Characters: Vader, Daine Jir, Luke Skywalker, various other officers and stormtroopers
Disclaimer: All Star Wars characters, locations and concepts belong to George Lucas. This story was written for entertainment and is not an attempt to make a profit or infringe copyrights. The original ideas contained in this story belong to the author. Not tested on animals.
Summary: For years, Commander Daine Jir has had an 'interesting' job as Lord Vader's faithful aide-de-camp. Now things are getting downright out of hand as he finds himself marooned in a broken fragment of Lord Vader's flagship, the Executor, after the battle of Endor. To make matters worse, he seems to have picked up a ghostly 'helper'.
This particlar set of stories feature Commander Daine Jir, an Imperial seen in Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope. For years I only knew him as, "Lord Vader's aide-de-camp on Tantive IV who talks bluntly to him about Princess Leia and doesn't get his neck broke for his trouble."
It’s so cold. He lay curled on his side in darkness, shivering in the deep chill, aching all over.
“Commander Jir, rise!”
The voice held a tone of absolute command, waking him, cutting through the haze that held him in thrall.
With a sharp shudder Daine Jir opened his eyes and scrambled to his feet, retrieving his hat from where it lay on the deck. He was in a corridor half-filled with wreckage tumbled from various compartments by the wild motion of the starship. Harsh emergency lighting provided the only illumination. An odd feeling of vertigo provided evidence the artificial gravity was damaged.
“Who – who’s there?” he croaked. His muscles shivered convulsively in the icy air and he wrapped his arms around himself as he staggered stiffly forward. His breath drifted away in soft clouds of condensation. He could see no other living person in the corridor, nor could he hear any intra-ship announcements or alarms. The stillness was unnatural. A faint, acrid smell of burning stung his nostrils.
“Ship’s been hit,” he concluded, quickly surveying the brutal evidence provided by the scattered bodies of star destroyer personnel. They seemed to have died from blunt trauma – crushed by machinery or heavy droids as the ship lost both gravity and power in its spinning trajectory through space. Jir took a cautious step forward. While his legs and arms ached from the tumble and sported a number of bleeding scratches, he seemed to be more or less whole and with that knowledge came the responsibility of his rank.
“My men.” He looked up and down the corridor but saw no sign of the stormtroopers under his command. His own comlink was lost. Rummaging about in the debris, he spotted the edge of a trooper’s utility belt and dragged it out from under a smashed maintenance droid. Fastening it around his waist, he pulled the comlink free and thumbed the key. “Platoons RM-39, AR-277, MZ-420, this is Commander Jir. Report in.” A long silence ensued, punctuated only by the gentle hiss and crackle of the carrier.
“Commander, Private Tunrin RM-39-06, here.” The private’s voice was a low croak.
Jir’s heart leaped. At least one of his men was alive. “Private! State your location and condition.”
“I’m… On level 59, section A-4, near the forward lateral turbolaser batteries. My leg’s cut up a bit, but otherwise I’m all right. We’re on emergency lighting, though, and I haven’t had any transmissions from the bridge or chain of command for over 25 minutes.”
“How many are with you?”
“From our unit… four, Sir. We’ve pulled together any surviving crew we could find as well.” A pause as Tunrin queried his companions. “We’ve got three technicians, two gun crew, a fire control ensign – he’s not in good shape, and that’s all we could find so far. Haven’t mounted a full search of the adjoining compartments yet. Corporal Darklan has a medpac and is doing what he can for the injured.”
“Is anyone able-bodied enough to assist in a search?” asked Jir, frowning as he sought to reconcile his own position with that of his men.
“Corporal Darklan, Sir. He’s the only one with both arms and legs working. I’ll be able to walk once he patches my leg.”
“Have him attend to the wounded. You can search once you’ve been seen to. How is hull integrity up there?”
“Atmosphere feels all right, I don’t think we’re leaking, at least not yet. Blast door up the hall is sealed, however.”
Jir considered this information while assessing his own position. “I think it’s leaking down here. Its freezing cold, I suspect some of the compartments have been vented. Sit tight, Private, and I’ll come to you. I’m on Level 44, so I’ve got a bit of a hike ahead of me. Keep monitoring the com – let me know if anyone else in command checks in. I’ll collect everyone I can find on the way over.”
“Yes, Sir. Tunrin out.” The comlink clicked off.
Jir attached the comlink to the utility belt and, after orienting himself, set off down the hall. He wasn’t sure how badly the massive ship had been damaged, but this section was certainly out of commission. A bank of turbolifts clustered at a juncture point, but they sat blank and dark. Jir sighed at that. “No power. Figures.” Muttering under his breath, he found the emergency access hatches flanking the lifts and with some effort wrestled one open. A gust of arctic air greeted him as he peeked cautiously up the tube. Open gridded metal stairs spiraled upward as far as he could see. The stairs appeared clear and he did not smell any smoke, which was one good point.
He shivered again as he entered the access way and began to climb. “Wished I’d gotten suited-up before this party broke.” Being an officer and in a staff meeting, he had been clothed in day uniform rather than his armor when the call to battle sounded. Now he missed the protection from cold and vacuum that the standard troopers’ suit provided. Unfortunately the decks housing the stormtrooper units and spare armor were far removed from his current position. The thought of stripping a suit from a fallen comrade was unappealing, but the situation might well demand it of him. So far he had not seen any slain troopers and, while that was cheering, it literally left him in the cold. Also in the back of his mind was worry over Lord Vader, whom he served as aide-de-camp as required. The Dark Lord had taken a shuttle to be with the Emperor aboard the Death Star and had not yet returned.
“All right, worrying about it isn’t going to help. I’ll deal with my men first, and attend to Lord Vader when I can find him.” Letting his hands trail on the railings Jir climbed as quickly as he could. At each level he checked the access hatch. Red telltale lights revealed hard vacuum beyond the hatchway. He went onward. After several levels he heard the soft creak of stressed metal echoing along the shaft. “How bad were we hit?” he wondered aloud as he tried to hurry his pace. “Bad enough, I suppose.” His heart labored and he panted heavily, trying to draw in enough air to support his physical activity. “C’mon, I know I’m in good shape!” Jir thought about it for a minute. “Atmosphere’s thin and getting thinner.” The conclusion was unwelcome. Metal groaned again, louder. Jir paused and looked up. Somewhere high above in the shaft a large object shifted slightly.
At the prompting of the voice, Jir scrambled desperately upward to the next level, gaining the slight protection of the access hatch. He wedged himself into that small opening as the groan of metal became a terrible, rending shriek. As he watched in fascination, one of the lifts tore free of its mounting and fell down the shaft, caroming off the walls as it came. Jir pressed back into his little alcove and waited. Seconds later the lift hurtled by his position, trailing bits of broken metal and cables that slashed the air wildly like the tendrils of some wounded alien beast. A cable end snapped past his head, knocking off his hat and notching a piece out of the durasteel above. It wasn’t until he felt the warm trickle of blood on his face that he realized he had been cut on the forehead. Occasional swipes with his sleeve kept the blood from running into his eyes until the little rivulet dried up.
The immediate danger over, Jir resumed his climb until he reached Level 50. There he discovered the falling lift had ruined the stairway from that point onward. He could go no higher. Fortunately the telltales on the hatch showed green rather than airless red. Once again he worked with the locks holding the hatch closed. After some effort and cursing, the hatch opened, allowing him into the level itself. He peered through the portal and coughed as the acrid smell of charred electronics wafted to his nose and caught at his lungs. Keeping low to avoid the pall of smoke, Jir entered the corridor and began working his way toward the next set of vertical lifts, keeping an eye out for survivors as he went. This section seemed to be in even worse shape than the one he had left, with the mangled bodies of crewers piled in heaps along the walls. The sight gave him chills.
“What happened here?” he asked himself as he skirted a mound of the slain. A wave of vertigo gave him some warning. “The gravity generator!” Pulling the grapple from his utility belt, he made it fast to a stanchion as the gravity first fluctuated then abruptly changed the orientation of ‘down’ from floor to ceiling. Everything in the corridor fell onto the ceiling. Jir, arrested by his line, hung from the floor, fighting disorientation and trying not to look too closely at the horrible mess.
“Sithspawn.” Now progress became even slower as Jir was forced to belay himself at stages as he went. The gravity changed at random intervals, making free movement nearly impossible. Worst was when the gravity finally slewed around to point down the length of the corridor, causing everything not tied down to plunge away into the depths. As he had in the lift shaft, Jir anchored himself in the opening of a compartment and prayed nothing large would sweep him from the precarious safety of his shelter. Severl times he fell for a few feet before being arrested by his line. His ribs ached and his muscles were screaming at the overuse by the time he rappelled his way to the lift tubes.
These lifts were likewise dark and still. Jir did not bother trying to use them, going instead directly to the access hatch and keying it open. Once in the lift tube he found the air cold but clean, and the stairway leading upward appeared to be intact. The gravity in the tube was lighter, but seemed to have a stable up and down orientation. Pausing to catch his breath he took out the comlink. “Private Tunrin, Commander Jir. Come in.”
“Commander, I copy.”
“How is the gravity generator in your section? On level 50 it’s fluctuating wildly. I found no survivors.”
“The gravity? Seems all right for now, Sir. Maybe a little under normal.”
“Assess your location. I’ve got a nasty feeling the gravity generators are losing power. So far the lift tubes are the only place where they’re working normally. Get yourselves to a sheltered position where you won’t be crushed if the gravity reverses and secure everyone to the deck. Use safety line procedures if you’ve got to go anywhere.” Jir glanced at the luminous number on the wall of the lift shaft. “I’m on level 55 now, I should be there fairly soon.”
“Very good, Sir. I’ll leave the nav beacon on so you can home in on us.”
“Excellent. Jir out.” A groan startled him and he hesitated. “Is anyone alive?” he called. Another moan of pain answered him.
“Help…” The voice was faint, but definitely close.
Easing himself back through the access portal Jir carefully made his way to the lift tubes. One of them was now partly open and an arm dangled out into the corridor. The fingers twitched slightly. “Hold on, I’ll get you out.” The lift doors yielded after some diligent effort and he was able to pull the injured person out into the hall. For the moment the gravity was actually normal. The survivor was a woman, clad in a technician’s coverall. Her face was so blackened by soot he could not tell if she was young or aged. A great oozing lump swelled on her temple, but other than that Jir could see no obvious injuries. Carefully he carried her into the marginally greater safety of the lift tube access, propped her into a sitting position, and took a small medkit from his borrowed belt.
After a few minutes her eyes opened and she squinted at him as if trying to bring him into focus. She took in his rank badges and black uniform. “’Trooper Commander,” she murmured. “How’d you get up here?”
“I’ve been doing a lot of climbing.” Jir’s voice was dry as he dabbed some antiseptic on her contusion. “You’re the first person I’ve found alive during my travels. I’m going to level 59 to join up with my men – what’s left of them.”
“Fify-nine? That should be all right. Got some transmissions from the Black Gang up there before I fell and passed out. Hutt-slime backup gravity generators aren’t worth a damn. I was trying to fix the lift when they failed. If it wasn’t for the fact I fell into the lift itself, I’d have been crushed to pulp with everyone else on this level. May the Dark take all low-bid contractors!”
“Hold still a moment.” Now that Jir had finished doctoring her battered temple, she reached out, took the antiseptic and a wad of gauze from him and began to dab at his forehead in turn.
Jir sucked in a sharp breath as the antiseptic stung the wound in his scalp.
“You got a nasty cut here, Commander. It’s gonna need sutures or bacta or something.”
“I’m lucky; it could’ve been a lot lower.” He mimed cutting his throat with a finger, smiling as he did so. “My name’s Daine Jir. Who’re you?”
“Me? Koria Drycin, Chief Technician.” She finished cleaning up his cut and flung the bloody bit of gauze over the edge into the gulf of the lift tube. “Me and my crew were supposed to be keeping this tub working.” Drycin made a pained face. “At least until the Rebels blew the crap out of us.” Her expression became sad. “I appreciate the rescue, but we’re dead, you know.”
“No, we’re not. Why do you say that?” Jir put a hand under her arm and helped Drycin to her feet. She wobbled a little then firmed up. “Come on, let’s get climbing. Moving will do you good. I’m going to rope us together just in case the gravity in the tube decides to go.” Suiting the deed to the words he made a second safety harness out of some line, looped it around the tech and secured it, then measured a length of rope and fastened them together. Once he was sure she understood to follow, he set off up the stairway.
“You weren’t watching the scopes, Commander. The ship has been destroyed. We took a direct hit in the shields and then everything the Rebels threw at us afterward got through.”
“Well, I’ll grant this section doesn’t seem to be in very good shape, but it’s certainly not destroyed.” Jir waited for her to catch up, repositioning his safety line. “Perhaps the ship is salvageable?”
“No, Sir.” Drycin shook her head as she joined him on the narrow landing. “I told you, the ship was wrecked. We’re in a piece – a large fragment – that got shattered off before the entire thing blew. I don’t know what the main hull of the ship hit, I was off trying to fix the lift by then, but I felt the shockwave. It’s gone. The Executor is no more.”
Jir set his jaw stubbornly. “Are you absolutely sure?”
“I can’t show you a holo as proof, no.” She waved a hand at the space around them. “But think about it – no intra-ship communications, power failures, gravity generators are damaged, and many of the compartments are leaking. It all adds up. These capital ships were built to be modular, to survive bad hits and keep on fighting. Many of the sections are independent. As long as the compartments aren’t vented, people will survive in them for awhile. You could tear a big piece out of the ship and it would continue to run for a time.”
“How long would a large fragment survive?” Jir checked the level marker. It read 57. Like most of the other levels, the telltales shone red.
“I don’t know. A couple hours, obviously. Maybe a few days. But once the backup power fails that’ll be it. We’ll either freeze to death or die from lack of oxygen.” She looked suddenly cheerful. “Or maybe we’ll fall into this system’s sun or something? That’d be quicker.”
“Don’t give up. If we’re that large a piece of the ship, someone may well find us. Without shields, our life energy will show up on scanners.” Jir climbed the last set of stairs and waited on the level 59 landing, breathing hard. His lungs ached and he wondered if he had managed to break a few ribs during his traverse of level 50.
“I hadn’t thought of that. Sometimes people do get rescued from wrecked ships. Those old Victory-class cruisers were known for keeping their crews alive after a wreck.” Drycin waited as Jir worked the hatch controls. “What’s the odds of our own forces finding us?”
“Pretty good, I’d say. The Rebels should be in full retreat by now.”
“Uh-huh.” Drycin’s tone was neutral, but she said nothing further.
At last Jir persuaded the hatch to open. Cautiously he looked into the corridor beyond. “Seems all right and the air smells clean. Don’t see the heaps of bodies like I did on your level.” Taking a precautionary turn of line on the stairway railing he eased himself through the hatch and into the corridor. “Gravity feels light, but stable so far. Come on through.”
Drycin followed him into the corridor, pausing to release the line and close the hatch behind her. Jir kept a belay on various sturdy points as they progressed up the hall, but the gravity did not fluctuate. Jir pulled out his comlink and checked the beacon. “This way.”
“Where are your men?” Drycin paused to pull a medpac out of an emergency station set into the bulkhead beside a blast door. The door was half-open. Jir jumped through the gap and helped her over the high threshold.
“Section A-4, last time they gave me a position. They might’ve moved after I spoke to them. I told them to find a secure place in case the gravity decided to fail.”
Drycin grunted. “It would be better if it did fail. It’s the fluctuations that are killing us. If I live through this, I’m going to find whoever designed those machines and put a blaster bolt through their brains.”
“Don’t be so hasty. It could be simply that there’s not enough power to keep them running properly.” He nodded at another bank of dark lifts. “Those aren’t working, so why should anything else? I’m more surprised we’ve got some level of power at all.”
“You’re awfully forgiving for a stormtrooper.” Drycin eyed him as if she was suddenly unsure of his credentials.
“I still have a mind, thank you. I didn’t abandon the ability to think when I took my training,” Jir said tartly.
“Sorry, didn’t mean any insult,” said Drycin, holding up a hand. “You’ve been doing wonderfully, honest.”
Jir smiled tightly. “I’ll call it ‘wonderful’ when we’re out of here in one piece.”
“No argument there, Commander.”
Jir found his stormtroopers not far from the section named by Private Tunrin. The men had located a smallish wardroom off the main corridor and in that relative shelter they had set up a field clinic. Wounded crew lay in neat rows along the walls, secured in place with netting normally used to hold down cargo. Those up and attending to the injured wore safety harnesses similar to the ones Jir had rigged for himself and Drycin.
Nearly everyone in the room sported one or more field dressings. The one person not bandaged was a trooper acting as medic. He had removed the upper armor from his body to increase his range of motion and was kneeling by an injured naval officer, scanning him with a medpac and frowning at the readouts. He looked up as Jir and Drycin entered the room and gave the officer a quick salute.
“Commander Jir, glad to see you, Sir.”
Jir returned the salute. “Corporal Darklan. Things look in good order, well done.”
“Thank you, Sir. Private Tunrin and Specialist Gerain have been bringing in everyone they could find. I think we’ve almost got ‘em all.” As he finished, two more men entered the room, carrying another crewer between them on a stretcher. They moved stiffly, both of them sporting bandaged limbs, but they handled their charge with care. When they saw Jir they grinned.
“Commander Jir! I knew you’d get here eventually.” Tunrin turned to his comrade as they placed the stretcher on the deck and lifted off the injured man. “See, told you so! If anybody could make it, it’d be our Commander.”
“Are all the survivors gathered in?” Jir asked Private Tunrin. He moved the men away from Corporal Darklan, giving the medic the floor space he needed for his new patient.
“We got everyone accessible on this deck, Sir. Did you find anyone else on the way up?”
“Only one, Chief Drycin here. The remaining crew on level 50 was crushed in the gravity failures and the other decks were in vacuum.”
“What of the Captain? The Admiral?” Specialist Gerain asked, looking from Jir to Drycin.
Drycin shook her head slowly. “Everything from the main turbolaser decks up to the command decks is gone. We lost communications hours ago and haven’t heard anything since. It doesn’t look good.”
“Damn Rebels!” Gerain clenched his fists.
“Save your energy for something useful,” said Jir. The emergency lights flickered slightly. He walked to the door and looked out into the corridor. “I want you and Tunrin to assist Corporal Darklan until I return. Continue using ropes and safety rigging. Once the power goes so will the gravity – at least that’s been our experience so far, and I don’t want us to be caught by surprise.”
“Return, Sir? Where are you going?” Tunrin looked at his commander in concern. “You only just got here. You should at least let Darklan do something for your cut.”
Jir took a length of bandage from the medpac Drycin had carried and wound it around his forehead, covering the cut. Drycin assisted him in making a quick and tidy dressing over the injury. “This will do. There’s no time to waste. I need to close all the blast doors and seal off this section from the decks below. Almost all of the sections have been hulled and we’re bleeding atmosphere. If we want to have a fighting chance, we’ve got to stop those leaks.”
“I’ll go with you,” offered Drycin.
“No, you’ve been unconscious and may have a concussion. Stay here and have Corporal Darklan scan you. If you test clear, you can check the blast doors that have already closed on this level and make sure they stay sealed. Take one of the men with you and use rigging as you proceed. You don’t want to end up like...” Jir pointed to the deck under his feet.
Drycin nodded. “All right, I’ll do that, Commander, but if you’re going to go off by yourself, take my toolkit with you. You may need to hot-wire the doors to make them work.” She offered him the technician’s kit she had carried on her back.
“Thanks. I don’t want to take all the tools, but a few would come in handy.” Jir scanned the contents of the pack, selected several items, and tucked them into his utility belt. “Chief Drycin, you are senior and will have command in my absence.”
“I know, but if it comes to fighting, I will defer to Corporal Darklan.” Drycin nodded at the stormtrooper-cum medic.
“I hope we don’t have to do any fighting, but if we must, you can trust my men to do what is necessary.” Jir thought about their situation for a minute as he prepared to leave. He directed his next statement at his men. “I don’t want any blaster fire, even if it is the Rebels who rescue us – we don’t need any more air-leaks, understood?”
“But Sir, if the Rebels…” began Tunrin, his voice holding a note of protest.
“If the Rebels don’t come in shooting, you’ll thank them kindly for the rescue and go with them, Private. The Empire will arrange a POW-swap for us eventually, so don’t waste your life on a futile gesture, understood?”
Tunrin sighed heavily but nodded his acquiescence. “Yes, Sir, understood.”
“Excellent. Sit tight and I’ll be back as soon as I’m finished.” Jir left the wardroom and gathered up his grapple and line to risk a quick un-tethered sprint down the long corridor toward an intersection housing a thick set of blast doors. The doors were currently open. His lungs were aching by the time he reached them. He caught himself against the doorframes. He moved on once the mist had cleared from his vision.
“Commander Jir, a challenge awaits you.”
Jir jumped and spun around, making an abortive grab for his nonexistent sidearm. He froze in place, his hand still reaching for a blaster that would have been there had he been in armor. Standing perhaps ten feet away was a man dressed in robes of dark brown. A lightsaber hung from his belt. Jir looked at the weapon and his skin prickled. Not just any man then, but a Jedi. Jir frowned. But there weren’t any Jedi, were there?
“Who are you?” he called. His heart was still racing from the rush of adrenaline and grayness threatened to encroach on his eyesight once again.
The lights faded as the power in this section failed, leaving him in the dark. Well, that wasn’t quite right, he saw. A soft glow came from the body of the man who had spoken to him.
The voice… the voice was somehow familiar. Jir rubbed his aching ribs and settled for tugging down the hem of his tunic. He was going to have to use words rather than weapons, if the Jedi decided to start a fight.
“Didn’t think I had any Jedi friends,” Jir replied, keeping a wary eye on the lightsaber.
“Perhaps you didn’t,” said the man, his voice sounding sad. “But you served one faithfully, once.”
“A Jedi? Oh! Lord Vader.” Jir nodded as he made the mental connection. “Yes, I serve him.” He looked at the Jedi in sudden hope. “Tell me, is he still alive? I’m trying to get out of here with my people. If he’s alive, we’ll get back to him, somehow!”
The Jedi shook his head slowly. “Darth Vader is… free, and suffers no longer.”
Jir felt his heart sink at the tone of the Jedi’s words. “Free.” He shivered as the cold penetrated his clothing. The warmth was fading along with the light and power. “Just like I’ll soon be ‘free’ if I don’t figure out a way to seal off this section and keep my surviving crew alive.”
“All are one in the Force, Daine Jir, do not be afraid.”
“The Force.” Jir snorted. “Right. I’d rather we stay among the living.”
The glimmering man grinned suddenly, looking young and vital. “If you do not want to go into the Force so quickly, I am permitted to help you.” He pointed down the dark tunnel of the corridor. “Two intersections from here is the main control for the blast doors in this entire section of the ship. If you hot-wire them, I will see about restoring power long enough to run them all closed.”
“Can you do that?” Jir was already moving in the direction the Jedi had indicated, pulling a small light from his belt.
The glowing man faded away as he moved off. Jir trotted down the gloomy hall with his light providing a bobbing little area of illumination, jumping over the occasional mound of debris. “Jedi on the Executor. How did that happen?” he wondered, shaking his head. “And why do I trust him?” He could not articulate any reason for that trust, but there it was, making him take the strange Jedi’s suggestions as if they were orders from the Emperor himself.
At last Jir found the large panel housing the controls for the section’s blast doors. Taking out the few tools he had borrowed from Drycin, he removed the panel covers. Underneath, half the wiring was fused. He glared at it, propped his light up on a pile of wreckage, knelt before the ruined tangle, and stripped away the wires that looked the least damaged. When he had amassed enough wire, he began cross-connecting the leads. For that delicate task he removed his gloves. His fingers quickly went numb and stiff in the cold air and he noticed his breath was visible in the small beam of his light.
“Tatooine is starting to feel like a fond memory,” he muttered, trying to wrap a bit of bare wire around the small metal terminal nub and pricking his fingers for his trouble.
“You wouldn’t say that if you’d grown up there.” The Jedi moved gracefully up from the deck to one side, passing easily through the durasteel as if it were air. “The power is ready.” He looked at the mass of wires hanging from the control panel. “Excellent, you’re almost done.”
Jir flinched at the uncanny feat. “You’re a ghost!” Sweat sprang out on his cold skin. He clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering.
“No, a Force-spirit.” The Jedi corrected him almost absently, pointed at a stray wire. “Connect that one over here.”
“There’s a difference?” The ancient legends of derelict ships crewed by the spirits of the dead danced through Jir’s mind even as his hands followed the Jedi’s instructions. To meet a ghost aboard ship almost certainly meant you were doomed to the same fate. “I don’t want to serve forever on the Red Rowan. Or the Executor, for that matter.”
“All will be well.” The Jedi spoke soothingly as he pointed at another relay. “That is the last one. Once it is connected, the doors will close.”
“Good. No time like the present.”
“Wait a moment, we’re forgetting something…” The Jedi scratched his head as if trying to aid his memory.
“It can’t be anything too important. You fixed the power; I fixed the wiring, so we’re ready.” Jir drew on his gloves, worked a hook into the end of the last wire and quickly clipped it over the terminal the Jedi had indicated. At once the sounds of the motors powering the blast doors echoed from many places.
“Jir! You’re on the wrong side of the doors!” The Jedi waved at him urgently, pointing down the hall. “Run, run now!”
“Shavvit!” Jir sprinted away from the control panel toward the juncture point where a set of blast doors were closing all too fast. He would have cursed his stupidity, but there wasn’t enough extra air for the effort. He ran, his lungs burning in the icy atmosphere. Ahead of him, the doors irised ponderously toward closure. The gravity felt somewhat lighter than normal and Jir risked a long dive toward the shrinking gap. He pitched through, feeling the doors scrape his boot-soles as he cleared the barrier and measured his length on the deck. The heavy clang behind him sounded ominously final.
For several minutes he laid face-down on the deck, trying and slowly succeeding at getting air into his strained lungs. When he was sure he could see again, he pulled himself up onto his knees, felt around, retrieved his small light, and stood up carefully. His entire chest felt as if it was smoldering slowly and he grimaced at the sensation. “Should’ve thought to take a painkiller with me.” He began to make his way back to the section housing his men. “I don’t suppose falling on broken ribs does them any good.” He set off at a slow walk, trying to breathe gently.
The trip back in the dark seemed far longer than when his way had been lit by the emergency lights. At last the circle of lamplight fell on an obstruction. Jir stopped and stared in disbelief. A pair of blast doors, unnoticed by him as he left on his mission, had closed just two rooms away from where he had left his men, walling him off between the two main sections. He placed his gloved hands on the doors. They were quite solid and real. He touched the control panel, but the power that had moved the doors shut had faded away; there was no way to open them short of a heavy beam cutter.
His comlink crackled and he plucked it from his belt and switched it on. “Jir.”
“Commander, you did it! The blast doors are all closed!” Tunrin’s voice was relieved. “Where are you?”
“Closer than you think,” said Jir. He leaned forward and let his forehead touch the metal of the door. It was like ice and he jerked back. “But not close enough.”
“What? What’s your location, Sir?”
“Two rooms from your current position – behind a set of blast doors I overlooked.”
“What?!” Jir heard a confused babble arise as Tunrin relayed Jir’s information to his companions. Soon he heard a metallic tapping on the other side of the barrier. “This door?” Tunrin asked as he tapped.
Jir lifted a pair of pliers from his belt and tapped back. “Yes, this is the one.”
“How do I open it?”
“I don’t think you can.” Jir made a face at the door.
“Hold your position, Sir! Chief Drycin is here.” After a bit of rustling, Jir heard the technician’s voice.
“Commander Jir, how did you manage to get yourself on the wrong side of the doors?” Her tones were strained with worry.
“Sheer talent,” he said dryly. “I barely made it through one set, but forgot about this one. Couldn’t be helped, the main control panel was all the way down at the other end of this corridor.”
“Stars. We can’t leave you stuck out there, you’ll freeze.”
“Am freezing,” Jir replied, watching the white smoke his speech generated drift away in curls from the beam of his light. The effects of adrenaline, injury, and effort were starting to make themselves known. His muscles shivered uncontrollably and he wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep. Sleep in this cold would be fatal, he knew.
“Commander Jir, listen to me.” Drycin spoke firmly and calmly. “There will be another wardroom a few compartments away from these doors – a twin to the one we’re set up in. Inside will be a small technician's break room with blankets. Grab as many as you need, but come back and wait here. I’m going to take some of the men and look for a portable power supply or droid. Once I have that, I’ll be able to jury-rig the doors open, all right? Don’t give up!”
“Not yet,” said Jir, nodding at the comlink and then realizing Drycin could not see the gesture. “Very good, Chief, carry on. I’ll be here.” He cut the connection and pushed the encroaching fog of despair into the back of his mind. Turning his light into the corridor again he set off to search out the wardroom. “I’m not going to live this one down. Assuming I live.” Laughing hurt, but he chuckled anyway. It was morbid humor, but it raised his spirits.
Constrained by his stiffening muscles and the thin air, Jir felt as if he were moving over a tanglefoot zone. It took almost half an hour to find the small break room nested in the larger wardroom and ‘liberate’ a number of blankets. Returning at last to the doors with his trove of warm material, he wrapped himself up snugly to settle down with his back against the threshold. His chest ached abominably and he wished again for the painkillers to be found in the standard medpac. The thought of wandering around in the dark looking for one did not appeal to him. “Guess I’ll wait for a little,” he muttered. The warmth felt good and his shivers eased.
“Daine Jir, you must not sleep. Wake up!”
“Wha…” Jir started as the voice tugged him back to wakefulness. “’M not asleep. Not really.” He rubbed a knuckle into one eye and yawned.
The glowing Jedi stood before him, hands on his hips, frowning at the blast door. “I thought you were safely inside with your people.”
“Well, I would be, but I forgot about this extra pair of doors, and I haven’t your talent for walking through walls.” Jir paused for air and found a cough escaping despite his best effort. “I don’t suppose you could drag me through there?”
The Jedi shook his head. “Not unless you were in the same state as I am, and you said earlier you didn’t want to go into the Force so quickly. Have you changed your mind?” He looked at Jir curiously.
“No, thanks.” Jir spoke between coughs. “I rather like being alive.” He scowled. “Although it might be a moot point soon enough; feels like the air’s getting thinner. It’s hard to breathe.”
“It is. There must be some pinpoint leaks in this section. The separation of this piece from the main hull of the ship was not clean, there are stress fractures everywhere. From outside, you can see the damage – it’s most impressive in an ugly sort of way.”
“What about the section where the crew is now?” Jir looked anxiously at the Jedi.
“Sealed tight, they’re doing fine.”
“Good. Then it was worth it to close the doors.” He fought against the nagging urge to keep coughing but had to give in. Once started it was hard to stop and the effort made little spots of light dance behind his eyes. When he could focus again he found the Jedi had moved closer and was looking at him intently.
“You are suffering from altitude sickness.” The Jedi pointed at Jir’s chest, swathed in layers of blanket. “The apparent altitude in here is higher than what humans can endure. You are getting pneumonia.” He narrowed his eyes as if concentrating. “You are also bleeding into your lungs in several places. That’s no good.”
“Granted, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Perhaps not, but there is something I can do. Several things.” Squatting down, The Jedi held out a hand toward Jir. “If you will permit, I will put you into a Jedi healing trance, and then I will stop the bleeding in your lungs.”
“Stop the bleeding how?” Jir did not see any medpac on the Jedi’s person, ghostly or temporal.
“With this, of course.” The Jedi lifted the lightsaber clear of his belt.
Jir woke up thoroughly at that and made an effort to push his body backward. Since he was leaning against the blast door he did not get very far and only succeeded in aggravating his strained muscles. “Are you a medic?” he blurted, not caring that he sounded horrified. He was.
“Not exactly, no.” The Jedi grinned suddenly, looking almost mischievous. “I do have a lot of experience with fixing things, however, and I can see where the damage is in your body. If I spot-weld those few places, it should hold until help arrives.”
“Help is coming?” Jir grasped at both the offered straw of hope and the distraction.
“Yes, although I had to go and wake them up a little. They are on their way and should be here in time for your people. It’s getting you through the next hour or two that concerns me now.” The Jedi raised his hand again. “So, let me put you into a healing trance…”
Jir bumped his head against the door as he tried to pull it back out of range. “Wait! Is this some polite way of killing me? If that’s the case, I’d rather you weren’t polite. Just kill me and be done with it. I’m a soldier, I understand these things.”
“I’m very aware that you do, Commander Jir,” the Jedi sighed softly. “But I’m not trying to kill you, politely or otherwise.” He held up the lightsaber. “It is simply that I have never tried to heal with this. While I know it can stop the bleeding, I don’t know if it will hurt you or not. I suspect it will. Pain can slay as swiftly as any weapon and I would spare you that. If you sleep in a healing trance, you will not feel anything, nor will you move around as I work.”
Jir shook his head. “I’d prefer to be awake. No insult, but if I’m gonna die, I’d rather be awake for it and not be euthanized like some pet.” He shrugged. “If it kills me, so what?” Jir waited, wondering what he could do if the Jedi refused his request. How could you fight off a ghost? He wasn’t even sure if he could run any distance, never mind conduct an effective defense.
The Jedi considered his words for what seemed to be a very long time, at least time measured in the swift beating of Jir’s heart. Finally he nodded. “Very well, Commander, let it be as you wish.” He rose. “Stand up and face me squarely.”
Shrugging out of the blankets, Jir struggled to his feet. The effort it took to complete that simple movement made it clear there was no way he could fight. Locking his knees, he let his shoulder blades rest against the door, which helped to steady him. He felt an odd exhilaration rather than fear. I never did have much sense, he thought.
The Jedi looked at Jir’s chest as if pinpointing certain things only he could see. He nodded and lifted the lightsaber. “Very good, let us begin.” From the end of the handle sprouted a thin blade of light so bright it seemed to have leaped from the heart of a blue star.
Quickly Jir raised his hands to shield his eyes. Even through his flesh and bones he could see it, although the glare was bearable.
“Excellent. Keep your arms up and don’t move,” said the Jedi. He sounded utterly calm.
Through the barrier of his hands Jir could see the lightsaber flick toward him, the point touching the lower left side of his chest and penetrating inward. For just a moment it lingered then slid upward, stopped, jogged sideways and moved up again, from one lobe of his lung to another. It didn’t actually hurt as Jir knew pain, but it was a touch so very intense that it went somewhere beyond agony, brushing his nerves with strange fire. When the blade of light reached the uppermost part of his lung it drew out slightly, skipped delicately over his heart, moved to the right lung, pushed inward, and performed a similar pattern down that side. The blade withdrew and the actinic light vanished as the Jedi switched the weapon off. Jir lowered his hands and blinked in the gloom. The Jedi’s glowing body swam into view as his vision cleared and adjusted.
“Bravely done, my friend, no Jedi could have done better.” The Jedi watched him closely. “How do you feel?”
“Fine.” Jir was still trying to interpret the messages his body was sending him. Most of the incoming communications seemed to involve laughing, screaming, or both. He breathed very shallowly and tried to ignore the input.
“Liar,” the Jedi said in affectionate tones.
“All right, it feels… funny, ok?” Jir conceded the point as he folded his wobbly legs and sank down into the nest of blankets piled at his ankles. After some fumbling about he pulled them around his shoulders and took up his former position leaning against the door.
“You are so stubborn, it’s one of the things I like about you,” said the Jedi with a smile. He knelt in front of the officer. “You have ten deep cauterizations in your chest. I would prefer it if you didn’t move around much.”
“’M not going anywhere,” Jir vowed. Indeed he doubted if he could have stood up again, no matter what sort of bizarre plan the Jedi might spring on him. The burst of excitement had faded, leaving him exhausted.
“You need to rest, and the healing trance is the only safe way you can do it in this place. The air is too thin now. If you remain awake, you will need more oxygen and by breathing deeper you will damage your lungs further. In the trance, I can slow your metabolism down to the point where you can sleep and heal safely.” He scooted closer to Jir and looked into his face. “Are you willing to sleep for a little?”
“Sure, fr’now,” Jir replied fuzzily. Sleep sounded very good – the need for it overriding his fear of never waking. “Jus’ no lightsabers while I’m out, allright?”
The Jedi smiled. “Promise. No lightsabers.”
“Go ahead.” Jir watched through half-closed eyes as the Jedi reached toward his head. As the ghostly fingers touched his temple, he felt the slightest wisp of sensation, followed immediately by encroaching drowsiness.
“Sleep now, Daine Jir. Sleep and heal. When you next wake, you will be safe.”
Jir began to drift off, but a sudden surge of curiosity kept him conscious long enough to ask “Wait a moment – your name, what’s your name?”
“It is not important. I am just a friend.”
“You have my name,” Jir insisted, fighting off the tidal pull of weariness. “Please give me yours.”
The Jedi sighed and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. “Anakin, my name is Anakin.”
“Anakin,” said Jir, relaxing. “Anakin.”
The names echoed curiously in his mind as sleep finally dragged him under and he knew nothing further.
Continued in Part Two.