Lee visits an old friend

“I’m looking for Anakin Skywalker,” Lee said to the all-too cheerful looking receptionist, “Field Marshall Skywalker.”
The young woman smiled at her broadly and typed something into the computer in front of her. “There is a visitor restriction for this patient,” she announced after a moment. “What is your name, please?”
“Lee Andersen,” Lee replied, “Andersen with an ‘e’.”
“One moment, please,” the receptionist smiled even more broadly.
With a sigh, Lee let the large container settle on the floor and folded her hands on the till in front of her. If she didn’t know better she would think these receptionists were all on some happy drug. No normal person could be really that chirpy, particularly working in a place like this.
“I’m afraid, your name is not on the list,” the receptionist said, glorious smile still in place. “You have to apply for visitor rights with … Senator Palpatine.”
Palpatine, that figured, Lee thought grimly. He would make sure no ‘unwanted’ visitors came too close to his friend. Though, she had to admit, he was probably right to vet the people who had access to Anakin, make sure no reporters would sneak it to snap some juicy pictures of Anakin’s injuries. There were probably also some people out there, who would like to make sure that Anakin did not survive. Jedi for example. She didn’t think that Obi Wan would go as far as that but there might be other, more radical or perhaps only less frightened members of the order who would not shy away from assassination.
But, dammit, she hadn’t come all the way from Chardri to let herself be barred from visiting Anakin by the great Senator Palpatine.
She smiled at the receptionist and nudged her brain ever so slightly. “Could you please check again? I am sure my name is on that list.”
The receptionist smiled, perhaps a little less enthusiastic and looked at the computer screen again. For good measure, Lee gave her another mental prod. “Oh, yes it is,” the receptionist said dutifully. “I am going to get somebody to take you to his room.”
“Thank you.” Lee continued to smile.
She wondered whether Obi Wan would judge her action as being in some way using the ‘dark side’ of the force. Probably not, if he – for some very bizarre reason – would wish to see his former pupil, he would justify a small mind-nudging like this without a problem. Lee was not so sure. No, she thought, she did not think it had anything to do with a ‘dark side’ but it was a blatant form of taking advantage of less gifted people. The inanely smiling receptionist might get in all kinds of trouble for letting somebody to see Anakin. What if she were an assassin sent by the radical jedi? Or even by some embittered enemies Anakin had made during the war.
“Ms Andersen?” A male nurse had stepped out of the elevator and walked up to her. “Yes.” Lee activated the container, it instantly hovered gently a foot above the floor and followed her as she walked to the lift.
The nurse looked somewhat surprised at the big box, but did not comment on it.
Security definitely should be stepped up, Lee thought. She might bring an assassination droid in the container or several pounds of explosives.
They rode up to the fourth floor of the hospital, and the nurse stepped out. “This way, please,” he said.
After a few steps, the nurse turned to her and asked, “You’re one of the Field Marshall’s friends?”
“Yes,” Lee nodded at the box trundling behind her, “I’m bringing his personal belongings.”
The nurse gave her a side-long glance, “You know that he’s still in a coma.”
“I know,” Lee said. “I had to empty his apartment.”
“Oh,” the nurse made.
Emptying Anakin’s apartment had been probably the most heart-wrenching thing she had done since Terry’s death. The police had asked her. Actually they had asked her whether she could find his next of kin, but there was nobody. With Shura gone, Anakin had absolutely no family. She had never realised how alone he was. Not necessary lonely, but without a family to support him if things went wrong, as they so tragically did now. In the end, Lee had adopted the role of next of kin, in lieu of any better candidates. The owner of the apartment had threaten to throw everything out and so she had spend a long day, sorting through the contents of the apartment.
Even thinking back now, Lee felt a lump rise in her throat. Emptying the apartment had made the entire tragedy real for her.
“Dr Hadasht is in there,” the nurse said as he stopped in front of one of the overly wide doors, “just remember that her bark is worse than her bite.” With a wink the nurse knocked on the door and opened it without waiting for an answer.
The room behind it was larger than Lee expected, but half of it, if not more was filled with a astonishing array of machines and computers. For a moment she could not even see a bed inbetween all the metal boxes, wires, tubes and cables. The air was filled with a strong smell of antiseptics, and a strange, stifling atmosphere permeated the room.
“Dr Hadasht,” the nurse said, overly loud as Lee thought, “there is a visitor for your patient.”
Something stirred behind a large blinking monitor, and a dishevelled, blond head appeared.
“She lives in here,” the nurse whispered into Lee’s ear and without a further word, left the room, closing the door behind him.
The blond head apparently belonging to Dr Hadasht blinked at Lee. It seemed that the doctor had been asleep. After a moment, Dr Hadasht got up and stepped around the monitor unit. Her white coat was more crumpled than any doctor’s coat Lee had ever seen, and she looked extremely tired.
Dr Hadasht was the doctor who had gotten Anakin out of his c-wing and saved his live, Lee suddenly realised. She remembered seeing the doctor on the news.
Lee had finally made out where the bed was hidden between the machinery. Anakin’s body seemed to be almost encased in a big metal tube. Only his head stuck out and that was partially covered by a breathing mask and a number of sensor stuck to his scalp. The only thing she could really see were his eyes and forehead. The skin of his face had a strange, pinkish look to it, as if he was sunburnt.
“Who are you?” the doctor asked, sounding sleepy and grumpy.
“Lee Andersen,” Lee replied taking a step closer to Anakin. He had no hair anymore, and almost no eyebrows.
Dr Hadasht stepped between her and the bed.
Lee forced herself to look at the doctor blocking her way. Dr Hadasht was some inches shorter than Lee, and her round face would probably commonly described as comely rather than pretty. A pleasant face, Lee assumed under normal circumstances but now Dr Hadasht glared at her, looking quite fierce, her eyebrows drawn together.
“I’m afraid my name is not on the list,” Lee admitted.
Dr Hadasht’s frown deepened so that her nose wrinkled. “List?”
“The list for people who are allowed to visit,” Lee repeated, wondering whether Dr Hadasht wasn’t quite awake yet.
“There is a list?” the doctor asked, her expression softened somewhat. She seemed to be more surprised than hostile.
Well, if that wasn’t typical for the way Senator Palpatine liked to work. “Senator Palpatine apparently wants to make sure that no unwanted visitors get here.”
“Who?” Dr Hadasht asked, but then she continued, “Ah, the Senator.”
“I brought Anakin’s things,” Lee explained.
Dr Hadasht frowned again. She turned away and walked back to the blinking monitor.
Lee looked back at the little bit of Anakin that was visible. There were fine, pink lines criss-crossing the half of his face she could see, cuts from the exploding view screen.
“You’re his jedi friend, aren’t you?” Dr Hadasht asked so suddenly Lee jumped. The way she said the word ‘jedi’ made it clear that she had no high opinion of the order. But there was something else, another feeling that emanated from her, curiosity.
Lee nodded.
Dr Hadasht looked at her and then returned her attention to the monitor. She seemed to think about something.
“How is he?” Lee asked.
Dr Hadasht looked up again. “Alive, barely, but alive.” She took a deep breath. “Can you – feel him?” she wanted to know then.
Lee turned to Anakin, feeling a stab of something akin to horror for the first time. Somehow the damage done to his body seemed to become worse every time she looked at him. Then she realised that this was what she had found so odd about the atmosphere of the room, she could not feel Anakin’s presence. There was Dr Hadasht, on a fundamental level hostile to Lee because she was a jedi, but more curious, and with an all-overpowering determination to safe Anakin’s life. Lee could even feel the echoes of her own presence in the room, but no trace of Anakin.
Lee closed her eyes and tried harder. She could sense life among the machinery, faint but tangible and then very, very muted she could feel Anakin’s presence.
“Can you?” Dr Hadasht asked again.
“Very faintly.” Lee opened her eyes again. “It’s like a ghost presence.”
“Hm.” Dr Hadasht stepped around the monitor. “I was wondering…,” she began, but stopped again. She came to a halt next to Lee, and for a long while she hesitated, then she asked suddenly. “You can’t, I don’t know, snap him out of it?”
Lee stared at Dr Hadasht. The question was asked in all sincerity. “No,” she replied with a sigh. “I can’t get him wake him from the coma.”
Dr Hadasht was disappointed, angry with herself for having allowed herself to hope that Lee could wake Anakin up, angry for believing in jedi being able to solve hopeless problems.
“I’m sorry,” Lee stated.
“We have to get him to wake up,” Dr Hadasht explained.
“Yes,” Lee said, even though she had no idea about these medical problems, she could feel the urgency behind the doctor’s statement. The longer Anakin stayed in the coma the less likely was he would ever get out of it.
Dr Hadasht turned to her again. “You know,” she began, hesitating and slowly, “I don’t know much about these things you can do. I never had much time for jedi. Something odd happened when I got to him, when he was still in his c-wing. He – he touched my mind.” She put her hand to her forehead, as if it had been where that Anakin had touched her. “It was really strange.”
Lee did not have to feel Dr Hadasht’s emotion to know how confusing and frightening this experience must have been. Having your mind invaded by somebody else, particularly if it was somebody who was as forceful as Anakin, would scare anybody.
“He wasn’t clear at the time,” Dr Hadasht continued, “I don’t think he took the deliberate decision to send me these images, but he tried to explain what had happened, I think.”
Lee nodded reassuringly. She noticed that the doctor was actually in no way frightened, just curious and trying to understand what had happened to her.
“He was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t know anything about him so what he sent did not make much sense.” Dr Hadasht closed her eyes. “He had a fight with Obi Wan,” she said, and opening her eyes again explained, “I did not know who he was, but the senator has explained it to me. – This Obi Wan tried to kill him. He was worried that he would come after him and finish the job.”
“Really?” Lee could not help but exclaim. Obi Wan trying to kill Anakin? According to Kenobi’s tale, it had been Anakin who had attacked him and it had been an accident that he had cut his former pupil’s hand off. Lee could not believe that she had accepted this story without hesitation. Why would have Anakin tried to fly if Obi Wan had tried to reason with him as he had claimed?
“And his wife, who had run off,” Dr Hadasht continued, “he wanted her to be back so much.” She looked at her patient. “I wish I could find this woman and beat the crap out of her,” she stated fiercely. “It’s all her fault.”
“Oh,” Lee said. “Did the great Senator explain this to you too?”
Dr Hadasht gave her a surprised look. “Not as such.”
“You have to know,” Lee explained, “that Palpatine did not get along well with Shura. She did not get along with him either. Yes, I think that she did behave in a spectacularly stupid fashion, but we all do on occasion. And she did not force her husband to get into a fight with Obi Wan, did she?”
“Hm,” Dr Hadasht made, sounding unconvinced.
“I can assure you that the one person who is blaming Shura Talassa more than even you or the great Senator is herself,” Lee told the doctor. “If she thought that she was absolutely justified she would not have run off. And it was as much Anakin’s fault as hers, and damned Kenobi’s more than both of them put together.”
Dr Hadasht frowned again, then she shook her head. “What I was trying to say, about this – this vision or transmission,” she stated, “I wanted to ask you whether it can have permanent effects on your brain?”
“What do you mean?” Lee asked her.
“I don’t know,” Dr Hadasht replied, “I mean, I don’t know what it is.”
She sighed and walked back to the blinking monitor. Pulling a chair from behind it, she sat down, obviously not bothered about the fact that Lee had to remain standing.
“At first I thought it was some kind of echo, or myself dreaming about these images he sent,” Dr Hadasht said. “It happened when I was very tired or sleeping. I kept having these flashes of memories that weren’t mine. They were just different from what he had sent to me. Then I noticed that it only happened when I was in close proximity to him. – Which admittedly is most of the time. – I remember that I had fallen asleep with my head on his bed and I had this really vivid dream about being stuck in a space ship, a small one, and there was fire and the air was running out and I was dying.” Dr Hadasht took a deep breath and then asked. “Am I dreaming his dreams?”
“I don’t know,” Lee said, almost automatically. “I don’t know whether I would call it that. Does he dream – in the coma?”
Dr Hadasht shrugged. “Difficult to say. There is brain activity, of course, but we do not really know what it means.”
Lee rubbed her face. She suddenly remembered the container with Anakin’s belongings and letting it settle on the ground, sat on it.
“It is possible that some kind of mental link exists between you and Ann,” she said then. “When he was caught in his fighter after the Battle of Doom and everybody thought he was dead, his wife said that she felt that he was still alive and so she and her brother went out to rescue him.”
“Do you think it works both ways?” Dr Hadasht asked.
“I don’t know, really. I haven’t heard about many of these links. I think you have to be a very powerful jedi to be able to create one with somebody who is not similarly gifted.” Lee looked at Anakin hidden behind all the machinery, feeling a great sense of loss coming over her. What would have happened if he had had a different teacher. If she had not introduced him to that conceited idiot Obi Wan? “It is possible that the link works both ways, it is definitely something you should try to use.”
Dr Hadasht nodded. “If I only knew more about him,” she said, “apart from his medical history that is. Find something or somebody that would interest him enough to draw him out of his coma.” She grinned suddenly. “Apart from his wife, of course.”
Lee stared at the doctor sitting opposite her. She did understand that Dr Hadasht did not want to have Shura around but was that a reason for hilarity?
“Oh,” Lee remembering what she was sitting on. “I brought his personal belongings.” She knocked against the container. “It’s not that much. With the war we all had such an itinerary life-style there was no chance of accumulating enormous amounts of things. I packed his books, photographs, his decorations, his uniform and all the official documents I found, clothes and just knick-knacks I thought he might want to have.”
Another frown appeared on Dr Hadasht’s face, the underlying hostility in her feelings increased again. Lee wondered whether now that the doctor had got what information she wanted, she would kick the unwanted visitor out again.
“Well, at least we can bury him with full military pomp now,” Dr Hadasht stated, “open coffin, all the decorations pinned to his chest.”
This woman was just insane, Lee thought. If not insane that her mind worked definitely on a completely different route than Lee’s.
“I thought,” Lee began, unsure how to state her question. “I thought he was – his condition wasn’t critical anymore.”
Dr Hadasht made a derisory sound. “He’s not dead,” she stated then, “but he might slip away any second. And if he doesn’t come out of the coma soon –.”
The emotion coming from Dr Hadasht when she said this was so strong it was almost palatable, a strange mixture of anxiety, determination not to let it happen and something like a blank, as if she was absolutely refusing to think about the possibility of Anakin staying in the coma.
“I can try to reach him,” Lee suggested. “I don’t know whether it will work, but I can try.”
“But you said…,” Dr Hadasht started, but Lee interrupted her, “I don’t think I can snap him out of the coma, but I think if I were able to touch his mind it will help him find his way back.”
Goddess that sounded pompous. Words were so clumsy on occasion, and she had no idea how this would actually, scientifically be like. Where does one’s consciousness go to when one was in a coma, or asleep as a matter of fact?
“Try,” Dr Hadasht told her, “I’m going to stop you if his condition deteriorates.”
Lee nodded.
They both got to her feet, and while the doctor went to her blinking monitor, Lee approached the bed. She had to step over some machine sitting on the floor next to the bed, ducking under a bundle of wires connected to the metal tube Anakin’s body was hidden in. What was all this stuff?
Close up, Anakin looked horrible. There was no other word to describe it. Lee shuddered involuntarily. She could see that new skin had been grafted onto his neck, it looked obnoxiously healthy next to Anakin’s pink, sunburnt looking face. Apart from a small remnant of an eyebrow there seemed to be no hair left on his head, not even eyelashes. And there was something wrong with his left eye, the eye-lid was sunken in, as if there was nothing behind it. The scars looked raw from close up, some of them were deep and looked as if they were about to open again.
Lee covered her mouth with her hand, trying not to feel disgusted by the sight. This was her friend, Anakin, no matter how badly scarred he was on the outside. – She noticed that his ears were almost completely gone. – What mattered was the person and that had not been damaged by the crash. She raised her hand to place it on his forehead, hoping that physical contact would make the mental link easier, but she could not make herself touch him. Lee cursed herself for being so repelled by these appearances, but she could not help it.
Taking a deep breath, she decided that holding her hand above Anakin’s scarred face had to be enough. Touching his burnt skin would probably damage it anyway.
She closed her eyes and let her mind focus on Anakin’s. Again she could feel the faint life, surrounded by the cold life-less machines. Dr Hadasht’s vibrant energy was tangible from the distance. Lee concentrated, dived deeper into the strangely empty life, as if it were a dark lake. Somewhere there had to be Anakin’s presence, hiding away from pain and grief. Then, somehow, she was not sure whether by accident or whether she was drawn there, she could again feel the distant, muted presence of his personality. She tried to touch this presence, contact him, but it was as if his mind was enclosed, turned in on himself, slippery refusing to be touched by anybody outside. She tried to broadcast her presence to him, telling him to come back, but she could feel it echo uselessly in this dark void, an all-surrounding wasteland of nothingness.
She had to get out of there.
Lee drew herself out of the trance. She opened her eyes and took a step backward, stumbling almost over some machine behind her. Looking at Anakin’s disfigured face, she suddenly thought that perhaps it would be better if he died, then she was disgusted with herself for thinking that. How could she be so damned shallow?
“And?” Dr Hadasht asked.
Lee shook her head. “No, he’s too deep down there. I think he doesn’t want to be here.”
“Of course, he doesn’t want to be here,” Dr Hadasht replied harshly. She looked down on the monitor again. “There was something like a blink when … you were ‘down there’,” she explained.
“A good or a bad blink?” Lee asked. She felt awful, drained, exhausted and very angry with herself.
“Good, I think,” Dr Hadasht stated and frowned. “Can you do it again?”
“No,” Lee shook her head. Something inside her was on the verge of panicking. She could not face this gaping void again where Anakin’s presence should be, she could not even look at him, lying there, disfigured and dying. “I’m sorry, but this has been very draining and I can’t do it again. Not now.”
Not ever, she thought.
Dr Hadasht looked at her, as if she had read her mind, an expression of angry disappointment on her face.
Lee stepped away from the bed, from the ruin that had been her friend. She knew she should try again, perhaps she could really do some good, but she remembered the cold, unapproachable thing that she had touched, or tried to touch and a shudder ran over her. There was no way, she could really connect to Anakin now, she was sure about it. The blink was probably just a blink, and even the doctor was not sure whether it had been a good sign in the first place. Perhaps once she had some rest and had time to calm down she would be able to try again.
“I think you better leave now,” Dr Hadasht said.
“Yes,” Lee agreed, “of course.” She did not look again at Anakin, but tried to smile at the doctor who did not smile back.
“I am sorry I couldn’t do more,” Lee babbled. “I do hope you find some way to get him out of the coma.”
Dr Hadasht just looked at her in stony silence.
Lee fled the room, Dr Hadasht’s hostility, now unrestrained and clear, and the deadness where Anakin should be. She ran down the corridor to the lifts. She had to get out of here. Away, far away.
The one thing she could not run away from was her own failure. How could she be so superficial and weak. She had just had to try harder, come back tomorrow and try again. She could overcome her revulsion, her fear, surely.
Lee stepped out of the hospital and into the bright sunlight of Alma Serena. She knew that if she ran away now she’d never have the strength to come back.
Turning around she looked at the great coat-of-arms decorating the facade of the hospital. She tried to figure out where Anakin’s room would be, but she had no idea. Somewhere on the fourth floor.
But she knew she did not have the strength to come back anyway.
“I’m so sorry, Ann,” she whispered and turned away.
A shuttle bus going to the space port was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Lee ran to it and quickly boarded it.
None of the other passengers seemed to notice when she burst into tears as the bus pulled away from the curb.

The story continues

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