As ever, after a mission, Qui-Gon had been summoned to the Jedi Council’s chambers for his report. It was nighttime—later than the Council usually met, at least for ordinary business—and the darkness around them was illuminated by the cyclone of Coruscanti traffic and ships’ lights. Yet here, within this room, a sense of serenity prevailed. Qui-Gon relished the contrast.
Master Billaba leaned forward, studying her datapad with a frown on her face. “It worries me, this misunderstanding between you and your Padawan. This isn’t the first time you’ve reported such difficulties.”
Qui-Gon bowed his head slightly. “It worries me as well. Obi-Wan is strong in the Force, and eager to do his duty. The failure must be mine. Fundamentally, I fear, we are a mismatch. I’ve been unable to adapt my teaching methods to his needs, despite my best efforts.”
Yoda cocked his head. “Adapt he must as well. Cooperation is learned not through individual effort. Only together can you progress.”
Agreeing to that proposition—sensible though it was—would mean shifting some of the blame onto Obi-Wan, which Qui-Gon preferred not to do. He simply remained quiet. The Jedi Council had a habit of assuming that silence equaled agreement; Qui-Gon had found this habit useful, from time to time.
Regardless, he expected the Council to eventually ask him if he wanted them to reassign Obi-Wan’s training to another Master. He’d known before this meeting began that they might even ask the question tonight, but he still wasn’t sure what he would say. The suspense seemed worse than he would’ve anticipated, maybe because he didn’t know what he wanted to answer . . .
. . . or because the silence in the room had lasted a suspiciously long period of time.
Qui-Gon focused his attention back on the Masters surrounding him. They were exchanging glances in what seemed to be anticipation. He straightened. “Have you another mission for us?” Maybe they intended to test him and Obi-Wan one more time before any decision about reassignment would be made.
“Yes, another task for you we have.” Yoda’s ears lowered, a sign of deep intent. “Consider it carefully, you must.”
Mace Windu drew himself upright and folded his hands together in a formal gesture of respect. “You may not have heard that Master Dapatian intends to retire from the Council, effective next month.”
Qui-Gon glanced at Poli Dapatian, a Master of great renown . . . so much so that Qui-Gon had failed to note, in recent years, how aged he had become. “That is our loss.”
“We hope it will also be our gain,” Mace replied. “Qui-Gon Jinn, we hereby offer you a seat on the Jedi Council.”
Had he misheard? No, he hadn’t. Qui-Gon slowly gazed around the circle, taking in the expressions of each Council member in turn. Some of them looked amused, others pleased. A few of them, Yoda included, appeared more rueful than not. But they were serious.
“I admit—you’ve surprised me,” Qui-Gon finally said.
“I imagine so,” Mace said drily. “A few years ago, we would’ve been astonished to learn we would ever consider this. But in the time since, we’ve all changed. We’ve grown. Which means the possibilities have changed as well.”
Qui-Gon took a moment to collect himself. Without any warning, one of the turning points of his life had arrived. Everything he said and did in the next days would be of great consequence. “You’ve argued with my methods often as not, or perhaps you’d say I’ve argued with yours.”
“Truth, this is,” Yoda said.
Depa Billaba gave Yoda a look Qui-Gon couldn’t interpret. “It’s also true that the Jedi Council needs more perspectives.” Is the Council actually making sense?
Qui-Gon hoped none of them had picked up on that thought.
Mace nodded. “Yes, Qui-Gon, we’ve disagreed often. Butted heads, even. But you’ve always acted with respect for the Council’s authority, without compromising your inner convictions. This shows a great gift for—”
“Diplomacy?” Qui-Gon asked.
Mace replied, “I was going to say balance.
It was a delicate line to walk, one Qui-Gon had stumbled over on many occasions. But those occasions had become rarer as the years went on. He’d learned how to handle the Council well enough. Now, it seemed, the Council had become ready to hear him in return.
Qui-Gon had never imagined sitting on the Jedi Council itself, at least not since he was a youngling. Dooku had chuckled once, early in Qui-Gon’s training, when they spoke of the Council. “You have your own mind, my Padawan,”
he’d said. “The Council doesn’t always respond well to that.”
Given how many times Qui-Gon had clashed with the Council—from his earliest days as a Jedi Knight up to six weeks ago—he’d always assumed that he would never ascend to the heights of the Order.
But now it could happen. Would
happen. He’d be able to weigh in on the Council’s decisions, and perhaps create some of the change he wanted to see. It was the greatest opportunity of his life.
“You honor me,” Qui-Gon said. “I ask for some time to meditate upon this before I accept.” Of course he would take the seat on the Council. But in doing so, he wanted to more fully reflect upon how this would change him, and the breadth of the important role he would assume.
“Very wise,” said Depa. “Most of those asked to join the Council do the same, myself included. If someone didn’t—well, I’d think maybe he didn’t know what he was getting into.”
Laughter went around the room. Amusement bubbled within Poli Dapatian’s respirator mask. Depa Billaba’s grin was infectious, and Qui-Gon realized he was smiling back at her. Although the Council had never been hostile to him, this was the first time Qui-Gon had felt a deeper camaraderie—the friendliness of equals. Already Teth and the Hutts seemed like a problem from years ago. The future shone so boldly that it threatened to eclipse the present. Steady,
he told himself. Even an invitation to the Jedi Council mustn’t go to your head.
“Consider carefully, you must,” said Yoda, the only member of the Council who remained gravely serious. “No hasty answer should you give.”
“Of course,” Qui-Gon said. Hadn’t he just indicated that he intended to do exactly that?
Before he could think more on it, Mace said, “In some ways, this invitation comes at an opportune time. This change could, potentially, resolve other problems.”
Only then did it hit Qui-Gon: If he took a seat on the Council, then Obi-Wan would be transferred to another Master.
Copyright © 2019 by Claudia Gray. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.