Qui-Gon Jinn felt his comlink buzz silently, vibrating against his belt under his robes. He ignored it. The whole reason he had it set on silent was because he did not wish to be interrupted during this crucial meeting the with the Chu'ba Governors.
It buzzed again. And again. Qui-Gon sighed. Whoever it was was not going to give up. "I'm sorry your Excellencies," he apologized, pulling out his comlink. "Please excuse me for a moment."
The three Governors did not look very pleased, especially the one that Qui-Gon had just interrupted, but they complied.
Qui-Gon grimaced inwardly. Everything seemed to have gone wrong since he and Obi-Wan had set foot on Dothwyn. The last thing he wanted to do was further agitate the already upset diplomats.
"Yes?" he said into the comlink, his voice clipped.
"Master?" Obi-Wan's voice. Hesitant.
Qui-Gon did not swear and that was to his credit. "Obi-Wan? What's happened?" Qui-Gon knew it couldn't be anything good. Obi-Wan would never interrupt him this way unless it was important.
"W-well," Obi-Wan didn't know how in the world to say this. "I, that is, I didn't want to interrupt you, but they insisted I call, or they were going to send for you..."
Qui-Gon shook his head, the Governors were stirring impatiently and the 17-year-old on the other end of the comlink wasn't making sense. "Who insisted? Obi-Wan I'm very busy..."
"The police Master," Obi-Wan mumbled it quickly and it took a moment for the older Jedi to make out what he had said. "I've been arrested for vehicle theft and-and spice possession," Obi-Wan plunged uncertainly ahead, realizing only afterwards that there was probably a better way to have broken the news.
"YOU WHAT?" Qui-Gon forgot for a moment that he had an audience. Quickly regaining control of himself he took several deep breaths, ignoring the blatant stares of the three Governors and their staff.
"But I'm not guilty!" Obi-Wan quickly added. "It's all just a big mistake..." his voice trailed off miserably.
Qui-Gon resisted the urge to groan. This whole blasted mission had been one big mistake from the start. "Where are?" the big Jedi asked with a sigh.
Qui-Gon saw his Padawan sitting dejectedly on a slide- out cot in one of the Police Station's small detention cells. When Obi-Wan felt his Master approach he quickly rose to his feet.
"Well Obi-Wan, we've been through a lot together, but this is probably the first time I've had to bail you out of Jail," Qui-Gon's voice held the faintest twinge of amusement. He had no doubts about his Padawan's innocence, but he was sure this was going to be one interesting story.
"I'm sorry this happened Master," Obi-Wan looked down at his boots. "Are the Governors-"
"Furious," Qui-Gon answered before he'd even finished. Obi-Wan winced.
"What happened to your robe?" Qui-Gon asked, noting that Obi-Wan was no longer in the possession of the long, dark brown Jedi robe that he had been wearing when they parted earlier. "And your clothes," he noted what looked like grease stains on the knees of the apprentice's pants and there was something pinkish-red on the collar of his tunic.
"Its - a long story," Obi-Wan sighed.
"Let's hear it," Qui-Gon said, not at all amused. "I am quite interested in how in the Sith you got yourself in here. I thought you were going to return to our rooms to wait for me." The last statement was more of a question.
"I was, or that is, I did, only..." Obi-Wan ran his hand through his short hair. Where to start? "You see, they pulled Jor over because the rear illuminator on his speeder was out and we-"
"Wait a moment," Qui-Gon held up his hand. "Who is Jor and what were you doing in his vehicle? I thought you were taking the public transport back."
"I did, or at least, I tried," Obi-Wan explained; only somehow, things were not becoming much clearer for the sorely confused Jedi Master. "You see," Obi-Wan sighed.
"I would like to," Qui-Gon interjected quietly, but Obi-Wan didn't know what to make of the statement, so he ignored it.
"What happened was that after we got there and found out that the Governors would not allow me to attend the meeting because they considered me too young, I took the credits you gave me for the transport and waited by the stop. Only there was this lady ahead of me. She was pregnant Master, but it turned out she couldn't afford the fare. I figured that I was more capable of walking to my destination than she was, so I gave her my credits," Obi- Wan continued.
Qui-Gon nodded. All right, this made sense so far. He was pleased with the choice Obi-Wan had made at that juncture. "But that doesn't explain how you ended up here Padawan."
"I'm getting there," Obi-Wan said, taking another deep breath. "I was walking back when a speeder stopped and offered a ride."
"And you took it?" Qui-Gon asked slowly, wondering if he had brought Obi-Wan up with so little sense as to accept a bad ride from a stranger on a strange planet.
"No, Master," Obi-Wan shook his head.
"But-" Qui-Gon was confused again.
"It didn't feel right, so I declined, politely," Obi- Wan explained. "F'iorna wanted to, but I said no, so we-"
"F'iorna?" Qui-Gon interrupted for the dozenth time.
"Yes, F'iorna," Obi-Wan nodded as if the name was self-explanatory. Then he realized he had left that part of the story out. "I met her in the Tavern on Dr'u street. She had had a little too much to drink and she needed someone to walk her home. We were heading the same direction so I thought I could make sure she made it all right. Anyway, so these three men in the car-"
"And what in the name of the Force were you doing in a Tavern on Dr'u street or anywhere else Padawan?" Qui-Gon interrupted, an unmistakable edge in his voice. This whole mess was becoming more complicated by the instant.
"It's not as bad as it sounds Master, really," Obi-Wan hurriedly assured. "I only stopped in for directions."
"If you were on Dr'u street, you needed directions Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon remarked dryly. "That's halfway across the city in the wrong direction. Do we need to work on your navigational skills, or is there yet more to this convoluted tale that you haven't told me?"
"No, Master, I mean, yes, Master," Obi-Wan tried to answer both questions and ended up sounding a little confused himself. He knew he wasn't exactly going about this in the best manner, yet somehow, the faster he tried to explain it all, the more muddled it seemed to get. "You see, after I gave the pregnant lady my ticket, her daughter showed up. The girl was only eight, but her uncle had sent her to the bus stop to join her mother, only she was too late, and her uncle was long gone about his business. She lived over in Burundi and couldn't possibly walk home alone..."
"So you walked her home as well," Qui-Gon summarized for the teenager, beginning to get the drift of how this was going. At least he could not blame the boy for his big heart, but he knew a certain Padawan who was going to be teased mightily the next time his Master heard some complaining word about Qui-Gon's fondness for unexpected 'detours'.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan nodded, relived that Qui-Gon was finally seeming to follow him. "Only once I got there, I thought that there might be a faster way to get to Maraboota from Burundi than retracing my way all the way back to the Embassy first."
"I see," Qui-Gon folded his arms. "So naturally you decided to stop at a tavern to ask for directions."
"Well, I didn't actually just decide to Master," Obi-Wan clarified. "It seemed the most practical idea since it was right below where the little girl lived, so I was already there."
Qui-Gon ignored the urge to say what he thought about the idea of an eight-year-old girl living above a bar. The situation was cloudy enough as it was. He wouldn't muddy it anymore with observations that had little to do with the matter at hand.
"Shaleen's Aunt was the proprietress, so I got the directions from her. That's when I ran into F'iorna."
"And offered to walk her home as well. Tell me Padawan, were you trying to earn a merit badge or did you just feel like playing Good Samaritan to entire galaxy today?" Qui-Gon inquired with mock interest.
Obi-Wan colored slightly. "You always say I need to be more in touch with the Living Force, and be willing be compassionate when there is a need, Master," he pointed out.
"Hmm," Qui-Gon stroked his beard. "I'm going to have to watch what I say to you. You apply it in some very... interesting ways. Anyway, so after you picked up this girl in the bar, then what happened?"
"I didn't 'pick up a girl in a bar' Master," Obi-Wan complained slightly. "Actually," he looked mildly embarrassed, "You could say, she picked me up. What I mean is, she kind of followed me out. Um, I think she had other things in mind, but I convinced her that she should just let me walk her home..." Obi-Wan struggled to remember where he had been going with all this originally. "Where was I Master?"
"You were offered a rather questionable ride. Your lady friend wanted to accept, but you declined," Qui-Gon hoped they were finally getting somewhere.
"Oh, yes," Obi-Wan nodded, finding his place once more. "Well, the three men in the car didn't take too kindly to being rejected. Um, I think they were more interested in giving F'iorna a ride than they were me actually Master. Two of them got out and were being quite... aggressive." Obi-Wan rubbed his aching back involuntarily, glancing down at his soiled trouser knees.
"They, ah, shoved me around a little," he said with a touch of embarrassment. The look in Obi-Wan's eyes said he knew he could have bested all of them. "I didn't want to start a fight Master," Obi-Wan said quietly. "F'iorna was not helpful. She said I could stay if I wanted, but she wanted to go... I guess I really had no right to stop her, but I just couldn't let her go, not in her condition..." Obi-Wan sighed. He knew he had probably butted in where he had no business and wondered if he was going to be in trouble for that.
"She said she wasn't going to walk anymore, and was beginning to insist, then another speeder pulled up. It turned out to be a friend of F'iorna's who seemed equally concerned about her welfare, so he offered us a ride. He was alone, F'iorna was already in his speeder and at this point it was either take it or be left behind with the three men in the other speeder who were becoming quite hostile. I didn't sense any evil intent in Jor, so I accepted. When we got pulled over for the rear- illuminator, they told us there were too many people in the speeder and asked Jor for-"
"Too many people? Unless I've missed something there was only you, Jor and F'iorna," Qui-Gon interjected. "Just how small was this speeder?"
"It had four seats," Obi-Wan hedged slightly.
"But I thought you said Jor was alone when he picked you up," Qui-Gon pointed out, wondering what kind of tale this side adventure would turn out to be.
"Well, Jor, um, picked some more young people on the way," Obi-Wan said quietly.
Qui-Gon got the odd feeling that there was something more to it than that. "Where did he pick them up Obi-Wan?" he asked, his blue eyes studying the Padawan intently.
"Um, outside a club," Obi-Wan said vaguely.
"What kind of club? Where?" Qui-Gon was not going to let him off that easy.
Obi-Wan shuffled his feet. "A - a, uh, gentleman's club in the Strobe district," Obi-Wan said quickly, a little too quickly.
"THE STROBE DISTRICT?" Qui-Gon said, none too quietly.
Obi-Wan flushed and suddenly found the floor very interesting looking.
"What pray tell were you doing there, or don't I want to know?" Qui-Gon put his hands on his hips. "If I remember rightly no one under 21 is even supposed to be allowed in that area."
The reputation of the Strobe District was known all over Chu'ba.
"Please Master, it wasn't my choice to be there," Obi-Wan said miserably. "Jor said he had another friend to pick up on the way..."
"Friend or two apparently," Qui-Gon commented.
"Well, that was not exactly planned," Obi-Wan explained quietly, his eyes still riveted on the floor. "I do think he only meant to pick up Yoni, but, but," the young apprentice ran a hand over the back of his neck. He knew he had better be honest with his Master. The elder Jedi would find out from the police eventually anyway.
"But the club she was working in was, um, raided at just about the time we arrived and we ended up with about six of her fellow... entertainers. It seems there was a question about their age. That's, um, how Jor got the broken illuminator," Obi-Wan was almost mumbling now.
"Padawan," Qui-Gon said sternly, but with a hint of amusement that he could not control. "Do you mean to tell me that you ran from the authorities after picking up a carload of under-age strip-dancers?"
"I didn't Master," Obi-Wan protested uncomfortably. "But the people you were riding with did, and you went along," Qui-Gon clarified.
"It all happened rather fast Master," Obi-Wan tried to explain. "I thought about getting out, but, but this girl was sitting on my lap and the speed at which the vehicle was traveling made it hardly a safe idea to attempt disembarking, even if I could have gotten to the door." Obi-Wan hoped Qui-Gon did not think he was trying to make excuses for what happened.
"I see," Qui-Gon sighed. In truth, he was more amused than upset with his apprentice. It was obvious that Obi- Wan had not deliberately gotten himself into the mess he ended up in, although perhaps he needed to consider more carefully the kinds of people he picked up with.
"So, you are in a speeder with this fellow named Jor, the inebriated girl you picked up in the bar is in the backseat and you have a barely-clad dancing girl on your lap," Qui-Gon summarized dryly. "How do we get from here to being arrested for vehicle theft and spice possession? I assume your friends did manage to shake pursuit. Then what happened?"
Obi-Wan's ears burned bright red at the way Qui-Gon summed it up. It sounded awful, yet that was what happened... it just sounded so much worse somehow when his Master said it that way. "Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said quietly. "Jor did some... interesting driving, and we managed to, ah, get away. The young lady on my lap was getting quite... friendly, so I asked them to let me off, immediately, and I would walk the rest of the way, but that's when we got pulled over for the broken rear illuminator."
"Wait," Qui-Gon held up his hand. "It is daylight still Padawan. Why would they pull you over in the middle of the day for a broken illuminator?"
"We were in the - the Lover's Tunnels at that point," Obi-Wan stammered, knowing just how bad that would sound, given the situation.
Qui-Gon said nothing. He just looked at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan resisted the urge to shrivel up and die. "I know how that sounds, but it was perfectly innocent Master, I swear. That was how Jor lost the police was by ducking the speeder down there."
"Unfortunately for you all, he lost one set and picked up another," Qui-Gon observed. "Go on." This was actually becoming quite interesting, if only he could keep it all straight.
"Well Master, when they pulled us over they said we had too many people in the car for the number of safety- restraints," Obi-Wan continued contritely.
"How many, was too many Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked out of mild curiosity.
"Well, counting Jor, F'iorna and myself... there was about nine of us Master."
"In four seats."
"I see. Proceed."
"Well, then they asked for Jor's license..."
"Let me guess," Qui-Gon hazarded. "He didn't have one. Or at least, not with him."
Obi-Wan blinked, surprised. "Why, yes, you're right. How did you know?"
"Because nothing has gone right so far, why should it start now?" Qui-Gon said with a touch of calm irony.
"Well, he had one, but had left it at home, so they ran a registration check on the vehicle instead. That's when they came back and placed us all under arrest for vehicle theft. It appears the speeder was, uh, stolen. Jor swears it's not his and he doesn't know where it came from. He claims that he borrowed it from a friend of a friend of his, I honestly don't know whether that's true or not," Obi-Wan confided. "But in any case, we all had to get out and the speeder was searched. That's when they found the spice in the front compartment. Again, Jor says it's not his," Obi-Wan shrugged. It was not for him to judge the truth the matter. The courts would decide that later.
"And that's when they brought you all down here and booked you," Qui-Gon finished for the teenager.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan hung his head. Somehow he couldn't see exactly where he had made the first mistake, but he had to have done something wrong to have ended up in this mess. No doubt Qui-Gon would be able to give him a list, he thought miserably.
"So what happened to your robe Padawan?" Qui-Gon wanted to get all the details of this out before they moved on.
"Oh," Obi-Wan blushed. "That. I - well, I sort of gave it to one of the girls..."
"The one who was on your lap, the 'friendly' one?"
Obi-Wan winced. "Yes, Master. I, that is, she..." Obi-Wan was distinctly embarrassed. "She wasn't, wasn't wearing... um, much."
"I see," Qui-Gon said calmly for the hundredth time. "Come Obi-Wan," he said, turning to go. "We should be leaving before anything else has a chance to happen."
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan nodded, following Qui-Gon out with shuffling steps.
As they passed another one of the holding cells on the way out, whistles and playful cries of "Hey Obi!" drew the two Jedi's attention.
Obi-Wan wished he could sink into the ground. Six scantily clad teenage girls wearing far too much makeup and not much else hung on the bars, winking, whistling and blowing kisses at him.
One of them, Qui-Gon noticed, had Obi-Wan's robe draped almost over her tanned, slim shoulders. Her lipstick matched the pinky-red stains on Obi-Wan's collar as well.
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. Because he knew his apprentice well enough to know that Obi-Wan was every inch the proper gentlemen; the Jedi Master could find it amusing to imagine his poor Padawan packed into a speeder with six simpering club-girls, one of whom had obviously tried to make-out with him.
Obi-Wan flushed all the way up to the roots of his hair and hurried past.
Once outside, and on their way back to their rooms again at last, Obi-Wan ventured a hesitant glance in Qui- Gon's direction.
"Master?" he said softly. "I'm sorry I caused so much trouble. I know it's hard to believe, but I really wasn't trying to make mischief."
"I know, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, and to Obi-Wan's relief, his Master's voice held no edge of reprove. "I wouldn't go so far as to say that you caused all this trouble either," the Jedi Master shook his head. "It seemed to me is if you were, ah, more along for the ride," Qui-Gon's eyes twinkled at his joke and Obi-Wan grinned back hesitantly.
He couldn't believe that Qui-Gon really wasn't mad at him. "Then - then you're not upset with me Master?" the young man asked hopefully.
Qui-Gon shook his head. "Your heart was in the right place Padawan, even if it seems that you turned your brain off at points," he rebuffed mildly. "Sometimes these things happen. Sometimes there are days when nothing goes right," Qui-Gon shook his head. "Sometimes there are missions where nothing goes right," he added with a half- smile. "But no permanent harm is done," Qui-Gon shrugged. "And since your antics have bought me the rest of the day off from having to negotiate with those... Governors," Qui- Gon said, his tone betraying just exactly how fond of them he was.
"We can endeavor to do something to redeem this rather... interesting day."
"What would that be Master?" Obi-Wan asked, expecting extra exercises and meditations.
"Hmm," Qui-Gon said thoughtfully. There was a funny smile on his face and Obi-Wan cringed in inward anticipation, wondering what his Master was cooking up for him.
"I hear that there is an excellent little Creamed Ice shop about three streets down. I think we might avail ourselves of a little refreshment and see if we can salvage something enjoyable out of this mission," Qui-Gon grinned at Obi-Wan, his eyes sparkling with merry mischief. "Would you like that Obi-Wan?"
A wide grin spread across Obi-Wan's face. "Yes, Master! That sounds like a very good idea indeed," he said seriously, but with an enormous smile.
"Come on trouble-maker," Qui-Gon wrapped his arm around his apprentice's shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze. He was enjoying his Padawan's delighted shock at the unexpected treat when he obviously expected to be punished.
"You see Obi-Wan, I am a human being after all," the big Jedi teased as they ate their creamed ice at an outdoor table under a striped umbrella. "Just promise me one thing Padawan," Qui-Gon said.
"What?" Obi-Wan asked, licking his Creamed Ice off of the pointy-ended cone in his hand.
"Promise me that the next time you give up your seat to a pregnant lady, you will walk back, alone."
"I promise Master!" Obi-Wan laughed. "I promise!"