Getting into the library had been pretty easy. Sam had simply walked up to the side entrance, scanned Jess’s ID, and entered her code on the keypad that extended from the wall. This building was old enough and low priority enough that it didn’t have bioscanners or fingerprint recognition, and once the code was accepted, the doors slid open with a quiet swish and let him inside.
Sam looked left and right along the corridor, visually confirming no security droids were in the vicinity. “Chevy, can you confirm my route to the archive kiosk is clear?” Sam said quietly into his headset comlink.
He received an affirmative chirp from Chevy followed by Dean’s voice. “Chevy says it’s all clear. There are guard droids two levels up and one level down from the archives kiosk, but your level and the level where the kiosk is are both clear. Chevy says she’s tracking the guards’ movements; she’ll let you know if anyone gets too close.”
“Sounds good,” Sam answered, setting off quickly, but silently down the corridor to his right. He stayed close to the right wall, trying to stay out of view of the security holocams. Pausing at an intersection of corridors, he asked, “Do you have the security feeds sliced?”
“Uh, yeah, Sam,” Dean said, sounding a little wounded. “Don’t worry, you’re not showing up on any holorecordings. As far as the droids or the records know, there’re bare halls all around.”
“Thanks,” Sam replied, taking the corridor branching off to the left.
“I wish you had Chevy with you,” Dean said through the comlink.
Chevy trilled in agreement.
“So do I Dean, but she’d be really hard to explain if I get caught,” Sam added resignedly.
He heard Dean Chuckle through the comlink, “Not to mention it would be a damn sight trickier to keep the cameras clear if Chevy was with you.”
Sam smiled even though Dean couldn’t see his face (the holocam on his headset was directed out in front of Sam). “I’ll be careful,” Sam added in reassurance. He stole along about ten more paces in the dim hallway before coming to a recessed doorway near the end of the corridor. “Dean, I’m at the turbolift,” he whispered into the comlink.
“OK, hold there, just sit tight; I gotta sync up with their systems so I can mask the lift’s movements.”
Sam crouched down in the shadows just short of the lift’s door; he turned his head back the way he’d come, looking up the hallway and using the holocam to send the image back to Chevy, helping the little droid watch his back.
“OK, got it,” came Dean’s reply. “The lift is rising to your level and should be there in three, two, one.”
Sam heard a faint chi over his shoulder and turned back to face the turbolift. A light at the top now glowed blue, and as the doors slid open with a muffled whoosh, Sam crossed the threshold and threw himself inside.
He heard giggles through the headset. “Did you just throw yourself into the lift, Sammy?” Dean asked incredulously, clearly amused. “You know, when I said I had the cameras covered and I was masking the lift’s movements, I meant it.” His voice sounded more amused than hurt, so Sam wasn’t too worried.
“Uh, yeah?” Sam responded sheepishly. “I believed you; it just seemed like the thing to do at the time?” He chuckled and picked himself up from where he’d landed. The lift was sizeable with a dark grey metal interior that looked slightly brushed, giving it a sheen somewhere between matte and polished. The lights were off, so the only illumination came from the faint blue glow of the control panel. Sam had never really gone to this library when he was a student, and the décor of the elevator made him regret that. It seemed like it would have been a nice, soothing place to study.
“So, Sam,” Dean’s voice crackled over the comm, getting a little interference from the lift. “When I say that the cameras are covered and you can get out, you know it’s OK to step, right?” he teased.
“Yeah,” Sam replied. The lift slowed to a stop and Sam waited patiently for the doors to open.
“Uh-oh,” Dean said, sounding surprised. “What the hell.” That sounded more like Dean was muttering to himself.
Sam heard Dean hiss some orders at Chevy and vaguely heard Chevy trill something in reply, but they weren’t speaking into the comm, so Sam didn’t know exactly what they were saying.
“Sam, just what was your girlfriend working on?” Dean’s voice cut back in with a mix of surprise, concern, and awe.
“I told you,” Sam said, feeling the ever-present burning ache that was where Jess was supposed to be flare up again. “Some artifact that mentioned Sith and a lost prophecy. They hadn’t finished translating it or something, but they estimated it dated about 1000 years pre-Civil War, at least I think that’s what Jess said. Why, what’s going on?” Sam felt his pulse quicken and unconsciously pulled himself into a fighting stance.
“Well, it looks like someone more than our Sith friend is interested in it, well, that or something else down here,” Dean said ruefully.
“Meaning?” Sam said with a gulp.
“Meaning this level has a ghost system on it that would rival the security they’ve got on the Senate or the greediest, most paranoid Hutt’s stronghold. I’ve got systems popping up all over the place and it’s gonna take me a minute or two to lock them down so I can actually get you in. You know of anything else down there that could be that sensitive?” Dean asked, his voice sounding a little stressed and a little gruff.
“Uh, um, no,” Sam stammered. “But then again, I didn’t ever come here, I didn’t study here, so I have no idea what might else they might store here. Maybe the security has nothing to do with Jess’s research?” He hoped his voice sounded hopeful, but he knew that Dean was probably right.
They’d picked this kiosk for a reason. There were only low-security archives on the servers accessible from this terminal, and next to nothing of any interest on the level besides the terminal. The rest was rooms full of climate-controlled flimsi-based records and some offices. It was possible that something more sensitive was actually housed down here, but given the probable connection between the Sith and Jess’s research and the content of Bobby’s message… chances were it was probably the research that was pulling in the extra security. Most University and Government buildings that housed sensitive records had permanent, fixed systems that were readily apparent if you got into the security schematics. A ghost system signaled security that was usually temporary and set up on an ad hoc basis, usually when an unexpected need arose and the officials didn’t want to draw attention to a sensitive item or person’s presence. On that front, the artifact’s records also fit the bill.
Sam realized he was clenching his hands into fists so tight that his fingernails were drawing blood from his palms. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and another, and then another. He couldn’t freak out now. Dean could get around the system, and he could get in and out with what they needed.
“Ok,” Dean said, sounding a little pained. “I’ve got good news and bad news.” Sam wasn’t surprised when Dean didn’t hesitate, just plowing right through to tell Sam what was going on. “Good news is I got into the ghost system and I’ve managed to loop the camera footage. I’ve also bypassed the security codes that are linked into the lift door, so I can open it without it setting up any red flags. Bad news is the level is crawling with security droids. They’re not showing up in the building, but once you get into the ghost, they start popping up. I’m going to trigger a failure in the climate control on one of the archive rooms and open a few doors down the other end of the floor. That should send the maintenance droids swarming and get the security droids to follow. But watch out, you’re gonna have to be fast, and I can’t guarantee there won’t be more surprises when you get to the terminal.”
“Got it,” Sam said with a nod. “I’m kinda surprised you don’t want me to turn back.”
“You kidding? With this kind of security that shit must be important. I wanna get a look at what all the fuss’s about,” Dean said with amusement. “Ok,” his voice was now serious. “I’ve set off the decoy, and the droids are moving that way. One’s hanging back, but if you cross the hall and head immediately to the terminal, you should stay out of its line of sight.”
“Ok,” Sam said, feeling a surge of adrenalin and feeling his pulse speed up.
“Opening doors in five, four three, two, one...”
The doors slipped open, their faint hiss raising the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck. He leapt across the hallway, landing silently, and pressed himself to the wall. The floor was dark save for the eerie glow of green security panels every couple of meters down the hallway. He felt the cool stone of the wall at his back and pressed himself tighter to it. He could just barely make out vaguely human shape of a Mark II sentry droid standing guard in the shadows further down the hall where an access corridor to one of the archive rooms branched off. Sam tried to call up the image of the floor’s schematic in his mind. He’d looked at it only briefly when they’d been planning this out in the tapcaf, but he’d always had a good memory and his father had worked at making it sharper, more reliable—a skill he’d grudgingly appreciated upon beginning his studies at the University. Now he relied on it to begin his stealthy trip down the hall towards the droid. He moved the entire time with his back pressed to the wall, so that he could keep an eye on the droid at all times. Luckily, the swish of the lift door didn’t seem to have attracted its attention.
When he felt the absence of wall behind him, that signaled the presence of the alcove where the kiosk and its terminal were found, Sam quickly and silently slipped inside, keeping his eye (and the holocam) trained on the droid’s shadowy form until the last possible second.
“I’m there,” he breathed, hoping the comm would pick it up. He tried to orient himself in the dim light. He could feel the dataport where he plugged in the small datapad Dean had given him. The terminal whirred to life, and Sam held his breath hoping the faint noise hadn’t gotten the droid’s attention.
“You’re OK, droid isn’t moving, and the others are still down the other end of the level,” Dean reassured quietly, as if reading Sam’s thoughts.
“Ok,” Sam whispered as he pulled Jess’s ID free from the pocket where he’d stored it and swiped it by the sensor. The screen lit up prompting Sam to enter a pass code. Sam entered it, and the terminal welcomed him. “I’m in,” he said. The glow on the screen was bright, and it faced the opening of the alcove. Sam could block some of the light emanating from it with his body, but it still might attract a wary or overzealous droid. “Can you do something about the brightness on this thing?” he asked over the comlink.
“Working on it, Sam,” Dean said, voice tense. “Ok, how about now?”
The screen suddenly dimmed, and Sam’s eyes took a moment to adjust. When they did, he could just barely make out the interface and the light was no longer so bright that it would project a noticeable glow into the hall. “Perfect,” Sam whispered. “Ok, I’m going to try to find the records for her project.”
“Be careful,” Dean hissed. “I’ll watch for spikes, but we might not have much warning, don’t do any more poking than you need to.”
“I won’t,” Sam answered through clenched teeth and began hunting.
The next minute or two was silent, with Sam searching and finding the records for Jess’s department and then getting into their directory of recent projects. He didn’t find anything matching the description of the excavation Jess had told him about, so he tried a new tack and pulled up Jess’s personal files at the department. These would have been accessible from any computer terminal, but anything linked to the department’s archive servers would be inaccessible. Here, on this terminal, with its access to the servers, Sam should be able to get in. At first, he didn’t find anything on Jess’s account either, but a little more hunting showed an unnamed folder marked “secure.” When he tried to access it, it prompted him for a password.
“I think I might have found it Dean,” Sam whispered, but it’s asking me for a password.
“I can try slicing it for you,” Dean suggested.
“No, wait,” Sam said, getting an idea. It wasn’t just an idea, it seemed to pulsate and grow in Sam’s mind with a sense of definiteness and certainty that Sam had rarely, if ever, felt before. He would ponder about it later, right now he had to act. “I think I might know what it is.”
“Sam, wait,” Dean protested, alarmed.
Without further hesitation he entered “SamWinchester” into the password prompt. The screen blinked for a moment, and Sam held his breath, then the file opened. “Thank you, Jess, I love you,” he whispered.
“What?” Dean asked.
“I’m in; password was my name,” Sam supplied.
“Risky testing it like that,” Dean scolded. “You wanna bet what would have happened if you’d been wrong?”
“Nah, I wasn’t really worried. I know—” swallowed pushing back the swell of tears that came to his eyes, “knew, Jess really well. Plus, the password felt right.”
“This some uh, Force, thing?” Dean asked, sounding uncertain.
“Maybe,” Sam murmured, “Ok, I’ve got the files. I’m going to try opening one and make sure these are what we’re looking for.”
“Careful, Sam,” Dean replied.
The files had no names, but were instead listed in a series of date-time stamps. He picked the earliest and opened it. An image of a document in a strange language appeared in one half of the screen accompanied by a document in Galactic Basic. Sam couldn’t keep a gasp from escaping when he saw the seal at the top.
“Sithspit!” Dean cursed. “Sam, whatever you opened, it’s trying to ping some offsite computer, and it’s setting off red flags and alerts all over the security system. Chevy and I are trying to delay them… but they’re going around us. Don’t know how long I can hold them.” Dean’s voice sounded strained.
“Dean, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Sam asked, his voice shaky.
“Kind of busy… oh I’ll be a Hutt’s cousin, is that?” Dean’s question broke off.
“Yeah, that’s the seal of the Jedi Council,” Sam affirmed.
“Fuck, no wonder I can’t stop these alerts, I don’t have the Jedi encrypt/decrypt codes. The alerts are gonna get through, and when they do, that kiosk is gonna be crawling with Jedi, Planetary Defense, security droids, you name it. You gotta get out of there fast!”
“How much time?” Sam asked as he scanned the document. Sith Wraith, lost prophecy, this looks like the right records, he thought. He selected the entire contents of the folder and copied them to his datapad; now he just had to wait for them to download.
“Well, whatever you just did, it really didn’t like that. I’ve got twice as many flags going up,” Dean complained.
“I just copied the files, dude, they’re definitely the ones we want,” Sam hissed back. It was all he could do to keep from tapping his foot as he waited for the files to download. He settled for murmuring “come on, come on, come on,” under his breath over and over and over again instead.
“Uh, you got maybe two minutes. I’m slicing as fast as I can, but without the codes, I can’t really get into the root of the system. I’m just trying to cut off their means of communication, but that’s sending up flags of its own."
“Fuck,” Sam swore, looking down at the annoying little bar that signified how much more of the files were left to download. They weren’t even a quarter of the way done, and had already been downloading for close to a minute. “Is there anything you can do to speed this up?”
“Dude,” Dean said, sounding annoyed. “I’m trying to keep the powers of the Jedi from smacking down on your ass. You’re a slicer, and you know the University’s systems better than I do, see if you can divert some bandwidth to speed up the transfer or compress the files or something, but Chevy and I don’t really have any resources to spare.”
“Ok, ok” Sam said, dropping to his knees in the confined space to get better access to the terminal. At waist height was an access panel; when he flipped it open, let out a sigh of relief. It had a simple toggle switch that allowed the terminal to be flipped over to administrator use, in case a library employee needed to use it. He flipped the switch, and pulled out another pad from his pocket. Sam was never ore grateful he had kept his slicing skills well-exercised while at the University. He’d sliced their system configuration protocols years ago and if they hadn’t changed much… ah, there it is, he’d be able to do as he’d just done and shift extra resources to this terminal to speed up the transfer. It was probably one more thing that was going to set off red flags, but at this point, it was only a matter of when, not if, he authorities were going to be notified. So much for their simple in-and-out and undetected get away. Chances were, by morning, he’d be wanted for his girlfriend’s death. If they didn’t wind up in a detention cell first.
He stood up, and glanced back at the monitor, the transfer was almost done, just a dozen or so more seconds. He dropped back down, disconnected the second data pad, counted to ten, and flipped the switch back to non-admin use. When he stood back up the file download was complete. He quickly backed out of Jess’s account, while simultaneously disconnecting the first datapad. He stuffed both datapads securely in his pocket, and finished logging out of Jess’s account. When finished, he turned around so that he was facing the opening of the alcove. “Dean?” he asked, worriedly.
“I’ve got Chevy calling up the Dream,” Dean said panting, his voice tight.
“Are you running?” Sam asked, surprised.
“Well, it’s more hobbling than running, but yeah, we’re out of the tapcaf and heading towards the plaza. You done?”
Sam could hear more noise and interference over the comlink now, which corresponded with Dean being outside.
“Yeah, so where are we, and what’s my exit strategy look like?” he asked worriedly. He wanted to inch out into the hallway, but without knowing the status of the various alerts or even where the droids on his level were, he wasn’t going to risk it.
“Well, I’ve managed to hold the alerts so far, but they’re going to get through any moment now. But on the other hand, the droids are all returning, your area’s going to be crawling real soon,” Dean replied.
“Is the lift still here?” Sam hissed.
“Yeah,” Dean said sounding hesitant.
“Just trigger it to open in fifteen seconds, I’m making a run for it,” Sam said determinedly. If he could stick to the shadows, and make it back to the lift, he could get on it and maybe even to a level with an exit before the alerts reached their destination. If the droids caught him first—well, they’d never work out a distraction before the droids were alerted anyway and Jedi or who knows what else descended on the building. Poking his head out of the opening and glancing quickly to his left, he could still see the sentry droid and hear others approaching, but there were no others in range yet. Without further hesitation he pushed himself out of the alcove and stoke along the wall to the right, not bothering to check behind him again. His best bet was making it into the lift and then figuring out what to do from there. He counted down from fifteen in his head, and pushed himself a little faster to catch up. He got to 1 and leapt across the hall, exposing himself for as brief a time as possible. As he flung himself at the turbolift’s doors, they slid open. Simultaneously, Sam heard the alarmed whistle of a droid over his shoulder; he’d been spotted. He threw himself into the lift once again, and hissed over the comlink “I’m in!”
The doors slid shut behind him as he heard and saw the red glow of a stunbolt hurl itself down the hallway to where he’d just been.
“OK, I’m taking you up to the main entrance level. You’re in the main turbolift shaft, so you should have a more-or-less straight shot out to the entrance, but it’s crawling with droids. You’re just going to have to make a run for it and try not to get shot,” Dean said with regret.
“Gee thanks,” Sam said sarcastically, as he felt the lift rise rapidly—faster than usual he noted—but there was no real heat to his words; he knew Dean had his hands full, and if he could make it out of here alive, it would be a near miracle. They’d known it was risky going in after the files, but the never imagined there would be this much security around them. No, that’s not quite true, Sam thought, I knew there was something off about the whole thing, it was like I could feel the importance of those files. It occurred to Sam that might be more of the Force talking, but he pushed it out of mind again. He’d have time to deal with what his apparent newfound ability to wield the Force meant when he didn’t have a pack of angry security droids breathing down his neck and a swarm of alarmed Jedi ready to descend on the building.
“Sithspit!” Dean cursed through the comlink. “Ok, the first alarm got through. I can’t read what it said, but it looks like it went somewhere at the Jedi Temple. And now it’s triggering security systems all over the library,” Dean said with concern. Sam could hear him panting and hear a shuffling, pounding sound in the background, which was probably Dean running on his broken ankle. If Dean got hurt because of this, Sam would never forgive himself. “They just locked down the turbolifts,” Dean said added, sounding seemingly unconcerned.
Sithspit! Sam thought, but then realized he was still moving—a little faster if that was possible. “But I’m still moving,” Sam said aloud.
“Yeah, that’s the problem with using a ghost system,” Dean said, and Sam was pretty sure he could hear the wicked grin on Dean’s face. “It’s linked into your main system, but it’s dependent on everything the main system tells it. So, if you’ve got a flaw in the main system, it can still be exploited. The main system’s thought these lifts were locked down the whole time, while all the while I’ve had these babies at my beck and call.”
Sam let out a strained laugh. “Awesome, Dean,” he said honestly. Harass his brother as he might for being too trusting of their father, for not being normal, but he always appreciated his brother’s sheer mechanical and programming genius, especially when it saved his ass.
“Ok, you’re going to be stopping in five be ready to get out and run. Straight shot ahead to the doors fifty meters. At least ten droids in the area and counting,” Dean announced.
Sam leaned towards the door, and bolted the second they shot open. It was strange, it was almost as if he could sense the danger as it approached, he dodged to the right to avoid a blaster bolt—not a stun bolt, he noted—that shot by him a moment later. He just got a feeling that something was coming around the corner of the intersecting hallway on his right five meters ahead, so he dove and slid across the space, as a cylindrical hoverdroid floated by overhead. Sam scrambled to his feet and kept running. Maybe it was the Force letting him know what was going to happen, or at least giving him vague impressions.
“Sam, I’m in the plaza and the Dream’s touching down. I’m opening her ramp and me and Chevy are going to get inside and get her ready to take off. Where are you?” Dean said, panting.
Sam realized he could hear the hum of repulsor lifts up ahead through the cacophony that was all around him. Funny, he hadn’t even realized until now, but there were alarms and claxons blaring and wailing all around him. The security panels were all flashing red. And, he thought as he flung himself to the floor and rolled, just missing another blaster bolt that singed the wall just inches from his hair, he could feel the charge left in the air in its wake, and smell the ozone.
“Sam!” Dean shouted through the comlink again.
Sam realized he hadn’t answered Dean’s last comment. “Um, uh, I got about fifty meters the exit, maybe fifty to the Dream,” he said pushing to his feet and sprinting.
“Dream’s in preflight. Chevy says there’s a vehicle approaching from the Jedi Temple, and the main entrance is going into lockdown; I can’t stop it,” Dean said, brokenly. “You gotta get out of there now.”
“Got it!” Sam shouted. The light was still dim, but he could see the rosy light of dawn breaking through the windows of the front entrance. He dove again as he sensed the danger of another blaster bolt zoom through the air where his head had been. He tried to tuck into a roll, but he slipped on some blasted debris and managed to smack his face on the edge of the reception desk on his way down. Ahead of him there were security barricades—two layers of them—that were surely sliding into place. Sam pushed on slipping through the first as yet another blaster bolt whizzed past. He could hear the frustrated squawking of a droid behind him as the barrier slid shut with a clang, blocking the droid’s advance. Almost, too late, he sensed another hover droid approaching on his right. He dove, just as the second barrier was slipping shut. He avoided the droid and managed to get through, but slammed his chest hard on the durasteel barrier as it pushed closed. Oh sithspit that hurt! It knocked the wind out of him, and Sam could hardly think. Breathing or not, he needed to get out now, so lungs burning for air, he drew himself up and darted to the door. It was locked, and even swiping Jess’s card wouldn’t open it.
"Dean!” He croaked, when he could get enough air. He was right there, just inches from freedom and he couldn’t get out.
“I see you, now get down!” Dean commanded.
Sam dropped without question, as he heard weapons fire and the glass in the door shatter overhead. Huh, glad it wasn’t transparisteel, he thought absently. He pulled himself to his feet and darted through the wreckage of the door and across the plaza to the waiting open ramp of the Dream.
He was still about ten meters from the ramp when he felt the Jedi approach. It was like a needle piercing the bubble of his consciousness, or maybe an arrow or a wedge; a presence pushing its way in getting closer and closer, looming larger and larger. Sam knew that the Jedi could sense him, and could tell he was Force-sensitive. Sam wasn’t entirely sure how he knew, or if those were his thoughts or the Jedi’s that he was thinking, but he also knew that if the Jedi reached him, he would be able to stop them. Stop Sam. Stop Dean. Stop Chevy. Take the prophecy. Because that’s what they had—not just some relic or artifact. The reason the Jedi were so upset was because those documents of Jess’s—what she had found—was something huge. Something ugly and bad but also really important, that the Jedi didn’t want found. They were ashamed and they were worried, and Sam could also tell that his presence had them particularly freaked out—or at least, it did this Jedi.
The knowing, the awareness came to Sam in a moment, a flash and it was all there. As he sprinted towards the Dream’s waiting ramp he turned and pushed with his mind, thinking you can’t reach me, you can’t reach me, you can’t reach me over and over. Like back in the apartment, during the fire, he could feel the barrier spring up, blocking the Jedi from reaching him and holding him back. Sam almost tripped as he stepped onto the ramp, running sideways so that he could keep his focus on the Jedi, but he made it in, and gave one last push with his mind. He could feel the Jedi get thrown across the Plaza, momentarily stunned. Sam felt winded and drained, the aches and pains of his escape making their presence known. They had to get away now; he wouldn’t be able to do that again, block a Jedi like that, not for a while. Not until he’d rested. And there were more of them, dozens more, maybe the every Jedi in the Temple, coming this way.
But Sam needn’t have feared. He was only a few steps inside, and the ramp was already lifting, almost rolling him back into the Dream, which was herself lifting with a lurch and then rising gracefully, almost as if the ship felt as torn about leaving as Sam did. He just lay there, at the top of the ramp in a heap trying to catch his breath, and trying to figure out what to do next. Like it or not, Sam was back in the Family Business, and it seemed like the entire universe was out to get him.
The Dream took off from the plaza with a sickening lurch. Ever since he had noticed the camouflaged signal emanating from the artifact’s files, Dean had felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding. Even before Sam had noticed the Jedi Council’s seal—and Dean had figured out that was why he couldn’t stop the signal—he had realized that something was very, very wrong. Well, at least finding the Council’s seal on the documents and judging from their response pretty much confirmed that the artifact had something to do with the Sith, moreover, their Sith. Of course, the Council would try to keep anything Sith-related away from prying eyes. Still, that didn’t quite explain why Dean felt there was something much wore attached to the presence of that seal. That had been a Jedi after Sam in the plaza. He had seen it from the Dream’s bridge. Sam had stopped the Jedi, and everything was a mess.
“Where are we going?” Sam asked, shaking. Dean wondered how much of that had to do with the Sith encounter, how much was from Sam’s frantic escape from the library, and how much was just due to frustration with the situation.
“Bobby’s,” Dean said quietly, as he transmitted the coordinates to the Dream’s navcomp, turning his seat to face Sam.
“That’s kind of far,” Sam remarked, but there was no criticism in his voice. Sam looked exhausted, drained, haggard, really. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked thin and drawn. It was remarkable considering that just hours ago, Sam had looked happy and free and vibrant. Sam had a bruise blossoming across one cheek, where he had collided with something in his escape from the library.
“What’s that?” Dean asked raising his hand to touch Sam’s cheek. “Reception desk,” Sam answered with a shrug. “You didn’t see it on the camera?” He asked surprised.
Chevy made a soft trill from her position to Sam’s right.
“Chevy was watching you. At that point I had my hands full with trying to remote pilot the Dream so we could get out of there,” Dean explained. He felt a little ashamed, he should have been watching Sam, but it just wasn’t possible. Maybe he should have tried harder. With a gesture towards the passenger compartments he added, “Now, why don’t you go get some sleep?”
Sam looked at Dean suspiciously. “What about you?”
“As you pointed out, it’s a long trip to Bobby’s. As soon as I get us into hyperspace, I’m going to come back and join you, see if the medicomp can sort out my ankle. Chevy’ll be OK up here,” he said with a weak smile.
Chevy chirped her agreement, rocking forward in a nod.
Sam stiffly stood and walked to the rear of the bridge, looking back over his shoulder worriedly.
Dean gave him a nod of encouragement, and Sam finally wandered into the passenger compartments. When Dean was sure Sam was out of sight, he slumped back into the pilot’s chair, letting his guard drop slightly for the first time in hours, maybe weeks. Dean ached. His hands stung where the analgesic cream had worn off, although they didn’t hurt as badly as he would have expected. His ankle throbbed, and he could tell that the break had gotten worse; the bone was more out of place since his tapcaf-sprinting, ship-landing heroics. His shoulder still felt wrenched, and his hand was slightly numb and tingly. Dean desperately needed to rest, to give in and just heal but he couldn’t let go enough to relax, at least not until he knew Sam was safe. He tried to find as much comfort in the chair as possible. Sinking in, letting his body’s stress flow into the seat. It helped a little, but it wouldn’t do for long.
The navcomp chimed, signaling it was ready to take the Dream to hyperspace. Warily, checking the Dream’s sensors for what felt like the thousandth time since re-boarding, Dean confirmed they were not being followed before engaging the hyperdrive. With a wary sigh, and an affectionate pat to Chevy, he stood and walked towards the passenger compartments.
Dean found Sam sitting at the table in the ship’s mess cum clinic. Sam’s hands were shaking where he gripped the round edge of the table—as was everything else in the cabin.
He must have sensed Dean’s presence. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me Dean, but ever since Jess—it’s like I feel everything Dean. And I don’t know how to make it stop,” he said, voice wavering.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you,” Dean said, doing his best to suppress fears to the contrary.
“Don’t lie, Dean. I can feel your mood and you’re all tense and jumpy,” Sam gritted out.
“I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with you,” Dean answered softly moving towards the table and trying to put all the love and affection he felt for Sam into his voice. Sam looked at him skeptically.
“I’m just worried for you, that’s all. Scared ‘cause we don’t really know anything about you using the Force, and apparently you can and there’s a Sith after us, and now Jedi too, and Dad’s missing, and I’m just worried ‘cause that’s a lot to handle. But you’ve got me.” Dean sat down across from Sam and squeezed his hand.
Sam’s eyes finally met Dean’s and they exchanged a real, genuine smile.
“OK,” Sam said shakily, releasing his death grip on the table.
The cabin stopped vibrating around him, and Dean couldn’t suppress a sigh of relief. Some cooking implements rattled back into submission at the cabin’s food prep station.
“Let’s get you patched up,” Dean said with another squeeze to Sam’s hand.
Sam’s gaze darkened, his brow knitting together. “What about you?” He asked sternly.
Dean cared much more about making sure Sam was OK than he did about how he felt, but at the same time he needed to be in top form—or as close to it as his injuries would allow, and he really didn’t want permanent damage to his ankle. Still, that didn’t mean he couldn’t take care of Sam first. “I’m going to take care of myself, but I want to make sure we take care of you first. I’m not the one who just held off a Jedi and busted out of a library crawling with droids.” (He didn’t dare mention I’m not the one who just lost everything, but Dean certainly felt that.)
Sam hesitated, for a moment it looked like he was going to put up a fight, but he acquiesced. “Ok, but I’m sticking around to make sure you actually patch yourself up. ‘M not sleeping until I’m sure you’re OK.”
Dean wanted to wring his hands at Sam’s stubbornness, but really, he wasn’t asking for that much. And come to think of it, he really probably would need some help with his ankle. “OK, Deal,” he said at last. “Now you sit tight, and I’m going to go get the supplies.” Dean stood, wagging his finger at Sam and patting his hand, but not giving him much of an opportunity to talk back. He knew Sam wanted to protest, since Dean really shouldn’t be on his ankle, but Sam resisted, and Dean was grateful. He needed to feel like he could do something for Sam, and this was it.
He hobbled over to the array of cabinets and drawers John had set up as a mini clinic. It wasn’t quite as well equipped as a military ship’s sickbay, but it came close. It didn’t have any medical droids, but there were a few droid extensions of the ship that John had put in, not to mention it came complete with a portable holoscanner and diagnostic unit, Bacta patches, Bactade, and several other forms of Bacta, along with some good drug, skin sealants, and the works. Pretty much everything short of a Bacta tank.
Dean slipped open drawers and cabinets gathering up the supplies he would likely need letting the smooth, cool, feel of the alloy metal drawers calm and ground him. When he had everything gathered, he reached over to the small sink, and filled a bottle with water. He took that, a basin, and the supplies back to Sam at the table.
It might be a more old-fashioned, frontier form of medicine than you’d get in a big fancy hospital, but it worked well enough. Dean really couldn’t imagine what his life would be like if his father hadn’t been trained as a medic (among other things) in the Jedi Support Corps. Dean smiled wistfully at the thought of his father. He missed him, he desperately wanted to know where he was, but right now, the supplies, the ship, everything around Dean was soothing and comforting, all reminding him of his father, giving him strength. The Dream had had some form of a clinic even when he was a kid, when Mom was alive. John had said it was because he couldn’t chance anything happening to his family—and wanted to put his wife’s gadgetry to work. Dean supposed it was for the best. When John had started hunting, “anything happening” seemed to happen an awful lot. Now Dean was just grateful to have the resources at his disposal.
“Ok, Sam,” Dean said, sinking painfully into a seat, this time in the chair immediately to Sam’s left. He made a turning gesture with his hand to get Sam to swivel his chair so that Dean had better access to him. “Tell me where you’re hurt, and please don’t even think of hiding anything, or I will give you a full examination.
Sam cringed, but then smiled. It appeared he too took comfort from old routines. Many times when they were children it was Dean who’d tried to hide an injury, and Sam had practically had to climb his then-taller brother like a tree to give him a once-over.
Dean started with the obvious bruise on Sam’s face. He cleaned it to make sure there were no cuts or damage to the skin that could lead to infection and spread Bactane on it to help speed the healing process. Dean then inspected the rest of Sam’s face, head, and neck, finding a few cuts and scrapes where Sam had been hit by shrapnel from various sources—including one sizeable splinter of glass from the library door that was stuck in Sam’s scalp.
Sam gasped as Dean removed the debris. “I didn’t even feel that,” he groaned.
“Well, that’s kind of why I need to check you over, Sam,” Dean murmured as he cleaned and dabbed Bactane on yet another small cut. “I don’t want you running around hurt and not knowing it.”
They soon realized that Sam’s shirtsleeve was torn, burned, and his arm underneath actually singed by a blaster bolt.
“Didn’t feel that either,” Sam admitted sheepishly, flinching as Dean disinfected the burn.
When all of the wounds on Sam’s exposed skin were cleaned to Dean’s satisfaction, he had Sam stand—carefully—and strip to his undergarments.
“Sithspawn! What did that?” Dean asked, pointing at the angry stripe of purple-red bruise that had already blossomed over Sam’s chest.
“Barrier; hit me. Almost didn’t make it out,” Sam admitted.
Dean slid forward on the swivel chair so that he could touch the bruise. It was at least foot long, and stretched from just under Sam’s right shoulder across his chest and diagonally down his ribs on the left side. Dean touched it, gingerly, and just the barest pressure made Sam flinch and gasp.
“Bantha dung, Sam,” Dean hissed. “At least some of these have got to be broken.” Dean’s assertion was confirmed when he felt one of Sam’s ribs give under his fingers.
Sam coughed weakly. “I couldn’t really breathe after it happened, but I had to get out. That was right before you shot out the door…” His eyes lost focus momentarily, but then snapped back. “Probably when I got hit by the blaster, too.” Sam said, shrugging his now-bandaged right shoulder.
“Ok, well I’m grabbing the holoscanner,” Dean insisted. “I don’t want to find out the hard way that you’ve punctured a lung.” Dean rose from the table to pull over the portable diagnostic machine, and quickly set about scanning Sam, who—thankfully—gave no further complaint.
“Three broken ribs, bruised sternum, and a hairline fracture to your clavicle,” Dean read out as the holoscanner displayed its findings. “Blast, Sam. You really need a Bacta tank.” They didn’t have one of those onboard. “At least nothing’s badly out of place,” he sighed, sitting on the edge of his seat so that he could help pop the one rib that had moved back into place. A little pressure to Sam’s front and side, a bitten-off gasp from Sam, and a sickening pop, and it was all done. Dean let out a sigh of relief. He pasted Bacta patches up and down Sam’s chest, across the bruise, and made Sam drink some Bactade—much to Sam’s dismay—to help speed the healing process. Lucky for both of them, a quick inspection of Sam, showed no other injuries beyond a skinned knee and one more splinter in his left forearm. Cleaning both, Dean gave Sam a pat on his uninjured shoulder. “Ok, you’re all done. You want anything for the pain?” he asked.
Sam cleared his throat, standing with a wince. “Let me just get some clothes on and then we can check you out. I’ll take something for the pain once we’re sure your ankle’s set.”
“OK,” Dean conceded.
Sam returned to the table wearing baggy leggings and wrapping a loose robe around himself, and carrying another robe and leggings for Dean. “You’re gonna go sleep after this too, so you might as well do it in something comfortable.”
Dean grumbled. He hated this. Anything that made him unprepared, relaxed, guard lowered, made him nervous, tense… which kind of defeated the whole relaxation point. Dean needed to be ready to go, ready to protect them no matter what. Still, Sam had a point. So, Dean gingerly lifted himself to his feet, and slipped into the robe. The leggings would have to come later once his ankle was sorted out.
Once they were both changed, Sam motioned at Dean’s empty seat. “OK, sit. I’m going to get that ankle checked out now.”
Dean sat and allowed Sam to lift his ankle. Dean’s boots were still on, so he allowed Sam to remove them and gently poke and prod his ankle—which drew a pained gasp from Dean.
“Sithspit, this is bad Dean,” Sam murmured, flinching in apparent sympathy as he carefully removed the boot, sock, and splint. The splint had shifted so that it was no longer supporting Dean’s ankle.
Dean felt a bit dismayed that he hadn’t even noticed. It was so swollen—and swelling faster now that his boot and splint were removed—that he honestly hadn’t been able to feel where the splint was, everything was just an undifferentiated, pounding, throbbing ache.
Sam fiddled with the holoscanner and its attached medicomp, letting out a hissing sound when the machine beeped with its result.
“How bad is it?” Dean asked, honestly wary.
Sam looked up with pained concern. “It’s broken in three places, and there’s a bone fragment that’s way out of place. If you’d kept walking on it any longer, you could have…”
I could have cut off the blood supply and lost my foot, Dean realized with a gulp. He really didn’t want to think about how needing a cybernetic or biosynthetic limb replacement would complicate their already-nightmarish situation. “Shit,” he sighed aloud. “Ok, well, can you get it set?” he asked Sam encouragingly. He knew Sam hated to cause him pain just as much as he hated feeling like the cause of any of Sam’s pain. But, like it or not, his ankle needed to get back more or less in position or he would be in a lot more pain.
Sam looked away, grimly consulting with the medicomp. “Brace yourself,” he said, voice brittle.
Dean grabbed onto the edges of his seat, thankful they’d had the time to properly patch up his burned palm earlier. He could feel that the ointment and Bacta patch were doing their jobs, and the skin was already healing nicely, otherwise, gripping the chair as hard as he did when same pulled on his ankle, snapping bones back into place with an audible snap would have probably caused him to black out. Even with the effects of the analgesic wearing off, his hand only added a subtle, itchy throb to the fiesta of pain.
“Oww,” Dean gasped, amazed at his own understatement.
Sam was already running the scanner over Dean’s ankle again. “Well, good news is the major break is back in place and the fragment is about 90% lined up.”
“Ninety percent?” Dean asked embarrassed at the squeak in his voice. That didn’t sound too good.
“Dean, I told you this was bad…” Sam started to protest then seemed to think better of it.
Yes, they both knew it was a bad break, but that didn’t mean that they could have avoided the injury or that Dean could have avoided running on it. Not if they had wanted any hope of leaving Coruscant alive and with the information they needed.
“The top portion is still off by about three degrees,” Sam explained. “You really need Bacta immersion for this,” he added grumbling. “But since that’s not an option…” Sam let his voice trail off and stepped away to rummage through the supply cabinets until he’d gathered what he needed. He turned back to Dean holding what Dean thought could only be described as a “giant fucking needle.” “If I inject the Bacta into the area around the break, it will stimulate the bone to realign and mesh properly,” Sam added, sounding almost clinical.
Dean gulped. This was nothing like the quick, tiny, almost pain-free Bacta injection Ven had given him back on Coruscant. Which was probably why that didn’t manage to do much of anything. Knowing he had no other choice, Dean nodded, giving Sam permission.
Sam didn’t hesitate beyond consulting with the medicomp for the correct angle and depth at which to stab the needle into Dean’s ankle.
Dean tried to breathe through it, sucking in gulps of air when the Bacta was in his ankle and the needle removed. He did his best to focus on breathing while Sam slapped more Bacta patches, on the outside of his ankle along with an anti-inflammatory patch.
Seeming satisfied with his handiwork, Sam pulled a more substantial steriplast splint out of a nearby supply cabinet and worked it around Dean’s ankle.
Dean spoke when he heard the device’s pressure seal snap into place with a hiss. He tested his ankle. He couldn’t move it at all, but he could wiggle his toes, and between the Bacta and the anti-inflammatories, he could feel the pain abating somewhat. Better yet, this splint should be reliable enough to let him walk on it without re-injuring the break.
Sam was still hovering though, running the scanner over one more time.
“Are you done yet?” Dean asked, a little more snappy and whiny than he had intended.
“Just making sure I didn’t knock anything out of place,” Sam said exasperated. “Looks good.”
Dean started to stand.
“Whoa, whoa, where do you think you’re going? You said I could check you over,” Sam said concerned, gingerly reaching out to hold Dean in his chair.
“You fixed my ankle, now I’m going to sleep,” Dean said stubbornly.
“What about your hands?” Sam asked nodding at Dean’s bandaged palm.
“They’re ok, honestly,” Dean added at Sam’s skeptical glance. “Already feel like they’re healing up fine. Sure, he could probably use another dose of Bacta ointment and the analgesic, but he really didn’t feel like being poked or prodded any more.
Sam checked them over anyway, tutting as he went. He was apparently satisfied with the healing on Dean’s left hand, dabbing just a drop of Bacta ointment on the now-shiny, pink skin and re-bandaging it. Dean’s right hand got a little more attention. The blister was gone, but the burn wasn’t quite healed, so it got more of both the Bacta and the analgesic cream. “Ok, how ‘bout your shoulder? You were holding it funny before,” Sam asked when he was done with Dean’s hands.
“It’s fine, just a little sore,” Dean said ignoring the tingly feeling in his fingers that he knew meant there was probably a pinched nerve. He knew Sam wouldn’t be placated. Sure enough, Dean was forced to sit twitchily in his chair for another minute or so while Sam prodded the shoulder. He seemed satisfied that nothing was out of place and didn’t scan it.
“Here,” Sam said, slapping another Bacta patch on it. “It’s obviously sore. In case there’s anything I didn’t see, that should help make sure it heals.”
Dean nodded leaning forward again to stand. This time, however, he was met with Sam holding a greenish patch that definitely wasn’t Bacta. “What’s that?” Dean asked although he knew the answer.
“Comaren patch,” Sam said moving to slap it to the side of Dean’s neck.
“Aw, Sammy c’mon, you know that shit fucks me up,” Dean whined. Comaren was a pretty strong narcotic painkiller, and while he knew he could definitely benefit from its effects, he also knew that it would pretty much knock him on his ass for the next twelve hours.
“Dean,” Sam began matter-of-factly, “Perigen makes you spacey, and it’s not even a strong painkiller. I’d give you some of that, but it wouldn’t even take the edge off.” Sam smiled apologetically.
Dean hated that it was true. As exhausted and shaky as he felt, the pain was bad enough to keep him awake.
“Just take this and it will knock you out,” Sam protested.
Dean looked from the patch to Sam and back to the patch again. “Ok, just,” he put up his hand again as Sam started to move toward it again. “Put that on me when I get in bed. I still need to send a holocom message to Bobby, and…”
“And what?” Sam asked, stepping back, scrutinizing Dean.
“And send a message to Dad,” he added, hating that his throat caught. “He needs to know we’re ok. If he’s out there, and—and he’s not dead, then he’s gonna hear about Coruscant, and he’s…”
“Ok, Sam said,” dropping his hands to his side, and hanging his head. “I’ll,” he looked around, probably realizing that Dean would want to send his transmission from the kitchen area. “I’ll go wait for you in the bedroom, are you ok cleaning up?”
“Yeah,” Dean nodded.
He waited for Sam to exit before standing, testing his weight on his ankle. When confident that he could hobble a few steps (although it was incredibly painful), he finished changing out of his pants and into the sleep leggings Sam had supplied. Dean then quickly straightened up and readied the holocom.
He sent the message to Bobby first. He probably could have gotten him online for a live call, but Dean really didn’t want to have to talk to anyone (other than Sammy) in person right now. It was just too emotionally draining. He sent Bobby all the information they had gathered, including Jess’s files, and explained when they would be arriving. Having received a transmission from Bobby only hours before, he was confident that Bobby would be at home on Tatooine when they arrived.
Then Dean steadied himself, drawing on all his reserves, and placed the call to his father. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or distraught when he didn’t get through, but it took every ounce of strength he had left just to leave a message, so on the whole, it was probably good that John didn’t answer. When he was done, Dean wiped the tears from his eyes and headed to the sleeping compartment.
Sam greeted him with the Comaren patch, but thankfully didn’t comment on Dean’s red, puffy eyes.
Dean crawled into bed, almost immediately knocked out by the strong narcotic, and hoped he’d get to sleep the rest of the trip.Master Post | Part 3 | Part 5