A special thank you to Imzadi and Marnie for beta reading and for help with the fight scene.
"Where are we?" Qui-Gon Jinn asked, opening his eyes from his healing trance.
"A planet called Otoria," Obi-Wan Kenobi replied. "They're more or less friendly to the Republic, but they aren't part of it. They say that we'll be able to buy the parts we need here, though. Don't worry, master. I'll get them installed and we'll be back in hyperspace before very long."
"Well done, padawan," the Jedi Master nodded.
"How are you doing?"
"The healing process is a bit slower and more difficult than I had expected, but it is healing nonetheless." Qui-Gon had managed to deflect most of the projectiles from the many weapons shooting at him, but one had got through and had left a deep graze in his thigh.
"Then you don't want a Healer?"
"There is no need, padawan. I might well be able to sit up and help you with the repairs by the time you return with the parts."
"You're not planning on showing that to An-Paj at all, are you?" Obi-Wan teased, mentioning the Master Healer at the Temple with whom they had the most contact.
"Why should I show him a perfectly healed scar?"
"So that he can write it in his records as "the wound that got away"?"
Qui-Gon's face lit up with a smile at the expression. "There's no need to disappoint him any further."
"What do you mean?"
"He's expecting you to come back on a stretcher like you always do--"
"--and here you are, as able-bodied as you were at the start of the mission. Why torment him further with another example of how we didn't need him this time?"
"You're right, master. We must consider his feelings."
"We must. Now go get those parts so that we can get back to the Temple."
"Yes, master." Still smiling, Obi-Wan went out.
Their last mission had been successful. They had found the proof that the funds sent to the planet Ramasia by the Republican Senate were being misused in the worst possible way, to fund yet another civil war. The Ramasian natives had turned on them then, intent on protecting the supply of money for their favourite pasttime by not letting that information get back to the Senate. Their cover had been blown, they'd been hunted from all sides, and they'd barely managed to get off the planet with their ship intact. However, the information was safe and so were they, except for Qui-Gon's flesh wound. But then one of the engine components had failed, making it impossible for them to travel in hyperspace. Obi-Wan had tried to repair it with what was on board, but had soon discovered that the damaged parts simply had to be replaced. They'd limped along to the next habitable planet and were now stuck there. Hopefully, they could get the parts installed and be on their way again in a few hours.
The spaceport was a few kilometers outside the small city, and after getting directions from the information center and changing, for a huge fee, his Republic credits into the local currency, Obi-Wan walked to the omnibus stop and waited for it to arrive. Judging by the markings on the pavement in front of him, he almost expected it to be the old fashioned kind, with wheels, but when it came, it purred smoothly along on repulsors, just like in the Republic. When he tried to board, however, the driver asked to see his ticket.
"I'm a Jedi," Obi-Wan told him, automatically pulling out his identification disc with its easily identifiable logo. Inside the Republic, Jedi were allowed to ride free on public transports.
The people nearest him had fallen silent as soon as he'd stepped onto the omnibus, no doubt staring at his pale skin and hair. All the Otorians had dark skin, ranging from bronze through reddish brown to just plain dark, and great masses of thick, bronze-coloured hair, sometimes tied back in bulging ponytails. On Coruscant, with its diverse population representing the entire galaxy, Obi-Wan had never felt as though he was the odd one out, but now he experienced the acute sensation of being terribly, horribly conspicuous. And at the word "Jedi" the driver looked at him with the same disgust he would show something soft and smelly on the underside of his shoe.
"Well...we'll let you board, but you have to buy a ticket like everybody else," the driver finally said.
Obi-Wan remembered that they were no longer in the Republic and sighed inwardly, then paid the ridiculously high price and walked down the aisle, looking for a seat. It was impossible to overlook the people either inching away from him so that his robe would not brush them as he went by, or hastily putting packages or coats onto the free seats next to them in an attempt to ensure that he would not sit there, and so he chose an empty row at the back and swung into it, feeling less insulted by their behaviour than simply saddened. At least they weren't chasing after him with torches, pitchforks, and projectile blasters.
The omnibus stopped at the official city centre, which was called Market Square, although Obi-Wan could not see any trace of any market there at all, nor any sign of the store he needed to visit. He'd understood that Piniker's Parts was at the end of the omnibus line. It seemed faintly ridiculous to have such a shop in the middle of the city, and not next to the space port where it was needed, but Obi-Wan surmised that the Otorians wanted to milk as much money from needy visitors as possible by forcing them to use the omnibus. His suspicions were confirmed as he reboarded to ask the driver where the shop was.
"Information, two dennars, cash in advance," the driver told him, and waited until Obi-Wan had counted it out before telling him to walk across the bridge, go straight for two streets, then turn left and then right again. He spoke slowly and clearly, and also managed to convey the boredom that came from doing the same thing over and over again.
The bridge was low and wide, spanning an immense river, and Obi-Wan had to pay a toll of half a dennar to be allowed to cross. Perhaps that was the reason why there weren't many people on it. On the other side of the river, the streets were narrow, much too narrow to allow omnibuses through, and the buildings stood side by side, without a gap between them. There were a myriad of shops here, as there had not been on the obviously richer bank, and although he followed the directions exactly, he almost overlooked Piniker's Parts until a picture of an outdated version of Galactic Force One, the private conveyance of the Chancellor before Valorum, caught his eye and sent him back a few steps to the door. As he entered, there was a discordant jingling above his head, and he looked up to see a few metal pieces dangling from the ceiling.
The shop was tiny, and jam-packed with shelves holding spare parts of every kind, or, if the parts were too big to fit in the miniscule trays, two dimensional pictures. Everything seemed to be arranged in alphabetical order as well, by part name and then by vehicle. Obi-Wan was surprised to see everything in Aurebesh and not some obscure Otorian alphabet, then realised he'd been speaking Basic to the natives the entire time. It was unusual for a non-Republic planet to have Basic as the standard language, but then, everything about Otoria was unusual. Maybe it had been a colony founded by some greedy Republic runaway.
"Hello, hello, and what can I do for--" The shopkeeper came out from the back room, saw Obi-Wan, and stopped in mid-sentence, eyeing him suspiciously. "You're a Jedi."
"Yes," Obi-Wan stated. "And I need some parts for a--"
"Put your hands here," the man told him, tapping the counter.
Confused, Obi-Wan came forward two steps and laid his hands palm-down on the cool surface, wondering if it were some kind of identification scanner or even a lie detector.
"Now you can talk, just don't move your hands. I happen to know that Jedi can't mind trick a person unless they can wave their hands around, and you're not going to mind trick -me- into giving you something for free and losing all my profits."
Such a thing had never occurred to Obi-Wan. He felt faintly ridiculous standing there with his hands pressed against the counter, but knew he had to go along if they were to have any chance of getting the replacement parts. After he had described what they needed, Piniker checked his computer.
"Well...I don't have them in stock. There's not much call for parts for -Republic- ships on this planet." He made 'Republic' sound like a curse word. "But I do have connections and I can get them for you."
"I'd be grateful."
"Cash in advance. Suppose you'll be offering me Republic credits? I'll take them, but I'll have to charge an exchange fee."
"I can offer you dennars," Obi-Wan told him. Piniker looked disappointed.
Checking the computer again, the man named a sum that would all but deplete Obi-Wan's supply of dennars, then asked, "You in a hurry? I can have the parts here to-morrow for a hundred dennars extra."
Obi-Wan did not have a hundred dennars to spare. After the exchange fee at the space port and the omnibus ticket, and now the price of the parts, he'd be lucky to have fifty left. Smiling politely, he shook his head. "I'm not in a hurry."
"Then they'll be here in, oh, two or three days." Piniker looked down at Obi-Wan's hands. "All right, you can lift them up, but don't say a word. I still don't trust you not to mind trick me. Just hand over the money and go."
Obi-Wan reached carefully into his belt pouch and silently counted out the required sum, then took the computer-printed receipt and added it to the few remaining coins. Bowing to the Otorian with a pleasant expression on his face, he then left the cramped shop and began to walk back to the spaceport. There was no point in taking the omnibus again, it would just be a waste of money which he might need more desperately later.
It began to rain as Obi-Wan walked, and by the time he reached the ship, his cloak was very wet. He shook it off and hung it up to dry, then peeked into Qui-Gon's quarters. His master had his eyes shut and did not open them, and Obi-Wan could not tell if he were in a healing trance or simply asleep.
Going up to the cockpit, Obi-Wan sent a hologram recording to the Jedi Council on Coruscant, advising them of the situation without mentioning Qui-Gon's condition, but expressing his hope that they'd be on their way again soon. Next, he went to the tiny galley, which was scarcely more than a sink and a instant-heater, with a cabinet on top of it. Poking around for something to eat, he realised they'd been living off the ship's supplies for some time already, because of the situation on their last mission, and all the pop-n-serve meal trays were gone now. There were only a few unappetizing ration bars left, and four packages of ration drink mix. He'd also used the last tea bag that morning. The situation was not good. He didn't know how much food he'd be able to buy with the money he had left, but he had the sinking feeling it wasn't going to be much. He also had the feeling he should save those last few coins for an emergency. Unethusiastically, he reached for one of the ration bars and washed it down with water.
When Qui-Gon woke up later that evening, Obi-Wan offered him a ration bar, too, but the Jedi Master frowned and shook his head slightly.
"How are you feeling?" Obi-Wan asked in concern.
Qui-Gon sighed before answering, "Not good. I fear infection is setting in and I am already exhausted from fighting it."
"It can't be," Obi-Wan exclaimed. "I washed the wound, I put bacta salve on it, there shouldn't be any infection."
Qui-Gon lifted up the covers to have a look. The wound looked normal and there was no sign of redness or swelling.
"There, you see. It's not infected."
Qui-Gon looked surprised. "I am fighting something, though. I can feel it."
"Maybe you're coming down with something."
"Hopefully not the Rodian flu again."
Changing the subject abruptly, Qui-Gon asked, "What about the parts?"
"They had to be ordered, but they'll be here in two or three days," Obi-Wan said. "Shall I put some more bacta salve on this, just in case?"
"Please," Qui-Gon said simply.
"I'll get you a big drink, too," Obi-Wan offered, trying to keep his tone light despite his worry. "You're quick enough to drown me in fluids whenever I'm coming down with something, now's my chance to return the favour."
"A Jedi seeks not revenge," Qui-Gon murmured, and Obi-Wan smiled. Things weren't so bad yet that Qui-Gon couldn't spout wisdom at him. He hoped it was a good sign.
In the night, Obi-Wan was awakened by a dull feeling that something was wrong. He got up and looked in on his master, and found him huddled under the covers, shivering visibly.
"An-Paj?" Qui-Gon asked, opening his eyes.
"No, master, it's me, Obi-Wan."
"I'm so cold. Where are we?"
"On Otoria." Obi-Wan got Qui-Gon's heavy bantha-wool cloak and spread it over him. "Is that better?"
"Where's An-Paj?" Qui-Gon glanced around as though expecting to see the tall, blue-skinned Healer in the cabin.
"He's back at the Temple." Obi-Wan felt a cold knot of worry form in his stomach. Was Qui-Gon hallucinating?
"Oh. Must--must have been dreaming. Had something--important--to tell him."
"Go back to sleep, master." Obi-Wan put his hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder and concentrated on the Force, sending him a long, concentrated burst of healing power. Qui-Gon eventually stopped shivering and relaxed, then fell into a deep sleep, breathing heavily.
In the morning, however, Qui-Gon was practically incoherant and burning with fever. Not knowing what else to do, Obi-Wan tried one of the fever medication cylinders they had on board, but the fever only receded to a less dangerous level. Obi-Wan checked the wound occasionally throughout the morning, but it continued to look healthy. Maybe it wasn't an infection after all. Maybe it really was a relapse of the Rodian flu. In any case, Qui-Gon would need fluid, and lots of it. He hadn't woken up enough that day to drink anything. Obi-Wan opened the medical emergency box and found the basic IV equipment; two needles, two tubes, and two small bags of basic saline solution. As he unwrapped the articles and laid them out, he made a note to thank Master Healer An-Paj for requiring both him and Qui-Gon to take part in first aid courses twice a year. At the time, he'd thought it was mostly for Qui-Gon, who had to take care of Obi-Wan's many injuries, but he'd gone along and practised splinting broken bones, dressing wounds, and--An-Paj had insisted--giving IV's. Now he was grateful for the practise as he found the vein and slid in the needle in with a steady hand.
Apparantly feeling the tiny jab, Qui-Gon opened his eyes and looked directly at Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan smiled reassuringly, but the Jedi Master's eyes had already slid shut again and he twitched restlessly, almost pulling his arm away from Obi-Wan, who had to grab to get it back. Adding a few strips of sticky tape to keep the needle in place, Obi-Wan then connected it to the tube, and the tube to the bag of fluid. The bag was suspended from the hook situated above the bunk, and Obi-Wan exhaled in relief, then remembered that there was one more thing he could do. Closing his eyes, he laid his hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder, focusing the Force and letting it flow through him into his master, giving him strength to continue the battle. How often had Qui-Gon done exactly the same for him? Obi-Wan had used to think it would be better to be on the giving side rather than the receiving side, but now he discovered that sheer worry was making him feel sick, too.
A moment later, Obi-Wan left the ship, knowing that the two bags of saline solution would be soon be used up and that he had to get more. It was cooler than the day before, but although there were low, dark clouds, it hadn't started to rain yet, and he walked quickly. Upon arriving at Market Place, Obi-Wan saw that it was market day, and that the place was filled with stands of every kind, offering fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, and even meat. Obi-Wan eyed one of the steaks hungrily, until he saw the price, and then he looked away. What was he doing, thinking about food when Qui-Gon was so ill? None of the stands offered soft plastic bags of saline solution, not that he'd expected such a thing, and with a sigh, he set off towards the bridge to find a Healer's office on the other side of the river. That meant losing an entire dennar for the toll, but it couldn't be helped. Qui-Gon needed that fluid.
The woman taking tolls at the bridge had given him directions to the closest Healer's office, and he went in. The woman behind the desk mustered him suspiciously, and Obi-Wan wondered if she were considering calling in some kind of security force to save her from the evil Jedi. At last, she finally asked, "What do you want?"
"A friend of mine has been injured and also seems to be coming down with the Rodian flu. Perhaps the Healer could come and have a look at him?"
"One hundred dennars, cash in advance," she said. "Or you could bring him here for fifty dennars."
Obi-Wan thought of his few remaining coins and smiled although he wanted to grimace. "What I really need is standard saline solution. Do you have some that you could let me have?"
The Otorian female seemed shocked at the request. "Does this look like a warehouse?"
"Surely you have some here, just in case," Obi-Wan said hopefully, wondering if he should use the Force on her. "I have enough money for -that-."
The word money had the expected effect, and the woman's eyes lit up as she calculated a hefty profit for herself. "Ten dennars a bag."
With the tiniest help from the Force, Obi-Wan bartered her down to five dennars, the original price of the bags, then took the seven that he could afford, and distributed them into various pockets inside his robe. It would be enough to see Qui-Gon back to Coruscant--it had to be. Exiting with a polite smile and bow, Obi-Wan headed back to the spaceport as quickly as he could go. But he'd barely come through the gate on the other side of the bridge when he felt something through the Force, a cautious probing of the surroundings which touched on him lightly, moved on, and then came back. A moment later, there was movement around his knees, and someone tugged on his robe.
"Can you walk with me across the bridge? Please? I don't like walking alone; I don't like the sound of the water."
Amazed, Obi-Wan glanced down to see a very small girl holding a handful of his robe, her face turned pleadingly up to him. Something about her eyes reminded him of Knight Tahl back at the Temple, and with a start, he realised the girl was also blind.
"Please, just walk across with me, that's all."
"All right," Obi-Wan said, putting the thought of "A waste of time and money!" firmly out of his mind. It would only take five minutes, it would do good, and Qui-Gon would not suffer. "Would you like to take my hand?"
"Yes, I'd like that," the girl said as Obi-Wan shifted her cold fingers into his own warm hand and led her around to the toll booth, taking another look at her. She wore her hair in two thick, dark plaits, and her face was thin. The knees of her trousers had been patched, and her coat was old and a little too small for her. She clutched her half dennar in her free hand, and dangling from her wrist was a large, heavy cloth bag that had vegetables spilling out the top.
"Shall I carry your shopping for you?" he asked.
She handed it over gratefully and as they set off across the bridge, she said, "I usually go with my Mam. She holds my hand, too, cause she knows I don't like the sound of the water, but she's sick to-day. I'm just getting some meat and veg to make soup for her with."
"I hope she feels better soon," Obi-Wan said. "I'm sure she will, with you looking after her."
"I do my best," the girl said.
"I know you do."
"You're nice," she laughed. "That's why I chose you. I could tell."
"You could tell I was nice?" It was a pleasant change from being stared at because he looked different. He sent a small, controlled burst of the Force her way and saw her expression change to one of joyous surprise. "I can tell you're nice, too."
She laughed, and Obi-Wan felt a pang of regret that she hadn't been born inside the Republic. If she'd been identified as Force-sensitive, she could have been brought to the Temple and taught to make the best of her Force talent. Even if she'd figured out how to use it to compensate for her lack of sight, there were still so many other things that she would never learn on her own.
They passed through the gate on the other side of the bridge now, and Obi-Wan said, "Shall I walk you home, too?"
"I know the way from here," she said, reaching out and feeling for her bag of shopping with her free hand. Obi-Wan handed it over, and had just finished transferring it from his hand to hers when there was a shout.
"Hey! Jedi! Get away from that girl!"
Obi-Wan looked around to see a young Otorian marching up towards him, an angry look on his face. "Leave her alone, you Jedi!"
"He's not a Jedi, he's nice," the girl piped up, her face creased with concern and confusion.
"He's not nice. You're blind, you can't see that he's a Jedi. They steal little kids like you and take them away to their Temple, where they're never seen again! What are you waiting for? Get away from him, go home, you stupid blind girl!" The man gave her a little push in the right direction, and she almost stumbled, but then she lifted her head suddenly, as though sensing something that made her nervous, and began to walk quickly away.
"We don't steal kids," Obi-Wan said, watching the little girl neatly avoid two men in dark uniforms with truncheons on their belts. They'd been walking towards the bridge with the intention of crossing it, but now they stopped and came closer, looking at Obi-Wan suspiciously. The other man noticed them, too, and called out, "Hey! Patrolmen! This Jedi was trying to steal that blind girl!"
"I was not trying to steal anybody!" Obi-Wan protested. The girl had increased her speed even more and disappeared around a corner. "She asked me to walk her across the bridge, so I did, that's all."
The men reached for their truncheons. "All right, we'll handle this. Move along."
The younger man did so, obviously reluctantly, and after he'd gone a few steps in the direction of the bridge, one of the Patrolmen growled, "From now on, Jedi, you keep your hands off our kids!"
"I was only helping her," Obi-Wan explained, shifting into a defensive stance.
"We don't want Jedi help, and we're going to make sure you remember that." The Patrolman swung his truncheon and Obi-Wan, who had been expecting it, thrust out his hand with Force-assisted speed and grabbed it. For a moment, they stood motionless, locked together.
"She asked for my help," Obi-Wan stated again, looking the Otorian straight in the eye.
"If she did, it was because she's blind and didn't know any better." The second Patrolman brought his truncheon down, meaning to smash it savagely into Obi-Wan's arm, but Obi-Wan was quicker, letting go and whipping around to his left. In one smooth, fast movement, he circled around on the ball of his right foot and swung his left leg out, sweeping the legs out from beneath the Otorian and sending him sprawling.
In control of his truncheon once again, the first Patrolman rushed him, swinging it high over his head. Reaching up, Obi-Wan caught the man's hand, then let the man's forward momentum assist him in throwing his opponent onto the pavement. Obi-Wan didn't want to hurt the Patrolmen, as they would then probably insist on having him arrested for grievous bodily harm, but he did want to defend himself. The second Otorian had already scrambled to his feet again and as soon as Obi-Wan's movements had afforded him a split second of opportunity, he took it, slamming the truncheon into Obi-Wan's stomach and almost knocking the breath out of him. Without pausing, he aimed for Obi-Wan's head next, but Obi-Wan ducked under the oncoming blow. Grabbing the man's arm with one hand, he slammed his other fist directly into the Otorian's bicep, hitting the pressure point there with all his might. The Patrolman's hand opened involuntarily, and Obi-Wan caught the truncheon before it fell, then tossed it away, pushing the Otorian backwards at the same time.
Hoping that he'd bought himself enough time to get away from the fight, Obi-Wan glanced around for an escape route. But the first Patrolman was back on his feet again and coming in from his left hand side, waving the hard wooden club. Dodging both that blow and the accompanying kick, he made to answer with a kick of his own, but his robe swung heavily around his legs and slowed his movement just enough for the Patrolman to get a tenuous grip on his foot with one hand and his truncheon. At that exact moment when he was already unbalanced, something barrelled into him from behind, knocking him away from the Patrolman and into the cobblestones with bruising force. Feeling his ankles being pinned to the ground by the body weight of his attacker, Obi-Wan was surprised to feel first one and then a second person sit on him as well. He didn't have much of a chance to consider who the third person could be, however. The Force screamed a warning and he managed to get his left arm up just in time to protect his head. The Otorians began to pound him wherever they could reach.
A repeated blow split one of the IV bags open, spilling the liquid across Obi-Wan's thigh and onto the pavement beneath. When the puddle became visible, the patrolman closest to it stopped and stood up hastily, pulling his colleague up as well. Out of the corner of his eye, Obi-Wan saw that the third assailant was the young man who had falsely accused him. Laughing and congratulating each other on having beaten the shu-shu out of a Jedi, the Patrolmen slapped hands appreciatively with the young man and they all walked away. Obi-Wan didn't listen to their laughter, feeling simply impatient to get back to Qui-Gon and regretful that he had that much less fluid for him. When he was sure that they were gone, Obi-Wan moved to get up, hissing at the pain when he flexed his left elbow. The Patrolmen had been very thorough, remaining seated in order to hold him down and yet shifting every so often to find a fresh place to bruise. He had to call on the Force to dampen the agony enough that he could stand.
Slowly, Obi-Wan moved towards the gates of the bridge, ignoring the young man who stood there, leaning against one of the gates with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at the damp spot on the front of Obi-Wan's cloak and grinning widely. Somehow, Obi-Wan managed to get half a dennar out of his belt pouch to pay the toll and from there, it was a long, slow walk back to the spaceport. Pain shot through his arm with every step, and the bruised muscles elsewhere in his body protested as well. Occasionally, a cold wind cut through the opening in the front of his cloak and chilled his wet leg, making him shiver all over. Resolutely, however, he kept going, one thought foremost in his mind. He had to get the remaining saline solution to Qui-Gon. He'd been away too long already.
It was dark by the time he reached the ship. Ignoring the pain and the cold, Obi-Wan moved immediately to Qui-Gon's cabin. The first IV bag was empty. He replaced it with shaking fingers, silently cursing the circumstances that had made him late, then laid his hand on Qui-Gon's head, feeling the uncomfortably hot skin beneath his fingers. Using his left arm as little as possible, he gave the Jedi master another dose of medicine. Only then did he remove the soft plastic bags from his cloak, setting them on the tiny table next to the bed and gazing sadly at the remains of the one that had burst open. Thank the Force that the Patrolmen hadn't got them all! Moving stiffly into his own cabin, he hung up his robe, awkwardly tugged off his boots and clothes, and hung his leggings across the stool to dry. His injured elbow protested almost every motion as he climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin and shivering at the coolness against his skin. Eventually, he warmed up enough to be able to relax, and then he shut his eyes and put himself in a healing trance, knowing that he'd have to take care of himself first before he could do anything more for his master.
The next day, the fever was still alarmingly high, and to make things worse, Qui-Gon had started to wheeze while breathing, and coughed occasionally. Obi-Wan placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him another burst of strength to help the fight, as much as he could spare, and then some. As he did so, Qui-Gon murmured something that sounded like "An-Paj", which made Obi-Wan worry even more. Feeling the will of the Force, he then made his way into the city again, running at Force-speed so as not to have to spend too much time away from Qui-Gon. Hopeful that the parts had arrived already, he entered Piniker's Parts, coming forward and laying his hands flat against the counter without speaking first, as a sign of goodwill. His bruises had healed, and only the twinge in his elbow reminded him that anything had happened at all.
"Sorry, they haven't come yet," Piniker answered his inquiry. "Try again to-morrow. Or I could have them delivered straight to your ship when they arrive. One hundred dennars, cash in advance."
"I'll pick them up here," Obi-Wan said, trying to hide his confusion. If it had been the will of the Force that he come to the city to-day, then why weren't the parts here? Bowing, he exited and began to walk quickly back towards the bridge, only thinking of getting back to the ship as soon as possible, checking on Qui-Gon, and calling the Jedi Temple for help. In the same place where he'd been beaten the day before, he saw a figure huddled on the ground, trying to get up and falling back again. Two patrolmen went by, looking at the figure and shaking their heads, but making no move to help even when the young man put out his hand in an entreating gesture.
Feeling the Force swirl around him, Obi-Wan knew then why he'd been called to the city. The young man needed help, and it seemed that nobody else would give it to him. Even now, an older woman was just passing by, glancing down and then moving quickly away. Obi-Wan couldn't help wondering if anybody would stop and help if the young man offered a hundred dennars, cash in advance. For himself, however, the prompting of the Force was incentive enough. Quickening his step, Obi-Wan came closer and was just about to squat down and offer assistance when he recognised the figure. It was the young man from the day before. Startled, Obi-Wan froze.
"Help me," the man moaned, seeing only that someone was standing over him, but obviously not seeing who it was. Blood was trickling from his nose. "Please...just help me...get home..."
This was the will of the Force? Obi-Wan wanted to turn on his heel and walk away.
Why did the Force want him to help this--this snitch? This was the young man who'd falsely accused him of wanting to steal a child. He'd stood by and watched with obvious enjoyment as Obi-Wan was beaten--he'd even helped the Patrolmen get the better of Obi-Wan. He was indirectly responsible for the loss of one of the precious bags of saline solution which Qui-Gon needed so much.
Why was the Force compelling Obi-Wan to stop and help -him-?
Obi-Wan was sorely tempted to carry on walking and make the young man drag himself home, the same way he'd had to. He knew it was wrong, of course, to want revenge, especially on somebody who had acted out of ignorance, but that ignorance had endangered Qui-Gon, and that was something Obi-Wan found he couldn't easily forgive. He also found himself begrudging this Otorian even a few minutes of his time, and tried to justify his feelings by reminding himself how sick Qui-Gon was and how he was getting steadily worse, how much more he needed Obi-Wan's help than this snitch did.
As he stood there, clenching his fists in indecision, Obi-Wan was suddenly reminded of how he'd learned the hard way to follow the will of the Force, even when it seemed to be leading him in a different direction than he wanted to go. The consequences had been devastating. It took him a moment to apply the lesson to this situation, to remember his life-long training, but gradually, the temptation eased and he was able to let go of his desire for revenge and even some of his worry for Qui-Gon. Reaching into the Force to renew his trust in it, he went down on one knee and extended a hand to the young man. "Come on, I'll help you up."
Although he was as gentle as he could, the young man groaned loudly at each movement. "Hurts...ugh...it hurts."
"Yes, I know."
Twisting his head a little, the young man squinted up at Obi-Wan through a black eye and then sagged a little. With an effort, he said, "You...laughing at...me now...Jedi?"
"No," Obi-Wan replied truthfully. "I'm not laughing. Where do you live?"
Obi-Wan surrendered one of his last dennars at the toll gate and pulled the young man through, supporting him at each step and ignoring the twinge in his elbow. "What happened to you, anyway?"
"Told...my...girlfriend...couldn't...marry her." The young man moved his hand slightly, which he had pressed against his side, and grimaced. "Brothers...and...father...beat me...up."
"They'd...expected me...to make...them all...rich."
"Ah." Obi-Wan should have realised it would have something to do with money. "Now where?"
"That...house...over there." The young man waved weakly at the grandest house making up one complete side of the Market Square. "Why're...you helping me?"
"Because I'm a Jedi and I do the will of the Force," Obi-Wan replied honestly.
As they moved across the Square, the young man became slower and slower, and leaned more and more on Obi-Wan. He was only semi-conscious when they reached the steps, and it was hard for Obi-Wan to hold him upright and press the buzzer at the same time. After a few moments, the door was opened by a short, snobby-looking Otorian whose hair had been braided on top of his head, from the middle of his forehead straight down his back.
"Yes?" he frowned disdainfully.
"This young man says he lives here," Obi-Wan said.
For a brief moment, the young man lifted his head so that his face could be seen, then mumbled something incoherant and let it drop again.
"Indeed," the older Otorian affirmed without changing his expression. "Bring him in."
Obi-Wan dragged him inside, looking around for some place to set him down. They were in a large entry hall, with a mosaic on the floor, massive pictures on the walls, stairs leading to the next level, and corridors stretching away on both sides. Spying an ornate couch against the far wall, Obi-Wan steered his burden in that direction, but halfway across the hall, the young Otorian went completely limp and almost slipped from his grasp.
"I shall inform the Duke," the butler announced, sounding even more displeased and not at all inclined to help.
Obi-Wan lowered the Otorian gently to the floor, then slipped out of his robe and tucked it around the unconscious form. At that moment, a group of Otorians came out of one of the corridors and entered the hall, then stopped when they saw Obi-Wan and the injured man on the floor. Their animated conversation turned to gasps of surprise, and Obi-Wan scrambled to his feet and bowed to them in greeting.
"My lord," the butler began, but the tallest Otorian broke free of the group and came forward, then knelt down and gently touched the side of the young man's face. There was no response, and the Duke lifted his head, looking around for the butler. "Get a Healer. Offer him five hundred dennars cash in advance and seven--no, eight hundred if he can be here within five minutes."
"Yes, my lord," the butler replied, still managing to sound disapproving. He walked with quick yet dignified steps towards a tiny door under the stairs which apparantly lead to his office.
"Who are you?" the Duke snapped, looking at Obi-Wan next.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Apprentice," he said, bowing again, then kneeling down so that the Duke did not have to crane his neck to look up at him.
"You brought him here?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Do you know what happened?"
"He told me that the father and the brothers of his girlfriend had beaten him up after he'd informed the girlfriend that he was unable to marry her," Obi-Wan reported.
"Idiot," the Duke sighed. When he spoke next, he seemed to be addressing the group of Otorians who were standing at a respectful distance. "You get what you pay for, I told him. Don't expect something for nothing, I told him. She'll be wanting some kind of recompense, I told him. Does the young fool listen? No, he just keeps going down the path of destruction."
There were sympathetic murmurs from the other Otorians, which were abruptly silenced as the butler approached. The Duke looked up expectantly.
"The Healer is on his way, my lord," the butler reported, twisting the word "Healer" disdainfully.
Only a few minutes later, a middle-aged, portly Otorian pressed the buzzer and came quickly into the hall as soon as the butler had opened the door, all the while staring intently at something in his palm. He knelt down across from the Duke and extended his hand so that the Duke could see the tiny device, then put it away again at the Duke's irritable nod. By craning his neck ever so slightly, Obi-Wan was able to catch a glimpse of the timer that had stopped at just under five minutes. As the Healer reached into his bag and pulled out a medical scanner, Obi-Wan folded his cloak back helpfully.
Glancing at him once, the Healer returned his attention to the scanner, making "huh" sounds as each new diagnosis came up, but otherwise saying nothing. He let the scanner linger over the place on the young man's abdomen where Obi-Wan remembered the young Otorian pressing his hand in pain, then reached into the bag for a comlink and ordered an emergency medical transport to report to the Duke's Townhouse immediately.
"Bad?" the Duke asked as soon as the Healer had switched the comlink off.
"His spleen has been ruptured, it requires immediate attention," the Healer reported."It -is- bad, but it can be rectified if caught in time. I believe we still have that time."
The Duke nodded, and they waited in tense silence until the transport arrived and the butler opened the door to allow the helpers to enter, moving a hover-stretcher between them. Obi-Wan retrieved his cloak as they carefully lifted the young man onto the stretcher. They used a bright blue blanket as a substitute, fastened the security straps loosely over it, then whisked the young man towards the door.
The Duke followed, and when he noticed that Obi-Wan was right behind him, pulling on his cloak and preparing to leave the house, he snapped, "You stay here, Jedi. I want to talk to you when I get back."
"With all due respect, my lord, I must return to my ship--"
"You. Stay. Here." The Duke swept through the door and the butler closed it in Obi-Wan's face, stopping him in his tracks with a withering glance. After making sure that Obi-Wan was not about to force his way out, the butler crossed quickly to his office and returned carrying a large piece of printed flimsy which Obi-Wan recognised as an archaic form of news page. He unfolded it while walking, then laid it over one end of the padded bench and indicated that Obi-Wan should sit on it. Ignoring the implied insult, Obi-Wan sat down and placed his hands in his lap, preparing himself for a long wait. The group of people who had come into the hall with the Duke began whispering to each other, then dispersed suddenly at a glare from the butler, and Obi-Wan was left alone.
Meditating, Obi-Wan was able to sense the rightness of his actions through the Force and manage to control his impatience and his worry, though with difficulty. He could feel through his bond with his master that Qui-Gon was still alive, but he was also aware that Qui-Gon was getting worse. It took all of his concentration to maintain his trust that everything was going according to the will of the Force, and not to leap up and race back to the ship.
It was about three hours later by the time the Duke returned. The butler had leaped from his office to the door as soon as the speeder had stopped outside, but the Duke ignored him as he entered, and headed straight for Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan got to his feet and bowed in the most dignified way he knew. "My lord?"
"You've saved my son's life. Name your price."
"My lord, that is not necessary. I am a Jedi. We follow the will of the Force, and do not act for recompense," Obi-Wan replied in the way he'd been brought up.
"You don't act for recompense?" The Duke seemed to have trouble following this concept.
"That is correct, my lord."
The Duke rolled his eyes. "No wonder my grandfather didn't let Otoria join the Republic. Never mind. And does the will of the whatsit forbid you from being my guest?"
"No, my lord, it does not." In fact, the Force was screaming at Obi-Wan to accept.
"Fine. You're my guest of honour." The Duke signalled to the butler to come forward. "Give him an unlimited cash card to pay his hotel bills and any other expenses he might have. You may not refuse, Jedi, and you must use it! That's part of being my guest."
"Yes, my lord," Obi-Wan and the butler said at the same time.
"And what brought you here to our beautiful planet?"
"Our hyperdrive is damaged. We landed to buy some replacement parts, but although they have been ordered, they have not yet arrived."
"Where did you order them?"
"Piniker's Parts, my lord."
"Three days ago."
To the butler, the Duke said, "Comm Piniker and offer him two hundred in advance if he'll have the parts ready by to-morrow noon."
"Yes, my lord," the butler replied with obvious distaste.
"Right, then, that's settled, you'll stay here to-night. I'll expect to see you at dinner."
"My master --"
"Bring him, too."
"He's very ill and needs a Healer --"
The Duke turned to the butler again. "Get the Healer back here. And remember, Jedi, your cash card covers every expense, even Healers and hospitals."
"Thank you, my lord."
"Anything else we can do for you, Jedi?"
Obi-Wan bowed in acceptance, relief flooding through him. "It is more than enough. Thank you for your generosity, my lord."
"It is nothing in comparison to my son's life, but if you are content with this, the least that I can do, then I will also be content," the Duke replied, breathing true feeling into a standard phrase. Then he sighed. "I told him not to get involved with a girl from the other side of the city. But he was determined to have his fun before we arranged a marriage for him, and he was too inexperienced to see that she wasn't welcoming him with open arms just because of his handsome face. Her whole family must have really been hoping--never mind. I have to get back to work now. Time is money, you know."
He strode off down the corridor and Obi-Wan bowed quickly in farewell, then straightened up again. With a barely disguised look of disdain, the butler went into his office and returned carrying a small metal tray, upon which rested a small chip card. He extended the tray, and Obi-Wan took the card wonderingly, seeing the insignia of the Duke on one side and the word "unlimited" on the other.
It was the same Healer as before who drove Obi-Wan out to the space port, asking questions about the onset of the illness and making the "huh" sounds again after each of Obi-Wan's statements. After scanning Qui-Gon in detail, taking a blood probe and then examining the wound, he reached for his comlink and notified the emergency medical transport. Obi-Wan was allowed to ride in the front next to the driver, but was then sent to a half-ful waiting room as soon as they arrived at the hospital.
Not long after, a female Otorian nurse called for the Jedi, and he stood up, expecting to be led to Qui-Gon, but she merely came over and said, "Antidote for the poison, nine hundred dennars, cash in advance."
"Poison?" Obi-Wan asked, automatically handing over the card. The nurse's eyes widened in awe as she turned it over and saw the word "unlimited", but she didn't answer his question, merely disappeared back the way she'd come. It was another half hour before Obi-Wan was called again, but this time, he was ushered into a cramped office where a very old Healer was looking at something on a computer screen. Without a word of greeting, he announced, "I'm surprised he's lasted so long, but it appears we've caught the poison in time. With the antidote, your master should make a complete recovery."
"Poison?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Yes, poison. You mentioned the planet Ramasia? They used to dip their arrowheads and spearheads in poison, now they roll their projectiles in it. Technology didn't change that part of their so-called civilization. They're still savages at heart. We get at least one case of Ramasian poisoning here a month. They've engineered it to mimic the symptoms of normal flu, except that it's deadly, of course. I understand that--what was his name again?"
"Master Jinn was on an IV when he arrived here. I suppose that's what saved his life--he wouldn't have lasted more than another day. I have to say it again, I'm surprised he held out this long."
Obi-Wan thought about how close he'd come to refusing help for the Duke's son, and repressed a shiver as he realised what the consequences would have been. "May I see him?"
"Ten dennars, cash--oh, wait. We've got this." The Healer added ten dennars to the bill on the screen, then removed the card from the reader and handed it back to Obi-Wan. "My assistant will take you to his room. Wait outside please."
It was almost half an hour before the assistant arrived to lead Obi-Wan to a room on an upper floor of the hospital. The head end of the bed had been raised a little, and Qui-Gon was lying on his back, still wheezing occasionally when he breathed. Pulling up the single chair in the room, Obi-Wan sat down, placing his hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder and reaching out with the Force. He could feel that his master was marginally better than he'd been two hours ago, and was improving steadily, if slowly. Shutting his eyes, Obi-Wan channeled more Force energy into Qui-Gon, giving him more resources with which to fight alongside the antidote.
When at last he was satisfied that he'd done what he could and Qui-Gon really was going to recover, Obi-Wan left the hospital and walked back to the Duke's Townhouse for dinner. The food was excellent, not just because it was the first real thing he'd eaten in days, and Obi-Wan was easily able to ignore the curious stares of the other guests, who had no doubt expected the Jedi to eat with his fingers or maybe with his lightsaber. The worst part had been when they'd stopped all converation and listened in obvious horror as he'd asked for some more meat. They had all relaxed, however, when he'd finished saying "baby vakhtel", as though they'd been expecting him to stop after saying only "baby." But he'd smiled, and they'd smiled, and the meal had continued without incident after that.
The next morning when Obi-Wan entered the hospital room, still holding his cash card after having to pay the visiting fee of ten dennars, Qui-Gon was sitting up in bed looking alert, and smiled broadly when he came in. "Obi-Wan."
"Master. You're looking better."
"I feel better." He paused, then said, "The Healer mentioned poison?"
"Apparantly, the Ramasians rolls their projectiles in it," Obi-Wan explained, sitting down on the bed-side chair.
"Oh. Perhaps that's why I kept dreaming that I had something important to tell An-Paj."
"A subconscious message that you were dying?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Or that I needed medical help. How long have I been here?"
"Just since yesterday afternoon."
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow and Obi-Wan hastened to explain the entire situation, from not having enough money to now holding an unlimited cash card. When he'd finished, he sighed, and Qui-Gon asked,"What is it?"
"It's been a long time since I've felt that much temptation not to do the will of the Force," Obi-Wan replied. "I knew what it wanted me to do, but I didn't want to. I just wanted to walk away."
"But you made the right choice in the end," Qui-Gon nodded approvingly.
"I know that--now. But at the time, I didn't know how things would work out. I couldn't understand why the Force was telling me to help him, when I wanted to get back to you."
"And then I remembered the last time I didn't listen, and how everything went wrong. And I put my trust in the Force and did what it was telling me." Obi-Wan frowned a little as he remembered how close he'd come to making the wrong decision. "I can see now that it saved your life."
"We must always trust in the Force, even when we don't understand why," Qui-Gon said. "Not every reason for our actions will be as clearly revealed as this one. Sometimes we are left without understanding, with only our trust."
"I know you know." Qui-Gon smiled a little. "You did very well, Obi-Wan, during the whole situation. I'm proud of you."
Obi-Wan grinned at the praise he didn't often hear from his master in so many words. "I'm glad you're still alive, master. I wouldn't like to be kicking myself right now for doing the wrong thing and having lost you as a result."
"Think of that next time you're tempted not to follow the will of the Force."
"I will, but--" Obi-Wan's expression sobered and he let his voice trail off as he ran his thumb over the edge of the card.
"What if I do everything right and you still die?"
"It might happen, but at least you would have nothing to regret," Qui-Gon announced.
Obi-Wan nodded slowly, considering these words, and Qui-Gon added, "As it is, I'm also glad I'm still alive. There are few things more satisfying for a master than to see how his padawan is growing and learning and becoming a fine Jedi."
"Thank you," Obi-Wan said seriously. "Not just for saying that, but for teaching me."
Qui-Gon beamed. "It is my honour and my pleasure."
Obi-Wan glanced down at the card in his hands, turning it over and over.
"You're still troubled about something?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Not exactly troubled. I was just wondering..." Obi-Wan said, looking up briefly.
"It's so trivial."
"Nothing that makes you think is ever trivial, Obi-Wan."
"Well, I was wondering why this planet is named Otoria and not Cash-in-Advancia." Obi-Wan grinned, and caught the pillow that Qui-Gon tossed in his direction.
Original cover design by Julie. HTML formatting copyright 2001 TheForce.Net LLC.
Fan Fiction Rating
Current Rating is 9.5 in 80 total ratings.
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Date posted: 1/8/2002 9:09:11 AM
This is a great little story! Jane Jinn - always - does a wonderful job with her fan fic. But I dunno -- I think this planet sounds perfect for the Republic LOL.
The foreshadowing of what's to come in TPM always leaves a pang in my heart, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying what the author has done here. Great characterization, fluid pacing -- well done!
Author: Rori Firehawk
Date posted: 1/14/2002 7:32:10 AM
Rori Firehawk's Comments:
Heh, Otoria sounds a bit like the United States in some ways... :-P Great story!!!
Date posted: 1/15/2002 12:07:57 PM
Nice story, Jane. A smooth-flowing narrative that did a wonderful job focusing on the struggle between what we want and what we know to be right.
Date posted: 3/23/2002 7:52:41 AM
Good story! Enjoyed the humor and Obi's struggle between doing what he wanted to do and what the Force wanted him to do.
Date posted: 5/22/2002 5:55:15 AM
I really liked this story. Greatly written, very in-character. The story itself was entertaining, and I agree with Rori Firehawk that Otoria sounds like the US... lol. Good work!
Date posted: 7/7/2002 1:18:48 PM
awesome fanfic! your stories are so well written. and they always make me laugh! keep writing. it inspires the rest of us!
Date posted: 9/25/2002 10:54:57 AM
I give this a ten. It was very well written.
Date posted: 12/30/2002 7:07:37 PM
great story with Obi Wan's humor.
Author: obi-wan rox
Date posted: 4/11/2003 5:53:29 PM
obi-wan rox's Comments:
Dude this story is cool. ilove the way jane jinn wrote it nice job with obi-wan's humor at the end!
Author: Senator Leia
Date posted: 6/15/2003 8:45:19 PM
Senator Leia's Comments:
Two words great job! Keep up the good work.
Author: Darth Slaya
Date posted: 8/30/2005 3:46:46 PM
Darth Slaya's Comments:
I always love your stories Jane keep writing!!!
Date posted: 11/1/2005 10:06:46 PM
I liked this story, it was very cute and sweet. It has good morals even though it definately reminds me of how Qui Gon dies which is of course really sad...Qui Gon's the best! He and Obi Wan rock! It's even better because it has great characters. I liked the parts about the Tahl girl, but I always find it sad when force-sensitives aren't Jedis.
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