By Bernadette M. Crumb and Ginna Wilcoxen

(takes place about ten days after Octavia's return to Yavin after the 
events of Port Lansing)

The Jedi Academy canteen was relatively quiet in the early morning, only a 
handful of people eating breakfast before the classes and morning exercises 
began.  Jerella had met her new young friend Jeren in the corridors on her 
way to the meal and they sat together over fruit and grain cereal, planning 
out their morning.

"Murderball," Jeren said firmly.  "You need to get better at it."

"Give me time, Jeren," she protested, "I'm new at all of this."

"You need to make up for lost time!"

Suddenly the quiet was broken up by a cheerfully noisy group of seven 
children of varying ages bursting in through the door.  Full of energy, 
they made a beeline for Jerella and Jeren and urged them to hurry up with 
their meal.

"Come on, Jer, let's go!" One of the girls grabbed Jerella's hand and 
tugged her up from her chair.

Jerella laughed, and privately marveled at the action.  In her own 
memories, laughter was very rare.  She picked up her tray, carried it over 
to the wall disposal unit and let the kids herd her towards the 
door.  Their path took them past a side table and Jerella was pleased to 
recognize the woman seated there, picking at a bowl of fruit.

"Octavia!  Hi!  I didn't see you come in."

"Morning, Jerella.  I had no desire to interrupt you and your friend."
Octavia's expression lacked her usual cheerfulness, Jerella saw.  She felt 
obscurely guilty because she hadn't found time to talk to her friend since 
the Jedi had returned to Yavin from Port Lansing. "Oh, it wouldn't be an 
interruption. I missed you while you were gone. You'll have to tell me 
about your trip later." She grinned down at the giggling kids. "Hey, we 
were going to play murderball but we are one short for even teams. Want to 
come along? It's fun!" The last words were spoken with a sense of wonder 
and revelation.

"I don't think so." Octavia looks at the children and smiles slightly.  "As 
for the trip--yes we can talk later."

"Awwww. C'mon!" begged Jeren, turning his green eyes on her pleadingly. "If 
you don't come one of us will have to sit out and that's boooorrrrring!"

A chorus of "please" pelted her.

Octavia studied Jeren closely for a moment or two. "All right then, I would 
hate to have one of you just sit and watch." She rose.



"Hurry up!"

Jerella hooked her arm through Octavia's elbow and drew her from the 
canteen into the corridor. "They don't take no for an answer... and watch 
out, Jeren looks cute but he isn't above using TK to get the ball to the 
other side of the net!"

"I see. I will have to watch out for him." Octavia looked at her friend. 
"You seem more relaxed."

"Luke was right." Jerella said simply.  "I never experienced a childhood, 
and the lack was hurting me. I think I'm getting to grow up for real now; 
because I'm learning things like trusting my playmates and--well--learning 
about joy..."

"I'm happy for you."

Jerella shot her friend a doubtful look--she didn't sound happy--but now 
wasn't the time.  And the kids were clamoring for them to hurry up.

Octavia paused. "We'll talk more later, for now, let's help the children 
have fun."

"That's the plan!" Jerella called ahead, "Jeren, you got to serve first 
last time, so it's my turn today!"

A tall girl with sandy brown hair in a jaw-length blunt cut pointed out to 
Octavia, "You have to be on my team. It's not fair to have two big people 
on the same team."

"I agree.  It wouldn't be fair at all. Do you have a name?" the older girl 
asked softly. "I'm called Octavia."

"Oh, I'm Eryn."

"Glad to meet you Eryn."

"And I'm Tan."

"I'm Rojer!"

A chorus of names assaulted Octavia as the kids shouted out their identities.

"Don't worry, you'll remember them soon. They've been very patient with me 
not always remembering them right," Jerella reassured her. "By the way, 
they call me Jer."

"But _I'm_ always Jeren," the boy informed her.

"Patience is a needed thing with me." Octavia smiled. "but I will remember 
you, Jeren."

Eryn explained the rules of the game to Octavia.  Essentially each side had 
to get the ball to hit the ground twice on the other side of the net before 
a member of the opposing team touched it there times.  TK, levitation and 
sheer misdirection were as much part of the game as athletic ability in 
running and jumping.

Octavia watched the children move the ball from side to side and found 
herself relaxing as the game progressed; even laughing from time to time, 
and cheering when she managed to score the winning touch despite Jeren's 
using TK to pull an overhanging branch in the way of the ball.

Eryn hugged Octavia, cheering, "You did it!  You won the game for us!"

Octavia bowed to her team, and then to the opposition. "I thank you all for 
a wonderful time. Next time I'm sure you'll win."

Jeren grinned and bowed back to her. "I'll practice my move so you don't 
block it next time!"

"We shall see, young Jeren."

Jerella ducked under the suspended net to join her.  "Feeling better?"

"A little bit.  Thanks for insisting I come along."

Jerella put an arm about Octavia's shoulders and guided her to where 
someone had thoughtfully left a big flask of fruit juice for them.  But 
before she could pour out some liquid refreshment, someone hailed them from 
the nearest building.

One of the masters was standing in the doorway, pointing at her wrist 
chrono.  "Time for classes.  Come on, you hooligans!"

The children groaned, but obediently headed toward their instructor except 
for Jeren who dwawdled behind for a moment.

"That was a lot of fun.  You need to play with us more often, Octavia. 
Bye!" He hugged Jerella quickly, and Octavia too, before pelting off toward 
the classrooms.

The two older students watched the door close behind him, then Jerella 
turned toward Octavia, handing her a glass of the clear green juice.  "You 
said we would talk later about Lansing.  I don't have anything scheduled 
until early evening if you'd like to tell me what's bothering you.  I know 
a place where no one will disturb us.  Do you feel ready?"

~To be continued

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