When they reached the spaceport in the center of town, Obi-Wan stopped abruptly. “This is a test, Nasriel. What do you think is going on?”
“A – a test?” asked Nasriel, gasping for breath and trying to stay in tune with the Force. “Skeg.” She closed her eyes, frowning as she scanned the area in the Force. “In the basement?” It wasn’t a live thing, but when a being full of hate and anger created something, especially something intricate, a trace of the Dark side remained in the creation.
“Good. What else?”
“It’s…” A tangle of wires. Electrical circuitry. And… a laser? “Is it a bomb of some sort?”
“You tell me. Is there anything else? Further north?”
“Someone running. Same aura as the device. He created it.”
“You get the bomb. I’ll get the terrorist.” And Obi-Wan was gone, running, leaving Nasriel to deal with a potentially explosive situation on her own.
The Padawan told herself firmly; Master Obi-Wan thinks you can do this. Don’t let him down, took a deep breath, and confidently opened the door leading into the basement maintenance areas of the spaceport. Before she had gone three paces, a tall man, dressed as a guard of some sort and with a blaster pistol slung on his belt, stopped her, saying roughly, “Cad tá á dhéanamh agat?”
“I don’t speak Shendi.”
He repeated in Basic, with a thick accent Nasriel had to concentrate hard to understand, “What are you doing here?”
Indicating her lightsaber, Nasriel said crisply, “Jedi. I have reason to believe there is a bomb planted in this building. Please let me through.”
The man stepped quickly out of her way, saying in a puzzled but still courteous tone, “I am at your service, Master Jedi. Can I assist you in any way?”
“Yes. Stop talking for a few seconds.” She reached tentatively out in the Force, feeling for the trace of Dark Side energy, trying to catch its location. “There you are…” she breathed, relieved to find what she was looking for only a few meters away, and then added authoritatively, “There is a large chamber on the other side of this wall, no? Please let me into it.”
“The circuitry room? Very well, Master Jedi.” Nasriel had to choke back a giggle. Master Jedi to the Blue Witch! Ahsoka would never believe this.
When the heavy steel door of the room swung open in response to the guard’s passcode, the Blue Witch began to have second thoughts. Twined around the uniform rows of stone pillars, and around the many electrical circuit boxes on the walls, green cables snaked to and fro, most of them leading eventually to a durasteel box in the very center of the permacrete-walled room. Nasriel was about to step forward and investigate, but the Force whispered her a warning just in time for her to avoid walking straight into a gas-discharge laser beam, which was, like most gas-discharge laser beams, totally invisible. After careful investigation of the two nearest pillars, she found the miniaturized laser points, the beams, a mere faint golden glow even in the Force, starting a third of a meter from the permacrete floor and running up the pillars like a ladder. In fact, there was only a small area just inside the door that was not protected by the deadly laser beams. Nasriel sighed, and slithered like a snake under the lowest beam.
Glancing back at the obliging guard, she explained shortly, “Lasers,” and moved cautiously toward the durasteel box on the floor. Once she had ascertained that there were no unpleasant surprises waiting should the lid be lifted, she eased it open, took one glance at the contents, and whistled softly. “Oh, skeg. Bestalk y… Listen, what’s your name?”
“Argrai Seron, Master Jedi.”
“Very well, Argrai Seron, go to whoever gives the orders and tell them to evacuate this building, and the surrounding area, out to…” she studied the contents of the box and made a quick calculation. “One hundred meters. Say it’s on the bidding of Jedi Nasriel Kenobi Threeb. They can check with the Temple at Coruscant if they like. Then return. I may need your help.”
“I go, Master Threeb.”
Alone in the room, Nasriel stood up and examined the wires running around the pillars. They were heavier than electrical cable; nearly two centimeters thick, and twisted several times around each of the columns in the half of the room nearest the door. The remaining pillars were free of wires. In the durasteel box, a layer of batteries, all connected together, surrounded a steadily ticking timer showing twenty minutes, and a connection point for many different colors of wires. Nervous and out of her depth, Nasriel recognized that only the Force could possibly help her understand the bomb in time stand a chance of disarming it. Tiny sparks of the potential to unleash chaos glittered in the thick cables, and with a sinking feeling, she became conscious of the fact that the seemingly harmless cables were in fact corded shaped charges, designed to explode inwards and vaporize the pillars they so ominously embraced as soon as the ticking clock in front of her ran out of time. The roof would collapse, taking half the spaceport with it. Anybody still inside would probably die.
Most of the dozens of wires running to and from the timepiece and the batteries were likely distractions – but cut the wrong one, and the timer would be bypassed, blowing the cables early. Breathing shallowly to steady her hands, Nasriel gently pried up the red-figured screen of the clock with the point of her dagger and looked underneath. An intricate pattern of fine copper wiring was laid against the numerals so that the charges would be triggered when the clock read ten minutes. Suddenly the problem was much more serious. More, tiny, charges were set so that should the wiring on the back of the chrono be tampered with, the layer of thermal detonators just visible under the batteries would explode. Of the three circuits running through the detonators, the main charges, and the batteries, one was broken. When the time was up, it would be joined and the spaceport would be destroyed. Despite the obvious fact that the device was designed to kill her and a fairly significant number of other people, Nasriel could not help admiring the consummate artistry of it.
The door creaking open surprised her, and she almost dropped the delicate equipment she held. Nor was the shock lessened when she saw who stood uncertainly in the doorway. “Ben Kenobi, will you ever stop and think before you go haring in somewhere? Who let you in?”
“A guy called Seron. It took me forever to get him to, though. The whole area’s been evacuated, and I had to prove I was a Jedi and I knew you and so on before he’d open the cordon for me. I couldn’t find Master Obi-Wan, so I came to hunt for you. That thing looks pretty serious, Witch. Is it?”
Ben was about to wander forward to take a closer look, but was halted by Nasriel’s sudden shout. “Stop! Down on the ground. Laser. It’s about a third of a meter off the floor.” He crawled under the beam, and joined his fellow Padawan in gazing awestruck at the detailed explosive.
“That is pretty serious.”
“So why can’t you be? What are we supposed to do? This thing is so primitive I don’t know where to start looking.”
Raking her fingers exasperatedly through her hair Nasriel sighed, “Genius, Ben. Pure genius. How would you advocate going about that?”
Ben closed his eyes, investigating the Force aura of the device. “Cut the wire that’s glowing green,” he whispered after a minute. Opening his eyes, he touched an orange wire lightly with a fingertip and elaborated, “That one.”
Reaching for her dagger, the girl asked hopefully, “You think that’ll fix it?”
“Yeah. That’s the one that’ll connect the circuit when the clock runs out.”
“If this doesn’t work,” said Nasriel cheerfully, “and we die, I’ll tell Master Jinn it was absolutely all your fault.”
“Go over by the back wall. If it goes off and the roof falls in, you’ll be safer there.”
Ben eyed her fondly. “Am’yana Witch, you go over by the wall. This is my choice, and I’ll take the consequences for it. If we don’t both get out of here,” he added more seriously, “the one who survives will tell Master Obi-Wan that the other one… was brave.”
Nasriel nodded. “Sure. Ben, I’ve been meaning to ask for months: Master Obi-Wan calls me alir’yana when he thinks I’m upset about something. What does it mean?”
He didn’t answer directly. “It means he loves you. A rough translation is something like beloved young friend. That’s as close as I can get in Basic. Master Obi-Wan could probably explain it better. Go over to the wall now so you can ask him yourself later. Am’yana,” he added over his shoulder, accepting the dagger she handed him, “means beloved sister.”
From where she crouched in the secure angle of the wall and the floor, Nasriel watched as Ben carefully slid the dagger blade behind the orange wire, and then, in one fluid movement, yanked the blade through the thin wire and dived to join Nasriel at the wall. There was a blinding flash and a roar, and then the still darkness of a tomb.