Tengri -- Chapter 5

"So where do you want to go from here?" Qui-Gon asked over breakfast. As there was no need to go to Coruscant, he'd interrupted the hyperdrive and the Marauder was just floating around in deep space for the moment.

"I don't know." Leaning back in her chair, Tengri considered the question. I can't run around with you forever; I know that you've got duties to tend, an apprentice somewhere to train." Her words brought a certain amount of sadness, but both of them knew it was true. "I know we can't be together, but will I ever see you again?"

"Do you want to see me again?"

"Yes," she whispered.

He was startled to see her eyes fill with tears. Her distress at their anticipated separation vibrated through the Force, refusing to be ignored.

Leaning across the table, Qui-Gon took her lips in a long, satisfying kiss. "I didn't go through all of this just to wave good-bye to you at the nearest spaceport. We'll see each other again. Don't ever doubt it."

"All right," she said, feeling reassured, and wiping away her tears. "What are my options? I don't want to go back home, and Coruscant is one big city. Even though I'd be close to you, I don't think I'd be happy there."

As Mace Windu had suggested, Qui-Gon had taught her well. She was asking his advice, but keeping total control of the decisions; this Jedi Master would have it no other way.

"What are you looking for in a home planet?" he asked.

She considered the question for a moment. "No massive amounts of people or plascrete, that's for sure. A bohemian sort of place with plenty of artists."

"Are you an artist?"

"I can weave, if you think I could make enough to live on by doing that?"

He chilled at the news, realizing that weavers were not among the best paid laborers in the galaxy. I never wondered if she would be able to support herself. I believe that she may be dependent upon me for a very long time.

The thought didn't overly upset Qui-Gon -- he would happily pay her way through the world and ask nothing in return -- but he knew that to tell her so would all but demolish her new-found confidence.

"What can you weave?"

"Whill," replied in a most disgusted tone. "I just can't get away from the nasty stuff. It's all I know how to do."

"I thought that was a building material."

Off of his look of confusion, she hastened to explain. "It's good for building small stuff, too. Take me someplace where I can get a small amount and a loom, and I'll show you."

He pondered their location for a moment. "Lyra is close."

"The artisan's colony?" Her eyes brightened at that news. "I've always wanted to go there."

Nodding, he rose to his feet. "Then Lyra it shall be. We'll get you some new clothes and supplies, and you can show me what you do with this... 'spider shit.'"

Blushing to hear him quote her so casually, she followed him into the control center. "Don't do that."

"Do what?" He punched in the coordinates and began the calculations to reach Lyra.

"Use such language. You're a Jedi Master, after all."

With a press of a button, the Marauder made the jump to lightspeed. Turning from the console, Qui-Gon slid an arm around her waist.

"I am the same man today as I was yesterday. I'm also your lover." He kissed her slowly, sensuously until she clung to him. "My rank does not dictate my language, any more than it dictates our touching. Agreed?"

"Agreed," she whispered immediately. I'll agree to anything, Qui-Gon, if you'll just kiss me again.

When he lowered his head on a half-smile and did just that, she knew he'd read her thoughts through the Force.

* * *

"I won't be long," he'd told her upon their landing on Lyra, but that didn't stop Tengri from pacing the ship, around and around, until he returned.

The minute she heard the main cabin doors woosh back, she was dancing before him. "Oh, give, give, please?..."

Chuckling, he directed a droid to set aside a large box before handing Tengri a small package. Winding her arms around Qui-Gon's neck, she gave him a grateful kiss.

He raised an eyebrow. "I never knew that new underwear could send a woman into such raptures."

"That's because you've never been without!" she breathed.

"How do you know?"

"You're right," Tengri agreed. "For all I know, you never wear the stuff, so why would you miss it? Then you'd never understand how happy you've just made me." She grinned up at him.

Ripping open the package, she hugged the new fripperies and additional clothing to her. "You are definitely a saint for getting these things for me."

"Oh, so now I'm a saint? This morning, I was but a lowly Jedi Master."

Darting away from him, she got as far as the bulkhead before he called her back. "Tengri?"

Whirling, she stared at him.

He waved a smaller bundle at her. "Personal toiletries?"

Sheepishly, she walked sedately back and took them. "I won't be long."

"Mmm." Sweeping aside his cloak, he leaned against the game console and folded his arms. "Don't hurry on my account."

She disappeared around the bulkhead, and then it was Qui-Gon's turn to wait.

Tengri's excitement at being there, on Lyra, was almost palpable. Qui-Gon didn't think she'd be disappointed. It was a beautiful, safe place for a young woman like her to begin her explorations of the galaxy. The climate was mild, the people focused on their art, and there wasn't a serious threat within miles -- unless you loved original art and had the uncontrollable urge to purchase it.

"All right, I'm ready," she said breathlessly, appearing before him a few short minutes later. "How do I look?"

"Beautiful," he said, meaning it. "Casual suits you."

Dressed in blue leggings with a billow-sleeved tunic tied at the waist and a pair of soft walking boots, she smiled in shy gratitude.

"How did you know what would fit me?" Have you so much experience in shopping for women? a wicked voice questioned in her mind, knowing he'd probably hear.

"I held it up. It needed to come to here on me," he indicated her height with a hand hovering at his chest, "and be as wide as my hands." He wiggled his splayed fingers at her.

"Oh, you are a clever Jedi." She whirled before him in search of her next project. "Where's the loom?"

He pointed to the box in question. With a flick of the packing switch, she opened it. With the flick of another switch, the loom righted itself, unfolded, and was ready for use.

"Is that the model you wanted?"

"Perfect," came the answer, without her looking at him. She was too busy carefully unfolding the layers around another, more ominous black box that blocked all exterior light and air from harming whatever was inside. "What grade of whill is this?"

"The highest."

That got her attention. "Why did you do that? I can't pay for that!"

"Don't look so shocked; I can afford it."

"All right..." she said slowly.

He felt her conscious decision not to ask about his financial affairs; some things, after all, had to remain private between them.

I told him to get the cheapest... Oh, well, it's none of my business, the thought danced through the Force.

"I'm amazed that something weighing so little costs so much," he offered.

"That's because you haven't seen what can be done with it. Those spiders are ugly, but this stuff is magical. I'm not going to make anything major this first time, all right? I just want you to see what can be done."

"I understand."

Within minutes, she'd programmed the loom and stood back. The white gossamer threads of whill danced obediently along their lines, their final form remaining a mystery until twenty cycles later, when Tengri snicked the garment from its anchoring threads and passed it to him.


"Not just any cloak. A whill cloak. That cloak won't tear or burn," she pointed out. "The longer it dries, the stronger it gets. It'll outlive both of us."

He held it up to the light, seeing rainbows dance in its crystalline folds. "How long does it take to dry?"

"About a day, but you could wear it into battle right now. If there are any flaws in the actual design, I can still fix them, though. If we hurry," she added, eyeing her first project critically.

"I don't see any." Qui-Gon's gaze went distant as he considered the garment he held. "It won't burn, you said?"


Unclipping his lightsaber, he activated it.

"Qui-Gon!" Her hand on his wrist stopped him. "What are you doing!"

"Testing it. Taking you at your word," he added, raising an eyebrow at her.

"Well that was before I knew you were going to try to kill it with a lightsaber. Most people don't have those, you know, so it's not really a major wear consideration."

Qui-Gon shrugged, then moved the tip of the glowing blade toward her creation.

"At least wait until it dries," she begged.

"You said I could wear it into battle right now, so it should be able to withstand this." Throwing the cloak into the air, he captured it on the saber. And waited.

Caught on the gamma beam, the cloak floated there as though suspended on a mundane plastine hook.

"I don't believe it,"

"Oh, you can believe it," Tengri said, confidence in her product restored. She walked around the lightsaber. "Best kept secret in the galaxy, and I'm the only one who knows how to make clothing out of it. You think somebody would hire me to do this for them?" "No," he breathed, still staring at the cloak.

"No?" The disappointment stole her breath away and her heart dropped to her toes as all of her new-found confidence crumbling.

Hearing the fear and disappointment in her voice, Qui-Gon deactivated the lightsaber and caught the cloak before it fell to the floor. Spreading it across the game console, he visually searched for holes and burns. Except for a slight smudging, he could find nothing.

"If nobody wants what I can do, then how am I supposed to live?" she asked plaintively from beside him.

"Tengri--" Spinning around to face her, he tried to control his excitement. "Can whill be dyed dark brown? Black?"

"What? Yes. Any color you want. Right now, before it dries. But I don't see what that matters if--"

"No one will hire you to do this, dearest, because you're going into business for yourself."

She blinked up at him. "I am?"

Nodding, he gestured to the cloak. "What you have here is a form of protection the Jedi have needed for generations. Right now, on the basis of what you've shown me, I'm prepared to loan you 200,000 Republic credits and set you up to produce, say, five hundred cloaks over the next few weeks?"

For a moment, Tengri didn't answer. She was too busy absorbing the offer he'd just made. "You'll loan me the money, which means I get to pay you back? You don't want to... own me?"

He gave her a reproachful look that nearly made her cringe. "Oh, right. I'm sorry, I forgot. It's just... anyone else would buy me or the process outright, Qui-Gon. You've given me so much, and I owe you so much... If you'd rather be my sponsor or my partner, just say so."

Sinking down in the nearest chair, he brought her to sit across his lap. "Tengri, I want you to listen to me very carefully and be mindful of what you offer to give away from now on. This magic is yours--" He swept a hand in the general direction of the loom. "If I bought twenty cargo ships full of whill tomorrow, I couldn't program that loom to do what you just did. That sort of knowledge is your weapon and your protection, just as my knowledge of the Force is mine. More than that, it's your means of survival and independence here on Lyra."

"But where are you going to get that kind of credit?"

"I already have it." He shrugged helplessly. "What do I need to buy? I have very little need of money, so it sits patiently until I want it. Now I know why I have it. Nothing happens by accident, dear Tengri." Smiling, he stroked her hair. "I will loan you the money. I predict that you will be able to pay me back in a matter of months, because once we begin marketing this on Coruscant, you're going to have more orders than you can keep up with. First of all, I guarantee that the Jedi Temple will want practice uniforms for all of their apprentices. There have always been far too many injuries with lightsabers, you see."

"The whill will keep them safe?"

A quick nod, and then he was off again. "If you wanted to, you could build a business with the Jedi as your sole clients, but that's not the wisest thing to have happen -- it's far too limiting, financially as well as artistically. That dirt-brown apprentice color cannot be too exciting for an artist to face day after day. So I suggest that you patent your process, create whatever you want, sell wherever you want, but take care not to publicize any special processes. Emphasize your clothing's durability and beauty -- the rainbows carried in every garment -- but don't tell anyone what it's made of."

"No worries there," she replied, wrinkling her nose in disgust at her first-hand memories of its origin. But his words had sparked her imagination even before he'd finished speaking. "This is going to work, isn't it?"

"Better than you ever dreamed of, Tengri. We'll find a shop with factory space for you, invest part of the money in droids and more looms. If you can show me your programs for the garments you need, I can help you program the looms. And the droids."

"Program droids?" she echoed, looking surprised.

"I can build a droid, if you need something special," he offered, confused by her reaction.

"No, if you can program them, that's more than half the work done right there. I just didn't realize Jedi Masters had such talents. What I'd need is something that can create and read a shipping manifest, pack boxes, store supplies... Basic things like that."

"Not a problem."

She laughed at his jubilant expression. "I've never seen you this excited about anything."

Taking her face in his hands, he said, "I don't think you understand what you've done, Tengri. You've made it possible for the Jedi to defend the Republic without getting hurt. You've created something that's not only beautiful to look it -- it's a major military advantage for my friends. It will help keep them alive."

"So I can give something back to the world that produced you?" she said slowly. "I can say thank you for this man, who showed me how to claim my own life and taught me how much fun you can have in bed?"

His blue eyes twinkled into hers. "Well, I wouldn't go that far."

Tengri laughed outright at that. "You already have, Qui-Gon. And much, much farther."


"So then what happened?" Obi-Wan demanded as they strolled through the streets of Ubiqua. "You didn't just leave her there on Lyra?"

"Not for several months," he admitted. "I took a leave of absence from the Temple, refused additional assignments for a time, and told the Council not to be too upset with me because I'd have something very special to show them in only a few days."

"And they waited?"

Qui-Gon closed his eyes against the memories of hostile communications during that time period. "Not willingly, but they had no choice, did they? We rented shop and factory space with living facilities above, bought the equipment and implemented our plans. Tengri took out a patent on the process she'd originated, and we began filling orders. Within only a few weeks, I was able to send a courier with Jedi samples to Master Nankle back at the Temple. The numbers he ordered buried us for quite awhile. Tengri paid me back within two months, and Master Yoda has never again mentioned my... sins... where Tengri is concerned. Five years later, I took you as my Padawan learner."

Stopping at the entrance to a very private, exclusive hotel near the conference center, Qui-Gon looked down at Obi-Wan and offered a slight smile. "I will not be joining you aboard the Marauder tonight, Padawan."

"I know that, Master." A devilish glint reflected in Obi-Wan's eyes. "Sleep well."

"If you would care to meet me here at seven hundred tomorrow, I will tell Tengri to expect you for breakfast."

"I'll be here."

With a brief nod, Qui-Gon left him, disappearing without a backward glance inside the hotel doors.

Shaking his head, Obi-Wan continued on his way and wondered, How can he have told me so much, yet told me so little about their relationship? He said she's his mistress, but when does he see her, if he still sees her?

Sometime, perhaps, Obi-Wan would gather the courage to ask.

* * *

The servo-droid disappeared after letting Obi-Wan into the suite of rooms belonging to Tengri. The suite's ante-chamber was just like any other he'd been in, sparse and boring. While he could hear the murmur of voices from the bedroom beyond the chamber -- his master's voice mingling with Tengri's higher, lighter tones -- Obi-Wan suspected that what he had thought might happen had, indeed, happened; he was early, but his hosts had retired late -- if at all -- and were not yet dressed.

Well, then, he'd wait. For his beloved master, he'd always wait.

Pacing over to the divan, Obi-Wan swept aside his cloak and sat down. Before the divan sat a black plastine table, the same sort of generic furniture to be found in hotel rooms the galaxy over. This one supported the usual bad floral arrangement and a comp-calendar. Leaning forward, Obi-Wan considered it with curiosity. One of the older models, it didn't shut itself off unless the owner flipped it closed.

It must be Tengri's, Obi-Wan reflected. With his memorization skills, Qui-Gon's never needed to keep one of these.

In idle curiosity, Obi-Wan looked to see what day his birthday fell on that year. The month in question held appointments as well: the 12th saw Tengri traveling home to Lyra, the 19th she would be in Coruscant, and a trip to Viola was in the offing on the 21st.

Qui-Gon and I are due in Viola on the 21st, Obi-Wan remembered. A sneaking suspicion crossed his mind. Quickly, he buttoned backward, hoping not to get caught by his hosts before he'd had a chance to satisfy himself, to check his theory against this calendar that seemed to go back decades.

Obi-Wan picked a date at random. Three years ago, during the Malister Equinox. We spent a week there, Qui-Gon went off for hours on some secret mission, and I ended up so bored that I spend three days reading ancient philosophy in the library.

Malister: Qui-Gon, Tengri's calendar reliably informed him, coded over the same dates that Obi-Wan remembered. His eyes scanned other dates that read like a compact diary of his own missions with Qui-Gon.

We didn't volunteer for most of these, he realized. So how did she know where we'd be?

He told her, Obi-Wan realized. She's scheduled her life around Qui-Gon's for years. They've been meeting the entire time I've been with him, and I never knew it. Never noticed. I've always been too eager to go off on my own, thinking Qui-Gon was perfectly contented to stay at the hotel or with whatever host we had and... and meditate, for all I knew.

Meditation, huh? Great new name for it. And to think, when I was younger, I thought that he was boring. Huh. Some meditation. Some boring. Just when you think you know your master....

On that thought, Qui-Gon came striding into the room. Obi-Wan leaped back on the couch like a child caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

"Good morning, young Padawan," Qui-Gon greeted him neutrally, just as he always did.

"Good morning, Master," he replied, hoping that his features reflected neither guilt nor smirk.

Smoothly, without hesitation, without even turning the calendar around so that he could read it right-side up, Qui-Gon pressed the button that returned it to the current year.

"I trust that you slept well, Obi-Wan?"

"Uh...Yes, Master."

"Did you complete your morning meditation?"

"Yes, Master."

Qui-Gon turned the calendar to face him then, punching up a few weeks into the future to type in something in that Obi-Wan couldn't see. Laying the calendar back down, he arranged it so that Obi-Wan could read it, and watched his apprentice do just that.

When you've been caught, there's nothing for it but to admit your guilt, Obi-Wan shrugged inwardly. Unabashed, he looked. "We're going to Belka next month?"

"Yes, Padawan. The Council assigned us only this morning."

So he's been up long enough to check our schedule through the Coruscant connection, and the first thing he does is inform Tengri, then me. Another silly grin was threatening to take over Obi-Wan's face.

"Do you understand, Obi-Wan?"

He glanced up to meet his master's eyes, which looked this morning as they did every morning: calm and inscrutable. Standing regally in his black cloak, arms folded before him and not a hair out of place, looking serene and collected, Qui-Gon was every inch the dignified Jedi Master. Except for one thing.

"Qui-Gon," a voice called from beyond the chamber.

He turned slightly as Tengri came into the room, carrying his lightsaber.

"You forgot this." Handing the weapon over, she stood on tiptoe to brush his cheek with her lips.

For the first time in his twenty-two years, Obi-Wan saw his master blush as he fastened the weapon to its accustomed clip.

Moving away from the Jedi Master, Tengri turned her attention to Obi-Wan and offered him a warm smile. "Good morning."

Standing, he gave a formal bow. "It is an honor to meet you again. And Master? To answer your question: Yes, I understand. It's a beautiful morning, isn't it?"



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