Chapter 4

The Padawan

"A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, mm? The most serious mind."
—Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Ja'ali Se rapped on the door of Kenit Nusep's apartment, and it opened to reveal Sherlock Holmes sitting on the floor. The boy radiated serenity, legs folded beneath him, hands deceptively still on his lap.

Deceptively still, because several balls danced gently through the air around his head.

Ja'ali smiled. "Good morning, young one."

Sherlock opened his eyes and tilted his head respectfully. "Good morning, Master Se."

"Should we skip our session today? You look halfway towards a meditative state already."

The boy shot up, the balls dropping to the floor in a chorus of thuds. "No, I'm not, really. I'm ready to go."

The Grandmaster arched an eyebrow but said, "Very well. Where is Kenit?"

"Out in the archives. Researching for that diplomatic mission."

"Ah." She gestured to the door; Sherlock walked out and she followed. She sensed his relief but chose to say nothing for the moment: the boy would open up to him in time—he always did.

In the few months that Sherlock Holmes had been in the Jedi Temple, the boy had progressed by leaps and bounds, far surpassing all expectations of him. Kenit was right: the boy was a genius, and he knew it, too. The first couple of weeks had been difficult for him, but once he'd relaxed, some of his flaws had surfaced, including his arrogance. Teaching the exceptionally bright younglings who hadn't yet learned humility was always difficult, and Sherlock was no exception.

But though his teachers could grow exasperated with him, they also valued his drive to learn. It was cliche to call the boy a sponge, and yet that was exactly what he was, absorbing all the knowledge he could. Within a week of learning that he could levitate objects, he had mastered the skill with an ease that would have made older Padawans envious, lifting not only multiple small objects with admirable coordination but also larger objects, including a small speeder.

And though he was behind other children his age in regular classes, he would catch up within the next year, Ja'ali was sure. Already he knew Huttese, one of the languages all Jedi were required to understand, and that would help his progress.

There was one skill, however, that Sherlock had had difficulty learning: meditation. The boy's hyper-intelligent mind was also hyperactive—always observing and calculating and sifting data—and he had found it almost impossible to clear his mind enough to meditate. At last, Kenit had spoken to Ja'ali about it, and thus Ja'ali would spend an hour with Sherlock every day in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, helping him meditate.

At first, he had gotten no further than merely calming himself and sitting perfectly still, a feat Ja'ali had counted a victory. Gradually, he found that he could latch on to Ja'ali's consciousness and drift gently in the Force towards meditation that way. Now, several months later, he was doing much better, although Ja'ali suspected that, for a long time to come, he might not be able to meditate so easily or at all outside the tranquility of the gardens.

They reached their usual spot in the gardens, a little clearing by one of the many waterfalls, and seated themselves on the floor. Sherlock flopped down with all the elasticity of a twelve-year-old; Ja'ali sank much more slowly. She could use the Force to soothe her ageing limbs as she folded them beneath her, but that didn't cure the arthritis.

"I hope you know, Master," said Sherlock, "that I really appreciate your doing this with me."

Ah. "Sherlock…" The boy froze. "You don't need my help so much any more, do you? You really were close to meditating in your quarters, while you were levitating the balls."

"Kind of," he muttered, not meeting her gaze.

"Sherlock," she said gently. "I am always happy to help any of the younglings if they need it; that's why I'm here. But I also help them in the hope that someday, they will not need me and can manage on their own."

The boy's head snapped up, distress in his large grey eyes. "I know that! But…"

"But you enjoy the time with me," she said softly. The boy lowered his head again, embarrassment coloring his presence in the Force, and she smiled sadly. "You attach yourself too deeply, young one. It is not the Jedi way."

"Bantha—" Sherlock stopped his curse just in time. Ja'ali arched an eyebrow. "I'm sorry, I just… the whole anti-attachment thing is stupid." At the raise of her other eyebrow, he protested, "Well, it is! You say don't get attached, but you put a master and a padawan together and what do you think is going to happen? What about the initiates in their creches? What about the beings on the Council? You can't tell me you're not friends, and friendship is attachment. It's just… it doesn't make any sense."

She smirked. "No, you're right, it doesn't." At his look of surprise, she sighed. "Sherlock, I'll not deny the Order has its flaws. Believe it or not, I don't condone the Code wholeheartedly. The Council and I have many disagreements. But I play the game, and try to work towards a better future for those who come after me. The Jedi weren't created in a day; any changes that come to it come slowly. In the meantime, you play by the rules."

"Even when they're not right?"

She sighed more deeply. "That… is a decision you have to make for yourself, Sherlock. You must do what you feel is right. But I'll tell you this: change never comes… if the people who want the change… leave."

He looked down. "I suppose so."

She rested her hand on his head. "Sherlock, I'll meditate with you today, but, starting tomorrow, I want you to try on your own for a week. If you give it your best and still can't manage alone, I'll continue to help you. But if you can do it, we will have to stop these sessions."

He looked up again, his jaw clenched in a way that told her he was holding back tears. "Yes, Master."

She lowered her hand to cup his face. "Dear one, it is not because I want to stop. I enjoy our sessions; I enjoy your company. You're a fresh breath of air in this stale old temple. But there comes a time when children have to start walking on their own. You can do this; I have faith in you."

"Thank you," he murmured.

"Now, come. Let's begin." She took his hand and squeezed it gently before she let go and settled into the proper meditative posture, and closed her eyes. She felt the boy do likewise, and then she reached out to the Force, to the light flowing around them, throbbing with life. The supernova that was Sherlock Holmes followed, and together, they slipped into deep parts of themselves, letting conscious thought drift away…

Sometimes, Ja'ali saw memories in while she meditated. Today, her memories were centered on Sherlock and his first days in the Temple…

It had been a minor miracle that the council was divided at the start regarding Sherlock's fate. Ja'ali had thought she would have had an entirely uphill battle, and though she had had to fight, the slope had been not quite so steep as she'd feared.

"Children older than… four or five standard years cannot be properly trained," Yehude Dorn had argued. "The usual flaws of other beings are entrenched in them at that point. The only way to build a strong-enough defense against the pull of the dark side is to instill Jedi values from infancy—this is how we have managed to avoid the mistakes of the past."

"We are not speaking of altering the rules completely," Kylar Fenisa pointed out. "We are speaking of making an exception for an exceptional child."

"I am not convinced," said Jen Vassa, their youngest member and a Nautolan female, "that the benefit outweighs the risk."

"If we speak of the dark side," Ja'ali interjected, "then let us consider the alternative. Let us say that we turn down young Holmes's request for training. What then will he do? Where will he go?" She paused, and no one spoke, knowing from experience that she was about to answer her own questions. "He will seek the answers to his questions; if we will not provide them, he will find others who will. Dare we risk a child so intelligent and so strong in the Force stumbling across someone with less benevolent intentions?"

"You refer to our mystery Sith Lord," said Samu Elj, a dark-skinned human male from Corellia.

For a thousand years, the Jedi had managed to reign more or less peacefully over the other Force-wielding orders in the galaxy, unopposed by the Dark Lords of the Sith, whom they'd believed to have been exterminated at the end of the New Sith Wars. That is, until a year ago, when a young warrior, sporting blazing yellow eyes and a blood-red lightsaber, had killed a Jedi Master in combat, only to be killed himself then by Samu.

Ja'ali tilted her head. "They are certainly our greatest concern, yes, but there are many other Force users out there who would be all too willing to take in a such a bright child with a grudge against the Jedi."

"Better to keep a close eye on the child than let him wander," Yehude mused.

Ja'ali suppressed a sigh—Yehude Dorn had never been the warmest of Jedi Masters. "If you like."

Rowacca, a female Wookiee and a serving council member for the past century and a half, growled softly. "We do have a duty to this cub as much as any of our own. His intentions are pure; his heart is pure. I am willing to allow him into the Order."

At three hundred years old, Rowacca was the oldest Jedi Master alive and the voice of wisdom and reason in the Temple, second to none, not even Ja'ali herself. The Wookiee had been offered the position of Grandmaster many times and had refused every time, content to serve without the additional responsibilities that role entailed. She had been a role model for Ja'ali, the master of the Togruta's master's master, and Rowacca's support was a great relief. It was her voice that turned the tide in Sherlock's favor…

Deep in the currents of the Force, Sherlock, too, remembered. But his memories, unlike Ja'ali's, were not recent. He had always had a startlingly good memory that bordered on eidetic, but immersed in the Force like this, he could remember more details, further back in time and with more clarity.

He did this often while meditating. It wasn't a cure for the homesickness he often felt, but it helped.

He had been going on three, he was pretty sure, when he'd first seriously done what Mom had called "observing and deducing." (He'd later found out on the HoloNet that it was really called "abductive inference," but he still said "observing and deducing" because it was Mom who'd called it that.)

Mom and Dad had been part of a network to help runaway slaves. They would regularly play host to such beings, allowing them to stay over at the shop for a night or so.

This particular time, it was a female Twi'lek with pale green skin. Her dark green eyes looked tired and sad—and haunted, though that wasn't a word that would enter Sherlock's vocabulary until later. Both her lekku looked so badly mangled that little Sherlock had cringed to see them. She was quiet, too, exchanging very few words in Eltakku with his parents, and none in Basic.

It was the way she'd kept looking at him, furtively, her gaze quickly darting back away but sooner or later returning to him.

At last, it clicked in his head: she was a mother who had lost her child.

And with the sensitivity that sometimes came to small children, he wanted to help her feel just a little bit better. So he got up from where he'd been fiddling with broken bit of tech and toddled over to where she sat at the table, touching her arm lightly.

She started, and looked down at him, eyes widening.

"Would you like a hug?" Sherlock asked her in Eltakku. "They always make me feel better when I'm sad."

Something very nearly like a smile touched her eyes. "You're very sweet," she said after a moment.

He stretched out his arms invitingly, and she bent down to hug him. "Thank you, child," she murmured. She pulled back, and he beamed up at her, sensing a slight lifting of her spirits. "You remind me of my son, when he was your age."

"Did he die?" Sherlock asked solemnly.

"No." Pain crossed the Twi'lek's features. "I don't know. He was sold offworld, months ago."

And at Sherlock's very tender age, he already knew most slave families separated by planets never saw each other again.

Blinking back sudden tears, he squeezed her hand. "I hope you find him again someday."

She was blinking back tears of her own. "Me, too."

"Ah, Padawan." Kenit was back in their common room, sitting cross-legged on the floor, when Sherlock returned from the gardens. "How was your meditation?"

"Good," the boy answered grudgingly.


Sherlock didn't meet his master's eyes. "Master Ja'ali wants me to start meditating on my own."

The Svivreni's ears twitched. "Ah, I'd wondered when she would. You're a smart boy, Sherlock, and mature for your age; that's why I felt you would be all right on the upcoming mission."

Cheeks coloring just slightly, Sherlock settled onto the couch. "How was the research?"

"Not very helpful, to no one's surprise," Kenit said dryly. "That's what comes of having a group of humans exiled and then not make contact with the rest of the galaxy for centuries. The data from Republic Intelligence was more informative."

Sherlock nodded. "Who are the non-Jedi on the team? Do you know?"

"Oh yes. We'll be taking four pilots from the 131st Squadron, one of the Navy's finest, in accordance with the Adumari love of skilled fighter pilots. From the government itself, we're taking a Senator, one who is renowned for his diplomatic skills; he'll do most of the talking while we make sure nothing goes wrong."

Sherlock nodded, picking up the datapad the Council had given them for the mission. "Makes sense." He paused. "Master, what if there is trouble? I don't have a real lightsaber."

Kenit looked up with an impish gleam in his eyes. "I seem to recall that you disarmed and survived a Black Sun agent just fine without one."

Sherlock groaned. "You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"

"The odds of that are low."

Sherlock had been on missions prior to this, but never one this big. Months ago, a new planet on the edge of Wild Space had been discovered by a survey team; the planet turned out to be populated by humans, the descendants of human separatists who had rebelled against the Republic and then been exiled. Intelligence had moved in to scout out the planet, Adumar, and determine if it would be willing to rejoin the Republic. The Adumari assented to engaging in talks with a diplomatic team, and so it was that Kenit Nusep, Sherlock Holmes, and Kylar Fenisa—recently released from her responsibilities on the Jedi Council—found themselves making up the Jedi component of this team.

A shuttle took the Jedi from the Temple to the Star Destroyer Paramount, in orbit over Coruscant. The Paramount, with its full complement of starfighters, would take the team to Adumar and wait in orbit there until negotiations were concluded, which were determined to range from one standard week to two standard months. If the talks lasted beyond that, the Senator would have to return to the Senate to resume his normal duties, and the Jedi would take over, headed by Master Fenisa, the best negotiator in the Order.

As the shuttle approached the Paramount, Sherlock couldn't look away. He'd never been on a Star Destroyer before—indeed, had never even seen one in real life, and it was a magnificent sight.

Master Fenisa cast an amused glance at him, one he caught in his peripheral vision. "Do you like it, young one?"

"Very much, Master," he said honestly, and she smiled.

"You should have some time to explore—we have quite a journey ahead of us." Kenit cleared his throat, and Master Fenisa added, "That is, if your Master approves."

"Thank you, Kylar," said Kenit. "I suppose we do have enough time to do some exploring; perhaps, along the way, we can test your memory of the data files on Adumar."

"Deal," Sherlock said instantly.

The shuttle glided smoothly into a hangar in the Star Destroyer's starboard side and settled gently. Upon disembarking the shuttle, the Jedi were met by four clone pilots, but Sherlock couldn't make himself focus on them, his attention drawn to the starfighters and gunships in this hangar, each craft sleek and deadly. A nudge from his Master through their telepathic link, however, pulled his gaze reluctantly away from the ships and to the clones, the pilots for their team.

Two of the clones had dyed hair, and one sported a tattoo on his cheek, but they were otherwise identical: brown skin, brown eyes, gravelly voices. The Republic had been without a standing army for almost a millennium until about a hundred years ago, when a series of conflicts on the borders of Wild Space convinced the Senate to commission the creation of a new army, this bulk of this one made of clones. After a couple of decades, not only did the Republic have an Army once more, it also had fresh life breathed into its small Navy, expanding with clone officers and pilots.

The clones were trained and essentially programmed to be the very best at what they did, which was why clones had been chosen for the piloting component of the diplomatic team. Their squadron leader told the Jedi he was to escort them to the bridge and set off, his brothers following in something very close to lock-step. Sherlock could appreciate the discipline and the efficiency, but something about the idea of the clone military didn't sit well with him. The clones were created and utilized like droids, but they weren't droids—they were people! And droids, for that matter, were pretty kriffing close to people, too, given their independence of thought!

It just felt too much like a slave army, if Sherlock was honest with himself.

But his criticisms of the current military system fled his mind as they at last stepped onto the bridge, bustling with clones and non-clones alike, the viewport beyond them filled with stars and other ships. The captain, a middle-sized, middle-aged man, stepped forward and nodded respectfully. "Master Jedi, I am Captain Sinid Bonn, and it is my honor to escort you to Adumar for this mission."

"Thank you, Captain," said Master Fenisa, the more senior of the two Masters. "It is our honor to be here."

A tall man detached himself from a readout station at the port side of the bridge and approached the Jedi. Sherlock had to check to make sure the man was human—he must have been over two meters tall! But yes, he was human, thin almost to the point of gauntness, and pale. He had silvering black hair, sharp facial features, and dark grey eyes brimming with intelligence and something else Sherlock couldn't quite identify. He wore long, flowing, elegant robes in several hues of blue, and he walked with the confidence of a being very much in their element.

"Ah," said Captain Bonn, "allow me to introduce you to the last member of your party."

The man bowed just slightly. "Senator James Moriarty of Pelagon, at your service."

A/N: Aaaaaand life just got a lot more interesting for Sherlock, right? :D And yes, next chapter will be an AU take on Starfighters of Adumar, which has to be one of the funniest books ever to come out of the EU, new or Legends.

Also, cookies if you get who Samu Elj is a take on—shouldn't be too hard. ;)

Finally, yes, Sherlock's past and family history really does thoroughly influence the way he interacts with people and the way he views the galaxy. (As it really should have done with Anakin and as it should do with Luke if there's ever a remake of the OT.) Ria suggested that Sherlock recall the first time he did his Thing, and what felt the truest to the character as he's developing in this 'verse is him doing the Thing with a runaway slave.

Please do R&R! Love to hear from you all!