Going strictly by the Jedi Code, possessions were forbidden to a Jedi.
This was, of course, completely impractical.
No one denied that Jedi possessed their own lightsabers and that no one outside the Order would try to take them away. At least not without resistance. Practically speaking, they owned their clothes and boots and equipment, and small mementos acquired over the years. But Jedi claimed nothing more than what they wore, and nothing larger than what could be held in hand. They were assigned their own rooms at the Jedi Temple, each a single, plain, utilitarian cell, but it still amounted to an assigned territory, respected by others.
In theory, each Jedi possessed nothing, living unburdened within the Order. In reality, they owned what they carried, on their persons and within their souls. Only the direst circumstances would lead the Jedi Council to strip a Jedi of what little they had, making the 'no possessions' edict true, and paradoxically canceling their vows and status in the Order, and freeing them from that rule entirely.
Master Qui-Gon Jinn sighed as he contemplated this on the way from the nearest public transportation stop and trudged up the many steps to the massive Jedi Temple on Coruscant. His backpack weighed heavy with his new possession. He and his young apprentice reached the top and entered, the huge double doors parting before them.
Other Jedi passed them in the vast hall. Some glanced with sympathy at the disheveled pair; others swiftly avoided them. Their simple mission as peace negotiators had cascaded into new problems full of irritating people with issues scattered all over a series of outer-rim worlds. Qui-Gon's long, brown hair was loose, dirty and stringy, hanging about his face. His robe had been sacrificed three planets ago. His boots were scuffed and he'd been unable to get all of the hardened poswat excrement out from under the straps and fittings on the calves.
Walking next to him, his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, still had his robe though the hem of it was shredded from a run through a field of iron-spined berry bushes. The extended, multi-part mission had taken so long that his young apprentice had grown in that time; his stained and torn tunic and pants now looked a bit short on him. In addition, his hair was still green, though brown roots showed under the dye. The thin braid behind his left ear had been spared and was its normal color.
Obi-Wan also needed a shave. His new height had brought another sign of maturity that had taken them both by surprise, but Qui-Gon had not shaved his own beard in years, so there was nothing to be done about his Padawan's darkening chin. They had been too busy being ferried between minor disasters to petty catastrophes to find something to do about it, and it was not a good idea to experiment with other species' hygiene implements if you didn't have to. It was not much, mostly uneven, patchy sprouts of hair, but it promised to be a full, thick beard when it developed. Qui-Gon had not said anything, but he was privately pleased by the prospect. Obi-Wan was uncomfortable and he kept rubbing his chin, probing this unaccustomed change.
Neither one of them had their tabards or obis under their belts. They had been used for bandages after a traffic accident with a food cart and a transport full of caged feather-eared kittens with needle sharp little claws.
At the base of a grand staircase, Jedi Master Uln Hosk waited for them, his long, thick gray beard hung far down onto his chest; his arms were crossed and tucked into the sleeves of his dark brown robe. Master Hosk often assigned minor missions for the Council. Initially, this had been a minor mission, before it had become a planet-hopping string of minor crises.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan bowed deeply to Master Hosk, whose expression betrayed a little bit of surprise at their appearance. Reports and holograms never truly conveyed the tangible reality of a situation. Or the smell.
"Master Qui-Gon," Hosk began. "I'm looking forward to hearing more about these 'complications' you've been experiencing..." He quoted Qui-Gon's most commonly used euphemism for the delays in their mission.
Qui-Gon folded his arms before him and the husks of some shriveled, many-legged vermin fell out from his sleeves. Both he and Obi-Wan had been properly de-loused at their last stop, but the remains still tended to cling to their clothes. Plus, it had caused a sneezing fit for Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon's blue eyes stared back with that cool Jedi calm that said, 'So you think that you've got something more important than us getting cleaned up first?' Next to him, Obi-Wan sniffled.
"...after you've had time to rest and refresh yourselves," Hosk said, acknowledging the reality before him. Qui-Gon politely inclined his head as he thanked Hosk and excused himself and his Padawan. They headed out of the great hall, passing through an archway to a row of lift tubes. They got a car to themselves as they descended to a lower level of the Temple.
Qui-Gon had to admit that Hosk had every reason to inquire; they were more than a bit overdue. He wondered if the mission might have been shortened if they had used their own ship and not been picked up by the Vertaad government. But Qui-Gon didn't think that this would have cut off the tangle of events that they'd been caught up in. A ship would simply have allowed them to get to and from each disaster faster. Their final transport to Coruscant had been with an untidy family sympathetic to them, but its members had no concept of managing their personal squabbles. They had tried their best to stay away from the domestic fracas (difficult even for Jedi in the confines of a spaceship), but he had been unable to avoid the family's soggy, drippy infant who would not stop howling unless Qui-Gon held her. Qui-Gon still had baby spew stains on the shoulders of his tunic.
They exited into a plain, brightly lit anteroom. Three Jedi and a cluster of younger students stood around a blocky, gray-metal supply droid. One of the children saw them first and soon all eyes stared at them for a moment. Everyone quickly stepped aside and more droids were summoned.
He and Obi-Wan separated to go to private rooms. Qui-Gon happily removed all of his clothes and stuffed them into the trash receptacle, where they would be taken away to be incinerated, he hoped. His belt and equipment would be repaired and what was missing would be replaced. His boots would be properly cleaned and mended; a Jedi did not give up a good pair of boots that fit unless they were absolutely falling apart. In the meantime, the pale gray and yellow patterned plasti-stone floor of the small room was slightly warm and not uncomfortable under his bare feet as he used the facilities.
But there was one thing from his travel pack that he kept, along with his lightsaber, when the droid took the other things away. Wrapped in a layer of textured plastic and plush cloth under that, the Icon of Ylcur was, in a legally-binding way, his possession. Over the millennia, it had been through wars, pestilence, political marriages, small children, carnivorous pets, several floods and now a complicated excursion through nearly the whole Vertaad Union. Its intricate, silvery and translucent surfaces were hardly scratched; it was not fragile. The wrappings actually protected Qui-Gon from the Icon's weight bouncing around in his pack. It also massed about four kilograms including its wrappings and Qui-Gon was quite tired of carrying it around all the time.
He left the Icon still wrapped up on a stand with his lightsaber while he cleaned his teeth and then washed. Qui-Gon tended to his wounds as well as the stale grime; aside from not having been able to bathe properly for too long, he had numerous scratches and bruises. He used the lightly scented soaps, oils and bacta. Sweat, soured perfume, rank compost residue and Fwulak saliva all dissolved and washed away. He dabbed at the tiny, half-healed scratches on his arms made by the angry Keepers of Ylcur who had objected to their leaders' decision about the Icon. It was amazing how sharp those feathers had been.
Qui-Gon selected the proper instruments from a collection meant to accommodate many species and trimmed his hair and beard using wall-mounted and floating mirrors. By the time he had finished, the droid had brought him a new set of clothes. Everything else was still being mended.
He picked up the cream-colored pair of under-shorts from the neatly folded stack. Pale, long-sleeved undershirt, dark brown pants in plain, comfortable fabrics came next. Qui-Gon had asked for exactly the same things that he always wore; the Temple droids had all his measurements. He didn't see any reason to change them.
Qui-Gon slipped the outer tunic on, wrapping and tying the front in place. Jedi did not indulge in sensual pleasures, but he did take a moment to appreciate the fresh smell of the fabric along with the lack of holes, frayed edges and stiffened, discolored stains. After laying the tabards over his shoulders, he evened out how they hung down past the hem of his tunic, front and back, and then he wrapped the obi around his waist, tying everything in place. His gaze fell on the Icon, still sitting on the stand.
To the entire Vertaad Union, Qui-Gon Jinn was not just the custodian of the Icon, he "owned" it along with all its status and privileges, but he didn't feel like it belonged to him any more than the clothes he'd just put on. They were "his" because of convenience, the clothes because no one else wanted them; the Icon because it removed an object of ire and revenge from the midst of the factions that wanted it.
Of course, the Vertaad leaders had known that the complicated reasons for strife on their worlds went deeper that the mere possession of an ancient and revered sacred object. But taking the Icon from Vertaad space had removed some of the excuses for it. The Vertaad advisors had surprised Qui-Gon with their proposal; they had at first seemed to him to be merely a body of entrenched politicos with not a scrap of imagination among them.
He picked up a pair of brown socks. First standing on one leg and then the other, he put them on.
Even if he had known before he had agreed to the scheme how long it would take to ferry the Icon to the planets of the various leaders who could not attend the Grand Council, he still would have had to agree. The separation of the Icon from all parties had completely changed the level of negotiations in the Union; it seemed to make compromise, even between blood enemies, a reality. Unfortunately, too many Vertaad officials and minor royalty seemed to think that the Icon empowered the Jedi to solve all their other problems, too, no matter how strange or foolish. There had also been a few unfortunates who had actually tried to take the Icon from Qui-Gon. Things had gone very badly for them.
The last thing left in the pile was a folded, dark brown robe. Qui-Gon picked it up, letting its full length hang down to the floor. After a moment of figuring out which side was the inside and which the outside, and where the sleeves were in the folds of coarse fabric, he tried it on.
He had liked his old robe. It had been comfortable and worn in a way that new clothes could not imitate. But it had been left as a decoy when he and Obi-Wan had finally extricated themselves from their official escorts and commissioned their own transport back to Coruscant. Qui-Gon suspected that some of the Vertaad leaders had been having trouble letting go of the Icon and were adding things to their itinerary to keep them in the Union.
Qui-Gon adjusted the robe and pulled the hood out from under where it had gotten under the collar. The robe was too long. But that was expected; he could see that it would be just the right length with his boots on. He put the hood up. It smelled new, clean and maybe a little woody. He sighed and took it off. It was technically identical to his old robe, but it would be a little while before it felt the same.
He picked up his lightsaber and sat down on a pale yellow floor cushion to meditate, the weapon laid before him. It had only a few new scratches on its black and silver hilt and he would fix those later. He and Obi-Wan had kept their lightsabers clean and in good order, though with considerable effort. He had never before had to clean a lightsaber of mites and cookie crumbs, or rescue it from the bodice of an oversized female with an ego even larger than her generous body proportions.
He cleared his mind, his gaze resting on the Icon. The Vertaad advisors had quite understood the Jedi Code; they just had not cared about it. All they had needed was an acceptable third party to remove the Icon from the negotiating table. One scholar had brushed Qui-Gon's objections aside with the comment, "But nobody understands that here. People define themselves and their families by what they own." Then a retired admiral had pointedly asked Qui-Gon why he would object to someone taking his boots and lightsaber away if he did not really 'own' them. The fact that Jedi were forbidden possessions did not matter because nobody in the Vertaad Union would believe it.
A soft door chime sounded. The droid returned with his boots, belt and other equipment. Right behind it was his Padawan. The door slid shut behind the droid after it had made its delivery. Everything was now cleaned and well oiled, and comfortingly familiar.
Everything Obi-Wan wore was completely new. Boots and belt were larger, the clothes a lighter shade of cream, the robe a lighter shade of brown and it dragged a little on the floor when he walked even with boots on. Qui-Gon frowned. The tabards and obi he wore were now one piece, attached at the back with the tabards going over the shoulders and only hanging down under the obi in front. He had seen some Jedi wearing this style; it was supposed to be simpler to put on, but he had never cared for it.
Obi-Wan looked a little embarrassed at his Master's scrutiny and Qui-Gon smiled.
"I trust you have found everything satisfactory?" Qui-Gon raised his hand to Obi-Wan's now extremely short hair; the green parts of it had simply been sheared away.
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan smiled back. The new, pristine clothes, the hair, or lack of it, on his head and his chin, made Obi-Wan look younger than he was. His blue eyes strayed toward the Icon, still on its stand.
"Ah, yes, we have one more duty to complete for this mission." Qui-Gon sat down on the floor cushion and put his boots on. The straps had been displaced when they were cleaned and he had to adjust them all from ankles to knees. After that, he stood and wrapped the wide, under-belt around his obi, then buckled the narrow over-belt on in front. He shifted the empty pouches on his belt; he wouldn't replenish his survival supplies until they were sent on their next mission. He lastly attached his lightsaber to his belt clip.
As he put his robe on, Qui-Gon noticed his Padawan frowning at the Icon with a bit more contempt than he liked to see.
"A great deal of Vertaad history is connected to the Icon, good and bad. It is to their credit that they gave it up, in the interests of peace," he instructed.
Most of the time, the Icon had been out of sight, a large lump in Qui-Gon's pack that only occasionally came out to be viewed. Obi-Wan had been surprised that so many people revered a simple art object and he had been especially shocked by how many people had died and were willing to kill for its possession. They had discussed the situation several times (once while hiding together in a cupboard from an amorous herd of marriageable court hangers-on looking for targets), but Obi-Wan still had not comprehended the subtleties. That kind of acceptance and depth of understanding took time to acquire. Qui-Gon knew that it would come for his apprentice with experience.
"I'm glad the Jedi Order forbids possessions. I think I understand why that must be so. If possessions can lead to such darkness and strife, then the Jedi Order is wise to remove itself from them."
Qui-Gon stared at his Padawan. "We will be passing over possession of the Icon of Ylcur to the Jedi Archives," he said.
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan looked uncertain, obviously aware from Qui-Gon's tone that he had missed something important. He continued to look down at his apprentice, who did not look away or fidget, but still looked uneasy. Qui-Gon sighed. There had been no prejudice in Obi-Wan's statement; it was just uninformed.
He gestured for Obi-Wan to pick up the Icon and they left together. With only a brief stop to acknowledge the supply droids' work, they went through the many passageways of the Temple to the Archives. All the way, Obi-Wan kept glancing at Qui-Gon, who remained inscrutable. This was a lesson that needed to be shown, not told.
The Library was a great, venerable hall with rows and rows of shelves of data volumes going high up to the ceilings. It always felt like a very busy place to Qui-Gon, with everyone in it thinking and studying and so aggressively not making any noise.
A green-hued, humanoid Jedi in a brown tunic and with a tall, stately head greeted them. He introduced himself as Yiny'eet and ushered them to a smaller room off from the main hall of the Library. The desk and chairs had been pushed aside into an adjoining room, leaving a large open space. Two triangles, a smaller one embedded in a larger one, had been laid out in palm-sized, smooth stones, exactly like those that could be found in a riverbed. Two scanners and a droid were positioned to record the exchange to be transmitted back to the Vertaad Union.
Qui-Gon had transmitted the details needed for transferring the custodianship of the Icon to the Archives a while ago. One could not simply take charge of a sacred relic without a little ceremony, and this simple setting was still more elaborate and solemn than the improvised and chaotic exchange that the Qui-Gon had participated in mere seconds before the Vertaad leaders had announced it.
Obi-Wan unwrapped the Icon. Qui-Gon took it, cradling it in both hands. It was beautiful, its shimmering, gray surfaces all whorls and angles, though the recollection of the many Vertaadi lamps, cups and flower vases that he'd seen made in its image did diminish its uniqueness a bit. Qui-Gon had even been greeted once by a corpulent dignitary, wearing an Icon-replica hat.
Obi-Wan stepped back while Qui-Gon took his place in the center triangle, the archivist at one point of the outer triangle. Qui-Gon declared his custodianship and spoke of the worthiness of the next owner of the Icon. The archivist bowed, announced himself as the representative of the Jedi Order and accepted the Icon. They concluded the ritual and both stepped away from the triangles, the Archivist now holding the Icon. Qui-Gon's possession of it was over; he saw his Padawan's shoulders drop in relief.
Yiny'eet bowed, but Qui-Gon held up his hand.
"I don't believe my Padawan has ever seen the vaults of the Archives." They both looked at Obi-Wan, who stared back in surprise.
"Of course," Yiny'eet approved, his green tinged face smiling benevolently down on Obi-Wan. He led them to a door in the back of the room. A droid entered from the other room and started to pick up the rocks.
They entered a lift and descended many levels. Obi-Wan kept glancing at his Master again. Qui-Gon did not actually know if his Padawan had seen the Archive vaults or not, but he had obviously missed something important if he had.
When the doors slid open, they saw larger, heavier doors. Yiny'eet passed his hand over a scanner lock and the doors parted to reveal a huge, underground cavern. The air was cool, fresh and well regulated. Eyes wide, Obi-Wan looked all around as they proceeded down a wide, white walkway. The ceiling and tops of massive shelves receded into the darkness high above and down below. A few maintenance and huge lifter droids drifted among the many stacked shapes.
"This is the Archives, Master?" Qui-Gon whispered. They walked behind Yiny'eet and the Icon.
"No," Qui-Gon answered softly. "This is the basement. The Archives are up ahead."
An engraved, silver door parted for them at the end of the walkway and after passing through an entranceway, they entered a room with a much lower ceiling. They followed Yiny'eet down one of the many rows of cabinets, each lit from within, displaying hundreds of different objects. Bones and lightsabers, huge crystals and misshapen chunks of metal and plastic, pillars and stone cups, embroidered cloth and jewelry. They all had labels and data disks next to them identifying their origins.
They reached an empty cabinet. Yiny'eet slid the clear transparisteel aside and placed the Icon of Ylcor inside.
"The other end is up," Qui-Gon corrected. Yiny'eet smiled, nodded and righted the Icon. He then produced a label and data disk from the sleeve of his tunic and placed them next to it. The opening silently side closed again. They stood there and looked at it for a moment, lit from below, behind the clear door of its new home. For a long time a symbol of power and influence, the object of desire and envy, now it was just an object. They left and parted company with Yiny'eet at the door to the Archive chamber.
Head down, Qui-Gon slowly strolled down the passageway, his arms folded into the sleeves of his new robe. Wearing his boots, it was now the proper length.
"Master?" He looked at Obi-Wan.
"What is all this?"
Qui-Gon stopped and looked around at the stacked shelves on either side of them. "I have no idea." He focused on a set of yellow boxes. "Plasti-form poles," he read the label on them. He turned around and looked up. "Pre-formed plates. Sterile, empty fluid containers. Moranerz ceramic tiles. Ammonia." He looked down at a huge green bin. "Yuridiun micro-fiber. Hmm." His fingers rubbed the inside sleeve of his robe. "I wonder what they do with that?" he wondered.
He turned back to Obi-Wan. "I expect they have a use for it all," he said before continuing down the walkway.
"Do the Jedi use all this?"
"I would expect so. Else it wouldn't be here." A long silence followed, their footsteps nearly soundless on the white surface they walked on.
"Do the Jedi own all this?"
Qui-Gon smiled. Ah, enlightenment.
"For all practical purposes, yes," he answered. "Technically, it is granted for the use of the Order by the Senate. But I don't think they'd want to take it all back. Or take the Temple" Obi-Wan's eyes widened with shock at this last statement.
"The Jedi serve the ideals and laws of the Republic. The Republic supports the Jedi in their duties." Obi-Wan recited only what he had been taught as a student at the Temple.
"And that requires this," Qui-Gon said of the resources in the vast room. "Apparently, there are supply droids and inventories and yearly budgets with the Senate to mange all this." Again, Obi-Wan looked shocked at the revelation. "I work very hard to know as little as possible about all of it," Qui-Gon added. "But I never deny that it's there." He gestured at the stores around them.
"The rule forbidding possession is an individual code of conduct. But the Jedi Order itself possesses a very great deal, Obi-Wan," he instructed. "It would be very difficult for the Jedi to act as guardians in the galaxy without the resources of the Republic. We would spend much more of our time on simply surviving than we would on upholding justice without these 'possessions.' The Vertaad Union may have elevated greed and possession of the Icon above the lives of its people, but those who value possession do not always do so for frivolous reasons."
His apprentice remained silent all the way back to the lift.
"I have a great deal to learn, Master," Obi-Wan admitted, somewhat humbled.
"I'd be very disappointed in you if you knew everything, Obi-Wan." They entered the lift; the door closed and the car ascended. "I wouldn't have anything to do."
- END -
Original cover by ardavenport. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.