The Fandom Menace By Jane Mailander

The padawan proudly displayed his purchase. A landspeeder.

The Jedi rolled his eyes at the sight of the blue and white monstrosity his pupil had piloted back to their dwelling. "El-Son, I've seen sleeker and more elegant scow freighters."

El-Son Jimm instantly affected a pout, which vanished when San-Bar Jakobi gave the man's hair-tail an affectionate tug. "Master, this craft is old, but it's sturdy workmanship."

"Let me guess, Jimm -- the Jawas that sold this to you insisted it had been owned by a gifted mechanic who only used it for annual trips to the droid market."

Jakobi's padawan, a large muscular man who looked as if he'd be more at home in battle armor than in Jedi robes, ducked his head and smiled. "This vehicle was manufactured the same year you were born, Master. I took it for a good omen."

"Luck, Padawan?" San-Bar smiled indulgently. "I think our esteemed councilor would say 'A Jedi his own luck makes.' "

Jimm snorted with laughter at Jakobi's perfect imitation of Yoda's raspy voice. "Then I made my own luck by getting a vehicle that will withstand everything the desert can throw at it -- including a wild bantha."

"Or your own piloting," Jakobi added deadpan, laughing when El-Son gave him a thump on the side of his head. So far El-Son had managed to destroy two vehicles in as many years of living out in the wilds as the Jedi's apprentice; ground transports weren't meant to be driven as if they were race-pods.

El-Son turned to pull the bags and boxes of supplies out of the vehicle's back. "Let me put the foodstuffs away, then we can go back to saber practice."

"First things first," San-Bar said firmly.

Jimm groaned and set the case of dried peas down with a thump. "Master, not more tests of my abilities!"

"The light or dark side of the Force has nothing to do with the Force itself. The Force simply is -- it is the light or darkness inside each of us that determines how it will be used." San-Bar hefted his small utility knife. "In the hands of a pirate, this blade can take a life; in the hands of a medic it can save a life. Is there a light side or dark side to this knife?"

With no warning at all Jakobi flung the blade straight at El-Son.

With a shout, Jimm leaped back, flinging one hand up. The knife ricocheted in midair as if it had struck an invisible wall and bounced off the windscreen of the landspeeder with a loud thump before scraping across the front of the vehicle.

San-Bar looked at his pupil for a long moment before raising his hand. The small knife flew back to his hand, hilt first, and was folded and returned to his pocket.

Jimm turned to look at the damage, stricken at the sight of the long deep scratch across the paint from the knifepoint. Fortunately, the windscreen was undamaged.

San-Bar's voice continued, relentless. "Padawan, if we'd been in a crowded corridor or room, that move might have injured or killed a bystander. A terrible, tragic accident...and the first step down the road that uses the Force to kill and to seize power."

Angry, Jimm thumped a closed fist against the plexi windscreen. "I'll never master this ability! I'll never be a Jedi, I shouldn't be a Jedi!"

Jakobi walked over and picked up the box of peas. He walked into their home and stowed them in the larder. On his way back to the speeder Jimm passed him, coming in with more food. Unloading took a few minutes, all in silence. Jimm finished and poured himself a beaker of water from the chiller, downing it in the same angry silence.

At least this time the angry man hadn't taken off with the rifle to bring down something for their dinner, or just to shoot at rock formations. He was reining in his first impulses.

"Jimm, do you know how many men who actively seek to become a Jedi actually do so?" Jakobi said. "No more than the number who have never sought to become a Jedi. The Force chooses whom it will as an agent.

"I would have happily spent my life teaching. But one day I needed a big book on the top shelf, and it just came to me of its own will. I was so scared! I knew what it was, you see, and I had no desire to leave my classroom and my books to become a mystic. But the Force untamed is deadly to its wielder; I had no choice but seek out a Master.

"The day you huffed up to my doorstep, still wearing your Stormtrooper uniform, red in the face and with fear in your eyes, I saw myself. You begged me to stop the strange things you saw and heard and smelled and tasted and touched.

"The Force cannot be stopped, only controlled. It is control I teach you. You don't need weapon skills, El-Son -- I know this every time we have roast womp-rat for supper. You need control of your awareness of the Force."

The big man looked down, angry.

"Now bring me a drink of water, padawan. We have rocks to lift."


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