Anakin was running down a
He was chasing somebody. Somebody who every time he turned a corner had just vanished around the next. Every time he thought that surely now he had gotten closer, his quarry had been faster again.
He could hear pounding footsteps ahead of him, he had seen a shadow cast back against a wall and once he had thought he had seen a shadowy figure far ahead of him.
Faster. He had to be faster.
Ignoring the pain in his legs and the burning feeling in his lungs, he kept on running, tried to run faster.
His quarry couldn’t be that far ahead, if he could hear its footsteps even above the wheezing of his own breath.
He had to catch up with it.
Turning around yet another corner he suddenly realised that he had no idea whom he was chasing, or why.
There! At the end of the corridor turning left into the next one, Anakin could see a figure. It seemed to him that just before disappearing around the corner she glanced back at him.
Anakin clenched his fists and ran after her.
Where was he anyway?
He did not dare to look around for any clues as to where these corridors were - a space station? or perhaps a strange ship? - he had to keep his eyes ahead to not lose his quarry.
“Wait!” he shouted, or tried to shout, there did not seem to be any sound coming out of his mouth.
He rounded the corner, his boots skidding on the smooth floor, and, yes, there straight ahead he could see the woman he had been chasing.
She was too far ahead of him for to see her in the dim light. He could see the tales of her light-coloured coat flapping, her feet and arms pumping as she ran away.
Was she afraid of him?
Anakin wanted to shout again, but he didn’t have enough breath. Sharp pain stabbed his sides with every step he made. Grey shapes started to twirl in front of his eyes.
There was a door at the end of the corridor.
He remembered that she knew the way out. If she reached the door before he caught up with her, she would get out and he would still be stuck in here.
“Wait!” he tried to shout again, but managed only a croaking sound.
The woman had almost reached the exit, and he realised that he wasn’t going to make it. She was too far ahead.
He could see the woman raise her hand to press the opening button of the door. Only is wasn’t just a door, it was an elevator.
If only his legs would move faster!
The door slid aside and a bright light flooded out of the elevator’s cabin, outlining the woman as she rushed into the elevator
. His legs were throbbing with pain now. Only another few yards and the woman would surely see him. She had to wait for him.
A sharp pain shot through his knee and his leg buckled under him.
As the door of the elevator began to slide shut, the woman turned around to look back at him.
“Shura!” he yelled.
Then the light fell on her face and he realised that it wasn’t Shura but a woman he did not know.
He hit the floor with a bone-jarring jolt as the door of the elevator closed and left him in darkness.
Qar sat up gasping for air
as if she’d just emerged from a deep dive not only woken up
from a dream. With an automatic glance at the monitors at her side she
made sure that her patient was in what may be regarded as a stable
condition. Anakin lay plugged into his array of machinery that kept his
Hell, what a dream. Her heart was racing and she was breathing as if she had just completed a two-mile race.
It was a dream, she told herself. Just a dream.
Even before she had quite finished the thought, she realised that it had not just been a dream.
Qar checked the monitor again, but the read-outs did not show any change. There had to be something!
Without taking her eyes off the screen, she picked up her laptop and brought it up from its resting mode. Thank goodness she had it record the monitoring of his brain activities.
The dream had been not merely a dream, she was certain of that. She did not know how or why but somehow she had gotten into Anakin’s dream - or he in hers.
Neither did the monitor show anything but the same feeble brain activity as it had the last weeks nor did Anakin himself look any different than before.
But he had been dreaming, she thought. She knew it. And if he had been dreaming, he had been close to consciousness.
Qar forced herself to concentrate on her laptop. Slowly scrolling back the recording, she stared at the minuscule waves covering the screen.
There had to be proof. She couldn’t just alert the medical staff to tell them she had dreamt that Anakin was trying to wake up. No, she wasn’t even sure herself that this was what the dream meant. He had tried to catch up with her - or probably his wife, as she remembered him calling her name.
Qar shook her head. She knew that this had been more than just an ordinary dream of being chased through a dark and confusing labyrinth of corridors, but Prof Cagliari would not believe her. He would tell her that it was only natural that she placed Anakin in her dream as a pursuer. Cagliari kept telling her that she was making herself sick with her ‘obsession’ with this patient. If she now told him that she thought it was a message from Anakin he’d probably realize his threat and sent her on sick-leave.
Stopping the scrolling, she turned to look at Anakin.
Was Cagliari right, she wondered. Was she so desperate for her patient to get better that she reinterpreted an all too common nightmare into a sign of improvement? The feeling of urgency that overcame her when she recalled the dream was that not only her unconscious acknowledgement that time was running out?
She badly needed somebody to talk to, somebody who would not think her insane and who knew whether it was at all possible that her dreams and Anakin’s got mixed up. The only person she could think of, Senator Palpatine, was on an inspection tour on Rexus IX. He had told her to feel free to contact him anytime she needed but could she really interrupt his no doubt busy schedule to tell him she had had a bad dream? To make that call she would have to go to the doctors’ office and what would she say to her colleagues who would be sitting there drinking their afternoon coffee?
She also couldn’t leave her patient alone. She knew that there was a crisis, a critical moment somehow - somewhere.
The monitor displayed an unchanging status of the patient.
If only she could get back into the dream, turn back and find Anakin. But how should she do that? She wasn’t a Jedi, she couldn’t contact other people’s minds. And even if she should somehow manage this impossible task, it was a dream. There was no guarantee she would remember why she was there or that if she did and went to find Anakin he would understand and it would not just be the same dream simply with their roles reversed.
Qar returned to the read-outs on her laptop. Perhaps the brain activity had been more regular during the time she had been dreaming.
Who was she kidding? If there was a change it was so minimal as to not mean anything. Not really.
She closed the laptop again and replaced in on its shelf under the main monitors.
Perhaps Cagliari was right and she was going insane.
Qar sat back in her chair and rubbed her eyes. Everybody would tell her it was natural she was having nightmares sleeping as she did with her head literally on her patient’s bed.
But she knew it was more than that.
A jolt went through her as if somebody had put an electric current to her chair. Something was happening.
The almost flat line representing Anakin’s brain activity peaked suddenly.
Qar jumped from her chair, her hand automatically grabbing the alarm button.
No, wait, she told herself.
The line peaked once more and returned to smaller, yes, but much more pronounced waves than before.
Anakin’s eyelids fluttered briefly.
“Anakin,” Qar said, sounding surprisingly calm. But calm was something she certainly was not. Her heart was racing again, and her hands were shaking.
He’s waking up, she thought. Oh gods, he is waking up.
“Anakin,” Qar repeated, slightly louder this time.
She could see his good eye move, as if he was dreaming. The brain activity continued to increase. If his heartbeat and breathing weren’t controlled by a machine they would speed up now.
Qar hesitated for a moment, then she ran around the bed and turned the frequency of both his heartbeat and his breathing up a nudge. She knew she wasn’t supposed to do that, it was set at the perfect rate as it was, but she felt certain it was the right move. Anakin’s eyelids fluttered again.
“Wake up,” she whispered.
She clutched the alarm button to her chest. There was no guarantee he would actually regain consciousness, she told herself. He was not in a deep coma anymore but whether he would become fully awake was not yet clear.
A small sound emerged from under his breathing mask and Qar pressed the alarm.
A red light flared up over the door as it would outside. She could her the alarm sounding muffled through the door.
Qar could imagine the doctors hasten out of their office and rush along the corridor - no wonder doubting whether this particular emergency was worth rushing to.
Taking a step closer to Anakin’s head, careful not to entangle herself in the wires, Qar could see his forehead crease in a small frown.
“Wake up,” she urged him.
Behind her the door burst open and what sounded like at least four or five people run into the room.
The eye movement stopped and Qar knew that he was awake, a second before Anakin’s eyelids slid open, revealing one blue eye and a gaping hole.
They should have allowed her to replace the eye, Qar thought angrily.
“What is it?” Dr Olman asked behind her.
“He’s awake,” Qar told him and stepped aside to allow the others to see.
“So he is,” Dr Olman said.
Anakin woke up feeling as
if he had several hang-overs simultaneously and was drunk on top of it.
He had no idea where he was, or how he had come there or what the hell was going on around him.
A confusing multitude of noises attacked his ears, each of them painfully reverberating through his brain. There was a whirring, clacking and wheezing around him as if he was stuck inside a giant mechanical apparatus. There were also a great number of voices echoing through his head.
At first he had not felt his body at all, but slowly the sensation returned - and he wished it didn’t. Dull throbbing filled every fibre of his body. But somehow he could not really feel any part of his body, it seemed to be kind of blurry.
Wake up, a voice told him. For a moment it was the only sound then a multitude of other voices joined, a cacophony of mumbled questions.
Anakin tried to ignore all the other noises just hold on to this one voice.
Open your eyes. This time he realised that the voice had actually been inside his head.
His eyes opened obeying the command.
He did not recognise anything, there were grey and white shapes and oddly coloured lines stretching across them.
Automatically he tried to find the source of the voice that was louder than all the others. He found a shape that slowly resolved itself into a blurry human figure, a woman standing quite close to him.
“He’s awake”, she said out loudly. The sound reached his ears, there was another exclamation that went straight into his head. Oh thank the gods, he’s awake. I knew it, I knew it.
Anakin tried to see her face more clearly but it remained oddly out of focus.
Where the hell was he?
Anakin tried to concentrate, but with all those noises inside and outside his head, and his head pounding with pain, all coherent thought seemed to slip away.
He wanted a painkiller something to make that infernal headache go away.
Opening his mouth, he became aware that there was something stuck in his throat, a fat tube passed through his mouth and down his throat.
He gagged as his reflexes trying to get this thing out of him. He tried to rip it out, but he could not move his arms. As a matter of fact he did not even feel where they were.
Panic flooded through him. Where were his arms? Why didn’t he feel them? Why was this thing in his mouth, and his nose.
He had to sit up! Why couldn’t he move?
Something exploded with a sound like glass breaking.
“Anakin,” the voice called out. “Anakin, look at me.”
Somebody was holding his face between her hands. The touch of her fingers was burning like fire on his skin. It hurt, but it was there. He could feel her hands on his face.
Focusing on the sensation of her fingers he was able also to focus his eyes on her face, leaning over him.
“Anakin,” she said, “calm down. You have to calm down.”
He could feel his own pulse beat against her fingers, regularly and slowly, a fact that somehow stroke him as odd.
“That’s good,” the woman told him.
He knew her, Anakin realised. Somehow she was very familiar. He was certain that he knew her but he could not recall her name or where he could possible know her from. It was her voice he had been hearing. He remembered her talking to him, urging him to hang on, encouraging him that he need not die.
Just as she did now. Not with words but somehow her entire being was broadcasting the sensation.
“Twenty milligrams,” she said and turned to some other person he could not see.
As soon as she broke eye-contact the other noises became louder again. Now he could differentiate between the mechanical sounds and the feelings emanating from several other people in the room.
“Are you sure?” one of these people asked.
“Don’t question my decisions,” the woman snapped, “just do it.”
There was movement on his left side, he could feel the presence of somebody stepping closer but he could not see who it was. He did not see anything on his left side at all.
The woman turned back to him and smiled. You’re doing great , she seemed to think, we are giving you a painkiller.
Was he imagining things or could he really read her mind?
The person on his left was broadcasting a different set of emotions, surprise, wonder and disgust. Would anybody want to live with a face like that?
Why couldn’t he see that person, Anakin wondered. He couldn’t turn his head and his left eye…
Suddenly he remembered. His left eye running down his face like a giant slug, the fire around him and himself trapped in the destroyed c-wing.
The crash, his fight with Kenobi and meeting Shura on the shuttle train, the memories came back flooding back.
And he remembered the doctor who had been trying to stop him from dying.
Anakin turned his good eye to where she was still leaning over him. She was still doing it, she was still trying to safe his life. He wished he knew her name.
He could still feel her hands on his face but the pain was gone. All the pain was gone he realised. Everything became oddly distant, the noises of the machines, the thoughts and words of the people milling around the room, and the feeling of despair and loss that had started to creep over him with the memories. Instead an odd feeling of well-being engulfed him.
He wished he could talk with this doctor but with this tube sticking down his throat he could not. A fact that he did not seem to mind anymore.
The painkiller surely had been more than just a couple of aspirin.
The doctor smiled even wider.
“We’re going to fix you,” she promised.
Qar leaned her head
against the door of one of the cupboards in the office and relished the
coldness against her hot skin.
You have to calm down, she told herself. Calm down.
Easier said than done.
Qar wished that she could burst into song or dance around the office, but it would not only convince her colleagues that she was mad after all, it would also make her look stupid - additionally, she couldn’t sing at all.
Anakin was awake!
Strictly speaking that was not true at this very moment but he had come out of the coma.
That would show all the people who had been telling her she was off her mind during the last weeks. She had been right and they could now all go screw themselves for all she cared.
Nobody would now dare make fun of her anymore. The change in their attitude was almost comical. The same people who but a few hours ago had been looking at her with a mixture of pity and contempt were now congratulating her on her fine work. Nurse Georgeson had even said that she had worked a miracle. A claim that was most certainly ridiculous.
But there was no time to contemplate the strange behaviour of her colleagues. If she wanted to be in surgery with Anakin she better got a move on.
Ignoring the stares of Georgeson and Olman, Qar walked over to the computer terminal and called up the communications protocol. She typed in the number Senator Palpatine had given her and within a few seconds the screen showed the face of his press secretary.
“Dr Hadasht,” Zeajay greeted her. “How can I help you?”
“I need to speak to the Senator,” Qar told her, thinking that it ought to be bloody obvious that that was the reason for her to call.
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible at the moment,” Zeajay replied, “the Senator is at the banquet hosted in his honour. Perhaps you could call again later?”
Qar frowned. “This is urgent. The Senator told me I could call him at any time, so I’d be grateful if you could get him for me.”
Judging from the part of the room visible behind the Senator’s press secretary, Qar thought that she was probably in one of the offices at the hotel or restaurant or wherever this banquet was held. Doing, no doubt, whatever press secretaries were doing.
Zeajay hesitated for a moment, then she nodded. “Alright, it might take a moment.”
“It better not take longer as we are about to go into surgery,” Qar told her.
An expression of shock appeared on Zeajay’s face and she left the computer at a run.
Now, she would probably tell the Senator that there was an emergency, but at least that would mean he hurried to get to the computer.
Qar stared at the screen in front of her, now showing the empty desk and an ostentatiously decorated room behind it.
Anakin had come out of the coma. Just thinking of this made her feel ecstatic. It was probably a good thing that the operation would be performed by Dr Berberov, she wasn’t quite sure she would be up to it right now.
Her eyes fell on the thick book pushed behind the computer screen. Qar pulled it out, and had to grin when she looked on the cover of A Hero of Doom and the defiant Anakin depicted on it. Somehow she had always felt that it should stay out of Anakin’s room, she had never read it there. Perhaps it was stupid but she had had the impression Anakin did not like it.
The sound of a door opening in the room on the other side of the communications link made her look back at the computer.
Senator Palpatine appeared on the screen, quite out of breath. Putting his hands on the desk leaned closer to the computer.
“What happened?” he asked.
His expression changed from worried to confused when he saw Qar. He must have seen her expression and realised that it wasn’t bad news after all that had made her call him.
“He’s back,” Qar said. “He came out of the coma an hour ago.”
Palpatine blinked and an enormous grin appeared on his face. “He did?” he asked.
“Yes, taking us all by surprise. It took a while to stabilise his condition that’s why I was only able to call you now.”
Suddenly a frown appeared on Palpatine’s face. “Patty said something about surgery.”
“Yes, Anakin’s at the moment prepped for it.” Qar told him. “Dr Berberov is now going to set his second and third vertebra. As you know…”
Palpatine waved dismissively. “I don’t need to know the details, Dr Hadasht. It’s enough for me to know that Anakin’s finally come out of the coma.” He stretched out his hand, apparently touching the screen of his computer. “I’d like to kiss you, I’m so happy.”
Qar had to laugh. The Senator was so obviously overjoyed with the news, she thought that just that made all the hassle worth while.
“I’ll come at once when this tedious banquet is over,” Palpatine continued.
“You’re coming here?” Qar asked utterly surprised.
“Of course,” Palpatine exclaimed. “He needs a friend now. I have to talk to him, cheer him up, hold his hand - if that is possible.”
“I think we could make that possible, Senator,” Qar told him.
“Patty,” Palpatine turned around, “you have to…”
“Already on it,” came Zeajay’s voice from somewhere.
“Ok, I’ll have to go back to the banquet now,” Palpatine said, then he hesitated a moment. “Would you mind if I announced the good news?” he asked then.
Qar shook her head. “Feel free. I am not particularly keen on the press. Word has certainly already leaked out anyway.”
“Probably,” Palpatine agreed. He paused and for a moment they simply grinned at each other, just happy about Anakin’s sudden recovery. “You’ve been marvelous,” Palpatine stated. “I don’t know how I can thank you, Dr Hadasht. Anything I can do, I gladly do.”
“Thanks, Senator,” Qar answered. “There is still a long way ahead of us. I think the hard work only starts now.” She couldn’t prevent a frown to appear on her face. Unfortunately, it was true that the real work lay still ahead of them. If they wanted to prove this idiotic Jedi doctor wrong and give Anakin a life worth living, the operation about to start would only be the first in a long string of restorative and replacement surgery. And she knew that certain people would begrudge them every credit spent on the operations. It would be expensive and some prosthetics were hard to come by as well. “An artificial liver,” she said then.
“An artificial liver?” Palpatine asked sounding confused for a moment, then he nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. Do I need to know any specifics for that or do they come in just one size?”
“Including the gall-bladder,” Qar told him, “his one is pretty dead too. Otherwise - there is only one size, as you put it.”
“Good,” Palpatine replied, turning away from the screen, he addressed Zeajay, “Patty,…,” but before he could continue, Zeajay said, “I’ll get on it at once. Your ship is leaving in an hour, ETA on Alma Serena in seven.”
“Anakin will be out of surgery and should be awake by then,” Qar told Palpatine as he turned his attention back to the screen.
“Oh,” he made and added with a laugh, “sometimes I hate being surrounded by efficient women. – Dr Hadasht, thank you again. I’ll be seeing you shortly.”
Palpatine cut the transmission and the screen in front of Qar showed only the communications network logo.
Qar turned the computer off and folded her arms over her chest. She wondered whether Palpatine would be able to conjure up that liver. Anakin needed it badly, but she knew that Cagliari would have fits if she demanded one. Admittedly it was forbiddingly expensive and the operation would be critical given Anakin’s general status - but dammit, he needed it and he needed it as soon as possible.
Better get herself ready for that operation.
Qar pushed A Hero of Doom back into its place behind the computer and turned around.
“An artificial liver?” Dr Olman asked from where he was sitting at the office’s table.
Qar ignored him and left.
Passing Anakin’s room she was relieved to see that several people were already busy replacing the window. With so many of his bodily functions being controlled by machines, she had not really noticed how badly Anakin was panicking until he shattered the glass with an uncontrolled burst of Force. They had been happy it had not been one of the life support machines that he exploded, Qar thought, or one of the medics. The imagination of Dr Olman’s head exploding put a smile on her face.
Oh stop that, she told herself, he’s a nice enough guy.
It had only been the window that had been broken, thank the gods, and it showed like nothing else could that Anakin was back.
The story continues
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