‘The question to
which the inquiry boiled down to in the end, was whether the death of
Vigee Nomana could be regarded as accidental killing. Perhaps even as
an accident waiting to happen. Had not the practice of the jedi to
train with lightsabers put the lives of the participants needlessly at
risk? As Senator Palpatine famously remarked, “if you play
with lightsabers, heads will roll.”
‘But had it been an accident or had Skywalker wielded his lightsaber with such deadly skill in the full intent of killing Nomana?…’
A shadow fell over the book as somebody approached the table Qar was sitting at.
“So, what are you so deeply engrossed in?”
As the voice was unfamiliar, Qar ignored the question. She did not want to be disturbed.
The creaking of a chair told her that the hint had not been taken.
“Ah,” the man said, almost a sigh. “Anakin Skywalker, our most famous patient. – You are the doctor supervising his treatment, aren’t you?”
Qar dropped the book on the table and looked at the man sitting opposite her. She did not know him, was quite sure she had not encountered him here or anywhere in the hospital before. A human, white-skinned, brown-haired, quite unremarkable looking. He was wearing a pristine looking lab-coat, the label reading ‘Dr Saint-Martin’. He placed his tray with a cup of tea and a croissant on the table between them.
“How is our patient doing?” he asked.
Qar was tempted to tell him to go to hell. Anakin was not ‘our patient’ and it wasn’t this Saint-Martin character’s business to ask how he was doing. But she had been reprimanded for not treating the hospital staff courteously enough, even the Senator had told her to be more friendly.
“Fine,” she answered. “As well as we may expect.”
Saint-Martin lifted an eye-brow.
Of course ‘fine’ and ‘as well as we may expect’ were a contradiction in terms. And Anakin was not doing fine, by no means. He was still in a coma.
“May I?” Saint-Martin asked but pulled the book over to him without waiting for her answer.
Qar wanted to warn him against making any grease stains on it, she’d personally brake his fingers if he did, but she stayed silent.
As if he had read her thoughts, Saint-Martin wiped his fingers on his spotless lab coat and gave her a wry grin.
“Ashton Widdows,” he commented, looking at the dust cover. “Can’t say I ever heard of the man before. I have heard of the book of course. Is it any good?”
“As far as I can tell,” Qar said.
Again the raised eye-brow, then Saint-Martin returned his attention to the book. “That was during the inquest, wasn’t it?” he said, holding the book so she could see the front cover. “Oh, yes, it says so here.” He shook his head. “I remember that. Caused quite a stir, didn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you that. I was working double-shifts a lot,” Qar replied and swiftly pulled the book back out of Saint-Martin’s hands.
“I see,” Saint-Martin said. “Well, I had a certain personal interest in Skywalker, you know.” He paused and laughed briefly. “You see, one could say this man is responsible for my cousin’s death.”
“Is he now?” Qar asked, barely managing to keep her voice calm. Why did this stupid person not only have to impose on her, but level accusations like this against a man who could not possibly defend himself.
“Oh, not directly,” Saint-Martin said. “But my cousin decided to join the navy after, gods when was it? The Battle of Souchon. Yes, after the battle of Souchon my cousin Rouald decided to join the navy. He was killed during practice fights only a few months later. Friendly fire, I guess the term is.”
“You didn’t fight then?” Qar wanted to know. She knew that it was a provocative question, that some people were taking offense as if their courage or patriotism was being questioned.
“Oh, no.” Saint-Martin obviously wasn’t one of these people. “I am a doctor, specialising on the effect of hard vacuum on a body, I had enough work to do for sure.”
“So I guess,” Qar replied.
There had been enough work for all physicians. Hard work and all too often futile. Vacuum caused messy injuries, and in a war fought in space they were very frequent. Pilots whose body-suits were damaged during combat often lost limbs - if not life - to it. She could respect him for taking care of these unfortunates.
“I have to admit I - on a very few and brief occasions - have thought about joining the armed forces,” Saint-Martin continued. “I admired Skywalker. He was an inspirational leader. And the stunts he pulled, gods almighty.” He shook his head. “He certainly was the greatest fighter pilot in this war, on either side.”
He was using past tense.
“He’s not dead yet,” Qar stated crisply.
“What?” Saint-Martin looked at her uncomprehending.
“He is not dead yet,” Qar repeated. “You talk of him as if he were: he was the greatest fighter pilot, he was an inspirational leader…’”
For a moment Saint-Martin sat quietly. He sipped his tea and looked at her evenly.
“Let me be frank, Dr Hadasht,” he said finally. “You say, Skywalker is doing fine, but we both know that’s not true. He’s been in a coma now for - how long? Three weeks?”
“Twenty-two days,” Qar corrected him automatically, stopping herself before she could add the hours.
“Twenty-two days,” Saint-Martin repeated. “That is a long time. And the likelihood of him ever coming round is diminishing by the day, isn’t it?”
Reluctantly, Qar nodded.
“Moreover,” Saint-Martin said, putting his cup down. “Even if he does come round, even if he survives, he’s not going to be a fighter-pilot any more, great or otherwise. From what I’ve heard, it would be a damned miracle if he’d ever been able to walk again. Or breathe on his own. Am I wrong or isn’t he going to be tied to a hospital bed for the rest of his life - should he live?”
Qar bit her lip. She did not want to hear this, wanted this man to stop putting his finger on the sore spot, the big problem she kept pushing into the background. First, Anakin had to come out of the coma, then they could address all these questions. “Probably,” she replied in the end.
Saint-Martin ripped a piece off his croissant, dipped it into his tea and ate it. For a while he stared into his cup, chewing carefully.
“Have you ever asked yourself whether he will want to live like that?” he asked then, surprising her completely. “Whether what you are doing is really for his good?”
Qar opened her mouth to protest, but Saint-Martin raised his hand to bid her to be quiet. “Don’t give me the old platitude of how our job is to safe lives and not destroy them. That excuse just won’t wash. We’ve all seen patients who would have surely been better off dead. I’ve certainly had patients who killed themselves as soon as they had the strength to do it. But as far as I can see, your patient won’t even have the opportunity to do that.”
Qar glared at the man sitting there so serenely, dunking bits of his croissant in his tea. But, she hated to admit it, he had a point.
“Anakin Skywalker was a very active man,” Saint-Martin continued. “He is still young. Do you really think he wants to spend the next three, four or even more decades in a hospital bed, not even able to move? Is a single one of his internal organs still working?”
“His spleen,” Qar answered, automatically again.
“His spleen?” Saint-Martin echoed. “You can live quite happily without your spleen, but without a working pair of lungs? Or without a properly functioning liver? Is that life?”
Like it or not, there was some very unpleasant truths in what he was saying. Qar pressed her lips together staring at the table, refusing to meet his eyes or agree with anything Saint-Martin told her.
She’d never really thought about it, Qar realised, of what it would be like for Anakin. Forced to spend his life locked into an iron lung. Yes, it was highly unlikely he’d ever be able to walk again. It wasn’t just the damage done to his spine but also the terrible injuries to his legs.
“I take it you care a great deal about Skywalker, Dr Hadasht,” Saint-Martin said, his voice gentle. “But you have to ask yourself whether what you are doing is really in his best interest or whether you just want to prove to yourself that you are invincible, for want of a better word. That you are master over life and death. You just have to really, really think about your patient, not your professional pride. What is best for him.”
Qar felt tears well up in her eyes. She kept staring at her hands, saw that they were slightly shaking.
Saint-Martin was right. The life Anakin would lead would only be painful. At first, after the accident when the extent of the damage had not yet been as obvious, she had been right to fight for his survival. But now?
Reluctantly, Qar raised her head, ashamed of the tears that were probably all too prominent in her eyes.
There was an almost invisible smile on Saint-Martin’s face, the very, very faint hint of satisfaction about his person.
And things snapped into position in Qar’s mind.
Without really thinking, she jumped up, her chair falling over with a clatter and slapped Saint-Martin in the face with all her strength. The slap seemed overly loud, echoing through the room.
The conviction that he was right vanished from her mind like a bad dream.
Qar grabbed hold of Saint-Martin’s coat, leaning over the table until her face was just inches away from his. “Stay - out - of - my - head,” she hissed and let go of him.
Saint-Martin blinked and raised his hand to his face.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“You know damned well what I’m talking about.”
Jedi, Qar thought. It figured, almost too well. The Senator had always warned her that the jedi might try to kill Anakin, she had not really believed it. She certainly had never expected them to dare try to use her as the means to kill him. She should have realised it from the start. Saint-Martin had been all too familiar with Anakin’s life. He’d also known much more about his condition than he ought to.
But how on earth could a jedi make his way into the staff’s mess, she wondered. But it wouldn’t be at all difficult. All he needed was a lab-coat and perhaps a fake key-card, that were surely not too hard to come by. And - as a matter of fact - one did not even need one to get here.
“Is there a problem,” somebody asked her.
Qar turned to face a security guard standing at her elbow. Almost everybody in the mess was staring at her, and Saint-Martin who looked quite composed despite the angry red mark on his cheek.
“I think this man does not have the right to be here,” she said.
The security guard looked at her as if he questioned her sanity. “Dr. Saint-Martin? Why? He works over in G-Wing.”
Gods, he was a real doctor? Working here? She had so hoped that she could just have him removed from the premises.
But he was a jedi, she was sure of it. Damnation. The jedi would have some physicians in their troops as well. Now with the war being over, and general pressure being put on the order to cut expenses they’d help some of their own to nice, well-paid jobs elsewhere, like here on Alma Serena.
“My mistake,” she managed to say.
“A misunderstanding, I’ve no doubt,” Saint-Martin told the guard.
The man looked slightly baffled. “You can file a complaint against … Dr Hadasht,” he told Saint-Martin, having to read her name on her coat.
She wasn’t all that well known by the staff, Qar thought, nor liked either. Most, probably, thought her eccentric at best, or just outright mad. Her actions now would probably be seen as supporting the latter view.
The damnable thing was that if she accused Saint-Martin now of trying to make her sabotage Anakin’s life-support, to kill him, nobody, but absolutely nobody would believe her. They would be convinced that she had gone insane and was not fit for the job any longer.
“No,” Saint-Martin said to the security guard. “I don’t think that will be necessary.”
“It was my mistake,” Qar said, as evenly as she could manage. “I am sorry.”
Saint-Martin smiled at her, smug as hell.
“Now I know who you are,” she added. “and where you work.”
The smile vanished. Saint-Martin had obviously understood her threat.
“That’s good,” he said, stiffly.
The guard looked from Saint-Martin to Qar, shrugged and walked away.
Qar leaned over the table again, picking up her book as a cover, and whispered, “if anything untoward happens to my patient, Dr Saint-Martin, I am personally going to wring your neck, is that understood?”
Saint-Martin laughed, but there was a tremor in the laughter. He at least understood that she was serious. He probably could not believe that she’d been able to actually realise her threat.
“You’re not the only one with friends in high places,” she added.
That put a stop to the laughter. “Nobody dares to take on the Order,” he told her, causing Qar to grin. He had admitted that he was part of that vile Jedi Order.
“Oh, if you aren’t mistaken in that,” she said cheerfully. “And now, I am sorry but I have to excuse myself.”
She smiled at him, smiled at the other staff, many of whom were still staring in their direction and left the mess.
As a matter of fact, it would probably be easy to find out whether he was a jedi. His employment record would certainly show it. The Senator certainly had the means to find out.
She had to tell Palpatine about this incident at once. The Senator needed to know that he’d been right, that there were jedi out there who wanted to kill Anakin.
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