On the next level down, Garen moved cautiously into a cell, lightsaber at the ready, only to find that the room was empty save for Obi-Wan, caught in the glowing web of a confinement field. He barely seemed even conscious, his sandy auburn hair pitched forward over his eyes.
Garen slashed furiously at the field generator, freeing his friend, and caught Obi-Wan as he fell. ”Good grief, Kenobi, what did they do to you this time? You look like they flung you across a whole dimension – hard!”
“Nice to see you too, Garen,” Obi-Wan gasped. From the bruises on his face and the blood trickling from the side of his mouth, it looked like he had been thrown around and physically beaten, but that wasn’t what had Garen worried. The tell-tale bluish-purple veins around the eyes caused enough concern to make any other injuries pale into insignificance.
“Obi-Wan, the air in the lab isn’t contaminated, is it?” he asked anxiously.
“No. It’s a waterborne form.” Obi-Wan whispered painfully. “My throat’s sore, but I haven’t been coughing.”
“We have to get you back to Coruscant – fast!”
Half-carrying his friend, Garen made his way to the central laboratory to meet Siri and Nasriel. The child’s amber eyes widened at the sight of Obi-Wan, but she managed not to look as horrified as Garen was sure she felt. Vindi completely failed to avoid looking elated, and Siri narrowly suppressed an urge to slap him.
“Obi-Wan, do you actually know how this virus works? Because if not I shall have the dubiously unpleasant task of forcing Vindi to tell us. Oh, Nas, stand over there, keep your saber activated and don’t take your eyes off the doctor.”
The Padawan obediently turned her solemn gaze to Vindi, although she continued to listen closely to what the others were saying. Garen was asking Vindi exactly how the new strain functioned, and the doctor was being stubbornly, almost gloatingly silent. Then Siri turned to her.
“Threeb. Do you read Faust script?”
“Yeah. Why?” It was as long a reply as she cared to risk, trying not to break her concentration on Vindi’s dark, scheming Force aura.
“Head up to the lab where you found him and bring back any notes you can find on the virus. I noticed they were all in the script, and I don’t read it. Go. I’ll watch the doc.”
Nasriel raced back along the hollow corridors to the workroom, and, after quickly scanning the array of notebooks, grabbed two labeled with the words ‘Jedi Experiment – New Strain’, and hurried to return. Garen greeted her curtly. “Read fast. You’re looking for information on concentration and reaction times.”
Five minutes later, following some of the fastest skim-reading she had ever done outside exam season, Nasriel blurted out what she had learned, speaking in a rapid sing-song to stop herself thinking about the full weight of what she was saying. “A concentration of 15 ccs per thousand leads to the virus reproducing itself until the subject… dies.” She frowned. “Vindi, you did know viruses don’t reproduce themselves? That’s Biology 101 at the Temple. I guess you meant ‘starts to be able to reproduce by way of the cells’. I’m getting there, Siri. Calm down. Um. ‘In an ordinary being, the time to death is twenty-four hours after the full concentration is reached. At this point only a lessening of the concentration will halt the growth of the virus.’ Anybody got a chrono that works?”
“It’s been seventeen hours since we first knew something was wrong,” murmured Siri, daring to leave the scientist unwatched a few seconds to check her chrono. “And it’s an eight hour flight back to Coruscant.”
Garen voiced the fear in everybody’s mind. “That still leaves us an hour short. Ideas, anybody?”
Nasriel, still leafing through the notebooks, suggested shyly, “You know, he’s given us the answer. How to reduce a concentration: dilute.”
His blue eyes greyed with fatigue like an overcast sky, Obi-Wan shifted slightly to look at her. “Go on, Nasriel.”
Nasriel drew strength from her Master’s encouragement. “I was thinking… maybe a blood transfusion would dilute the virus.”
“No way.” Garen was emphatic. “Wrong blood types. Remember, Obi-Wan? We thought of that a few years ago, in the incident with the rogue Wookiee raiders. You and Siri and I are all different types. You were B negative, Brycherin X, if I remember correctly. I need to think.” After a pause of a heartbeat or two, a slow smile emerged on his face. “Threeb, what blood type are you?”
“Type O negative,” replied Nasriel promptly.
“Brycherin factor?” The only response was a blank stare. “Good, not knowing what it is means you’re Brycherin-neutral. This might even work. Siri, I’ll watch the Faust. You’re the expert on this stuff.”
Siri stepped carefully away from Vindi. “Obi-Wan, Nasriel, are you two both okay with this?” Nasriel nodded emphatically, not quite trusting herself to speak.
Obi-Wan shrugged. “Beats dying.”
“Fine. Nasriel, I’ll need you to do another lab search.” She scrawled quickly on a scrap of paper torn from Vindi’s notes. “Get these things and come straight back.”
These hallways are as noisy as a morgue at midnight, thought Nasriel absently, checking her list to see she hadn’t missed anything. She brought the whole armload back to Siri, who rechecked it and declared herself satisfied. “Good work, Threeb.”
Siri extracted a syringe from the pile, took Nasriel’s hand, and then laughed ruefully. “I should have expected that. I’m used to looking for blue veins on Humans, but on a Saalisan… I suppose you know where your veins are?” The Padawan explored her wrist with her slim fingers, and scratched a line on the skin with one sharp fingernail.
“There? Okay.” Siri cautiously inserted the needle into the vein and drew the plunger back a little, but then stopped abruptly. “No. Not happening. No, no, no.”
Obi-Wan whispered hoarsely, “What? What’s wrong?”
“No. Just… no. I am not going to be responsible for this. Obi-Wan, would you look?” She extracted the syringe to examine it closer, then changed her mind, and handed it to him. “This cannot possibly work.”
Kenobi barely glanced at it. “Why not?”
“Obi-Wan, I know the virus does not affect your sight. This is not blood. This is… purple. If the Blue Shadow didn’t kill you, this would.”
Nasriel said, urgently, almost pleading, “Master Obi-Wan, this will work – the day there’s a blue-eyed Kenobi.”
“Blue-eyed Kenobi, is it? Siri, the Blue Shadow will kill me. I’d rather take a risk than certain death. At least it’s the right blood type. If Nasriel doesn’t mind, I think we should go ahead with her idea.”
Rolling her eyes at the sheer stubbornness of the man, Siri drew half a liter of blood from Nasriel. “That will have to be all. I can’t take more without the risk you’ll pass out.”
Nasriel shook her head. “Seventeen hours? You’ll need more than that. Go on. I’ve been unconscious before; it’s no novelty.”
Obi-Wan winced and bit his lip as the hypo pierced his skin. “Sorry,” Siri whispered. “How bad is it?”
“It’s not your… fault,” Obi-Wan said, his voice sounding distant, the words slurred and drifting. As Siri began to press the plunger, she thought for a moment that Obi-Wan was going to pass out. Object lesson number one, she thought grimly. This stuff affects you to lower your pain tolerance. Obi-Wan gave a slight moan and she glared at Vindi. If looks could kill, he would already have been dead. Finally, the transfusion was completed. Garen took Obi-Wan’s arm and helped the Jedi Master up, supporting Nasriel with his other arm. Siri took a pair of binders from her belt pouch and slapped them none-too-gently onto Vindi’s wrists. She then proceeded to do a more thorough search of the doctor’s person than they had chanced before. Finding nothing dangerous, Siri pushed him in front of her.
“Come on, scumface. It’s back to jail for you,” she snapped. Quickly, they made their way through the deserted corridors, until they were almost at the exit.
Suddenly, an A4-D type medical droid, rather than the typical 21-B, leaped out of a side hallway and released a cloud of gas, directly into Obi-Wan’s face. Instinctively, Garen averted his head and dropped Nasriel to the floor, slashing the droid in half with his lightsaber. He looked down at the severed pieces, then sniffed at the mist enveloping them all and made a face. “Euggh,” he said, disgusted. “It’s only Olkardin.” Siri breathed a sigh of relief. Olkardin was an anesthetic, in a gaseous form, popular for use in setting broken bones, but completely harmless to humans.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said, trying to sound unconcerned.
“Half a minute,” Garen said, “Obi-Wan’s passed out. Obi-Wan? Kenobi, wake up!” He slapped Obi-Wan’s cheek, but failed to get the desired result.
“Never mind, Garen. It’s as well,” Siri said. “At least this way, he won’t feel anything.” Only Nasriel, blinking and opening her eyes, noticed the satisfied, gloating smile on Vindi’s face.