Author: darkpadawan11 PM
Alone on patrol in the jungles of Dxun, a young Mandalorian recruit finds himself pitted against a dark Jedi.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Chapters: 4 - Words: 16,650 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 08-05-06 - Published: 02-06-06 - id: 2788571
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Part One: Always Be Prepared
The rain had made the paths muddy enough to swallow a boma whole. Davrel had to leap across the suspect sections, with far more agility than his heavy armour should allow, but he came dangerously close to falling into the bogged holes.
The last thing he wanted was to return to the encampment covered in muck. Not only would he get a mouthful of pride-wounding abuse from Captain Kral but he'd be laughed out of the recruit's barracks. It was common knowledge that patrol wasn't quite the life-or-death assignment it used to be. The Jedi and her companions had ensured that the paths were no longer crawling with vicious predators.
That combined with the fact the camp was at a quarter of its former strength meant that rookies like Davrel were sent to patrol the jungle paths now. It kept them usefully occupied while the seasoned soldiers were busy doing the real work.
It also kept the recruits from complaining too loudly about being left behind while others were earning enough honour to support a battalion.
Davrel kept his eyes on the path ahead, ears alert for any threatening sounds. The rain drummed a regular tattoo against his armour, a strangely comforting sound. The weight of the heavy rifle he carried was also comforting, so were the frag grenades he carried on his utility belt.
Rule number one-always be prepared-he'd been quick to learn, and Sarge was there to beat it into him if he hadn't. The Jedi had also shown him the value of the lesson during their contest. He hadn't been expecting her to be so strong, so quick.
Beneath his helmet, Davrel winced. The memory of the flogging he'd experienced at her bare hands was a sore one. He hadn't stopped copping hell since everyone had witnessed the battle circle encounter. The older soldiers didn't embarrass him over it-being veterans of the wars they'd likely seen their fair share of Mandalorians losing against Jedi-but his fellow recruits wouldn't give it up. Even helping her group take down the zakkeg hadn't stopped them. Most of them doubted he'd done much during that hunt.
What did they know? Davrel asked himself moodily, treading towards the clearing ahead. None of them had been there, so how would they know that he'd been the one to track it to its den? And he didn't want them knowing what had happened during the fight against the brutal beast. He wasn't sure that he wanted to know, and it was bad enough that the Jedi knew.
Thinking of the incident always made him more confused than ever, but he couldn't help worrying at it, like an itchy kolto patch on a wound. The past month hadn't done anything to help. The growing responsibility he'd been entrusted with hadn't been the distraction he'd hoped for either. Instead of taking his mind off the matter, walking lonely patrols through the jungle only gave him the time to think…something Davrel hadn't ever done much of, to tell the truth. He'd never needed to.
The Jedi had changed that. Davrel had no doubt in his mind that she was responsible for this. His grip on the rifle slightly tightened beneath his gloved hands. If she hadn't come here, then he wouldn't be considering leaving everything he knew.
The narrow path widened slightly to reveal an open space, the remains of an extinguished campfire in evidence. Without thinking, Davrel had his rifle up, scanning the nearby foliage. He knew that he was the only Mandalorian scout in the area, and it wasn't one of his campsites.
He activated his comm. 'Control, Davrel. Signs of unidentified activity in sector eight. I'm investigating.'
'Strike that last, soldier,' a gruff voice answered over the static. 'Orders are to remain until a detail arrives. Repeat, remain until reinforcements arrive.'
'It's a single campsite, control,' Davrel argued, 'I can investigate alone.'
'Wait for reinforcements,' was the irritated reply. 'That's a direct order.'
Davrel acknowledged and signed off, inwardly seething. What was the point of even sending him on patrol if they still thought he needed someone to hold his hand? Hadn't he proven himself capable during the Sith attack on the encampment?
The ground around the charred fire was muddy and Davrel couldn't find a single clear footprint. The rain must have washed them away before he'd gotten down here. He turned his attention to the knee-high grass nearby, noting how some stalks had been snapped and bent. Not enough to form an obvious trail, but enough for Davrel to guess what direction the intruders had gone.
Torn between wanting to charge off alone and wanting to follow orders, Davrel stood staring into the dark jungle. The reinforcements will take at least an hour, he thought, and whoever's been here has a decent head start. Another hour and we could lose them for good out there. He frowned and activated his helmet's basic scanning programs. As the swirls of colour appeared on his HUD screen and began to detail other broken foliage, the memory of what the Jedi had told him the night after the zakkeg encounter began to ring in his ears…
"It's in there, and you can feel it for yourself now. I don't think even you can deny it's there…just merely waiting for you to acknowledge it. So what's your choice, Davrel? Are you going to become a half-person for the rest of your life, always wondering what you could have accomplished, what kind of man you might have been? Or are you going to uphold your true ideals of honour-and take the chance to become more than what you are?"
With the Jedi's words ringing in his ears, Davrel made his decision and strode purposefully into the jungle.
He hadn't gotten very far when he found snapped branches and clear footprints. The distinctive tread was easily recognisable. Smiling slowly, Davrel paused to contact control.
'Control, Davrel. I've found footprints. Intruder is Sith-affiliated. Repeat, intruder is Sith. He's heading for the ravines south of the landing clearing.' Snapping off the comm before control could blast him for disobeying orders, Davrel continued down the gentle slope, eager to find this soldier that had somehow survived the attack a month ago.
The ravine was full of sound, making it hard for Davrel to isolate any particular noise that didn't belong. Occasionally, a boma's loud growl would echo through the jungle, but it was too far away to be any danger. Davrel followed the Sith soldier's trail with ease. Each clumsy attempt at covering his tracks made Davrel's job surprisingly simple. What Davrel didn't find with his own tracking skill was picked up by the basic programs in his helmet. He finished in a grassy clearing, the stream to his right and the last smudge of a footprint in front of him. Davrel bent to gauge a closer look at the print.
A low humming caught his attention. How he heard it over the sound of the stream's running water and the loud beeping of his helmet, he didn't know, but it launched him into action. He began firing before the dark figure could attack.
'Fierfek!' His bolts were absorbed by the shield his opponent wore in a surge of golden light. Davrel fired the rifle again, tracking the figure as it dove into a cover. He fired until he'd expended an entire clip of ammo, stripping the plants bare. Keeping his eyes on the area, he ejected the expended cartridge and clipped in a fresh one.
Nothing moved, but Davrel didn't think he'd scored a hit. Ever since the Sith had attacked the encampment, he'd developed a sense for downed targets.
And this one certainly isn't down, he thought. Davrel approached cautiously, prepared for another attack. His instincts were confirmed when he found nothing but torn apart leaf matter.
'Nice try, recruit,' a low voice hissed from above, stressing the last word. 'Unfortunately, brute strength isn't going to save your life.'
Davrel shrugged, keeping his rifle aimed high. 'Why don't we find out? Come down, friend, and give me a better shot.' Without waiting for an answer, Davrel squeezed the trigger.
The soldier vaulted to another tree, almost too fast for Davrel's eyes too follow, disappearing into the dark canopy above. His interest in the confrontation growing-was he a Force-user rather than just a common trooper?-Davrel peered into the canopy above. Reaching to his belt, he pulled free a frag grenade.
'Outrun this,' he muttered under his breath, arming and throwing the grenade into the canopy. He ducked, the canopy above him exploding into orange brilliance, debris raining down on him and thudding heavily against his armour.
Frag's got to have finished him, he thought, pushing back to his feet. Frag would take out anything-
Then he remembered. Always be prepared. Davrel hefted his rifle again and squinted through the scope. Sure enough, there was movement up there. Nothing definite-no silhouette to be picked off with a sniper shot, but a strange distorted shape leaping from limb to limb. It was far too purposeful to be flaming foliage. Grinning grimly, Davrel followed the shape.
Gotcha, he thought, rather pleased with himself.
The distorted shape paused. Davrel was about to squeeze the trigger when the dark Jedi's voice suddenly spoke clearly in his mind.
: I'm going to make your death a painful one, boy. :
Davrel ignored the threat and shot anyway. He never knew if his bolts connected because a sudden blast of hot electricity knocked him onto his back, sending agonising pain throughout his entire body. His limbs convulsed uncontrollably, and it felt like he was frying in his own armour. A faint smell, like boma meat roasting on an open campfire filled his nostrils…and made him gag, sour-tasting liquid burning the back of his throat.
That's me cooking! It's burning my flesh…
He refused to scream.
The pain had consumed him so utterly that when the pale face leaned over him menacingly, he couldn't see it. When a hand reached down to lift him easily by the throat, he couldn't feel the pressure.
But he could feel the violent shock of energy course through him. It felt like the time he'd accidentally touched an exposed circuit as a child, intense and almost crippling.
: Don't resist. My slave-and you very well how to be a slave, don't you? You fear it more than anything… And you fear far more than your brethren. Yes, I know about your mother, and the life she bore you into. I understand why you were so eager to follow the Mandalorian cause, why you turned your back on your brother to come to this moon. Your mind screams these things at me. What did you find here, slave, but a dying cause led by a faithless man? What did you learn among this pitiful rabble but confirmation that none of it matters? :
The voice was within him, spreading like a toxin through his system. Half-fearing that he would shame himself and begin to scream in terror, Davrel pushed the presence from his mind with the last reserves of his strength.
He must have taken the dark Jedi by surprise because he was suddenly on the ground, gasping desperately for air and choking back the bile that had risen in his throat. The always comforting helmet was suddenly suffocating him, the air trapped inside scalding and the circuitry fried. With shaking fingers, he pulled it free and shakily stood to face the cloaked dark Jedi, nearly choking on the damp, clear air. The cold rain was cleansing on his burned bare face.
The dark Jedi, a bearded male in saturated black robes, regarded Davrel in shock.
'Not quite what you were expecting, huh?' Davrel asked weakly, pulling out his vibroblade.
'No, not exactly,' the dark Jedi answered frankly, pulling out a lightsaber hilt. 'But then, I've often found expectation to be misleading. We expected that the Jedi Order had been exterminated. Freedon Nadd's Tomb was expected to be a simple operation. My apprentice certainly wasn't expecting to be decapitated during what should have been a routine mission.' The lightsaber ignited, illuminating the man's sharp profile with crimson light. 'However, I don't expect your friends to be along for quite a while. And that's an expectation I'm certain won't disappoint me.' The smile he gave Davrel promised unendurable agonies.
That dark presence threatened to invade his mind again, prizing apart his defences. Prepared, Davrel attacked first. The humming lightsaber easily deflected his vibroblade, slicing dangerously close to taking off Davrel's right hand. Leaping back nimbly, Davrel delivered a series of powerful strikes.
'Idiot,' the dark Jedi hissed. 'Don't you see? He's demanding that you all throw your lives away, not for glory, not for honour, but for a Jedi cause. He isn't your leader because he has chosen to be. He is your leader because Revan told him to be. You are the Republic's sacrificial offering during the next invasion-and he has made you a willing one.'
Davrel didn't falter in his attack. 'Liar,' he spat, swinging the blade at the Dark Jedi's head. 'He wouldn't do that do us.'
The dark Jedi parried the attack and pressed one of his own, using agile, flaming strokes. 'You might wish I were, but I'm not. Your very denial confirms what I have told you is the truth. Why else would a Mandalorian-the Mandalore himself-suffer the presence of not just any Jedi, but the same one that slaughtered and betrayed your kind at every opportunity presented to her?'
He brought the vibroblade to meet a lethal overhead swing, straining to keep the man from cutting him in half. The rain was working its way into his armour and making him shiver uncontrollably, his traitorous fingers threatening to slip from the hilt.
'She earned his respect. Her honour was proven,' Davrel answered, slowly reduced to one knee under the dark Jedi's unnatural strength.
His reply was mocking laughter, and a sudden kick to the face, too swift for him to counter. Blood filled his mouth, making him choke and spit teeth. The weight abruptly lifted from the locked blades, and taking advantage of Davrel's momentary confusion, the Sith hit him again, using the Force to knock Davrel onto his back.
'Is that what you call it? Honour?' the Sith asked condescendingly. Davrel grasped his blade's hilt and got to his knees, struggling to keep up with the Sith's dazzling attacks. He bit back a cowardly scream when the Dark Jedi began to enter his mind again, focusing instead on the lightsaber that flared dangerously close to taking his life.
I won't shame myself, he told himself. I won't shame-
The violation of his mind was beyond anything else he'd experienced. Davrel struggled to keep his eyes open and trained on the deadly red blade mere inches from his face. The dark presence tore brutally into his memories, dredging old emotions and feelings…
A small boy, held in his older brothers' arms and trying hard not to shame himself, watching a fleet of Basilisks take off from a dusty plain and hoping that Da won't be away long this time…
'Get out,' Davrel snarled, trying to push the man away from him. The attacker in turn easily disarmed him, sending the vibroblade flying into the stream. A stunning blow knocked Davrel down to the ground again, leaving him coughing and gasping.
He could feel the Sith working his way deeper into his memories, resurfacing things Davrel had tried so hard to repress and leave behind.
His mother, wan and close to succumbing to the disease that would take her life, begging him to make more of himself than Kamran and his father, to achieve more than just death and destruction, promising that there was more to his life than what he'd witnessed…
The guilt and shame almost made him choke. Of all the memories, this was what had made him question the path he'd taken in his life. The Jedi had merely reminded him of that.
: And you've let her down so utterly, haven't you? Failure seems to be who you are, slave. :
Davrel howled in fury, trying to break his mind free, but couldn't. The dark Jedi's grip was determined-there was no chance of success this time.
The longer he struggled, the more aware he became of the man's sadistic amusement at his futile efforts. And that made it worse than anything, even worse than the Jedi's casual attitude to the humiliation she'd dished out in the training circle. Far, far worse than all the taunts he'd endured since arriving on Dxun.
Kamran, his face red with fury and frustration, throwing a gauntleted fist into an older Davrel's face and spitting curses at him, disowning him while Davrel staggered back to his feet…
"Fool…useless fool…over, don't you understand? They longer exist! Honour's bartered, little brother, and the sooner you realise that…"
Davrel tried to shut away the memory of his brother, and failed. Kamran had disowned him, thought him a fool for believing that honour was worth dying for. Davrel hadn't seen him for almost a year.
: No one cares about something as paltry as yourself, slave. There are countless scores of those such as you, ignorant failures feeding pathetically from the weaknesses of others. Mere pawns for the powerful. Petty amusements until the next fool stumbles along. :
No! Davrel thought desperately. You're wrong…she proved it…
But even as the thought of the Jedi came to mind, the Sith was already dredging another memory…
A trio of armoured men greeting him silently as he approaches a dusty launch pad and a rusty ship. "New recruit," one comments as Davrel strides up the cargo ramp. "Blaster fodder," comments another wearing yellow-armour. "Won't last longer than a week of training with Kral." Two laugh together, but the red-armoured man at the foot of the ramp shakes his head. "Idiots. That's one of Dallon's sons." The yellow-armoured Mandalorian snorts, clearly unimpressed. "Well, then perhaps he'll live long enough to be shot out of the sky like his father…"
Davrel recoiled from the memory. The dark Jedi laughed and pressed further, strengthening his grip on the young soldier's mind until Davrel began to scream. Clearly enjoying the situation, the dark figure pushed for Davrel's worst memory, the one he was fighting to hide even from himself.
The Jedi woman-the one Kral growls is kiu'ka, or traitor- corners him as he tries to return to his barracks. "There's another possibility for you now," she says. "An entire galaxy to consider." Davrel snickers beneath his helmet. "Don't be a fool," he answers. "I don't care what you claim I did this afternoon. I killed that zakkeg with my blade, not the Force. Keep your soft ideals for the next idiot." The Jedi regards him for a long moment. Davrel begins to think she will admit her mistake. But she doesn't. Instead, she gives him that annoying half-smile and says, "ah, but Davrel, you could have… It's in there, and you can feel it for yourself now…"
The Sith hesitated, thrown momentarily by this unexpected knowledge. Davrel could feel the man's confusion, then his elation. Sickened and still unable to confront the truth, Davrel rolled to his side, the pain of the Sith's attacks still charging through his body.
I'm going to die here, he thought, the pain searing into a strange clarity. This abomination will murder me and then escape into the galaxy…and it will be my fault because I was weak.
The emotion that flooded his being wasn't the shame he expected to feel. After all, he'd again lost his honour by succumbing to this Sith's attacks, by failing to uphold his duty.
No, it was regret. Regret that he'd failed everyone…everything. Regret that he would die before truly making a choice about his future. Regret that this dark, cruel man before him would continue to kill and corrupt and that he could do nothing to stop it.
I'm sorry, he thought, unsure who exactly he was apologising to. I'm sorry I couldn't do more…I'm sorry I'm weak.
Note: This is set not long after KOTOR II. Obviously the Exile was a woman and Light-Sided.