Chapter 29

Nasriel’s eyes flickered over to Storm.  “What did he say?”

Before he had time to explain to her that he didn’t speak Shendi all that well either, the words were repeated in Basic.  “Over here!  I’ve found the boy!”

The Padawan checked her instinctive movement toward the spaceport, and with an effort visible even to the clone beside her, unclipped her comlink.

Storm was puzzled.  “Should you not go to your friend?”

“My Master ordered me to call him immediately,” said Nasriel through clenched teeth.  “He didn’t mean, ‘call me in a few minutes.’  If he meant that he would have said that.”  Her fingers flew over the keys, typing in a call sign.  “Master Obi-Wan?…  Yes…  I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”  Flinging the comlink to the pavement, she started at a dead run to the party of searchers who had found Ben.  Storm sighed, running his hand over his short hair, and followed her at a more leisurely pace.

Tibanna gas?” he heard Nasriel saying in a surprised tone to one of the rescuers.  “Surely that’s usually kept in carbonite?”  A few seconds later, she added, “But it’s heavier than air!  You’ll never ventilate it out.  He’ll suffocate down there unless somebody does something.”

“You could do something, miss,” suggested Storm respectfully.

To his surprise, a haunted, hunted look came into her eyes, and she closed them as if to think.  “I could try a…  But can I?  Master Jinn: yes,” she murmured distantly.  “Master Jados: absolutely.  Master Kenobi…?  No way of knowing.  I’ll chance it.  He can’t do anything about a fait accompli.”  When Nasriel’s eyes remained tightly shut, and she seemed to be concentrating hard, Storm sighed.  These Jedi tricks were beyond his understanding, but he knew enough not to interfere, not to touch her or break her meditation in any way.

“The lady thinks she can do something about the gas leak,” he snapped to another clone, after making sure that the rank patch was only that of a corporal.  “Get busy and get the boy out.”

A young, slim Shendi boy was given a rebreather and sent down into the dark basement through a crevasse in the permacrete.  The air of the section in which Ben was trapped had been contaminated with toxic tibanna gas, leaked from an imperfectly welded cylinder damaged in the explosion.  When the boy came back up, he reported that Ben was alive, but not breathing, and that the air was still poisonous.  He thought he might be able to bring the Padawan to the surface if he could have some help shifting just one more chunk of masonry.

After about a quarter of an hour, the masonry was shifted, and the limp body brought under the glare of the floodlights.  When a clone medic put a mask over the boy’s face to administer oxygen, most of the beings clustered around had little hope that Ben was still alive.  Suddenly he coughed, and mumbled, “Witch?  You there?”

“Here, Ben,” said Nasriel, coming abruptly out of her trance and running lightly over the fallen stones toward him.

“Did we get it right?”

Nasriel smiled.  “I am going to tell Master Jinn that you screwed up, but probably not for a few years yet.  You did good, Ben.”  Her face darkened, that was the only word for it, thought Storm, and she turned away with a whispered excuse that she didn’t feel so well.

“It’s nothing, Sergeant,” she explained, leaning on the river wall.  “Force work under those conditions is draining, that’s all.  I’m just a little tired.”

“You may thank your lucky stars tired is all you are,” broke in Obi-Wan grimly from behind them.  Storm whirled to face him, having not heard the Jedi’s approach.  “I told you not to use the Force around here.”

The smile that crossed his Padawan’s face was twisted, and almost sardonic.  “I didn’t just use the Force, Master Obi-Wan.  I used a technique Master Sala taught me: Morichro.”  In a rapid, ludicrously incongruous aside to Storm, she explained, “It’s a Force trick only Masters are supposed to learn because it’s so easy to screw up.  You use it to induce synthetic suspended animation.  I had to stop him breathing somehow, Master,” she continued defensively.  “If I’d left it just a few more minutes he would have died of tibanna poisoning.  As it is I don’t know how badly affected he’ll be.  I know that what I did was wrong.  You would be within your rights, if not actively doing your duty, to demand of the Council that I be expelled from the Order.”

“I would,” agreed Obi-Wan, not allowing his expression to soften.

Despairingly, Nasriel pressed on.  “Just one request, Master – Master Kenobi.  I know there must be consequences for my actions, but please at least leave me some dignity.  Please allow me to resign instead of being expelled.”

“No.”  Although his conscience hissed angrily, what are you doing, Kenobi?  This is too cruel, he forced himself to wait until the girl’s Force aura was blank and dark, drained of all hope, before continuing.  “You’re right, there must be consequences.  I will not allow you to resign.”  How much more mental pain can she bear?  he wondered.  The smile he’d been suppressing crept over his face.  “Padawan Threeb, you’ll practice all the saber drills until you can do them asleep, but I won’t allow you to leave the Order.”

It was interesting to watch Nasriel’s relief flood through her.  Afterwards, he suspected that had they been alone, his Padawan would not have behaved nearly so much like a textbook Jedi.  As it was, with Storm watching curiously, she merely said rather formally, “Thank you, Master.  I promise not to use Morichro again.”

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About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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