Okay, I've finally updated. Hooray!
Disclaimer: STAR WARS belongs to George Lucas.
New Rank, New Life
Stationary flew in high arcs across the room where they managed to fall into a box, often barely missing the sides before they piled at the bottom with loud clatters. A few huffs and puffs later and their owner follow them to the box and tipped in a whole drawer full of clothes; underwear, tunics, pants and cloaks.
She frowned at the mess, then proceeded to attempt to compress her belongings in box, because it was already full and she still needed to pack some stuff. All the stuff finally packed down as closely as she could manage, she stood back, satisfied.
The holocubes that sailed into the box had the luck to land on the soft clothing, unlike the stationery's hard landing. It took a while for her to sort out her other belongings. During the nine and a half years of her life, she had managed to gather quite a collection of useless rubbish. On her commode was a collection of rocks, all which she had probably thought very pretty when younger, but now just piled up uselessly, collecting dust.
There was a long scarlet feather, which she twirled thoughtfully, before it floated down onto the pile headed for the incinerator.
Done with the packing, Maia surveyed to room somewhat sadly. She'd been here for almost two years. Not exactly a very long time, but things would be different nonetheless.
She lay back on her sleepcouch for what would be the last time, starring at the very familiar ceiling. It would be different. She'd no longer be able to run around at night unsupervised, there would also no longer be any popping into fellow initiates rooms at for a chat or homework discussion.
She'd already been given a taste of how different things would be. Jeran had interrupted astromaths class to speak to her. Master Ceres had given him such a glare that –he told her later– he had trembled in his boots.
Then she had suddenly gone out and they'd talked like old friends –they probably were– about Force knows what until the lesson was almost over. Ten minutes before it ended, Master Ceres seemed to remember that she was supposed to be teaching and hurried back into class.
Maia was finally allowed to see him and receive the best news she had ever gotten in her life. But she must probably have expressed her happiness a little too loudly because when she returned to what was left of the lesson, she found herself at the receiving end of quite a few grudging looks.
And after the lesson, Master Ceres had called Maia over and told her that now that Jeran was her Master, she would be expecting better astromaths work from her, all the while giving Maia a glare like the one she had given Jeran, one that promised tons of extra homework if her grades did not start getting better.
Maia sighed and put a hand over her eyes.
New rank, new life. Hopefully she would be up to it.
The girl rolled of her bed and picked up her box of belongings and the sack of rubbish. She'd dump the latter into one of the incinerators on the way to the new quarters.
She said goodbye to her former fellow Initiates. They would still meet at classes and all, and they would all probably end up becoming Padawans too, but saying goodbye felt right, as well as leaving them an invitation to visit anytime. She hoped Jeran liked guests.
Running in the corridors was forbidden, so she walked as fast as she could. It was hard repressing the urge to race all the way to her new quarters.
When the turbolift door finally dinged open, Maia felt as though she had left her stomach behind in her old room. She hadn't known that it was possible to feel so excited till one felt sick.
She took a couple of deep breaths. Feeling better, she started down the long hall. There were doors on each side, each with a number and a nameplate.
Halfway down the hall, Maia turned into a corridor that led to another hall. More doors stood side by side. It was almost foreboding. She spied Sabie's place, then further down, almost at the end of the hall, were the quarters that she would be sharing with Jeran.
She stood in front of it and felt a thrill race up her spine as she read the small nameplate that was located above the buzzer. 'Vàner, Vestarii' it read.
Maia palmed the door open and looked inside. The door opened up into a living room, dusty and bare and bleak looking.
"Master?" She stepped tentatively inside.
"Jeran?" She looked around the small sitting room for any sign of her Master.
"I'm in here."
She put her box down on the sofa and walked to where the sound of his voice had come from.
Jeran was on his hands and knees on the tiled refresher floor, scrubbing away madly.
Maia watched him for a while. Then she asked, "Why don't you let the droids do it?"
"Because the droids just suck around with their vacuum cleaners. They don't really clean the place properly. And because whoever lived here before us was a real slob."
"Got all your stuff?"
"Good. You room's over there." He jerked his head at its general direction. "Put away your stuff. Neatly. Then come and help me make this place fit to live in."
"Right-o." Maia went to get her box, and because she wasn't sure which was her room (they were side by side, so Jeran directions hadn't been much help) she peeked in by the first door. There were already boxes on the floor. They were all closed, so Jeran hadn't gotten round to unpacking yet.
She went into the next room and looked around in delight. It was about the same size as her old room –which wasn't very big– but the view out of the window was marvellous. She could see the Senate Rotunda from her room. Brilliant!
A sleepcouch was pushed up against one side of the wall. On the opposite side was a desk with a chair and a commode for her clothes.
Maia hastily unpacked, putting her clothes away as neatly as possible. Someone had considerately put up two shelves on the wall; on them she arranged the trinkets she had decided to keep, most of them presents from Sabie or keepsakes from younglinghood, and her holocubes.
She surveyed her new room with pleasure, then fell back onto the sleep couch and found herself daydreaming about all the missions and assignments she hoped to undertake.
A muted thud came from outside her room. She sat up with a guilty start, remembering that she was supposed to help her Master.
Jeran's door was locked, when she tried it and he responded to her knock with only a "Later."
She walked into the now gleaming refresher and spent a couple of minutes arranging her toothbrush in the cabinet and making faces in the mirror.
Next came the kitchenette. Maia opened all the cabinets but found them all empty, except for one that held all the plates and pans. The drawers only contained cooking utensils. The cooling unit was empty.
She wondered if Jeran could cook.
There wasn't any table she could she, until she found that it folded up against the wall, allowing more for space when it wasn't needed.
The stove was…interesting. She would have loved to turn around all those knobs but she didn't dare. Suppose she did something wrong and it blew up? Jeran would be furious.
Finishing her exploration of the kitchenette, she turned to the common room, which was adjoined to it. The furniture was a dull sandy colour, like to the colour of bantha wool. There was a low table, painted to look like it was made of some dark wood, but she could see it was actually made of duraplast. Paint had peeled of some places sections. Maia sighed, shaking her head. Such cheapskates, those Council members.
Then, as she turned to go back and check on Jeran again, she noticed, to her utmost delight, the holoprojection unit that was pushed up against the wall. It stood in the corner of the room and was half hidden from view by a large potted plant. Whoever had put it there seemed to have not wanted the quarter's occupants to waste their time idling in front of it. Yet it seemed like a half-hearted attempt. Maybe Jedi discipline was expected to do the rest.
There was nothing interesting to watch, so she dragged away the plant to a more suitable spot in the sitting room and watered it a little. Maia had wanted to drag it out onto the balcony but even with help from the Force, the pot was too heavy. She would have to ask Jeran for help later.
She opened the opaque door beyond the kitchenette and stepped out onto the tiny balcony. Wind tugged at her hair and robes, and stung her eyes. She blinked her watering eyes and walked out to peer over the railing, standing on the lower rung to get a better look. The ground was such a long, long, long way off that she couldn't see it. She wondered how long it would take to reach the bottom if one happened to fall.
She jumped surprised. Jeran's sudden shout sounded angry and strangely, afraid. "Maia, blast it, get off there at once. Now!"
Maia had just turned around when Jeran seem to appear out of thin air in front of her and grabbing the scruff of her tunic, marched her back into the sitting room.
"What's wrong?" she cried, twisting and turning in his grip. "Let go!"
He released her and she straightened her tunic indignantly, glaring up at him. "What did you do that for?" she asked reproachfully. "I didn't do anything wrong."
Her Master went down on one knee in front of her so that they were at face level. He returned her glare and she found herself unable to look away from his cool, blue gaze. He put his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently. "Don't you ever, ever stand on the railing and lean over like that."
"But why, I only–"
Jeran interrupted her whine. "You might have fallen over," he said darkly.
Maia almost laughed, but then she saw that he was deadly serious. "You really think I might fall over like some clumsy youngling?"
"Accidents always happen, Maia. You could have slipped, or overbalanced. You could have gotten blown off. No, Padawan, don't laugh," he admonished, when her face twisted in amusement. "You are still small and light. And the winds up here can be very strong. You don't want to know how many people die each year because they accidentally fall over their balconies. It is not funny."
"Okay," Maia said, subdued. "Can I still go out on the balcony?"
Jeran rubbed his face with his hand. "Of course you can, Padawan. Just, don't, don't stand on the rungs. And for Force's sake don't lean over like that. You scared me half to death, I thought you were going to fall."
"Sorry," she apologised in a small voice.
"It's alright." He no longer sounded angry. A few moments ago she could have imagined thunderclouds floating over his head.
"You want to help? You can help me unpack my stuff." He actually sounded cheerful now. "I've still got some junk that needs to be sorted out."
"Uh, okay." She followed him into his room, which was a carbon copy of hers, except that there was some kind of low book rack instead of the shelves. He'd already unpacked his clothes, there was only one box left unpacked and it looked like it was filled with the same kind of useless rubbish she had sorted out from her stuff.
Jeran sat down on the floor, leaning against his sleepcouch and pulled the box over to him. He patted the floor next to him and said, "Sit down." then proceeded to pull out a sheaf of datasheets.
He thumbed through them and then handed the stack to her as she sat down. "Notes," Jeran said. "Think you might need them?"
Maia went through them curiously as he dug out other stuff from his box. The datasheets were mostly homework notes, though there were some covered in scribbles, doodles and badly drawn caricatures of teachers. She put them aside. They weren't much use, not even the notes. The writing had faded and Jeran's already terrible writing must have been ten times worse when he was younger. She wondered how his teachers managed to read his homework.
Jeran had separated most of the junk into four piles; one for the incinerator, one to keep, one for the 'maybes' and one which he jokingly called her 'inheritance'.
"If you want the stuff, keep it, if you don't, chuck it in the pile." He thumbed at the pile headed for the incinerator, which was by far the biggest of the lot.
She rummaged around and pulled out something thin and wooden, like a stick. Upon closer inspection it revealed itself to be a roughly carved flute. "Hmm? Oh, Salis gave that to me," Jeran explained when she asked him if he wanted to keep it. "He wanted to teach me how to play it but I can't. I'm tone deaf. You can keep it if you want to."
She blew into it. The sound that came out was high and clear and warbled. Jeran gave her a smiling glance. "You can ask Sal to teach you how to play it."
Maia looked at it thoughtfully, then pocketed it.
Jeran had already gone through the entire box by then and was contemplating over the 'maybe' pile. They seemed to be mostly souvenirs from different worlds or useless keepsakes.
She picked a straw figurine dressed in dusty tatters.
"It's supposed to be a good luck charm, if you believe in it."
A seashell, its shiny inner surface still visible through the dust. "From a Bandomeer beach."
As she inspected each item in turn, Jeran took those that he decided to keep and arranged them carefully on the topmost shelf of the rack.
"You could give them away," Maia suggested after she had gone through all the stuff in the pile. She had decided to collect her own souvenirs of the various worlds she would visit. The straw doll she would keep though. It was cute.
Jeran rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Do you think the younglings might want them?" he asked doubtfully.
Shrugging, she answered, "You could always ask. Or you could donate them to an orphanage."
"Okay, good idea," he said happily. "Anything you want to keep?"
She showed him the flute and the doll. He nodded. "Uh-huh, you can keep 'em."
They put all the rubbish back in the box, and the donations they simply piled on his desk for the moment. While Jeran went to throw the stuff into the incinerator, Maia went up to the shelf and peered at the stuff he had arranged there.
Most of them were holocubes. There was also a smooth blueish-grey stone, a long fang or a claw and, Maia noticed with a grimace, the skull of some small animal.
She turned back to the holocubes. There were five in all. In the first one, three familiar looking teenagers with their arms around each other's shoulder made faces at her. In the next they were wearing sickeningly sweet smiles. A teenage Jeran and Salis guffawed in the third holocube.
Fourth was a class holo, probably of everyone in their year. She spotted Jeran and Arianne grinning at her from the back row. Salis wasn't there, which meant that he was either in a lower or higher year, or he wasn't in the Temple when the holo was taken. In all the holos they all seemed to be in their late teens.
In the last one, Jeran and an older man, most probably his Master, looked solemnly out at her. Both were looking very stiff and formal, though the older man had laid a companionable hand on the young man's shoulder.
Jeran came back into the room. She turned around to face him and pointed at the skull. "Why do you keep that thing?"
Her Master walked over to her and peered at it. "Well," he said thoughtfully after a while. "I think it's interesting. And it somehow reminds me of my own mortality." He flashed her wide grin. "Don't let it bother you, really. I can be very morbid sometimes."
He walked away to the middle of the room and sat down on the floor. He gestured for her to sit down in front of him.
"I'm sorry," he said as she acquiesced. "I should have done this earlier, but I guess I got carried away with cleaning up.
As soon as she was seated comfortably before him, he reached out and pulled a thin section of hair free from behind her right ear.
"The Padawan braid symbolises our connection with the Force, the way our life is entwined with it."
He slowly braided the short length of hair, the tied it off with a piece of yellow thread.
"It will grow with you and mark the important stages of your life as Padawan. Are you willing to receive the responsibilities of being an apprentice?"
She nodded slowly.
"Good." He sighed and seemed to sort of sag. Then a moment later his back straightened and he smiled at her. "Good," he said again and flicked at the braid with a finger while giving it a critical frown. "It's a little short isn't it?" He shrugged. "Ah, well, it'll grow, won't it?"
Maia glanced at it from the corner of eye. "Of course. It'll grow with me."
Jeran's mouth turned down in a frown, not out of annoyance, but more like he was trying to remember something.
The frown deepened. His left eyebrow twitched. Maia watched his face in fascination.
A few minutes later the frown relaxed and he gave her a bemused look. "Why are you staring so? Is there something on my face?"
Maia wrenched her gaze of his face and shook her head. "Nothing, just your eyebrow. It twitched. Never mind."
Jeran raised the said eyebrow.
"O-kay then. Maia, I want you to listen to me now. No interruptions, okay?"
"Right." He shifted his weight and closed his eyes, like he was going to meditate.
"Close your eyes."
She closed her eyes.
Jeran's voice was low, but audible. "I need you to clear your mind of all emotion, of all thoughts. Open up your mind to the Force. Call upon it and gather in around you. Like in meditation."
Maia didn't like meditation but she did what he said. In the Force, she felt a calm, clear sort of emptiness. There was only her and the Force. And Jeran's soothing, low voice, which echoed in her head.
"Reach out with the Force, with your senses."
In the Force, it was still calm and clear and empty, yet she was acutely aware of everything around her. The life on the planet blazed up at her through the Living Force. Strongest, she felt Jeran; he was like a whirling pool of life, shining in the Force.
"Can you sense me?" he asked in her mind.
"Yes." Her lips never moved. She knew he could hear her, in her mind.
She felt a slight intrusion in her mind. It wasn't painful, but it felt strange. Like, she found herself thinking vaguely, they were two bubbles of the Force, slowing sliding over each other to become one.
And even as she thought that, she could sense Jeran, not only through the Force but as though he was in her mind, as though she was him and he was her.
–Wow, you seem…different. Bigger. Different.–
She felt a twinge of amusement. It wasn't hers.
Then slowly, the intrusion faded away, the bubble withdrew. She was left feeling the same calm, clear serenity that she had felt in the beginning, but there was something more. She could sense part of him, somewhere at the back of her mind, and she only needed to reach out to that part and focus on his presence there and the feeling of him being in her mind returned.
–Wow, is this a training bond?–
–Yes, Padawan. We'll share it until you are knighted. Till then, we must care for and nurture it. Our bond is new, it will take a while for us to get used to it.–
She opened her eyes. Jeran had just opened his too and was blinking in the light of the sun that was shining through the window.
He looked up and smiled at her. "So, Maia, you are now my Padawan, approved by us both, by the Council and by the Force. How do you feel?"
She got up and sat next to him. "It feels…weird. I can feel you, you feel…" She paused, searching for words. "Bigger," she finally said, feeling slightly frustrated because 'big' couldn't exactly describe how he felt in her mind. "Y'know like before this, there was just one you. Just one kind. But now there's like more of you, y'know."
She held up her fist, with her thumb out. "First there's just one." She spread the fist out into an open palm, all fingers extended. "Now there're more."
She up anxiously at him, hoping he understood. Jeran, who had been listening with grave patience all the while, laughed and put an arm around her shoulder. "I know what you mean, Padawan. You feel like that too. Different. More complicated." He smiled at her. "Bigger. I thought I knew you well. But now I know I only know so little." He tweaked her nose. "You're weird."
"Hey!" She flapped her hand at his and laughed.
"I'm hungry," she said, leaning against his shoulder. As if on cue, her stomach rumbled loudly.
Jeran smiled. "I can hear that. I'm hungry too. What do you want to eat?"
"Dunno. Can you cook?"
"Yep. Do you want me to cook today? That's a good idea, I can make–"
"There's no food," she interrupted flatly.
"Oh, now that will make things difficult." He tapped his chin thoughtfully with a finger. Then he looked up and beamed at her. "Let's go and eat out. I know a place were they have excellent steak. And I can always cook another time. Is that alright with you, Padawan?"
Forgive the abrupt ending.
A sequel is in the works... sorta. Depends if my muse is up to it or not.
Thank you very much for reading. May the Force be with you, always.