Erin: for the first part of this chapter, though I doubt you’ll still recognize it, and for the Shendi again – how’s my grammar?
To the reader: I’m not posting this story in “chapters” per se: more like scenes that really don’t want to be broken up and kick and scream if I try. So there will be longer Parts and shorter Parts. I’ll work out the genuine chapter breaks sometime after Camp Nano.
Obi-Wan entered the cell, his face still in shadow. Nasriel looked up at him.
“Master Obi-Wan. I didn’t think you’d come.”
In the gray, dim light of the tiny brig cell, every color seemed to flatten and pale, blending into the metal walls. A sickly shadow cast itself cloudlike across Nasriel’s sky-blue skin, and her golden eyes stared dully down at the floor.
It was evening again. The wretched day that had begun roughly with death for Orde and arrest for Nasriel had gone on so, in a rush of mission planning, disagreement and recrimination, and ended with a bitter quarrel between the two commanders of the unit, and Obi-Wan was exhausted and sick at heart.
Not that the day had been much kinder to the prisoner. She sat shivering on the hard bunk-shelf set across the far wall, head bowed, hands folded in her lap. An icy draft breathed through the room.
“Why would you think that?”
“Because this mission’s really important. Because you can’t afford to be distracted.”
“I never said you were a distraction. As a matter of fact, at the moment you’re a welcome excuse not to be on the bridge.” Evidently the wrong thing to say. Nasriel’s shoulders hunched forward, and her sharp white teeth snipped at her lower lip, welling up a teardrop of dark blood.
“Master, you know they’re going to kill me for this? I’m so afraid…” Sitting down beside her, Obi-Wan wrapped one side of his cloak around her. They stayed like that in silence for a while before he replied.
“I’ll tell you a secret, Nasriel. In your place I would be too.”
“Is that supposed to be comforting?” She still hadn’t moved.
“Only honest. I can be comforting if you’d prefer that, but I have certain moral qualms about offering you a certainty I don’t feel myself. The plain truth is that I don’t see any way out of this one. I’m sorry, Nasriel. I’ve failed you.”
Shifting slightly, Nasriel leaned her head on his chest, and said blankly, “Well… fix it, then. You’re the Negotiator: negotiate. Straighten it out.”
“I can’t.” The words hung in the air. “There’s nothing I can do. There’s no way I can prove it wasn’t you. I’m truly sorry.”
“Stop saying you’re sorry,” Nasriel whispered. “It doesn’t help, and anyway, you’re the Master, you don’t apologize to me. That’s just not how it works.”
Obi-Wan took her hand. There was a clink of metal, and the cold light gleamed for an instant on cold steel.
“Nasriel, wouldn’t they even take off the binders?”
“I’m Jedi. Too much of a risk. He said I should c-count myself lucky they don’t – they don’t -” choked by tears no longer suppressible, the next words were barely comprehensible: “k-keep an energy-field restrainer aboard.”
“Hush, stop crying. That doesn’t help either.” Neither, he scolded himself, does cavalier brusqueness. You’d have been terrified if this had happened to you at sixteen years old. “There is no emotion; there is peace.” Obviously not quite true, at least in this case. That was the trouble with the precepts of the Code: while eminently valuable and applicable when one was in a rational frame of mind, they were roughly as useful to weeping children facing wrongful execution as… well, Mace Windu in a Padawan Halls slanging-match. The sort Anakin used to win so often.
Fortunately, there was an alternative. “Ver’a chel, alir’yana. El f’aye ea’rr a skan, shar’ya ka’ne shay t’aeyea. Skan ea’rr, lavara abe nieve, avayane?”
“Yes, Master.” Nasriel swiped away tears. “I hear you. I just don’t… want to die.”
“There is no death; there is the Force. This is a test, young one. I can’t tell what will happen, but abide in the Force and have hope. There are no accidents. You’re not going to be sentenced to death. We’re smarter than this. There must be a way.”
“I’ll look on the bright side,” Nasriel promised, turning her head to fix her Master with a heartbreaking smile. “If I die out here, Ben’s going to be thrilled.”
“Ben would be devastated, as you well know. I have to leave now; there’s still a lot to do before we reach Halm.”
The girl nodded soberly. “Okay. Meantime I’ll try to figure out some way of throwing doubt on this case.”
“It’s your life at risk – I’d do that if I were you.” Obi-Wan stood up to leave, but then a thought occurred to him and he shrugged off his heavy brown cloak. “You’d better keep this for now. Your things have all been impounded – including the rather charming letter Kijé Yenseh slipped into your notebook.” If he had been expecting a reaction to that, he would have been disappointed: Nasriel merely took the cloak with a slight nod of thanks.
Every Jedi can open simple locks without touching them, but this lock was… not simple. Obi-Wan tapped briskly on the inside of the door, and clone Lieutenant Ibrim opened it from the corridor outside.
Just before the door slid closed again to leave Nasriel alone, the Jedi Master looked back with a reassuring smile.
“May the Force be with you. Goodnight… brat.”