AN: (Andrew) Wow, been a while... hasn't it? I hope you enjoy this, and with a bit of luck, the next won't take as long. This chapter is mostly setup, which explains why it took me so long.
Balance of Force
By Andrew "MageOhki" Norris and Nick Leifker
Eilsa Jardon smiled as she looked over the crowd. Republic Day was always a celebration to look forward to, but this year was rare form. The Corps was celebrating on one of the Senate courtyards, prime real estate for a party; even better, the Chancellor himself, as well as several prominent Senators, were in attendance.
While the party might not be as wild as it could be, in terms of food and the quality of the celebration, it didn't get much better than this. She'd tried a few of the hors d'oveures, and was suitably impressed; whoever was doing the cooking was one of the best.
She looked over at her padawan, and breathed a small sigh of relief. Ranma was clearly enjoying herself, talking with Anakin and several other padawans. For a few months, she'd been worried that Ranma would never fit in, that Anakin would be her only friend in the Corps; however, she'd more than proven herself to a majority of the padawans, and had earned her reputation as the one person you wanted guarding your back. In fact, only Sangrous and his gang had yet to accept her.
As for Ranma's "other half"... while it wasn't commonly known, Windu occasionally invited the "gifted youngling" to add a wrinkle to his training exercises.
Eilsa's eyes turned to the Chancellor, as he rose from the table. Senators and High Council Jedi sat around him, all together to celebrate the Republic. The Chancellor raised his glass, and all was silent.
"Good evening, friends, colleagues, honored Jedi. I've always enjoyed a party such as this - especially on a day like this. A politician's life is never easy; it feels good to take a day off and to celebrate our accomplishments."
"For millenia, our galaxy has been held together with a promise, based on several truths. We are stronger together than we are alone. We are wiser together than we are alone. And, finally, that working together as one galaxy toward peace is a far greater goal than any war.
"From these ideas, our Republic was born. Thousands of planets and races of sentient beings, all with a voice so that none may suffer in silence. But all there for one goal in mind: a common peace, a common good, an honorable Republic.
"So today, we honor those who have worked hard to build this Republic we love so much. Think about them; think about those who have sacrificed to keep our Republic alive." A mournful silence hung over the crowd for a moment.
After the dramatic pause, the Chancellor smiled. "But this is not a time to mourn. Come, my friends! Eat, drink! Enjoy the fireworks! This is a celebration; let us celebrate!"
A half-dozen rockets fired in the background behind the Chancellor; Eilsa's eyes followed their trails as they made their way into the sky. There was just something beautiful about the blossom of fireworks...
Eilsa frowned. Fireworks weren't supposed to start downward, especially not in that direction...
"Move!" Before anyone else could act, she saw a group of padawans scatter; in the empty space were two padawans she knew well. In that moment, she understood what was going on, and who they were targeting.
Ranma and Anakin shared a glance; the two waited until the very last moment, then leapt just as the first pair of rockets flew in, detonating at their feet.
In that moment, she was proud of the pair. They'd cleared any other potential victims from the blast, then used the blast and a judicious use of the Force to propel themselves from the explosion. Unfortunately, only two of the rockets detonated - and four more were coming fast. Ranma's eyes moved toward the buffet, and Eilsa suddenly had a bad feeling.
Ranma had been carried high into the air by the blast; to Eilsa's horror, several dishes followed her, carried by the Force. As they both expected, two of the rockets adjusted their courses to follow her; Ranma placed two dishes in between the rockets and herself, the contact causing them to detonate.
The result was, sadly, predictable. Alderaan Stew and Deneelian fizz-pudding rained down upon the crowd. A few Jedi were fast enough to shield themselves from the rain; most, however, weren't quite that fast.
"Anakin, no!" Obi-wan shouted next to her, but they both knew it was too late. Anakin lifted several dishes of his own from the buffet; a second later, kirf wedges and roddenberry pie joined the dinner currently served on Jedi heads and shoulders.
For a moment, the only sound that could be heard was the dripping of food and sauces. Finally, an all-too-familiar voice made itself heard. "You two are pathetic Jedi," Sangrous sneered. "Can't you even stand still right?"
Ranma's gaze turned toward Sangrous, and Eilsa knew trouble was coming. Sangrous' words weren't spontaneous - they were PLANNED. Which meant he was behind this - and Ranma knew it. And the glare Ranma was giving the padawan was one she rarely saw, but had learned to fear. Ranma was upset. For all the experience behind those blue eyes, Ranma still had the body of a seven-year-old. And that seven-year-old body, spiked with adrenaline from her close call, screamed for revenge.
Before she or anyone else could react, the entire table of food rose several feet into the air, and began to fly. Trajectories and velocities differed, everything from high-speed cake to lobbed dewback ribs. All, however, had the same target: one padawan, who suddenly found himself isolated from his colleagues as they backed away.
Sangrous, it should be noted, was a decent padawan. He'd learned some Force deflection. A flock of roast Gorak was deflected and sent straight at the High Council table; a plate of ootoowergs scattered across the flock of padawans.
Still, he couldn't deflect everything. The aforementioned cake came in way too fast, and he found himself with whipped cream for makeup; the ribs had slipped his detection, and they and their sauce decorated themselves on his shoulders.
After only a few seconds, Sangrous was painted from head to toe in dozens of dishes, ranging from Thakitillo to Vagnerian Canapes. Unfortunately, few of these dishes could truly be called dry; what didn't stay on Sangrous spread to nearby padawans. Of course, what Sangrous was able to deflect went everywhere else.
Eilsa's gaze traveled to the High Council table, and she gulped. The Chancellor calmly wiped the baked yot beans from his eyes; Master Windu used a napkin to wipe ryshcate remains from his face. Master Yoda calmly pulled a thin strip of nerfsteak from one of his ears.
After a moment, the napkin fell from Windu's face. The glare in his eyes spoke volumes. "Padawan Saotome?"
Ranma bit her lip. "Yes, Master Windu?"
He took another deep breath. "Padawan Skywalker?"
Anakin gulped. "Yes, sir?"
He took a third deep breath. "Padawan Sangrous?"
Sangrous blinked. "What did I do?"
Windu glared at him. "You three will clean this mess - WITHOUT FURTHER INCIDENT - until this area is spotless. After which, you will IMMEDIATELY report to the Council chamber. Is that understood?"
Three meek "yes sir"s marked his response.
Though Ranma would never admit it, the planet looked far more appealing to her eyes than Coruscant. Unlike the black and gold that represented the eternal city-planet, the planet in front of her felt far more like home. Greens, blues, and browns stared back at her from the abyss of space, calling to the part of her that desired to play.
She'd never admit it, of course, because this was supposed to be a punishment for her. She kept her face neutral as she stared at it.
"So, Master... what's this place supposed to be like?"
Eilsa raised an eyebrow at the padawan's question. "It's a library that requires a great deal of work. According to what Master Nu told me, their library recently uncovered a large number of Jedi materials from the period shortly after the Restoration, materials that are both fragile and irreplaceable. There were no holocrons from this time period; these are physical papers and books that need to be cataloged and replicated. As you have shown such incredible fine control for your telekinesis and are not unfamiliar with working with paper, it was determined that you should be the one to help this library with its inventory."
Ranma frowned. "I was referring to the planet."
Eilsa grinned. "I know you were. The planet is called Corellia; as you're here to work in the library, you don't need to know anything beyond that."
"Aw, come on, Master..." Ranma whined. "It's not like I'm going to spend every minute in the library..."
Eilsa sighed. "Ranma, this is a punishment. You messed up – messed up in such a way that, for the most part, we weren't sure what to do with the three of you, except get you off Coruscant for awhile to cool off. This little feud has gone too far, and the three of you need to either put it behind you or get out. Master Kenobi is taking Anakin on an extended diplomatic mission to Nal Hutta; Master Luxal and Sangrous are assisting Master Dooku – sorry, Count Dooku, as he's removed himself from the Jedi Corps – in his negotiations with worlds negatively affected by the Trade Federation conflict." She sighed. "None of these tasks are going to be particularly pleasant. The fact that Anakin is going to Nal Hutta of all places should tell you something."
Ranma huffed. "Not my fault he reprogrammed the rockets to bead on my Force signature..."
"But it WAS your and Anakin's fault that he ended up covered in every food imaginable," Eilsa countered. "Ranma... when one of your screw-ups becomes the most watched holovid in the Republic... when you personally contribute to the dry-cleaning bills of the Chancellor and a dozen Senators... it's pretty big." She put a hand on Ranma's shoulder. "You need to control your temper, Padawan. Acting on impulse, without considering the consequences, is the fastest way to get people hurt."
"Yes, Master..." Ranma sighed, all the while focusing on the lands below and imagining genuine outdoor training. It wasn't like she would spend ALL of her time stuck in the library...
Inwardly, Ranma smiled.
She was in familiar territory, though she'd never let them know that. Dojos and temples were notorious for rooms like this. A film of dust covered everything; she could see the few places where hands had made contact or moved objects around, but for the most part the place remained pristine. Library shelves – with physical, paper books – stared back at her, a combination of blank-spined personal journals and titled books, their contents barely announced beneath the dust.
"So. You want me to clean up what's here."
"More than that, Padawan," Master Nejaa Halcyon replied as he stroked his beard. "You'll notice the 2D scanner set up in the next room. These are delicate items, so delicate that most papers will not abide the hands of sentients. What we want you to do is move each paper under the scanner using the Force. It's designed to operate automatically; all you have to do is move the paper underneath the scanner, wait until it beeps, then move it into that sealer there; it will seal the item in carbonite until such time as it's needed again."
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Why can't you do it?"
Halcyon coughed. "It is a weakness of my family. We can't use the Force for telekinesis; never have." He smiled wryly. "Besides, your skill with Force telekinesis has already been well-established."
Ranma sighed. "I'm not going to live that down, am I?"
"Not likely, Padawan," Nejaa replied, a smug grin plastered on his face. "Not likely. Although, if it does make you feel better, you've directly affected the training regimens of our padawans here."
"How so?" Ranma replied.
Nejaa pulled out a holocron and activated it with a thought. Within the small hologram, children flew around in a pattern that almost seemed random. As she noted the details, Ranma blinked.
"You mean you never thought of using the Force to fly before now?"
Nejaa shrugged. "Well, we never thought of using that particular method. Usually we'll propel ourselves a bit more on a jump with the Force; what your method did was show us how to use current environmental conditions along with Force shields to propel us – and to glide us down safely afterwards." He grinned. "You've just taken us – most of us, anyway – into three-dimensional combat."
Ranma frowned. "That doesn't make me feel much better, sir. I'm wondering why it took so long for people to come up with it." She shrugged. "Then again, I was taught to think in three dimensions since I was born, so..."
Nejaa's eyebrows rose. "You may have to show me those lessons sometime."
The words caught Ranma cold. She knew the lessons given to toddlers and newborns in her family's art. Now, though, those lessons carried such a different meaning, both good and bad. She didn't miss her father often... but at that moment, she found herself wanting one more spar with him. "Y-yes, sir. They aren't Jedi lessons, though."
Nejaa nodded. "I kind of figured that. No offense, but you don't seem like the type that's been in the Corps since birth. You think too much on your feet for a Coruscant Jedi, and you have too little impulse control, even for one of your age." He puffed his chest out slightly. "Oh, I don't mean to insult. In fact, one of the reasons why this praxeum exists is to provide a different view of the Force. Frankly, sometimes the old guard can be too stuffy for its own good. Stay inflexible for too long, and..." His eyes cast over to the dusty room that awaited them.
"And you get as old and stale as the papers in this room," Ranma finished. She started to walk gingerly through the stacks of papers. "So. I'm guessing there's probably some things you're particularly interested in. Anything I should look for?"
Ranma was really starting to like Corellia.
When she'd arrived at Coruscant a year ago, the differences from Earth had been subtle: a little less oxygen in the air, but the gravity was almost exactly the same. Adjusting, therefore, had been a trivial matter.
Corellia, on the other hand, had two major differences from Earth or Coruscant: a higher oxygen content, and roughly 70 of the gravity of Coruscant or Earth. For someone whose martial art was grounded, so to speak, in aerial combat, Corellia was heaven – or, at least, a really fast way to get there.
Still, she knew the curse of such a planet. She had to work her muscles harder to keep them from atrophying in the lower gravity. Hence her current activity.
A couple of months ago, she'd had the chance to see Yoda in combat against Master Windu. It was a masterwork; Yoda knew exactly how to keep Windu off balance as he used the walls, ceiling, Windu's lightsaber, Windu himself, and anything else in the room to propel himself around. Windu, to his credit, held himself up fairly well against the assault, but couldn't hold up forever.
For someone like Ranma, who'd been born to aerial combat and understood what worked and what didn't, it was coming back home. They might touch you if they were lucky, but if you never stop moving and never provide a pattern for them to bead on, they were shooting in the dark. The targets she'd launched couldn't focus fast enough on her bounding form; at the same time, she always knew when and where to be.
The scary part of the exercise? Disarming those damned drones – by hand. Still, it seemed to be working; she'd taken care of three of the four so far. Now if only this last one would sit still long enough...
Ranma grimaced. The drone, if it could have, would have salivated. It beaded on the newcomer and zoomed to the open door. Ranma gritted her teeth, bounded just to the left of the drone, and grabbed it just as the drone sent out a blast.
"Ow," Ranma winced as she switched the drone off, then looked up. "Hello."
Ranma got a look at the newcomer. If the age was any indication, she was probably a padawan: human, roughly 11 years old. She was tall, but carried herself as though she wasn't used to her body; Ranma guessed she had recently hit a growth spurt, as Jusenkyo was in a galaxy far, far away. Her bronze skin and dark eyes shone in the light, as she brought a hand up to her face. "Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't aware anyone was..." Her voice trailed off. "It's you, isn't it?"
Ranma blinked. "Me?"
The girl grinned. "The one at the Republic Day dinner. I heard that one of you was headed here to help out with the library find..."
"Oh," Ranma groaned. "Yeah, it's me."
The girl let out a delighted squeak. "Oh, that was so cool! I mean, how many people can honestly say they started a Jedi food fight – with the Chancellor watching!"
Ranma shook her head. "I... yeah. I messed up, though; I should have just lifted everything and dumped it straight on Sangrous' head. Too much velocity, and..." Ranma pantomimed the splatter, for effect.
"But that was the fun part!" the girl exclaimed. She then blinked and stuck out her right hand. "Oh, I'm Lysa. And you are...?"
Ranma accepted the hand. "Ranma. Saotome Ranma." She looked around. "So. What kind of training do you do here?"
"This room's used for lightsaber training, whether with drones or with other people." Lysa looked down at her feet and blushed. "I haven't been doing well in that lately, so..."
"Let me guess: balance all off, right?" Ranma grinned. "Yeah, that'll take some getting used to. Practice will help keep you sharp, if nothing else; problem is, it won't really settle for a few more years."
Lysa grimaced. "You're probably right... how do you know so much about that, anyway?"
Ranma shook her head. "Before I was found by the Jedi, my dad taught me whatever he could about martial arts. He expected me to learn – and, one day, he expected me to teach." Her face fell. "He was killed shortly before I was brought to Coruscant."
"Oh," Lysa replied. She shuffled her feet for a moment. "So... are you being trained as a Guardian, then?"
"Consular, more likely," Ranma replied. "Master Jardon insists I do this whole 'book learning' stuff so that I can work on consular missions. She and Master Yoda have mentioned this 'Sentinel' title... never seen anybody with it, though. Anyway... I dunno. Me and diplomacy never got along very well." She looked over at Lysa's practice lightsaber. "Do you mind a bit of practice? I may be able to see what's wrong with your technique..."
"Humm... if I'm going to take you to see the sights on Corellia, better snag some credits. C'mon!" Lysa grabbed Ranma and dragged her out of the library, where the stacks of books to be recorded and preserved had been steadily shrinking, especially with Lysa's help to store the data and move the books to the carbonite chamber.
Before Ranma could stop her, Lysa had stopped in front of a small office, where a Jedi was studying.
Lysa paused. "Hey, Lundia. Can I get some credits to go out? Want to show Ranma the places where we hang out." The older woman grinned and nodded. "Sure, Lysa. Stay out of Glitterhall, and watch for the swifters, mind you!" Lunida handed Lysa a small stack of coins and smiled at Ranma. "Poor poor Coruscanti Jedi. We do things differently outside those high walls."
"Thanks, Lundia!" Lysa waved as she grabbed Ranma's hand, and prepared to leave. She was stopped by a tart comment from the older Jedi.
"Find out if Wynesa or Talin wants to go, younglings! Remember your fellows." She smiled, lessening the implicit rebuke, and added. "Show her how we do things on Corellia."
Lysa grinned back, and led Ranma to the garage. "She's right. From what I've been told, none of you get to leave the Temple even as apprentices, unless on a mission, or under supervision." She sniffed, and grinned. "Hell, I bet none of you know where the malls are, on Coruscant. Much less the Aradecs!"
"Um... what's a Aradecs?" Ranma paused, noting the slightly stunned expression on Lysa's face.
Lysa shook her head. "... well, I'll show you. Let's see if Wynesa or Talin is open. Talin's cute." She was rewarded with a blank stare from the younger Jedi, and she shook her head again.
Ranma watched as the older girl tapped a com console, and waited, receiving two responses. "So?" the younger girl asked.
"Wynesa isn't, her master has her doing something, but Talin is coming." Ranma heard the girlish sigh in Lysa's voice, and shook her head. Never ever would she sigh over some boy.
Ranma and Lysa waited in companionable silence, and were quickly rewarded by a set of rapid footsteps, and a slightly older young man strode in. "Lysa... and oh, Ranma" He smirked at the redhead, who shot a glare at the amusement in his voice. "So, they're letting you out after your little stunt?" His tone was amused, and Ranma's eyes sent a flat stare at the golden haired, blue eyed teenager.
"We're not prisoners." Ranma's flat tone matched Talin's glee. "We're Jedi, and supposed to do our tasks diligently and with dispatch" She watched both older padawan's expressions carefully, and hid a smile. Who knew copying Eilsa's frequent speeches paid off in payback ability.
"Ack! Lysa! Where did you find this ... this... Coruscanti! I thought she was one of us! Not a prim and proper little Council drone!" Talin's words were counteracted by the overblown grasping of the chest, and staggering back.
Lysa's face was in her hand. "She got you good, Talin. Accept it." Talin nodded.
"Not that I didn't deserve the blast, but I'm sure you didn't call me just to get that, Lysa." Talin's eyebrows rose, and his tone became more serious.
"Well, we're going to hit Sado's Aradac, and Lundia suggested you or Wynesa come along. Plus, I don't have my speeder license yet. You... do." She smirked at the older boy.
Talin winced. "Which is a good thing. Considering the LAST time you ... acquired a speeder." He shook his head, and scooped up a card. "We'll take that one," he pointed his head at an older one, and watched as Ranma moved towards it, and Lysa followed. "You both did check out, right?" He was rewarded with a sharp nod from Lysa, and a slightly puzzled look from Ranma who climbed in the back seat.
"Oh... for the love of. Yes, she did, Talin. Lundia saw us both leave." Talin nodded.
"Fair enough." He slid across the front of the speeder, and hopped into the control seat. "Hang on."
After a short trip, Talin slid the speeder into a slot. "Here we are. Got some extra credits, Lysa?" He was rewarded with a small handful. "Gee... thanks."
Lysa smirked back. "Well, I have to have some for Ranma and me, no?" She was rewarded with a grin from Talin. "Anyways, let's go play! I heard from Teela they uploaded a new character or two to Rogue Knight!" Talin grinned back at the words.
Ranma trailed the two older Jedi padawans, listening half heartedly to their conversation, mostly about things she really didn't recognize, and eyed the various people. She loved to people watch in Nerima, and on the road, so she was glad to get the chance to do it here. Eilsa had kept her mostly in the Temple on Coruscant, and she didn't get a chance to see anyone, except stuffy old politicians, or Jedi. As she watched the flow of people of all ages, and races, she realized, just like home. People are people.
Suddenly her eyes narrowed at two people, but before she could examine them, a voice called out. "C'mon Ranma, let's -go-!" Lysa called out, breaking her thoughts.
The two men watched as the redhead dashed towards the other Jedi. "So?" The gravelly voice responded. "She was the one in the holovid, no?" He was rewarded with a nod, and a glance at the scanner. "She... seems powerful, if this is working."
"Yes... she'll do nicely." The younger of the pair showed a dark smile as he looked at the older man. "Once... properly shown her ... path." He was rewarded with a nod.
"Let's discuss how we will... acquire her. We were going to settle for acquiring one of the others, but..." Both men walked off, still talking.
Ranma felt a slight shiver down her spine, but as she was walking into the air conditioned room, she didn't chalk it up to anything, and caught up with Lysa and Talin, who were waiting in line for one holostation.
"Oh." Lysa turned and grinned.
"Never seen anything like this, I bet." Lysa's grin was added by Talin. "It's fun, playing Hologames." She was rewarded by a look from Ranma.
"Oh, I didn't realize we were going to an Arcade. Been to a few on my home planet, though we didn't have holo tech." Ranma's smirk neatly disarmed both Corellians. "Though I never DID see the point." Her innocent look towards the two older ones got a response.
"... hoo, not a Temple drone after all, eh, Lysa?" Talin's expression was slightly chagrined. "Guess this will teach us. She clearly doesn't -think- like a Temple Jedi, if the video didn't tell us that."
Lysa nodded, and sent a slight glare at Ranma. "Though she does seem to have their stuffy, fun killing attitude down pat."
Ranma's shrug was a work of art, Lysa thought, as the younger girl responsed. "Nah, just... why play these games, when you can make training fun?" Both of the older padawans looked at each other and blinked. The same thought crossed their minds. "... is she for real?"
"Um... not everything is training." Talin's hesitant expression was clear.
"Then you make it into training!" Ranma's sharp nod settled it into the other two's mind yes, she was serious.
Before the response could come to either older padawans' lips, a spot opened up at one of the games. "Oh, look, Lysa." Talin pointed, and Lysa slipped in, slipping a card into a reader. As the game spun up, she fed it a few coins.
Ranma slid up next to Lysa, and watched as the older girl sent a small figure though battles in the holotank. Ranma's eyes widened as she recognized one of the opposing Jedi, and snickered, drawing a grin from Talin, as the miniature Master Windu was defeated.
Lysa cheered as the display lit up. "Oh, nice. I unlocked the new character... Wonder who it..." She trailed off as all three Jedi saw the small redhead bounce around the tank with a grin.
Ranma's expression, Talin would later describe, only could be called a study. "Greaaaaaat." Ranma just shook her head not beliving it. "I've often THOUGHT I was a character in a game... but..."
"You didn't expect to be one?" Talin grinned. Ranma nodded in response.
They watched as Lysa maneuvered the redhead around, and in a practice bout, triggered the special move the designers gave her. Ranma's groan was only matched by the two older pawadan's laughter as every bit of debris and other items around the mini-Ranma was thrown at her attacker via the game's approximation of Telekinesis.
"You're never going to live it down, Ranma." Lysa got out between her giggles. "Just accept your destiny!" Talin broke down in helpless gales of laughter at the flat stare Ranma gave both of the padawans after she lowered her hands.
She turned back to see Lysa get the mini-Ranma defeated. "Hey! I'd not fall like that, and NOT to Obi-wan." Ranma fumed a bit as Lysa snickered.
"He did defeat a Sith, Ranma" Talin attempted to soothe the fuming redhead. "And it's only a game. Though they did make your moves complex. It takes time to learn. Why don't you try?" Talin nodded as Ranma took Lysa's place, and Lysa slipped in a blank memory card.
"This will be your card, so you can update your profile, so you can get special characters! Like... yourself." Lysa smirked.
Both Jedi stared as Ranma quickly burned though a few credits learning the game, and then their jaws dropped as Ranma quickly moved though the full tournament mode with skill. As the final match of the first round finished, Ranma turned and grinned at both of them.
"See? Training. Hand eye coordination." Lysa and Talian twitched at Ranma's comment and grin. They twitched more, as instead of herself, Ranma picked Master Windu's avatar, as her second round character.
"Why him, instead of yourself, or Master Fay? I mean, it looks like they based you off her basic special attacks, though you have a lightsaber." Lysa asked curious as Ranma spun the miniature Weaponmaster around in the practice round.
"Oh, I spar most everyday against him. I'm curious to see how he is in the game." Ranma blinked as she triggered the special move.
"Maybe you can answer this. Is that even -possible- for a Jedi?" Talin sounded dubious.
Ranma watched as her mini-Windu quietly worked his way though a few Knights, only to lose to Master Yoda, which she nodded at. "Uh... " Ranma trailed off, pondering Talin's question.
Talin quirked a smile. "From your comment, I take it IS possible." he grinned
Ranma held out a hand and carefully tapped into the Force without emotions, as Yoda kept harping at her, and a small ball of blue white energy appeared on her hand. Lysa and Talin gasped, as Ranma released it, letting it dissipate, and they watched as Ranma panted.
"Wow..." Lysa breathed.
"NOT easy." Ranma caught her breath and added, "especially doing it without a focusing element. From what Master Yoda says, if you use an emotion, you risk becoming too attuned to the element, and that'll lead to the Dark Side. Depending on what emotion you use, but he warns against all." Ranma rolled her eyes, with a grin. "Likely right, but I could make it bigger using confidence. But... that's ego."
Both older Padawans nodded, grasping what Ranma was saying. Lysa blinked. "Wait... this is the same as Force lightning the Sith use, just a variant, isn't it?" She was rewarded with a nod. "... and they use hate, and anger." Ranma shrugged.
"Dunno, but likely right. I used confidence, but I know someone who used depression." Talin winced, adding it up.
"Damm... on second thought, I'm not going to ask how to do that." Talin's shudder was rewarded by a grin from Lysa and a 'duh' look from Ranma.
"Won't teach it, not without permission, and well... Yoda isn't too pleased I can do it, even without emotion." Ranma shrugged. "Though he does like another force attack I have. Odd."
The conversation changed, as Talin took his turn at the game, and Lysa went off to get snacks.
Ranma shook her head as the three young padawans walked out of the Aradec. She felt a chill again, and tightened her robe, as she hurried to catch up with the two arguing padawans, who were arguing where to go next.
"So, want to eat, or do you want to catch a holofilm?" Talin asked. Ranma shook her head.
"Nah, rather go back. Tired." Ranma yawned, and then got an annoyed expression on her face.
"Oh... yeah, you're still young." Lysa shrugged as she hopped in the speeder, and Ranma got into the back seat.
Talin nodded, and started the speeder. "It's hard to remember that. I mean, sure you're human, but most of us just see the fact you're already one of the 'known' pawadans..." He trailed off to Ranma's stare that he felt... "Well, c'mon. You dine with the Chancellor, you are a padawan to one of the noted scholars of the order, you're in the news... and several other Jedi talk about your skills already. It's hard to remember you're seven." He grinned as he drove them back to Ranma's snort.
"Yeah. He's right. Most of the time, Jedi don't get noticed, not really. It's what we're supposed to strive for." Lysa grinned at Talin's snort. "Well, in theory anyways. But... it's nice to see noted Jedi doing what they do for the Republic." All three padawans nodded at that. "And well, when a pair of padawans defeat an assassination attempt... Especially young ones, people are going to expect great things of them." Lysa stopped at Ranma's guffaws of laughter.
"You think it was an attempt at assassination? Naw, it was a stuck up padawan trying to show me and Anakin up!" Ranma grinned.
"Uh... but the Holonews reported it as an assassination attempt on the Jedi council and the Supreme chancellor, that you and Anakin heroically defeated." Lysa turned to look at the disbelieving Ranma. "Um... I can show you the video, if you want." She sighed at Ranma's nod.
"Um... tomorrow." Ranma yawned. "Rather sleep now." Ranma yawned again, as the speeder swept towards the Corellian Temple's landing pad.
Talin nudged Lysa. "Looks like someone didn't get the message we were headed out, does it." Lysa looked at Eilsa and Halcyon and winced.
"We didn't do anything wrong." Lysa attempted to defend herself as the speeder shut down, preempting the masters. Ranma yawned and climbed out blinking at Lysa's comment, then the two masters.
"I know, and you even followed the rules, Lysa... but..." Haylcon trailed off, and Eilsa picked up the thread.
"I didn't know those rules, and Ranma's here not for being a Corellian Jedi, but as a punishment." Eilsa's eyebrows knitted somewhat, and she sighed. "Care to explain, Padawan, just why you thought skittering off to play games was a good idea?"
Ranma yawned again and blinked slighlty. "Um... I wasn't told I couldn't... and Lysa here made it sound like it was okay..." Ranma trailed off lowering her head, knowing that wasn't the right thing to say.
Eilsa lowered her eyebrows more. "Be that as it may. You are my padawan. I need to know where you are. I mean, what if we were called out on a mission or something?" She shook her head, with a lurking smile. "And, you're NOT supposed to go have fun. Corellia is punishment detail for you. Not a chance to go have fun."
Ranma blinked. "Um... the hologames weren't fun. Training! They got... mmpph." Ranma's voice was cut off by Talin's putting his hand over her mouth.
Master Halcyon laughed. "So, you showed her Rogue Knight..." Eilsa and the two older Padawans turned to look at the Corellian master. "Oh, it's been around for ages. Ol' Jac has just been updating it with new Jedi. So any new ones since I last played?" Halcyon turned a impish grin on his temple's padawans.
"Uh... you aren't supposed..." Lysa stopped and realized how silly it sounded... "But... we were told no Master knew about it..."
Halcyon laughed. "I wasn't born a master... and well, it's Coruscanti Jedi who usually don't know." He turned his smile towards Eilsa. "Oh, about when I was born, some brilliant wit had the idea of a hologame made up of Jedi fighting each other." He grinned looking at Eilsa's expression. "The royalties go to the field temples and academies, helping us out, and the public gets to see what some of the Jedi can do in combat. Win win, really."
"... Why hasn't the Council been told?" Eilsa finally managed.
"Well... because they'd disallow it, and really. It's actually a -good- thing." Halcyon shrugged slightly. "Think on it. So. Besides the usual masters, anyone new?" He grinned at the three blinking Padawans.
"Um... they got Ranma already". Talin suddenly grinned. "And such a cool special attack." He continued with the raised eyebrow. "She telekinetically grabs... ooof!" Talin's voice cut out with a sharp kick to the leg.
Halcyon's laughter rang. "I can guess. Go, children and eat. I'll calm Eilsa down."
Ranma bounded from perch to perch as Mace attacked relentlessly, his Vaapid style cutting everything in its path. Ranma's preferred method of counter was evasion; she never allowed Mace an easy target to focus on, while tossing rocks and other objects in Mace's direction. Mace stopped for a moment after Ranma threw a rock into his head; it only slowed him down slightly. He started to pull the ground from underneath Ranma to knock her off balance; it succeeded, and soon she was knocked to the ground, a lightsaber at her throat.
Eilsa raised an eyebrow. "Why doesn't she have a lightsaber? If you think she's good with TK, she's absolutely deadly with a saber in her hands."
Halcyon smiled as the "GAME OVER" characters danced across the holovid. "Well, because of the Republic Day incident, she became known for her TK abilities. So, Jac basically made her into a cross between Fay and Yoda – Fay's offensive capabilities, with Yoda's evasion." He scratched his beard. "Also, he'd heard through the rumor mill that Mace had been seeing Master Bant because of combat injuries, so..."
Eilsa sighed as the character choice holoroom popped up. "That is true." She looked at the still statues in the room, most friends she knew – Yoda, Mace, Obi-wan, Fay, Depa, even Halcyon – and a few she didn't. "I'm sorry if I overreacted about Ranma. I should have trusted your students to watch over her."
Halcyon nodded slowly, a frown gracing his rogue's features. "Normally I don't like to interfere with how a Master trains her padawan, but there's a question that's been bothering me." He looked over at the statues. "I've known dozens of masters and padawans, and I've seen just about every reaction a master has to a padawan's mischief." He gestured to the masters in the holoroom. "You didn't react like a normal master would to a padawan going out. What's going on?"
Eilsa sighed. "Well, she is in trouble for what happened at the Republic Day dinner..."
Halcyon shook his head. "Nice deflection; most people would leave it at that. But that still doesn't explain the reaction I saw. Despite the fact that she's probably the scariest seven-year-old I've ever seen, you were terrified that something had happened to her. You were acting more like a parent than a Master." He eyed her speculatively. "Is she...?"
Eilsa jumped, startled. "Oh, no! She's not my child." She took a deep breath. "Is there someplace we can talk without having to worry about eavesdropping?"
Halcyon smiled and nodded. "There's a kaff house nearby. That should work."
A short time later, and Eilsa found herself facing a cup of rek tea and a quizzical expression. She sighed, took a sip of her tea for courage, and looked down at her hands.
"How many six-year-olds do you know with padawan rank in the Jedi Corps?"
Halcyon raised an eyebrow. "Does my son count?"
Eilsa chuckled. "Somewhat." She took a deep breath. "To say Ranma is special is an understatement. She was trained from birth in a backwater end of the cosmos in her family's form of martial arts. What neither she nor her parents knew was that some of these techniques were adapted from Sith techniques."
Halcyon stopped at that. "You mean..."
"When I found Ranma, she was easily the strongest person in the Force I had ever seen. Even then, I would have been hard-pressed to beat her in combat. When I requested to her family that I take her to Coruscant to obtain Jedi training, her mother agreed, but her father – and one other – objected."
She sighed. "That one other was the Grandmaster of her family's school of martial arts. And he was a Sith Lord."
Halcyon's mouth remained open. "Oh. So Ranma..."
Eilsa took a sip of her tea. "In the fight, Happousai – the Sith Lord – demonstrated just why Sith were feared throughout the galaxy. Ranma's father, as well as another of Happousai's students, was killed when Happousai drained them of their life force to heal his own injuries. Two other locals were killed trying to put Happousai down, and several others were injured."
She looked out of the kaffhouse, at the people passing by. "You say I was terrified that something had happened to Ranma. You want the honest truth? Something will happen to Ranma. Things just happen to Ranma – like the Sith Lord, like the Republic Day incident. What scares me is that, despite all she's been taught, one day she'll face something she won't be able to survive on her own – and I won't be there to help her."
Halcyon nodded slowly, then took a sip of his kaff. When the cup left his lips, Eilsa noticed he was smiling. "Master Jardon?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"Welcome to parenthood."
Eilsa tilted her head to one side. "Should I be insulted?"
Halcyon shook his head. "No. Just that – and I think you already know this – you're going to have to look at your job very differently from any other Master out there. You're going to have to be more of a normal parent than a Jedi Master." He grinned. "Well, as normal as can be with that kid."
Eilsa sighed. "I... I know." She blinked, on remembering something he'd said earlier. "So... you say you have a child?"
Halcyon nodded, and pulled out his wallet. Two others were pictured along with Nejaa. One was a woman with a smooth, oval face, laughing blue eyes, and long, slightly-disheveled brown hair. The other was a child, no more than four years of age, who was clearly his father's son; he practically screamed mischief, from the sparkling hazel eyes to the chaotic mop of brown hair. "My wife's name is Scerra; the little terror is named Valin."
Eilsa smiled wistfully at the picture. "Coruscant frowns on its Jedi having children."
"Which is one reason why I'm not on Coruscant," Halcyon replied. "Eilsa, it sounds like you've been given the chance of a lifetime. Take Ranma; raise her as your own. You can't take the place of her parents; no one can. But be her parent where it's called for. She's only seven; that means there's at least a decade of love and pain to go before she's grown up."
"Everyone has doubts when they first become a parent. Truth is, most people have what it takes to be good parents. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of sleepless nights, but the rewards are well worth it."
"A parent, huh?" A parent to a child so talented she could already defeat her master in combat. A parent to the most powerful Jedi discovered in history. A parent to a youngster practically chained by the Force to a path to war.
A parent to someone who needed little Force training – but a lot of training in being a Jedi.
A thousand different thoughts came to mind; in the end, only one word came out.
Eilsa looked down at the sleeping child spread out on the bed, and sighed. She reached down to the covers and brought them up to Ranma's neck, tucking her in; Ranma instinctively responded by rolling onto her side, causing Eilsa to chuckle. After a moment, her hand hesitantly reached out to Ranma's bangs; she pushed them out of the way, then kissed Ranma softly on the forehead.
It wasn't something she was comfortable with admitting – and likely something Ranma would never agree to, if asked – but Halcyon was right. She was a mother now. Most padawans came to their masters with enough experience to no longer need nurturing. Ranma was an exception in more ways than one; while she was chronologically older, her first upbringing hadn't paid much attention to her emotional maturity – and she now had a body to match that level of maturity. Ranma would need someone to calm her down when angered, to comfort her when upset – even if it wasn't in the traditional manner a mother might comfort a child.
And that, to be honest, scared her. She'd been taught by the Temple since childhood that raising a Jedi should be a committee affair, so as to keep the bonds of parenting from being used to a Jedi's disadvantage. The Temple was a loving place to grow up, though often she'd wondered what it'd be like to have a mother or father to call her own. Needless to say, the Temple tended to frown on people like Halcyon, though to be honest they preferred to just ignore the other temples and praxea.
She walked out of the room and to a waiting cup of tea. The Temple was facing multiple problems – and she was coming to realize that some of them were of their own making. Jedi numbers were at their lowest levels since before the Reformation. Most Temple Jedi barely glimpsed the galaxy outside anymore; perhaps more disturbing, most people never saw a Temple Jedi. A few Coruscanti Jedi had the sense to go out into the field; however, most of the Jedi that people saw anymore came from Corellia or Taris. Too often, the Council preferred to act behind the scenes, playing the political game rather than dirtying their own hands. And somewhere along the way, Jedi such as herself or Obi-Wan or Fay had become the exception rather than the rule.
Ranma had begun the path of becoming a known Jedi, and even though Eilsa, Yoda and even Windu had tried to steer her toward a love of politics, she was resistant to it. Often, she asked "What about the people..." which led to some scratching of heads. Yoda's saying about children seeing clearer was true in this case; Ranma saw the clarity of the situation. Halcyon's policy of letting his younglings and padawans out and about on their own was paying dividends. Corellia was a very Jedi friendly planet, even more so than Naboo or Coruscant. On Coruscant, they saw the Jedi as policemen, as the Senate's enforcers. On Corellia... they saw the Jedi as people who wanted to do good. She'd had a year to study Ranma, and understood how her padawan learned and thought; while Ranma could work the political game effectively, Ranma would always prefer to act directly, both for and with the people.
The master grinned. There was more than one way to skin a cat, Ranma's mother had stated in a message back. She was right. Eilsa wasn't headed back to the Temple if she could help it. Alderaan would be an excellent place to learn both politics and how to help others on more than a just personal level. And speaking as a heart-mother of a child who loved danger... Alderaan provided one of the safest places to grow up in.
She gulped, though, on realizing one other reason to call Alderaan home for awhile. Time spent on Alderaan would give Ranma a life away from a certain politician who was taking too much interest in her. Although Anakin didn't share it, Ranma didn't trust the Chancellor; while she had difficulty putting it in words, Ranma called it instinctive, and "being in a room with a snake." In other words, the kitten within her was seeing something none of the humans – herself included - could. The kitten knew – and that alone scared her.