The Jedi Temple. It rose above the edifices around it, four slim towers surrounding a larger central spire. A plain-looking building for all its impressive size, but that seemed fitting considering the aesthetics of the group it housed.
The shuttle pilot braked, nosing her craft in for a landing on one of the numerous platforms that dotted the base of the building, then opened the hatch to allow her passengers to exit. As the men walked out into the harsh light of the cloudless sky, the woman studied them, wondering what such an odd-looking pair would be doing at the headquarters of the Jedi.
Her comm panel beeped, signaling another fare. The pilot shrugged, putting her strange, silent passengers from her mind as she headed off into the teeming skies of Coruscant.
The unadorned door slid open before them, granting admittance to the Temple. Though the main hallway was moderately crowded, the noise level was still low. Robed figures glided by, nodding in greeting to one another or engaged in quiet conversation but, on the whole, the place seemed unnaturally still.
Ben studied the area, comparing the minimalistic décor to the gaudy grandeur of the Empress's court and finding this much more to his liking. There was something almost peaceful about the place, although the fighter was on edge, as he was whenever entering a new situation.
The weapon Ben wore at his hip gathered more then a few oblique stares as the pair crossed the main plaza of the building and several of the youngest folk gawked openly until an adult shooed them on their way. "Initiates," Qui-Gon said quietly, indicating the youngsters who were dressed in plain tunics and leggings. "They study here until they are accepted as apprentices by one of the Knights or Masters."
"How are they chosen?" Ben asked, watching the youngsters from the corner of his eye though his gaze never seemed to deviate from their path.
"For their feel of the Force. All children born in the Republic are tested to determine their midichlorian count before they are six months of age. If the number indicates they are Force-sensitive and their parents are willing, they are brought here to the Temple to train."
"And no one asks the children what they want?"
Qui-Gon tilted his head enough to look over at the younger man, wondering where this line of questioning was going. "At that age, they can hardly decide one way or the other. We don't pirate infants away to indoctrinate them in our ways. If, once the child can make decisions, they want to leave, they are allowed to go. The Jedi Order does not ask for members who serve unwillingly."
Ben nodded at that. "What if none of the Knights or Masters choose them as an apprentice? What happens to them then?"
"If the Force has not guided an initiate on the path to becoming a padawan, they are offered the chance to join the agri-corps or the healers; both these disciplines can make use of those talented in the workings of the Force."
"That must go over well. 'I know you've given us your whole life so far but we've decided we don't want you now.' I would think not choosing them at all would be kinder."
The pair reached the bank of lifts and waited for one to descend to their level. They were joined by a pair of teenagers, one male, one female, both humanoids. "Greetings Master Jinn," they said formally, bowing deeply and almost totally covering their curiosity about Qui-Gon's companion.
"Greetings, Padawans," he replied, offering a shallower bow in response.
The girl opened her mouth to ask a question, but was elbowed into silence by her friend. She glared at him, then a descending lift arrived and the pair entered it.
"Apprentices..." Qui-Gon chuckled, knowing the two had started chattering about what they had seen the moment the doors closed.
"You've had one." The bond told Ben that much, though he wasn't sure of any of the details surrounding the occurrence.
"Two." Qui-Gon's voice was curt and he seemed to draw into himself as if in protection. "Ylena, my first, will soon be a master in her own right. Her padawan will soon face the trials and be knighted."
The lift doors opened before them and they entered. The ascension was smooth and soundless and gave Ben time to study the older man, certain he was holding something back. "And the second?"
When Qui-Gon met the fighter's eyes his held shadows. "Xanatos was my second apprentice. He... I allowed myself to be blinded to the dark side of his soul and he turned."
"Went to the Dark. It was... a learning experience, but one I would not wish on anyone."
"A learning experience? What did it teach you?" Sarcasm as well as a trace of sympathy colored Ben's voice but he was determined that he would not feel sorry for the Jedi.
Qui-Gon started to fold his arms in front of him, but stopped the motion when he remembered he wasn't wearing his robes. Somehow without them the gesture was not as effective. "It taught me that I am not infallible. That I, too, can make mistakes of judgement. Unfortunately, it took me many years before I learned to live with that knowledge."
The lift slid to a halt and its door opened, revealing a hallway that was indistinguishable from a multitude of others on any number of planets. Bare of adornment, neutral in coloring, the only breaks in the unrelieved smoothness of the walls were the numerous doors, each inscribed with an alpha-numeric designator.
Ben followed Qui-Gon as the Jedi turned to the left and proceeded halfway down the hallway, stopping at one of the doors and placing his hand against the plate set into the wall. A soft tone sounded and the door rolled back, revealing a set of spacious, if somewhat spartan, rooms.
"I must report to the Council now. Will you be all right here until I return?"
The fighter snorted out a laugh at the question as he took in his surroundings. "No one is trying to kill me here. I believe I will be able to avoid doing the same for a few hours at least."
Qui-Gon allowed himself a low chuckle at that. "Forgive the question, but I know that being in a new situation is not always easy."
Ben walked farther into the room, making note of the few personal items visible. "Don't worry about me, Sar Jedi. Your Council waits, go tell them what you must."
"If you need anything..."
"I won't, now go."
Qui-Gon didn't look convinced, but acquiesced, pausing only to collect his spare robe and settle it over his shoulders before turning to go. "The datapad has access to my comlink if something comes up."
The younger man bit back a snarl, partly at the over-protective tone the Jedi was taking and partly because of the air of mystery that he seemed to acquire as the folds of the dark fabric settled over his body, hiding it from view.
"This should not take long, the Council has my report. I only need to elaborate on certain points." Turning back, Qui-Gon reached out and rested his hand on Ben's shoulder, ignoring the fact that the other man tensed at the contact. "I shall see you soon, a'shera."
Ben waited until Qui-Gon had left, then sank down into one of the nearby chairs, wondering if it would be better for him if the Jedi never returned at all.
"What is the meaning of this, Qui-Gon? Stealing a ship, attacking the planetary monarch, inciting a riot at a spaceport? Is this keeping a low-profile?" Mace Windu's expression may have been calm, but his voice held strength enough to crack stone.
"Would you have preferred that I perished on the mission then?" Qui-Gon asked calmly, looking at those Council members in his range of vision. "There were no other alternatives available to me at the time. There was much more going on on Golgatha then anyone from the Republic was aware of."
"We are not saying that your death would have been an acceptable outcome," Ki-Adi-Mundi broke in. "Simply that the whole situation is unclear. Already there have been rumblings in the Senate to the effect that we participated in the toppling of Empress Nepasa's government. Then there is this personage you brought with you."
Yoda sat forward at that, his ears swiveling until their points were almost upright. "Yes. Tell us of him you will, Qui-Gon."
The Jedi Master centered his thoughts, carefully preventing any hint of emotion to color his description of the events that led to his arrival back on Coruscant. "During the course of my stay I determined that we are bondmates. There is no way that I could allow him to stay behind to be executed."
"Bonded you say?"
"To a murderer?" Yarael Poof's gray-skinned head swayed at the end of his elongated neck as he spoke, the speed of the oscillations marking his concern over this matter.
"Is it murder to kill in self-defense? I have seen his mind. He is troubled, but he is not of the Dark."
"So sure are you? Remember another time, do I, when what you did not see almost killed you."
Qui-Gon's jaw tensed at the reminder of his past failure, but he remained calm. "I know what I saw, Master. He is my bondmate, the Force flows strongly within him and while he is hard and embittered, he is also a good man."
More discussion arose, then Mace quieted it with a wave of his hand. "Bring him before us, we would speak to him."
"Will he consent to having a midichlorian count done?" Depa Billaba asked, speaking for the first time in the session.
"I cannot answer for him, but I will relay the question. If there is nothing more?" Seeing that he was dismissed, Qui-Gon bowed and strode from the chamber, trying to determine how to best to broach the subject with his lifemate.
After the door slid closed behind the departing Jedi, Mace turned enough to look at Yoda. "It seems that Qui-Gon has brought back a not-so-pathetic lifeform this time," he murmured, then settled back in his chair as they began to discuss the situation.
"Thank you for consenting to the testing."
Ben waited until the door to the medical center slid closed behind them before replying. "What's a little blood? I've lost more for worse reasons and if it will appease your Council I suppose it's worth it."
"You aren't the least bit curious as to what it will reveal?"
"Midichlorian counts are your concern, not mine. The only time I worry about my bloodwork is if I'm sick or poisoned. Other than that it really doesn't matter."
Qui-Gon tried to smother a soft laugh in response to that. "At least you do not have to be concerned about either of those at this time."
"No," Ben answered. "Once I get through this damn audience or whatever it is I have nothing to worry about at all."
A young knight bowed as the two men entered the anteroom, then ushered them into the main Council chamber.
Hope those windows are well shielded, Ben thought idly, noting the transparent walls that gave a 360 degree view of the Coruscant skyline. Twelve beings regarded him dispassionately and he returned the stares, gathering what information he could from visual cues.
Six humanoids, six non-humanoids. They ran the gamut of size and age, from two small green-skinned aliens to a massive being with horns sloping down the sides of his head.
Two of the humanoids were female, both quite beautiful in fact. One of the Jedi was missing an eye, another had bio-mechanical implants in place of them. He noted a Zarabak and a bald, dark-skinned man exchange a glance. Then one of the small, green beings was speaking and all attention turned to him.
"Your bondmate this is, Qui-Gon?"
"Yes, my Master."
"A name have you?"
This was ridiculous. "Ben Ken'ba." A fit of pique made him add, "Champion of the Arena."
"Do you measure yourself by those you have killed?" another of the Council members asked.
Qui-Gon started to protest, but Ben's answer overrode him. "Only insofar as it has kept me alive."
A low murmuring arose at that, then quieted once again.
"What know you of the Force?"
"Less than you, I'm sure. What do you know of life as someone's property?"
If the diminutive Jedi was taken by surprise at the reversal of the questioning, he did not show it. "Used coercion, did you, to force your Empress to confess her crimes."
"It was merely a suggestion. Whether she took it is not my concern." Ben shifted slightly, growing impatient with the proceedings.
"Then what is your concern?" the bald man asked curiously.
"If you would allow me to explain?" Qui-Gon asked, his gaze flicking from his bondmate to the senior Jedi.
"Hear it from him, we will."
/Don't worry, Jinn. Wiping out the Jedi Council is not in my plans for the day./ "Previously my concern was staying alive until I did what I needed to."
"Master Windu?" The knight who had been stationed in the ante-room peered inside, looking somewhat anxious. "There is an urgent message for you from the medical center."
"Thank you, Tenra." Windu spoke into his communicator for a brief time, then accepted the datapad the knight offered him. His expression was grave as he glanced around the room. Apparently, he was conversing with the other Council members, because several of them looked at Ben, heightened curiosity in their gazes.
"It seems that your midichlorian count is high - very high."
"When the med tech ran that scan, he also did a routine search for similar protein patterns. He found a match."
"And?" All this dancing around the subject was tiring, Ben thought. At least in the Arena when someone came at you, you knew what their intentions were.
Qui-Gon spoke then, his tone holding enough emotion for both of them. "What Mace means is that they know who you are."
Ben glared at the closed door, coming close to flinging the datapad held clenched in his hand at the wall. Smashing the information, however, would not obliterate it or eradicate the knowledge that a part of his past was now obtainable. Muttering curses in four different languages, the fighter tossed the hand unit onto one of the chairs and began to pace.
Half an hour later, he was no closer to coming to a decision and he threw himself into one of the seats, bounding back upright when a hard casing jabbed him in the back.
It lay there, mocking him, accusing him of cowardice, daring him to open the file.
"This will not change who I am." The words were gritted out between clenched teeth as he picked up the datapad, sat down, and began to read.
"So who was this Obi-Wan Kenobi?"
Qui-Gon opened his eyes and looked up at his bondmate, then motioned for him to sit. The Jedi had retreated to one of the meditation gardens after leaving their quarters, hoping the time alone would allow Ben to come to grips with the decision he had to make.
Obi-Wan Kenobi... It was a name he had not heard in almost ten years. From time to time he had caught himself wondering what had happened to the young man who had tried so desperately to impress his worth as a padawan on a master who had no need or desire for one.
When Qui-Gon didn't readily answer, Ben tossed him the datapad and asked again. "There is a note that says that he went on the same ship you did to some mining planet. Did you know him?"
The fact that Ben was talking about himself in the third person was highly disconcerting, but Qui-Gon didn't comment on it. At this point, he had more serious things to deal with. "I knew him," he answered carefully. In avoiding the fighter's eyes, he looked down at the datapad and saw a young, serious face peering back at him. Looking closer at the image, he saw hints of the man the boy would become, though the young Jedi initiate looked far more innocent and trusting then he could ever imagine Ken'ba appearing.
Those hopeful, guileless eyes mocked him, and Qui-Gon raised his eyes from them. "I knew him - you," he began. Each word was a measured beat in the symphony of his regret. "I was offered the chance to take on a new Padawan. Master Yoda was quite adamant that I see Obi-Wan fight. I did not want another apprentice. That was the only thing I was sure of at the time."
"Because of Xanatos."
"Yes, because of Xanatos. During the trip to Bandomeer and on the planet itself I had ample opportunity to correct my mistake, but I did not."
Ben stirred, resting his elbows on his knees, comparing the dry, factual data he had read earlier to the living memories haunting Qui-Gon's eyes. "Did you believe it to be a mistake at the time? Not taking him as your apprentice I mean."
The Jedi looked involuntarily down at the image again. "No. At the time I believed it was for the best. There was much anger in him. I was not confident that I could guide him to overcome and master it."
"So he joined the agri-corps."
"So you joined the agri-corps."
The fighter scowled at the reminder of the past he could still not recall. "And then disappeared two years later while on route to a new assignment on Etralia." At Qui-Gon's look of surprise, Ben gave a mirthless smile. "You Jedi keep meticulous records - even of your failures."
"You are not - " Qui-Gon began, only to be cut off by Ben's heated response.
"What I am not, is him. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a name and a face on a record, not a person. I have no memory of him so you may as well say that he died on that transport ship. He does not exist any longer."
"But he does, damnit. The Order's training is in you whether you recognize it or not! Your body remembers even if your mind doesn't, a'shera, trust me in this."
Ben rubbed at his temple, fighting the headache that blossomed there. "What does it matter?" he sighed, heartily tired of this discussion. "Would it matter so much to you if he was some initiate you had never met before?"
The comlink's soft chime forestalled any response Qui-Gon wanted to make. "Jinn," he growled, then took a calming breath, promising himself that this discussion was not over.
"Healer Emala here sir. Master Billaba requests that you and your guest come to the med center as soon as possible."
A questioning look at the fighter was met with a shrug. "We will be there shortly."
Ben flowed to his feet, waiting for the Jedi to rise. "Relax, Sar Jedi," he growled. "Maybe they'll have good news for you. Maybe they'll say they were mistaken."
"I think not," Qui-Gon murmured as they left the garden.
The walk back to the Jedi's rooms was a long and silent one, each man weighted down by the possible outcome of any action - or inaction - in this matter. Once the door was closed behind them, Qui-Gon eased off his robe, studying his bondmate as he meticulously hung the dark, heavy cloak on the stand.
According to the healers it was a simple procedure. The device in Ben's head was what was blocking his memories. They had never seen anything like it, but had determined that there was a weak Force-signature powering it. Privately, Qui-Gon wondered if they were more interested in examining the mechanism than restoring the fighter's memories, but he kept himself from voicing that opinion.
The younger man had every right to want to know his past, to learn more of who and what he was. Why then was part of his mind screaming that he not allow it, that he do anything to prevent the block from being removed?
You fear his reaction to his memories of the past. Ben knew about the chance Qui-Gon had passed over to take Obi-Wan Kenobi as his padawan, but knowing and feeling were two different things. Would this in turn lead to his rejection of Qui-Gon?
A Jedi does not crave revenge. But Ben was not a Jedi, that part of the other man had been lost when a self-absorbed Master rejected him out of fear; fear of what losing another apprentice would do to him. It had been far simpler at that time to crush a boy's dreams then to expose himself to the risk of training and guiding another youth. But had he ever stopped to consider what that rejection had done to the young man in question?
"Keep thinking that hard and it's going to give you a headache," Ben commented. The fighter had taken up a position near one of the windows. He was half-turned, looking back at Qui-Gon over his shoulder, his arms folded over his chest, a neutral expression on his face. "You don't have to worry, I'm not going to do it," he continued, swiveling back to stare out the transparisteel, watching the traffic patterns that lit the evening sky.
The nonchalant words unlocked Qui-Gon's frozen muscles, and he moved forward, stopping beside Ben but not touching him. "May I ask why? It is your past, it is your right to know and understand it."
The fighter shifted, turning slowly until he was looking fully at the Jedi. His features were relaxed, his eyes holding the same cool distance Qui-Gon had seen the first time they had met. "It is the past of someone named Obi-Wan Kenobi. I do not know anything about him except what I've read and been told. He is not me, and having his memories will not make me become him. I was born on the Sands, and there are times I wish I had died there, but I will not re-make myself to assuage whatever guilt it is that you are feeling over this. Do not ask me to do so."
"Damnit, Ken'ba!" Qui-Gon stopped and released his sudden flare of anger to the Force, calming and centering himself before he began again. "I am not asking you to re-make yourself. I am only asking you to think about this. You have friends, family. By retaining the block you deny them."
"And, as you keep telling me, I have a bondmate here. Should I deny him also?"
It was the first time Ben had spoken of the link between them. At any other time Qui-Gon would have greeted it as a major breakthrough - just not at this one.
"There is more to life then that!" The Jedi spun and moved to grab an object that had been brought to his rooms from the Temple storerooms.
"Why? Why should I want to go back to being someone not good enough for the Jedi. Someone who also, apparently, wasn't good enough for you? Give me one good reason and I might consider it!"
"Here is a reason."
Ben instinctively reached out; catching the object Qui-Gon threw at him. The cylinder was slightly longer then the length of his hand and reminded him, in some vague fashion, of the Jedi's weapon. Strangely, it felt right in his hand, or as right as something too small for his grip could. Not too small for a twelve-year-old, a treacherous part of his mind asserted. The fighter grimaced at that, though he still stared at the lightsaber handle with an almost horrified fascination.
"Do you see now?" Qui-Gon asked quietly. "You are still him, he is still you, you cannot deny it."
There were no flashes of memory, no blinding insights as to his life before arriving on Golgatha, but suddenly Ben knew what was required. The three-quarter sized lightsaber was placed on the nearest table and the fighter moved toward the larger man, his eyes darkening as his intentions became clear. "But I will deny it, for tonight at least. Obi-Wan Kenobi has been dead for seven years; one more night will matter little to him. Tomorrow is soon enough for talking about this - and for any decision I must make."
"A'shera..." Qui-Gon began, only to find his words blocked by the barricade of his lifemate's lips. Long, dexterous fingers eased open the layers of his tunics to find the heat of his skin beyond and the Jedi lost the capacity for argument.
//There is only now, there is only this.// The shared thought rang in both their minds, twining through and merging them so completely there was no way of determining who had initiated it. Sensing the older man's acquiescence, Ben continued to work at Qui-Gon's clothes, removing them slowly, almost reverently, as if each bit of revealed flesh was a blessing or a gift from some primal god.
Unable to do anything more then follow the course he had been set on, Qui-Gon moaned, lost in the flood of information his senses were passing on to him. Somehow he managed to convince his hands to work enough to strip Ben's clothes from his body, leaving the two of them clad in nothing more then their desire.
//Lean back.// The request was accompanied by a light push that brought Qui-Gon's back into contact with the wall behind him. Storm-darkened eyes gazed up at him, slowly falling away as Ben knelt, rubbing his face across the Jedi's firm abdomen, delighting and torturing him at the same time with the heat of his skin, the rough sweep of his close-cropped hair.
Lower and lower still the younger man moved until his goal was within reach. Placing his hands on Qui-Gon's thighs, Ben mouthed the head of the older man's cock, tasting the clear drop of fluid that oozed from the slit, then licking down the vein that throbbed under the thin, silken skin.
A plea that was voiced more through the mind then the lips and the fighter's head dropped lower, encasing Qui-Gon's penis in scorching wetness. The rush of hot air over the thatch of curls at his groin drew a rough growl from the Jedi's throat and his hands scrabbled on the wall for purchase so that he could thrust forward into his mate's mouth.
//No, stay still.// The words, and their stern, implacable tone stilled him though fine tremors raced along Qui-Gon's muscles, tremors that intensified with each movement of the man at his feet.
Ben seemed determined to prolong the other man's ecstasy as long as possible, bringing him to the edge of completion time and again only to suddenly switch tactics, leaving the larger man shaking, his eyes wild with undisguised lust.
Ken'ba was not unaffected by the response, and as he swayed to his feet, the lights glistened off his sweat-soaked skin, making it appear as if he were glowing.
There was a moment of total stillness; the two men standing inches apart, staring into each other's eyes, communicating on a level far deeper then mere words could convey. A delicate balance of trust and desire had been reached and with it came the acceptance of the full meaning of their bond.
"Live in the moment, Qui-Gon," Ben murmured, raising his left hand, palm facing the other man.
Having refused this man once before under much different circumstances, Qui-Gon was not able to do so again. "You are a wiser man than I, a'shera," he whispered, placing his palm against Ben's, the shock of the touch burning through his body as if they were joined on the most intimate levels.
Their hands the only point of contact between them, their eyes never straying from each other, the men made their way to the bedroom. Dropping to the bed in an orderly tangle of limbs, they soon sorted themselves out, ending with Qui-Gon lying atop the smaller man, his hair falling loose around their faces.
"There is no need..." His words were stopped by the sudden, crushing grip of Ben's hands on his arms.
"This moment," Ben hissed, arching upward, rubbing their erections together.
Strong, lean legs wrapped around his hips in an offering that the Jedi could not refuse. As his mouth sought Ben's and their tongues parried and retreated, he reached with his mind for a container of massage oil on the bedside table.
Wrenching the top from it to spill the cool liquid over his hand was an act that seemed to take years to perform. Coating his shaft with the stuff and partaking in the act of stretching his mate felt like a lifetime; especially with Ben's near-silent moans and the spastic jerks of his body driving him onward.
"A'shera," Qui-Gon whispered, causing the fighter's half-lidded eyes to open and focus on his face, the need in them blatant and all-consuming. "This moment." He could have sworn he saw a brief smile flicker across Ben's features, but then he was pressing inside and the expression vanished, lost in the sweeping grandeur of it all.
Although he trusted his bondmate more than anyone else, Ben had still been prepared for pain and when it didn't come, the younger man's eyes went wide with shock, then lost their focus. The rhythm their bodies found was that of their heartbeats, their thoughts, their very souls. Reaching together, they found the pinnacle and surpassed it, only the limits of the flesh preventing them from soaring into the endless mindscape of the Force.
Perfection shattered around them, physicality returning as senses were pushed past their limit. Molten heat spread between them, the wild spasms in turn releasing the same flood within Ben's body as Qui-Gon too found his release. Mindless, boneless, limp from the sheer joy and the overwhelming carnality of it all, they lay there. The two clung together, lost in the world of their own making - in the world of the moment.
Some time later, Ben moved, slowly easing himself away from Qui-Gon. The Jedi mumbled a complaint, but stilled when Ben brushed a hand over his brow, accompanying it with the near silent command to sleep. Assured that the other man would remain as he was for the rest of the night, the fighter walked back into the outer room and pulled on his clothes, his every movement bringing a constant reminder of their joining. He reached the table that held the lightsaber and stopped, staring at the weapon for a long time. Finally he picked it up, carrying it over to a chair. He sat, still looking at the hilt as if at some oracle that could prophesy his future or give him guidance.
The sun was just beginning to rise, staining the sky with the first hints of dawn, when Ben moved again. Standing, he placed the 'saber hilt back on the table. He looked toward the darkened bedroom, then spun on his heel and left the rooms, heading toward the medical center.
Spotting the senior healer on duty and recognizing the woman as one of the personnel who had been in on the meeting discussing his situation, he strode toward her.
"May I help you?"
"You asked for a decision, I have it. Do it."
"But surely you do not expect... "
"But..." The fighter advanced another step, his jaw set, and the woman relented. Who was she to disagree with his wishes?
"Come this way, the procedure is relatively easy. Are you sure you don't want Master Qui-Gon here though?"
"No. It will be...simpler this way." Ben stared at the healer until she turned to lead him to a room, her posture making it clear that she did not approve of this.
This moment, nothing more. Unaware that his expression was that of a condemned man approaching his executioner, Ben followed the healer into the room and positioned himself on the examination table. The chill of a razor moved across his temple, shearing away the shock of white hair, revealing the scar beneath it. The woman said something to one of the med-bots, then he felt a sharp prick on his inner arm.
"Just relax, let the sedative work..."
The voice seemed as if it was coming from miles away. Forcing himself not to fight the sensation, Ben slowly lost his grip on consciousness. Satisfied that her patient was sufficiently anesthetized, the healer gave the droid another command, then began her work.
The return to consciousness was slow, akin to swimming through murky waters, constantly bumping into unseen obstacles. Finally though, Ben awoke, grabbing reflexively for a weapon as he opened his eyes.
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