Title: An Inimical Reaction
Author: Aelan Greenleaf
Time-frame: About six months pre-AotC
Summary: "Padmé hated hoi-broth. And Obi-Wan was allergic to it- once, on a diplomatic mission to Ando, his violent reaction to a ceremonial toast had nearly triggered an intersystem incident."
An Inimical Reaction
I had to laugh, really. I mean, considering the situation, what else was I to do? Of course, my Master would be less inclined to agree with me in this regard, but all had turned out reasonably well in end, had it not? It had been touch and go for a little while there, I will admit, but now that the incidence is all said and done, one can look back and chuckle at the events transpired.
I was doubtful, in the beginning, of the necessity of our mission to Ando. Well, to be fair, I was often doubtful of most of our missions. But as Obi-Wan constantly reminded me, "A Jedi's mission is not always just action and the art of war, Padawan, it is also the finely tuned art of negotiation and diplomacy." Oh, how true, my dear Master. But, I digress.
We arrived on Ando for what my Master described as a celebratory dinner. Relations between the Republic and the Aqualish had been tedious at best under the supervision of the previous senator, however, with a new representative elected, the Republic thought it best to start off on the right foot. Of course, in the Supreme Chancellor's unbiased opinion, it would be preferable to send the Republic's most revered and respected members to represent the Senate. Naturally, with what was I think amusement, the Jedi Council elected to send Obi-Wan and I here. To teach us (me?) a lesson, I don't know. Obi-Wan says I'm too suspicious. I say he's too cautious. It's a stalemate, most often.
After debarking from the shuttle, which, might I say, was a fine piece of technology, we were met by a delegation of Aqualish, all clothed in bright red robes that were customary to their population's elite. Even Obi-Wan was taller than their biggest member, and I towered over most of them. Their glassy eyes projected an air of simple-mindedness; however, I had encountered many a clever Aqualish in the past. Their combined arachnid and aquatic features always intrigued me, as I wonder how exactly in this species' past had those two characteristics come to be combined.
One of the red-cloaked beings stepped forwards, and bowed to Obi-Wan and I. We returned the greeting in kind, and Obi-Wan addressed the Aqualish.
"We bring salutations and congratulations from the Republic in the election of your Senator," Obi-Wan began, becoming what I affectionately call 'The Negotiator'. "We thank you for your invitation to tonight's festivities."
The Aqualish blinked once, then responded. "As always, we are pleased to welcome such respected and honoured Jedi to our world. I am Oyp Gongo, assistant to Senator Nudo."
"I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is my Padawan Anakin Skywalker." I nodded my greeting, but my mind was still stuck on the word Senator. Several systems away, there was a Senator I longed to see once more, one with alluring chestnut hair, graceful stance, radiant eyes...
"Anakin!" I heard Obi-Wan hiss my name, and I noticed that the delegation had started to move towards the building in front of us.
"Sorry, Master." I whispered, quickly catching up.
"You must pay attention, my young apprentice."
"I try, Master."
We entered the building, a tall, grand hall (perhaps compensating for something?) adorned with elaborate and intricate webs of what I can only assume would be Aqualish art. It was breathtaking how every thread, every fibre was woven together to form one unique and united masterpiece. Every piece had a purpose, and if one was removed or broken, the rest of the creation would fall to pieces. Fascinating.
The hall opened up into a large chamber, which was filled with a numerous crowd of dignitaries and royalty. Many tables were spread evenly across the room, while one sat on a podium on the far side of the room. I had the strange feeling that this was where we would be sitting, and I was right. Oyp Gongo directed us to two chairs on the immediate left of the Senator's seat, and I sat down next to my master. The occupants of the room were quickly quieted, and all took their places at their tables. Doors in the right corner of the chamber were opened, and newly elected Senator Po Nudo strode him, inward-facing tusks gleaming white and eyes flashing with triumph and pride. Four guards flanked him, and followed him to his seat, forming a protective semi-circle behind him.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan murmured to me as the Senator entered, "Dinner celebrations are a very important part of Aqualish cultures. To not eat something, or worse, express distaste, is a major insult to the Aqualish people."
I nodded my understanding, knowing that my Master worried way too much for his own good. I knew all this already; I may be a fool-hardy and action-orientated Jedi, but that does not mean that I don't do my research.
The first course emerged only a minute after the Senator had sat; Aqualish dinners were notoriously large and included many courses. I had not eaten all day in anticipation for this, and I was ravenous. Obi-Wan needn't worry about my not consuming everything.
The first course came and went, and so did the second, the third, and the fourth. The room was filled with the speech of many beings, in more languages than I cared to count. My master chatted amicably with the new Senator, as I conversed with a senatorial aide. I discussed with him the new and revised terms of the Assimilation Act, which was working slowly but surely to integrate Ando into the Republic. I was careful not to say anything which could be misconstrued; I was well aware of the Aqualish's warlike tendencies.
However, it was the sixth and final course that brought into danger all the Republic had worked to establish with the Andonian people. The customary bowl of hoi-broth, the spiced consommé mixed in with native seaweed, was served to all the guests.
In a surprisingly gracious and bold move, Senator Nudo passed the traditional blessing to my Master. Visibly surprised but pleased, Obi-Wan stood and raised his bowl of hoi-broth in the customary way. "To the new senator, and the people of Ando. May long the Republic and the Aqualish stand united."
A murmur of agreement sounded around the room, as Obi-Wan raised the bowl to his lips. The liquid crossed his mouth, and into his throat.
I felt though our bond, rather than saw my master react to the spiced dish. The initial discomfort, then the violent pain. I watched in concern as he gently placed the bowl down and sat, even as his face began to turn a bright red beneath his long hair and beard.
"Master?" I asked, hands moving in a vain attempt to assist him. His eyes reflected horror as he mouthed the words Help me!
Then all hell broke loose.
Jedi training and resolve only goes so far. The cells in my fellow Jedi's body were reacting adversely to the substance that he had just ingested, and its reflexes demanded to be acknowledged. His hands barely made it to his mouth before he erupted in massive, body-shaking coughs. I helped lower him to the floor, concerned that he might hit his head on the table and make an already bad situation even worse.
The room had gone silent as my Master had collapsed into his seizure-like fit of coughs, but now they had rose to their feet, their aggressive and defensive tendencies rising to the surface. Even the Senator was looking down at 'The Negotiator' with unbridled anger. Confused, and presented with no other options, I hastily rose from my Master's side and grabbed my own bowl of hoi-broth. Without saying a word, I downed the entire bowl in one enormous gulp, draining the last drop from the dish.
The chamber's occupants once again fell quiet. A long moment passed, with only Obi-Wan's rhythmic hacking breaking the silence. Finally, the Senator slowly sat back down, regarding me with a look of respect, and drank his own hoi-broth. The rest of the room's population followed their ruler's direction, and the tension dissipated as the feast continued.
I quickly excused myself and Obi-Wan from the feast, explaining that my Master was dreadfully ill and meant no disrespect to the Senator or his people. He nodded in acceptance, and remarked that perhaps I should seek medical attention for my companion. I agreed, and brought my mentor to the nearest medical centre.
The fits of coughing soon passed, and the doctor informed me that Obi-Wan was violently allergic to the combination of the spices and seaweed in the hoi-broth. He recommended rest for my fellow Jedi, and to avoid, in the future, any encounters with the Aqualish fare.
And now, as my recovered friend lay in bed next to me, I finally allowed myself amusement at the whole situation. The moment when Obi-Wan turned to me, the look on his face had been utterly comical. And, of course, I could not ignore the fact that for once it was him, not I, that had triggered a diplomatic incident.
Obi-Wan, as always, was not amused.