Theron was trying not to stare at the Barsen’thor’s companions, but he wasn’t doing a very good job. Apart from Senator Nadia Grell, none of these people were Jedi – but all of them (except the hologram) were wearing Jedi robes. Oh, they had their own variations, and to somebody who could read the language the clothing told they were obviously not active Jedi, but Theron was probably one of the only people outside the Jedi who could read that. Some had jewellery similar to the Barsen’thor’s, as well; Lieutenant Iresso had a thin silver circlet that shone in the same way as the sigil of the Order that had been clasped on a thin chain about her horns.

He saw Theron staring, and smiled. Theron hastily grinned back; Grell murmured something to Iresso that made him chuckle. He didn’t bother to listen in to what it was. The crew of the consular ship Serenity unnerved him, he decided. It wasn’t that he didn’t have respect for the prestigious tradition of surrounding oneself with a ragtag band of unusual people (that was how he had been hired, after all), but to see them all wearing robes he’d – they weren’t Jedi! The Trandoshan hunter, the human Lieutenant and scientist, the Twi’lek – very politely ‘freedom fighter,’ and less politely ‘ruthless mass killer’ – they weren’t even Force-Sensitive, the only thing that tied them to the Order was their close working relationship with the Barsen’thor, and they were wearing those clothes like they were entitled to them.

Surriss turned to look at him, and even he could feel himself briefly hit by the sheer force of her charisma. She laid a brief hand on Fess’ arm to step past him, her impeccable white robes brushing against his rough brown ones, and he grumbled something his implants helpfully translated as ‘why bother with soft thing’. Charming. At least he knew where the man stood about him.

“Agent,” she said softly, as she drew near to him, and he wasn’t sure whether to appreciate her courtesy of not using his surname or to be irritated not even his own name was himself enough to mean him, not his family, even to The other Jedi besides the Grand Master.

“Master Surriss,” he greeted her, doing her the respect of using her newest title, rather than ‘Barsen’thor,’ which she’d had for a couple of years. Another little Jedi thing he understood but couldn’t use for himself. “Your people enjoying the party?” ‘The party’ was ironic – it referred to a hasty rendezvous for another high-stakes mission.

“I was hoping that you’d tell me,” she said lightly. “You were watching them rather closely.”

He looked away. “I wasn’t listening,” he said.

“‘My people,’” she said, leaning lightly against the same stack of crates he’d been slouching on before she’d come over, “would need the ‘particular talent’ of the Jedi to join the Jedi Order. To join in on Jedi culture has no such requirement.”

Damn her insightfulness. He stared at her. Then, he made a possibly offensive joke, as he tended to when he didn’t know what else to say. “Do they just have to get permission from the Warden, then?”

“You were raised in our culture and in our faith, and no mere act of genetics, no passing over of a rare trait, could alter that.” Her serious gaze flitted into something a little sly, just for a moment, before returning to complete sincerity. “If you want to stop being called ‘soft thing,’ you could always come on the next family hunt Qy takes us on.”

It took him a few moments to work out that ‘Qy’ was Qyzen Fess. “Family?” he repeated.

“Qyzen was Master Parr’s friend. Tharan was Master Bakarn’s. The others are all mutual friends of my Padawan and myself.”

“And me?”

She regarded him. She looked right past his facial features, skintone, implants, clothes, right into his eyes. “Are you not my friend?” she asked. And, damn her, as fake as that innocence was, he couldn’t let her down.

“Yeah, I’m your friend,” he said. She smiled.