Call of the Wild
Qui Gon let Obi Wan handle the piloting. He sank gratefully into the copilot's seat, watching his apprentice run hands over the unfamiliar console and controls of the Trandoshan hunting skiff.
"Well, I think I can manage not to crash it," was the young Jedi's understated assessment of his own ability. "Or if I do, I shall be certain it's on a world where there are abundant public baths."
The Jedi master leaned his head against the seat's molded backrest and closed his eyes. "Public, my young Padawan? Since when have you become an exhibitionist?"
"I follow your example in all things, master."
The ship's drives began their warm up cycle. QuiGon could sense his companion frowning over the nav-comp, plotting out the fastest course to Coruscant… and a long, hot washing-up. He smiled. "You did not contract food poisoning, as you feared," he pointed out.
"I think I still might be sick," his apprentice griped.
The interior of the Trandoshan vessel did ….reek. Like the blazes. "Just use the cargo hold," Qui Gon advised heartlessly. "I prefer the cockpit to remain relatively clean."
"Yes, master." The navcomp blipped its readiness, but the sluggish engines were still in their radiation damping cycle. Trandoshans were notorious for ill-maintained equipment.
A pensive silence fell between them. Qui Gon felt his Padawan's mood slide toward melancholy, and reeled him back in, with the ease of long habit. "I must thank you again for healing me… and for defending the pack so ably, Obi Wan."
He didn't even need to see the raised eyebrow. "If I have impressed you, master, then I must by the same token fear the Council's censure."
There was something underlying that taunt, a source of unease. But Qui Gon knew that he must delve gently, deviously. He opened his eyes. "I am more than impressed," he said, sincerely. "I am very proud of you."
It was a disarming strike. Obi Wan flushed deeply, and deflected the praise with a change of topic. "This planet," he mused, deftly moving the focus of conversation away from himself, "It's not listed in the Republic… we ought to initiate a Senate report. Should they not have status as a sentient inhabited world?"
Qui Gon sighed. He had been pondering the same question, but with very different results. "I think perhaps they would be better served by a declaration of protected wildlife status. That would prevent trade and industrial interests from ever setting foot here. Ghe-Ru and here people are very primitive. What good would a political entanglement do them?"
Obi Wan toggled impatiently at the drive controls, making no answer.
"I sense that you agree with me. The Living Force is remarkably pure here… and these people live in tune with it. Membership in the Republic would only spoil that harmony."
"Master! What are you saying?"
Qui Gon shifted in his seat, watching his Padawan carefully. "You know full well. Do not pretend outrage. You can meditate on it later – I think you will find that simply because we as Jedi serve the Republic, it does not follow that we must find it above all reproach. Civilization does have its discontents."
The engines finally signaled their readiness, but Obi Wan did not move.
"Master…" he began, tentatively.
Qui Gon waited, patient and pleased. His roundabout prodding had finally succeeded. Now would come the confession of personal disquiet.
"When you were ill, before the hunters arrived," Obi Wan continued, gathering courage as he spoke, as true to form as ever, "I shared a meditation with Ooh-wan. Their shaman. In the Circle. And I encountered beings she called the Ancestors, in a vision – in the Force. Only it was more than a vision, I feel sure of it. They were present in the Force, master, but as individuals, although they have all died."
Qui Gon's heart thrilled within him. There were things he had studied… wondered at… but this was not the time to discuss them. Obi Wan was not yet ready. "This disturbs you."
"Yes. Is such a thing even… possible, master?"
A corner of Qui Gon's mouth lifted. "You experienced it firsthand, and yet you ask whether it is possible?" he replied, reasonably.
The Padawan scowled and looked away. "They were in the Force. But they barely knew of the Jedi or the Code. I… I accepted their help, master. Was that wrong?"
Ah. The crux of the matter. He inhaled deeply, seeking balance and wisdom before making his reply. "The Force is greater than the Order. There are other communities of Force-users in the galaxy, and perhaps some we do not know of. And your experience… it admits of many interpretations. I trust you not to choose any action that is Dark. If your heart assured you of that much, then you should rest at ease. Whatever you saw or felt in your meditation came from the Force and served its purpose. You need not understand it fully, so long as you serve with an open heart."
"Because the Way is one."
Qui Gon nodded. "At root, yes."
Obi Wan released a pent up breath, expelling anxiety with it. "Thank you," he said, finally turning to the console again, and engaging the ship's engines.
"My pleasure," the Jedi master smiled, "You've earned the right to some wisdom, I think."
The Padawan ran a disgruntled hand over his stubbled chin and gazed woefully at his filthy nails. "I'd rather have that bath we were discussing earlier," he grumbled.
They rose into the skies, the grasses shrank to a rumpled sea of green and brown. "Nonsense," Qui Gon lightly answered. "You are a natural. I foresee you retiring in a barren wilderness and dwelling happily in a cave for the remainder of your years."
His apprentice snorted in disdain. "The entire Republic will fall into ruin before you see that," he quipped.
They chuckled a little together, and ascended into the stars.
Below, Gerroo and the pack ran along under the dwindling shadow of their vessel, howling a last farewell and thanks into the clear blue. And then the Jedi were gone, leaving only the wind and the wide plains and the eternal, life-giving Way behind.