...and don?t forget she?s a politician and she is not to be trusted...
The importance of the fa?ade in the life of a politician could not be overemphasized. The art of being unreadable and of maintaining a constant and impermeable camouflage of external serenity was strived for and honed to perfection throughout their careers.
Senator Amidala was a master of that art. Years of hiding behind the masks of both the Queen and the Queen?s handmaiden had turned her own face into a blank slate. Triumph and grief could rage in her spirit and be hidden in her body. She had the ability to show emotion only when she chose to, and to disguise emotion so well as to be thought cold and indifferent.
Looking the embodiment of complete composure, she awaited the Jedi; through the Force, the anxiety radiating from her small stature was almost fever-pitched. The Jedi Master literally had to brace himself against the impact as he and his Padawan approached her. He observed cynically that Anakin made no effort whatsoever to shield himself from the Senator?s emotions. Instead, the Padawan?s senses were open, receiving Amidala?s emotions, welcoming them. Obi-Wan noticed the way Anakin?s eyes seemed to follow the Senator?s every motion, the way they sought to catch her glance and the way she, in turn, avoided them. It was not the first time his Padawan had acted so unconventionally towards Amidala. Obi-Wan was becoming afraid of a very disturbing trend.
?We will be leaving for a meeting with the Council shortly, my Lady. Captain Typho has been left in charge of your security detail. If you follow his instructions, I can assure you that you will be safe.?
The barb was intended and it was not missed. The mask remained intact, but a definite spike of resentment was channelled at him and he felt it through the Force. Obi-Wan did not so much as flinch. His mandate here was bigger than Amidala?s safety. He was also a Jedi Master with a wayward apprentice that might just happen to be the Chosen One. He resented the way Senator Amidala had manipulated Anakin into helping her with her own private agenda and in direct defiance of their mandate - a fact that she was fully aware of. Anakin?s infatuation was painfully obvious to even a casual observer and Obi-Wan had no compunction at squashing it publicly whenever it revealed itself. It was more than merely embarrassing. It was also dangerous. All Jedi had their flaws just as all sentient beings had their weaknesses. But unlike Jedi, most beings had the luxury of displaying their flaws in the guise of being accepted as fallible creatures. A Jedi could not afford to be regarded as anything less than invulnerable. A Jedi with a visible weakness was a beacon to an enemy looking for a loophole to exploit; and the Jedi had many enemies.
Even now, he could feel an empathic wave of feeling rising in his Padawan. Anakin sought out the Senator?s eyes again and this time, she did not glance away. A current of some indefinable emotion, yet strong and foreboding, connected them briefly.
?Good day, My Lady.?
Amidala dismissed them without another word. As they passed out of her private chambers, Captain Typho met them at the doorway.
?My Lady, Senator Organa is in the lobby, requesting to see you.?
?Of course, send -? Amidala stopped abruptly. Then she looked pointedly at Obi-Wan.
?He doesn?t have a prior appointment, does he?? Obi-Wan replied. ?What did he state as his business??
?He heard the news of the assassin?s attempt last night.? Typho replied. ?He wants to reassure himself of the Senator?s well being.?
?You may receive him if you choose to, My Lady.? He nodded at Captain Typho. ?My Padawan and I are leaving you in capable hands.?
Anakin was bristling by the time they entered the lift. He opened his mouth as the doors closed but Obi-Wan got a word in first.
?I congratulate you, Padawan. You have chosen to challenge me in private and not in public this time.?
Anakin?s mouth twisted as he struggled between replying the snide remark and retorting with what he previously had in mind to say. He chose the latter.
?Padm? has a right to make decisions that affect her own life. She was right to set a trap for the assassin. And she didn?t make me do anything. I helped her because I wanted to -?
?And when did I ever -?? His Master began innocently.
?I heard you. For someone who is always telling me to be mindful of my thoughts - you were literally broadcasting! You have no right to talk to her like that. And we shouldn?t be leaving her alone - with anyone - for any length of time.?
It was remarkable how Anakin Skywalker could still, after ten years, possess the uncanny ability to amuse and infuriate his master at the same time.
?Our directive is to protect Senator Amidala,? Obi-Wan said in clipped tones. ?Even if it means protecting her from herself. I do not doubt the Senator?s self-sufficiency. However, we have a job to do. A remarkably simple one as you, my young Padawan, have repeatedly complained to me. For that reason, if not any other, it would be inexplicable if we fail.?
He had struck a little too close to home. Anakin flushed and he looked away guiltily.
?I would never have allowed any harm to come to her,? he muttered.
?That was why you used her as bait for an assassin, of course,? Obi-Wan murmured. ?How obvious your concern must be.?
?I never thought of it like that!? Anakin exclaimed earnestly. ?I would never have agreed to it if I had. She wanted me to help her. I only wanted to help her. And,? he declared suddenly with a mixture of accusation and triumph, ?I wasn?t the one who deserted her and jumped out of a two-hundred storey window to hang onto an assassin droid.?
?Keep to the subject, Padawan,? said his Master sternly. ?Which happens to be the severe impairment of your judgment in matters concerning Senator Amidala. I have told you several times already how dangerous your thoughts regarding her can be. How vulnerable -?
?Not another -!?
?And she is a politician.? Obi-Wan continued ruthlessly. ?You might have placed her on a pedestal but I certainly have not. And if her actions in this matter have been anything to go by, then I think that my assessment is the right one.?
There was no way to prepare for what came next. One moment, he stood serenely next to Anakin, staring at the city planet beyond the plasti-glass doors while he lectured his seething apprentice. The next moment, he was being flung backward against the window with such force that for a split-second, he thought the glass would shatter beneath his weight.
His head had hit the glass sharply. Anakin?s cry just managed to keep Obi-Wan?s rein on consciousness. Drawing on the Force, he pulled his body upright. It took a little longer to force his emotions back into equilibrium.
Attacked me. My Padawan attacked me.
?Master Obi-Wan.? Anakin was frantically pulling at him with his hands and the Force. ?Master!?
Obi-Wan reined in his panic sharply. ?I am all right, Anakin. Compose yourself.? His matter-of-fact voice had the desired effect and Anakin let go at once, visibly calming down. The anxiety in the younger man was real and so was the concern and guilt behind it. And the strong affection with which Anakin?s aura brushed against his was also genuine. But so also had been the hot-tempered malice that had risen against Obi-Wan, the ire that had pushed him against the wall.
?I didn?t do it intentionally,? Anakin was saying. ?I swear. I don?t just know what came over me.?
?You lost your temper.? Because I attacked Amidala.
?I - I didn?t mean to.? The words came out agitatedly. ?I thought I had ? I should have more control??
?You lost your temper last night as well when we were interrogating the changeling.? Obi-Wan pointed out. And for more or less the same reason.
Whatever Anakin would have said in reply was lost. The glass doors had swung open. They stepped into the lobby of the Naboo Embassy and a protocol droid enabled them to secure a public speeder. Soon, they were zooming through the Coruscant traffic, an uncomfortable silence between them, each lost in his own unpleasant thoughts.
The memory of another disagreeable conversation that had taken place between a different Jedi Master and Padawan pair ten years ago had started playing itself out in Obi-Wan?s head.
The boy is dangerous? why can?t you...?
Obi-Wan winced just as Anakin?s tentative voice broke the silence.
?I suppose I should meditate before the Council convenes for our report??
Obi-Wan permitted himself a longsuffering sigh. ?It is not enough to know when to meditate, my young Padawan,? he said with some asperity. ?It is even more important to know on what to meditate and on what not to.? He did not need to send a Force suggestion about on what not to meditate to his Padawan.
Whatever positive effect he had meant to impact was lost. He received an onslaught of negative emotions from his Padawan along their bond: frustration, dejection, irritation directed at him, Obi-Wan. Then Anakin?s aura pulled as abruptly away from his Master?s as a switch being turned off. Obi-Wan glanced sharply at his apprentice to see that the boy had sunk into the pseudo-somnolence of Jedi meditation. The casual insolence of the action literally shocked the Jedi Master into silence. He fought the sudden strong, un-Jedi-like impulse to reach over and smack his apprentice.
As fond as he was of his Padawan, it was times like this that made Obi-Wan Kenobi wonder if he was not in over his head with the boy. One moment everything would be normal (well, not exactly normal, more like typical) and the Jedi Master would be thinking he had his apprentice finally figured out; the next moment, Anakin would act in a manner that defied every concept of Jedi behaviour ? conventional and otherwise.
Yet again, Obi-Wan recalled the unrestrained fury that had thrown him in the lift.
There had been accidents in the past. Anakin?s incredible affinity to the Force, late instruction and passionate emotions had made him and others close to him very accident-prone during the early years of his apprenticeship. Over time and under Obi-Wan?s strict but patient direction, the boy had learnt some control and the accidents had become fewer and further in between. It had been a long time since something like this had happened.
They all sense it, why can?t you?
The Jedi Master inhaled sharply. He was dwelling on the negative. He dispelled his uneasiness into the Force and focused on the moment. With this last attack on the Naboo Senator, the Council would inevitably instigate an investigation and, logically, the assignment would be given to Obi-Wan and his Padawan. Anakin would be equally pacified and disappointed. The two Jedi would focus fully on the investigation, play a distant supervisory role to the details of the Senator?s personal security and be given a reprieve from the beautiful Amidala. Obi-Wan would then be able to tackle some of his Padawan?s more disturbing issues. Indeed, Anakin Skywalker had many issues: detachment, control, common courtesy... but he was not a threat to anyone, least of all to his own Master.
From your point of view.
Master Qui-Gon Jinn?s words echoed disturbingly out of context in his mind.
The rest of the journey was completed in silence.
Original cover by Mark Jade. HTML formatting copyright 2004 TheForce.Net LLC.