Worst Case Scenario
Today was the day the Republic fell. Fifteen-thousand years came crashing down.
I stood on the Leviathan and watched Coruscant burn. I saw the last few Capitol ships plummet and spiral down to the cities of rubble.
This was a day I never truly thought I'd see. It's what I fought to prevent most of my adult life. Until the last few years, when I started to work to bring it about.
I, Carth Onasi, the Pilot, the Soldier, the Hero, helped the Dark Lord of the Sith realise the destruction of the Core planets. I explained each Republic strategy, tactic and routine. I laid all my knowledge, my considerable knowledge, of the Republic at the Sith lord's feet.
And as I watched the Republic give its dying gasp, I knew I was responsible.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it was all down to me. It could have been done without me. Hell, it very nearly was! But I made it happen quicker and easier. There's my part in this sorry mess. I was the facilitator.
Today was the emptiest I ever felt. Even after my wife's death, I had my fury at Saul to fill me up and keep me going. But now I had nothing. Killing Saul Karath was something I could do, something to plan for. But this… this had nothing for me to do, no action to take. Nothing except waiting and watching.
I watched the tears roll down her face when I told her of Coruscant's fall. Whoever would have thought that it meant so much to her? I don't know. Maybe it was the principle of the thing, what it stood for. When Coruscant fell, we both knew there was no turning back. No good guys to fight for anymore. Just the darkness.
I hear that scream every night. Always that agonised, wrenching scream. And then the silence. That awful, crushing silence when all I could hear was the Republic trying to bury us and the horrible hum of the Star Forge.
I remember the look on Bastila's face. Her eyes seemed like they filled her face. Fear. Not something you ever want to see on a Jedi's face. Or was she a Sith then? It all gets confused. Revan had turned her by then I think. For all the good that did.
The doors slid open and the worst happened.
Malak, coming towards us like something from Hell. He was wounded, but nowhere near bad enough. He looked crazy. Bloody and burnt and insane. And victorious.
That small broken body behind him. The first few seconds I didn't realise what it was. I didn't recognise the Star Forge robes at first. Maybe I didn't want to realise. COULDN'T realise, damn it!
Should have known though. I was starting to think happiness was possible. There was a hint of a smile on my face. So in comes the Force to wipe that grin right off my face.
What happened after that? I think I died for a while there. Like I just drifted away. Couldn't move, couldn't speak, lift a blaster, scream cry yell kill.
Couldn't do anything.
This was not how I'd ever thought it would go.
Then hazy memories. Bastila falling to her knees, cowering before Malak. Poor girl. Little more than a kid and she'd been sent off to stop the greatest force of evil in the galaxy. Just a child.
Lightside to Darkside to Lightside and then back to Darkside. Bastila accepted the darkness Malak offered rather than face the darkness she believed awaited her in death.
No faith. That's what it came down to. Better to take her chances with Malak than to simply, blindly hope that the Force would scoop her up if she died.
There was no chance of survival. Revan had lost.
Revan, the brightest, strongest, most beautiful and best of them all. My Revan.
What hope did the rest of us have?
Mission, Zaalbar, the droids. The Dark power that drove Malak claimed them all.
Not before HK-47 did some heavy damage. But its aim seemed off. The pistol didn't seem as easy in its cold grasp as it usually did. Is it strange to think that a lump of metal can grieve? Or maybe something just malfunctioned in the droid under the bolts of lightning Malak was throwing around.
Where the Jedi were I didn't know. Didn't care at that point.
I wanted death. Wanted it so badly. I wanted to rip Malak apart. Make him feel the pain I was feeling.
His reinforcements swarmed around Canderous and I. Droids, Sith, Dark Jedi. Every stinking, corrupt last one of them. How many times did I think that I had taken my last blow? How many times did I catch what I thought was my final breath?
It was a cloud of pain and grief.
Until he called my name. His strange, electronic voice calling out my name over the din of battle.
Why did I stop? Why did I turn to look? Maybe the shock of hearing my name spoken by him. Of feeling him take that last part of me.
" Look, Onasi. Look, " he said, as I turned to him.
She hung in his grasp. Her small body limp and bloodstained. So many bruises it was almost impossible to make out her face anymore.
That beautiful smiling face that had got me through what had been the blackest time of my life.
I thought he was trying to provoke me. Incite me to mindless violence. How ridiculous, I thought. Like I needed any further incentive.
She moaned. The smallest sound. My heart lodged itself in my throat.
" Surrender, and she will live. Surrender and she will not be thrown to my Sith. "
It was the quickest decision I ever made.
I threw down my weapons and held up my hands.
The quickest decision, and the one I most regret.
I remember seeing Canderous die. He wouldn't surrender. He made them kill him. He fought until his skilled, rapid movements slowed to foolish, sluggish jabs. His fists were bloodied with blood from both them and him. There wasn't a part of him that wasn't wounded. The blood dribbled down his face at first, then streamed.
How many times did I call to him to stop? I can't remember. I was so angry with him then. I felt he was putting her life in jeopardy. I thought he'd let his stupid Mandalorian animal pride take over.
But now I know better. Now I know it was sense, wisdom and courage. And love for her.
He wouldn't allow them to use him against her.
While me, what did I do? I gave Malak a better hold over Revan than he could have ever dreamt of, that's what I did.
How many times do I come here, sit by her and curse myself for letting this happen to her? As many times as Malak will allow me.
We play the blame game. And if only.
I should have beaten him, she says. It's my fault. Somehow I didn't fight hard enough.
I should never have let you go in alone, I say, while all the time I'm thinking: I shouldn't have been so damn selfish. I shouldn't have been so terrified of your death. I should have realised there are worse things that can happen.
Like this. This is a worse thing.
This is worse than death.
She lives in the machine and he feeds off of her.
He comes and takes her energy away.
She is powerful. The Force goes through her like the Ebon Hawk in a clear stretch of space.
He takes what he wants from her and keeps her in this half-life.
And I watch.
I don't know if my hatred feeds him too, or if he just finds it amusing. Maybe all my fury and venom just goes into the Darkside and he can drain that off too. That thought sickens me, but what can I do? Stop hating him from sucking the life out of her? Easier said than done.
How many nights have I held my blaster and wanted to just walk out of this life? So tempting. But there is no way out. Not for both of us. I can't leave her behind. How can I leave her to be… consumed alone? How can I die, knowing that he will be going into her chamber to take yet more from her and she will be alone?
You see, at the heart of this is this big secret that Malak alone knows.
It's all to do with the machine he keeps her in. The thing that holds her in between life and death. Only he knows how to remove her from it. Only he knows how it works.
Sure I know how to blast the hell out of the thing but there's a catch.
Malak says that if it's not done properly, Revan won't be absorbed into the Force. She'll be trapped in the half-life forever, sucked into the machine.
Big Sith bluff? Could well be. Sounds crazy and Malak's not the most trustworthy of men.
Then again, the Sith, and the Darkside for that matter, are crazy. I don't understand the Force. I don't know how it works.
All I know is that Revan is in agony and I don't want to condemn her to it for all eternity.
I tried asking her about the machine but she knows nothing about it either. For all their lectures and moralizing, I don't think the Jedi are that much more clued up about the Force and its workings than us mere mortals are.
It's like being able to fly a ship but not really knowing why the controls work, or even what all of them do. It's being sat in the cockpit and there being an unmarked button on the panel.
Someone says that if you press that, the whole damn ship will explode and no-one else knows the controls well enough to be able to argue with them about it.
I'm not taking that chance with Revan. I got her into this mess and I'll stand by her through it.
We don't talk about it much, the machine and how it feels. I've a pretty clear idea of how it feels when Malak drains her though. I've heard her begging and pleading, losing the power of speech, wordless shrieks of pain.
How I wanted to take him apart with my bare hands. Tear off his jaw, gouge out his eyes, pull out each and every fingernail.
But he's the only one who can free Revan.
We don't know for sure that he will. He probably won't. But there's a part of me that says he will.
I've seen the way he looks at her. His hands on her skin. The clumsy touch of his metal jaw against her forehead. Bizarre and horrifying at once.
He loves her.
I don't think he even realises it himself. Doesn't even understand that's what it is. Probably tells himself he just wants to put her in her place. Dominate her, subdue her. Possess her.
One day, the urge to take her out of that prison will be too much for him. I'm sure of it. I just don't know when that day will be.
There's the possibility he'll die before that day comes. Maybe she'll be stuck anyway. But we have to hope. And I have to do my best to keep him alive.
She was too weak for the machine at first. She would have died and been happy that way but for one thing. That trump card that Malak played.
If she died, Malak told her, I would be tortured every day to the brink of death before being revived just enough to survive the night. And then in the morning it would all begin again.
But, he said, recuperate, grow strong enough to be his apprentice and I would live in comfort, with her. She would be able to have me with her. We would survive together, under his command, but together.
Doubtless she thought to cooperate and play the part of apprentice just until she could find out where he was holding me.
She trusted him. She believed he was telling her the truth. She'd spent too much time with people who did.
But of course she was never to be his apprentice, only his energy source. Apprentices betray. Just like he did. Just like Bastila died trying to. He wasn't stupid. He knew that Revan stood a good chance of beating him if he let her wander free. So he decided to keep her the only way he could.
When he deemed her healthy enough, he had her drugged and imprisoned in the machine.
My shining light, Revan, wired into that monstrous thing. And it was all too late for me or her to do anything when we were finally reunited. The machine, and Malak, had her.
I sit and watch her as she floats in the metal coffin. Her eyes are open but sightless. I think this is what passes for sleep. I wonder suddenly if she's dreaming. And if so, what of? Those wonderful first days on Taris? Or maybe nightmares of the Star Forge.
Except when Malak's draining her, she's as serene as those extinct Jedi could wish. No passion, no emotion. No life really.
She talks but it's quiet and gentle. None of the teasing or joking or innuendo. My heart hurts too much to flirt. I want to give her some hope. But I can't. All I can do is be here with her.
So beautiful. Like a china doll. Fragile and gorgeous. The best thing that ever happened to me. I think of the heart ache when my wife died. That was a mercy. This is shredding my soul a little every day.
Everything about her is perfect. She seems to shimmer in the artificial light. Her skin is almost white and her dark blue eyes are like the colour of the Telosian sky at night. Her long black hair drifts down her back.
But if you touch her skin, it's cold as ice. Her eyes are empty. Her hair has kept growing since her imprisonment, the way it does with corpses.
How much of Revan is left?
Her scream makes me want to tear my hair out. I want to kneel down and weep. But I won't.
" Malak! Stop! " Even to me my voice sounds weak and pathetic, but I go on. " You've taken enough! "
He doesn't laugh in my face or even answer, he ignores me and continues on with her.
I see her shuddering as he twists his hand inside of her and rips out more and more energy. Even though I'm not Force sensitive I can see the ripples of power washing over him. I can bear it no more and foolishly rush at him. I don't know what I intend to do, just anything to give my Revan some peace. This has happened more than once. Like all the times before, he sends me flying against the wall. I hear a loud crack and realise it's my head. I slump down, trying to gather my senses.
Finally he has had enough. He lowers his hand and Revan gives an anguished sigh.
" Thank you Revan, " he says in a neutral voice.
" Have you hurt him Malak? "
I can hear a tremble in her voice. I want to move but my head won't let me. The ground keeps slipping away.
" He's only unconscious. "
" I don't want you to hurt him, " she says in a small voice.
" And what can you do about that? " Malak demands, echoing my thoughts. " Nothing. You can do nothing Revan. You are trapped inside there. But you won't have to worry for much longer. "
She doesn't answer. I can hear the rustle of his cloak as he moves closer to her.
" Do you know that Coruscant fell yesterday? " he asks her. " Your Republic lover led the charge. "
She is still silent.
" He gave me the Core worlds Revan. Just like he gave me you. Now there is nothing more he can give me. The interest I have in watching him suffer is waning. The interest I have in watching you watching him suffer is beginning to nauseate me. I intend to put an end to it. "
Still no answer from her.
" He can stay in here with you tonight Revan. In the morning I will have him executed. "
Finally she speaks.
" Why give me this time with him? Is this a sign of heart Malak? " she asks, her voice empty.
" Perhaps it is. " Malak seems mildly surprised at himself. " Don't worry yourself though dear Revan. I shall remedy the situation. Tomorrow night, you shall have his head in here with you. Give you something nice to look at. "
This is worse. I am to die and she is to suffer alone. I listen to him leave and try to make myself move. I see no point. There is no point. I can do nothing for her. I have failed her once more. She was the best thing to happen to me and I was the worst thing to happen to her.
This was why Jedi don't love, I want to tell Jolee, because love traps them and hurts them. Because you can't hurt until you have something to care about.
I can't save her. I am to die and she is to suffer alone. It doesn't matter where I run or how many Sith I kill. This is the worst case scenario.
And then, like so many times before, like I keep telling myself is impossible yet steadfastly keep praying for, she saves me. She puts my heart back together one last time.
" Carth. "
Even the sound of her voice gives me hope. Gives me the strength to drag myself to her side. I look at the woman who I honestly believe is the most wonderful, precious thing in the whole galaxy.
Her body is still trembling from the torture but I can see such love in her eyes. Love and tears. Bad Jedi practice, but the only thing that can hold me together right now.
" Carth. "
Her voice is barely a whisper but I can feel the way she said my name pounding in my ears.
" I can't do this anymore. "
I am stunned. I had never believed I would ever hear her say that. The prospect of being held in that machine for ever, never joining the Force… I had never contemplated this.
" But… what if Malak's telling the truth? What if you get… stuck? " I manage to stutter.
" Honestly Carth, I don't think it can be worse than what I'm looking at. "
It strikes me that she's made the decision. And in that certainty I can hear Revan the swoop racer, the Pazaak player, the Wookie saviour, the Sith Academy nightmare.
" Help me Carth, " she murmurs.
Those words melt me. Not that I needed persuading. I'd have walked through Hoth naked if she'd asked me.
All the times I've dreamt about it. About freeing her from that machine's clutches. I'd always envisaged myself snatching her out, sending wires everywhere.
But now that it's actually her, that it's actually happening, I'm gentle. I snap the wires where I have to, supporting her weak body with my own strong one. In a matter of seconds, she's loose. I can hear alarms going mad but I don't care.
I lift her out, holding her close to me.
She's so frail, almost insubstantial in my arms. I kneel down on the floor, cradling her. For a split second I think of my wife. I think of holding her and calling for medics.
Not now though. Now is different.
Revan is dying. And she wants it.
To join the Force or be absorbed by that machine. I don't know. But it's all decided now. The decision is made.
I can hear her shallow breathing for the first time in years. She's looking at me with the faintest of smiles on her face. She tries to lift a hand to touch my face but she's too weak. I lean towards her and kiss her, so gently. I can feel tears coursing down my cheeks and I know the end is near. All that I had dreamed of is gone. It is over. I want to beg for her forgiveness or tell her I love her. The emotion is too much for me and in the end I do neither.
I just hold her.
Revan dies in my arms, silent and contented.
And I still don't know what's become of her.
Machine or the Force?
Only one way to find out.
I hold her and wipe away tears so I can see clearly as I reach for my blaster. I can hear the pounding of feet in the corridor outside and I know I have to act soon.
Poor Malak. Never truly thought we'd do it. He underestimated Revan. But so had I. I thought she'd be too scared to take that final step. To take the ultimate risk.
He'll find her gone and it will hurt him. But he won't know why.
That was human nature for you, I mused as I placed the muzzle of the blaster in my mouth. A complete mystery.
For most of my life, I'd mistrusted people. Everything they said, I questioned and second-guessed. Could never bring myself to have a bit of faith in them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. I placed betrayal as the worst thing that could ever happen.
Moments after I pull the trigger and the room explodes into light, I realise I have been betrayed.
And it is wonderful.
" Malak lied, " she whispers to me.