Infirmary Level, Jedi Temple, Coruscant
The medical readout board on the carbonite pod flickered, then went dark, announcing that the young man just being thawed from suspended animation—Valin Horn, Jedi Knight—was dead.
Master Cilghal, preeminent physician of the Jedi Order, felt a jolt of alarm ripple through the Force. It was not her own alarm. The emotion was the natural reaction of all those gathered to see Valin and his sister, Jysella, rescued from an unfair, unwarranted sentence imposed not by a court of justice, but by Galactic Alliance Chief of State Daala herself. Had they come to see these Jedi Knights freed and instead become witness to a tragedy?
But what Cilghal didn’t feel in the Force was the winking out of a life. Valin was still there, a diminished but intact presence in the Force.
She waved at the assembly, a calming motion. “Be still.” She did not need to exert herself through the Force. Most of those present were Jedi Masters and Jedi Knights who respected her authority. Not one of them was easily panicked, not even the little girl beside Han and Leia.
Standing between Valin’s and Jysella’s hovergurneys with her assistant Tekli, Cilghal concentrated on the young man lying to her right. His body gleamed with a trace of dark fluid: all that remained of the melted carbonite that had imprisoned him. He was as still as the dead. Cilghal pressed her huge, webbed hand against his throat to check his pulse. She found it, shallow but steady.
The readout board flickered again and the lights came up in all their colors, strong, the pulse monitor flickering with Valin’s heartbeat, the encephaloscan beginning to jitter with its measurements of Valin’s brain activity.
Tekli, a Chadra-Fan, her diminutive size and glossy fur coat giving her the aspect of a plush toy instead of an experienced Jedi Knight and physician, spun away from Valin’s gurney and toward the one beside it. On it lay Jysella Horn, slight of build, also gleaming a bit with unevaporated carbonite residue. Tekli put one palm against Jysella’s forehead and pressed the fingers of her other hand across Jysella’s wrist.
Cilghal nodded. Computerized monitors might fail, but the Force sense of a trained Jedi would not, at least not under these conditions.
Tekli glanced back at Cilghal and gave a brisk nod. All was well.
The pulse under Cilghal’s hand began to strengthen and quicken. Also good, also normal.
Cilghal moved around the head of the gurney and stood on the far side, a step back from Valin. When he awoke, his vision would be clouded, and perhaps his judgment as well. It would not do for him to wake with a large form standing over him, gripping his throat. Violence might result.
She caught the attention of Corran and Mirax, parents of the two patients. “That was merely an electronic glitch.” Cilghal tried to make her tones reassuring, knowing her effort was not likely to succeed—Mon Calamari voices, suited to their larger-than-human frames, were resonant and even gravelly, an evolutionary adaptation that allowed them to be heard at greater distances in their native underwater environments. Unfortunately, they tended to sound harsh and even menacing to human ears. But she had to try. “They are fine.”
Corran, wearing green Jedi robes that matched the color of his eyes, heaved a sigh of relief. His wife, Mirax, dressed in a stylish jumpsuit in blacks and blues, smiled uncertainly as she asked, “What caused it?”
Cilghal offered a human-like shrug. “I’ll put the monitors in for evaluation once your children are checked out as stable. I suspect these monitors haven’t been tested or serviced since Valin and Jysella were frozen.” There, that was a well-delivered lie, dismissing the monitor’s odd behavior as irrelevant.
Valin stirred. Cilghal glanced down at him. The Jedi Knight’s eyes fluttered open and tried to fix on her, but seemed to have difficulty focusing.
Cilghal looked down at him. “Valin? Can you hear me?”
“I . . . I . . .” Valin’s voice was weak, watery.
“Don’t speak. Just nod.”
She was interrupted by a stage-whispered notification from Tekli: “Jysella is awake.”
Cilghal adjusted her angle so she could address both siblings. “You’ve been in carbonite suspension for some time. You feel cold, shaky, and disoriented. This is all normal. You are among friends. Do you understand me?”
Valin nodded again. Jysella’s “yes” was faint, but stronger and more controlled than Cilghal had expected.
“Your parents are here. I’ll allow them to speak to you in a moment. The Solos are here, as well.” And little Amelia and her pet Anji, both of whom smell like they’ve been rolling in seafood shells left rotting for a week. Cilghal had to blink over that fact. The child should have received a thorough disinfecting before being allowed in this chamber. Come to think of it, Barv also reeked. Where could a youngling and even a Jedi Knight go in the clean, austere Temple and end up smelling like that?
She set the question aside. “Bazel Warv is here, and Yaqeel Saav’etu, your friends. They can answer many questions about an ailment that afflicted the two of you just prior to your freezing.”
Jysella looked around, barely raising her head, her attention sliding across the faces of friends and loved ones, and then she looked at Valin. He must have felt her attention; he looked back. A thought, the sort of instant communication that only siblings can understand, passed between them. Then the two of them relaxed.
Jysella looked again at her parents. “Mom?”
At Cilghal’s nod, Mirax and Corran came forward, crowding into the gap between the hovergurneys. Tekli moved out of their way, circling the head of Valin’s bed to rejoin Cilghal. She craned her neck to look up at the Mon Cal. “All signs good.”
Cilghal nodded. She turned to the others in the room. “All but the immediate family, please withdraw to the waiting area.”
And they did, exiting with words of encouragement and welcome.
In moments, only the Horns and the medics remained with Valin and Jysella. Cilghal took a few steps to the nurses’ station and its bank of monitoring screens, giving its more elaborate readouts a look . . . or pretending to. Tekli found a mist dispenser and sprayed its clean-smelling contents around the chamber, driving away reminders of Amelia’s, Anji’s, and Barv’s recent presence. Then she rejoined her superior.
If Cilghal’s predictions were correct, Valin and Jysella would be reaching full cognizance right about now, if they hadn’t already. And if the madness that had caused them to be subjected to carbonite freezing was still in effect, their voices would be raised in moments with accusations: What have you done with my real mother, my real father?
That was the insanity that had visited them, the manifestation of the dark-side effect of their connection with the monster known as Abeloth. But recently, Abeloth’s power over the “mad Jedi” had been broken. They had all returned to normal—all but these young Horns, their recovery delayed by their suspended state.
Valin’s voice was raised in a complaint, but it was not an accusation of treachery and deceit. “I can’t stop shaking.”
“It’s normal.” His father sounded confident. “Han went through it years ago. He said it took him quite a while to warm up. This gurney is radiating a lot of heat, though. You’ll be warm enough before you know it.” He frowned. “He also said his eyesight was gone right after he woke. How is it that you’re seeing so well?”
“We’re not.” That was Jysella, raising her arms above her to stretch, an experiment that caused her to wince with muscle pangs. “I’m seeing mostly with the Force.”
Valin nodded. “Me, too.”
Cilghal and Tekli exchanged a glance. That was a relief. The conversation was idle chat, and would soon turn to minute discussions of who had been up to what while Valin and Jysella slept. All was well.
Unless . . . Cilghal still had one more test to run.
She raised her voice to catch the attention of all the Horns. “Excuse me. I must interrupt. We have to let the monitors get several minutes of uninterrupted data, and all this talking is interfering. I must ask you two to withdraw for a while.”
Mirax gave her an exasperated look. “After all the time we’ve waited—”
Tekli held up a hand to forestall her. “After all that time, you can afford to indulge in a few minutes of quiet relief with your husband.” She made a shooing motion with her hands. “Out.”
Grudgingly, the older Horns withdrew. They’d be joining the others in the waiting area.
From a cabinet, Cilghal took a pair of self-heating blankets. She approached the gurneys and spread one blanket over each patient. “Tekli and I need to make some log entries about your recovery. Josat will be here in a moment—ah.” As if on cue, and it was indeed on cue, a teenage Jedi apprentice, cheerful and maddeningly energetic, entered the chamber. Red-haired, lean with a teen’s overactive metabolism, he offered Cilghal and Tekli a minimally acceptable respectful nod and immediately moved over to the nurses’ station monitor to familiarize himself with his two charges.
Cilghal finished adjusting Jysella’s blanket. “If you need anything, Josat can provide it, and if he is not here, say ‘Nurse’ and the com...