I could take going through that again.
He turned to my master. "I was surprised that you could not neutralize it earlier, Master Jinn, when I first heard about the problem. But from what Padawan Kenobi said, that you were able to do so and quickly considering the possible dose is to your credit."
Looking at his datapad, Master Tsen'tai nodded thoughtfully, "I have to wait on a couple of tests but Padawan Kenobi is free to go. His blood work showed no contamination. I'll be back with the final results for Master Jinn as soon as I can."
When the Master Healer left, Qui-Gon said, "Why don't you go to the dining hall and get something to eat? This may take some time."
Staring at my boots again, unable to look my master in the eyes, I murmured, "Master, I didn't tell Master Tsen'tai everything. I didn't want to get you into trouble."
Exasperated, Master Qui-Gon let out a long annoyed sigh. "Obi-Wan, he needs to know as much as possible to counteract this drug. What did you leave out?"
I glared at the wall, my face suncore-hot, "You liked it. The kissing, I mean. You liked it a lot, more than even Master Tsen'tai realizes."
To my master's credit, he didn't laugh although I thought he might be holding it in for my sake. Instead, he said gently, "Of course, I liked it. I happen to like women kissing me." He leaned forward, one hand on my shoulder, squeezing sympathetically, "And I like other things as well, things you might not be ready to hear about. I am a man, after all."
"But Master, the Code forbids..." I couldn't go on.
Master Qui-Gon smiled down at me, gentle and understanding, "The Code forbids attachment but the Order does not force celibacy on its members. Obi-Wan, we've discussed this before. But I can see that you aren't ready to understand all the implications yet. You will be soon enough."
I thought I would burst into flames with embarrassment. I didn't want to understand that kind of thing, not now, not ever! But I couldn't tell him that. "Yes, Master."
He seemed to want to say something else but instead, gave my shoulder a little shake and then let go. "Was there anything else you forgot to tell Master Tsen'tai?"
My eyes must have widened and I know I was biting my lip to keep from admitting the rest. He straightened up at that, his scowl reappearing, and he looked stern. One eyebrow raised in question and I knew I had to answer. "Ummmm, there was one other symptom but I don't think it was really important for a cure."
"Everything is important. What was it, Padawan?" He stood up, towering over me, his arms crossing his chest in strict Master mode.
I really didn't want to tell him. I wasn't sure if he'd find it amusing or horrifying but he had to know. It might be that the holovids showed what he'd done and Master Windu and the Council would not be pleased in any case. "You... ummmm... sang, Master."
Blinking confusion, it was clear that was not what Master Qui-Gon had expected. "Sang? How odd." He stepped back, frowning thoughtfully, and asked, "As in songs?"
"Yes, Master. One in particular." Watching his face as he waited patiently for me to continue, I hesitated a long moment, a very long moment. I knew he'd be unhappy. I knew I wanted to disappear.
My heart pounding, my whole body breaking in a cold sweat, I stammered out, "The... the Smuggler's Ode to Life."
"The Smuggler's..." He seemed to have stopped breathing and I'd never seen such a stricken look on his face. Dismay and shock and disbelief mixed with confusion; his eyes were cloudy with alarm and his body curled in a bit. As he sat back down on the cot, he muttered, "Ah, that's not good."
That was an understatement. For a Jedi and a Master at that to be singing those kinds of songs did not look good for the Order. I could just imagine how Master Windu would react when he found out - unless he'd already found out. That would certainly explain the yellow in his eyes and the look of disgust.
"How much did they hear? A stanza or two, a few bars of melody?" His hands clutched the edge of the cot and he was looking ill. He stammered out, "Please... please tell me I didn't do the gestures."
He looked pale and turned paler when I said, "Yes, Master, the gestures, too. And all thirty-four stanzas."
Rubbing his forehead with one hand, Master Qui-Gon hesitated, "Did I... sing where others could hear me?"
"Yes, Master. But not all of the song at one time. Just a few people heard bits and pieces of it and saw some of the gestures. I'm the only one who..." I tried to smile at him, hoping to make it sound better than it was but I knew it would never be good. I cleared my throat, trying to gain a few moments before I had to go on but my voice squeaked with every word, "I think I should mention that the Prime Minister's mother was singing the same song after you kissed her."
I could hear him breathing deliberately in and out in measured time. It was one of the Jedi calming techniques he'd taught me early in my training. It took quite a while but finally the color came back into his face. He sounded resigned as he said, "Master Windu will not be pleased."
Shrugging, I could only say, "No, Master."
"Well, there is nothing to be done. We cannot undo the past, only stay in the present." Still frowning thoughtfully, he nodded toward the door. "Go get something to eat, Padawan, and then do us both a favor and look up those infamous holovids. We need to know what they show. I'll make sure you are called when I'm released."
As I left, I could see him staring down, scowling at his boots. Apparently, when he'd cleaned up, he hadn't had time for everything and there was still mashed cake and sweetcream in amongst the buckles.
My poor Master. When all is said and done, that beyond my fears of expulsion or of people laughing at us and calling us ridiculous names, I just hoped that Master Qui-Gon would remain as respected a Jedi Master as he had been before this horrible mission.
Sure he will - respected, admired, used as a shining example of what a Jedi should be. And if I believed that, then I also believed that banthas could fly.
Although Master Qui-Gon had told me to go eat, I wasn't sure I could. The thought of standing in front of the Council and telling them everything was making me nauseous. My stomach was in knots and I could hardly breath for the anxiety.
I knew what he would say - that growing teenage boys needed sustenance on a regular basis and that I should snatch what food I can when I can. But we were home now and putting off eating until a quieter time might be a better idea than braving the dining hall. There would be people there and questions, lots of questions.
To wait was the coward's way out and I knew it but I did not, really did not want to face them - my friends, my foes, all those who would want to know the gory details.
Fighting draigons and Togorian pirates was a thousand times easier than that.
But Master Qui-Gon wouldn't have let a little thing like fear stop him and neither should I. I should go, look everyone in the eye, sit down right in the center of the place and dare them all to do their worst.
Sure I should.
On the other hand, there was a small side entrance little used and an alcove nearly hidden from the rest of the dining area, one with lots of privacy. That might be better. That way I could avoid the questions. After all, I had a mission to look over the holovids and report back to Master Qui-Gon. Answering my friends might take too much time.
Even better would be to snatch some food and go eat it in my quarters while I looked through the holonet. I ignored the little voice in my head that kept saying coward, coward.
I'd deal with my friends and their questions later: when I was calmer, when I had learned to accept the whole embarrassing mess as something every Jedi goes through, when I was much, much older - maybe as old as Master Qui-Gon or even Master Yoda.
It sounded like a plan.
Slipping into the dining hall, I looked around. Off to my left, quite a distance away, was one of my tormentors from previous years, Aalto, and some of his followers. But they weren't looking in my direction. In fact, no one was paying any attention to me at all. Breathing a sigh of relief, I hovered near the edge of the food line, quickly snatching up a couple of muja muffins and some juice, shoving it into a small carryall, and I turned around, hoping to leave before disaster struck.
And then it struck.
I should have known better. Nothing was ever easy with my master and this was harder than most.
A sneering voice echoed across the hall, the words loud and clear. "Is it true that your Master had sex with a thousand women?"
The silence that followed was deafening. Everyone, padawans and a few of the younger knights, even the docents handling the food, turned toward the loudmouthed idiot and then twisted around to look in my direction. I heard a distant snicker, then another as people began to recognize me.
Blast! It was Aalto, quickly coming my way, his little friends clustering behind him like felis-toads. I recognized Slern'ta and Rechne and the bully of the group, the one who had spoken, Kenth Ts'ean.
My face growing hot with embarrassment and not a little anger, I turned away, shaking my head, hoping to escape before more stupid questions were shouted out - but no such luck.
One of the younger padawans, a girl I didn't know, blocked my escape, asking, "Is Master Jinn going to get kicked out of the Order?" I don't think she was trying to embarrass me but gossip of this magnitude doesn't come to the Temple every day.
I didn't have time to be polite. Brushing past her, I said curtly, "No, he's not."
But now the escape route was now choked with other beings, all of them trying to find out what was going on with one of the most notorious rebels in the Order. The air was peppered with questions.
"Who's going to be your new Master?" A Zabrek boy wanted to know and his companion, a Twi'lek girl nodded. "Yes, who is going to be?"
One of the older padawans snickered, "I bet it's Master Windu. I heard he's furious with Master Jinn."
Several beings nodded and there was the sound of giggling. But before anyone else close could ask, Aalto's partner in stupidity, Rechne, yelled out over the crowd, "Does Gonna-Get-em Jinn ever think about anything but sex?"
There were one or two objections at the lack of respect for a Jedi Master but most just laughed at the question. One of the older padawans from my Galactic xenobiology class said eagerly, "Did he teach you any tricks on getting women?"
Ignoring them all, I started to push through, trying to get out before I said or did something I'd regret. My face was flaming hot and I was shaking with humiliation.
"Your master must really like cake since he was covered in it." With grand gestures and loud slurping noises, Aalto's follower, Slern'ta, started to lick at a couple of his fingers as if enjoying a phantom dessert.
There were more snickers and someone else said, "The speeder bike chase was great. Did they ever catch you?"
Shaking my head, I forced my way through the crowd, looking for the exit. The questions followed me. "What was your master singing? I couldn't hear the words but some of the gestures looked familiar."
Kenth grabbed at my tunic, bunching the cloth in his hand, holding me there. A few people stood back, watching to see what he would do. "I heard that your Master's going to be a father. Doesn't he know about the Code?"
I couldn't take any more. I wrenched away from him and spat out, "Don't be ridiculous. You have no right to speak about Master Jinn that way."
Unfortunately, that last question caused enough of a delay that Aalto had time to reach me. Squaring off, surrounded by his friends and hangers-on, my tormenter of many years stood there for a moment and then sneered, "What's the matter, Oafy-Wan or should I say..." As he paused, with a dramatic flourish, he put his hand up to his forehead as if fainting and rolled his eyes, pretending to be one of those silly girls that sometime followed the padawans around outside the Temple. "Oh... oh... Obi-Wan." His high-pitched fake girl's voice carried around the hall.
Laughter swept the room. Then there were snatches of 'Sexy-whoa' and 'Kiss-me-not Kenobi' and 'Oh-wanna-girl' and Aalto's parasites chanting 'Oh-Oh-Obi-Wan.'
"That's enough." At first, I couldn't get the words out but I forced them past the lump of embarrassment in my throat, roaring, "That's enough!"
The padawans around me quieted down, apparently astonished that I would even protest at the humiliation. As I kept shouting at them, pitching my voice loud enough so that the entire hall could hear, I twisted around, looking at each and every one of the beings surrounding me. "Is this how Jedi are supposed to act? Like Tuk'ata beasts waiting for the kill?"
The room fell abruptly silent. Jerking my tunic straight, tilting my chin up in defiance, I spat out, "Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do."
There were no more questions.
The tears were lurking just behind my eyes and I kept blinking them away. I refused to cry over the ravings of those felis-toad spawn. Rsshak fools.
I don't remember returning to my room and I must have sat there for a long time, just staring at the blank datapad screen. The adrenalin had worn off and all I felt was humiliation - and hunger. In my haste, I'd left the food behind but I wasn't about to return and get it. I'd just wait until I was starving to death or maybe longer.
But it was mostly humiliation.
Someone was at the door, pounding on it, demanding to be let in. Ignoring the sound, I sat back back, looking at the datapad screen and trying to gather enough strength to turn it on. I didn't want to talk to anyone right now. My brain was still full of memories of eager faces wanting to hear about the disaster of Septemus IV. I don't think I could handle one more gossip-hungry being at the moment.
I guess Garen didn't consider that the door was closed for a reason or that I might want to be alone. "Obs, I heard what happened in the dining hall."
He was one of my best friends and usually I enjoyed his antics. Brash and funny and sometimes outrageous, he could always get me to smile even in the darkest times. But not this time. This time was different.
I shrugged, not looking at him. I figured it I kept staring at the datapad, he'd go away. "It was about what I expected."
"Are you all right?" I could hear the concern in his voice but I didn't dare look at him so I just shook my head. Ignoring Garen, I reached out to the 'pad's controls, turning it on and began to scroll through the selections, looking for the infamous holovids.
As I searched through the holonet, a part of me, the humiliated part, wondered if there would be a holosite entitled Stupid Padawans and Crazy Masters and, if there was, would there be anyone else listed there but me and Master Qui-Gon?
Self-pity wasn't one of my better qualities.
But persistent Garen wasn't taking silence as an answer. He leaned over and said, "Is it true? Are you going to need a new Master?"
Sighing loudly, I turned around and scowled at him. "No, I'm not. I just wish people would stop asking me that." Then I twisted back and tried again to find the dratted holovids. I felt bad about what I'd said to him but I wasn't in the mood to be diplomatic. I just wanted to get the whole thing over with.
The idea of the Council and Master Windu was making me crazy and I was beginning to worry about what Master Yoda would do. He had a strange sense of humor at times. If he was involved in deciding the punishment for me and Master Qui-Gon, it might even be worse than what Master Windu would choose. Master Yoda could be really inventive at times. But I couldn't think about that now. I had enough to worry about.
Still scrolling, muttering under my breath at the time it was taking, I was finally able to pull up one of the ''vids.
It was a disaster.
The holovid must have been made by someone with security clearance and working for the Prime Minister. The women were lined up on one of the rooms we'd used to deliver the antidote. Making rude remarks and jostling for position as my master bent down to kiss them, they were clearly enjoying the physical side of Master Qui-Gon.
I could see everything - Master's hair matted with sweetcream, cake and blue juice spattered across his tunics, the women clinging to him, making groaning noises and trying to fondle him in full view of the holocams.
What was worse was that he was obviously enjoying the attention, giving back as good as he got. In between, he was humming that dratted song - softly but I could hear him. The Smuggler's Ode.
I tried to turn it off, fumbling for the controls but before I could, my own face appeared on the screen, captured by the holocam, looking like a horrified little fool. Master and Padawan, immortalized on the 'net.
Punching all the buttons at once, I managed to turn the dratted thing off. For a moment, there was silence. I couldn't breathe anyway. I'm sure I looked like some kind of fish out of water, gasping for air. My face was furnace-hot.
Garen cleared his throat, and, putting one hand on my shoulder, said softly, "Obs, that wasn't the worst one, either."
Frowning up at him, I insisted, "It wasn't Master Qui-Gon's fault."
I could see the pity in his eyes and the questions. "He looked like he was kissing hundreds of women and enjoying it a lot."
"Garen Muln, are you asking me if it's true or are you just trying to get details?"
My embarrassment was turning into anger. My best friend should have been more understanding or else try to turn it into a joke between us, a situation we could both laugh about. Garen was good at that. But instead he was asking the same questions as everyone else. He was acting like I was as tainted as everyone was saying I was or maybe that I was some kind of freakish moron to have such a sex-crazy womanizer for a Master. Either way, I wasn't going to take it much longer.
"Look, Obs, you need to know what people are saying."
He sounded upset but I was tired of being the target of everyone's laughter. The memory of Oh-oh-Obi-Wan was still ringing in my head.
"I know what people are saying." I pushed my chair back and stood up. Folding my arms around my chest, I glared blaster bolts at him. "Fine, if you want details... he kissed half the population of the planet and when he ran out of women, he went after the marine life. He tried to kiss the flying reptiles but he couldn't reach them so he started on the speeder bikes and the shuttles and that was only the first day. The droids gave him a problem and they finally out-ran him but he really got tight with a couple of navcomputers that he met on the way home. Now, we are being followed around by love-sick ships and we all know those kind of relationships are doomed." Poking my chin out, I said angrily, "Are you happy?"
"Hey, no need to get like that. I was only trying to help." His indignation was beginning to match my own.
"Master Qui-Gon said that I could depend on my friends to understand. I guess he was wrong."
Standing back, hands on hips, Garen matched me glare for glare. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are being an idiot. He wasn't wrong. I just thought that if you talked about it, it might make it better. Maybe I should have sent Bant here instead. You wouldn't be acting this way with her."
He was right. And it wasn't as if he'd really said or done anything that I could be angry about. He was just being his normal, blunt self.
Sinking back down into my chair, scrubbing my face with one hand, I looked away. I didn't know what was wrong with me - or maybe I did.
The thought of the impending disaster of a Council meeting, that saber over my head, was making me crazy and I was taking it out on one of my friends. Bad move, Kenobi. I needed all the friends I could get at this point and Garen was a steadfast, true one. He was really only trying to help.
Hoping to make amends, I gave him a half-smile. "Gar, she's gossip master for half the Temple. She's the last one I'd talk to about this."
He must have recognized that I was upset, not with him but with the circumstances. Nodding toward the blank datapad screen, he said, "You mean the 'vids?"
Shaking my head, I glanced up at him and then turned away, ashamed. Looking down at my hands, still embarrassed by everything, I picked away at the remnants of sweetcream caught in my knuckles. I hadn't realized until now but there was a bright smear of some red stuff on one sleeve and ground-in cake, too - a vivid reminder of what my master and I had been through the last day or so.
Just what I needed - to look like I'd tumbled in dessert when I went before Master Windu and the other Jedi. That would make such a bad impression on them all but I really didn't have time to change. I expected to hear from Master Qui-Gon at any moment.
Unhappy, I shrugged, knowing that Garen deserved a reason for me acting this way at least. "No, I don't know. It's not the 'vids so much although it does look bad but mostly it's going in front of the Council, trying to explain it..."
"Why can't Master Jinn do that? He's the master after all." Garen sounded almost indignant.
I breathed out my anxiety. My friend would keep the secret safe and I needed to talk to someone about it. Besides, Master Qui-Gon often said that a burden shared was a burden halved and this was eating me alive. "Gar, he doesn't remember any of it."
Looking as stunned as I felt, Garen stood there, his mouth open in astonishment. Finally, he shook himself free of whatever he was thinking and said, "He doesn't remember? Obs, that's bad." He leaned over again and started pulling data from the 'pad. "I know where to find the 'vid you'll need to see then. It's the worst and it's long, too. Lots of close-ups and sound. There's several takes of you in it, too."
"Wonderful," I groaned, not feeling wonderful about it at all. As I let Garen pull up and then reject dozens of holovids in an attempt to show me the one he was talking about, I sighed, "Yes, I know it's bad. I've been trying to see if..."
My comlink chimed, interrupting the point I was trying to make. It didn't matter anyway. Master Qui-Gon was calling and he sounded unhappy. "Padawan, sorry for the short notice but we are required to attend the Council meeting at 1300 today. Acknowledge."
"Acknowledged, Master. I'll meet you there." Turning it off, my heart was suddenly in my throat when I realized how little time I had. Breathless with worry, I stammered, "Garen, I... I've got to go. Council chambers in 15 minutes. I'll have to run."
Behind him, the screen was loading up the 'vid he'd been looking for - too late for me to watch. Garen said warmly, "Good luck, Obs."
I was half out of the room already but as the door closed behind me, I could hear the sound of Master Qui-Gon singing, his voice loud and clear and distinctive. The song, of course, was the Smuggler's Ode to Life.
I was doomed.
As fast as I could, I raced down polished hallways, short-cutted through dusty, little-used corridors, and, growing more anxious by the moment, pushed through knots of Jedi waiting patiently for the turbolifts. Shoving my way forward, I jumped into the next available one, well ahead of several masters. I did send them hurried apologies as the lift doors closed but I don't think they were happy with me.
Dirt-streaked and sweaty, I was breathing hard by the time I reached the Council chambers. But for all my struggles to arrive on time, I was still one and three-quarter minutes late. The Masters, every single one of them, turned to stare at me when I was ushered in.
Not a good start to the meeting.
Standing in the middle of the room, Master Qui-Gon seemed stern as always. He glanced at me as I rushed to his side. I could tell he was irritated by the way his mouth was pressed thin and the pinched look around his eyes. I just didn't know if it was me he was upset with or the Council - likely both.
Trying to compose myself, jerking my tunic straight with one quick tug, I bowed to the Council and stood up, waiting for reprimands. It was never good to be late to a Council meeting and although I hoped that they wouldn't notice my appearance, they probably did and blamed my master for it. I hadn't wanted to make things worse for him by showing up scruffy like that but it wasn't my fault this time.
"Glad you could join us, Padawan Kenobi." Master Windu shot me a look that could have turned most of Coruscant into arctic wasteland and then twisted away, ignoring me. "As I was saying, I would like to thank Master Gallia for volunteering to be the test case to determine if Master Jinn was still contagious. She placed herself into a potentially embarrassing situation in order to help protect the Temple from further mishap."
There was a murmur of approval and then Master Windu turned back toward my master and scowled at him. Several of the other Councilors followed suit, glaring at us both although there were one or two that seemed calmer about the whole mess than the rest. But no one was exactly pleased to see us.
Even Master Yoda was upset. He kept playing with his gimer stick and sending little glances our way. Although his ears were pointed downward - a sure sign that we were in trouble - at least he wasn't glaring at Master Qui-Gon yet. How long that would last was anyone's guess.
Master Gallia was the only one not looking at us like we were scum, and felis-toad scum at that. Instead, she was gazing at Master Qui-Gon with that same funny expression on her face that I'd seen on a hundred women not so long ago, almost as if she were hungry and he was dessert.
It could not be happening again, not here, not at the Temple.
The same expression - she was wearing the same expression as all those other women. It couldn't be, could it? My heart started to pound and I thought I'd be sick. Panic was setting in, overwhelming panic.
I couldn't believe that the Healer would let her or Master Qui-Gon out if she was under the drug's spell - unless he was still contagious and she didn't tell anyone and they'd all assumed he was cured.
Maybe he should just give her the antidote and get it over with. Maybe that's why she kept staring at him because she hadn't gotten that dratted kiss and she was having those feelings, like all the other women we'd encountered on Septemus IV. Maybe she was just hiding it better because she was a Jedi.
Master Qui-Gon being chased by crazy women, even Force-sensitive crazy women, was not something I wanted to go through again. Once in a lifetime was enough. I just hoped I was wrong.
Then she turned away and her face cleared, smoothing out into Jedi calm.
I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding.
I was wrong - thankfully. If she had been affected, she'd have been after him by now. It must have been my imagination or maybe it was because she just always looked that way when she was staring at my master.
With that thought, my horrified brain started to go into hyperdrive again. If she had always looked at him that way, did that mean that they knew each other, more than as fellow Jedi? Master had said that he wasn't celibate, that I'd understand some day. If that were true, what kind of understanding did he mean, that I'd find out he'd been not-celibate with someone at the Temple? That maybe he and Master Gallia... Together?
No, no, no!
I didn't want to know if my master was not-celibate or who he was not-celibate with. It was just too awful to contemplate. How could I ever face his female friends again and not wonder? How could I face any woman in the Temple and not wonder? Or the galaxy?
I was doomed. I'd never be able to look at a female again. Ever!
There must have been horror in my face or maybe he felt it in the Force. Master Qui-Gon cleared his throat, putting his hand on my shoulder and giving it a little squeeze for a moment before turning back to the masters. He said softly, "My apprentice and I are grateful for her help."
Those few words and the look on his face as he said them were enough to break the spell. With a simple gesture, he was able to let me know that he needed me, that I would have to help him with this whole mess, that I had to be calm. For his sake, I would have to do all that and more.
Looking up at him, sending him a timid smile, I promised myself that I wouldn't embarrass him again in front of the Council. He had enough problems without a panicking padawan messing everything up.
"I'm sure you are." Master Windu's voice was hard and flat. "Luckily, according to Master Healer Tsen'tai, Master Jinn has now completely recovered from his affliction."
There were several pairs of eyes staring at my master and I'm sure he was aware of the hostility. It had never upset him before; in fact, sometimes I swore that he liked irritating the Council, almost invited it at times - much to my dismay.
But this time he just stood there, solemn and immovable, looking at the the Councilor and saying nothing for a long, long time. Eventually, he said, "The urges have faded, Master."
It would appear that Master Qui-Gon's reply had taken a little too long. Master Windu was glaring vibroshivs at him. "Your urges have gotten you into trouble before, Master Jinn, but this time you've gone too far."
"I follow the will of the Force."
That was probably the worst thing he could have said. There were no masterly eye rolls that I could see, no loud snickers either among the Councilors; padawans might have but Council members would not do such things, at least not during the meetings.
Never mind that he always says that. As far as I knew, he'd probably be saying those words until he joined the Force or even beyond.
Master Windu was furious, though. I didn't know that he could turn purple, but apparently he could. There was also a vein in his head that began to stand out and his eyes were turning that browny-yellow color again. This was not good.
"Are you saying that your kissing and fondling of women is the will of the Force?"
Master Windu's voice was cold enough to freeze not just all of Coruscant but some of its moons as well. He must have been really mad because he was pausing between every word, too. I'd never seen him this upset before.
If Master Windu's eyes were turning colors, my master's were getting hard as ice. He usually knew when to stop but he wasn't being rational at the moment. At least he wasn't humming that dreadful song. "Master Healer Tsen'tai has indicated that... "
"Do you think you could get away with this?" Master Windu interrupted, impatient and furious.
As Master Qui-Gon opened his mouth to reply, with a loud hurrmph, Master Yoda jabbed at the floor beneath his feet with his gimer stick. The whack of wood on tile sounded like a blaster going off. It stopped everyone talking, even my master. "Arguments we need not. Master Jinn will report on the mission to Septemus IV."
Master Windu shot Yoda a fierce glare, clearly unhappy with the warning, but he sat back, pushing his fingers together and nodded reluctantly. "Proceed."
With a slight bow and a long deep breath, Master Qui-Gon began at the beginning, going over the implications of the treaty and what steps he'd taken to insure its approval. His accounts were usually short but thorough on the important points. I knew that later he'd write up a more comprehensive report when we returned to our quarters - if we returned to our quarters. At the moment, I wasn't sure we'd still be in the Order when this was done, not if Master Windu had anything to say about it.
"After Lady Erelia gave me the drugged sweet, I remember little else. Chases, a kiss or two, climbing a chandelier to escape the mob. Until I woke up on Captain Antilles's ship and my padawan explained to me something of what had happened, I had no knowledge that anything might be amiss - other than my dirty clothes and the memory gaps."
"Remember you do not?" Master Yoda was surprised. He wasn't the only one. I could see that several of the masters were unhappy with this news. "Disturbing this is."
"Master Healer Tsen'tai said that it is a side-effect of the drug in question when high levels are ingested. There have been several incidents on Septemus IV apparently in the last few months." My master frowned thoughtfully, "He indicated that it may warrant further investigation."
"You will not be investigating these incidents." Master Windu was still upset, angry and annoyed and exasperated. He was glaring at my master again, "You've caused quite enough of a problem for the Order already whether you remember what you have done or not."
'What you have done.' Master Windu's words echoed in my head and they felt wrong somehow. It sounded as if he thought Master Qui-Gon had done it on purpose. But that couldn't be, could it? They wouldn't think that, would they? Did Master Windu and the rest really think that he'd deliberately take some drug that would make the Jedi look stupid, even insane? That he would make women chase him around and try to kiss him and do other things? On purpose? Even my master wasn't that crazy.
Master Qui-Gon must have heard the same accusation in the Councilor's voice that I did. Pulling himself up straight, his eyes boring into Master Windu, he said distinctly, "While I do not remember much of the time after Lady Erelia gave me the drug, I can say, without hesitation, that I do remember everything up to that point." He paused, looking stern and steadfast as he gazed at the Council members, "I did not ask to be drugged. I was tricked into it."
I wanted to shout at them all that it was the truth, that my master didn't do it on purpose. But I didn't think the Jedi masters would be too pleased with a sweaty, dirt-caked padawan interrupting without permission, especially in the middle of a Council meeting, so I kept quiet. I did smile at Master Qui-Gon though, just in case.
Unfortunately, Master's answer wasn't enough to placate Master Windu. The purple color had returned to his face and the big vein in his head seemed to be pulsing. I just hoped that he wouldn't have an attack of some kind. He looked like he was about to explode. "I find that hard to believe. Are you saying that the Force did not warn you of this?"
"Unfortunately, there was no warning." Master Qui-Gon shook his head. "I have to accept that the Force wanted me to experience this for some reason, perhaps to show that it isn't the benign drug that the people on Septemus IV think it is." Folding his arms across his chest, he said thoughtfully, "If it can affect a Jedi master, how will it affect others with no link to the Force? It needs to be investigated."
It was clear that Master Windu didn't want to hear about any such thing but before he could turn an even darker shade of purple, Master Yoda said, "Studied it will be but not by you, Qui-Gon Jinn."
"That is acceptable, Master." Bowing his head in agreement, he reminded them, "I know that my actions may have created a dilemma for this Council and the Jedi Order but it was unintentional."
"A master of understatement, you are." Master Yoda's ears drooped down and he looked positively green - well greener than usual. I guess even he was not happy with Master Qui-Gon.
There were several murmurs around the room and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see one or two masters glaring at us. Some were whispering in hurried tones. Master Windu was glowing purple at this point and his eyes were yellower than ever.
But before Master Windu could say anything else, with one small hand raised as if to placate the other Council members, Master Gallia spoke up, "Master Jinn, it pains me to inform you that your actions have been captured on holovid and spread over the holonet to a very large audience. The Senate has called for censure and some have asked for your expulsion from the Jedi Order for such actions."
Expulsion! I knew it. We were doomed.
We'd be begging on the streets by nightfall. I'd be left to find odd jobs and my master would be working as an enforcer in those nightclubs downbelow or maybe doing garbage pickup - although that might be better because we could fix things that get tossed away and make some money that way. But we'd always be dirty and hungry and maybe even laughed at when Jedi, real Jedi, passed us by.
Panicking again, I almost missed what Master Gallia said next. "The Chancellor has organized a committee to investigate this. We are trying to diffuse the situation but it will be difficult to do so without further information."
How my master could stand there, so cool and calm and masterly, knowing that we'd be living on the streets in a few hours, was beyond me. He didn't seem worried at all. "As I said, Master Gallia, I do not remember. I have not reviewed these holovids. Unfortunately, my padawan has not had time to brief me on them nor have we been able to discuss the events of Septemus IV in depth." He was frowning again, thoughtfully this time. "I am at a loss in this matter."
"Very well." With a low, unhappy hummph, Master Windu turned his death glare toward me. "Padawan Kenobi, give us your report on the Septemus IV debacle, starting from the moment Master Jinn ate the drugged food. Leave out nothing. I want every event described in detail, especially your master's actions."
It was as if the heat of the Coruscanti sun was suddenly beating down on my head; I was drenched in sweat and I felt sick, throwing-up-all-over-my-boots kind of sick. They were staring at me - all the Masters of the Jedi Council, the wisest of the wise, the ones who decided how the Order would be run, the beings who determined who would succeed and who would fail in their quest to be Jedi Knights.
They were all waiting... for me.
"I... I... " Stammering like a fool, I looked around the room, trying to avoid everyone's eyes or feeler-stalks or whatever appendage they were using to stare at me. I didn't know what to do or what to say. If I said the wrong thing, Master Qui-Gon would be kicked out of the Order. I couldn't have that guilt on my head.
Master Gallia said softly, "Padawan, take your time. A deep breath and let it out and then begin at the beginning. We will wait."
I did as she said, trying to even out my breathing and slow my heart rate down from hyperspeed to something approximately five times normal. But I still felt sick and worried and guilty. I knew I'd say the wrong thing, I just knew it.
"Master Qui-Gon... ummm Master Jinn didn't do it on purpose. Lady Erelia was hanging onto him all the time, everywhere we went." I tried to smile but it turned into a queasy kind of grimace. "It happens a lot when we are on missions but my master has always been able to turn the females away with no hard feelings."
"So Master Jinn always has women hanging around him on missions?" Master Windu said sharply.
Blast! Not ten seconds and I've already made things worse. "Ummmm, yes Master, but here at the Temple too, not just missions."
A couple of the Councilors were glaring at Master Qui-Gon after I'd said that although I couldn't figure out how they didn't know. It was kind of obvious. Just following him around for a day or so would have been enough to see the pattern.
I stumbled on, hoping to make amends. "But it's the same when you go with us on missions, too, Master Windu. Sometimes you have more women around you than he does."
There were a few choked-off sounds in the room, almost as if some of them were about to laugh and thought better of it. Master Gallia was trying hard not to smile. I gulped, my face hot with embarrassment as I glanced toward Qui-Gon. "It's the truth, Master."
"Never apologize for the truth, Padawan," he murmured. "But please explain what happened next."
"I didn't feel any danger, either so I didn't even think about what was going on, just kept looking around for assassination type danger, bombs, that sort of thing. Not the kind of danger that a piece of candy could cause." I looked down at my boots and murmured, "I'm really sorry, Master. I should have been more aware. I just didn't think it could get that bad so quickly."
"Obi-Wan, it wasn't your fault." Master Qui-Gon's voice was gentle but my shame was still there.
I didn't want to think about how much I'd let him down. "After Master ate the candy, the crowds got really deep and they started pushing. It was all we could do to get away. That's where the chandelier came in. It got Master Qui-Gon out of the crowd and then we ran as fast as we could. We took speeder bikes and got back to the ship." I gulped again. "That's when we found out that there were only two antidotes, waiting it out or... or..."
I couldn't say it, I just couldn't.
My face was flaming hot so I just nodded when Master Gallia said, "I assume the antidote is kissing the woman affected."
"Yes, Master. Captain Antilles and I lined them up and Master Qui-Gon started giving them the antidote. They were really happy during and afterwards, too. I didn't know females could look so... satisfied." I couldn't stand having all Council members staring at me so I just looked off into the distance, avoiding their eyes. I felt sick again. I didn't know how much more I could take.
Forcing myself to finish, I swallowed again and stuttered, "We... we went back to the Prime Minister's home and Master finished giving the... the antidote to the women there and then we left for home."
When I didn't say anything else, Master Windu snapped, "You are missing a few details such as mashed cake and sweetcream smeared all over your Master and why he was wearing your cloak and you haven't discussed the reporters and, oh yes, a certain song."
Blast! They wanted to hear about the song. Glancing back at my master, I was furnace hot and drenched in sweat again. I know I should have the courage to talk about that dratted song but I didn't know if I could. I'd rather be battling pirates or rescuing the helpless or risking my life for the Republic. Talking about this was ten times, a hundred times worse than fighting off bad guys.
Hoping to get out of talking about this any more in front of the whole Council, I squeaked, "I could write it all down... later?"
"Padawan Kenobi, this is unacceptable. You've had no problems discussing other missions when Master Jinn was ill. What is so different now?" Master Windu was frowning hard and I could see he was really upset. I just hoped he wouldn't turn purple again. "What are you trying to hide? What is so terrible that you can't tell the Jedi Council?"
I felt like I wanted to bury myself under a billion kilometers of rock somewhere in the center of the galaxy where no one could ever find me. It was coming out all wrong and I didn't know what to do.
"No... nothing, Master Windu. It's just that I..." I looked frantically around the room, trying to find some way that I could explain everything and not feel like I was going to explode into pieces from embarrassment. "Please, Masters, couldn't we just look at the holovids first? I could explain things better then."
"I think Padawan Kenobi is right. It would be faster to view the scenes and have him explain what is accurate and what may have been added in by those trying to discredit the Order." Master Gallia was being so nice I almost wanted to hug her - almost. Instead I gave her an uncertain smile and breathed relief when the other masters agreed.
Master Windu sent my master another death glare and then nodded reluctantly. "Bring up the one entitled "The Jedi's Ode to Life", then. It appears to have the most information and clearly contains scenes not included in the other holovids."
As they were pulling up the 'vid in question, my master leaned over and murmured, "Padawan, are you all right? You seem upset. Is there something you aren't telling me or the Council?"
Blushing red, I whispered, "Master, it's just so... so embarrassing." I hadn't wanted to say anything but I was so full of guilt and pent-up worry about it all that I just blurted it out. I couldn't take it back but I hoped that he'd realize that it wasn't a comment on him as a master but on the whole blasted situation.
I should have known better. He looked down at me, understanding in his eyes. "That's all it is. Just embarrassment. Nothing else."
I nodded, relieved that he wasn't angry. "Yes, Master, nothing else. I know you did your best but the whole thing was awful and you weren't yourself and to be questioned about it in front of the Council like this..."
An abrupt cough and I looked up to see the Council members watching us both. Master Qui-Gon bowed slightly, "My apologies, Masters."
"Master Jinn, unpleasant this will be but enlightening as well," Master Yoda nodded. "Your memory may return. Hope that it does, I do." And with a wave of his claw, the room filled with the blue-tinged images of Septemus IV.
It must have been the holovid Garen was talking about. The first thing that appeared was a close-up of Master Qui-Gon, his hair smeared with cake and sweetcream, gesturing wildly, singing the last stanza of "The Smuggler's Ode to Life". Whoever had gotten the images had to have had access to the Prime Minister's own holocam system. My master was loud, clear and slightly off-key and I remembered that he'd only sung this part in between the last two sets of women he'd kissed.
It lasted a few seconds and then someone had found another rendition of the song to play over my master's voice as the holovid unfolded. The images sped up, the lines of women jostling forward into Master Qui-Gon's embrace. Minutes became seconds as he kissed one female after another in a frenzy of action, reaction and song. There were flailing limbs everywhere. Then the escape, complete with swinging chandelier, droids and women flinging sweetcream at each other, and the speeder bike chase was set to a beat of "Smuggler's Ode" interwoven with the Republic's own anthem.
After that, it switched back to my master now covered in icing and colorful mashed fruit, being molested by more women. There were close-ups of him kissing, intensely intimate images - that chair-wielding woman jumping on him, others lining up for more than one kiss, him grinning with enjoyment as he gave the antidote again and again and again.
The beings who had made the vid obviously knew what they were doing because the music kept increasing the tension and the images seemed to flow together, ever faster. The speeder bike chase came into view again, back and forth in time to the music, and more sweetcream-flinging droids and endless lines of women. Finally, the music slowed down and my master's voice took over as the scene from the back entrance with reporters shouting their questions at me and him looking well satisfied showed clearly in the 'vid. And still he was singing that dratted song.
Then, just as the holovid began to fade, they must have found an image of my master from another mission. He was in clean robes, standing there in stoic calm, looking every inch a regal Master. But the song had changed into a recitation of the Jedi Code - not his voice but someone imitating him - before the images finally winked out and there was silence.
It was wonderfully done, a masterpiece of creativity and splicing and I knew why Master Windu was turning purple all the time. It was much worse than I'd ever imagined.
My master was pale as he said, "How much of that was counterfeit, Padawan?"
I knew he wanted me to say all of it but he needed to know the truth. Biting my lip, I hesitated, and then taking my courage in my hands, I said, "None of it, Master. Everything in that holovid happened. I'm really sorry."
I'd never seen him go so white. For a moment, he stood there, frowning, and then he turned back to the Council and said, "Masters, I will accept judgment for this. My behavior was abominable."
"No, you can't," Grabbing onto his cloak, looking frantically around the room and then back at him, I blurted out. "It wasn't like that. Yes, it happened but not that way and it wasn't like you had any choice."
"Then only you can tell us the truth, Obi-Wan. It is very important that we know everything in order to fight this. The Republic demands much of the Jedi. They will not tolerate such behavior without some rationale for it."
My heart stopped beating for a moment. I wasn't sure if I could but Master Qui-Gon needed my help and I would do anything for him, even put up with embarrassment. Nodding, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Facing Masters Windu and Yoda, knowing that every eye and feeler-stalk and sensing appendage was focusing right on me, feeling the weight of the galaxy crushing me down, I said, "Masters, it is... hard for me to speak about what happened - not because it was bad but because..."
I stopped, blushing furiously. Even my fingers felt hot. But I knew I had to do tell them what happened, no matter what. Master Qui-Gon was counting on me. Pushing past the huge boulder in my throat, I blurted out, "Because it was embarrassing. I will try to go through it in greater detail but... please, please don't ask me any questions until the end."
I have to admit that Master Windu almost seemed to understand or maybe it was the whine in my voice. At least he didn't kick me out of the Order right then and there. "Very well, Padawan Kenobi. But make it as complete as you can. Every detail counts."
So I did. I told them about Captain Antilles attacking Master Qui-Gon, about the cloak and how easy it is to slide on sweetcream. I told them about the guards and Erelia and how much singing my master did. I even told them about Aleta, although I must admit I skimmed over that one pretty fast. There was the reporter questions and the Prime Minister's actions with his daughter, his mother and how much she liked Master's kisses. I think I did a pretty good job, too, although it just about killed me to talk so much about something so embarrassing.
Funny thing was that, by the time I was done, I wasn't so embarrassed any more. Continual panic can do that.
Master Qui-Gon was silent for a long time after I was finished. It was a pretty awful mission and personal, too, but at least this time no one got killed. I couldn't say that for a lot of other ones.
"Thank you, Padawan. I know it was difficult to explain and even more to endure. You did well." He turned back to the Council. "This mission may have ended badly but until those last few hours, we had accomplished what we had set out to do. I hope we can clear this all up with the Senate before too long although they might not be as forgiving as the Council. In any event, I take full responsibility for it."
It felt good to know that I'd helped him out. He'd done so much for me already and I had always wanted to show him how grateful I was. Perhaps now he knew.
But the smile on my face faded when Master Windu said, "The Council may not be as forgiving as you might think, Master Jinn. This episode has put the Jedi Order into a crisis that will not be easy to resolve. The Senate may insist on expulsion, even over the objections of the Order."
Master Qui-Gon lifted his head, looking him straight in the eye. "The Master Healer has said that my actions were precipitated by the drug. The Prime Minister of Septemus IV has publicly acknowledged that it was his daughter's doing and punished her for it." He looked around to each and every Council member, and said calmly, "I will accept censure or probation, even demotion. But expulsion from the Jedi Order is reserved for those who have succumbed to the Dark. I have not."
Before anyone could object, Master Yoda spoke up. "Agree with Master Jinn I do. Expulsion is a last resort. Only those who have embraced the Dark are dismissed from the Jedi."
"We will do everything we can to keep the Senate from acting on the expulsion motion." Master Windu conceded. "But we cannot overlook this, either. There will have to be penalties."
That was a relief. Master Qui-Gon would not be expelled. All my fears were just pure worry. Master was always telling me not to center on them and I knew that I should listen to him more often. Of course, we wouldn't be living off the streets and begging for food - the very idea was ridiculous. But if he had been expelled, I would have had to stay with him to keep him out of trouble and we would have been poor and destitute and it would have been awful.
Apparently, my brain was still on hyperdrive, still worrying about things that were not going to happen. I'd need a lot of meditation after this.
But just as I was starting to relax, Master Windu was frowning again. "There is one more matter, beyond the holovids. Several of the males from Septemus IV have complained about your actions. One in particular." He picked up a datapad and scowled down at it and then, eyes narrowed, he looked at Master Qui-Gon and said, all too casually, "He claims that you got his wife pregnant. Did you?"
Master Qui-Gon was shocked. I could tell by the way his head snapped up and the depth of the frown lines on his face. His voice was hoarse, too. "Pregnant? I don't remember having an intimate encounter with anyone on Septemus IV." But then he stopped, his eyes widening, his mouth tight, clearly upset. Turning to me, he said, "Obi-Wan, did I? While I was drugged?"
My poor master must have thought that he had done more than just kissing during that awful mess. I didn't remember him doing anything like that while I was watching him although there was that one time with the female reporters. Was it possible? Could he really have impregnated those women that quickly?
I'd had Sexual Education classes last year and they never mentioned how fast or how often humans could do it. Mostly they stressed celibacy and the Code and how Jedi were not supposed to love or have attachments, not how fast someone could... could have relations with each other.
Of course, the older padawans had told me that it was always hyperdrive fast when doing intimate things with females, and that they'd been able to take on dozens of partners at a time and it was always over in a second or two. I did wonder why anyone would do that sort of thing if it was over so quickly but I figured they would know. I'd had no experience with girls up until now and, on my own, I was much slower than they said. Maybe people got faster with practice and Master Qui-Gon was old enough to have had a lot of practice.
So it might be possible.
Swallowing hard, my voice squeaking again, I said reluctantly, "Not while I was around, Master. Although you did disappear for a couple of minutes when I was talking to the reporters. With two females. They came back pretty happy. Would that have been enough time?"
I must have said something funny because half the Council members started smiling and the others were choking on something, as if they were trying not to laugh and not doing a very good job of it.
That confused me at first and then I started to become suspicious about what I'd been told. It was possible that the older padawans had lied to me about a few things. I guess it was something else to research while we were at the Temple. At this rate, I'd be buried in the stacks of the Archive until I was older than Master Yoda.
My master had a relieved smile on his face. "No, I don't believe it is, Padawan."
Clearing his throat, Master Windu said, "This is a serious matter. What organization will accept Master Jinn as a representative of the Republic or the Jedi Order after this? He may have to go into seclusion for a long, long time before he could resume his duties."
Several of the masters murmured agreement. But Master Gallia looked at her own datapad, "Surprisingly several groups have approached the Order with requests specifically for Master Jinn. The Matriarchal Society of Obersan Prime, the Hontans of Quartlek II, the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation among others."
With a shake of his head, Master Windu disagreed, "The Hontans see strength in multiple carnal relationships. And we all know what the Matriarchs want. The others may have their own agendas for an apparently debauched Jedi Master." With that, he shot Master Qui-Gon another exasperated look.
Around the room, there were several suggestions of what to do next, anything from varying degrees of punishment for my master's actions to ignoring the situation and going on as if nothing had happened. That last one wasn't likely, though, not with the Republic Senate involved.
Master Yoda raised a claw, calling for silence. "Send him away we will until the Senate requests his return. To Yavin IV. Ithorian gardeners and the Agri-Corps gathering new species of plants they are."
Blast! It was hotter than blazes on Yavin IV, even during the cool season which it was not right now. In fact, if I remembered correctly, it was summer, broiling heat and humidity so high that it was like standing out in the rain without the actual drops. Sometimes it was hard to breath with that much moisture in the air.
And there were bugs there, big ones - bugs the size of my head and they liked to dive bomb people when they weren't looking and arachnids with webs as large as a small bantha and hairy legs and huge eyes. There were multi-legged insects that had nests in the ground and the unwary could get trapped. And some of the flying bugs glowed at night, too, with designs in their wings that made it look as if ghosts were flying in the darkness.
I knew it wasn't right for a Jedi to hate anything but I hated bugs. We'd be sweaty and hot and unable to sleep, living in tents most likely, and the bugs would be crawling all over us. It was punishment pure and simple.
Master Qui-Gon looked stunned for a moment and then bowed his acceptance. "Thank you, Masters. I will be glad to assist the Republic in any way I can."
"Ready the transport is. Docking bay 27. Notify you we will when return you must." Master Yoda looked satisfied, his eyes green with some hidden thing. Perhaps he was enjoying the idea that we'd be covered in bugs for months, although I must admit that the old master didn't usually enjoy other people's misery. But there is always a first time.
With that, Master Windu dismissed the Council and we turned to go. "A minute, Master Jinn. I'll ride down with you."
In past times, I knew that he and Master Qui-Gon had been friends - as much friends as they could be considering that he was on the Council and Master was always disagreeing with him. But I couldn't imagine what Master Windu would want to say now unless it was to argue some more or maybe yell at my master.
Everyone else hurried past us as the three of us walked slowly toward the turbolifts. Apparently, Master Windu was waiting for the rest of the Council to leave because it was a few moments later and we were finally alone that he turned toward Qui-Gon and snapped, "Have you any idea of what you've done? Of what I've had to do, will have to do to keep you from being skewered by the Senate?"
"I have a very good idea, yes."
"Those vids made you look like you were insane, sex-crazed. Your apprentice seemed to be horrified in most of them and I thought that you'd finally gone over the edge. More than just me." I could tell Master Windu was still angry. His eyes were hard as stone. "I've just finished talking with the Chancellor and he was furious."
Nodding, Master Qui-Gon said, "I understand, Mace, but you could have had a little more faith in my actions."
Master Windu looked both thoroughly annoyed and very tired. "Your actions have gotten you into trouble before but nothing like this. Lately all you seem to do is argue with the Council more and follow the Code less. I've had a rough time defending you with the other Councilors and I've been accused, more than once, of favoring you over the Order."
"Have you?" My master seemed taken aback by that.
Rubbing his fingers across his forehead for a moment as if pushing a headache away, Master Windu said, "No, I have tried to be fair. But if I came across as too harsh, it was to keep some of the others from tearing you to shreds. One or two of them did want to expel you for this. Master Yoda was right to point out that only those who have succumbed to the Dark are thrown out. But this mission hasn't helped your reputation, either. Or the reputation of the Jedi Order."
So my master had been in danger of expulsion after all. But it didn't seem to phase him. Instead he said, "Perhaps you should have waited for more information and not jumped to conclusions."
"Not jump to conclusions?" As we entered the lift, Master Windu shook his head, his voice sharp, "What was I supposed to think? The holovids were flooding the 'net and I had hundreds of calls from Senators or their subordinates and several complaints from Septemus IV from prominent citizens there. The Chancellor has called more than once to protest. Your actions, shall we say, were suspect. They thought you were mind-tricking those women." Folding his arms, he stood there, staring at my master. "I know you enjoy intimacy as much as the rest of us but it's understood that it's to be kept quiet. You weren't quiet about this. I couldn't have the truth about Jedi and our views on celibacy made public. It would be a disaster. As it was, I had to be creative and you know how much I love that."
I was trying not to listen. After all, this was really an argument between two friends, two adult friends, but I couldn't help overhearing things. Beyond the whole worrisome expulsion disaster, did Master Windu just say that a lot of people enjoy... intimacy? Did he mean Council members? Adults? Everyone over the age of consent? And what views on celibacy was he talking about?
I was beginning to wish I'd taken another turbolift.
"Mace, I was drugged. It's not as if I'd planned on kissing a bunch of women. I don't even remember it." He sounded almost affronted.
Nodding, Master Windu said, "I know that now. But blast it, Jinn, did you have to sing that song?" His face was getting all flustered and he looked embarrassed. I didn't know Council members could do that.
There was a soft snort from Master Qui-Gon. "We both know who taught me that song, Mace. And the gestures."
Master Windu had the strangest look on his face, almost as if he were remembering something he'd enjoyed very much but was also ashamed to have done. It couldn't be that he... that Master Windu had taught my master that dratted song. That wasn't possible, was it?
"It's not punishment, you know."
My master glanced at me and then back at Master Windu. Folding his arms, he stood there, frowning thoughtfully, "I know, Mace. But it will look like it to the Senators. It's a good political move but even more, it will give me time to come to grips with my loss of control."
"And Yavin IV is strong in the Living Force." Master Windu's mouth quirked upward. I wouldn't say it was a smile but it was the closest thing to it I'd ever seen on his face.
"Just so." The turbolift doors opened and Master Windu stepped out. As he looked back for a moment, Master Qui-Gon said, "May the Force be with you, Mace."
The Councilor just shook his head. "And with you, you old scoundrel." And then the doors closed and we were alone and on our way down to the docking bays.
"Master, what did he mean by that?" I didn't want to think about all the other things I'd just learned - I'd think about them later when I was alone. But I needed to know about Yavin IV and why it wasn't a punishment. I certainly thought it was.
"Our mission assignment has more than one purpose, Obi-Wan. To the Senate and those outside the Order, it looks like I am being disciplined for my actions. It is high summer there and the Ithorians are currently collecting plants in the hottest part of the planet. Most humanoids would find it very distressing, even painful." He gripped my shoulder and gave me a little shake, smiling apologetically as he did and then he let me go.
He knew that I didn't like being overheated and he was well aware that I hated bugs but it wasn't to be helped. If he was going to Yavin IV, so was I. Even if he could get me out of it, I'd still go. I was his Padawan. My place was by his side.
"The Council also appears to be isolating me from the Order by sending me away before I can interact with my colleagues or with any female humans at the Temple. Only Ithorians are present on Yavin IV at the moment." He leaned down and said softly, "What outsiders don't know is that I enjoy working with living things, especially plants, and I have friends among the Ithorian members of the Agricultural Corps. It's also a chance to renew my connection with the Living Force."
"So it's a vacation?" It didn't sound like something I'd look forward to but my master was certainly implying that he'd enjoy it. Bugs and heat and sweat - not my first choice but he'd always gone his own way in things and he did like plants.
He smiled at that even as he shook his head. "No, not a vacation. Even though I look forward to the new assignment, it will be hard work and more than a little uncomfortable. So at least on the surface, it is punishment."
As the turbolift doors opened and we started toward Docking Bay 27, he said, "It will also give me time to instruct you on some of the new saber moves you'll need for the next step in your training. We won't be collecting plants all day long."
Looking around, trying to see what transport we would be using to go to Yavin IV, I stopped and pointed to the shuttle in question. "Master, that's Captain Antilles's ship. I thought...we'll be using hers?"
"Yes, we are fortunate to have her available. She's usually a very busy woman." Lengthening his stride with me scurrying to keep up, he lifted a hand in greeting and I could see her nodding in return.
Why he would think this was a good idea was beyond me. She was an excellent pilot and she helped out a lot when we were fighting off rabid women but I still remembered the look she had when she attacked him. The frantic way she kissed him and the noises and what she said about ripping his clothes off was the stuff of nightmares. Plus she'd said that she wouldn't mind kissing him again as long as I wasn't around. I had a bad feeling about this.
"But..." I protested but I don't think he heard me.
Bowing, he gave her a half-smile and said, "Captain Antilles, we are at your disposal."
"Master Jinn, Padawan Kenobi. Are you ready to leave?" I had to say that she only smiled a little in return and didn't really seem pleased to see us. Maybe she was embarrassed with what had happened and didn't want to get involved again with that kind of thing. Maybe she'd seen the holovid and wanted to keep her distance and her reputation intact. In any case, it looked like she would be her old Captain self, cool, calm and business-like at all times.
When my master nodded, she said abruptly, "Good. We'll be lifting off shortly. Padawan, several pieces of equipment and other things were delivered but I didn't know what you wanted to do with them. Could you stow the gear while I have a talk with your master?" She pointed in the general direction of the hold. "If you don't mind."
For some reason, warnings were sounding loud and clear in my head again. But I didn't have any reason to say no so I just said, "I don't mind, Captain. Master, I'll be back in a minute."
But even though it looked like I was walking away fast and into the cargo hold, I stopped just beyond one of the struts, out of clear view. I wasn't sure but I didn't trust her this time. Maybe it was my experiences on Septemus IV, maybe I was growing up but her being alone with my master was not a good idea.
As they walked toward the cockpit, I could hear her ask almost too casually, "So, Master Jinn, everything work out? No complications?"
He looked at her, calmly, not giving anything away. "Only those dealing with a mission that had gone awry."
Nodding, she turned and stared out of the cockpit window. It looked like all of her attention was focused on what was going on outside the ship, almost as if she were impatient to be gone and get on with her deliveries.
I started to relax, thinking that my imagination was running hyperdrive wild again and that I should stop being so suspicious when she said, "Are you on duty at the moment?"
I stopped breathing and I felt my heart go right through my feet into the decking below.
Duty and off-duty - Master had said something to her about it not so long ago. He'd been under the drug's influence and not himself but still he'd said how he couldn't talk about personal matters while on a mission. She must have remembered but he would have forgotten already just as he'd forgotten about kissing all those other women.
Looking a bit confused as if he didn't know where the conversation was going, he said, "No, Captain, why do you ask?"
"Just curious." She shook her head and shrugged. Sitting down, she pointed back toward the passenger's seating area and said, "Better go strap in. We're about to take off. It may be a bumpy ride."
From my vantage point, I could see my master nod and turn away, coming back to sit as instructed. He didn't see the predatory gleam in her eye or the way she looked at him as if he were sweetcream and she was ready for dessert.
He was doing it again. And so was she.
Well, I wasn't going to let it happen, not this time. No more kissing! I just had to figure out how to keep them apart and not let them know what I was doing.
Why was it never easy around Master Qui-Gon?
A day and a half later, I stumbled down the ramp of Captain Antilles's ship into a heat so vast my lungs wanted to seize up. My hair started to drip in the humidity and I was soaked through with sweat in less than a minute. Welcome to Yavin IV, summer season.
But I could endure the climate, the wet clothes, the warbling call of predators in the jungle and even the bugs whining near my ear. What I really needed was sleep. I was exhausted, not from the temperature but from staying awake for the last 32 hours.
After seeing the Captain and her hungry glances, I had done my very best to make a pest of myself, keeping her occupied, making sure she was never alone with my master. It wasn't easy. I had to give her credit for trying to outmaneuver me but she didn't have the Force at her command or my stubborn determination to keep Master Qui-Gon safe.
It must have worked because, in the end, both she and my master slept in their separate quarters and I got to stay up all night making sure it stayed that way.
Now, it was time to say good-bye. We'd unloaded the last of the cargo - together - but I saw that the Captain was still eying my master with barely disguised hunger and then glancing at me with a mixture of laughter and annoyance.
I stepped in front of her and bowed, "Thank you, Captain Antilles. I couldn't have helped Master Qui-Gon without you. I will always be grateful."
She burst out laughing. "You're a persistent kid, I'll give you that." Then she gazed at Master Qui-Gon, nodding her head towards me. "He certainly knew what was up."
Oh, dear. Was I so obvious? And if they knew what I was doing, why didn't my master just order me to stop? Was it a test? Or did he think it was funny or maybe cute? I'd hate to think it was cute. That would be for younglings, not teenage padawans. Cute would be almost as embarrassing as the trouble on Septemus, well except for the kissing and the holovids and the horror of going before the Council.
Whatever the reason, at the moment, Master Qui-Gon was trying not to smile. The stern face was there but he was having trouble keeping his mouth flat and I could see a fond gleam of amusement in his eyes. "My apprentice sometimes feels that he needs to protect me at all costs."
Maeva Antilles laughed again, genuine delight this time. Master was close enough and she reached over and patted his shoulder fondly. "He might be right, Qui-Gon. You do seem to attract trouble more than most." Nodding back toward me, she said, "I think you better keep him, Master Jinn."
He looked at me and nodded. "I think I will."
And so he did.