"He must be stopped. Of that there is no question."
It was unusual for Master Billaba to look upon her former Master with anything but respect or even admiration. It was, therefore, a bit of a delightful surprise to find that she was regarding him with fond exasperation.
"Don't you think you're being a little too hard on him?" she asked gently. "He has done nothing but stray from his Master."
"He strayed for eighty-eight days of space travel just to arrive at his destination," Mace growled. "I shall be as hard on him as the situation warrants."
"With all due respect," I interrupted before things could get drastically out of hand, "he is my Padawan. I would prefer that I have a major say in what his fate should be."
"Absolutely," Depa assured me. "The Council…"
"The Council," Mace interrupted, "is well aware of the situation and I think that you underestimate the damage that he has done."
"Oh, come now," Depa scoffed. "Damage?"
"He has exposed the people of that world to our ways," Mace grumbled. "He has corrupted their ignorance of our powers."
"As have millions of Jedi throughout the history of the Order," I reminded him carefully.
"Yes," the senior Master said through gritted teeth as if it pained him to admit it, "but millions of Jedi waited until the people of those worlds were ready for that."
Depa's rather grim expression matched mine all of a sudden. "That is true," she admitted. "He has chosen to influence a world that has not even explored space beyond their own system. It is an extremely isolated culture."
"Which is why he must be stopped," Mace reiterated firmly. "Even if it requires that he is simply brought home to the Temple, that is fine. Personally, however, I would like to see him pay a penance for his recklessness."
It could have hardly been called recklessness, since he hadn't meant to become stranded there, but there was no arguing with a Korunnai.
"I will, however, have you consult with Master Yoda," he muttered almost resentfully at last. "He is the Grand Master of the Order and it is only fitting that he render his judgment in this matter."
I bowed to the two Masters, fighting a relieved smile. "As you wish," I granted.
At least Master Yoda had a sense of humor. That might be the one thing that kept my wayward Padawan from suffering unnecessarily. Master Yoda himself had arranged the appointment for just after breakfast the next day, but I was still slightly apprehensive as I approached the meeting. After all, he had his soft spots, but he believed above all in discipline and purpose. It was, therefore, a toss-up as to what the outcome might be.
Still, I kept my voice steady and my mind clear as I introduced myself. "Vesten Grebleips to see Master Yoda."
The door slid open without a moment's pause and I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin in respect before entering Master Yoda's quarters.
"Master Grebleips," Yoda greeted with a slight smile as he gestured me to a seat on the circular chair opposite him. "Nervous you are."
"Concerned," I corrected mildly. "Master Windu wishes to see my Padawan drawn and quartered for this minor indiscretion."
"Minor," Yoda echoed. "Think you it minor?"
"I think that it is not as catastrophic as the esteemed Master Windu thinks," I said politely, folding my hands in my lap. "Have you reviewed the files that I sent to you?"
"Reviewed them I have," Master Yoda confirmed. "Many things of interest I have seen."
"As have I," I agreed.
"Thought him dead we did," Yoda began. "A relief to see that he was spared it is, but curious his choice to remain behind is."
"Perhaps it was not his choice," I rejoined. "It would not be the first time that a Padawan has been forgotten in a moment of haste."
It seemed that all Padawans had a story like that, when their Master had forgotten to retrieve them from a battleground or when they had been stranded for thirty minutes at the grocer's when their Master had headed back to the Temple, only to find that he had left behind the gallon of blue milk and the closest thing he had to a son. Of course, most Padawans did not end up three million lightyears away from their absent-minded Master. Besides, I had had nothing to do with his exile.
Yoda just grunted in amused agreement. Without further prompting, he activated the holocard on his datapad and the first video file that I had sent him began playing. It depicted a fairly minor incident in which my Padawan had demonstrated healing powers on another sentient.
"Young he still is," Master Yoda observed. "Foolish perhaps he is, but compassion he has."
"As has always been his wont," I commented. "It is no surprise to me that he is attempting to 'corrupt' this world by helping it."
"No surprise it is to find a Jedi doing so," Master Yoda murmured to himself. "Proud of him you should be."
I did not need Yoda's permission to be a proud 'parent' to my Padawan, but it was gratifying to hear him say it nonetheless. "I almost always am," I assured him.
"Healing," he listed them off. "Mental communication. Levitation."
"Hardly the worst things he could have done," I interjected.
"No," Yoda muttered, "but less conspicuous he could have been."
I had to stop myself from smiling, since my Padawan had taken to hiding in storage cubicles at times to avoid detection. He could have been less conspicuous, but it would have required him to exercise Alter Mind.
"Befriended some he has," he continued. "Helped them, yes, but endangered them he might have."
He frowned slightly, leaning forward to study the image of his primary contact being pursued by hooligans. Given the puerile nature of boys that age, it was hardly something that could be blamed on an outsider.
"If discovered by enemies his presence is, the boy's enemies they could also become," he said cryptically. "Prevent that we must."
It was a more mild statement than Master Windu's insistence that my Padawan had to be stopped, but it made me nervous nonetheless.
"Questions or comments have you?" he invited me to speak.
"I do," I admitted. "I will have to point it out…"
No sooner had I mentioned it than the appropriate file began playing.
"There," I said suddenly, jabbing my finger at a point on the recording.
Master Yoda dutifully stopped the holo and squinted at the figure.
"One of the things of interest I mentioned," I explained. "If I'm not mistaken, that figure close to him bears a striking resemblance to you, Master Yoda."
He turned a slightly unflattering shade of khaki, which I supposed was his version of a blush. "A lure," he said. "Know of my kind they do on this world."
That was a bit of an understatement and I could have called him on it, but I frowned at him instead.
"A lure for what?" I demanded.
"Wanted to test his loyalties we did," he stated without noticing my adamant curiosity. "Attempted to follow a familiar face he did."
"But the test was never completed," I protested. "What did you learn from it?"
"That avoiding us he is not," Yoda said frankly. "Speaks well of him it does."
Now that was a relief to hear. Maybe I would get my Padawan back intact as it was. Or maybe Yoda was practicing his old trick of listing good news ad nauseam and then dropping the other shoe.
Here it came. Oh, how I hated the "Still…"
"Three months' travel from home he is," Yoda reminded me. "Great resources it will require to retrieve him."
"I know, Master," I said, "but he is my Padawan and as difficult as the journey would be, I would make it ten times to have him returned to me."
Master Yoda smiled for the first time since I had arrived at his quarters. "Understand that I do," he soothed, "but a valid concern there is. How know we that he wishes to return to our way of life?"
Finally, I extracted a datacard with a record of transmissions received since we had finally located my missing Padawan.
"Simple," I said. "Padawan Ee-Tee phoned home from a place called Earth."