"Welcome to Dagobah." Dai-Men Jinn said brightly as the shuttle finally juddered to a halt. His two companions looked out the ports at the uninviting, befogged swampscape; at each other; at him. Their silence was eloquent.
"It's nice and damp, you should both like that." he offered propitiatingly.
Xhosa glanced at the climate gauges, shuddered. "Dit-dit-brrriiiiit! To cold!" the big athropod declared firmly.
Sylkie looked at the grey scummed pools, mouth twisting in a grimace. "I wouldn't swim in that water for all the credits in the Imperial treasury!"
"Very wise," Dai-Men answered, "I understand the aquatic life is mostly carnivorous and usually hungry."
The little otter-like being rolled her large eyes ceilingward. "Mavelous!"
Dai-men swiveled the pilot's chair to face his two friends, Sylkie in the co-pilot's seat and Xhosa hunched at the back of the cockpit. "I want you both to stay in the ship, I mean it this time!"
They exchanged another look. "Tch-chuuuk! Don't worry!" the athropod clicked.
"Funny place for a Jedi Master to hide." Sylkie fretted.
Dai-Men stopped trying to squeeze past Xhosa to the hatch and shot a quick smile back at her. "On the contrary, who in their right mind would look here?"
The translucent image that was Obi-Wan Kenobi's manifestation on the material plane hovered near the Imperial Shuttle waiting. Finally a ramp lowered and a man robed in Jedi brown emerged. And the apparition rippled as Kenobi's control faltered.
The family resemblance had always been strong but the addition of twenty years had made it uncanny. It could almost have been Qui-Gon Jinn standing there. His son had the same massive physical presence and leonine features but Dai-Men's long hair and short beard were a darker brown than his father's had been. Obi-Wan counted the years...yes, Dai-Men should be almost the same age as Qui-Gon had been when he died. Quickly he shoved the thought away. Even after forty years and his own death that memory still hurt.
Dai-Men stopped a pace or so away and smiled, "Master Obi-Wan. You're looking well for a dead man." The deep, soft voice was also very like his father's. As was the smile in the deep set eyes.
Obi-Wan smiled in response let his attention slide past his Master's son to the shuttle. "You aren't alone." It wasn't a question.
"I have two friends with me." Dai-Men admitted, "They'll stay on the ship -" shot a quick, rueful look over his shoulder. "I hope!"
Obi-wan laughed. "Just like your father, always picking up strays."
"Or perhaps I'm the stray that they picked up." Dai-Men smiled, then turned seriously, "I heard Yoda's call, what does he want of me?"
Obi-Wan began to lead the way up the path to Yoda's house, Dai-Men keeping pace beside him. "You will have heard of Anakin's son, Luke Skywalker -"
"I've met him." Dai-Men replied, then elaborated in response to Obi-Wan's sharp, startled look. "I was curious. I sensed your influence, saw Yoda's in his future," he shrugged, "Concluded he needed no help from me and returned to other things." then gave the elder Master a sidelong glance from under lightly knit brows. "The Force is strong in him."
"He too is like his father, willful and stubborn." Obi-Wan's face reflected barely controlled pain and deep concern. "He left Yoda too soon. He promised to return but we can't afford to lose the time. In any case it's not Yoda's teaching he needs now but a Padawan Master."
Dai-Men came to a full stop, eyes wide with astonishment. "You mean me?"
"There is no one else." Obi-Wan returned, then shook his head sharply. "I didn't mean -"
But Dai-Men's voice held only amusement. "I understand."
"I wonder if you do." Obi-Wan said quietly.
Yoda was sitting on a hummock in front of his little house. He raised his head as the two Jedi entered the clearing and directed a searching look at the newcomer. Like his father he is. the ancient Master thought, and his heart contracted at the memory of Qui-Gon Jinn. His greatest failure in eight hundred years of training Jedi.
Dai-Men went down on one knee before him, not in obeisance but to put himself on a comfortable conversational level, and smiled with tangible warmth. "Master Yoda, it's good to see you."
"And you also, Small One."
Suppressed laughter danced in the dark blue eyes at the incongruity of his old pet name. "Obi-Wan tells me you want help with your latest apprentice?"
Yoda bowed his head. "Run off he did, to face Vader, though unready he was."
"He seems to have survived the experience." Dai-Men offered.
"The Force was with him." Yoda conceeded, "Protected was he."
Dai-Men's eyes focused on a point beyond the old Master's shoulder. "I wonder, would Anakin really kill his son?"
"Anakin Skywalker no longer exists." that was Obi-Wan, radiating grief and pain. "He has been devoured by the Dark Side. There is only Vader now."
"I wonder," Dai-Men repeated softly, "Anakin was no ordinary man, no ordinary Jedi..."
"Once fallen to the Dark Side there is no returning." Yoda stated flatly.
Dai-Men bowed his head but the two old Masters didn't need the Force to sense his disagreement. Yoda snorted. "Stubborn are you, like your father."
"Father believed in Anakin." Dai-Men returned quietly. "And - I find I do too." he shook his head pensively. "I have a feeling..." then his eyes refocused on the present and he smiled reassuringly at his seniors. "But we were talking about Luke."
"Incomplete is his training." Yoda was visibly and uncharacteristically troubled. "Short is the time, taught he must be!"
"I can teach him to use a lightsabre at least." Dai-Men offered.
"More must you teach!" the Old Master responded with unexpected vehemence. "Your courage, your trust in the Force, these must he learn!"
"I'll do my best, Master." Dai-Men said, a little taken aback.
"Wrong have I been." Yoda continued more quietly but even more startlingly. "Mistakes have I made, with your father and with you....imbalance corrected must be." suddenly his eyes opened wide, blazing into Dai-Men's. "Your task will that be, your destiny!"
"Yes, Master." was all his former student found to say. He shot a quick look at Obi-Wan only to see his own astonishment reflected back at him. The unexpected fire faded. Yoda drooped, eyes nearly closing.
"You should rest, Master." Obi-Wan said gently.
"Yes, yes, old and weak have I become, no more use can I be."
"You have done your part, Master." Dai-Men said warmly, certainty ringing in his voice. "Now you must let go and trust in the Force."
Yoda's long mouth curled. "Teach Luke. Too old am I to learn."
"I will." Dai-Men promised.
Luke sat on his bunk trying to meditate as Yoda had taught him, but with little success distracted as he was with worry about Leia.
His new Jedi sensitivity told him she was lonely for Han, and afraid for him, but she refused to acknowledge those feelings burying herself in planning sessions and liaison work. Not sleeping and barely eating. Luke didn't know how to help her.
The comlink on the locker switched on. "Commander Skywalker?"
He opened his eyes giving up for the time being. "Go ahead."
"We just pulled in a freighter, sir -"
"Way out here?" Luke interrupted, incredulous. "Some kind of nav. failure?"
"No, sir, the captain says he was looking for you."
"Me!" Luke just managed not to squeak, and fought down an unJedi-like surge of alarm. "How'd he know where to find us? Is he one of ours?"
"No, sir, not one of our operatives." an uncertain pause. "He says he followed his feelings."
Luke's breath caught. Another Jedi? who else would just that phrase? "Where are you?"
"Holding are B-89."
"I'll be right down."
Luke barrelled into the security holding room and skidded to an abrupt halt at the sight of the tall, brown robed figure seated across from the female security officer. "Deak?" he wheezed.
"Dai-Men Jinn." the other corrected, smiling. "Yoda tells me you're in need of a sword master."
"You are a Jedi." Luke whispered, stunned. Then; "Yoda sent you?" Dai-Men nodded.
"Excuse me, sir," the security officer broke in, "do you know this man?"
"What?" Luke asked blankly, then the question registered. "Yeah, I know him. I can vouch for him."
"Very well, sir, then I'll release him into your custody."
"That'll be fine." Luke said absently, trying to sort the questions crowding his brain into some kind of coherent order.
The officer rose to leave but was stopped mid-step by a query from her former prisoner. "Does that mean my companions are now free to leave our ship?"
"If Commander Skywalker is willing to take responsibility for them."
"Sure." said Luke, attention still focused on his new teacher.
"Then let's go collect them." said Dai-men briskly.
"Luke!" The two Jedi turned to see a white gowned Princess Leia hurrying down the passage towards them and waited for her to catch up. She came to a slightly breathless halt, gathered her dignity around her and favored Dai-Men with a look of barely disguised suspicion.
Luke introduced them. "Princess Leia Organa, Master Dai-Men Jinn."
She nodded stiffly in response to Dai-men's bow and asked drily, "Another Jedi Master? there seem to be a lot of you."
Dai-Men smiled at her. "Just Master Yoda and me I'm afraid."
Leia's hostility visibly increased. Uh Oh. Luke thought unhappily. Mentioning Yoda had been a mistake. Through a reasoning process he didn't even begin to understand Leia had settled the blame for everything that had gone wrong in Cloud City squarely upon the little Jedi Master.
"We were just going down to the hanger deck to collect the Master's companions." he said hastily.
"More Jedi?" Leia drawled, eyebrows arching.
Dai-Men shook his head. "Just friends. Actually your Highness," he continued as they resumed walking, Leia between them. "the Alliance might find their talents useful. Sylkie has a remarkable facility for languages and codes -"
"We have droids for that." The Princess interrupted rudely.
The tall Jedi Master gave her a look of mild reproof. "Droids have no intuition, your Highness, their logic is crude, too mechanical. They miss subtleties obvious to an organic."
Luke pinched her arm. She glared at him and he returned a warning look. Mind your manners, Leia, that's a Jedi Master you're talking too!
"And your other friend?" she asked in a more conciliatory tone turning pointedly back to Dai-Men.
"Xhosa's specialty is multi-dimensional geometry."
"That's certainly something we can use." Leia managed to sound almost enthusiastic. "we've got a real shortage of command and control staff."
Dai-Men started to answer, then looked away attention caught by something undetectable to the others. "Oh no," he breathed, "not again!" and strode rapidly ahead brown robe billowing behind him.
Luke and the Princess exchanged a bewildered look and increased their own pace. Soon they could hear it too; a frantic chittering like a type 14 calculator droid having a nervous breakdown. The three of them rounded the final bend to the hanger, Dai-Men several yards in the lead, and were confronted by an enormous insectoid wedged tightly halfway through the personnel hatch. Luke and Leia came to a full stop in sheer suprise but Dai-Men went right up to the creature.
"Calm down, Xhosa." he half scolded, half soothed. "Panic is uncecessary and unhelpful."
"I can see that." the Master replied, examining the situation. The athropod had apparently tried to get through the human sized hatch by crouching down and turning sideways. It hadn't worked. Only his upper thorax and three out of four arms had made it through. A powerful, grasshopper-like leg was just visible, painfully doubled beneath him, but the rest of Xhosa was still in the hanger.
"I told him he couldn't make it." an irritable voice snapped. Dai-Men took out a comlink, and spoke into it. "No I told-you-sos please, Sylkie. Constructive suggestions only, if you have any."
"Since most of Xhosa's still on our side I suggest you push and we pull." she answered.
"We?" Dai-Men queried.
"Me, two humans and a Mon Calamari." the comlink replied. "I think they want their door back. Xhosa! stop kicking at them, they're trying to help!"
"Triiiilllllck! Tickles!" the insect complained.
"Control yourself." The Master ordered. He placed his hands flat against the creature's purplish chiton, just above and below the uppermost right arm. "Ready?"
Another " Ready," came from the comlink.
Luke sensed a gathering of the Force and realized Dai-Men intended to use more than simple muscle to unwedge his friend. "Now!" the Master ordered and Xhosa popped out of the hatch like a cork from a bottle. Dai-Men caught himself on the frame as insectoid and pilots skidded in a tangle across the hanger deck.
A moist explosion made Luke turn. Leia had backed herself against a support strut with both hand clasped tightly over her mouth, a tear trickling down one bright pink cheek. He took an alarmed step towards her. "Are you all right?"
She nodded violently and he suddenly realized she was trying to contain her laughter. She unprised one hand and gestured emphatically towards the hatchway. Grinning a little he obediently returned his attention to the hanger.
Dai-Men Jinn was helping the sprawled pilots to their feet with apologies and thanks. Luke could see the men's annoyance melting under the influence of the Master's charm.
He moved aside as the three pilots filed out past him, returned their salute then joined Dai-Men and his friends in the hanger. The Jedi Master stood, arms folded into the sleeves of his robe, next to the giant bug. Xhosa was at least nine feet tall his broad upper and lower thorax purple on back and sides and a delicate blue in front. His valentine shaped head was a soft lavender with feathery antennae above glittering black compound eyes. He held his four arms clasped across his body, possibly imitating Dai-Men.
"This is Luke Skywalker, my new Padawan." the Master introduced.
His what? Luke wondered. "Hello."
"How do you do." said the voice from the comlink. She stood on Xhosa's other side, as tiny as he was huge. Barely four feet tall, slender, roughly mammalian, and covered with sleek silvery-cream fur. The tiny pink hands were webbed, their nails inlaid with colored metals and gem chips. She had big liquid green-gold eyes, a pink button of a nose and a wide pink lipped mouth fringed with silvery whiskers and wore a diaphanous silk sari secured with jeweled pins.
"Your Royal Highness," said Dai-Men as Leia, having recovered her dignity, joined them. "may I present my companions; Xhosa Xhittimenti of Koloptera and Sylkie, an Erawhon from the planet Lune." Xhosa managed a stiff inclination of his upper thorax while Sylkie sank to the deck in a graceful genuflexion.
"Welcome aboard."Leia said graciously, every inch the Princess. "Master Jinn tells me you wish to join the Rebellion."
Green-gold and glittering black compound eyes slid sideways to a slightly discomfited Jedi Master. "Naturally we'll be happy to lend a hand while we're here, your Highness." Sylkie said after a perceptible and highly charged pause.
"Thank you." Leia glanced curiously from companions to Master, guessing at a conflict of some sort. "I'm afraid quartering Xhosa may pose some problems." she continued.
"He can stay on our ship." Dai-Men suggested.
"Tuh-tuh-tuh-Trillllick! Always on the ship!" the insect complained.
"It's not our fault you're too big." Sylkie pointed out unsympathetically.
"I'm sure he could fit through the cargo doors." Luke offered. "The corridors shouldn't be a problem -" he gave the sizable arthropod a second look. "I think."
"The VIP suites have double doors I'm sure Xhosa could get through those." Leia put in helpfully.
"Thank you, your Highness, you're very kind." the Master accepted.
Sylkie and Xhosa turned reproachfully on Dai-Men the second they were left alone in the lounge of their new quarters. "Trying to get rid of us again!" she said furiously.
The Jedi Master knelt down, putting himself on eye level with his outraged little companion. "Listen, Sylkie, I admit I was wrong to try to leave you on Ariya. I had no right to make that kind of decision for you. This is different. Here with the Fleet you'll be able to make your own contribution to the Rebel cause," he smiled wryly, "and you certainly won't be safe!"
Huge crystal tears welled up in the green-gold eyes and spilled over to spangle the soft pale fur. Dai-Men wiped them away with a gentle finger. "That's not going to work, Sylkie, not this time."
"Git-git-Buuuurrrrit! What about you?" Xhosa wanted to know.
Dai-Men looked up at the looming insectoid. "I'll be staying a while, to train young Skywalker."
"And then?" Sylkie asked in a small voice. "And then I'll be leaving, alone." blue eyes embraced them both as the warm voice continued. "You two have been good company these last few years but my future lies along a different path from yours."
"You're going to get yourself killed!" Sylkie sobbed.
He stroked her sleek head comfortingly. "I promise I'll do everything I can to keep that from happening."