1. Third Degree
I had naively hoped the cheering would never end, that my crew and I could walk off into the sunset and live happily ever after, but reality got the better of me. Luckily for Bastila, we were taken to Coruscant, so she could visit her mother. It looked like we'd be stuck there for awhile, so Dustil flew out from Telos to catch up with Carth. For a split second, I thought we'd have normal lives, but after all that had happened, the people demanded to know whether or not their greatest enemy truly had become their greatest hero. Sure enough, one day, the crew and I were all seized and taken to Alderaan. I was used to being seized like this, being the Dark Lord and all, but it was weird when they split us all up and put us in solitary confinement. I was alone for the first time in months. I was to be "on trial," but it was more like an interrogation. Isolation guaranteed as little outside influence as possible. After each of us was done with our story, the powers that be would deliberate, analyzing and cross-examining our stories to excavate the absolute truth. I had to surrender all my hard-earned goods, even my armor, which had served as clothes for months. Luckily, this wasn't another underwear escapade: I got an enormous regulation tunic that was bright pink to let everyone know that I was a prisoner free of anything except her underwear, her ugly pink tunic, her cell, and her story.
From what I gathered, I had been in isolation for a day before my interrogation began. I was led to a panel of experts who ensured that I was "raw." They hooked me up to a dozen or so machines, explaining that these instruments measured my biological and emotional responses. I got a feeling they thought it was me, the evil genius, who had made my crew loyal to my seemingly good cause. Malak's words echoed in my head: "You always could inspire loyalty, Revan." I assumed a defensive stance from the beginning. Since I was too tethered down to walk, they put me in a cot on wheels that could be adjusted to a sitting position and wheeled me into the interrogation room.
The interrogation room was small and gray. The sterile smell corroded my nostrils. It took a few minutes to get used to.
"Revan," The interrogator wore a Republic uniform and had heaps of datapads, supposedly his notes. He pushed a button and I got the feeling I was being recorded.
"Ciara." I corrected. The interrogator cleared his throat. "I wish to be called Ciara, sir."
"Very well, Ciara. We would like some background from you, something about your character before the voyage, a biography if you will."
I sighed. "I – my life story is the voyage. I know you don't like that answer, but the truth is that I don't know much else about myself. I guess I was born on Deralia, but like I said, I don't remember."
It was silent in the port quarters of the Hawk. Carth and I had been talking at length about Dustil and his wife, Morgana. After I period of silence, I said, "I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but I kind of envy you."
"Why's that?" I couldn't see his face from across the dark room, but I could feel him watching me attentively.
"You have memories of what you lost."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't remember anything at all after I was about seven. My memory kind of kicks back in around the time I started smuggling."
"Wow… I can't imagine…"
I cut him off, still musing. "Everything before Taris is like it's in a swamp. It's more than just foggy. I thought it was normal until I realized that my memories of Kashyyyk and Taris aren't like that. They're dim, sure, but they come back sometimes. Maybe your paranoia is rubbing off on me, but it seems like something happened that purposely muddied up my memory…"
"I never really felt alive until I woke up on Taris and realized that my memories of the Endar Spire were dim, but not muddy." I explained, realizing I'd been reminiscing about my chats in the Ebon Hawk. I was surprised at how the interrogation made memories come flooding back. Maybe it was because I already missed company. Maybe isolation was in part to ensure I'd talk to the interrogator, but he wasn't exactly friendly.
"What caused you to feel this way?"
"I don't know." I hadn't expected this questioning of what I was allowed in terms of emotions. I always hated the part of the Jedi code that forbade them. I figured that if I could keep them under control, I'd be okay, and I'd been doing well so far. "Carth, I guess. I had an immediate reaction to him."
"So you're telling us a love story?" The interrogator raised an eyebrow.
"Of course it's about love. Any story that's worth telling is about love!" I tried not to yell. My day in isolation had left me feeling weak and helpless. "But no, it's not tear-jerkingly mushy. I didn't love him then, unless I really think about it…"
"Your emotions are clouding your story."
"My emotions ARE the story."
There is no emotion… Damn, I hate that part.
"Of course the story is different now that I'm looking back on it, so I'll try to tell you how it was. I didn't love him. I was surprised that he saved me instead of going after Bastila. I was sure they had a thing going on. All he ever talked about was Bastila. I was getting sick of it, so I started asking him about himself."
"I'm not asking about the nature of your feelings for Commander Onasi." The interrogator interrupted. "I'm asking what happened on Taris." He doesn't believe me, does he? He thinks I'm evil and incapable of love. I expected the instruments to spike because I may have been getting angry. I was frustrated. I just wanted to get this over with. I wanted to go back to my friends and talk about what we'd do next, but I knew I couldn't, not without telling him the story. Of course, I thought the beginning was kind of boring without knowing what eventually happened. And parts of it I didn't feel I could tell…
"Smooth talking." Carth remarked as I pulled some Sith armor out a backpack. He was stepping over a passed-out Sith.
"What can I say? I'm good at what I do." I tossed him a mischievous look. He looked away. "Alright, so I'll put this stuff on and you'll be my prisoner. Are you sure we shouldn't mug them?"
"Ciara, if we rummage through their clothes, the entire Sith fleet on this planet will be hunting us down." I scowled at him. I wanted some more credits. I had a habit of being too generous, and I had a feeling we'd need medpacs or something. I was a trouble magnet.
"Isn't that the point? Now let's go. Forget I said anything about mugging them. Have you ever thought about knocking on their helmets?" I asked innocently.
"So you're passive-aggressively evil?" Carth smirked. He had thought of it. I smiled.
"I am not evil!" My voice was shriller than I expected.
"Shush, you'll wake sleeping beauties."
"Just for that, I get the armor and you get to be the slave."
"Prisoner." Carth corrected. "I'm not a slave."
"Slave. I'm the master here."
I gulped, remembering my words. Had Carth realized that I, Darth Revan, the Dark Lord of the Sith, had unintentionally revealed myself? Good thing they didn't ask about Carth when we descended into the Lower City. I was glad I'd kept my mouth shut before I said something about me as a Sith taking slaves. I would have kicked myself for weeks.
"You put quite a bit of emphasis on your good deeds." The interrogator said. That's because I want you to understand that I'm not evil.
"I felt like I needed to do them." I stated. "There was so much evil there and I thought that maybe I could make a difference."
"There is only so much an individual can do." The interrogator stated. His voice was flat and cold. "And by helping them, you may have hurt them in the long run. They may come to depend on the generosity of strangers."
"Your concern is noted." I clenched my teeth. I was proud of my self-control. "However, I doubt that these people came to rely on generosity. Taris was not a place teeming with kindness."
"And it was destroyed by the Sith after I left, but I'm getting ahead of myself."
The interrogator nodded. He apparently had forgotten the minor detail of Taris' destruction. He was more interested in criticizing my actions. I sighed. This is what the people wanted, wasn't it?
I breezed through the events on Taris: the gang wars, the swoop races, the duels. I spent more time on my impressions of Mission, Big Z, Canderous, and the relationships emerging between us. I told him about Mission's brother, and of course he told me that was off-topic. So I moved on, telling him how we broke into the Sith base, how we stole the Ebon Hawk, and headed to Dantooine.
"As we left, I saw the Sith bombing Taris and I hoped that the Outcasts had made it to the Promised Land. I hoped the Promised Land wasn't burned to the ground. Those people deserved to live." I felt tears welling up. Dammit, I don't cry. I hate crying. I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath, and kept talking.
The rest of the story fell into place the same way. I wanted to talk more about the people I'd come to love over the time we'd been together. I spent my days in questioning with my new antagonist and my nights trying to get used to sleeping with wires all over me while reminiscing over the events of the voyage. I'd been out there for about six months or a year, I figured. I sucked at keeping track of time, especially out in space, where it gets pretty difficult. Remembering my friends made me worry about them. I missed Jolee's stories, Juhani's random flights of emotion, HK's pleads for me to get violent, Big Z's strong but silent presence, T3's beeping even though he never told me anything, Bastila's lectures and attempts to lighten up, Canderous' epic stories of heroism, Mission's optimism, and Carth. I didn't miss anything in particular about him except pretty much everything, as cliché as it sounds. Are you going soft on me? Canderous' voice echoed in my head. Telling the story brought flashes of memories to the surface. I wanted to talk about it with someone who was there. I wanted to sit around with everyone in a cantina, laughing and talking with everyone about what had really happened from each of our perspectives. I had a hard time seeing the tale as linear. It had too many subplots to be the simple answer they wanted. I decided to forget about what the interrogator thought and tell it my way. I gave a little, but there were things I wouldn't budge on.
"Must you tell about this?" He sighed, listening to my account of leaving the Star Forge.
"Yes." I replied. "Look, I'm almost done, and this is important to me." I took a deep breath. At least I wasn't telling him about every door I passed. He should be grateful.
The doors opened and I saw the Ebon Hawk. Carth looked like he was sweating bullets. He immediately wanted to know what had happened. Bastila was there, to my surprise. Jolee and Carth must have taken her back while I fought Malak. I was never happier to see that ship in my life.
"You did it!" Carth flung his arms around me.
"We did it." I corrected.
"Come on, guys!" Mission called from the ramp. "We've got to get out of here!" I wanted a moment to think, but it'd have to be aboard the ship. Carth tended to the transmission from Admiral Dodonna. I headed toward the crew quarters to rest. Canderous had wrapped Bastila in my large blanket and was tending to her in the medical bay. I hardly thought twice about it until I realized that he had been rocking her gently, like one would a child, reassuring her. I froze in my tracks. It all made sense now – they had crossed the line between love and hate. They had always stood in close proximity with each other, even if they did bicker all the time. How had I overlooked it? No wonder Canderous was afraid of getting sentimental. I stood in the corridor, perplexed.
"You're a bit slow, Ciara." Mission giggled.
"Hey," I smiled, snapping out of my trance. "Enjoy my moments of revelation."
"I do! You had the weirdest look on your face." Mission smiled.
"How long has this been happening?" I whispered.
"Oh, since they met." She shrugged. "You didn't know?"
"Well," I began.
"Right, you were busy." She winked and walked off.
"That was vital to my understanding of you?" The interrogator was annoyed.
"Sure," I said. "It takes me awhile to catch on to things." I wanted to extrapolate on it, but decided it would be best to keep my mouth shut and reminisce about something he'd never understand…
"You think this is funny, don't you?" Carth asked, his voice slightly distorted through the Mandalorian helmet. It was a stupid question. I was rolling on the ground laughing.
"What's so funny?" Juhani was puzzled. "I'm glad to see you laughing after all that's happened, but we still have to go into that temple and—"
"You need to show Canderous!" I managed to gasp through fits of laughter. "He'd kill you!"
"I'd rather not." Carth's tone was light.
"Come on, you have to try to pretend you're a Mandalorian to see what he'd do!" I challenged.
"He'd kill me." Carth repeated flatly. "Can I take this damn armor off?" I laughed harder.
"No… just go up to Canderous and give him your soldier speech." I dared. "In full Mandalorian armor."
"I look ridiculous." Carth took the helmet off. "I don't know how they do it." I almost rolled over a gizka laughing. Sand was getting in my robes, but I didn't care. "Oh, you barely missed a pile of rancor dung!" Carth pointed. I stopped laughing and looked. Darkness flashed, and suddenly my head was in a metal box. I looked at Carth through the slit in the helmet. "Alright, Mandalorian head, let's get back to business."
"Whatever you say, Republic sissy." I enjoyed hearing my voice Mandalorian style.
"Cut it out or you'll get the armor too." Carth threatened.
"So that was after you defeated Darth Malak?" The interrogator was still slightly irritated, but hopeful.
"Yes." I replied. The time had gone by more quickly than I'd anticipated. "Is there anything else you need?"
"No," The interrogator smiled. "I'll prepare you for release." My heart leapt with joy.
"Is everyone else done?" I asked as someone who'd barely entered began stripping my forehead of their artificial head-tails.
"Yes," The interrogator replied. "You took the longest. You're quite a chatterbox, Ms. Orion." Wow, he was almost teasing me. "You were talking for two weeks."
"Sorry for keeping you." I smiled apologetically, but the nurse had rolled me onto my stomach to take off more wires. With every one that was removed, I could almost taste freedom. It was exhilarating. "I must have annoyed you half to death."
"You're certainly… entertaining." Now this was the interrogator I knew.
"What happens now?" I asked as the last wires were removed. I was still in the ugly pink tunic. I was looking forward to real clothes.
"You can't have your weaponry back just yet," he began. "But you're free to reunite with your friends. The verdict will be delivered this evening." At my look of puzzlement, he added, "It's currently very early in the morning."
The nurse smiled reassuringly. "You're free to go." I jumped up, forgetting that I hadn't walked in two weeks, and found myself on the ground. At least I still had my clumsiness. I abandoned the idea of clinging to one of my last shreds of dignity and roamed around the city in my pink tunic. I realized that I hardly remembered where I was or where the Hawk had landed. My legs were weak and tense. I wandered through the city and found nothing but shops and people giving me strange looks. Finally, I found my way to the docks, only to find that the Hawk was somewhere closer to the Jedi compound. Figures, I was there three hours ago. My legs ached, but I had to get back. I had to see the others. I focused my mind on seeing my friends again and my steps lightened. I left the city and headed toward the Council's compound. On a fairly empty plain a quarter mile west of the compound, I saw my ship. My heart leapt for joy. I couldn't believe I was back, but something seemed different at first. It was weird strolling up to my ship like nothing had ever happened, but knowing better. My musings were interrupted, which was something I was grateful to have back.
(standard disclaimer goes here...) Thanks to all reviewers! You people rock my face off!