Writer's note's: Thank you to Darth Demon! This is the end of Book III. If you've played the game, you know what comes next.

I hope this will be a kick butt duel. I gave Bandon a brutal, physical fighting style. I've been told that the majority of physical fights end up with some form of grappling and I threw in some of what I learned in Aikido. I modeled Bandon's mask after the Oni (Japanese demon) seen in many anime and legend. There will be much more love and romance.

Stay tuned for Carth's headlong rush into destiny.

Other malarkey - Check out my avatars of the characters. alice-the-raven./85211.html. In our musha-shugyo, we visitied another dojo for training. I skunked all but this on Sandan. We learned a lot. Less that one week to go. Yay

To Those in Peril on the Sea – Part III

The Hrakert Rift Station – Lab

Aerin stood between Bastila and Bandon, her hands shaking. She now knew true fear as she faced down an opponent far more skilled and powerful. Her two cobalt lightsabers hummed, casting a glow in the darkness, contrasting with her opponent's crimson blade. She fought to control her breathing and prepare herself for an honorable death.

Bandon stretched out his injured arm. "Bow to me now weakling and I will let you live." The glow of his red eyes penetrated Aerin's soul and tapped into some hidden part of her mind. White dots floated in her vision and she felt dizzy for a moment as images rushed into her head.

In a different time…a different setting, Bandon bows before her in supplication. However, he is thinner with a head full of dark hair. She looks down upon him from a command chair.

"Do not make excuses for him. He disobeyed me a second time and targeted civilians on Telos. There will not be a third time," she says in a stern voice, full of seething anger.

Bandon spreads his arms as if he were afraid. He slowly tries to back away with his eyes downcast. "I am sorry, my master. I am sure he misunderstood your orders."

Lightning flies from her fingertips, striking him down. As he lays on the deck, writhing, she shakes her head. "You have disappointed me, Bandon. Go now and summon my apprentice," she says, her voice full of promised retribution.

Aerin's jaw fell open and she steadied herself against a table. The pupils of her eyes shrank to pinpoints and a forgotten store of power flooded her mind and she inhaled sharply as the Force surged into her. Using the advanced Jar'Kai Form, she placed the blades of her lightsabers together in front of her face and they crackled with energy. She took a balanced stance, blading her body with her strong arm held back, weapon angled over her shoulder.

Bandon cocked his head as if observing her. He hesitated for a moment and his eyes seemed to show some recognition. Then, with a huff, he stabbed at her head with a Shiak attack. Aerin parried the thrust downward with her left hand and set up for a riposte, but Bandon threw her backward with his mind and she crashed into a lab table, shattering glass.

Aerin rolled over the table as Bandon split it with a massive downward cut. Splinters of metal and glass flew as the Padwan ducked. With her power, she hurled a beaker into Bandon's face and it broke into pieces. Seizing the moment, Aerin sliced her attacker in the head, shearing off the bottom portion of his demonic mask. Blood dribbled down his exposed face and he grunted.

Bandon tore the remaining part of the mask off and tossed it away like it was rubbish and then squatted low, whirling his weapon about. She saw that he was buying time, using the defensive Shien Style. "Where did you learn such skill?" he asked, looking at her curiously. Aerin's visor shielded the upper half of her face, but she thought she saw recognition in his eyes.

"The Jedi Masters taught me," she said, letting the tips of her weapons dance in front of her. She continued to look for an opening or weakness and thought that maybe, she had gained the mental advantage. His style was very powerful and unsubtle so one mistake could be her last.

Bandon sneered and rushed forward again. They locked blades and he grabbed her by the robes with his free hand. Aerin tried to twist away, but his strength was too much and he lifted her off of the floor and slammed her into another table.

The table broke under the fury and Bandon again lifted and smashed the dazed Jedi into the deck. Instinctively, she kicked his weapon out of his hands, but he struck her in the face with his fist. Aerin's world turned gray and white hot spots danced in her vision. She rolled about weakly, her lightsabers falling from her grasp. All she could taste and smell were blood and tears.

Bandon ripped her visor from her face and looked deeply into her eyes. "What? It cannot be," he exclaimed. Shock registered on his face and his jaw opened. His surprise gave Aerin the millisecond that she needed. She grasped a beaker full of caustic liquid and splashed it in his face. Bandon covered his eyes and howled as Aerin curled her legs around him and slammed the Dark Jedi into the floor. His head struck the ground hard and the Jedi rolled away, searching for something…anything to fight with. He staggered to his feet, retrieving his lightsaber with a sweep of his hand. A snarl came to his lips as he focused all of his hate on her, but his mouth opened with surprise as Aerin raked the tip of her lightsaber across his eyes.

Flesh and tissue spattered on the ground and Bandon screamed in agony. One of his hands flew back to cover his ruined face and desperately, he thrust about him, trying to find his nemesis with the Force. Aerin easily slid under his guard and threw him over her hips onto the floor. The helpless Sith landed on shards of broken glass and cried out as his back was shredded.

Aerin stepped away to recover her wits. Breathing heavily, she rubbed the deep bruise on her cheek and growled as Bandon stood. Anger welled up inside her, a side effect of Bandon's rage. "So, who's groveling now?" she asked, mocking him while wagging the tip of her weapon as if in scolding. She then slipped behind him and, using the Force, propelled him into the nearby airlock. With a wave of her hand, the door slammed shut.

Bandon slashed around himself in rage, searing the walls, but it was to no avail. With a mournful shriek, he hissed, "Why did you do this to me? Why did you lead me down this path, R-"

His words were cut short by the sound of the ocean crashing in and Bandon was swallowed by destiny and the sea.

Near the Submersible Entryway

Aerin helped Bastila limp back to the corridor, where Carth and Canderous awaited with the others. They had healed Juhani and Jolee and the two staggered along with them. Bastila looked pale and worn, clearly affected by the melee with the Dark Jedi. She made eye contact with Aerin, but then looked down.

"Padawan Dakar, you should have shown mercy to Bandon," she said sadly as if remembering something long ago. "He…he could have been redeemed."

Aerin shook her head. There was no room for debate on this one. "He was still armed. The danger was too great," she said with finality. She fought Bandon, not Bastila. Padawan Shan was splayed out on the floor for the last couple of minutes of the fight.

Seeing the approach of the Jedi, Carth rushed over. He helped to ease Bastila onto the floor so her injuries could be looked at. Aerin smiled at him as she looked around; Dark Jedi and Sith troopers lay sprawled, seared with blaster bolts and flame. The last two mercenaries lay dead as well. She was very pleased with the team's performance in this fight. Aerin quickly filled the team in on Bandon's demise and Mission nodded gleefully.

"I'm glad you smoked that creep," declared the young Twi'lek, clapping Aerin on the back.

With that, they returned to the sub and ascended to the Embassy through safe waters. As the sub broke the surface of the water, Aerin took Carth's hand. "It's all going to be okay. I can feel it," she told him. All she could think about now was getting back to their room and getting into the shower with him. For some odd reason, the fight had peaked her libido. It was as if she sucked the energy from Bandon and it infused her soul. She scrambled up through the hatch as it opened and practically lifted Carth from the sub with one hand.

"Whoa," he said. "How'd you get so strong?"

She shrugged. "Good diet?"

The Embassy of the Republic

Ambassador Wann stroked his beard gravely, listening intently as Carth filled him in on the incident at Hrakert Rift. Captain Holdar and Chief Mertens pursed their lips and shook their heads. It was clear that they were unhappy about the loss of the Kolto production.

"Aerin did what she had to do," said Carth, defending her. The team sat around him, freshly healed with Kolto pacs and Force powers. "I would have done the same thing," he added.

Ambassador Wann thought for a moment and scratched his head. He exhaled a resigned sigh. "Yes, there was no other way. I've been briefed that the toxin that Kono Nolan proposed using would have destroyed all life in the rift. Although the loss of the harvester is a great blow to our war effort, you did the right thing. I've already met with Judge Shelkar. The Manaan Government will not prosecute you for what you did there."

He took a long drink of a heady brandy as he paced on the plush carpet. He looked up at images of the last few Supreme Chancellors that adorned the walls. Aerin glanced at the picture of the late Chancellor Ptolomeus and something tugged at her heart. However, the image of Supreme Chancellor Locarno fostered intense hatred.

Ambassador Wann continued. "I am glad that you found what you were looking for down there. I understand that it will help the Republic immensely. I wish you the best of luck."

In gratitude, Ambassador Wann had men bring in some exceptional gear for the team. HK was given a magma projector and capacitor armor, while the Jedi were given energy cells that would improve the power of their attacks. Aerin looked at the Ultimate Diatium Energy Cell in her hand and bowed low. This was something that would greatly increase the power of her lightsaber. Where he got one of these was anyone's guess. It didn't matter though, she was grateful just the same.

"Thank you, Ambassador…thank you for everything," she said, shaking his hand warmly.

He gave her a warm smile and she liked to think that she had earned it from him. "No, thank you, Padawan Dakar. Please take care of Captain Onasi – he is a lucky man."

Aerin blushed for a moment, remembering her exposure to the Ambassador. She smiled demurely before bowing.

Carth then stood and shook hands with the assembled men. "We should get going soon. Our mission is of the utmost priority."

Anar Holdar clapped Captain Onasi on the shoulder. "Take care of yourself, Carth. The Republic needs men of your caliber."

At that, Koloss Mertens unexpectedly stepped over. "Captain Onasi, I underestimated you. I know now that the Republic is in good hands with you being part of this mission." He turned to Aerin and Bastila. "I am sorry about Haman. I thought he was a good kid. You did the Republic a great service and you have changed my opinion of the Jedi for the better."

The Ocean Spray Hotel – Evening

In their luxurious suite, Carth and Aerin sat on the balcony with Jordo, Mission, and Sasha. The young girl played on the floor with a toy Ebon Hawk, making 'vrooming' sounds. Aerin chuckled at her surrogate daughter's antics. The child was so endearing that she could imagine a family now. She sat, watching Sasha play, feeling a warmth in her heart.

Jordo chatted with Carth about the old days on Telos. "Remember the fish you caught?" Jordo said, holding his hands out wide. "Damn, that was tasty."

Carth licked his lips. "I can imagine it now. Nothing beats Telosian fish," he said with a smile, but then looked down.

Jordo patted his friend on the shoulder. "They'll be fresh fish on Telos again. Trust me."

The captain nodded silently as Aerin turned to demonstrated table manners to Mission. The young lady needed to learn some culture to fit in with the cadets.

"Mission, the Academy is very strict. You will need to learn proper etiquette."

The young Twi'lek straightened her back and attempted to cut her meat with her knife; she sliced across the slab and a piece of food went flying into Carth's face. Sasha broke into gales of laughter at the sight.

"Daddy get splat!"

Carth chuckled for a moment about the moniker that Sasha gave him and he developed his faraway look. Aerin gently grasped his hand. She sensed his need – his son was still missing.

"We'll find him, Carth."

He was in one of his moods again. She thought it was rather frightening that she was beginning to identify them accurately. He returned the hand squeeze and a forced grin. "I know…thank you." She wished she could find Dustil and make things better. In this galaxy full of despair and death, couldn't the Force do just one thing for her?

She sighed and looked over to Sasha, who was nodding off. A plush animal was tucked under her arm and a big smile was on her face. She may as well be mine…I mean ours. Why can't it be that way?

When the meal was done, Jordo said his good night and Aerin carried a sleeping Sasha into the next room. She tucked the girl and her plush doll in and kissed her forehead. "I love you, Sasha," she whispered in the girl's ear to which Sasha just smacked her lips. What did love truly mean? Aerin thought she was beginning to understand. The feeling that she felt for this child was overwhelming and she felt she would die if Sasha were ever taken from her. Mission leapt into the next bed and turned out the lights. Aerin patted the Twi'lek on the head and walked away, taking one more look at her 'family.'

Carth and Aerin returned to their room, illuminated with flickering candles. Aerin came up to Carth from behind and wrapped her arms around his waist while pressing her cheek into his shoulder. They stood silently on the balcony for a time watching the waves crash against the lighted walls of Ahto City. The moon hung low in the sky, large and yellow. She felt content and her heart was full for once in her life. A tiny seed of doubt played on her, however, and she knew it would ruin the moment. She couldn't help herself though.

Finally, Aerin spoke, "Carth, what will you do if we find Saul Karath?"

He furrowed his brows. The look of quiet calm left him immediately and he bared his teeth. "If…when we find him, I'm going kill him, plain and simple. I will do whatever it takes to get at him."

The Padawan released Carth and stepped away. This was all leading down another, dark path. She didn't want to know, but she had to know. "Even sacrifice the team and the quest?"

The captain snorted, gesticulating broadly with his hands. "No…no, I didn't mean it like that. It's just…just if we come across Karath, don't get in my way." He was becoming angry, irrational, pointing his finger at her like a pistol.

What of the future? Could there be any for them? "So, if we kill him, what then? Have you thought about that?"

He shook his head slowly, clearly unsettled. He avoided eye contact. "Aerin, I've been living day to day, battle to battle for a long time now. To be honest, until I met you, I hadn't given it much thought; I was so focused on killing Saul."

Aerin pulled his face toward hers and looked deeply into his eyes. She could see the sadness and guilt. She cocked her head, thinking that the poor man had been through enough without her interrogation. It was time to change the subject. "So, I've given you some thought?"

Carth nodded slowly and looked out toward the ocean as the breeze ruffled his dark hair. Aerin turned his face back toward her and let her robes fall to the floor, revealing her bare skin in the moonlight. She kicked them back into the room as Carth drank in her beauty. He ran his hand down to her hip and her skin tingled with desire. With a wink, Aerin led him away from the balcony.

Her palms were sweaty now and she licked her lips. She had been with Carth before, but this time it was different…special. She pulled off his ugly orange jacket and flung it over a nearby chair. In a flash, his boots were off too. She took his hands and spun, sending him over to the bed and then leaping on him like a tigress. She even let out a little cat-like growl. She leaned over and licked his neck, enjoying the taste of his skin.

"Whoa," he said, "What's gotten into you?"

She ran her hands down his chest, feeling a longing within her. "Well, hopefully you," she said, using a randy double-entendre. She shimmied down upon him until she could feel him respond. She put her lips up to his ear and kissed them gently. "Carth, promise me that we'll have a future."

Right then, he'd promise her anything.

Elsewhere in the Hotel

Meanwhile, in another nearby room, Bastila lay in the arms of Republic Marine, Kyle Durren. Her hand was draped over his bare chest and her face was nuzzled into the crook of his neck. She felt a longing inside her that could not be fulfilled and she pulled herself closer into him while bringing her thigh up over his groin. She imagined him, just an hour ago, making love to her, bringing her such intense joy. The sweat had only recently cooled on her skin.

The last few weeks had been hard on the young Jedi. So much had changed in such a short time. She bit her lip as she thought of Bandon, crushed by the pressure of the sea. Although she regretted his death, it came none too soon – he had almost revealed their secret. That would have been a disaster of the greatest magnitude. She had known Bandon for years growing up. He was a shy, sweet boy, who was easily swayed by sweet words. How did he fall? How did he allow himself to be misled? If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. She had always professed to be invulnerable to the Dark Side and many detested her cockiness, but she knew it was all an act for her.

She watched Kyle's chest rise and fall as he slept, and a bittersweet expression came to her face and a tear rolled down her cheek. She was not invulnerable, in fact, far from it. How could it have come to this? How could she have thrown everything away?

I've betrayed the will of the Council. Aerin is sliding to the Dark Side and I cannot stop it…and with this man, I cannot help myself. How could I have been so arrogant?

She wiped the tear away and rolled over, watching the clock. There would be little sleep tonight for her. She gripped Kyle tightly, softly weeping into his shoulder.

On Another Floor in the Hotel

Canderous Ordo stood on his balcony, looking out at the night sky. He had been feeling irritable this whole leg of the journey, but tonight, he felt alive again. He breathed in the fresh sea air of Ahto City and grinned inwardly – he found another Mandalorian, one from the old days. They were now a scattered and beaten people, selling themselves to the highest bidder. Ergeron was a proud warrior, one who stood with him until the end, Revan's invasion of Malachor V.

He looked out over the city as lights came on over streets and in buildings. By all rights, if it weren't for Revan, the Mandalorians would be masters of this world. Then, he realized that the end of the war had changed him and that he was, by far, no longer the warrior who stood on Malachor years ago. What was it? he asked himself. Was it the complete destruction of the Mandalorians? Was it the time in which he humiliated himself working for Davik? Perhaps it was his association with the young Padawan Dakar. She had some spunk to her and she seemed to be a natural leader. Somehow, he realized, she had both calmed and invigorated him.

For the first time in a long time, he thought about what would happen after. So, they would waste this Star Forge and kill Malak…but what then? Would there be any hope for a future in this galaxy? Would there ever be a Mandalore again? Canderous chuckled to himself and absentmindedly drew his dagger, holding it to his chest, point down.

He sheathed the dagger and returned to the room where he sat and disassembled his blaster. He lovingly cleaned the baffles of carbon buildup and scrubbed down the barrel. This weapon had been with him a long time and he knew every millimeter of it by heart. There was nothing he loved more than the sound of the plasma chamber engaging just before it spat death and destruction. It was the small things in life that brought him joy.

The Space Port

The following morning, Carth awoke early to the sound of powerful winds rattling the windows and shutters. The clock on the nightstand cast a red glow in the dark room and he looked over to see Aerin sleeping, her chest rising and falling slowly. He brushed errant locks of hair from his eyes and put his finger on her cheek, tracing a line to her lips. She moaned softly as he moved his finger along her lips down to her chin.

She was truly magnificent and, for a moment, he thought himself lucky. Not too long ago he was a ruined, bitter shell of a man, betrayed by fate. Now, the tide may have turned. The Sith were ruined on Manaan and Malak's apprentice was fish food. Things looked rosier than they had been in ages. His finger continued down along her throat to her collar bone and his mind wandered again. He knew he had to find Dustil. His promise to Morgana had to be fulfilled. But, was it fair to Aerin? She would understand…she had to understand.

His finger continued down to her breast and on to her stomach. He admired her athletic physique and knew that she was considered to be a masterful fighter. After all, he had seen it with his own eyes. But, could she ever beat Malak? Even with the help of all of the others it would be nearly impossible at best. He knew that since Morgana's death that he had become a moody guy and such thoughts just darkened his mood. He shook off the thought and took his finger around her belly button. He started to push his finger even lower when the commlink chimed.

"Wakeup call for Mister Onasi," a young man said. Aerin yawned and Carth quickly pulled his finger back.

"Is it that time already," she said, stretching her arms over her head. Her eyes fluttered open and she rubbed them sleepily. She rolled over on her side and put her finger on his lips. "I dreamt we were making love," she said and the sound of her voice in the darkness was soothing to him. "We had a home on Deralia and a garden by the lake. You caught fish for our dinner." The irony of her dream stung him, but he kept that to himself. He didn't want to spoil the moment.

He walked to the door and peaked through the hole. Sure enough, the cart that he had ordered the night before was there. He quickly opened the door and pulled the cart in. Warm candlelight bathed the room. "It's no fish dinner, but I got us some breakfast before we go."

He pushed the cart to the bed and opened the tray with a metal clank. The pancakes were fluffy and covered in fruit and whipped cream. He had to say that this hotel had fine service. Aerin rolled on her belly and took a glass of juice, drinking through a straw. "You're pretty useful after all," she joked. His eyes gazed down her back to her bottom and he spanked her.

"Respect your betters," he answered with a smirk. He reached over to the cart and pulled a small flower from a vase and handed it to her. Her smile was electrifying.

"Deralian Jasmine!" she said as she placed the flower over her ear.

He sat next to her and put his arm around her back. He was almost afraid to let go for fear that this was all a dream. He nuzzled her neck and kissed her back, thinking that all destiny had to do was ask and he would stay here with her for eternity. But Saul still had to pay. They ate their pancakes as diffuse sunlight began to stream into the room. Carth wished this moment would last forever, but it was not to be. They showered and met the rest of the team for checkout and made their way to the space port.

As the team boarded the Ebon Hawk, they could see dark and angry clouds forming above the city. The crackle of thunder could be heard far in the distance. Carth took the left seat in the cockpit as Aerin sat in the right with Mission beside her. The Jedi wanted to show her young protégé the ins and outs of flying.

"Mission, watch closely. I will be reading the checklist and Carth will perform the runup. We're going to teach you to fly before you get to the Academy."

Mission nodded enthusiastically, observing their every move. At one point, Carth dialed in the frequency for weather and an automated voice came on. "Manaan Weather Service…Two-two-five-zero Zulu…overcast, one-thousand, heavy rains expected, visibility one kilometer, winds Two-Six-Zero at twenty five, gusts to thirty, altimeter one thousand and ten millibars. Announce on initial contact you have information Hotel."

Carth completed the runup and received a clearance for takeoff. As the Ebon Hawk lifted off of the deck and turned into the wind, the captain looked out as lightning crisscrossed the sky.

"Hang on, we're flying into the storm."