|Balking At a Winter Wonderland
By Darth Ishtar
|Shortly after arriving at the Temple, Jemmiah had gone for a walk in the snow. Amazed by the winter beauty, since she’d never had much experience with the stuff, she had quickly lost her way. She’d felt as though she’d never be warm again, as if she’d never find her way back.
And then, Master Quillan had come over to scold her for stumbling into the pond and instead rescued her from certain hypothermia. She had thought herself rather silly for the whole thing.
She had no idea how long she’d been out here, only that it had taken forever for the sun to set and now it was taking forever for it to rise again. Probably, it was sometime after midnight, judging from the fact that it was pitch black all around her. The only thing she could see was her breath, snow for miles around and MORE TREES.
She was certain that eventually, she would be able to find the path to the main road, but she had really hoped that they would be able to find a clear channel before she needed to do that.
No such luck.
She’d heard a squawk of activity on the channel about five hours ago, she guessed, but it had turned out to be from one of the music stations, since she doubted that An-Paj sounded anything like Patches.
Now, even the fifty billion layers of jumpers Obi-Wan had trussed her up in were cold and her teeth were chattering so much that she probably wouldn’t be able to talk when she did get someone on the line.
Just her luck and it was starting to snow again.
So, she started counting her steps, but sometime after a thousand five hundred ninety-seven, she lost count and gave up.
Still no luck.
Her eye throbbed and she reflected that Qui-Gon would probably make her put a cold pack on it, so she scooped up some snow and tried to put it against the black eye. It didn’t help much and she reflected again that she would probably have said a very rude word if her teeth weren’t sounding like the percussion section of the Corellian Symphony.
If only she had her diary, she’d be able to record some last words for Ben and Quiggy.
Last words? Are you going banoodly? There’s no such thing! You’re going to be bothering An-Paj in another ten steps!
Four… I’m warning you, Healer people! If you’re not there when I get to one, I’m going to cry!
Three… I mean it!
One… Oh, bassalads.
And then, a tone.
“Jedi Temple Healer’s Wing, this is Healer Xaadani,” the woman sounded tired from the late hour. “What is the nature of your emergency?”
She couldn’t help herself. She simply started screaming.
It was going to work!
She would have danced around, but she was wearing too many parkas for that.
“Miss, are you in some sort of distress?”
She didn’t have to die!
“Miss, can you tell me what is happening to you? Shall I call the Constabulary?”
This was probably distressing the poor, well-meaning Ferdi, so she stopped. “May I speak to An-Paj?”
There was a slight silence.
“Please?” she added, hopeful that being courteous would make whoever picked up this call more cooperative.
“How old are you?”
“I’m eleven, Ben’s fifteen, and Qui-Gon’s a billion and a half or so,” she said impatiently. “We’re all in trouble, so if you could put me through to An-Paj, I’d be really happy!”
“Qui-Gon?” Ferdi sounded a bit flustered. “I’ll see if he’s answering his comm.”
“Thank you,” Jemmiah responded more politely.
Apparently, he was, since he was on the line before she could think about it.
“Jemmiah?” he asked in that worried tone of his. “Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me!” she whooped. “Who else would be bothering you in the middle of the night?”
“Good point,” he said, sounding happier. “Where are you? What’s happened?”
“I’m in the middle of nowhere and Qui-Gon’s taken ill,” she explained and started to hate the way her voice was cracking, but it was better than crying in front of An-Paj. “He’s really sick. He’s been coughing and giving Ben iced vanilla and pitching fits and I’m really scared…”
“It’s all right, Jemmiah,” An-Paj said patiently. “We’ll be there as soon as we can. Are Obi-Wan and his Master at the Chandrilan cabin?”
“Yes,” she said, relieved that he wasn’t wasting her time with more questions.
“And you, where are you?”
And then, finally, she started to cry.
“That’s the problem,” she admitted. “I haven’t got the slightest.”
“This storm is certainly slowing us down,” Gethin Territ muttered unhappily.
“That’s not the least of our problems,” An-Paj retorted. “We have a tracker position on her commlink, but if the storm’s interfering with that, she could be miles away from where we expect her to be.”
“We told her to take shelter in that cave that should have been about a hundred meters away,” Gethin retorted. “That should narrow it down some.”
“Unless it got her more lost…”
“Will you two stop arguing?” Ferdi Xaadani burst out. “I’m trying to navigate and you’re ruining my concentration.”
“Sorry,” Gethin said sheepishly. “How far are we from the cabin?”
“We should be coming up on it,” she supplied. “I thought we might take our cue from her and park at the main road, then walk until we can get a clear channel to the Temple.”
“Good idea,” An-Paj lauded, blue brow furrowed with concern. “Fortunately, since the sun’s up again, it should be much easier to look for her.”
That was either an inaccurate statement or wishful thinking, since thirty minutes later, they were still trekking through the knee-deep snow.
“There are two caves,” Gethin reminded. “Perhaps I should take the one to the southeast and An-Paj should take the one to the north. You can keep going in this direction.”
“Sensible enough,” An-Paj agreed, passing out the portable kits that they had stocked with extra blankets, portable heaters and the normal medical supplies. “Keep your comms open to the emergency channel and try not to get lost yourselves.”
It was a testament to how worried Gethin was about the child that he didn’t argue with that.
Turning northward, he started scanning the surrounding landscape for any sign of tracks or disturbed vegetation that might indicate a child’s path.
Nevertheless, he had to press on. It should be thirteen degrees to the northwest and six hundred meters from their current track…
The voice was unmistakable and fortunately, Jemmiah had enough sense to not try slogging through the snow that would have come up to her chest, but waited for him to find his way to her.
“Jemmiah,” he greeted, extracting a blanket from the kit and wrapping her in both it and a tight embrace. “You look almost as blue as me.”
She managed a frozen little smile. “Took you long enough,” she groused. “I was going to make a snowman, but thought you might confuse the two of us.”
He nodded sagely. “A wise move,” he commended. “Now, let’s make another one and get you inside.”
He had finally managed to fall asleep again sometime just before dawn, more out of exhaustion than a lack of worry for Jemmiah and he awoke, with someone pounding on the door and Qui-Gon muttering angrily in his sleep upstairs.
Knowing his luck, it was a mad axe murderer waiting to kill them both in order to get a hot breakfast, but on second thought, most mad axe murderers didn’t knock.
Not that he’d had an abundance of experience with them, of course.
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he rolled indifferently off the couch and stumbled towards the door, squinting into the early-morning sunlight at the small face pressed to the glass.
Immediately, the sleep evaporated and he unlocked the door with fumbling fingers.
“Someone called for a Healer?” An-Paj said dryly.
“Took you long enough,” Obi-Wan stammered.
“Funny,” he mused, quirking a smile. “That’s what she said as well.”
Fortunately, she didn’t seem to be dead or hypothermic, only immensely relieved by the fact that he was alive enough to unlock the door.
“I have to warn you,” Obi-Wan cautioned.
“She already has,” Gethin assured. “You have a medscanner?”
“Been using it throughout the night,” he explained, handing it over. “It gave some instructions on how to treat him, but hasn’t been much help in the last hours.”
He was glad that Jemmiah was currently wrapped around his waist so that she couldn’t see Gethin’s ashen face as he looked at the readout, then showed it to the other two Healers.
“As noted, by injection,” Obi-Wan supplied, “about six hours ago.”
An-Paj clasped his shoulder. “You’ve done a good job,” he commended.
“Not hardly,” he snorted. “Qui-Gon came to while I was doing the last injection and the needle broke off in his arm.”
The Healer grimaced sympathetically. “Nothing new,” he assured him. “Qui-Gon’s done that to me once or twice over the years. He’s asleep now?”
“I would assume so,” Obi-Wan guessed. “He hasn’t screamed at me in at least two hours, so that would suggest he’s unconscious.”
The Healers exchanged glances that were purely unreadable, even to a veteran victim like Padawan Kenobi.
“You’re packed?” Ferdi inquired.
“Everything of Jemmiah’s and my own belongings,” Obi-Wan said with a nod. “I couldn’t pack Qui-Gon’s for obvious reasons.”
“Good man,” Ferdi sighed. “How about you get those loaded in the transport and then avail yourselves of the food we brought along?”
Those Healers always seemed to know the magic words.
“Since Ferdi and I are the stronger of the group,” An-Paj suggested, “you’ll need to give him the oral sedative.”
“Oh, sure,” Gethin sniffed. “Put me and my handsome face in range of his teeth.”
“Would you rather have him break your nose or try to bite it off?” Ferdi retorted. “Given the black eye he inflicted on the girl, I think those are the choices.”
That at least shut him up.
“An oral sedative should take longer to set in,” An-Paj continued, “and this one is mild enough that it shouldn’t cause any problems.”
“Then, why are we trying to pin him down?”
“Because it’s the only way,” An-Paj sighed. “I’m going to attempt to put him in a healing trance, but I don’t know how well it will work.”
The angry muttering seemed to have tapered off, which meant either that he was asleep or lying in wait.
An-Paj approached cautiously, taking the far side of the bed as Ferdi took her position. Nodding to Gethin, they rolled Qui-Gon carefully onto his back and pinned his arms.
It was now or never.
Leaning as far as he could, he stretched towards Qui-Gon’s mouth, but it was to no avail. His arms were simply not long enough. He would have to crawl on the bed.
Needless to say, he had a very bad feeling about this.
Creeping along on all fours, he pulled Qui-Gon’s jaw gently open and pushed the tablet under his tongue.
Still no response.
Letting out a sigh, he started to retreat…
And found himself suddenly slammed against the opposite wall by an invisible hand. He heard An-Paj bellow something to Ferdi, but she herself was crumpled against the door, spitting two teeth into her hand and saying a few things that her Master would not have approved of.
“Get him,” An-Paj roared.
It was no easy feat, given the fact that Qui-Gon was thrashing like a fish out of water, but Gethin finally threw himself on top of the arm, bearing down with his whole strength.
“This,” he panted, “is not going well.”
As soon as it had started, however, the fit subsided and Qui-Gon settled back, breathing hard.
“An-Paj?” he rasped hoarsely. “I wasn’t aware that I’d died.”
“You haven’t,” An-Paj assured, out of breath himself.
“Oh, no?” Qui-Gon muttered. “Then, why did we both go to hell?”
“You think he killed them?”
Obi-Wan turned a stern look on Jemmiah. “What makes you say that?” he demanded around a mouthful of bread. “They’re capable Healers and he wouldn’t do anything…”
He broke off, coloring slightly. Of course, he would have also said that Qui-Gon would never hurt either of them a day ago.
“It’ll be fine,” he corrected himself lamely.
She sighed, burrowing deeper against his side as she reached for some of the julaberries. “Ben?”
She seemed to hesitate around the words, but at last after two more julaberries and another theatrical sigh, decided to voice her thoughts. “I was worried about you last night.”
He had no way of explaining how much he felt the same way, because she probably knew and didn’t want to be fussed over, so he simply stole a julaberry off her pile and kissed the top of her head.
Within the minute, they were both finally asleep.