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Jan 17, 2021 7:22 AM
the phantom menace
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"I didn't really expect him to, but I like to check," she says sunnily.  "R2, Miss Skywalker - would either of you mind if I stayed on the call for a little while?  I'd like to catch up with Qui-Gon about our mission, and if I'm honest I'm feeling a bit cooped up in the ship."  Grin.

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"It's alright by me, ma'am."

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R2D2 whirs; he doesn't mind at all.

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(And, in the background, a youthful face peeks out from the door into the bedroom. No one, not Shmi or R2 or Kelié, reacts to her, and - Qui-Gon can see her, but the Force is being very, very insistent she should be ignored.)

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The catch is, he can hear the Force insisting.  She knows how to hide from ordinary people, but not Force-sensitives.  He keeps his eyes off her, doesn't let his reaction show, but keeps a tendril of awareness pointed at her, finer and more delicately hidden than hers.

He fills Kelié in a little.

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The girl sneaks in closer, still being ignored, apparently interested in the contents of the call. She's scrawny, somewhat malnourished - probably a preteen or thereabouts.

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They're not discussing anything sensitive, and he doesn't sense any truly malicious intent from her, so Qui-Gon lets her get away with it.  He is very, very good at not appearing outwardly amused.

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She apparently decides she can listen and wander at the same time; she heads over to Qui-Gon next, peering at him and examining his clothes and bearing. Her gaze is keen, and she seems to sense something about him in the Force by how she's carefully reaching out.

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He lets himself be gently prodded.  (He is... a maker of peace, wherever he can, and a defender of the downtrodden.)

In the mundane realm, the conversation turns to gambling - what's wagered, how much, in what games or on what events.

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She goes to lean against the wall, watching them with avid interest.

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Shmi holds that the biggest gambles are over races - any kind, but especially pod races, which are incredibly dangerous. The Boonta Eve Classic, in a few days, is the largest of those, but there's smaller pod races beforehand as preludes to whet the audience's appetite. People gamble just about anything you can possibly own - money, land, weapons, ships, slaves. Fortunes are often made or broken gambling on the Classic, and people will put up higher sums than they tend to in other races.

Still... Winning a bet there's tricky. It'd be easier to start with a smaller race.

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"There's slave trade on Tatooine?" Kelié says somberly.

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"...Yes."

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"I'm sorry to hear that," Kelié says solemnly.  "Would you be comfortable discussing the situation on Tatooine in more detail?  I and my people are interested in the galaxy-wide abolition of slavery."

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She considers Kelié, gaze solemn and keen. Questioning. And, carefully - "I'm in a position to discuss that, yes, and would be willing."

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"Thank you," Kelié says, and bows her head.

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And Shmi talks her through the complex situation and history of slavery in Tatooine, not shying away from being a slave herself. (There's some things she's not mentioning. People she's eliding over. But the information is good, earnest.)

Outside, the sand storm begins to die down.

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Qui-Gon mostly listens.

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The girl gets bored eventually and straightens, heaving for the bedroom and through a barely visible back door.

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Probably he should investigate this properly at some point.

He excuses himself, leaves out the front door for a stroll.  Lets his Force-senses unfurl and spread out through the nearby streets and alleys, looking for her.

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The back alleys are mostly not connected to the main thoroughfare; still, he can duck through a few houses down. She seems to be heading towards one of the larger, wealthier districts.

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He moves briskly to catch up with her, falls into step beside her, gait casual like he just happens to be walking this way too.

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She stops, peering at him.

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He doesn't react at first, carrying on for a few moments as though nothing happened.  Then he slows to a stop, fishes something out of a pocket and examines it.

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...She keeps walking, then turns down a side alley. A narrower, more uninviting one.

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