Disclaimer: Of course, the characters and the plot aren't mine. Gotta face the sad facts. :(

Author's Notes: Manaan always gave me trouble with where everything is, so I'm making it up. Get over it. By the way, extreme apologies for the long wait. The longer apology will be down at the bottom. Again: sorry! XD

Much kudos to PhantomMenace for doing the beta-ing!

XxXxX

Chapter Eighteen: Neutrality

The glimmer of the oceans on Manaan was visible even from space. Currently, a portion of the Ebon Hawk crew was observing the planet as it grew closer. Carth Onasi was concentrating on landing the ship safely. Alaanis Pi, Bastila Shan, Juhani, Mission Vao and Zaalbar were admiring the planet's beauty.

"It's certainly much different from the last two planets we've been to," Alaanis commented.

Mission snorted. "Well, it's not covered in kilometer-high trees or seas of sand, if that's what you mean." The Twi'lek was the only one sitting down, leaning back in the co-pilot's chair comfortably.

Leaning over the back of it, Alaanis grinned. "Well, I have no clue how we're going to find a Star Map here."

Bastila shot her an exasperated look. "Well, we did have a vision of it underwater, and considering Revan and Malak found it, I doubt it's too far from civilization." She looked down at the planet again.

"They might've found it by chance," Carth chimed in.

"The Force has guided us thus far," Bastila explained with a shrug. "I doubt it will abandon us now. We're more than halfway through the journey. We've found three of the Star Maps."

"We're not even sure what we'll learn when we put all the maps together," Juhani pointed out in a soft purr. The Cathar shifted slightly under the sudden gaze of the other Jedi in the cockpit. "Well, we are unsure what the results will be. Though it is doubtful these will make a difference, the Force is guiding us." Bastila and Alaanis both nodded fairly.

"We've nothing else to count on," Bastila replied, ending the discussion.

Mission cocked her head to one side in the sudden silence. "It's a really pretty planet though."

About an hour later found the crew gathered in the main hold to hear Alaanis speak once again about how they would need to gather information on where the Star Map would be located. "We need to restock on fuel while we're here," Alaanis noted with a nudge from T3-M4. "And, as usual, we'll need some more supplies."

The crew nodded their consent and began filing off the ship. "These Selkath know their laws," Canderous Ordo noted grizzly. "I suggest we don't screw up and get locked away."

"I think that's a given," Carth added, trying but failing to hide the annoyance at being advised by a Mandalorian.

Alaanis knew the group was an odd one, a bunch of misfits. She wasn't surprised by the looks of some of the mechanics to see four Jedi, a Republic pilot, a Mandalorian, a Twi'lek and a wookiee exiting a ship. T3 and HK-47 were staying behind to keep track of the ship and guard it. Not long after exiting the hangar, the group was stopped by the sight of two officers in each other's enemy armor.

Alaanis tensed at the sight, almost expecting a fight to break out any second. It was practically possible to cut the tension in the air with a vibroblade. A Republic officer was wearing a death glare along with his uniform while less than a meter away stood a Sith officer. Biased as it may have been, Alaanis could practically see the menacing smirk beneath the helmet.

"I dare you to try and touch me," the Sith was saying. "The Selkath will be swarming all over you in an instant." He laughed at the Republic officer's look and walked away.

"And people say the Sith don't have manners!" Jolee exclaimed quietly and sarcastically.

The Republic officer turned and almost ran right into Bastila near the front of the group. "Oh I'm sorry miss," he said apologetically.

"It's quite alright," Bastila replied calmly. "I had heard about the neutrality of the Selkath on Manaan, but I do not know such details." She looked sympathetically to the officer. "Could you share the situation with us?"

"It's simple enough," the Republic officer said, shaking his head lightly. "The Selkath have both a Republic Embassy and a Sith Embassy on Manaan. And they imposed laws against fights of any kind. We could get fined, lose our kolto supplies, or even get executed if one of us starts a fight with the other."

"Kolto?" Mission asked curiously. "The kolto comes from Manaan?"

"Yeah," Canderous grunted. "I thought it was common knowledge that kolto only comes from Manaan." Mission shrugged.

"That's why it's so tense on this planet," Alaanis muttered. "Why I didn't want to come here first. I had heard the rumors too, but wasn't positive. There were rumors of all sorts on the Endar Spire. Many things that were outrageous as well as logical."

"Joryl was already thrown in jail last week for spitting on one of the Sith's uniforms. Not like they didn't deserve it," the officer continued bitterly, "But there are security cameras everywhere and the Selkath love their laws. We do anything wrong, it's not pretty."

Bastila nodded her head lightly. "Thank you for sharing this information with us," she gave a small smile and the Republic officer began walking in a different direction before Alaanis stopped him.

"Do you know of any suspicious artifacts on the bottom of the oceans on Manaan?" Alaanis asked the officer. Revan and Malak were once with the Republic, Alaanis reasoned with Bastila mentally. Perhaps the Republic here knows something about the Star Map.

"Uh… I'm just a street soldier ma'am, I don't know those sorts of things," the Republic officer replied with scrunched up eyebrows. "What are you, a historian or archeologist?"

"Something along those lines," Alaanis smirked, pulling her outer robe gather around her tighter to cover her lightsabers more fully.

"You can ask Roland Wann, the Republic representative for the Republic Embassy here on Manaan about it," the officer said with a shrug. "He'll probably have more information on whatever it is you're looking for. It's marked on a map the Selkath will give you when you enter the city."

Juhani, who was also near the front of the group, bowed her head respectfully. "Thank you officer," she purred. The officer seemed to notice the strangeness of the group approaching him before he shook his head and with a nod of acknowledgement and left the area.

"Well, if that's just a taste of what is going on inside Ahto City, I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as planned," Carth muttered.

Shrugging, Alaanis started moving again, and with her the group followed. "Well, we have to try. I guess we'll go see that Republic representative and see what he knows."

Entrance into Ahto City was not very difficult. A Selkath at the entrance gave them a "short" lecture on a few important laws, along with a pamphlet including a few more of the laws, and on the last page, a few advertisements for the local swoop track, the cantina, and a few shops. All eight companions walked into the city and were immediately met with a salty sting from the ocean.

"It looks even more impressive in person!" Mission exclaimed. When Carth gave her a look, she shrugged. "Taris isn't exactly flowing with oceans, if you didn't notice, so I've never seen one before. Well, outside of holovids that is." Like a little child visiting a strange new place, Mission walked over to the nearby railing and leaned over it, looking out at the vibrant blue depths.

The rest of the group followed her, if not to keep track of her, then to stay away from the crowds. Manaan might not have been the most perfect vacation spot in the galaxy, but it had its business. Merchants probably came to help throw fuel on the flame between the Sith and the Republic, playing both sides and winning credits in return.

"Well, we don't all need to visit the Embassy," Alaanis broke through the silence. "I think Carth and Bastila should come, both having affiliations with the Republic, but if anyone else wants to tag along, they can."

"We're all just tagging along on this whole mission aren't we?" Mission piped up.

"More or less," Alaanis said reasonably. "But I doubt we'd be able to achieve very much with just the three of us." The group grew silent again. The noise of the midday crowds behind them seemed further away.

"Well, what are the rest of us supposed to do?"

Bastila answered before Alaanis could. "I'm sure someone could buy any supplies we needed."

"Well, if those are the options, this old man is going to see what those Republic types are up to," Jolee decided. Juhani nodded, following Jolee's example. "I believe I should come along as well." Alaanis nodded. "I suppose that leaves Canderous, Mission and Zaalbar. You guys wouldn't mind doing the boring work of picking up any extra supplies would you?"

"And perhaps you could get the mechanics back in the hangar to fill the Hawk up with some fuel," Carth added in.

Mission shrugged, seemingly not caring very much, and Canderous made similar movements. Zaalbar was the one who made an actual reply. ":Of course Alaanis Pi, we'll do what we can to help.:" Alaanis smiled gratefully, before opening the pamphlet the Selkath had given them. At the start of it, before any laws were printed, was a small map which divided Ahto City into four sectors. They were currently in East Central Ahto City.

Alaanis pulled out her journal and quickly made a copy of the map before tossing the pamphlet to Mission, along with a hundred credit chip. "I know you've got some of your own, but just in case they're not enough. Comm us if you need anything, and try not to cause any trouble."

"I'm surprised the Selkath are even letting in outsiders," Canderous commented. "They seem so keen to shelter their kolto, but they let people wage silent war against each other in the middle of their planet."

"Well, the Selkath are a strange species," Jolee muttered. Bastila shot him a look that the old man ignored.

The groups split. Mission, Canderous and Zaalbar headed towards East Ahto City for a supply shop while Alaanis, Bastila, Carth, Jolee and Juhani headed towards West Ahto City where the Republic Embassy was located. On their way, Alaanis noted numerous Selkath lecturing Republic and Sith patrols alike. They even passed by the courthouse; they could hear the accusing shouts of the Sith and Republic officers inside from outside the doors, along with a few Selkath trying to quiet them.

"Neutrality seems harder on the Selkath than actually picking a side," Carth murmured. "Is it that difficult to figure that the Sith are evil?"

"The Sith are deceptive," Juhani pointed out. "The Selkath can't tell which side is right and which is wrong."

"They're both wrong," Jolee grumbled, assuredly. He gained a few looks from his companions. "The Sith may be 'evil', but the Republic doesn't exactly have a clean record either. They're not perfect either."

Their discussion continued, Bastila and Alaanis joining in at times, but it gained only the perspectives of each other. After about fifteen minutes of walking, they finally arrived at the Republic Embassy. Nobody stopped them as they walked in, though a few officers shot them odd looks. It seemed that packs of Jedi with Republic pilots didn't show up everyday.

Standing behind a desk in the center of a rather large room was a disgruntled looking man, examining a datapad another man had just handed to him. This man was in Republic attire, bald with no hair, and dark skin. He seemed rather chunky, but wizened, as if he had been through enough havoc to last him for multiple lifetimes.

Well, considering he's stationed on Manaan of all places, I'm not very surprised he seems so aggravated, Alaanis thought inwardly.

"Hello, Roland Wann?" Bastila asked the man politely.

The man looked up and nodded his head, forcing a business-like smile onto his face. "I am Roland Wann… what may I do for you today?" He had a look in his eyes that told them if they were bringing him trouble, they should leave immediately.

Alaanis smiled at the man. "One of your patrols told us to face you with our questions," she explained. Wann nodded, waiting for her to ask said questions. "We were wondering if you had encountered any… strange artifacts on the ocean surface."

Wann tensed. Less observant sentients may not have noticed it, but it was quite clear to the group of five that Roland Wann had something to hide.

"No, I'm sorry, but I believe if you have questions such as those, you should direct them at the Selkath in the area, as they are the ones who control the ocean's surface," Wann answered in a simple voice.

Jolee examined the Republic ambassador. "And you think the Selkath would answer our questions?" he scoffed.

Ignoring Jolee's comment, Bastila cut in, "We are with the Republic, ambassador." She gave a small motion to Carth and Alaanis and herself. "Please, we will not do anything to damage the Republic, especially in a time such as this when the Republic is faltering and needs all the help it can get." Wann's tension seemed to subside slightly and his eyes darted from side to side quickly before returning to normal.

"Come," he said, ushering them to follow him into a back room. "We shall discuss this in private."

Alaanis smiled to herself, glad that they were getting somewhere, whether it would be a dead end or not. She and the other four followed Wann into a small room, empty of Republic officers, but covered wall to wall in computers and security monitors. Wann sat down in one of the chairs lining the walls and pointed his guests to a row of seats by an opposite wall.

"Some of the Selkath are less near-sighted than they seem," Wann began. "Some have realized that by war's end, if the Sith win, their neutrality is not going to last very long. So, a few of the Selkath officials have secretly been helping the Republic."

"How do you mean?" Alaanis cut in. In the mind, she was thinking the worst, such as unfair courts or secret Sith murders, but Wann seemed to understand what she was thinking and shook her head.

"Nothing life-endangering, in fact, quite the opposite," Wann continued. "They have a kolto reef specifically for the Republic; the Sith are not given any of the kolto from that reef. It seems like a small thing, but I am certain that it is making quite a difference with more medical supplies. However, recently, the base down by the reef was cut off. We sent investigation teams down there, including many mercenaries we've hired, and none have reported back."

"Then do you know if there's something down there or not?" Juhani asked.

Wann sighed and shook his head. "I've no clue what's going on down there. We sent a droid down recently, about three days ago, and it returned just yesterday, but the Sith robbed it from us and now they'll learn all about the reef and the Selkath not in on the plan will surely cut off our kolto supply."

"That's certainly not a good thing," Carth mumbled.

Alaanis perked up suddenly. "Is there anyway of getting the droid back?"

Carth and Bastila gave her looks that clearly told her she was crazy, but Wann looked thoughtful for a moment. "We've actually been trying to do such things since the droid was reported missing yesterday. We've got a Sith in captivity, if you would like to take a venture at interrogating him, perhaps try and get a code to get into the Sith base with. We have plenty of uniforms and identification cards, but we're sure there has to be a code to actually enter the Sith embassy."

Smirking, Alaanis stood up. "I'm sure we can do something."

Bastila and Carth both shot glances at Alaanis, wondering what she was thinking, but Jolee seemed to understand where her mind was going. "Do you have any sort of projects beginning to discover the codes? I'm sure before this little missy came into your office you were also thinking of getting your droid back," the old man stated. "We're simply your errand runners. And once we come back with the droid… we'll know if you know what we're looking for."

Wann seemed to consider the proposition for a moment. "Alright…" he said slowly, "that sounds fair. In fact we have had a few ideas of what to use to find out the codes. A few of our technicians have been trying to slice into the Sith computers, but the memory banks are encrypted and we can't break the code." Wann looked up at Alaanis and she shook her head. She didn't understand much about computers besides the simple art of slicing a computer to do simple tasks.

"We also have captured a Sith soldier and we've been interrogating him since last night when we found him trying to sneak into our embassy," Wann continued. "He had a partner, but the partner got away." Alaanis looked over at Bastila, Carth and then at Jolee and nodded to Wann.

"I think we can get something out of the soldier," determined Alaanis, a wicked smile on her face that frightened both Wann and Bastila a little bit. But it wasn't intended to be as wicked as it turned out to be, Alaanis was simply trying to appear determined and confident. She caught a glimpse of what she looked like off the mirrors hanging on the walls around the embassy and blinked once or twice. Had she really looked that frightening? But a second glance showed her the same cocky grin she usually sported and the deep black hair that ran almost down to her shoulders, blonde at the tips. She really needed to cut her hair, it was much too long.

"Excellent," Wann stated after a few moments of silence while Alaanis had been examining herself. Bastila had also been examining Alaanis and exchanged a look with Jolee. They were the only two members of the Ebon Hawk crew who knew Alaanis for who she truly was and this common knowledge made them both worry, though Bastila worried more, if not only because Alaanis was her responsibility. "Shall I take you to see the prisoner?" Carth muttered an affirmative when none of the Jedi replied and Wann walked over to a door that led to a long hall full of doors and the Jedi and Carth followed him, Alaanis cringing once more at her long hair before following.

But before she tagged along with Jolee, Bastila, Carth and Wann, Alaanis turned to Juhani, so quiet, Alaanis had almost forgotten she was there. Alaanis sent Juhani to go alert the others of why they may be a while and to accompany them. Manaan was a quiet world, but already Alaanis could tell all the fighting here, oh there was plenty, was all quiet and stealthy. After Juhani left, Alaanis jogged to catch up to the rest of the group.

The hallway was made of durasteel like most of the base and the doors were all coded, needing clearance to enter them. They walked down the hall in silence for a couple minutes before they reached a door almost all the way at the end of the hallway. Wann took a sharp left and turned them into the room which he opened with a simple manual code. Inside the room was a cage containing a tired and lean looking man in Sith uniform, the helmet removed. Standing next to the cage was a just as tired looking Republic officer.

"Sergeant Politz, you can sit down and take a rest now if you like while these four take a stab at the interrogation," Wann announced to the tired looking man. Politz shot Wann a grateful look before collapsing back onto a chair in the far corner. "I'll leave you four to do your magic. Just have Politz comm me if you figure anything out." Alaanis gave him a nod and Wann left the room.

Politz had his eyes closed and for a moment Alaanis thought he might've been asleep. "Erm," she said, taking a tentative step towards the still officer.

"I'm still awake, ma'am," he stated in a rather bored tone, surprising Alaanis a bit and making her jump just slightly. "I haven't been able to get much out of this guy. However, the computer panel next to him lets you instill him with truth serum, which will loosen him up a bit, perhaps have him release more information. Also, you got yourself a switch to stick him with something that will wipe his mind from the past few minutes and he'll forget ever rejecting your questioning. I hope you're more persuasive than I am."

Alaanis gave a look at the Sith and curled her lip slightly in disgust at the haughty and arrogant stature the caged man still held. "I hope I am too," she said quietly before pushing a button on the control panel standing next to the force cage which erased the Sith's memory.

"Who are you?" grunted the Sith.

"My name is Alaanis," Alaanis said, starting to question the man with a rather gentle toned voice. If at all possible, she was going to get information by being nice. He's a Sith, it's not going to work, she told herself. But still… she was going to try. "What's yours?"

"Raynel," the Sith said after a moment's pause. He didn't think it was too dangerous to reveal just a tidbit of information at least. Unless he's lying…

And as much as it went against Alaanis' reasoning that though Jedi have so much more power than regular humans and most aliens they shouldn't use their powers often, she found herself reading into the Sith's mind. He was telling the truth. His name was Raynel Toll. And he had a wife and a daughter of only five years.

Alaanis was disgusted that a Sith could have a family. Just like those sick Mandalorians…

Where had that come from? Alaanis hadn't cared about the Mandalorian Wars. In fact, they had been good for the smuggling business when she entered into it late in the wars. She simply shook her hair, reminding her once again that she needed to cut it (it was like a dirty black mop in her opinion), and turned back to Raynel.

Perhaps a touch of the Force… but not enough to be detectable… "So do you have a family Raynel?" The Sith shook his head and Alaanis felt disappointed. She didn't want to reveal she was Jedi, not unless necessary, because perhaps if Raynel was trained against the Force she had better not alert him to her use of the Force and not let him know that he needed to put up any shields.

"I think you're lying to me, Raynel," Alaanis stated, pacing slightly in front of the cage, not taking her eyes off the ragged officer inside. "You have a wife, don't you? Have any kids?"

Raynel shook his head and glared down at Alaanis. He had heavy bags under his eyes, but he stood upright which told Alaanis plainly that he had been in the service of the Sith long enough to know that he'd better not betray them. Damn. That makes this tough.

Alaanis tried multiple different tactics. She didn't want to threaten Raynel, but all she got from him was a wad of spit shot right into the force field surrounding his cage and that he finally admitted he had a wife. Alaanis tried mentioning his partner but Raynel only grinned maliciously saying that his partner was probably shot for being back without him. She had frowned at this, sure it wasn't true.

After a while, Bastila and Jolee both in turn gave it a try and both had the same results as Alaanis. They used the truth serum on Raynel multiple times, but it never did any good. They had to wipe his memory (which was actually simply an overdose of the serum) many more times.

About three hours later, Politz was fast asleep in his chair and Alaanis was slouched against a wall while Carth leaned against the door casually, Bastila sat in a second chair and Jolee paced in front of the force cage.

Alaanis watched Raynel seem to fall asleep on his feet and an idea was panted in her head. She stood up and tapped Jolee on the shoulder, asking him to step aside. "I've got a plan," she said quietly, her morale back up as she looked up at Raynel. "You look awfully tired, what would happen if you fell asleep in there?"

Raynel laughed at her. "I'd find a comfortable position on the floor."

"What if you moved in your sleep? Just a bit and touched the force field?" Alaanis raised a finger close to the charged cage. Raynel smiled wider. "It only causes mild electrical burns, not too severe. I'd survive." Alaanis grinned even wider than Raynel was smirking. She ambled over to the control panel.

"But what if…" she wiped a hand over the panel and found what she was looking for. "What if I increased the charge of the cage so that if you even touched it you would die in an instant? That room and board we offered you sounding better now Raynel?" She didn't see it as well as everyone else in the room, but at this instant, a malicious smile came over her face that made Bastila almost shriek.

It was Revan. Bastila looked into Alaanis' blue eyes and they seemed to flash green and then red at that instant, reminding her of the spark that flew in Revan's eyes when she had spoke in front of the High Council, years before, declaring her intentions for the Mandalorian Wars. The spark that flew in her eyes when she gave midnight speeches to curious Knights and Padawans about the Wars. It was the same Revan that had slaughtered so many, been traitor to the Jedi and the Republic, and Bastila was frightened at that instant, and a piercing sensation shot through her heart. She exchanged another glance with Jolee and he looked a little disturbed himself at how vicious Alaanis was acting. This wasn't like her good natured self.

Carth noticed it too, but he did not understand the same way Bastila and Jolee did and thought that it was all Alaanis. That she knew what she was doing… and she meant to do it. And that startled the pilot a bit as well.

Raynel looked downright terrified as Alaanis hovered by the control panel. Politz gave an extra loud snore at that moment and fell backwards in his chair, waking him up. Normally, this would have been a comical moment if not for the high tension in the air at that moment.

"I'll… give you the code. Just don't kill me!" Alaanis smiled, her eyes back to their typical blue and perky nature, and backed away from the cage. "Give it the Politz over there," she instructed Raynel, with a jerk of her thumb, and walked over to Bastila, Jolee and Carth. Jolee and Bastila had silently agreed not to mention that had happened, but Carth had not consented nor known.

"That was a little harsh Alaanis," Carth told her plainly.

Alaanis shrugged. "I didn't want to do it… but I couldn't find another way. We had been trying for hours and no persuasion seemed to work. Only threats work on the real Sith, and this one's been a Sith for ages it seems." Carth was still looking at her funny but Alaanis shrugged it off. She had no clue why he was acting this way, he knew she wasn't normally like this.

But she had not seen her face contort when she had threatened Raynel.

Politz commed Roland Wann and he arrived back in the room about ten minutes later, a pair of guards with him. Raynel gave Politz the code, who handed it straight to Wann, and then Politz and the other two guards led Raynel away, presumably to the promised room and board.

"We can't let him wander free and alert the Sith of our plans, he probably guessed by now, especially now that he knows parts of our base, we've been moving him all over really," Wann reasoned, wiping his bald head nervously, a little frightened to not have Raynel behind a force field any longer. "But anyways…" Wann took a glance at his chrometer. "I'm not sure if you want to infiltrate the Sith embassy tonight, but I don't think we'll have everything together immediately. Tomorrow morning sounds more promising for you to venture into the embassy. You will come back here in the morning and we'll be ready to send you on your way."

Alaanis felt slightly disappointed that they couldn't get this ordeal done in one day, but she did understand. As Wann led them back into the main area, she saw through a few windows that Manaan's sun was already rather low in the sky and she remembered that the rest of the crew hadn't heard from the group all during the interrogation and her stomach grumbled at that instant.

Pulling out the commlink from her inner robe pocket, Alaanis commed Juhani, Canderous, Mission and Zaalbar. The group said that they were back on the Ebon Hawk, but had only been there for about twenty minutes. Juhani was the one speaking to Alaanis and her voice sounded rather tense.

"Did you guys get the supplies we needed?" Alaanis asked.

"Yes," Juhani muttered. She definitely sounded angry and rather frustrated. "And a little bit extra."

"Is something wrong Juhani?" Alaanis finally questioned the Cathar. The channel was silent for a few moments while Alaanis came up with wild theories about what was wrong with Juhani before Juhani answered her.

"I had told you that I was liberated by the Jedi… just before I was sold as a slave, correct?" Alaanis nodded before she realized Juhani couldn't see her and instead simply replied with an affirmative. "The one who wanted to purchase me is on this planet. And he goaded me. I kept my anger, but if I see him again, I am not sure if I will be able to contain it again."

Alaanis stayed silent and ignored Bastila, Carth and Jolee's eyes on her. "We can talk more, if you wish Juhani. Right now, gather up the others and remind T3 to keep tight security on the Ebon Hawk. Meet us at the cantina in East Central Ahto City." The comm ended and Alaanis turned back towards Jolee, Bastila and Carth.

"I suppose we're getting a bite to eat," she told them, smiling, and hoping that none would ask about Juhani. She wasn't entirely sure the Cathar wanted everyone to know everything about her tragic childhood.

XxXxX

The eight companions spent a total of about four hours in the cantina and it was nearing midnight when they decided to leave. After having a rather well-made meal, Mission found her way over to some of the other casual Pazaak players, accompanied by Zaalbar (who scared the wits out of the Twi'lek's competition) and Canderous actually ran into a few fellow Mandalorians he ended up in deep conversation with. Bastila had been dragged into conversation with a few seemingly frightened looking Selkath. Eventually, at one point, only Juhani and Alaanis remained at their table in the corner.

"He was also a brash, ill-mannered man," Juhani stated suddenly once they were alone. Her voice was full of spite through its gentle tones and Alaanis frowned. It wasn't good for Juhani, who had not too long ago felt so close to the dark side.

That wasn't the real dark side…

What do you know about the dark side Alaanis?

"What's his name?" Alaanis asked kindly.

"Xor," spat Juhani. Her yellow eyes were glaring at her caffa mug and in the dimming light of Manaan's almost-set sun her face looked as ferocious as an angered Wookiee's. "He's one of those slimes of the galaxy, the typical nobility on Taris. They all like their fancy drinks and making fun of the aliens." Juhani turned her face up to look at Alaanis. "'Why not have a public display?' he probably thought, and so he tried to buy me. A small Cathar, young, he probably hoped I'd strengthen up enough to carry his drunken body around whatever building he lived in."

Alaanis wasn't sure what to say. She wanted to comfort Juhani, but what could she offer? Alaanis was human, not an alien, and she didn't understand quite the same way. "Did he make you angry?" she asked quietly.

Juhani scoffed. "Of course he made me angry!" she hissed. "I was ready to pull out my lightsaber on the spot and show him who was stronger." She was breathing heavily now and steam would not have been out of place pouring from her pointed ears, but none came.

"But how would you have been stronger if you had killed him?" questioned Alaanis, finding a tactic to approach this situation with. "Sure, you have the ability to kill him, but aren't you stronger in the long run if you have the power to walk away?"

Juhani had turned away from Alaanis at that point and their conversation had ceased. The evening dredged on and an all Bith band played in the cantina. Most of the crew enjoyed this night, as it was rather pleasurable, spending time on a rather nice planet instead of in the tenseness of Kashyyyk or the humidity of Tatooine or on the cramped space of the Ebon Hawk.

By the time they headed back to the Ebon Hawk, everyone was rather sleepy and Alaanis herself fell asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

But morning came all too soon, at least in Alaanis' opinion, and when she arrived in the cargo hold she saw Mission nursing a sore head. The older woman frowned as she sat down beside Mission. "Did you get into alcohol again last night Mission?" The Twi'lek nodded, blinking at the bright light. "Force, Mission, is that against a law here? For a kid your age to drink? You know the Selkath are strict about their laws…"

"I didn't break any laws!" Mission grumbled, closing her eyes and pulling a pillow over her face. "It's illegal for anyone under seventeen to buy alcohol, but I didn't buy any. I just had some from other people's. Zaalbar wouldn't buy me any."

"With good reason," Alaanis muttered. "Hold on, I'll get you something for that, alright?" Mission nodded. "And I thought after the swoop race on Taris you'd be sick of alcohol." Alaanis tensed suddenly, afraid she had said something wrong. Frack, nice work bringing up Taris.

But Mission seemed to understand what was running through Alaanis' mind. "It's okay," the Twi'lek told her. "You don't have to avoid mentioning Taris around me." Alaanis shot Mission a smile before continuing to the med bay.

It was almost midday by the time Bastila, Carth, Jolee, Juhani and Alaanis had met up in the main hold. "I personally don't feel like chopping up every Sith in that embassy and raising the alarm. Questions will be asked and we'll get in trouble, the Republic might as well. So… maybe we should try to do this as stealthily as possible," Alaanis suggested.

"That's seems sound for the most part," Bastila commented with a nod. She had been awfully quiet since they had left the Republic embassy, which rather surprised Alaanis… not that she didn't mind the lack of warnings, but the silence seemed a bit odd. Almost like Bastila was shutting down her end of the bond between them.

"Then who do you think is the stealthiest to infiltrate that place?" Jolee asked, quirking an eyebrow in question.

Alaanis observed the group of them. "Bastila, Juhani and I should be able to get it done quickly enough," she stated tonelessly. "I'm sure we'll be quick as lightning."

"Let's just hope you don't cause a big mess," Carth mumbled under his breath.

Alaanis smirked at him and cocked her head to the side. "Don't you trust me flyboy?" With a small laugh she picked up her oversized bag and dug through it until she pulled out a fair amount of medpacs she quickly stuffed in her robe pockets. Carth shot her a look and her smirk widened. "I don't think we'll need these, but better safe than sorry, right?"

"Better alive than dead," Jolee said fairly, looking through the schematics of the Sith embassy one of the Republic officers had given him on their exit from the Republic embassy. "You'll probably go in the back entrance since the front is guarded and you only have a clearance code. That's closer to the room it appears they have the droid in, ready to dissect."

"Alright, sounds good," replied Alaanis, snatching the schematics for her, Bastila and Juhani to have a look. "We'll comm you if we have any trouble or need some backup."

XxXxX

It was rather easy on Manaan to infiltrate a base. The Republic embassy had been wide open for them to enter, but the Sith embassy at least had walls and a security system. Alaanis, Bastila and Juhani still found it rather easy to get inside from the codes Raynel had given the Republic. With a touch of the Force (perhaps more than a touch) the receptionist had no clue that the three women were in the base and it didn't take them long to find the Republic's stolen droid.

There was defense around the droid, of course, but somehow the Force was with them (or luck, depending on who you'd ask) and the Jedi managed to get the droid's memory core and get out of the embassy without triggering any sort of alarms. They were on their way back to the Republic embassy by the time that the receptionist realized that the three Sith officers she had let into the base in a daze hadn't been Sith at all.

Roland Wann was highly grateful when Bastila handed over the droid's memory core. "I'll have our people start looking into this immediately," he told them, his nervous face showing a wide and gracious smile. "Just come back tomorrow and we'll see where we've gotten."

The three Jedi bowed respectfully and exited the Republic premises, heading back towards the Ebon Hawk. However, the walk back wasn't as peaceful as they had expected it to be.

Once in the hangar bay, a rude voice began calling out after them, clearly drunk and looking for a women to get laid with. A couple other voices joined the jeers, and after Alaanis began distinguishing everything she had heard, she understood that they were also insulting the 'wretched alien' traveling with the two human females.

As Alaanis finally bothered to turn around and face the men (she quickly counted five of them) she took one look at Juhani and could easily guess who the leader of the group was. "Xor?" she asked the Cathar quietly. Juhani had tensed up noticeably and gave a small affirmative jerk of the head, not daring to turn around and face Xor and his pack of hungry animals.

"Baby, I know you wanna come home with me tonight, one of you I know does, but hopefully that alien with you will come with me, she'd add nicely to my collection, despite her horrid alien features," Xor shouted, still walking whereas Juhani, Alaanis and Bastila had frozen. Bastila didn't know all Alaanis and Juhani did about the situation, but she clearly saw Xor as a pig.

"Why are you following us, besides to look for something you won't get?" Bastila demanded in cool tones.

"Miss, as much as my friends here would enjoy you and your other human friend here's company, I'm more interested in buying that alien from you," Xor stated. He was clearly the most sober out of his pack, not slurring at all as he spoke.

Alaanis gave Xor a disgusted look and shot a calming glance at Juhani. "She's not for sale."

"Oh come on, miss, I'm sure there's some price my rather large wallet holds that catches your eye for your slave here. I'm sure it'd be a good bargain." Xor opened his mouth and tried to smile, but it turned out as more of a sneer.

"I think you misunderstood me, she's not my slave. She's a friend, a companion," Alaanis said, her voice dripping with how much she disliked this man already.

Xor's sneer widened. "I think you misunderstood me then, because I'm not giving up. This here alien was supposed to be mine, but kinds like yourselves, you Jedi," he eyed the lightsaber at Alaanis' belt with dislike, "took this fine business opportunity away from me."

"Well then you will simply have to accept that, Xor," Juhani growled, her voice thick with anger and hatred.

Alaanis turned to Juhani, but the Cathar shook her head. "Let us go and leave this man to his inevitable sad state." Alaanis felt like beaming at the younger woman, but didn't have time to before she noticed out of the corner of her eye Xor pulling out a vibroblade. Almost immediately following, Bastila's lightsaber met the vibroblade and the shock of the strike knocked it from his hand.

"I would back down if I were you," she warned him. Xor looked frightened for a moment, but only for a moment before his face contorted in rage. "I don't need a stinkin' vibroblade to take what is rightfully mine!" He stretched his fingers forward like claws and came very close to Juhani before she put him in a stasis.

When the Cathar spoke, her tone was satisfying calm and collected. "I am not yours, or anybody's. I belong to myself and to the Jedi Code, nobody else, especially not a filthy being like yourself Xor. I do not wish to waste time killing you, for I am stronger than that." And with that she turned away and continued her walk back towards the Ebon Hawk.

Once Bastila released Xor from his stasis, Juhani had already exited the hangar hallway, and so Xor called his companions and they left. "Not worth it anymore," Alaanis heard him mutter.

"What was that about?" Bastila asked Alaanis as they headed back to the Ebon Hawk as well.

"It's Juhani's way of proving she is strong enough to be a Jedi, facing her past and walking away from it a better person," said Alaanis, a proud smile on her lips. She felt Bastila gaze at her awkwardly for a moment and shot the younger woman a questioning look. But Bastila did not return the look with any sign of acknowledgement and simply walked past Alaanis and up the loading ramp.

XxXxX

Can I say again how completely and utterly sorry I am this took so long? I didn't mean for it to take four months, but it did! But at least its finally up! It's up! Just two more chapters of Manaan, one chapter of The Leviathan, Story Break Number Five, three chapters of Korriban, and then a few more chapters, including another Story Break, for Rakata and the Star Forge. And then an Epilogue. But, either way, not too much longer, we're definitely at least halfway through this fic. I'm hoping to get it done within the next year (hopefully, I'm not counting on anything yet) but anyways, if you're waiting for updates and they're taking too long, you can always hop on over to my two other KotOR fics: Once He's Dead (a fic about a LSF Exile when Atton dies on Malachor V) or Her Journey (title subject to change, its about Mira!). Again, I am horribly sorry it took so long!

Also, a new thing since I've updated this fic, now for review responses, go to my author page and click on my homepage. That's my new livejournal completely for my fics. It has updates on progress on my fics, sometimes new story ideas, sometimes cookies, and review responses for all of my fics. Anyways, again, I am SO sorry, but hey! I hit around 13 pages this time, a decent length chapter, don'tcha think? Sorry if it seemed I skimped on the action, I didn't want to drag the chapter on too long.

Anyways, until next time (which hopefully won't be TOO long, but we'll see), review, accept my apologies, review, have a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, New Year or whatever holiday it is you celebrate, and review! Thanks for all the reviews, responses are on my homepage!

12-20-05