The first thing Ferus was aware of was something poking into his back uncomfortably. He tried to wiggle away, but moving was especially difficult. He struggled against a confining blanket wrapped around him, limbs feeling strangely heavy.
Then he opened his eyes.
"What the... where...?" he sputtered, squinting in the dim light of the room. He was in what appeared to be a smallish cabin on a transport or ship of some kind. He was lying uncomfortably on a fold-down bunk. He sat up slowly, feeling nauseous instantly. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
But there was nothing. Nothing. His eyes opened wide and he reached out again. There was nothing there.
He barely made it to the fresher in time. His stomach was empty, but he retched anyway, his mind whirling and his stomach catching up quickly. He finally sat back on his heels with his forehead pressed against the rim of the toilet, breath catching in his lungs, eyes burning. He couldn't feel anything.
The Force had always been there, had always touched him and been a comforting presence in his body. He had learned to call it to him as a child, so long ago that he didn't remember a time he couldn't do it. But now it was gone. He tried again, desperate, but nothing was there. He examined his body, looking for a device that might be causing this disconnection, but found nothing. It didn't make sense. Without the Force, the fear swam in his brain, feeding on itself, spiraling out of control.
No. He pushed himself to his feet unsteadily. I can deal with this. I must deal with this.
Then the pain came. It rushed to his head along with the blood, and he fell to his knees again, shaking and biting his lip to keep from crying out. Fortunately, it subsided quickly, fading to a dull throb that was tolerable.
What happened to me? Where am I? He couldn't remember coming here. He was clearly on a ship, and it felt like they were traveling through atmosphere, not space. He struggled to remember what had happened. The last thing he remembered was... Anakin.
He crawled back into the room and peered over at the small bed. Someone was huddled there, under a blanket. He managed to stand and made his way to the bed.
Anakin was curled into a fetal position, covering half of the bed. It must have been his foot Ferus felt pressed into his back. He sat down and touched the other boy's arm gently.
"Anakin?" No response. He tried poking him a little harder. Nothing. He took the other padawan by the shoulders and shook him slightly. "Anakin, wake up!" No response. Anakin appeared to be unconscious.
Ferus instinctively tried to reach out with the Force to touch the other boy's mind -- but it still wasn't there. He shuddered slightly. It was as if someone had removed his eyes or his sense of touch. He had never had to function without this sense outside of the brief Force deprivation training they all had received. But in that training, his access to the Force had been blocked. He could still sense it within his own body; he simply couldn't use it. This was different -- this was like someone had removed it from him altogether.
He glanced down at Anakin again, suddenly frightened for his friend. Anakin had an unusually strong connection to the Force. What was it like for him to be without it?
Without warning, the door slid open and the lights brightened to full. Ferus winced and covered his eyes with his hand. He had been trained to use the Force to compensate his vision in situations such as this one. Without it, he was helpless and could only wait for his eyes to adjust on their own.
When they finally did, he saw a young woman standing in the doorway. She was probably his age, and wore what appeared to be a military uniform. The insignia on the lapel seemed to indicate she held a fairly high rank. She had pale skin, with dark eyes and a long dark braid of hair draped over one shoulder.
He recognized her instantly, the memory of the ambush in the gardens ripping back to the front of his thoughts. "What have you done to us?" he asked in a small, tight voice.
"What, no introductions?" she quipped. "I know who you are. Would you care to know who I am?"
"Does it make a difference?" He heard the sarcasm in his voice before he realized the words had come out of his mouth.
"Most likely," she stated, stepping into the room. The door slid shut behind her.
She appeared unarmed, though Ferus knew there was little sense in attacking her at this point. Not with Anakin unconscious on the bed behind him. He stepped to the right to put himself between Anakin and the woman. It was all he could do at the moment to protect his friend.
"High Commander Kimit Faltiwend," she stated sharply, bowing her head slightly. "My troops call me Commander Kim, so I'll allow you to do so as well."
He blinked. "You're the governor's daughter."
A strange expression spread slowly across her face. "You're well-informed. My mother's assassination was quite a blow to this world. We all miss her presence and wisdom quite keenly. Of course, were it not for her death, you would not be here now." She leaned against an uncomfortable looking chair.
"And where, precisely, is here?"
She smirked. "I can't tell you that, now can I? Perhaps you have some other questions I won't be able to answer."
"What have you done to us?"
She waved her hand in front of her body in a vaguely dismissive gesture. "Ah, that. Not to worry. It's temporary."
Ferus gestured towards Anakin's still form. "You call that temporary? I can't wake him."
"Don't worry, dear, your little boyfriend will be just fine." The smirk seemed to be a permanent facial feature. "I merely wiped out most of the midiclorians in your bloodstream."
Ferus suddenly had difficulty breathing. "You... you did what?"
"My father is a weapons specialist, you know, and he has spent his life designing anti-Jedi weaponry. A certain private donor has been spending a good deal of money on the development of his recent project." Ferus's mind raced at all of the implications of that statement. His knees threatened to give beneath him. Kim paused to appraise his reaction before continuing. "It's quite simple, really. Take away those abnormally high levels of midiclorians and a Jedi is just an ordinary being, like anyone else."
He felt the blood draining from his face even as he felt the bile rising in his throat. He wavered on his feet, unable to process the idea, the very thought that someone could do this to him.
"Of course, your midiclorian level is genetically predetermined, and so the organisms left will reproduce and return to their normal numbers in time. In a few weeks, you'll feel good as new."
He gaped at her, feeling his anger rise. He wasn't afraid of the feeling; no harm could come from indulging it at the moment. "How dare you use that... weapon on us! You have no idea what the possible ramifications are, do you?" His mind was flooded with them, each more gut-wrenching than the last. The surviving midiclorians could carry a mutation, or a gene that wouldn't normally affect a healthy population. It could change the nature of his connection to the Force forever. He swallowed down the saliva that warned him he was on the verge of vomiting again.
"Well, my father experimented with tag-rats with a great deal of success. I daresay you have little to worry about. You look a little green, by the way."
Ferus squatted to the floor, and it seemed to help calm his stomach. He stared at a fixed spot on the floor. "Tag-rats?"
"They had been genetically modified. The biggest problem was that they became immune to the effects of the weapon after being exposed to it more than a few times. A plus for you, I'd say."
"Did it kill any of them?" Ferus asked, daring to raise his head so that he could glare at her when he asked the question.
She pouted, a bizarre expression on her stern face. "There was quite a bit of variation in how the rats reacted. Don't worry; I'm sure your boyfriend will be fine very soon."
"He's not my boyfriend," Ferus muttered, then wondered why it had seemed so important to say that aloud. Did it matter what she thought?
"Isn't he?" Commander Kim grinned. "I saw the two of you rolling around in the grass together."
He groaned and sat on the floor heavily, embarrassed at having been distracted and trapped so easily. Master Siri would really chew him out for this. The old damsel-in-distress ruse, she would say. If they've got dicks, it gets them every time. Then she would sentence him to more meditations than one could possibly accomplish in a normal human lifespan. Compared to what he was feeling at the moment, it didn't sound half-bad.
"I'll be back to check on you later," Kim said, standing. "I can assure you that if you cooperate, no harm will come to you." She turned and left the room, door hissing shut behind her.
Ferus barely made it to the fresher this time either.