One Too Many

10:07 standard local time

The distance between Coruscant, famously hailed as "the Jewel of the Core", and its dowdy sister-world Vandor 3 – popularly referred to as "the Armpit of the Core" – was a mere three hour jaunt on sublights in a no-frills commuter vessel.

Of course, if you happened to possess a souped-up Delta class starfighter, and the military security codes to bypass the restrictive free-fly impositions set by Intra-system Space Traffic Control, and you happened to tweak your fuel routers for maximum performance, you could do the same journey in just under thirty minutes.

Or less, if you happened to be Anakin Skywalker in a foul mood.

"Is that the best you can do, old man?" the aforesaid reckless speed demon demanded, idly flipping his ship upside down per the magnetic compass and skimming along Vandor's ionosphere at approximately four times the legal re-entry velocity.

Following behind at what he judged a conservative distance outside his friend's possible explosive shock radius – it never hurt to be cautious – Obi-Wan Kenobi unclenched white knuckled hands from about his own fighter's yoke and released a long sigh of relief. "Take over, Arfour. And ignore Master Skywalker's puerile taunts."

The astromech unit snugged away in its wing socket burbled a happy affirmative to this suggestion.

"I can hear everything you're saying," Anakin reminded his former mentor.

"Yes, but as there is little chance you'll actually listen, I don't feel obliged to play to the audience."

"Do you hear that, Artoo? I think he's mocking us."

Anakin's astromech responded with a long and expressive chain of whistling trills and blorps. The shipboard computers immediately provided a rough vernacular translation.

The Jedi master raised one brow. "So uncivilized."

"Relax, Obi-Wan. It's not like we ran into any safety patrols on the way."

The older man rolled his eyes in the privacy of his cockpit. "At that speed, Anakin, it was a mercy of the Force we didn't run into the planet."

""You must have more faith, my master. I got us here in one piece, didn't I?"

"That is yet to be seen. I'll weigh in once we've our feet on solid ground again."

Anakin flipped his ship right-way up again, and dove sickeningly for the distant surface, veiled beneath a swell of thick cumulus cloud cover. "Last one down buys the drinks."

10:17 local standard time

Not that Vandor Intergalactic Spaceport offered much in the way of cantinas.

"This place was nice before the war," Anakin grumbled, kicking a stray chunk of rubble out of his path with one boot. The rock skittered and bounced over the cracked tarmac, coming to rest beneath the battered hulk of a rusting freighter.

Obi-Wan's brows crept upward again. "Your idea of nice and mine are very different, my friend." A fat duracrete slug emerged from an open drainage chute and oozed forward to snatch the bit of rubble from its hiding place.

"Ugh." Anakin's revulsion shuddered in the Force. "Kriffing jerrzil."

The swollen petrivore slunk back into its lair, leaving the docking pad empty again. Not even a droid clerk appeared to issue them a landing permit. Budget cuts had apparently wrought their magic here as well. Distantly a test explosive shook the earth and sent a plume of dark smoke into the sky. A squadron on heavy fighters passed overhead in tight formation.

"Who volunteered us for this bum assignment?"

The older man led the way across the wide grey expanse toward the outbuildings. "There was a time, Anakin, when you would jump at any opportunity to leave Coruscant. Perhaps I craved a change of scenery."

Anakin snorted. "Not my fault if being locked up in that stuffy Council tower doesn't suit you. If you broke the Code now and then, maybe they would release you from your position."

Obi-Wan tugged his cloak close about his shoulders as a frigid wind swept up from Vandor's coastline. "Tempting."

"Really?" His companion lengthened his stride. "Then let's get that drink we talked about. You lost the race, so you're buying."

To his surprise, the Jedi master agreed with a terse nod. "Fine."

Obi-Wan really hadn't been the same since Mandalore, but they didn't talk about that - at all, ever - by unspoken mutual consent. Anakin clapped his former master in the shoulder and steered them both toward the spaceport's only bar, Jerzzil Shores.

In time of universal war, even a Jedi could stand to wet his whistle now and then.