Closing Doors

The problem with automated doors was that they couldn't be slammed. Jaina had no choice but to wait for it to slide closed behind her.

She barely restrained herself from shouting. "What the hell was that?"

Everyone in the spacious Jedi Temple conference room spun to face her. All things considered, the meeting with the Chief of State they had just departed had been civil enough. For once, nobody had threatened to have anyone else arrested and imprisoned, which marked a welcome improvement from where things had stood just a few short months earlier. The superficial amicability of the conversation, though, had concealed the stark reality that this time, it wasn't Daala who was the problem. It was the presence – meddling, to be more accurate – of the elder of the two new members of the Jedi negotiating team.

Luke held out his hands. "I'm sorry. I'm not sure what you mean."

"You know full well what I mean."

No one moved to take a seat at the long table. Her mother and father watched the two of them with concern. Ben looked distinctly uncomfortable. Kyp and Corran shifted to the side, keeping out of it. And Saba – well, who could ever tell what Barabels were thinking.

"I did what I thought was right, Jaina."

"You need to rethink, then."

Her mother took a step toward her. "Jaina…"

"No, Mom." She raised her hand, wagging a finger at her uncle. "I understand why you had to leave. I don't begrudge you that; never have. But you can't just come waltzing back in here and start making decisions like nothing's changed while you were gone."

"I understand that," Luke said.

"No, I don't think you do." Jaina took a long stride toward him. "You have no idea what the political environment has been like here, or what's been going on behind the scenes, inside the Jedi and out. You have absolutely no sense of how close the Order came to being legally disbanded, or how hard Leia and I had to fight in the Senate until we cobbled together every last ally the Jedi still have to ward off the worst Daala tried to pull."

"Uh…" Ben glanced down at his boots, then up again. "Maybe I should go."

"Stay, Ben," Jaina directed before Luke could say anything. "The mantle of the Jedi Order will fall on you someday. You need to hear this."

Ben nodded. Nobody else moved to disagree with her.

"Everything we did came at a cost, Luke. Even just getting to keep the Temple, which should have been ours without debate to begin with. Every concession we made was an acceptable price to pay to prevent harm to the interests of the Order. Every offer we made to Daala was necessary to head off something worse from the other direction. You haven't been here; you have no idea how grave the consequences of the other paths would have been. The deal we have with Daala isn't perfect, but it's the best we could do – and the rest of the Council agreed with us." She shook her head, and blew out a harsh sigh. "But apparently you don't have any qualms about throwing it all away on a whim to suit some idealistic vision of a Jedi Order that doesn't exist any more. If it ever did."

After a silent moment Luke said, "It wasn't a whim."

Jaina raised a brow. She said nothing.

"I appreciate everything you've done, Jaina." Luke smiled, and the warmth in it was genuine. "But we can't transform our apprentice program into some kind of military academy. We're training Jedi, not soldiers. Being a Jedi isn't about learning rules of engagement, it's about learning to trust in the Force."

She bit back her chuckle, but not the icy tone of her voice. "That hasn't exactly worked out so well lately for the galaxy – or some of our young apprentices – now, has it?"

The shock on Luke's face couldn't be faked. "You're not suggesting Daala is right?"

"Fully? No. But she does have a point. More than you –" She looked to each of the Jedi Masters in turn. "– any of you – cares to admit." For a moment she thought Kyp would challenge her, but he didn't. So she pressed on. "It's not that 'trust your feelings' is bad advice in principle. But it only works as guidance for doing the right thing if you know which feelings to trust."

"Yeah," her father said. "And Jacen sure didn't."

"Exactly." Jaina glanced to Ben and flashed a quick smile. "We've all read Ben's report about our grandfather. He let his love become fear, and he let his fear consume him. He trusted the wrong feelings, and it destroyed him. Just like Jacen."

"Yes," Luke said. "Thanks to Vergere and Lumiya. Your training as an apprentice wasn't so different from his, and you've become a great Jedi."

She smiled sadly. "You still don't see it, do you?"

He frowned. "See what?"

"Rogue Squadron." It was Corran's voice that finally broke the silence. "And everything that came after. That's what made Jaina different from Jacen."

Saba sissed. "Perhaps we should not be surprised the one who actually earned her colonel's commission ends up the hero."

Jaina met her father's eyes, and saw his brow raised too. Finally an instance of Barabel humor they actually got. At least, she thought so. Then she turned to Luke. "Don't get me wrong. I don't think the training I got from Mara was flawed. Far from it. But it wasn't enough. I didn't get my discipline from my Jedi lessons. I got it from the military."

"Maybe so," Luke said, rubbing his chin. "And surely that is a difference between you and Jacen. But many other young Jedi who've lacked military experience have not made his mistakes." He met her eyes and smiled faintly. "Even myself, long ago."

"That's true, I admit. Still, your childhood was something totally different than anything our apprentices today have experienced." She tried hard to make it sound like she wasn't lecturing an older, wiser man – but that was sure how it felt. "You were brought up with strong values and discipline by a family who loved you deeply but raised you firmly. You were sheltered even from the violence and evil on Tatooine, much less the struggles of the galaxy as a whole. By the time you ultimately fell in with the Rebellion, you had an ironclad sense of right and wrong. Yoda and Obi-Wan knew they could teach you to trust your feelings because they knew they could believe in the values Owen and Beru had instilled in you."

Leia smiled wistfully. "You could say the same for my upbringing, too, I suppose."

"And mine, as well," Corran said.

Kyp chuckled. "Then there's the spice mines of Kessel. Not the best place to grow up. And we all know how that worked out for me."

Luke nodded, shifting to lean his hip against the conference table. "Even before the Yuuzhan Vong war, you and Jacen didn't exactly have the calmest of childhoods."

"Fortunately most of our current apprentices have been spared the likes of multiple kidnappings and the Shadow Academy," Leia said, "but many of them still have grim memories of the Yuuzhan Vong war from when they were little. And even the ones who are too young to remember that still had the traumas of the Confederation war to deal with."

"As I see it," Jaina said, "we're lucky more of them haven't ended up like Jacen. Or Raynar or Alema or Tahiri. We've not done enough to make sure they have the values they need, and the discipline to hold to them."

"She makes a good case, Luke," said Corran, arms crossed over his chest. Nobody needed to mention what had happened to his son Valin. They all knew.

Luke sighed. "Perhaps this is a concern I've overlooked. I will certainly think carefully about the points you've made. But we can't abandon what is fundamental about being a Jedi – or training a Jedi, even a young apprentice."

Jaina shook her head. "What could be more fundamental than ensuring a Jedi knows how to stand firm against the dark side?"

"It's not as simple as that, Jaina."

"Of course it is." She propped her fists on her hips. "It's as simple as knowing right from wrong, and never letting yourself forget which is which."

Luke frowned. "We all make mistakes."

"I'm not talking about mistakes. I've made my share of those, especially at Hapes after Anakin died. But I wasn't kidding myself about using the dark side back then. I knew I was, and I didn't care. What Jacen did was something very different. He convinced himself he was doing the right thing. As far back as the Killik War, he fooled himself into believing his choices were serving the light, not the dark. By the end… Well, you saw that recording. He honestly thought murdering Mara had made the galaxy a safer, better place for everyone."

Luke flinched.

Jaina held his gaze, refusing to let him look away. "I'm not talking about trying to prevent any Jedi from ever falling to the dark side again. Of course it'll happen; it's inevitable. Over time, some will choose evil – intentionally. It's falling into the trap of Jacen's warped reasoning that we can prevent."

"Much as we might like," her uncle said softly, "not every choice is black and white. We could not hide that from our pupils even if we wanted to."

"I killed my twin brother, Luke. You don't need to remind me about the nature of impossible choices."

Luke blinked. Jaina didn't.

"Sometimes it is difficult to know what's right. I don't deny that. But our doubts about the hard choices are no excuse for screwing up the easy ones." She glanced to Kyp. "Do you remember what you said, all those years ago? 'The vaping lines keep moving.'" She shook her head. "If I've learned anything from the horrors Jacen put us all through, it's that the lines don't change. Only our willingness to cross them."

"I appreciate your perspective, and where it comes from." Luke's voice was quiet, sad. "But perhaps after a few more decades as a Jedi Master, you will understand why I doubt the Jedi Order can be dedicated to sharing it."

Jaina nodded, and exhaled a slow sigh. "Sometimes the passage of time clouds wisdom, rather than granting it." She met her mother's eyes. "The Rebel Alliance you joined, the New Republic you served – they never would have countenanced an institution like the GAG." She looked back to Luke. "The Moffs might make evil choices at times to serve their ambitions for the Empire or themselves, but at least they're brazen about it. The Galactic Alliance, well, its last two leaders have been a Sith Lord and a war criminal, cloaking their madness and darkness with all the rhetoric and integrity of legitimate government. Jedi have always known how to oppose obvious evil. It's time we trained ourselves to oppose insidious evil, too."

Luke spread his hands. "Then help me, Jaina. Help me do just that."

"No, Luke." She shook her head, and turned toward the door. "I already did. I gave you all the tools you need. If you don't want them, that's your decision." She stepped to the door, which slid open in advance of her approach. "One it seems you've already made."

Luke took a step toward her. "Where are you going?"

"To serve a government I can believe in, instead of a Jedi Order I can't." She looked past Luke, to his son behind him. "You know where to find me if you ever need my help." Then she met each of the other Jedi's eyes in turn. "We may have our disagreements, but we'll always be on the same side." Her gaze ended with Luke. "May the Force be with you."

Then she turned and walked out the door.

It slid closed behind her.

Jaina never broke stride.

She didn't get far down the corridor, though, before she heard a voice calling after her.

"Wait up, kiddo." Her father.

She stopped, glancing back over her shoulder. Her parents. She waited as they approached. When they arrived, her mother put a hand on her arm.

Leia smiled past the wetness in her eyes. "I have never been more proud of you."

Jaina smiled back. Or tried to, anyway. "Sorry I had to do that. Do this."

"Me too," Han said. "But we understand why you had to."

"I –" Jaina blinked, then looked at each of them. "Huh?"

"We understand," her mother said. "And we agree with more of what you said than you realize."

Jaina nodded slowly. "Okay."

"So," her father said. "How you planning to get to Bastion, anyway?"

To be honest, she hadn't thought that far ahead. "I don't know. A charter, I suppose. Or maybe Jag can send a diplomatic courier for me."

Leia squeezed her arm. "Want a ride?"

Han flashed her that cocky Solo smirk. "I hear there's a fast ship docked not too far from here."

Jaina smiled. "Thanks. I'd like that."

***