Chapter 22

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Ben headed down the starship's hallway, saluting the occasional trooper he passed. He noted the Torment's End's quite spartan decor: a few emblems to the Republic on display, the rest left up to the imagination. At least it was spacious enough as to not make him feel clastrophobic.

He walked by Fett's quarters and glanced inside. Based on Wenzlow's description, Ben expected to see the Sergeant considering how to best utilize the mining droids, or modeling where to plant explosives to distract autori.

Anything but the Sergeant sitting down, holding a wooden figurine in his hands, his eyes closed and his mouth silently moving. Probably praying or chanting, much like Ben did in Jedi meditation.

The force indicated the trooper struggled for peace. Ben hung his head. Who doesn't these days? That Fett sought this recourse to find serenity said there was more to him than Ben assumed.

Suddenly self-aware and embarrassed to intrude on the man's ritual, Ben moved to leave when Fett spoke up.

"Commander, something you need?"

"Just checking on my soldiers and officers. Don't let me invade on your privacy."

"It's fine, sir -- come in and let me pull up a chair."

"No need." Ben joined Fett on the floor, and looked at the figurine still in Fett's hands.

Fett must have noticed his examination, for he asked, "Permission to speak freely, sir?"

"Granted." Ben smiled. "On the condition you don't make me regret it, Sergeant."

"I'll try. No promises." He paused. "Tell me, sir, you a religious man?"

There's a forward way to start a conversation. It wasn't a question he'd thought about for some time or the kind he'd thought to answer to the likes of Fett. "Well, I'm a Jedi, aren't I? I may not have ceremonial robes on, but I still hold to the same values."

"That's just deflecting the question, Commander. We both know being a Jedi doesn't mean what most think."

"Oh? What is it they think?"

"You know. That since you hold to a code and are 'gifted,' you're a bunch of spiritual gurus, wise folk." Fett motioned to their surroundings. "You're all 'attuned' with life, the universe, and everything."

"Specialist Ronk would debate you on that description." Fett looked puzzled. "Nevermind. So what do you think?"

"Jedi are troubled souls like all. I know that much. A couple years back, my squad had to put one down that snapped, who'd used your gift in perverse ways. Lots of victims in his... experiments. Kids even. One sick bastard."

"You speak of Marrodon..." That event further tainted the public sentiment for Jedi. Marrodon's actions wouldn't be forgotten for some time. It was unfair, but Ben couldn't blame the public for being suspicious.

Fett nodded. "Whatever your gift is, it doesn't make you holy. And it doesn't answer all of life's questions, does it? I bet it adds more." Ben nodded. "It seems the force could mean whatever you want, just like for non-Jedi. Could be a god, the sum energy of the universe, our life force, or whatever helps push out a stool sample. What do you think?"

Ben sighed. "I don't know. Need it be just one thing? A calling to be something more? The brute hunger of the merely possible to be something actual?"

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