Garen somehow managed to get both Nasriel and the unconscious Jedi Master back to the ship, while Siri guarded Vindi. Siri locked the Faust in the cargo hold, while Garen pulled both Obi-Wan and Nasriel up to the main area and laid them down on the floor. He raced up to the cockpit and fired up the engines, lifting off. Nasriel inched across the floor toward Obi-Wan. The Jedi Master opened his eyes, wincing at the light. “You all right, Master?” Nasriel asked, some concern in her voice.
“I only hope I don’t look as bad as I feel,” he whispered.
“It would be very hard to feel as bad as you look,” Nasriel replied candidly. “And you look like a Hernyan with the full double helix.”
Obi-Wan made an annoyed sound. “It would be nice, for once, to be able to hide how I’m feeling.” He looked at her, the blue in his eyes still overlaid with gray, but startlingly piercing and bright. Nasriel tentatively touched her hand to his forehead.
“You’re still running a fever,” she said with some relief. “At least, even if the transfusion didn’t take, your immune system is putting up a fight.”
“Nasriel, I can see that you’re worried. What is it?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Well,” Nasriel said, tracing circles on the floor with one bare foot, “when I was coming to, Vindi was making this hideous smug face. I heard something about Olkardin, then…”
“Olkardin!” Obi-Wan breathed, horror written clearly on his face.
“Yes, but it’s supposed to be harmless. Master, what’s wrong?”
“Nasriel, that’s not the problem. Impure Olkardin, while still harmless to Humans, is known to cause sudden mutations in pathogens, such as this virus. Please read up on Dr. Vindi’s journals to check, but if I’ve taken Olkardin, even just by breathing it rather than swallowing it or having it injected, then Vindi is probably looking forward to the virus changing to the airborne form. It could annihilate Coruscant’s entire population!” Nasriel glanced across the room. She reached out in the Force, opening a medical cabinet, and caught a breath barrier.
“Here. Put this on,” she said, helping Obi-Wan cover his face with the mask. “I remember seeing the notes from the original mission. It took only minutes for the original airborne strain to manifest itself in an infection.”
“That’s right,” Obi-Wan said. “I only hope it hasn’t begun to work already.”
“Well,” Nasriel said with a rather strained cheerfulness, “you haven’t begun to cough yet. That’s a good sign.”
Just then, the whole ship rocked.
The frame shook fearfully, as if it was going to tear apart, as they were dropped forcefully out of hyperspace. Obi-Wan was tossed across the room like a rag doll, while Nasriel clung to the crash handle. Obi-Wan struggled to his feet. “What was that?” Nasriel exclaimed.
“Pirates, probably,” Obi-Wan said. “They have a habit of mining the hyperspace lanes.”
“Oh great,” Nasriel said, rolling her eyes. “First the BSV and now this?”
“If we’re lucky it’s Hondo Ohnaka. If we’re not, then it’s probably a bunch of Togorians.” Obi-Wan reached for his lightsaber. Nasriel noticed the movement and grinned.
“Master Muln brought you a spare, but Master Tachi wasn’t about to let you have that in your condition,” she said.
Obi-Wan frowned at her. “This isn’t funny, Nasriel.”
“Nothing about today is funny,” Nasriel replied, still smiling, but now fiercely, an unmistakable light of battle in her amber eyes.
“Nasriel, you are not about to go fight pirates,” Obi-Wan lectured. “After all, you’re weak as well.”
Nasriel replied with an annoyed huff. “Master, please. If the luck we’ve had so far holds, it will be Togorians, and the guys’ll need all the help they can get!” Garen and Siri ran past.
“Of all the times…” Garen remarked to no one in particular.
“Pirates always attack at the most inopportune ones, Garen, haven’t you learned anything?” Obi-Wan shouted at his friend’s back.
“You just stay down, Obi-Wan.”
“Doesn’t look like I have much of a choice.”
“Kenobi, if you dare to move from that spot, I’ll – I’ll kill you myself!” Siri snapped.
Obi-Wan smiled a little behind the mask. “How did I know you were going to say that?” Siri didn’t answer.
Siri and Garen dashed forward towards the airlock. There was a booming sound and the ship shook again as the pirates’ ship electromagnetically sealed onto the airlock. “Times like this…” Siri said, igniting her lightsaber.
“I know, Siri. I know.” Garen replied. “So what are the odds this time?” Siri shook her head.
“I don’t even want to think about that,” she said. “I only hope it’s someone like Hondo Ohnaka. At least he can be reasoned with… sometimes.”
“Have you ever run into him?” Garen asked.
“No. Obi-Wan has.”
“Well, I’d rather still have a blast door on this thing, so if it’s all the same to you…” Garen hit the button and the door unsealed, revealing a rather surprised-looking band of Trandoshans. Siri groaned.
Garen ignited his lightsaber and together they rushed to the attack.
Obi-Wan pulled himself to his feet slowly, and, leaning on the wall for support, began to make his way down to the cockpit. “Where do you think you are going?” Nasriel demanded, standing up.
“Someone has to fly the ship,” Obi-Wan returned.
“Master!” Nasriel protested, following him.
“Nasriel, come with me. I’m going to need your help.” Obi-Wan shot a masterful glance at her, blue-gray eyes sharp and hard. She couldn’t fight it, not that look. Shaking her head, Nasriel stumbled after him.
Garen downed one of the pirates with a swift stroke. Siri was fighting beside him, reminiscent of a whirlwind as she swept and parried. His com beeped as another one of the Trandoshans charged him. He dispatched the pirate and turned it on. “Master Muln,” Nasriel said, weirdly calm, “We’ve got massive engine damage and we can’t get into hyperspace. We need to call for help.” Suddenly, the Trandoshan fighting Siri paused. It cost him a digit, but the Trandoshan paid no attention. He turned back, and the airlock on the other side slammed shut. Reflexively, Garen hit the button on their side, and that door also closed. No way was he going to be sucked out into the oblivion of a vacuum on the pirates’ wish. The pirate ship pulled suddenly away from them. Siri paled. “Something’s wrong.”
Her words were punctuated by a blast as another shot smashed into the hull.
In the control deck, Nasriel had hit the limits of her strength to control the ship and had to rely on the Force, and Obi-Wan was calmly running diagnostics checks. When the results from the checks appeared on the screen, he turned to her and asked, “What are you like with machinery?”
“Average,” Nasriel replied shortly. “What needs doing?”
Obi-Wan glanced back at the screen. “The guidance systems are all out, so we don’t actually know where we are.”
“Okay, now tell me something I don’t know. Sorry, Master. I mean, I was aware of that. Can you take the controls? I’ll head for the engine bay and see what’s wrong.” She snatched up a comlink and walked slowly toward the door, trying to keep her balance on the swaying decks. The comlink channel crackled five minutes later. “Master Obi-Wan? The systems are functioning, but somehow the readings are being blocked from getting to the control deck. Can you see anything at all on the viewscreen up there?”
“Right.” The link cut out for a second. “Skeg! Whew, that was close. You just missed an asteroid. Tell you what, I’ll give you the directions, you steer. There is not a snowflake’s hope on Mustafar I’ll be able to reconnect all of these cables. Left ten degrees – now, not next week, okay?”
The directions came rapidly after that, and Obi-Wan steered almost automatically. He found he couldn’t breathe properly, and pulled off the breath mask, remembering to close the control deck door, just in case the Olkardin had caused a problem. Nasriel’s directions began to come in telepathy; she was tired, and afraid of wasting the comlink battery so far from home.
Eventually Garen came back on line. “Hey, what’s going on up there?”
“The hyperdrive’s down, Garen, and so are the guidance computer connections.”
“Perfect. If I die out here, then next time you can rescue yourself, Kenobi.”
Obi-Wan smiled. “I didn’t expect anything less of you. Are you and Siri all right?”
“Oh, fine. Just fine. Just standing outside the stanging airlock wondering if the pirates are going to come back.”
Obi-Wan veered to one side to avoid another asteroid, a few seconds after Nasriel had told him to, and only after the Force had practically screamed at him with the danger. Obi-Wan felt furious with himself. Why was his reaction time becoming so slow? Then it hit him.
He was falling asleep.
He cursed to himself. “No, no, not now!” he whispered to no one.
This isn’t the least of your worries, the Force replied slyly.
Anxious now, Obi-Wan grabbed the breath barrier and slipped it back on. Just in time, as he began to cough violently. Time was running out.