Setti IV had been an ugly town, once, and it made for an uglier ruin now.
It was an uncharitable thing to think, considering the place’s tragic history. The little planet’s native style of architecture had really been quite spectacular once upon a time—whimsical, ephemeral creations in wood and carved stone that turned soaring and feather-light beneath the hands of her master masons.
Before everything was burned or demolished wholesale and replaced with the squat, angular, unforgiving monuments of the conquering Rubata regime.
This was the architecture of austerity and desperation, Obi-Wan thought. A dying regime trying to build its authority into permanence with cast duracrete and steel. It had failed regardless, and all that was left of the place were dark, empty building facades, piles of rubble, and twisted rebar corroded beneath the planet’s ever-present, wet fog.
There were a few lights, though. The central power grid failed centuries ago, so periodically the fog glowed with the diffuse, ambient light of flame-burners and glow-globes; evidence of the itinerants and squatters who passed through and found shelter in the abandoned structures.
His boots were nearly silent as he drifted along what had once been the main road. Obi-Wan walked without fear; he sensed no danger within the Force here, just the slumberous apathy of a place long resigned to its own decay. He shouldered his heavy pack up, his back aching beneath the weight of it. "It seems as though I should have been there by now," he muttered, knowing the earpiece would pick it up.
His master’s voice came over the line, backed by the burble of a caff percolator. "The satellite had accuracy within two kliks," said Tahl. "You’re coming up on the old city wall; shouldn’t be too long before you find it. These things are always a stone’s throw from the town limits." Her voice faded for a moment, then returned with the sound of caff being slurped. "The upper building was said to have been razed approximately nine-hundred years ago during the Rubata overthrow, so it might not be obvious."
"Hn," Obi-Wan acknowledged. "Should we loop archaeology in?"
"Later," Tahl said with a hum. "Lekka’th is still mediating the latest repatriation dispute on Chandrila. I’d rather let her blood pressure return to normal before I put anything else on her desk. Let’s just see what’s there for now."
"Sensible," Obi-Wan agreed, then muttered, "It’s like walking inside a bloody tea kettle. I can hardly see twenty feet ahead." He kicked a chunk of duracrete off into the mist. It clattered down the broken, asphalt pavement, lost for all eternity. "What time is it there?"
"A little after seven," Tahl replied. "I’ve got the field office biweekly round-table in a few minutes and I’m hungry enough to eat my desk. You all set out there for now?"
"Affirmative," Obi-Wan assured her. "There are some leftover Dao-ben buns in my office mini-chiller, if you’d like them. I’d rather they not go to waste." Truth be told, Obi-Wan was a bit sore to be missing out on them. A plate of steamed breakfast-buns and a pot of fresh, hot tea sounded heavenly at the moment. He had been looking forward to that before he’d been rerouted with this last-minute addition to his survey itinerary.
Such was the nature of field work.
He shrank deeper into the hood of his cloak, the outer surface of waterproofed wool damp and scratchy under his chin. The inside warm and blessedly dry, though. Small mercies, thought Obi-Wan.
"Dao-ben buns?" Tahl made a happy noise in his ear. "You’re my favorite. Have I told you that you’re my favorite?"
"I already know that," Obi-Wan said fondly, humoring the decades-old joke between master and apprentice. "Everyone knows that."
"You’re a treasure, Padawan mine," Tahl declared anyway. "Comm me if you need anything."
Obi-Wan had been a Knight for nearly seven years now, but it still warmed his heart to hear his old title used as an endearment. "Yes, Master," he said dutifully.
"Be safe," she added, and then the line went mute in his ear.
His feeling of petty irritation dissipated as the old city wall materialized out of the fog and loomed over him like a curious, ancient creature. The gates had corroded away to nothing, some bars still hanging spindly and skeletal in their frame; he read the lines of Setti IV’s natives in what was left of the graceful, sweeping lines of ironwork. It was the only extant remnant he’d seen of them so far.
Obi-Wan dragged his hand along the walls as he passed beneath the central, three-part archway, gathering water on his fingertips, soaking in the feeling of agelessness beneath his touch. He cast a hushed sense of appreciation in return, as if to tell the old stones, You’re still standing for a reason, my friends. Carry on.
The outline of the dense forest greeted him next, cracked asphalt walk turning to rubble and, soon enough, scrubby grass where nature had reclaimed it. He sensed his destination before he saw the first sign of it: a weathered, octagonal stone pedestal. At one time, it would have supported a simple statue of a hooded figure, arms folded placidly and head bowed in reverent thoughtfulness. This one had long since been broken off or stolen, but it worked just as well to Obi-Wan’s trained eye. He’d never seen a Whills Temple without one.
Obi-Wan turned off the main path and into the woods. A clearing sat not fifty yards from the road; it abutted a wide, sloped hillside that appeared natural at a glance, but Obi-Wan knew had been filled and carefully graded, then replanted to blend in with the landscape. The site had become wild and overgrown, but the outline of ancient stone foundations was subtly visible in the growth-pattern of the ferns and ivy.
Obi-Wan gingerly picked his way through the ruins.
The layout was textbook, though smaller than he had ever encountered in a Whills Temple: symmetrical, aligned to a north-south axis with secondary entrances to the east and west, evidence of a rectangular, cut-stone impluvium in the center of the floor. He knelt and nudged aside a patch of moss, delighted to find a few cracked, cobalt-blue mosaic tiles still clinging to their mortar.
The Order had no shortage of ancient, sacred places; a fair number of the oldest and grandest of its temples were designated Galactic Heritage Sites, gloriously restored and maintained through a healthy flow of contributions from Core patrons who enjoyed beautiful things and substantial tax write-offs.
Obi-Wan preferred the humbler sites, forgotten and overlooked, the ones deemed insignificant or unimportant against the so-called historic merit of their grand counterparts. The Order’s cathedrals had great, sprawling canvases of space and architecture to communicate their worth; they honored the Force, and righteously so, but in a way that was infinite and unknowable.
Obi-Wan found eloquence in the brevity of space. Every inch had to be imbued with intent and meaning—a message distilled to its very essence, and written in wood or stone or iron. He found it deeply intimate, these tiny, ancient places, where the Force was honored not as some vast entity, but an old and very dear friend.
And hidden behind every Whills Temple, perhaps its most holy place to honor the Force, was its Sanctum.
Honestly, Obi-Wan found the term a bit limiting in Basic; if he were being high-minded, Middle Alderaanian had a word that came the closest, which translated something along the lines of ancient-liminal-ephemera-and-bone-reliquary; or, if he were using the vernacular of Temple-based Jedi historians who hadn’t had a philologist on-planet since Master Deemo threw in the dictionary and retired to Scarif, just 'ghost warehouse'.
Sanctum was an acceptable middle-ground.
Hidden from the public, a Whills Sanctum could hold all manner of objects and notions: funerary remains and crypts, objects with some great or small historical significance, texts, the purported breakfast plates of some venerated ancient Master; anything—or nothing at all but the Force itself.
Crumbling a bit at the edges, a wall of stacked stone supported the earthen embankment. By all appearances, it delineated the rear of the Whills Temple proper; a few careful taps with the hilt of his lightsaber, however, identified the void Obi-Wan knew to exist behind the facade. He pressed his fingertips to the smooth surface, infusing his touch with a pulse of the Force. An interior mechanism clanked and, for the first time in centuries, with the weary scrape of stone-on-stone, the doorway into the hidden Setti IV Whills Sanctum ground open.
"Lovely," Obi-Wan murmured, and dropped his pack on the threshold. He knelt and pulled a hover-globe from the side pocket, and moved in to set the little device alight in the center of the room. It cast the ancient, stone chamber in a warm, flickering yellow light.
This one, it seemed, was empty.
It was a single, dark, stone-lined room with deep, square niches along the walls; a smooth, unadorned stone column divided each set of niches, and created a gentle, almost undulating rhythm of shadow and watery, filtered light; the Sanctum’s most predominate feature was a massive central altar—a simple, wrought-iron frame which held two rows of six osteotheke each. Their lids sat cracked or ajar, but once they would have held the ashes or bones of those whose likenesses were carved into their smooth, alabaster surfaces.
Sacred and ancient though the place was, as far as Whills’ Sanctums went, it was relatively standard.
Obi-Wan frowned, hair prickling down the back of his neck and arms. Something felt—
Not wrong, exactly, but as if the space had—energy, where he had expected a centuries-old stillness and silence. A presence beyond his own.
Like he wasn’t alone.
Obi-Wan stared into the furthest reaches of the chamber and, just on the periphery of his vision, it appeared as if the shadows were moving, shifting almost imperceptibly like a silent, pacing predator.
Obi-Wan backed up a step.
Everything stilled for a moment. Then it flickered like a blip on a radar screen and slowly, steadily expanded as though drawing all the darkness in the room into itself—building into some formless, dark creature that could dwarf and consume Obi-Wan’s smaller frame with ease.
It lunged for him.
All at once with a great, terrible, ear-rending screech it surged forward—expanding with great, clawed wings of shadow, vicious, threatening to consume, to tear, to rend his body into shreds—the noise was wretched as it all but shrieked—get out, get out! GET OUT!
Obi-Wan stumbled back, instinctively shielding his face, tripping over his own pack and falling bruisingly hard onto his back. "Oh—!" he exhaled, breathy with the sudden punch of air from his lungs. He stared up with wide, green eyes. "Hello there!" he wheezed, and grinned through painful breaths. "Aren’t you a lovely thing?"
The thing froze. The great inky void hovered, still poised for attack, but no longer advancing. "Aren’t I—what?" it then said, sounding decidedly more human, and at a normal volume this time.
Minus the element of surprise, Obi-Wan could hear the artificial, almost tinny quality of its digital output. There was no murderous lurking creature lying in wait for him—he’d just tripped the security alarm. "Just marvelous," he said, fascinated. "I haven’t seen coding like this in ages. Are you running on a Gamma VII platform?"
"What?" the creature said again, apparently flummoxed; even without the amplification of the projection speaker, its voice was a gravelly rumble. It hovered for a moment, then receded back down to a much more reasonable size, its shadowy outline taking on a defined humanoid shape. "You’re not here to loot the temple?"
"Literally or figuratively?" asked Obi-Wan as he sat up and dusted off his tan utility pants. "I have come here for the sake of my own gain, in a manner of speaking."
The figure remained silent, wariness etched into the skittering lines of its form.
The projection quality was poor—which might explain the presentation as some threatening, murky shadow-creature, Obi-Wan mused—but he thought he caught a glimpse of blue eyes now that the thing had settled down some. He drew back the edge of his cloak, exposing the lightsaber clipped to his belt. "My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I’m a Jedi Knight with ExplorCorps," he said. "Deputy Field Director for the Division of Historic and Archival Resources on Coruscant."
"Coruscant?" said the projection. "On what business would the Temple deploy a Knight to this sector?" it asked, with convincing incredulity.
"I’m here to document the Whills Temple for the Archives. I’ll be out of your hair in a day or two," he said, groaning a bit as he rolled awkwardly to his feet. "Wait just a tick, let me find your sensor."
Obi-Wan located the primary unit embedded over the door, blending in nearly seamlessly with the grey stone. As he anticipated, it was a Gamma VII model security system—ancient and clunky, but a reliable workhorse of a program that had only fallen out of usage within the past three hundred years or so. This one had been rigged to run off low-level solar power, likely with a line that ran through the ceiling and up to a sturdy collection point above-ground.
"Brilliant," Obi-Wan murmured to himself, pleased to bits with this turn of events. The projection light flickered as he cleaned the lens with his sleeve, the beige cloth coming away black with dust and grime. "There you are," he said amicably, glancing back over his shoulder at what was now a greatly clarified projection.
It had the likeness of a man, a human, in his middle-years with long, chestnut-brown hair half-tied off his handsome, if scowling, face. His robes reflected a much older, simpler style—three layers of brown and cream roughspuns, folded almost haphazardly beneath a wide leather belt and heavy, dark robe—than those favored by Obi-Wan’s Jedi contemporaries.
"Do you have a name?" asked Obi-Wan.
"Jinn," said the projection. "I’m the guardian of this place."
"Clearly," Obi-Wan said, smiling. "You’re not the first security system I’ve run into like that. A number of the smaller temples used them if there weren’t many residents, or there were stretches where the temple wasn’t occupied," he explained. "Though you’re the first I’ve ever seen programmed to look like a human."
Jinn’s stern look faltered. "What are they normally?"
"Rancors, Krayt Dragons. Wampas in the colder climates. Rather standard big scaries," Obi-Wan explained. He surveyed his strange host thoroughly, up and down. "They did make you very tall, though," he added approvingly, as if it might make the program feel good about itself.
Himself, Obi-Wan decided. "I’ll start work in the morning, if that’s alright with you," he said. "I walked the seven kliks in from the drop-off point. I’d have been in bed hours ago by this time on Coruscant."
"I… suppose so."
Obi-Wan was meant to be kitted out for a solid month—though stars forbid a jaunt into the field should ever go so long as that. In reality, Obi-Wan’s pack would last him about two and a half weeks, since he’d chucked out a handful of those awful, chalky nutrient bars to make room for his travel teapot and a vacuum-sealed canister with his two favorite blends of green and black.
Leaving home without it felt just a hair too close to… uncivilized, perhaps.
Too exhausted to bother with one of his self-heating meals, Obi-Wan chewed on a choconut protein bar as he unpacked his bedroll onto the center of the floor and set water to boil for his evening cuppa.
Jinn watched it all, flickering and translucent, sometimes fading in and out of view. Surprisingly unobtrusive. He watched as Obi-Wan drank his way through two cups of green sapir, stripped down to his leggings and undershirt, and scrubbed over his face, arms, and feet with a handful of damp, travel cleansing-cloths.
Obi-Wan was crawling into his insulated sleeping bag when Jinn finally spoke again. His voice was pleasant and deep, like his words had been drawn up from the bottom of some fathomless, ancient well.
"You don’t find it disquieting to sleep amongst the dead?"
Obi-Wan glanced at the rows of ossuaries, their carved portraits cast into deep, long shadow beneath the light of the little hover-globe. "Quite the opposite, really," he said, zipping himself in. "I rather enjoy the quiet."
Jinn looked skeptical.
"…It’s a personal shortcoming. Besides, I make for poor company. I don’t sleep well anyway."
The projection flickered and reappeared a few feet closer. "Why so?"
"You’re a very inquisitive computer program," Obi-Wan remarked dryly. He batted at his pillow, trying to fluff it up after sixteen hours squashed in his pack.
"Apologies," said Jinn. "I can leave, if you would prefer."
"Not at all. I find you rather fascinating, truth be told."
"I suppose that’s something," Jinn said, with an air that could have passed for resignation. "Should I wake you if there’s an incident?"
Obi-Wan paused. He blinked up at the projection. "You would do that?"
"You’re a Jedi. This place is of the Jedi. I’m the guardian of this place," Jinn said matter-of-factly. "Therefore, you have fallen within my purview of guardianship."
"That’s—very thoughtful. Bit clinical," Obi-Wan mused, "But appreciated nonetheless. Thank you, Jinn," he said warmly and earnestly.
Obi-Wan wriggled deeper into his sleeping bag. "Though I really doubt anything will happen, you know," he muttered, words muffled through the thick layer of insulated fabric.
"Goodnight," Jinn said pointedly.
Obi-Wan laughed softly to himself, then reached out and extinguished the hover-globe. A moment passed in a strange, suspended quiet before he called out, "Jinn?"
"Yes?" answered the shadows.
"…What is it you’re guarding here?"
The silence that followed his question was bizarre, seeming as though the security program had no answer at the ready.
"You, apparently," Jinn finally said, his tone laden with ringing finality.
Apparently, Jinn had decided his strange, new interloper was—well, if not a friend, then at least a reasonably non-threatening diversion—by the next morning. He’d greeted a still crusty-eyed, sleepy-mussed, foggy-brained Obi-Wan with a "Good morning" that was decidedly less threatening than his welcome the night before.
He didn’t even comment when Obi-Wan awkwardly nipped away to the woods for lack of a proper 'fresher…
That was something, at least.
Now, with the door wide open and the early morning unusually sunny, the place really was quite beautiful in its simplicity. Obi-Wan was already on his second cup of strong, black tea by the time he unpacked and set up his work equipment. The battered travel pot steamed away at his side where he crouched in the center of the Sanctum over a sleek, protective hard-case and the pricey contents inside.
Jinn was frowning. "Explain this to me, please."
"It’s a holoscanner." Obi-Wan held the device up for the program’s inspection. "A newer piece of tech we’ve acquired; it’s cut the amount of work we have to do by lightyears," he said, shifting seamlessly into teaching mode. "It’s essentially an intelligent, high-resolution laser scanner strapped to a hoverboard. It provides a detailed, interactive three-dimensional point cloud of the building interior, and full overlays of infrared and spectrometry data."
Jinn’s brow was furrowed now, though in a curious and attentive sort of way. Processing his own sets of data, it seemed.
"The infrared data is wonderfully useful for structural analyses," Obi-Wan continued. "Even the more basic thermal sensors can pick up hot and cold spots, which may indicate anything from water intrusion to voids or loss of structural integrity behind walls and ceilings." He typed a string of command functions into the datapad interface in his hand. "The backscatter spectrometer goes a bit wonky with certain types of paint, but with a clean read we can often get a compositional breakdown accurate enough to identify where the building material was sourced."
"That’s remarkable," said Jinn with convincing enthusiasm, drifting closer. "Absolutely fascinating."
"Isn’t it?" Obi-Wan patted the machine fondly. "Her name is Dolo."
"You named it? That seems very personal."
"I’m not ready for a padawan yet," said Obi-Wan breezily, as if this were a sufficient explanation. He sat back on his heels and craned his neck to peer up at Jinn. "Would you mind terribly going into sleep mode while this runs?" he asked. "I’d rather not risk interference in the scan. I’ll be clearing out as well."
"Certainly," said Jinn. "For how long?"
"Oh," said Obi-Wan with a thoughtful hum, "Two hours or so, to err on the safe side."
"Two hours," Jinn repeated, with a strange expression. "Remarkable," he said again, and faded away in a pixellated mist.
Obi-Wan documented the temple exterior while Dolo operated. Holopics, GPS coordinates, site sketches, a rudimentary narrative description on his datapad… he worked in silence, and found himself oddly bereft of Jinn’s company in the meantime.
"What will your work entail?" asked Jinn later that evening, once Obi-Wan had wrapped for the day. "When you return to the Temple on Coruscant?"
Obi-Wan was seated in the center of the Sanctum, tending to a self-heating packet of vegetable curry-rice. The travel pot was steaming away at his side with sweet, fragrant green tea. "I’ll secure the building before I head out—seal it up and put an ambient monitor on it. We’ll do the heavy data processing back at the Temple lab. I’ll likely have one of my students do the structural analysis and report write-up," he added, then smiled. "You may see me again if we need to do any work on the building. Otherwise, we’ll catalog the report, data, and holopics, and try to find a feasible spot for the Temple in our long-term preservation plan."
"You said you have students. What do you teach?"
Obi-Wan chased a soggy carrot around the little packet. "Usually elective courses for senior padawans," he said. "Architectural History of the Order, mostly. Specialized courses if we get a particular bit of interesting data in from the field teams. Intragalactic Heritage Law every other year. Have them do a debate on the repatriation of the Ell-Jyn Marbles and the like."
"The Chandrila Museum still hasn’t returned them?" Jinn asked, incredulous.
"Of course not," Obi-Wan snorted. "Mustafar will freeze over before that ever happens."
Jinn’s lips thinned. He said nothing, but his eyebrow-twitch was laden with judgment.
He’d lost all concept of up and down—disoriented, guilty. Terrified. The feeling clawed at Obi-Wan’s bones, sank its fingers into his eyes and mouth, shredding him apart at the seams—
It was the same fire, always, in eyes and planets and starships, blood-red, acid-yellow, but black at its core—it sickened Obi-Wan to know his mind held onto the smell of slow-burning human flesh, the animalistic howls a man could make as his life sizzled and charred and dripped away from his own bones—
your peace is a lie
and my chains are broken
Obi-Wan was gagging before he even opened his eyes—a sickening-sharp smell—acid, bile—clogged his sinuses, gumming up his throat, his lungs—he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t open his eyes—can’t breathe—
He pitched over onto his shoulder, disoriented and halfway out of his sleeping bag, slapping a clammy palm against the floor to brace himself. With a terrible, ragged gasp, chest heaving, he pressed his sweaty cheek into the cold flagstone and mouthed the mantra he hadn’t needed in months, almost a bloody year—
I’m awake, I’m safe—I’m awake, I’m safe—I’m safe—I am safe—
"You’re safe." Oh, but that voice, pitched low and even, came from the darkness above Obi-Wan’s left shoulder. The right sort of height as though Jinn were kneeling at his side. "There’s no one here but us," the program said.
He was kneeling, in fact, when Obi-Wan looked over his shoulder. Crouched low, hair in a long, uneven fall over broad shoulders, his robes just disheveled enough to give the odd impression that he had jumped out of bed and rushed to Obi-Wan’s side. This close, Obi-Wan could see detail down to the thick calluses on Jinn’s broad, strong hands.
The strangeness of all that, the disconnect between the perception of the man before him and reality of his programming was enough to bring Obi-Wan fully out of his own mind. He looked away, face burning with the delayed onset of humiliation. "I’m—fine," he ground out, pushing himself up onto an elbow, then scooting back to lean against the chilly wall. "I’m fine. It was just an—unpleasant dream."
Jinn was gazing at him with an inscrutable expression, something that hovered between troubled and thoughtful. The worry lines across his forehead, the fine lines at the corners of his eyes were all pinched. "You should make some tea," he said gently. "It steadies your mind."
Obi-Wan dragged a shaking hand over his face, then back through his messy, copper hair, and uttered a vague, unintelligible noise of assent.
The projection sat with crossed legs, arms resting loosely atop his knees as he faced Obi-Wan, once the latter was settled back in with a cup of green sapir. "Where do you go when you sleep?" Jinn asked.
Knees drawn up, hot mug cradled into the hollow of his chest, blanket draped over his narrow shoulders, Obi-Wan just shook his head and sighed. "Perhaps not so much where as when," he said bleakly. "But I can’t answer that, either."
They sat in silence for a long time, nothing between them but the susurrus of the wind outside and the gentle, flickering glow of the hover-globe.
Jinn was the first to break the silence. "Your focus determines your reality," he said slowly, as if his words were heavy and he were meting them out carefully. "Finish your tea, and then I would like to recite the Meditation of Infinite Light and Waters for you."
Obi-Wan stared at Jinn, struck wordless. Yet he obeyed, unquestioning beneath such a gently issued command. He drained his cup, carefully packed it away, and slipped back into the insulated warmth of his sleeping bag. Jinn remained seated in half-lotus at his side, his projection light dimmed such that he was little more than a hazy, translucent outline.
When their little world had settled back into stillness, Jinn spoke.
The Infinite Lights and Waters was a meditation disguised as poetry, composed in dactylic hexameter older than the oldest foundations of the ancient Jedi temples, evoking the infinite push-and-pull of tides and currents. Jinn drew up the words from the depths of an ocean, soft and rhythmic indigo-dark syllables backed with an ageless strength.
"You’re such a strange thing," Obi-Wan murmured, heavy eyes drifting shut beneath the steady, deep rumble of Jinn’s voice. "Such a strange, lovely thing…"
The second time Obi-Wan went to sleep that night, he dreamt of clear-bright river water, the smell of sweetgrass, and a gentle, shadow-robed man in another life.
They didn’t talk about it the next morning. Not really. Obi-Wan just caught Jinn’s gaze over the rim of his mug. "Thank you," he said quietly, steam from his tea curling around the words.
Jinn appeared to pause, frozen; in flesh and blood, it might have been considered faltering, but might have just as well been a processing glitch. Then he smiled, expression warm with kindness and understanding, and he dipped his head slightly. "Of course."
"Right," Obi-Wan huffed, staring, then recovered himself and reached for his travel pack. "Well, I’ve been thinking, you know," he said with purposeful levity, almost sing-song, "Your exceptional level of social intuition and response accuracy wouldn’t be out of place in a state-of-the-art protocol droid of your time," he said. "Well, of the Temple’s time."
"Is that so?" said Jinn, catching on to the change in mood. He humored Obi-Wan, his tone and expression bordering on playful. "Tell me more about my exceptional response accuracy."
"That level of technology would have been highly unusual in a small outpost such as this," Obi-Wan remarked. "Perhaps they were trying to consolidate their resources, your keepers. Protocol droid, monitoring system, delightfully dry conversationalist all in one… reader of nighttime meditations, as such…"
Jinn chuckled. "It’s an interesting theory, but I’m afraid I don’t have any answers for you," he admitted. "I have no recollection of when my programming was implemented, or by whom."
"Not to worry," Obi-Wan reassured him. "I find you to be a wonderful puzzle."
"Maybe that’s a lucky, unanticipated byproduct of my advanced programming," Jinn remarked, flickering out of view, the projection whirring as Jinn reappeared, apparently observing over Obi-Wan’s shoulder. "You’ll let me know if I’m a bother," he murmured.
"Nonsense," Obi-Wan tutted.
He was dawdling.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Deputy bloody Field Director of the Jedi Order’s Division of Historic and Archival Resources, was wasting his and the Order’s time, and he knew it, and he wasn’t really arsed to care.
Honestly, a Temple this size could have been wrapped up and packed off to the lab’s data processors within a day. But Obi-Wan did this sometimes, lingered a bit on certain sites, and had thus far been met with Tahl’s benign but pointed overlooking of it—so long as his work didn’t back up.
He unpacked a tin with two compressed charcoal pencils, one black and one white, a pad of thick vintage-style drawing paper, and a nubby wad of eraser-gum. These were pure self-indulgence—not the clean, measured architectural drawings that would go into the official Archives, but his own personal sketches meant to find the essence, the feeling perhaps, of these ancient places which captivated him so deeply.
Obi-Wan positioned himself in one corner of the Sanctum. He captured the room from an oblique angle—sketched out the smooth rhythms of void and light, tried to distill into gentle lines and curves an architecture that spoke like hushed voices in another room. Detailed elements were next: the hard angles and supple curves of a column base, the simple sweep of the vaulted ceilings. The osteotheke—the one that particularly struck his fancy, which under Obi-Wan’s pencil grew less to resemble the somber portrait of a dead scholar, and more to resemble a ghostlike man with a noble profile and half-tied hair, clothed in ancient-style tunics of light and shadow.
"A thousand credit’s worth of technology at your disposal, and yet you still draw by hand," Jinn observed quietly. "That strikes even me as antiquated."
Obi-Wan chuckled and smudged the side of his right thumb down one line, coaxing the stark edge into dreamy softness. "The handicraft that built many of these places hardly exists anymore," he said. "It seems a way to honor them, perhaps. More so than a digital scan would." Then he added, thoughtfully, "Sometimes I rather think we’re made of the same stuff, these ancient places and I."
"You’re thirty-one," Jinn deadpanned.
"Do you read minds as well?"
"I saw your ID badge."
"Oh." Obi-Wan was almost disappointed. He tipped his pencil towards the bas relief funerary portrait; they all looked rather the same, if he had to be honest, but notably so in their grave expressions, features, and the solemn nobility of bearing. "Did they design you after one of them?"
"Maybe," Jinn said thoughtfully. "I’ve never given it consideration, but the resemblance is there."
"As in stone, so in code," Obi-Wan intoned with affected, ancient wisdom. "It was a bit of a fad, though, for a few centuries—this homogenization of likeness, regardless of species or gender. It followed the school of thought that the central tenets of the Jedi were things into which one transformed one’s own self. Peace, Knowledge, Serenity, Harmony—all singular, universal destinations within the Force."
"As opposed to what?" Jinn asked, but when Obi-Wan glanced over, it looked as though the program already knew the answer to that. His eyes were bright—brighter than normal, clear-sparkling blue—and the corner of his lip ticked up beneath his mustache, like he was trying to suppress a smile.
"You tell me," Obi-Wan challenged him with a grin.
"That the Force itself is subjective, mutable; that the tenets of the Code take on the likeness of the individual who seeks them," Jinn answered seamlessly.
"Very good," Obi-Wan hummed. "That you should know Serenity in a safe and secure temple, and I should know Serenity in a tidy desk and a morning cuppa. And yet we both, as such, have achieved Serenity."
"You know, your work is truly quite beautiful," Jinn remarked, gazing down at the sketchpad in Obi-Wan’s lap.
"I prefer to think of it as rustic," Obi-Wan demurred, hoping the program wouldn’t notice his pleased flush.
"All the same," Jinn said, then asked, "Are you lonely?"
Obi-Wan nearly did a double-take. The pencil wilted in his lax hand. "I—beg pardon?"
"Out in the galaxy, by yourself like this? Surrounded by only the remnants of other lives, other bygone civilizations. Taking such pleasure in coaxing the history and beauty out of them, yet you have no one to share it with," the program clarified. "Is it lonely for you?"
"I—" Obi-Wan began, then trailed off for a moment, brow furrowed, "It can be," he finally admitted, glancing down at the floor. He cleared his throat and deflected gracelessly. "You make for lovely company, though."
"You’re flattering me."
"Yes, well," Obi-Wan uttered, "I suppose it’s much easier to flirt with a complex system of batch-coding than a person."
Jinn hummed, thoughtful. He circled Obi-Wan once, hands folded at the small of his back. "Even one designed to maim and kill intruders?"
"Stars, yes. Probably more so," Obi-Wan said primly. "Though in hindsight, you were rather more frightful dust-bunny than vicious killer."
Jinn actually laughed, loud and deep, eyes closed and head thrown back. He looked absolutely carefree, and so impossibly, irrationally real for a moment.
Obi-Wan found that impossibly, irrationally charming. His ears were pink when he ducked his head and pointedly returned to drawing, while his heart skipped a beat, just once, inside his chest.
It rained the third night—great, cold sheets of it that pounded relentlessly, hour after hour.
Obi-Wan left the door cracked open for the sake of the sound and the damp, clean-earth breeze that gusted in. He didn’t feel unsafe for having left the room exposed; Jinn was watching over him, his central projector a green heartbeat-pulse of light in the darkness.
"Jinn?" Obi-Wan asked of the air, voice soft.
From the shadows, "Yes?"
"When I was twelve years old, I was thrown from a deep-sea mining freighter on Bandomeer."
Jinn flickered into view, lighting up the darkness of the Sanctum. He was frowning when he shifted to project himself as sitting placidly on the floor at Obi-Wan’s side, arms folded into the sleeves of his dark brown robe. "That sounds like an aberration from normal training methods," he remarked, expression troubled.
Obi-Wan chuckled. "It certainly was," he agreed and pressed deeper against his pillow, lacing his fingers together atop his chest. "I was sent to Bandomeer, originally slated for the AgriCorps," he explained quietly, gazing up at the shadowy, vaulted-stone ceiling. "No one had selected me as a padawan, and so I was to be a farmer."
"I don’t know if that would have suited you or not," Jinn remarked. "You carry the weapon of the Jedi and clearly take great pride in it, though it seems secondary to your work with the ExplorCorps."
Obi-Wan uttered a soft noise of agreement. "It’s true that I elected to join the Service Corps after passing my Trials," he said. "I—"
Obi-Wan arched a single, aristocratic brow at his digital companion. "It’s rather rude to interrupt people, you know."
"My apologies." Jinn looked genuinely contrite.
"Accepted," Obi-Wan said primly, but the look in his eyes was amused, warm, as it was with anything Jinn did or said. "Why what, then?"
"Why did you elect to join the Service Corps? Most Initiates dream of becoming warriors, diplomats, political negotiators," Jinn said. "Not historians." He made a strange, thoughtful face and then added, "No offense meant."
It was a fair observation. "It runs in the family, I suppose. My Master is the Order’s Chief Historian, my Grandmaster the Chief Librarian," Obi-Wan said.
"…That, and an Order that casts out its own children is sure to alienate a few in the process," Jinn remarked with a steady, neutral tone. He glanced sideways and down at Obi-Wan, then arched his own brow. "Don’t you think?"
"No bloody mystery the Whills were written off as heretics, saying such things aloud," Obi-Wan said, laden with mock disdain.
Jinn laughed, a low and pleasant sound. "I feel no sense of surprise upon hearing that, so that must be something I’ve been told before."
"Then your makers were wise before their time," Obi-Wan said. "It’s true that I found a sense of acceptance and a purpose there, which had been largely absent from my experience up to that point." He sighed deeply. "The Order is a flawed institution, like anything else. We make our way through it as best we can. I would have made a life of the AgriCorps, had that become my path."
"My makers weren’t the only ones wise before their time, it seems."
Obi-Wan folded an arm behind his head and turned to look at Jinn. "Another Jedi Knight had been deployed to Bandomeer as part of an enquiry into corruption allegations against a mining corporation. I was mistakenly associated with him and taken by operatives from the company—thought they would pack me off into offshore mining servitude, never to be heard from again."
Something dark and thunderous flickered across Jinn’s expression as he connected the pieces of Obi-Wan’s story. "And so they would have murdered a twelve-year-old child?" he said, broadcasting disgust so hard that his projection rippled.
"In all fairness, the murder was a bit of improvisation on their part," Obi-Wan said wryly. "I had a rather warped notion of duty at the time, and thought I had nothing left to lose by that point." He cast Jinn a cheeky smile. "I was a bit of a hellion as a consequence."
"Good for you," Jinn said with approval, though his expression and posture still spoke of simmering indignation.
Obi-Wan had grown accustomed to Jinn’s unusual displays of emotion; marveling at such complex and extraordinary programming was a given by that point. "Anyway," he said abruptly, "Feemor—the Knight sent to Bandomeer, that is—he’d been tracking me, and rescued me from the water. He brought me back to the Temple, and became my brother-padawan when Master Tahl took me on as her apprentice."
Jinn sighed and appeared to lean back against the wall. "Coming out of that experience with an apprenticeship doesn’t sound like much of a comfort," he said flatly.
Obi-Wan just hummed. "An apprenticeship, a broken back, and a concussive brain injury," he added and shifted around so he could flex the fingers of his right hand. "I was in rehabilitation for months," he said. "I began the drawing as part of physical therapy at my Master’s suggestion, you know. To help regain precision movement."
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"Because you had wanted to know why I’m a poor sleeper. It’s all rather involved."
"I suppose I did," Jinn said thoughtfully. He drew one knee up and rested his arm atop it, his body angled towards Obi-Wan, casually attentive. "Please go on."
"I’d had visions before, vague and shadowy glimpses rooted in the Unifying Force. But after Bandomeer, they became—" Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed, "horrible," he finally said, softly. "Absolutely horrid, immersive, inescapable things. They bled into my waking hours, my nightmares, every time I closed my eyes—I truly thought I was going mad."
Even just recounting the story stirred up old sense-memories like motes of dust: the stench and burn of acid in his sinuses, of blackened-crackling-brittle-burnt flesh, hideous red and yellow eyes, the weight of ten thousand murders stacked on his shoulders, the wholesale slaughter of everyone he’d ever loved. Death, death, death. He’d been suffocating in it.
Obi-Wan shivered unconsciously and tugged at the edge of his sleeping bag. "They began to fade with regular sessions at the Mind Healers. I haven’t had a vision like that in nearly nine years, but the fear stays with me," he said. "It always will, I imagine. The remnants linger sometimes, and it makes getting to sleep difficult."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan," Jinn said quietly, "for sharing that with me. It was clearly difficult for you."
"That’s the first time you’ve said my name," Obi-Wan said, making a point to lighten the mood between them, even though it was his own doing.
Jinn responded perfectly to the unspoken, social cue. "That seems rude of me," he said, then added with a faint, crooked smile, "Obi-Wan."
"Don’t smile at me like that," Obi-Wan said.
"Because you’re not real," Obi-Wan answered, then sighed hard enough to puff his hair out of his face. "And because if you were, I’d find you unspeakably attractive, I’m afraid. I’d be just gone on you."
Jinn looked intrigued, and asked for the second time that evening, "Why tell me?"
Obi-Wan slatted open an eye and simply repeated, "Because you’re not real."
Jinn cocked his head to the side, scratched at his silver-brown beard; the action made him look so terribly human that Obi-Wan reached out to touch him—only to feel empty air and the faint heat from the laser projection, the brown of Jinn’s robe tinting Obi-Wan’s pale fingers. He drew his hand back, tucked it away tight against his chest.
"Is it so hard to confide in the people in your life?" asked Jinn. "You’ve spoken of them with such fondness, and they clearly care very deeply for you."
"Sometimes," Obi-Wan admitted. "It’s not for lack of trust, but I’ve given them so much to worry over already in my life. It feels safer with you, I think, because—"
"I’m not real," Jinn finished, amused.
"And yet frighteningly easy to talk to," Obi-Wan said. "And handsome, and unfairly charming. That’s all rather helpful, too."
"Well, maybe we should take advantage of this while we can, then," said Jinn resolutely, and appeared to settle himself deeper in his heavy, dark robe. "Would you tell me more about yourself?"
"Bloody charmer," Obi-Wan muttered, and did. His nightmares, his visions, his favorite Chandrilan revivalist architects, his first kiss, his first love, his last kiss and his love lost. His favorite tea, his ongoing pursuit to become a master of Soresu. All of it, all the smallest pieces of himself, the ones he held closest to his heart; all the parts deemed unimportant, or perhaps even insignificant, the parts he never allowed out into the open.
Jinn listened to it all, rapt with interest, watching Obi-Wan with a soft, kind sort of gaze that was incapable of ever holding boredom or judgment.
The sun was rarely visible on Setti IV, but its fog-filtered, morning light spilled in through the Sanctum’s door, still opened from last night.
Obi-Wan snapped the leather flap on his rucksack closed. Dressed, fed, filled with tea, earpiece snug and ready for report-out on his seven-klik walk back to the pick-up point, he was all but set to leave. Only one point of business was left to wrap up. "Jinn?" he called out.
As expected, the projector flickered to life and Jinn materialized before him. His hands were folded placidly in his robe sleeves, long hair neatly combed and half-tied back, as though he were fresh from his own morning routine. "Yes?"
"May I preserve your coding?"
Jinn’s expression softened into something warm, amused. "Do you want to keep me in your pocket, Knight Kenobi?" he teased.
"Wouldn’t that be lovely?" Obi-Wan said with a laugh. "I could use an assistant, aside from Dolo. Or you could monitor the artifact vaults, if we can get your programming cleared with security to run on the broader network. My master would love you to bits."
"Then by all means," Jinn said with a gracious sweep of his hand, translucent robes rippling as he dipped low. "I think I’d like to see the temple of Coruscant."
"Wonderful." Obi-Wan’s grin was brilliant as he dug out a memory stick from his jacket pocket. "I think you’ll find it rather more stimulating than the temple here," he said, connecting the main projection device onto a multi-faceted port converter.
Jinn watched with interest as Obi-Wan typed a string of commands into the converter’s interface. The device blinked yellow twice, and then green as it successfully linked with the antiquated, Gamma VII security program and began the download.
"Not long," Obi-Wan said cheerily.
"Will it leave a functional versi—"
Jinn vanished. The chamber fell silent, the light on the security projector blinked out, and the unit made a low noise as it died, its solar power line completely overloaded by the converter download.
"Oh, kriff," Obi-Wan cursed. "Nine hundred bloody years you work, and you choose now—"
He tried a hard reboot on the security console.
The whole solar power line was fried. Completely blown out and dead beyond death.
Frustration snapped through Obi-Wan’s mind as he considered the iffy logistics of completely prizing the unit out of the wall, and taking it back to the tech unit at the Temple. The idea of leaving this place without Jinn—
The second crash was literal.
Obi-Wan actually flinched as the floor shook beneath him and a thunderous noise exploded behind him, muffled by earth and stone. He whirled, bracing himself against the wall—
At the rear of the temple, a panel that Obi-Wan had never seen had cracked open, its interior locking mechanism gone dead with the power outage. Obi-Wan stared, stayed for a moment by his own unease. Only a sliver of shadow was revealed behind it, but it was enough to let out a foul, ancient smell.
"What the bloody hell?" Obi-Wan crossed the short distance, braced his shoulder against the panel, and shoved it wide.
He staggered at what he found, reeling instinctively with revulsion and disbelief.
Obi-Wan faced a narrow, windowless secret chamber, walls darkened further with mildew and mold, the air stale and musty. The Force shivered with blackened memories of some hideous violence; dark, dried smears covered the floor, hand-prints and haphazard, dragged imprints of fingers—
Blood and carbonite, Obi-Wan realized. The crash had come from a great slab of carbonite, loosened from its rudimentary containment pod during the electrical blackout. Great, shattered chunks of the substance, streaked with rusty brown, littered the floor, dissolving away into the air.
A spasming human arm lolled out from the slab, fingers twitching and spidery.
Obi-Wan blanched, horrified, rooted where he stood in the threshold. "Oh, gods," he whispered, pressing the back of his hand against his mouth.
A man, curled protectively on his side, almost fetal, suspended in a moment of terrible and gruesome pain—slowly, steadily, his twisted body was coming unfrozen from the carbonite, loosening around his shoulder and torso, exposing filthy robes and a mass of tangled, long hair.
Brownish-red liquid began to flow, sluggish and still partially crystallized—
Trickling from a charred, gaping death-wound in the man’s side.
Opened and freshly exposed, the acrid smell of burnt flesh struck Obi-Wan at the same moment as his own adrenaline. He jabbed at his comm earpiece—panicked, sick to his stomach and growing worse with every interminable second the call took. He threw himself forward and fell to his knees, tearing off his own jacket.
A click, and Tahl’s voice came through. "Obi-Wa—"
"I need emergency medical transport! Now!" Obi-Wan cried, his voice cracking. He balled up the jacket and pressed it to the man’s gored side, trying to staunch the wound. "Now!"
Tahl reacted instinctively to the panic in her padawan’s voice. Her furious typing was audible even over Obi-Wan’s heavy breathing and the rush in his ears. "Closest way-station response team is notified and twenty-three minutes out with a jump-ring," she said sharply. "Can you hold on that long?"
The man’s blood was liquefying beneath Obi-Wan’s hands, pooling out between his fingers and soaking fabric as the carbonite dissolved away. "I don’t know," Obi-Wan bit out. He pushed his jacket tighter against the wound and gagged against the smell. "I don’t know—"
"Focus!" Tahl snapped. There was urgency there now, an undercurrent of fear Obi-Wan could sense even from lightyears away. "Tell me what happened."
"It’s not me," Obi-Wan said desperately. "It’s not me—it’s—I don’t know who he is, but he’s dying!"
The med-transport’s hum was a steady vibration against Obi-Wan’s back. Drained, aching, covered in someone else’s blood—he was afraid to take his eyes off the man in the bunk, despite the medics’ assurances that he was stable.
Because it was Jinn. The man in the bed was Jinn. Obi-Wan had no explanation for it, but it was Jinn and the man had been bleeding out in his own hands, and he was here, he was real, and—according to the monitor on his left index finger—he was alive.
At least for the moment.
"Bit touch and go, but he’s alright for the mo’, yeah?" said a green-skinned Twi’lek. She was trying to be reassuring, but her gloves were sticky with half-dried blood and there was an ashen cast to her face. "Got GAA emergency clearance to hyper-lane it to Coruscant. We’ll try not to make it a bumpy ride, mate."
Obi-Wan finally tore his gaze away and looked up wearily from where he stood in the corner, well out of the way. "What’s your name?" he asked distantly.
"Ooroth’ilie," she said. "Got Mari up front and Rin on pilot."
"Ooroth’ilie," Obi-Wan repeated. "My thanks to you all. Truly." He turned his gaze down to the mess of dirty gauze and sterile, plastic wrappers that littered the metal floor. "I can clean up here, if it will help."
"Got a droid for it," Ooroth’ilie said with a dismissive wave. "Take a breather, yeah? Have a sit-down? Lav’s 'cross the way if you want a bit of a wash-up."
Ooroth’ilie snapped her gloves off and stuffed them into a biowaste container. "He’s got more monitors on him than a rigged-up pod-racer right now. Any of his vitals kerplunk, and the machines’ll start screaming."
Obi-Wan was too exhausted to argue. "Very well," he sighed.
He’d scrubbed off layers of dirt and Jinn’s blood in the tiny shower cubicle, with the transport’s medicinal-smelling antibacterial soap and the wetted sash of his own tunic for lack of a proper washcloth. His beard was edging into unkempt, but he ignored it. Then Ooroth’ilie had given him a pair of scrounged-up, overlarge but clean green scrubs and a thick pair of socks to wear.
That had been half an hour ago, and Obi-Wan hadn’t moved from the tiny med-unit since.
"His name is Master Qui-Gon Jinn," Tahl said, her voice steady and calming in Obi-Wan’s earpiece. "He was a monk of the Setti IV Whills Temple, the last known keeper of it. He’s recorded as having perished during its destruction under the Rubata overthrow."
"Clearly not," Obi-Wan said, brow furrowed. Unease churned in his stomach at the next thought. "He must have crawled in and frozen himself during the siege. Gods above," he murmured, stricken, "wounded like that—what a horrific thing."
"He was a holo-projection, Master," he insisted then, though she wasn’t the one who might have needed convincing. "Clear as day. Embedded in every part of the system down to the bloody volume control."
Tahl was quiet for a long moment. "You know the legends as well as I do, Padawan, about what the followers of the Whills sought," she finally said, gently. "Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a grain of truth within them."
Obi-Wan laughed at that, a quick huff of air that sounded more tired than anything. "A low-level, solar-generated power-source, a means to connect to the outside world. To communicate." He scrubbed a hand over his face and back into his stringy hair. "Hell of a way to retain one’s consciousness within the Force. Do you think he was even aware of any of it?"
Tahl didn’t answer, just made a thoughtful noise.
"Nine hundred years, Master… what’s a man supposed to do, waking up after something like that?"
"I venture you’re about to find out."
"Bastion of good humor as always, Master mine," Obi-Wan drawled. He pinched the bridge of his nose, then scratched at the tawny scruff on his cheek. "Would you send me his files?"
"Already did, Padawan mine," Tahl replied. "I’m handling the Council briefing, but I’d like updates on the half-hour until you’re back on-planet. We have medical on stand-by."
He knew that tone of voice and the question within it. He hadn’t heard it very many times throughout his apprenticeship, only after the worst of his nightmares and visions, but the very sound of it calmed his nerves and settled around him like a protective embrace. "I’m alright," he reassured her, gazing down at Jinn’s prone form. "A bit rattled. Nothing a cup of tea and meditation won’t aid."
Jinn—Obi-Wan couldn’t think of him as anything else yet—shifted in the bunk. Periodically his limbs would jerk and twitch as his muscles and nervous system worked themselves out of an unthinkable nine-century carbonite sleep.
"I don’t want to leave him," Obi-Wan suddenly confessed. "When we arrive at the Temple—I don’t—I need to stay with him, Master." He sagged in his uncomfortable, plastic chair, pulled down by his own exhaustion. "I don’t know who he really is, but—he’s my friend."
Tahl paused for a moment. "I understand," she finally said. "You’re on leave until we get a handle on this," she added. "Ravi is covering your class, and I’ll be reviewing the field reports for now. Vos is deployed in the neighboring sector, and he’s been instructed to collect your equipment and belongings."
"Thank you," Obi-Wan said wearily. "Just—thank you."
"The Council and I are tracking your ship, and we’ll be waiting for you both. May the Force be with you, Padawan."
The comm line went mute.
Obi-Wan scooted his chair closer to Jinn’s bedside, close enough for his knees to bump the metal frame. "The more I think about it, the less surprised I am," he muttered. "We’ve never truly met, yet flinging your whole consciousness into a bloody security program and trying to scare me out of my wits seem exactly like the sort of things you might do." He crossed his arms, slumped back in the chair, and added, "Git."
Jinn’s face twitched.
Obi-Wan settled in. He couldn’t bring himself to dig out his datapad, so he reached out and gently tugged the blue, waffle-textured blanket higher up Jinn’s bare waist. They’d had to cut him out of his robes. A lightsaber, filthy and crusted with gore and dirt, had rolled away from Jinn’s body and onto the floor as they did so—
Obi-Wan had snatched the weapon up, and it was tucked into the pile of his dirty clothes, along with his own 'saber.
"Should I talk to you?" he asked. "I’ve never seen someone handle carbonite-sickness and a wound like that at the same time." He sighed. "You’re in for a hell of a surprise when you learn about bacta, Master Jinn, I’ll tell you that."
Obi-Wan just gazed at Jinn, then—studied differences between digital projection and imperfect flesh and blood, trying to match this wounded, broken man up with the entity he’d come to know back at the Whills Temple. Jinn’s nose was crooked from a poorly healed break, his long hair more bronze than brown and shot through with grey, his ashen skin dotted with faint freckles and moles. The holoprojection’s height had been no exaggeration, though, and this version of the man was just as noble, almost leonine, in profile.
Jinn was still terribly handsome even in such a reduced state, Obi-Wan noted a bit shamefully.
He reached out with the sort of care he reserved for the Order’s most sacred and ancient, most priceless relics. Fingertips pressed gently to the edge of the thick, red-soaked bacta-patch on Jinn’s bruised torso, Obi-Wan’s heart twisted in on itself with sympathy and worry. With his other hand, he nudged a piece of filthy hair off Jinn’s ashen face. "Is this what you were guarding for so long, then?" he asked softly. "Yourself?"
Jinn offered no reply, no indication he’d heard anything at all.
He came up eventually, though. Slowly. Strange hypnic jerks, painful-looking twitches in his muscles and joints—they began to slowly and steadily increase in frequency until, nearly an hour and a half after Jinn had been stabilized, his symptoms coalesced into fluttering eyelids and a long, grated moan.
Obi-Wan had been waiting for this moment, anticipating and dreading it in equal measure. "Jinn?" he asked tentatively, poised on the edge of his seat.
"I can’t s-see—I ca-can’t—" Jinn’s voice was an ugly, reedy rasp bitten out through chattering, blood-pinkened teeth, muffled behind his oxygen mask; his dark blue eyes were pinpricked with panic and skittered rapidly back and forth, unable to focus; his muscle spasms were morphing into a whole-body shiver, creeping up to overtake his massive frame.
Obi-Wan slipped out of his chair and crouched down at Jinn’s side, taking care to make noise as he did so. "Shh, you’re safe, Master Jinn. It’s temporary carbonite-sickness. Try to relax," he soothed, suffusing his words with the whisper of a Force command to stave off the man’s rising panic. "You’re in the care of the Jedi, en route to the Temple of Coruscant. You’re safe," he repeated.
Jinn grabbed out blindly towards him, groping clumsily until he closed his cold, stiff fingers around Obi-Wan’s sleeve. His hands were shaking uncontrollably, stark and white against rusty smears of dried blood, fingernails filthy and torn to the quick. "Who—are you?"
Obi-Wan eased himself up to sit on the side of the bunk. He placed a calming, grounding hand atop Jinn’s and held it tight. "My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said, voice gentle and steady, "and I’m a Jedi Knight with the ExplorCorps."