Obi-Wan eyed the potion dubiously. “Siri…”
“It’s reeska, Kenobi. I don’t really care what you think it looks like.”
“Actually,” commented Nasriel impartially, “it looks a bit like some stuff Telcontir Leannen once made by accident. That goop would dissolve blaster-grade durasteel. I know. We tested it.”
Quickly closing the girl’s mouth with one hand, Garen said mildly, “You’re being silly, Threeb. Stop talking nonsense.” He then proceeded to ignore her muffled protests and the sharp nails irritatedly clawing at his arms.
“Let her go, Muln,” said Siri crossly.
“I want her to shut up,” retorted Garen. “If I let her go she’ll probably bite me.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “You two. Nasriel, if Master Muln releases you, you are not to bite him. Clear?”
The answering mutter sounded enough like assent for Garen to loosen his grip slightly. But as Obi-Wan took the cup of reeska extract from Siri and raised it to his lips, Nasriel’s pointed teeth bit into her captor’s fingers, causing him to yelp with surprise. “Ow! Threeb, you promised!”
Ignoring him, Nasriel said very rapidly, almost running the words together, “Master-Tachi-did-you-check-which-sort-that-is?”
“Did I what?” asked Siri, dangerously calm. “How do you mean, Threeb?”
“There are two sorts of reeska,” elaborated Garen. “One is deadly; the other is most emphatically not. Nasriel is asking whether you checked.”
“No. I didn’t know there was more than one sort.”
Obi-Wan put the cup down on the ground. “In that case, Siri, thank you, but I think I might not take the risk. Ben would probably like to see me again on this side of the grave.”
Although she didn’t mean it to be heard, Siri’s murmured reply was clearly audible, at least to Garen. “Good luck with that, Obi-Wan.” Suddenly she jerked her head about to stare fixedly into the thick green foliage above them. “Do you hear an engine?”
“No.” Garen was prosaic. “No, I don’t hear an engine, because there isn’t an engine to hear, because nobody knows where we are.”
“Bant,” whispered Obi-Wan. “Bant could always find anyone anywhere.”
Siri didn’t hear him, because she was running all out, crashing through the undergrowth to where another light showed through the leaves, a light nearer than the sun. As leaves, and then whole branches, fell to the forest floor under the force of a ship’s repulsorlift thrusters, she jumped back to avoid being actually landed on. Landing awkwardly among the trees, the T-6 lowered its boarding ramp to reveal a grinning Ben Kenobi.
“You folks need a lift home?”
Siri tried not to smile. “Oh, you impossible Kenobi. What took you so long?”
“Oh, you know, Master Tachi, I couldn’t find a ship that I really liked. And swearing at Master Eerin because she wouldn’t tell me the connection between Master Obi-Wan and Bruck Chun and ethanol.”
“A practical joke twenty years ago. Did Bant tell you where to find us?”
Ben was instantly serious. “She told me where to find Master Obi-Wan. She said something about dying.”
“She was right,” said Siri quietly. “I think he is.”
“No. No! There’s been too much dying already.” Turning abruptly back into the ship, Ben returned a second later with the container of reeska Bant had given him. “How good are you at catching?” He threw it toward her, a gentle toss that should have carried it only a meter or two, but instead sent it spinning straight into her hand.
“It looks,” said Garen conversationally a minute later, “like your wish has been granted, Obi-Wan. The one about seeing Ben again,” he clarified.
“He’s here. Looking at Siri’s face I’d say he’s been talking about reeska to somebody back at the Temple.”
Nasriel waved slightly at Ben. “Hey.”
“Hi, Witch. You need to get back. ‘Soka’s been looking for you.”
“Skeg. Master Obi-Wan, I could just stay here, couldn’t I? Please?”
“Not on my watch. Is that reeska, Siri?”
“The non-deadly sort,” she replied drily. “Here. Drink it.”
Having reluctantly swallowed the greyish liquid, Obi-Wan grimaced. “That,” he choked, “truly is – revolting.”
“Really?” asked Ben in lively interest. “Worse than, say, boga-noga? You remember, the stuff from Tatooine.”
“I don’t want to know how you knew what that tastes of.” He considered for a moment. “No, it’s not as bad as boga-noga, but worse than that Corellian – it was some sort of alcohol – Bail Organa drinks.”
“Brandy,” supplied Garen. “Corellian brandy is bad. Like drinking bacta. That reminds me,” he added, moving surreptitiously toward the ship, “for some reason there’s usually some aboard T-6s. It’s good if you desperately need to forget your troubles.”
“Your troubles, Muln,” snapped Siri, “will multiply rapidly if you try to drown them in alcohol.”
“Do you know what?” Garen shouted back at her. “I don’t care! I am having the worst day of my life and I would quite like to be dead drunk right now.”
Obi-Wan turned quizzically to his friend. “Heaven’s sakes, Garen, do you want Master Qui-Gon to hear you?” Nasriel stared at Obi-Wan in alarm, and he glanced at her, a confused expression in his eyes. “Wait… Nasriel?” Obi-Wan leaned back, even more puzzled.
“That’s right,” Nasriel said. “And Qui-Gon Jinn is dead, Master. He has been for over ten years.” She winced at the sound of her own voice. She didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but she was desperately worried about her Master.
“Dead?” Obi-Wan whispered. “How… what?” Nasriel bit back a cry and rushed over to him. “It’s slipping again; I can’t see when I am… How am I supposed to hold on?” Obi-Wan muttered incoherently. He blinked and his eyes focused on her again. “Nasriel.”
“Yes, Master, it’s me. I don’t know who you expected to see, but I’m not Bruck Chun, or Qui-Gon Jinn, or any of your other friends who have died. And dammit, I need you to remember that.”
“Why – why isn’t Qui-Gon here?”
Garen gently took Nasriel’s arm. “Kark it, Threeb. You’ll not get through that thick skull. Obi-Wan used to pull stunts like this to wind me up when we were your age. But now,” he added, sounding almost afraid, “I think he’s not joking.”
“You know what we’ve forgotten?” asked Siri. “Vindi.”
“What if he died in the explosion?” asked Nasriel hopefully. She repeated the question half an hour later, when Garen was in the process of cutting downwards into the cargo hold on the ruined ship, precariously balanced atop the slick hull.
“If he died,” replied Garen through gritted teeth, “we still have to be sure. However tedious it is to waste your time on a scum-sucking bottom-dwelling half-caster villain like him.”
Nasriel stiffened, and said respectfully, “Would you please consider revising your use of the term half-caster? It happens to describe me, and I do not appreciate being lumped together with Dr. Vindi.”
“Yes, but you’re not a scum-sucking bottom-dwelling villain, are you? Would you just kick that panel in? I can’t reach it without slipping.”
Stamping hard on the weakened durasteel, Nasriel rapidly dislodged the panel and dropped into the hold. Her lightsaber buzzed to life in the darkness, and she called up sunnily, “What a shame. He’s not dead.”
“Get him up,” sighed Garen resignedly. “Get him up and we’ll lock him in Ben’s cargo hold.”