By Tim Radley
1. An End to All Council
Tamar De'Nolo stood before one of the orbital station's observation ports, gazing down at the planet filling his view.
Coruscant, capital of the republic and zero point of the galaxy; seat of the Senate and the Jedi Council. It was – viewed from orbit at least – spectacular in its beauty. The lights of the planet-spanning city glittered like myriad jewels; a bed of stars and swirling constellations. Space traffic – shuttles, freighters, private yachts, routine fighter patrols – passed his view in a constant stream, their re-entry trails drawing a web-like filigree through the planet's atmosphere. Through the Force, he was aware of the billions of lives spread out below him as a constant, whispering hum – a gently lapping tide.
It was the first time that he – the Tamar version of himself at least – had experienced this particular view outside of holocasts, although his memories told him differently. His memory told him a lot of things, but then, his memory was a compulsive liar.
In a strange way finding out that he was Revan, Jedi Knight turned Dark Lord of the Sith – dark bogeyman and walking catastrophe – had been easy to accept compared to learning that all of his memories were lies and fabrications. The one person in the galaxy he could least afford to trust in was himself, or at least, the self that he had thought he was.
It had been so much easier before the Star Forge and Darth Malak. Then necessity had driven his actions and there was no time to dwell on matters of past and future; no time to think on anything but the now, and act or die.
Tamar found that he almost longed to regain that wonderful simplicity.
He let out a breath. No, that way was dangerously close to self-pity. And worse.
A ghost of his reflection showed in the transparisteel viewport. He was a big man, tall and broad and looking every inch the soldier that he had once imagined himself to be. Shaven-headed with dark skin, his face was hard and angular – broad square cheekbones; fractionally too-full lips; dark, commanding eyes. It possessed a still calm that didn't entirely reflect the reality that underlay it.
Somehow, it looked different to the face he had once known.
Once it had been a comfortable face, not unhandsome but neither exactly remarkable – save for a hint of underpinning charisma that made it slightly more compelling than any of the individual features suggested it should have been. Now though it seemed harder and crueller than it used to be, as if subconsciously he saw traces of the tyrant and monster in its planes and angles.
Tamar heard a door open behind him, jerking out of his introspection, though an observer wouldn't have noticed any outward change. The Force was calm and he received no sense of a threat – quite the opposite – so he didn't look around, instead listening to the quiet rhythm of the person's footsteps as they approached him.
"I was told that I could find you here . . ." a very slight hesitation over his name. ". . . Tamar."
The voice was familiar, and it drew a smile that was completely at odds with his mood of just seconds earlier. "Yuthura! It is . . . it is so good to see you again."
The woman standing next to him, lithe and poised, was a Twi'lek, violet skinned, her graceful head tails bearing striations of darker purple. Dressed in a plain black flightsuit, she was possessed of a quiet strength and a lean elegance edged with steel.
"Truly? I was going to say the same thing." Her answering smile, displaying sharp looking teeth, had the feel of an expression that was being slowly learned anew.
Tamar hesitated. "I . . . worried about you. I don't mean that to sound patronising."
Yuthura blinked, opal eyes looking startled. "You did?"
"I thought you might have headed for Dantooine after Korriban. That I might have sent you to your death."
She nodded slowly. "I did head to Dantooine. Anywhere else would have felt like running away I think, and I couldn't do that. Not after what you'd given to me. The freighter I booked passage on arrived as Darth Malak's fleet was beginning to depart. They were in too much of a hurry to bother with anything so insignificant as us."
Heading to rendezvous with Admiral Karath and the Leviathan, Tamar thought but didn't say. He hadn't been back to Dantooine himself in the months since the events on the Star Forge. "I heard that the entire planet was scorched."
Yuthura's head tails shifted on her shoulders, whispering softly against the fabric of her flightsuit. "No, just the Jedi enclave. The rest of Dantooine is too target poor. Even Malak wasn't psychotic enough to waste time and resources bombarding empty grassland. The planet as a whole got off much more lightly than more developed worlds like Taris and Telos did."
"It was bad enough though. The ground was still glowing and half-molten when we landed. The enclave was just . . . gone."
"You had friends there? From before I mean."
"I don't know if they would have called me friend still, after all I had done." She sighed softly. "Or perhaps they would at that." She fell silent for a time before eventually continuing. "But not all the Jedi died. A good number were always outside the enclave at any one time, working among the homesteads and the farming communities, or simply wandering the wilderness."
"That is good to know." It sounded hollow and pathetically inadequate.
"My old teacher was one of the survivors," Yuthura continued after a moment's pause. "He cried when he saw me again. The part of me that still thinks like a Sith hated it – was embarrassed by his weakness. But . . ." she trailed off, smiling once more. "It was wonderful to – to know that somebody cared about me, and had missed me. We Sith give up so much without even realising what we have lost. And the power is such a paltry consolation. I know now that I could never go back to that."
"You are here because you wish to be a Jedi again?" His voice was soft.
She gazed down at the view of Coruscant – all the glittering lights. "I . . . I thought about my path, like you told me to. It took a long time for me to get things straight inside my head, but the surviving Jedi on Dantooine were so kind and patient with me, despite the tragedy they had just suffered. Despite the fact I was part of the enemy that had just inflicted such an atrocity on them. Eventually I started going through some exercises with my old teacher." Her head tails twitched, conveying meaning and emotion he wasn't quite able to pick up on. "I came here to ask the Council to consider allowing me to restart training to be a padawan. It would feel good to be able to help someone else for once. Not to make up for what I have done, but simply for its own sake."
For a time a companionable silence fell between them.
"You know that I am Revan," he said eventually, his words statement rather than question.
He got the sense that she was studying him closely, trying to read something from him before she spoke again. "To me I think you will always be Tamar De'Nolo, whatever anyone else says you are," she said at length. "That strangely compelling man I met in the Drunk Side and knew was different, even from the beginning. The man who became my . . . friend."
For a moment, he struggled to speak, touched beyond words. "Thank you," he managed finally, then echoed: "My friend."
"Did you know? On Korriban I mean?"
Tamar shook his head. "I found out shortly afterwards. Our ship was intercepted by Saul Karath's Leviathan when we tried to depart from Dreshdae. I should have been more prepared for that after encountering Bandon – a stupid, stupid oversight."
The consequences of which had almost proved disastrous.
"Karath held us captive until Darth Malak's arrival. Malak was greatly amused to inform me of the truth." He gave a shaky laugh that wasn't anything to do with humour. "After we . . . After we escaped I tried to tell myself it didn't matter – that Revan was dead, and I was still just the same person as I was before I knew the truth; Tamar De'Nolo. The only thing that changed was a name, after all. No knowledge or memories came flooding back to me, and I wasn't suddenly a completely different person. I definitely wasn't the Dark Lord of the Sith."
His gaze followed the brightly glowing manoeuvring thrusters of a republic military shuttle as it began its stately descent to Coruscant's surface. "But that is just denial, isn't it? Running away and hiding from my responsibilities and the truth; burying my head in the sand. At least I don't lie awake at night anymore, looking at my scars and wondering how it is that I don't remember getting any of them. It sounds a tiny thing, but it used to drive me to distraction."
"You lie awake at night for different reasons now." Yuthura sounded suddenly very sad.
At length he nodded.
"For the first time in my life that I can remember, I have found some peace within myself. A touch of harmony and serenity. I think it is what I was always truly looking for, but was too blinded by my hate and anger to see. I . . . I wish I could give some of it back to you."
"We all have to find our own peace within ourselves."
"But that doesn't mean we can't have others help steer us in the right direction. You showed me that."
Tamar opened his mouth to say something else, but closed it again, words unspoken. He had a sudden awareness that they were being observed.
Trying to appear casual, he glanced upwards at the viewing balcony behind and above them. A figure stood there, absolutely still, wrapped in dark hued robes. A cowl covered his or her face, totally concealing it from view, but Tamar still had the impression that they were looking directly down at him.
He felt something strange. A ripple in the Force. His surroundings seemed to shift and change . . .
He was lying, naked, in a bed that was somehow both strange and familiar at once, covered in drying sweat and filled with a deep, weary muscle-deep ache.
Gauzy curtains stirred in a turgidly warm breeze, and there was an air of hazy languidness to the whole scene. His thoughts were slow and pleasantly blurred as he lay there.
One entire wall of the bedchamber opened onto a balcony and the night sky, three moons reflecting back enough of the local star's light for it to be bright as twilight on most planets. The smallest of the three moons was bright red, like a malevolent eye gazing down directly at him.
Strangely, he found that idea amusing.
A woman stood upon the balcony with her back to him, pale skinned and silvered by the moonlight, lithe and athletic with long, straight black hair.
She was not Bastila.
She was not any of the fake women he remembered from his fabricated past. Women who had never truly existed outside of his head.
She glanced back at him, over her shoulder, and the look in her eyes made him jolt hard . . .
"Tamar? Is something wrong?"
Yuthura's voice penetrated through the memory flash. It faded instantly, skeins of mist sliding through his fingers. The cowled figure on the viewing balcony was gone, and there was no sense to indicate that there had ever been anybody truly their.
"Did you see someone?" he gestured. "Up there on the viewing balcony."
Her head tilted fractionally and there was a questioning look in her eyes. "No, I saw nobody. I sensed nobody." A pause. "People do not sneak up on me." Her voice held utter certainty of conviction on that fact.
He knew that he'd seen something though, and the odd vision couldn't just be brushed away. Another person's memory, carried to him on the Force? He wondered briefly. But no. As he'd looked down the length of his body there had been an all too familiar vibroblade scar situated just above his left hip. It had been him in the vision, sure enough.
"You look . . . concerned. Are you all right?"
The only time he'd had any memories from Revan was in connection to Bastila and their bond, either of facing her on his flagship, or through her of the star maps. All significant things, and they had stopped totally after the Star Forge was destroyed. This was somewhat different, he sensed.
"I think perhaps I had a memory," he began hesitantly. "Something from when I was still the Dark Lord."
The hooded figure . . .. He wondered briefly if he'd been seeing a ghost.
A ghost of himself.
"What the blazes do you think you're playing at, boy?"
Tamar let out his breath, lowering the focus stone hanging suspended in the air in front of him back into its setting. It was an exercise for neophyte padawans, and since it only took the tiniest fraction of his concentration to perform, it hadn't been doing its job – inducing a calm meditative state, free of turmoil and emotion – very well in any case.
"And a lovely morning to you too, Jolee. You don't know how much my heart leaps with joy to see your smiling face."
Jolee Bindo's already deep scowl deepened further. "Bah, don't think that you're going to distract me with pleasantries. I may be old, but I'm not senile yet. And did your mother not tell you how sarcasm is neither big, nor clever?"
"To be honest, old man, I wouldn't know that, would I?" Tamar unfolded himself from his cross-legged position on the floor and stood up, his movements leanly graceful – a predator lazily stirring itself.
For a moment, Jolee actually shut up and appeared slightly taken aback. It didn't last. "Don't think I'm going to let you duck the question that easily."
Tamar padded across to the window, gazing out at the spectacular view it gave of Coruscant's endless skyline "There was a question? I think your memory is playing tricks on you. Happens to the best of us in time . . ."
Surprisingly no snappy retort was forthcoming, suggesting Jolee really was serious. "Why are you doing this? Going against the council's wishes the way you are."
Tamar paused before responding, weighing his words with care. "By my count twenty-seven separate Republic systems – it may be more now; I haven't checked for the past couple of days since it was all getting a bit depressing – have petitioned the senate for my extradition to face criminal charges: war-crimes, treason and genocide."
"Charges that the Jedi Council were refusing to entertain, I might add. As far as they're concerned, they have passed judgement and the matter is settled. At least it was until you came blundering in like a Bantha with his tail on fire." Jolee snorted. "I mean, offering to surrender yourself to the senate's judgment. What kind of an idiot . . ."
Tamar turned back from the window and looked at Jolee levelly. "This should have been a time of reconciliation and rebuilding, Jolee: a time of newfound peace after years of near constant war. Instead, because of me, we have a situation where we're close to total schism between the senate and the Jedi Council. The republic is close to tearing itself in two."
"The Jedi council would have smoothed things over, given time," Jolee huffed. Tamar didn't miss the doubt in the old man's voice though. "Which has all, of course, become irrelevant – thanks to your moronic pre-emption."
"The Jedi council would not have smoothed things over, and you know that as well as I do. It had gone too far for that." Tamar spoke calmly and reasonably. He might have been discussing weather that was slightly unusual for the time of year. "They misjudged the situation badly. They were carried away by optimism after Malak's defeat, thinking that everyone would find the tale of Revan's redemption a heart-warming parable of hope and renewal. Unfortunately, the rest of the galaxy are not Jedi, and they don't have the Jedi's capacity for infinite forgiveness. Especially not while they're still hurting so badly from the war."
"So, you know best do you? You know better than the Council? Are we perhaps sensing a familiar pattern here? One from the past."
Tamar just looked at him; folded his arms. "This is not quite the same."
"It never is, is it? Not when it affects you personally, rather than someone else." Jolee's gaze cast around the small, plain room. "Aren't you even going to offer me a chair? Can't be standing around like a lose end at my age. Did the Council put no manners at all inside that thick skull of yours?"
Tamar made a quickly stifled exasperated noise. He waved at one of the plain, slightly uncomfortable looking chairs. "My apologies. Please Jolee, take a seat. Make yourself at home."
"No thanks, I prefer to stand." Jolee wandered across the room to stand beside a table, casually picking out a ripe purple fruit from the bowl on top of it and taking a bite. Juice squirted down his chin.
Tamar went on, reciting the arguments he'd been through in his head time and again already. "In the last month alone three previously loyal Republic systems have defected to the Sith. Others are wavering. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You've heard that one, I take it? And to them Revan is more the enemy than the Sith ever were. I've heard the Bothans have issued an ultimatum to the senate and the council. Resolve the Revan situation satisfactorily within thirty days, or they secede. Several others are viewing that one askance, looking to see which way the dice rolls before they act themselves. Tensions are mounting everywhere you look. The way things are going civil war isn't out of the question."
"By the Force, you're arrogant."
Tamar jolted in surprise at Jolee's words, looking as if he'd been slapped.
"The Republic has one slight problem and suddenly you're the only one who can save the day. Arrogant. Unbelievably arrogant. I'll tell you sonny, the galaxy kept on ticking along perfectly well before you showed up, and it'll keep on ticking long after you're gone. It doesn't need you to save it."
Tamar just nodded. "I agree. You're absolutely right. I'm not important, and it ultimately doesn't matter what happens to me. Which is exactly why I have to do this. Tearing ourselves apart over my fate is unbelievably stupid, and it has to stop. One way or another."
Jolee made an exasperated noise. "Of all the stubborn bantha-spawn I've had the misfortune to know . . ." He did, finally, decide to slump into one of the chairs.
Tamar managed a slightly forced chuckle. "You should be pleased. Means that I am learning something from you after all."
"Ha! So tell me, boy. What exactly is your plan of defence here? How are you going to mesmerise the senate and turn them to your side so we can all live happily ever after thanks to you?"
Tamar was silent for a long time, wandering back over to the window, watching the flashing lights of a pleasure yacht as it descended to a nearby rooftop with serene elegance. Finally, he said. "You remember the starmap on Kashyyyk?"
"Like I said. I'm old, not senile."
"And you remember the answer I gave to the computer that Revan . . . that I left behind."
"About sacrificing the city in order to take full advantage of the intelligence you had acquired and stop the war. Yes, I remember."
"It was a truthful answer, Jolee. It is what I would have done. I would have locked all of my compassion away in a box and let millions die, because strategically I could see it made the most sense, and would save many more lives in the long run."
"Maybe it's the right answer. It's a cold, hard answer no doubt, but an answer made without passion and emotion. Like a Jedi, supposedly."
Tamar snorted. "It's an answer made without compassion or empathy. It's the answer of a monster. How different to the old Revan am I, really? The memories may be gone, but it is the same flesh; the same brain tissue. Revan was considered a hero once."
"Ah, I see. It is self-pity as well as arrogance. 'Oh no, I'm awful. How can I possibly live with the guilt of what I've done?' Puhlease. Get a grip of yourself. I detest whiners more than just about anything."
He didn't relent. "How far was my answer from, for example, scorching a planet to make a sector surrender? Or annihilating a sector to gain victory over a quadrant? You can argue that both acts would, ultimately lead to a net saving in life if they resulted in a galactic war being won more quickly. At some point though, a line is crossed. The greater good becomes abominable evil."
"If you know enough to ask the questions, then you already know the answers. You don't worry me boy. I've watched you and seen you act." He shook his head slowly. "Besides, you don't act cold when the chips are down – whatever you may imagine to yourself. What about Bastila on the Star Forge?"
"I . . . I . . . Bastila is linked to me. It would have been easier to turn my saber on myself. And for all that I owed her; all she had sacrificed for me . . ."
Jolee interrupted him. "But the coldly rational and pragmatic thing to do would have been to cut her down as soon as you could. End the threat. You didn't, and don't give me none of that 'her battle meditation saved lives when you turned her back' crap. That consideration didn't enter your head for a single instant, and we both know it."
Tamar remained expressionless. "So I'm a hypocrite as soon as it comes to people I care about directly."
"Yuthura Ban then. The two of you met last night, I understand. Lovely girl, I hear, now she's not a cruel, bloodthirsty Sith and all. Someone who is destined to become a very wise and powerful Jedi in the future. In no small part down to you."
There was a slight flicker of reaction this time. "She had a choice. I simply helped her see it more clearly. She's the one who had the strength to take it."
"I could list a string of other names too, but I won't for fear of how much it would inflate your ego. You're not the old Revan, and you never will be as long as you stay aware of the dangers. So pull your head out of your backside for a moment, and I'll ask again, what is your plan of defence when you face the senate?"
Tamar steepled his fingers together, their tips touching his lips. "Any attempt to defend what I did as Darth Revan is only going to make things worse. Any attempt to dodge responsibility is likewise going to fail."
A snort. "So you're going to throw yourself on the senate's mercy and expect justice. Do you have some kind of martyr complex, boy? Because that's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard."
"The Council will not allow my execution," Tamar said in the quiet, reasonable tones of someone who has gone through this very carefully. "They will extract that promise before I'm turned over, and the senate will accede in the spirit of compromise. The fact that I will have come forward of my on initiative in itself gives me a better chance – and at least my friends won't get shot in the back by an endless tide of bounty hunters. I figure I'll most likely be shipped off to some penal colony to live out my life and be forgotten. Who knows? They might even find it in their hearts to forgive me after all."
Another louder snort. "When you can't manage to forgive yourself?"
"At the very worst I'll either be jarred or permafrozen in carbonite." Jarred was the slang term for the now rather reviled process of removing and storing in a living state the brain of a criminal, while harvesting off the body for medical use. It saved space and resource on accommodating lifers and the 'prisoner' was fed neutrally pleasant stimulus to give them an illusion of physical existence.
"And those choices are meant to be better than execution are they?" Jolee sounded disgusted. At least when a Jedi died they became one with the Force.
"Says the man who chose a self-imposed exile in Kashyyyk's shadowlands."
"Bah, that's completely different."
"Of course it is!" Jolee glowered. "And what does Bastila have to say about it all? I can't believe she's just letting you up and do this without an argument, and she certainly has a big stake in what you're proposing. Where is she, by the way?"
Tamar's gaze dropped. He studied the backs of his hands with rather more care and interest than they probably merited.
"Ah, so that's it. Now I think I'm finally beginning to understand. You had a row with your girl, and now, all of a sudden, life isn't worth living anymore. Angst, angst, angst. Moan, moan, moan. Bah! Pathetic, self indulgent drivel."
Tamar didn't respond.
"You children. Honestly." Jolee let out an exasperated breath. "One little fight and it's the end of the world. No one's willing to work for anything these days. They expect it all to be given to them on a silver platter. Happily ever after doesn't just happen you know. You have to work for it every single moment."
Finally, Tamar looked up again. "There was no fight," he said softly. "I wish there had been a fight. With a fight, you can make up afterwards. You can apologise and try to make amends."
"So what happened?" For once Jolee seemed quiet and serious, the crotchety old coot act pushed to the side.
It was a while before Tamar responded. "There is no passion."
Waking up in bed for the first time beside the person you had convinced yourself was the love of your life – a moment that should have been one of the most beautiful and wonderful any person ever experienced – only to find it the most awfully uncomfortable and distressing event of your entire life. The whole year and a bit since he had been Tamar and not Revan, at least. The bond that existed between them had left neither of them with anywhere to hide or pretend about their feelings. It had felt more callous and cruel than driving his lightsaber through her heart, and the link had left him unable to lie or soften the blow in any way. He had wanted to weep afterwards.
"I'm not quoting the damnable Jedi code there either. Unlike the Jedi order, I don't happen to believe that passion is always a bad thing. Sometimes I would even venture to say it is absolutely necessary." He let out a breath of pent up emotion, then whispered. "I would have been happy with serenity."
Jolee looked hesitant, with no flippant words or easy wisdom. "Like I said, relationships need work," he said gently. "They don't happen by magic, and they're not always easy. I forget sometimes that really, you're just one year old, and lord knows what kind of a mess the council left behind when they tried to build you a new set of memories . . .. What I'm saying is that – just because it didn't immediately live up to some idealised notion you've been given – doesn't mean it can't work. The two of you are good together. Even I can see that."
Tamar shook his head, cutting the old man off. "No. No. That isn't it, Jolee. You can join two random people together with a bond, but that doesn't mean they are going to love each other. She is . . . she is my salvation, and I owe her everything that I am today and more, but gratitude is not the same thing as love. She is my closest friend – was at least, before I did this to her – but that doesn't mean that it is automatically meant to be more than that. I thought this was what she wanted, so I convinced myself that I felt it too, but I was lying. To her, and myself. Sometimes it just doesn't work, however much you think it should."
There was an uncomfortable period of silence. After a while, Tamar's expression returned to a calmly serene mask. "I have an appointment with the council. I shouldn't keep them waiting, for all it is likely to be unpleasant."
"What can I do to convince you to turn back from this?" Jolee asked as Tamar walked past him.
"I don't know," Tamar answered softly, not looking at him. "Find some evidence, maybe, that I have a heart somewhere."
"You there. Padawan. Might I have a moment?"
The padawan in question – a boy of fifteen or sixteen – jolted in surprise. It was very difficult to catch a Force sensitive person unawares, since the Force flowed through all living things to some degree. He hadn't had so much of a hint of another person's presence however.
The figure who'd spoken was shadowed beneath the fleshy branches of a maoib tree, blocking the narrow path through the heart of the formal gardens. It was very difficult to get any sense of them at all, even broad details like species or gender obfuscated heavily.
"I – I am on urgent business for the Council," the Padawan stammered. "Perhaps you could find someone else to assist you?" A nervous sense of pride hung like a cloud in the air around him. For all it was only the most trivial messenger duties he'd been given, it was his first real task in the Council's service. His desperation not to make even the smallest mistake was painted on him brightly.
"It will take but the briefest seconds. I'm sure that the Council would not mind a slight delay, and I doubt they would wish you to ignore all other aspects of your service simply because you wish to make a good impression with them."
Palpable uneasiness filled the padawan, colouring the nervous pride. He was still getting no sense of the person in front of him, which really shouldn't have been the case. "I'm sorry, but I honestly don't have time to . . ."
"It would be the behaviour of a true Jedi to stop and help someone in need," the voice was gently persuasive; somehow seductive.
The padawan nodded slowly. "It would be the behaviour of a true Jedi to stop and help someone in need," he agreed.
"Good, good." The figure stepped forward, out of the shadows, and the padawan smiled dopily.
The figure extended an arm around the padawan's shoulder with the easy familiarity of a long time friend. There was a brief flash of movement, something resembling silver threads emerging from between the fingers of a black gloved hand, weaving in the air, before striking like vipers at the exposed flesh of the padawan's neck.
The padawan stiffened, making a wet sounding gasp. His eyes lost what small amount of focus they still had.
Tamar stopped hard in his tracks outside the council meeting chamber.
It had nothing to do with the fact that Yuthura Ban had just emerged from the chamber in front of him and was now smiling a slightly surprised, but otherwise heartfelt greeting. Sudden, splitting pain spiked through his head before he could acknowledge her, and a grimace twisted his face. He pressed the heel of his hand to his brow, blinking rapidly.
"Is something wrong?" Yuthura's voice came from several light years away, blurred and fluctuating, its normally compelling timbre breaking up like a bad comm. link.
Tamar's mouth moved in a manner that suggested he was trying to produce words, though no sound emerged. The pain grew exponentially, until it felt like white-hot metal spikes were being hammered through his skull. Dimly aware that Yuthura was holding his arm, he struggled with pain-suppression and meditation techniques.
A noise like a hissing kettle emerged from his throat. Colours flashed, wiping out his vision in spice-psychosis patterns. Up and down became ambiguous concepts.
He howled. The pain stopped, and suddenly he could see clearly, but he was somewhere else entirely, outside his body. The formal gardens, he realised after getting used to the rather disorientating overhead angle, less than a hundred yards from the main council hall. Something moved beneath him.
He tried to focus on it, but it was nothing more than a shifting ghost of shadows flowing rapidly through the undergrowth. His attempts at getting some kind of handle on what it was met with no more success than trying to grasp hold of a hologram.
Then it became aware of his presence.
The sense of hate and rage directed at him made him flinch. He'd never felt anything like it, even standing against Malak on the Star Forge's viewing platform. It was pure, bubbling black venom. It lashed out, and a dark, twisting wall of Force – like a writhing nest of serpents – flew up towards his face as he tried desperately to twist away. He was dimly aware of the glass panes that roofed the gardens shattering, falling down around him in a brilliantly glittering razor-sharp rain . . .
Then he was back in his body again.
He had fallen to his knees at some point. Yuthura was holding his face between her hands, kneeling in front of him with her forehead resting lightly against his. He could feel the Force flowing from her, around him in a gently soothing envelope.
As he looked at her, he briefly saw another face superimposed over the top of hers. The woman he had glimpsed in his vision last night. Pale, dark eyes, vivid red mouth twisted in a cynical half-smile. She winked at him, seemingly amused, but under the surface, he could sense that she boiled.
He jolted and she was Yuthura again, staring at him intently.
"What happened?" she asked as they both stood up.
He swallowed, struggling to reorient himself and locate a calm inner centre where he could go over what he'd seen more rationally. "There is . . . someone in the formal gardens. Someone who shouldn't be there, and doesn't mean any of us well."
A young male padawan brushed past them, apparently in a hurry. Neither he nor Yuthura really registered his presence.
"Did you tell anyone about what happened to you last night?" she asked quietly.
"I . . . was going to mention it when I spoke to Master Vandar and the Council," he evaded, starting to walk rapidly away from the council chambers. He was filled with an ominous sense of low-grade dread that refused to simply be smoothed away. In his head, he kept seeing the shadows moving rapidly through the undergrowth – the strange woman's twisted smile. Yuthura followed after him wordlessly.
As they reached the gardens a muffled detonation – low, rumbling thunder – came from directly behind them.
"No! Step back from the barrier. Do it now!" Tamar's voice contained all the authority of the golden general who had led the Republic to victory over the Mandalorians; the Dark Lord of the Sith who had later nearly conquered the galaxy.
Reluctantly the trio of Jedi knights obeyed, though they looked at him with accusing eyes.
Alarms blared out a strident cacophony. Lights flashed warning red. Water poured down in torrents from sprinklers overhead, soaking him, running in gleaming rivulets down his bare scalp. An environmental barrier, similar to an emergency vacuum door on a spaceship, had descended from the ceiling to block the corridor leading to the council chambers behind him, sealing it off hermetically.
Through transparisteel panels set in the barrier smoke and fumes could be seen pouring from the council chamber's shattered doors.
"People are still alive in there!" one of the Jedi knights protested.
"No they are not," Tamar met the man's gaze with a brutal calm he didn't feel. "They are all dead. Some of them may not have stopped moving yet, but they are dead. Now step back."
The man looked like he'd just been slapped across the face.
Something thudded into the barrier behind Tamar, making him jump. He looked around, feeling sick in his stomach.
A Twi'lek had staggered out from the council chambers and stumbled against the barrier. One of his head tails had been severed and his hands left bloody prints behind as they clawed ineffectually at the transparisteel. More blood frothed from his mouth; fell in dark tears from his eyes; perspired from his skin like sweat.
For an awful moment, looking into the Twi'lek's delirious, dying eyes Tamar was reminded of Master Zhar – his Jedi teacher. But Zhar had died in Malak's strike on Dantooine.
Others that he knew were inside though. Master Vandar was. Master Vrook was. So were ten other Jedi Masters; amongst the wisest and most learned in the galaxy. All now dead, or shortly to be dead.
He could feel their lingering agonies, a terrible shadow tainting the Force like a sickness. I should have been in there, he thought grimly. If I hadn't been chasing shadows.
"That's Master Quillor," one of the Jedi Knights said. His voice held an undertone of hysteria, calm and serenity not even in the same country as it.
"We can't . . . can't just stand by and watch. We have to help . . ." He started forward again.
The Twi'lek collapsed onto his back, twitching spasmodically. His skin appeared to be dissolving.
"There's nothing we can do," Tamar told him gently, tearing his gaze away from the dying Master. His brain was struggling to grasp how this could possibly have happened.
"But . . ."
"If we open the barrier, or puncture it in any way, we will release the bio-toxins in there into the rest of the building. The rest of the city block. We would be killing ourselves and putting thousands of other lives at risk."
The Jedi knight's hands flexed ineffectually at his sides.
"I know you," Another of them spoke up, his voice quavering. "You're Revan. The traitor. The Dark Lord. This is your fault. You did this!"
"I'm not going to stand by and watch you murder them," the third of the knights added. There was a snap-hiss as his lightsaber ignited.
Tamar turned to face him, gaze stony. "Put that away."
"You don't intimidate me, traitor." The knight's voice implied differently despite the defiant words, trembling badly. The glowing blue-white lightsaber blade didn't waver though.
"I know you feel grief. I know you feel shock, and it's difficult to cope, but this isn't helping," Tamar said softly. "Remember the code. Remember yourself."
The Jedi knight just stared at him. There was hate and anger in his eyes. The Force swirled around him, full of shadows.
"Tamar is right," Yuthura spoke up, having remained silent and watchful up until now. "None of us can do any good here. We have to evacuate the building and stop squabbling amongst ourselves."
"Shut up! I know who you are too, Sith," the knight snarled, rounding on her. "Don't think I don't. This was all a trick, wasn't it? Pretend redemption. Pretend remorse. Trick the council into accepting you back and lowering their guard so you could slaughter them. You and your dark master together."
Tamar had had enough. He reached out with the Force, grasping hold of the Jedi knight's lightsaber and yanking at it hard. It flew from the knight's grasp, and – as it tumbled end over end towards him – he flicked a switch on its hilt and deactivated the blade. It ended up nestling in the palm of his hand. He casually tucked it through his belt.
The Jedi knight gaped at him in shock, before backing off a couple of steps.
Tamar's expression was hard. "If I was still the Dark Lord as you say I would have cut the three of you down in seconds. Now stop behaving like frightened children and start acting like the Jedi you allegedly are. Do as you're told and get out of here!"
Finally, reluctantly, the three turned and walked away.
He stared after them, something tight inside his chest. The sirens continued to blare out their song of doom.
Yuthura lightly touched his shoulder. "Come on. You said it yourself. We can do no good here"
Tamar stood on the rooftop, watching the air ambulances and emergency vehicles that had cordoned off the Jedi consular building in the distance. The sun was setting behind the consulate and the sky was fiery red. It seemed horribly apt. A portent of coming destruction.
Right now newscasts were being beamed across the holoNet, and the news of the strike against the Jedi Council was spreading across the galaxy, no doubt accompanied by a growing tide of hysteria and panic – and perhaps in some quarters, celebration. Twelve of the council struck down in a single stroke, including Master Vandar, the eldest and most respected member. Neither Malak, nor Revan, nor even Exar Kun had managed anything quite like that for all their efforts.
He could feel the lingering shockwaves from the slaughter as dark ripples echoing through the Force.
It made him wonder about Bastila – what she was feeling and thinking now – but the link between them was quiescent, carefully shielded and attenuated by distance so that it was merely a shadow of what it had once been. Sometimes it still felt like the nagging ghost of an amputated limb.
Tamar shifted his stance, the servomotors of his heavy grey and blue armour whispering sub-audibly. What had made him don the armour was difficult to explain. Soldier's instinct perhaps, readying himself for battle. He had never truly been a soldier, his rational brain knew, but he still felt more comfortable in the armour than a Jedi's robes.
Other Jedi viewed him strangely because of it, he knew. A Jedi that used armour, implants, energy shields, and battle stims instead of relying solely on the Force and his lightsaber. Perhaps it seemed to them like a lack of faith on his part – a worrying holdover from the days of the Dark Lord.
Juhani had asked him about it curiously once. His reply to her had been simply that he could use the Force to open doors, but didn't. Instead, he used the door handle like everybody else. He wasn't sure whether she'd understood what he'd been trying to get at or not.
He tensed. He was being watched again.
"My initial intent was for you to die in the explosion too, Revan. In fact, you were almost the main target. But I'm actually glad you survived now. It's going to work out so much better this way, don't you think?"
The voice reminded him of a computerised spaceport announcer, only with less emphasis on the soft and welcoming and more on harsh discipline. She was shielding herself very tightly and he didn't get even the slightest hint of emotion. He turned to face her.
She was tall – six foot at least – but he could tell little else about her appearance-wise. The dark robes and deep cowl concealed everything very effectively, giving not even a shadowed hint of her face. Even her hands were gloved in black.
"Do I know you?" he asked flatly.
She laughed, mechanical and humourless. "I almost feel offended. I thought I would still have at least a small place in your heart, Revan. After all we went through and did together."
"Nothing personal. My memory isn't what it used to be. And I prefer Tamar now."
"Yes, I heard that. The Council's brainwashed little soldier boy. Personally I think a slow and painful death would have been more merciful."
"No doubt you'd be more than happy to make up for the Council's careless oversight."
"Perhaps." She laughed again, and this time there was an ever so slight trace to humour. "Although my plans have changed somewhat to adapt to the new circumstances. You should be pleased. I learned the importance of such adaptability from you."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "Though I don't suppose I can simply apologise for whatever it is I did to you."
The black anger and hate that broke through to the surface was startling, even though he had felt it before – if only from a distance. When she spoke however, her voice was calm, almost musing. "You look different, Revan, you know that? Everything physical is just the same, but you still look different. I think it's the expression of a drooling simpleton that does it."
"If you want revenge on me you don't have to bring others into it. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not running. There is no need for more innocent people to suffer on my account."
The anger flared again, though it was swiftly strangled back. "You always were an arrogant bastard. That at least hasn't changed. It proved your downfall in the end. Too clever for your own good."
Tamar simply looked at her.
"All that effort you spent, manipulating the Council into sending Bastila and her strike team against you. Taking the bait of their clumsy trap, letting them onto your flagship and making them think they were succeeding of their own accord, whilst all the while you sat waiting, a spider in his web, ready to devour the flies. You were so blinded by the need to get your hands on her Battle Meditation. The final missing piece to your jigsaw, allied with your ruthless strategic genius and the Star Forge's infinite fleet to bring total victory within weeks.
"All of it undone by a single clumsy turbolaser blast from your dopey kath hound, your web collapsed on top of you."
Still he didn't speak, trying to strain his gaze enough to see the face he expected – the face from his vision; cold and diamond hard, drawn in lines of fury, but beautiful nonetheless. All there was was darkness though.
"Perhaps you shouldn't have removed his jaw for exceeding his orders on Telos. Perhaps he would have stayed loyal that important bit longer. Or perhaps he saw that you intended to replace him with a new favourite toy. Malak never was quite as stupid as he looked."
"There were a lot of things I shouldn't have done way before that," he said softly.
"How sanctimonious to speak so of things you don't even remember. I laugh to see what the council has done to you. I laugh to see how far you have been reduced."
"But you don't do you? Laugh I mean. Not really. Not inside. Or smile, or feel love or friendship, or any hint of peace. It doesn't have to be like that."
"Oh spare me, please. There's nothing more irritating than the born again. Are you expecting me to break down into tears and beg you to show me the way to the lightside? The lightside has just drowned in its own blood."
The image of him lying in bed – Darth Revan – watching as she stood upon the balcony, three moons shining down on them, came back. "We were lovers weren't we? Is that why you hate me so much?"
She seemed suddenly to be looking at him more intently. "Interesting. So not everything was lost after all. I might still be able to extract something vaguely useful from in there, given time."
He didn't respond.
"I would hardly call us lovers though. At best we took some mutual pleasure from each other's flesh."
"Who are you?" That one vision he had of her refused to grow or expand, no matter how hard he tried.
She just shook her head. "I think our conversation has come to an end, don't you? Time for me to leave, and for you to face the consequences for what you did to the Council."
"What are you talking about?" Tamar asked, not quite keeping the startlement out of his voice.
"You haven't seen the security footage, have you? You and your new apprentice – Darth Yuthura? No, I think I like Darth Ban better – striding purposefully away from the council chambers just before the explosion that kills them all. Suspicious don't you think? Two former Sith, supposedly returned to the light, fleeing the scene of such a heinous atrocity? If those investigating were to find any further incriminating evidence – when they search your quarters for example – it would start to look really, really bad. Bad for the Jedi order too – to be so naïve not once, but twice."
Her hate became tinged with black amusement as she spoke. "Congratulations Revan. You're the Dark Lord of the Sith again, whether you want to be or not. At least as far as most of the galaxy will be concerned."
As she began to turn away from him there was a soft sound behind her – the turbo-lift arriving.
Jolee and Yuthura stepped out onto the roof, blocking off any retreat.
"Three against one, Revan? Is that the Jedi's idea of a fair fight?"
Tamar had no sense that she was at all perturbed by the sudden change in odds. Which worried him slightly. He had the definite impression that she still thought the situation well under control. He drew his lightsaber, snapping it on. The cyan blade shone brilliantly in the deepening twilight. Jolee and Yuthura did likewise, sabres glowing green and violet respectively.
"Well, if it isn't another Sith Lord," Jolee grumbled. "Worse than a damn Gizka infestation. Just when you think you've got the last one and another pops up, chewing its way through your sock drawer. You still owe me for those socks, Tamar. Don't think I've forgotten." He shifted his gaze back to the bemused Sith. "Perhaps a word of fashion advice, if you'll take it, my dear? Hooded black robes . . . about forty years out of date. All a bit passé now. A nice shade of orange on the other hand . . . I'm sure you'd cut quite a dash."
"Surrender and I promise that you'll live and be treated well, no matter what you have done." Tamar cut over Jolee's rambling, his voice hard.
"As well as they've treated you, Revan? Lobotomised and enslaved? Thanks, but I'll pass." She made no move to draw a lightsaber of her own, and still didn't seem at all worried.
An object appeared in her hand, seemingly out of nothing. It was spherical and about six-inches in diameter. She tossed it high into the air, its lazy ark involuntarily drawing their respective gazes.
At the apex of its flight, the sphere came to life, whirling and flashing with light, spitting incandescent red blaster fire in all directions. A Baragwin assault drone. Simultaneously what appeared to be black insects the size of cockroaches started to fall from her robes onto the rooftop in a pitter-pattering cascade – an entire swarm of them.
Blaster fire from the drone cracked against the shoulder plate of Tamar's armour, making him stagger slightly but not penetrating. Then the Force was flowing through him fully, and he was parrying the incoming shots with his lightsaber. He heard Jolee yelp as he was struck in the arm; saw Yuthura evading the incandescent energy bolts with the effortlessly flowing grace of the slave-dancer she had once been.
The drone exploded in a crackle of sparks, falling lifelessly back to the rooftop with a clattering bounce as Jolee overloaded its circuitry with the Force.
Several of the roach-droids broke from the main mass of the swarm. Tamar stamped on one that darted too close to him and it exploded concussively. If he hadn't have been wearing his armour he'd have probably lost several toes. Servos amplifying his movements, he jumped quickly back out of range, stumbling fractionally on his badly bruised foot as he landed.
Yuthura had obviously taken note, lightning fast sabre strokes intercepting any of the roaches that came close to her and batting them away. Then Jolee was using the Force like a broom to sweep the robotic insects up and fry them. They detonated like firecrackers – a disorientingly chaotic jumble of sound and dazzlingly bright light.
Everything became still again.
In total, the distraction had lasted no more than a few seconds, but it was plenty long enough to do its job. The Sith had vanished into thin air, no trace of her remaining.
Lightsaber at the ready, Tamar extended subtle feelers of Force out across the rooftop, searching warily for the slightest trace of her. It was as if she had never existed though. He noticed Yuthura backing off slowly, covering any attempt to slip past her to the lift. He could feel himself sweating inside his armour, and the unease he could sense from both her and Jolee only went to amplify his disquiet.
There was a tiny flicker of movement near the far railing. Tamar reacted instantly, sending his lightsaber spinning towards it.
He felt an explosive burst of dark Force and suddenly the lightsaber was violently deflected from its path, flying straight towards Jolee's head. Tamar managed to jerk the weapon back into his grasp just before it could alter the old man's height by about six inches.
Suddenly she was visible again, a fast moving blur of smoke and shadow. Briefly, she glanced back at him. As he watched, she leapt straight over the railing and plunged out of sight.
He sprinted to the spot she'd jumped from.
The drop over the railing was vertiginous and made his head spin – nearly four thousand feet, straight down into a vast canyon of glowing lights. It took several long seconds for him to pick her out against the busy, constantly changing, disorienting backdrop.
She'd fallen just fifty feet, the Force steering her to a slow moving column of traffic – speeders, shuttle buses and vans crawling along in an orderly procession following a pre-defined flight lane. He watched her running along the top of a cylindrical silver transport, robes flapping out behind her. Briefly he felt their eyes meeting as she glanced up and back.
Taking a deep breath in an effort to control the vertigo, he jumped after her.
Jolee watched Yuthura drop out of sight over the roof's edge, her head tails flaring out behind her. Suppressing a shudder, he moved somewhat unenthusiastically to follow.
Looking down he grimaced. He could see the mysterious Sith only as a black dot in the distance, standing on top of a speeder and riding it like a surfboard. Tamar was about a hundred yards behind her, running forward and Force-jumping from vehicle to vehicle; seemingly with no regard whatsoever for his own safety, closing in on his target steadily.
There was no immediate sign of Yuthura, and for a horrible moment, he thought she might have misjudged her jump somehow.
Finally, he spotted her too. Instead of trying to leap onto the traffic column, too far behind the other two to have much of an impact, she'd simply dropped about a hundred feet straight down the face of the building, using the Force to control and slow her descent onto a broad walkway where a rank of speeders were parked.
She was in the process of hotwiring one of them.
"My joints sure ain't gonna like that," he muttered to himself, then stepped back from the edge with a sigh. "I think I'll leave this one to the kids."
Wind buffeted Tamar in the face. They were travelling about 40 knots, lazily sedate by the standard of these vehicles, but plenty fast enough if you were trying to run along on top of one them, a four thousand foot drop to either side.
He was on the curving transparisteel roof of a shuttle bus, dimly aware of the faces of passengers tilting up to gawp at him – the pointing fingers and excited shouts. He didn't look down, or to the sides, instead concentrating solely on the woman in front of him, and on keeping his footing as he ran.
She'd stopped running and he was gaining on her fast. He felt her eyes on him as she looked back, instinctively hitting the wrist control that activated his verpine prototype shield. Multi-coloured light flickered to life around him in a glowing corona.
Just in time.
A storm of crackling Force lightning lashed back at him from her hand. He braced himself, the energy shield absorbing most of the impact, although he could still feel a shadow of its agonising sting flickering through his nerve endings. His forward progress faltered slightly.
People inside the bus screamed and he could feel their sudden fear.
A second burst of lightning crackled around him, more painful this time, his muscles twitching involuntarily as excess electricity discharged through them. The energy shield still held, but one or two more shots were all it would take.
Briefly, he dropped into a crouch, the air alive with static as he steadied himself before attempting to launch himself from the front of the bus to the next vehicle. The Sith made another gesture, and he braced for another lightning strike.
This time it made him stagger and reel dangerously, the energy shield flickering on and off around him, reduced to little more than tatters. A speeder moving parallel to the bus caught some of the Force storm's impact, its electrics shorting out, sending it into a dangerously uncontrolled spin as its autopilot cut off.
Emergency repulsorlifts whined as they struggled to catch it, and suddenly it was flipping over, across the top of the bus. Tamar caught sight of it at the last moment, throwing himself flat as it passed inches above his head, narrowly avoiding getting smeared into paste.
As the speeder span away from the traffic file its driver managed to regain control, stopping it from slamming into the side of the nearest skyscraper with no more than feet to spare. Tamar regained his footing and was immediately hit in the face by a bludgeoning wave of Force.
Unable to catch himself, he bounced back down the length of the bus, tumbling head over heels. He felt himself sliding inexorably down the bus's smoothly curved side with nothing to grab onto to arrest his fall.
Panic clutched at him, but he strangled it down. He hit another wrist control and a grappling hook shot from a compartment in his armour. Micro-razor hooks embedded themselves into the bus's side with a clank, and about fifty feet of rope unspooled as he fell, before jerking him tight.
Shoulder-joint on fire from the strain, he swung back and forth beneath the bus like an erratic pendulum. The wind whipped him this way and that, twisting and spinning him like a top. He made sure to keep looking up at the bus rather than down.
Gritting his teeth, he began to manipulate the Force, using it to impart steadily greater amounts of momentum to his swinging. Soon each swing took him out to the horizontal, perpendicular to the bus. He extended a little more effort, then, at the apex of the next swing hit the control that detached him from the rope. Flying up through the air, he felt his stomach flipping over . . . and landed back on the bus's roof with a solid thud, gripping tight.
Passengers gaped up at him as he started to run forward again. The Sith had her back to him, seemingly oblivious to his survival.
Moving quickly he launched himself through the air, Force jumping from the bus to an old and badly maintained van. It bobbed erratically as he landed, repulsors spluttering. Almost immediately, he jumped onto the roof a two-seat speeder, drawing an angry shout from its driver. Then he leapt to another one, now no more than thirty feet behind his target with her still seemingly oblivious to his presence.
She was crouching on the back of a sleek open-topped sports model speeder, a gloved hand resting on the bald skull of its bith driver as her robes flew out behind her. Tamar could sense the hideous flow of dark Force power – a poisonously vile buzzing – and knew that she had usurped control of the driver's mind.
She glanced back at him, and he sensed, very briefly, surprise.
It was quickly overcome. The Force wave that she directed at him was cancelled out this time by one of his own, the turbulence from the clash of Force powers making both their speeders jolt and bounce wildly.
As soon as they levelled out, he launched himself forward through the air at her like a pouncing vornskr.
It was if she read his mind. While he was still in mid air, her speeder swerved abruptly up and to one side, peeling away from the traffic column.
With nothing to land on, he fell into the glowing abyss with a strangled cry.
The cry choked off after Tamar realised it wasn't serving much of practical purpose. His heart was thumping, adrenaline heightening every sense and stretching each second out so that it seemed to last for minutes. He channelled the Force through his body in an effort to increase the air resistance around him and slow his downward acceleration.
It was a fairly standard Jedi technique, and in normal circumstances it allowed a Jedi to fall for considerable distances relatively safely. Unfortunately, it only slowed acceleration. Eventually, if he fell far enough he would still reach a terminal velocity. Four thousand feet was far enough and then some. All he was effectively doing was ensuring he lived about twenty seconds longer. There was still going to be a hefty and unpleasant splat when he finally hit bottom.
He tried to concentrate and find some measure of the vaunted Jedi serenity, ignoring the wind whipping into his face and trying to snap his neck back. Maybe five hundred feet below him there was another traffic column, looser and faster moving than the one he'd fallen from. His gaze fixed on it and he tried to steer his descent towards it. If he could just manage to grab onto one of the vehicles . . .
The rational portion of his brain, determinedly fatalistic, informed him that he would be travelling too fast to survive even by that point. Deep inside primal, instinctive terror gibbered quietly. His momentary calm was little more than a rapidly disintegrating veneer.
Next time he would ensure his armour had a parachute built in. Or possibly a rocket pack.
Next time. He almost laughed.
Out of nowhere, there was a speeder directly beneath him, diving steeply to match his descent. Its roof had been retracted, and he was lined up with the gap more or less perfectly. He couldn't have avoided the impact even if he'd wanted too.
He smashed into the passenger seat hard enough to blast the breath from his body, his vision momentarily blacking out.
A second or so later consciousness resumed, accompanied by pain. His entire body felt like a single gigantic bruise, and for a moment, he struggled to draw air into his lungs. Then his heart subsided back from his mouth and he was able to breathe again. His head had come to rest in the speeder's foot well, his legs sticking up inelegantly over the seat's back.
Not exactly dignified, but alive at least. He gulped air in relieved gasps.
Beside him, he saw Yuthura struggling with the throttle, trying to pull them out of the dive. The airflow whipped her head tails back, sharp looking teeth gritted in a tight grimace.
He shifted, stifling a groan as he tried to right himself.
Yuthura glanced sidelong at him, the speeder seemingly back under control again. "Nice of you to drop in," she said dryly.
"Thank you," Tamar replied with heartfelt sincerity as he finally managed to get himself the right way up. "Thank you very much indeed."
She grunted softly, eyes searching Coruscant's busy, brilliantly lit skyline.
"There," he pointed at a tiny, fast moving speck high above them. He could still faintly feel the flow of dark Force energy as the Sith invasively controlled the speeder driver's mind.
"I can't feel anything." Her comment was born out of curiosity rather than a contradiction, and she immediately steered towards the point he indicated, flicking through the gears. Tamar's stomach lurched with the sudden change of g-forces.
"Maybe I'm . . . attuned with her somehow," he suggested.
That drew another sidelong glance from Yuthura.
His gaze remained fixed on the distant speck and he drew his blaster pistol – an old, heavily modified model that had reputedly once belonged to Cassus Fett – from its thigh holster. "I get the impression from out conversation that she was someone who served close to me when I was the Dark Lord. I think . . . I think we might have once been lovers."
The Sith's speeder vanished briefly from sight as it took a sharp left turn around the bulk of another soaring skyscraper. It was larger than a speck now, Yuthura gaining steadily. She followed its manoeuvre.
"Did she tell you that?"
As the speeder came back into view, Tamar aimed the pistol, using the Force to guide his aim more than his eyesight. He held off firing right away, waiting for the moment to be right. "I . . . saw it. The vision-memory I had last night."
Yuthura didn't noticeably react. They were closing in noticeably now and the Sith still didn't appear to be aware of their presence, neither accelerating nor making any conspicuous attempt to evade.
"I don't suppose you have any idea who she might be?" he asked her.
"As a rule Dark Lords of the Sith tend to keep any hint of a private life very, very secret." Suddenly the speeder in front of them was swooping through a stream of traffic from an intersection, a cacophony of horns blaring angrily in protest. Yuthura had no hesitation in following.
A speeder passed less than three feet above them and Tamar ducked instinctively. Almost immediately, Yuthura was swerving up again, narrowly avoiding a crunching collision with a bright green and yellow taxi. Then they were through.
"Even so," he went on. "She's obviously extremely strong in the darkside of the Force. I presume she was someone important among the Sith, and wondered if you might have heard something . . ."
Another sharp turn made his stomach lurch unpleasantly.
"The head of Sith intelligence operations under your command was rumoured to be a woman," Yuthura suggested. She sounded slightly hesitant, not taking her eyes off her driving for a moment. "Your velvet glove to Malak's iron fist. Reputedly she didn't survive your overthrow."
Another reason for the hate, he mused. Loss of position and prestige? "Do you know a name?"
"Spy masters don't have names when they can avoid it," Yuthura said. "Especially not Sith ones." Tamar focussed hard on his shot as the back of the Sith's speeder grew ever larger in front of them, sensing that the window of maximum opportunity was drawing close. "Anyway, that's all speculative. I may have been ambitious and unfeasibly proud of my position, but I was never truly at the heart of the war effort. Someone like Uthar might have known better."
Had I not have killed him. Tamar squeezed the trigger smoothly, the cushioned kick of the pistol comfortably familiar in his grasp.
His shot was true, slamming into the speeder's starboard engine. For a moment it looked as if it had no effect, then the engine spluttered, spouting plumes of thick black smoke.
The speeder started to wobble and vibrate violently, slowing perceptibly as flames began to flicker around the engine module. An onboard fire-extinguisher kicked in, putting out the flames but making the billowing clouds of smoke even thicker. Tamar fired off another shot, but this time it did little more than scar the bodywork.
She was definitely aware of their presence now. A storm of Force lightning lashed back at them, crackling off the walls of the skyscrapers on either side. Yuthura flipped their speeder through 360° in an effort to evade. Tamar held on tight and suddenly wished he'd had the foresight to put his seatbelt on as he found himself completely upside-down.
As soon as they were the right way up again he fired off a third shot, this time hitting one of the speeder's repulsors.
It span out of control. Just for a moment, it looked like it was going to crash, losing altitude and any hint of forward momentum. After a second or so the Sith managed to reassert a modicum of control, but by that time she was virtually stationary, pointing at ninety degrees to her original heading, several hundred feet below them.
Tamar took a reflexive pot shot at her head, but ended up only taking out the left half of the speeder's windshield. Before he could try again, Yuthura, going too fast to be able to brake in time, overshot. He could hear her muttering curses underneath her breath as she struggled to slow down and turn them about.
He twisted in his seat for another shot, but he couldn't get any kind of fix on the Sith. For a moment he thought they'd lost her, no longer able to feel her through the Force. Then Yuthura picked up the trail of smoke.
It led to an opening in a monolithic trapezoid shaped building, five hundred or so feet below their current altitude on their left. Yuthura steered towards it.
"Go round and come in from the other side," Tamar told her quickly as he evaluated the structure. Some kind of shopping mall, he decided from the flashing signs and advertisements. The opening the Sith had entered via was a broad thoroughfare that passed through the entire central axis of the building.
Yuthura nodded as she altered her course, obviously grasping his intent. This way they either intercepted the limping speeder as it tried to exit the building, or – if the Sith had stopped inside and ditched the speeder – they ran less risk off blundering through any traps she might have left behind.
Disquietingly he still couldn't feel any Force trace of her.
They found the Sith's speeder easily enough. It had been abandoned unceremoniously in a pedestrian area, tilted up on one side in a manner that suggested the landing had been far from smooth. Its starboard engine module was still billowing acrid smoke, bright red fire-fighting droids working hard to prevent an explosion. A crowd of onlookers, humans and aliens alike, gathered around it, gawping. They seemed oblivious of any danger.
Yuthura brought their own speeder to a halt about twenty yards from it and Tamar leapt out quickly, lightsaber in hand but not ignited.
"You there! You can't park here. I'm going to have to . . ." A pair of uniformed security guards, each carrying stun batons immediately ran over.
Tamar held up a hand. "Important Jedi business. You do not want to interfere."
"We do not want to interfere." They both nodded slightly dazedly, walking away again with bemused looks on their faces.
Part of him winced at the casual use of the Force to sway their minds. It felt a dangerously Revan-ish thing to do, despite the urgency of the situation – the quick and easy path. He looked around, trying to find some trace of where the Sith had gone, but could detect no hint. There was certainly no sign of any black-robed figures anywhere in sight.
Of course, she was probably wearing ordinary street clothes under the robe, and had now ditched it, he thought with a grimace as he surveyed the throng of shoppers.
It seemed nigh on incomprehensible that all these people could be going so casually about their business when the Jedi Council had so recently been slaughtered, and the Force was still a raging turmoil. Different perspectives, he supposed. In a way it could almost be construed as comforting – that life went on regardless. His gaze travelled across the fronts of expensive boutiques, nightclubs, and an upscale cantina. There was an exclusive looking restaurant, a health spa and droid shop. But he couldn't sense her at all over the murmuring echoes of all the other minds around him.
"Over there," Yuthura said emphatically as she came alongside him. She was pointing to the restaurant.
He took a moment to see what she was getting at, then – slightly chagrined – he realised that he'd been focusing his energy in completely the wrong direction. There was a distinct echo of confusion about the diner's thoughts, much like that of the security guards he'd just mind-tricked, but he'd missed that fact entirely because he'd been trying to focus upon the Sith herself so intently.
A maitre'd droid tried to intercept them as they strode inside. "Table for two, sir?"
Tamar barged straight past, ignoring the indignant "Well I never!" Yuthura matched him stride for stride.
Chef-droids were busily preparing meals, ignoring their trespass as they walked through the kitchens. He sent feelers of Force out ahead into the building, trying to get some kind of sense of the Sith, but there wasn't so much as a whisper. He caught a flicker of movement in the corner of his eye . . .
There had been no warning through the Force, but somehow Yuthura had managed to catch the carving knife anyway, just inches from the side of Tamar's head. Its blade had bitten deeply into her fingers, blood dripping down her wrist and arm.
For a single moment, everything was still. Then the air was filled with flying kitchen utensils as all of the chef-droids attacked them at once.
Tamar ducked behind the nearest work surface, pulling Yuthura down with him. A hail of knives thudded into the wall above their heads.
Taking a deep a breath, he leapt up again. He didn't possess Jolee's particular knack for frying a droid's circuitry, but less subtle methods sometimes worked equally well. A violent wave of Force smashed the attacking chef-droids back, skittling them like toy soldiers and sending pots and pans flying.
They didn't waste time trying to finish the droids off, running quickly together deeper into the building.
"How are you doing?" Tamar asked as they paused to get their bearings. He touched Yuthura's wounded hand, which was still bleeding steadily. She had, he thought, saved his life at least twice in the last few minutes.
Concentrating on the wound, he sent warm, gentle tendrils of Force energy flowing into her flesh. She made a small, surprised sound as the bleeding stopped and the edges of the cuts knitted smoothly together, the healing process of days accelerated into seconds.
"Not perhaps what I'd expected from the day," she replied after a brief pause, correctly guessing that he wasn't really asking about her hand. She directed a slightly awkward smile his way. "But thank you for asking."
Before he could say anything else, a dark, distant whisper of Force intruded. Suddenly strange flashes of images were playing behind his eyes, flickering too fast for him to get even the vaguest sense of what they were.
"That way," he indicated, feeling his heart thud with urgency as the flow of images stopped as abruptly as they had started. "Three floors up."
A slender, black clad figure stood motionless at the opposite end of a long corridor to them, seemingly waiting placidly for their arrival. Both Yuthura's and his lightsabers snapped on together, bathing the polished metal walls in violet and cyan glow.
The Sith said nothing, not acknowledging their arrival in any way. As he stared at her, Tamar felt something tight and ominous inside his chest. She could have been well away from here by now, but for some reason she wasn't.
Which meant this was some kind of trap.
Without giving her any warning, he hurled his lightsaber towards her, spinning rapidly down the corridor like a brightly glowing helicopter rotor. It seemed to take her by surprise, because she didn't noticeably react or even try to evade.
And then, belatedly, he saw where a service duct in the wall had been opened, the pipe beneath it cut . . .
"Oh sh . . ." he started, grabbing hold of Yuthura and pulling her to the floor with him as his lightsaber sliced straight through the black clad figure's waist – only to hit nothing more solid than a projected image.
The glowing blade caused the odourless gas hanging in the air around the holo-projection to ignite. A moment later, the entire corridor exploded in a howling maelstrom of flame.
Tamar desperately wrapped them both in a protective sheath of Force energy just as the leading edge of the explosion hit, buffeting them violently. The heat was ferocious, the sound in his ears like a swarm of several thousand shyracks shrieking in unison as they spotted prey. He held his breath to avoid scorching his lungs, feeling as if he was slow roasting inside his armour. The sheath of Force energy began to wither away under the onslaught, and suddenly he could feel the skin on the back of his head blistering. He gritted his teeth hard against the pain. It went on and on, getting hotter and hotter . . .
And then the flames died back almost as quickly as they had appeared. Everything became almost preternaturally calm.
Eyes watering, stung by acrid smoke, he staggered back to his feet. He still didn't risk breathing in, using a technique that allowed Jedi to operate fairly normally for short periods without air. The walls of the corridor were scorched with sooty black smears and the odd little fire burned here and there, but there hadn't been enough flammable material to catch light properly and the explosion had more or less blown itself out. As he let himself draw breath, he began to cough.
Beside him, Yuthura appeared to be relatively unscathed, though her clothing was heavily scorched in several places and her face gleamed with sweat. Her head tails twitched and quivered like agitated snakes as she looked at him with concern, but he waved her off. She seemed to be coping with the acrid air rather better than he was. Her homeworld, Sleheyron, was heavily volcanic and home to mammoth gas refineries and shipbuilding yards, if he recollected correctly. She was no doubt rather more accustomed to the current air conditions than him.
The coughing gradually subsided, although the smoke still made his throat sting. As the pounding in his skull lessened slightly he realised that the ringing noise in his ears was actually the blaring of a fire alarm.
His lightsaber was lying against the wall and he picked it up quickly. It had switched itself off, but looked outwardly intact. He refrained from testing it for fear of igniting any lingering traces of gas. A quick inspection showed that the crystals still appeared to be undamaged and correctly aligned.
A pair of turbo-lifts awaited them at the far end of the corridor. As they approached, one of them started to ascend smoothly into the building's higher reaches. He felt a subtle flicker of Force from inside it.
Yuthura obviously sensed it too, hitting the control on the door of the other lift to call it down. Numbers flickered rapidly as it descended towards them.
Whether it was a subtle disturbance of the Force warning him of danger, or simply a soldier's instinct for a trap he couldn't say. Whatever, as the lift door started to open he instinctively grabbed hold of Yuthura and yanked her hard to the side.
Just in time to avoid a thunderous detonation, shards of shrapnel that would have torn anyone standing in front of the lift to tatters spraying out.
"Whoever she is I'm liking her less and less by the moment," Tamar muttered as the smoke cleared.
Cautiously he peered inside the turbo-lift car. The interior was a shambles, smoke-filled, the control panel hanging off from the wall and sparking intermittently. It was difficult to be sure if it had been ripped free by the explosion or sabotaged deliberately before the lift came down. What he could tell well enough was that it wouldn't be going anywhere in a hurry.
He thought briefly about calling the other turbo-lift back down, but that was just inviting more trouble. Instead, he rather gingerly reached up and opened the service panel on the lift car's roof, taking a glow rod out and directing the light through the gap.
When he'd satisfied himself there were no more traps waiting, he pulled himself up onto the lift car's roof. Yuthura joined him a few moments later. A pair of maintenance ladders were set into either side of the lift shaft's walls – an ascent of about two hundred feet.
"What do you think?" he asked her.
She nodded wordlessly by way of reply. They started climbing as fast as they could.
She was waiting for them on the roof, standing in the middle of an empty shuttle-pad. Her back was turned to them, and she made no more movement than her holo-image had in the corridor below. This time though, Tamar could tell she was the real thing. Her black robe stirred gently around her in the cool evening breeze.
"You never were one to give up on something easily, Revan," she said. Her tone of voice was conversational, although she didn't look round at him.
"Does it really have to be like this?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, I think so Revan, don't you?" She glanced briefly skywards. "Half a legion of republic troops should be arriving in a few minutes. Will you try to run, or stand and fight? Or will you surrender to them like the good little boy you claim to have become?"
"I think when they find you here I won't need to do any of that."
"But I'm not going to be here, am I? I'm just a figment of your imagination." Finally, she did deign to turn around, though it was Yuthura she looked to rather than Tamar. "You don't have to be caught up in this, my dear. That was never my intent."
Yuthura said nothing.
"You always had such promise, Yuthura. Such potential. I would take you as my apprentice in a second. You deserve it more than any of the other loathsome slugs who vie for my acclaim."
There was a brief hesitation before Yuthura replied, although the words themselves held simple certainty. "Once that offer would have sorely tempted me. But I have made my choices. I won't go back."
"No? Ah well." The shoulders beneath the black robe shrugged casually. "Revan has always been good at twisting people, as I know to my cost. Still, I can hardly blame you for a weakness that I too once shared, can I? But know that you will come to regret standing with him today. He will betray you in the end; just like he has done everyone else he has ever known. Know that I told you this when you suffer for it, and that you could have avoided it."
Again, Yuthura said nothing. The Sith dismissed her and started to turn away again.
"Don't I even get to see your face? For old times sake?" Tamar asked her.
She froze, and Tamar knew immediately from the sense he got from her that he'd managed to say either exactly the right – or exactly the wrong – thing. Her gaze snapped back to him.
"My face?" A deathly low laugh. "You want to see my face?"
She drew her cowl back slightly – enough for the fading light to penetrate its depths. Beneath it was a completely smooth and featureless mirror-finished mask. He could see his own distorted reflection in its surface. After a momentary pause, she reached up and carefully pulled the mask away too. Tamar made a strangled noise, taking an involuntary step back.
What looked out at him was nearer skull than face. As he stared at her in dull horror, it was impossible to tell if this was the same woman from his vision. It could have been anyone. How she had even survived such injuries . . .
But then he looked into her eyes, and he knew.
"You burnt it off with such compassion; so sternly sorrowful and full of love." Her voice was like a sigh.
The mirrored mask was back on again. He could feel his breath grating raggedly inside his chest. "I suppose I could have had a surgeon make me a new one. That is doable now, I think. But I have almost come to like it. It is a reminder of the feelings I have for you. Something that will always be with me, giving me strength.
"Good bye Revan. Take care."
She lifted an arm above her head. A length of rope shot high up into the air from her sleeve. Something that resembled a very small weather balloon was attached to one end, weighting the line. The roar of a spacecraft's engines reached Tamar's ears, growing rapidly in volume. He twisted round to look and received a brief impression of something sleek and black, like a converted fighter, zooming across the rooftop at incredible speed.
A hook trailing from it latched onto the rope, and suddenly the Sith woman was yanked high up into the air, gone so fast that Tamar scarcely had time to blink, let alone react. He gazed up after her, watching as the fighter dwindled into a small dot in Coruscant's darkening sky.
Something small with a parachute attached to it was floating back down towards them. For a fraction of a second he gaped at it, before stirring to action.
"Run!" he yelled.
The outer edge of the explosion's shockwave slammed into Tamar's back before he heard any sound, picking him up and hurling him through the air like a rag doll. It would have thrown him off the roof entirely if he hadn't slammed into a protruding air-conditioning unit hard enough that only his armour saved him from being smashed to a pulp, Jedi or no.
Blood rushed and swirled in his ears. His vision blurred. The pain from his ribs where they'd impacted with the air-conditioning unit was near all consuming.
His extended hand caught hold of Yuthura's arm as she flew limply past, guided by the Force perhaps. Certainly, no conscious thought had been involved. Distantly he heard himself cry out as her entire weight jerked through his shoulder, until it felt like his own arm was going to tear from its socket with the strain.
Then the explosion released its grip on her and she dropped, over the roofs edge. Groaning in pain and desperation, he felt her start to slip inexorably through his fingers, unconscious, or at least in no condition hold on to him.
Frantically he gripped tighter, servomotors whirring to boost his strength. Finally, she stopped sliding, although he had no idea what kind of damage his grip was doing to her flesh. All he knew was that he couldn't – wouldn't – let her go. No matter what.
He struggled to catch his breath – find his centre of calm serenity. The agony in his ribs and shoulder made even that a struggle though, and he could taste blood – coppery bitterness in his mouth. Eventually the hurts of the flesh slid away slightly, his mind becoming detached from them. He began to try to pull Yuthura back up to safety, although with no help at all from her it proved beyond his abilities.
Changing tack he tried to channel the Force into her, though doing so made the pain rear up again like a bad tempered krayt dragon.
After a few seconds, Yuthura made a soft coughing noise. Her eyes flickered open, though they rolled around unseeing. Blood was running down the side her face, from her nose and the corner of her mouth. She made a quietly anguished sobbing sound, but gradually as more Force flowed into her, she seemed to gain a measure of awareness. Suddenly he felt her hands grip tightly hold of his wrist.
"I'm going to try and pull you up," he said. Or tried to say. The only sound that emerged was a croak.
She seemed to get the gist though, her feet scrabbling to find purchase on the building's side.
Suddenly, from behind him, there was the sound of heavy booted footsteps pounding on the explosion-blasted rooftop him. At least twenty sets of feet, moving with military precision. "Don't move! Stand up and step away from the edge!"
About thirty feet below Yuthura, a cleaning droid hovering on repulsors travelled slowly past. It was towing a long line of heavy rubbish bins. Tamar stared at it.
"Stand up now, or we won't hesitate to shoot."
He could sense the fear underlying the stridently commanding voice; the twitchy nervous tension, from both the speaker and the entire squad backing him up. They would shoot at the slightest hint of provocation, he could tell. In fact, they were likely to shoot at the slightest hint of anything, provocation or not.
His gaze fixed with Yuthura's, eyes flicking across to indicate the slow moving line of bins.
She shook her head weakly. "No. I . . . won't." Her teeth bared, stained with blood. "I won't abandon . . . you."
"No choice." Without waiting for an answer he swung her out and released his hold on her, using the Force to help steer her fall safely into one of the bins. To his relief she hit the target accurately, landing on something soft and vanishing from his view.
"This is your finally warning, Revan!"
So it was Revan again. Gritting his teeth against the pain that sawed through his ribs, he forced himself to rise. His balance was completely shot, and he stumbled, coughing harshly. Behind him, someone hissed something, a panicked warning shot passing above his head.
The entire world looped through slow gyrations as he tried to force his body back under control. Obviously he was more badly injured than he'd thought – concussed at the very least. His saliva was bright red with blood as he spat.
The speaker shouted something else, though most of it was lost in the roaring noise that filled his ears. Something about being under arrest . . . murder of the Jedi Council . . .
As he raised his arms in surrender, he felt his legs buckle. He collapsed, face forward, everything fading away to black. At least Yuthura had gotten away, was his final conscious thought.