Author's Note: So, I have made some edits to the first three chaps, some large, most small. Mostly I have de-fluffyfied the first chap somewhat (especially the Bao-Dur scene) and added some stuff about the Exile's wound in the Force, and that's about it. (Yes, I have fixed the Goto thing. My bad for never feeling the need to have influence with the thing during the game. ) I put notes as to what was changed so those of you long-timers can choose to check it out or not. To those of you just reading for the first time, pay no attention, but enjoy. To those of you with this on alert, sorry for the spam.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters—they belong to George Lucas or Obisidian or Bioware. But the Thrakill twins, O'Bannon, Macen and Jude are mine, for whatever that's worth. ;)
Dane Koren heard Kreia's last moan as the life went out of the old woman. She crumpled gently to the ground and was still, her heavy black robes like a pool of shadow around her wasted and broken body. Dane let out a shaking breath and was not surprised that hot tears sprung to her eyes. Kreia. So long you have guided me. It was not all a lie. I know it wasn't. I know you cared for me. Dane knelt beside the body of Kreia—Darth Traya she had been—and took the old woman's dry, withered hand in her own strong, gloved one. I hope you have found a measure of peace…
Dane's thoughts—the closest thing to a eulogy the old woman would ever have—were interrupted by a rumbling deep below the ground beneath her. She let go Kreia's hand and rose to her feet, looking about her warily. The rumbling ceased but Dane, despite her weariness from battling her way through the Academy, was alert enough to know that the danger had not passed. The Trayus Core, now that Kreia was dead, seemed startlingly empty. In fact, the whole of the Academy felt the so. Dane stretched out her senses and found no life within the halls. Of course not, she admonished herself with a pang of regret, I killed every living thing to get here. But it was not the merely that the chambers and grounds of the Academy were empty of life…Dane stretched her senses further, just as Kreia had taught her, and listened. She sent out the Force to this chamber, the chambers beyond, the whole of the Academy, out, out, and beyond. The awareness that came back to her made her draw a sharp intake of breath. Her large blue eyes went to Kreia lying dead at her feet as the realization struck her. Without Kreia, without the Sith, without Sion, without their dark energies, this place is nothing. Kreia, and the Force within her, was the last power holding this place together. Malachor V still reeks of the dark side, but these halls are empty…
As if to confirm her awareness, the rumbling came again, and this time with far more power. The smooth, arching gray stone of the Trayus Core was suddenly riddled with fissures and cracks that spread like lightening over its surfaces. Dust drifted down in spiraling rivulets and small stones were jarred loose and littered the floor. Dane started for the door of the chamber when another rumbling came and knocked her to the ground. And then the rumbling didn't stop. Larger chunks of the chamber walls were now smashing to the ground and shattering. The vaulted arches were coming undone and collapsing of the stone floor. The ground itself swayed back and forth as though it were at sea and Dane could not rise to her feet again. A falling stone struck her above her right eye and blood poured down, partially blinding her. The noise was deafening.
Unable to walk, she crawled in what she hoped was the direction of the door. The rumbling noise grew louder, accompanied by peals of thunder from without. Dane fought to keep her rising panic down but could not keep from screaming in surprise as an immense portion of the chamber's ceiling crashed down only a few paces from where she knelt. She threw her arm up to shield her face from the debris and waited until the rain of rocks and jagged bits of marble ceased. When she looked again, she saw that the door to the chamber was blocked by the enormous piece of ceiling, and then she did start to panic.
There was no way out.
The chamber had but one entrance or exit and that way was blocked. I could push it aside with the Force, she thought desperately. But the rumbling and quaking of Malachor V, the dust and blood that clouded her vision, the deafening sounds that assaulted her—all prevented her from being to do any more than huddle beside Kreia's lifeless body and hope that some way out would show itself.
Instead, things grew worse.
Dane watched in horror as the floor began to crack and then fall away around her. Huge chasms were opening as the smooth marble floor shuddered and fell into the unknowable darkness of the heart of the planet. Soon, only a small island on which Dane and Kreia lay were left. It is not supposed to end like this, Dane thought. I have more to do. Kreia told me I have other journeys to take, to find Revan perhaps… It will not end like this…
The thought had the instant effect of calming her and she centered herself in the midst of the chaos. She sat cross-legged beside her old master—for that is what she was, Sith or no—and began to meditate. She blocked out the roar of destruction around her. She ignored the fragments of stone and glass that fell from above and stretched her senses out again, this time with a message. I am here…
Had she not been listening for it, she may never have heard the thrumming of the Ebon Hawk's engines beneath the din of the Academy caving in on itself. But she was awash with the Force and she opened her eyes at the precise moment the freighter emerged from one of the newly created chasms beneath the chamber. Dane smiled a quiet smile and looked at Kreia one last time. The old woman appeared, in death, to be merely sleeping.
"Get some rest, Master," Dane said gently and laid her hand on the old woman's arm, briefly, before stepping into the waiting hull of the Ebon Hawk.
Dane stumbled into the dark of the Ebon Hawk and fell immediately into Disciple's waiting arms. He caught her and steadied her. In the dimness, Dane could see the worry etched into his handsome young face. Worry and something more, she thought.
He looked past her, into the Trayus Core. "Where's Kreia?" Disciple shouted above the tumult.
"She's dead," Dane said. Disciple's only response was to nod once and then closed the Ebon Hawk's door to the chaos outside. "Is everyone here? Are they all okay?" Dane asked.
Disciple shook his head. "Two of the droids are missing and Bao-Dur…Bao-Dur was badly injured in the crash."
Dane's blood went cold and her heart thudded heavily in her chest. But before she could ask more, Disciple was pulling by the arm toward the main hold.
"We can't stay here any longer," he shouted over the noise of the tumult raging outside. The Ebon Hawk dropped and bobbed as if in agreement. "We have to tell Atton you're here so he can get us away."
"Not without Bao-Dur," Dane warned.
"He is on board," Disciple said. "But we have to move."
Dane nodded wordlessly and let herself be guided by Disciple. Together they made their way to the main hold of the ship as fast as they were able. The Ebon Hawk listed and shuddered and more than once, Dane had to grab on to Disciple to keep from falling. Her worry for Bao-Dur made her unfocused, distracted.
"Stay here," Disciple told her, and helped her into one of the chairs. "Where should I tell Atton to go?"
"Tell him to put the Hawk in orbit around Malachor V," Dane replied. As expected, Disciple was surprised at this, but he said nothing and ran to the bridge to pass on her order. Dane didn't want to stay around the hated planet any more than she had to either, but something told her that until she spoke with Bao-Dur, she should not go.
Disciple reached the cockpit where Atton sat at the controls, wrestling with them and swearing to himself. Mira was sitting beside him, looking pale and shaken. "She's in," he shouted to Atton.
Atton twisted in his chair. "What happened? Is she all right?" he demanded.
"I don't know," Disciple replied. "She is not injured, but…" His words trailed away for he didn't know how to describe how Dane looked. To him, with his Force sense, it seemed that whatever had happened between her and Kreia in the Academy, there had been no resolution, and the wound in her had not healed. Atton was regarding him darkly and was about to speak—most likely to demand further explanation, when Mira cut in, her voice breathy with fear.
"Atton, will you get us the hell away from here?" Mira snapped. "You two can fight over her later. If you haven't noticed, the planet is caving in on us."
True enough, a glance out of the Hawk's windows showed Disciple a storm of rock and debris raining down around them, striking the ship now and a again with heavy thuds. The only way out was up and if Atton didn't get the Hawk moving, Malachor V would swallow them whole.
Atton, still scowling at Disciple, apparently realized the same thing. "All right, go sit down and strap yourself in," he barked none-too-kindly. "I'm going to get us way the hell away from here, like the lady said."
"Dane says to put the Ebon Hawk in orbit," Disciple said.
"All right. Around which planet?" Atton asked rudely.
"This one," Disciple replied with satisfaction at the incredulous look on the pilot's face and left the cockpit. He tried not to dislike Atton, but the scoundrel just rubbed him the wrong way. More than once, he'd found his normally mild temper rise at something Atton did or said. Perhaps it is because, of the two of you, she cares for him… Disciple brushed the thought aside. She and I have more in common—what could Atton possibly offer her? Letting that thought comfort him, he returned to the center of the ship where Dane sat and strapped himself into a chair next to her…
Dane pressed herself into the seat as the Ebon Hawk's engines hummed louder. Atton lifted them out of the ruins of the Academy, up through the narrow gopher hole of stone, dodging falling rock with uncanny precision. The hole was closing in on them, collapsing back into the earth, but Atton maneuvered the Ebon Hawk out of harm's way and out into the night with a skill that would have made the most demanding Republic Admiral proud. After a while, the listing and swaying of the ship lessened and then ceased. Atton had succeeded in putting the freighter in orbit around Malachor V.
The second after he had done so, Atton jumped out of his seat and head for the main hold, Mira following behind.
"What the hell are we doing hanging around here?" Atton demanded but stopped when he saw Dane. He smiled a crooked smile at her. "Hey," Atton said, his voice growing quiet.
"Hey," she replied. "Thanks for coming to get me."
"I heard you," he said, almost shyly and with obvious pride. "I heard you in here—" he tapped his head—"and knew where to go to pick you up."
I must leave him… The thought came and went and Dane pretended she had not heard it. "You've come far with the Force," was all she managed to say. He didn't like it, but she looked away before he said more.
The others were gathered, silent and waiting. They were all there, those who had accompanied her these last months, but for Mandalore, Visas and G0-T0. Mandalore, of course, had gone to seek other Mandalorians and gather them together. G0-T0, she suspected, was up to no good. The Miraluka, she guessed, was meditating. Mira smiled at her weakly and Dane thought the woman had been to hell and back, judging by the dark circles under her eyes, and haunted look about her pretty features. T3 greeted her with a few subdued beeps, and HK-47 nodded his head. "Delighted Greeting: Welcome back, master," he said snidely.
"Where's Bao-Dur?" Dane demanded.
"He's in sickbay with Visas," Disciple said in a low voice. "When the Hawk crashed onto Malachor V, he was thrown against the bulkhead. His injuries are…serious."
Dane nodded once and started for the sickbay when Atton stopped her.
"We can't stay in orbit around this slag heap of a planet," he said. "There is too much debris and spacejunk floating around it. It's too dangerous."
"Then keep us safe, Atton," Dane said tensely. "Bao-Dur…"
Atton caught her meaning. He nodded and said, "Will do. And hey, tell that dumb Zabrak to stop messing around and get out here, okay?"
Dane muttered a response and dashed out of the bridge. She hadn't liked what Atton had said. It sounded like he was asking her to tell Bao-Dur goodbye for him. Is he that bad? Please, no…
She rushed to the starboard dormitory and arrived to find Bao-Dur lying on one of the bunks with Visas bent over him. As she drew closer, Dane's breath caught and swift tears came to her eyes.
Bao-Dur was dying.
She felt it as she neared the Iridonian without having to see the awful, gaping gash on his forehead or the blood that leaked from his ears and nose. Visas was trying in vain to stifle the flow of blood from that horrid gash with little success. What was revealed of her face was drawn and tense. She stopped her ministrations as Dane drew near.
"It is beyond me," she whispered in her throaty voice. She turned to Dane and laid her hand on the Exile's arm. "I believe he has been holding on, waiting."
"Waiting for what?" Dane asked.
"Waiting for you, of course," Visas said. Then the Miraluka retreated, leaving her alone with the Iridonian.
Bao-Dur lay very still on the bunk. His breathing was labored and slow, and his face was ashen from blood loss. Dane sat beside him and took his hand—his real hand—in her own. Bao-Dur's eyes opened at her touch and he tried to focus on her.
"General," he said with a relieved smile. His voice was, as ever, thick and rich, though weak. "Good to see you, General. The others were worried for you, but not I. This is Malachor V. I have seen your strength at Malachor V…" His words trailed as a shudder wracked his body.
"Sssh," Dane admonished, "be still. I am going to heal you and you are going to be just fine." But even as she said the words, doubt whipped at them. He is too far gone, came the horrible thought, but Dane pushed it away and prepared to summon the Force. But Bao-Dur seemed to know what she intended for he squeezed her hand in his.
"No, General. You can't help me. Not this time."
Dane let the Force go. He was right. If she tried to heal him, she would succeed only in putting him into a sleep from which he would not awaken. Hot tears trailed down her cheeks. She brushed them away angrily. "I'm so sorry, my friend," she whispered. "I am too late. Please…please forgive me."
"Ahh, General. You never change," Bao-Dur said. "It is not your fault and I won't stand for you believing it is. Understand?"
Dane nodded. Though she and the Zabrak were not on the field of battle, their thoughts were both drawn to that time, to the war. He was her friend and his impending death tore at her heart, but he was also, in their shared memories, her soldier and she was bound by the rites of the battlefield to release him from his agony if he wished her to.
"If you are in great pain, I will…help you," she said softly.
Bao-Dur shook his head. "I can take it and I must a little while longer, for there is something I have yet to do."
Dane watched as a spasm of pain crossed her friend's features. She reached for a medpac and jabbed its needle into his thigh. The tight expression on his face eased and Bao-Dur smiled. "Thank you, General," he said. "That is better."
"What is it you wish to do?" Dane asked softly.
Bao-Dur's eyes focused on her own and held her gaze. "Malachor V, General. It must be destroyed and I am going to destroy it."
"How?" Dane whispered.
Bao-Dur's eyes glittered. "Mass shadow generator."
Oh gods, no, not again, Dane thought, her face going pale.
"No, General, it is not as you think it will be. It will not be as you remember. This planet is almost dead now," Bao-Dur said. "It will be better, I promise."
"But why?" Dane asked. Isn't one wound enough?
"If you could see your own face right now, you would know why. This place, it changes people. It changed me when I was here during the war… with you," he added. "And I don't mean only the loss of my arm, but me. I was different after Malachor V, as were you. As was Malak. As was Revan…"
Dane shook her head. "That is why I can't do it again," she whispered. "You remember, don't you…?"
"General, this is not the same, I promise you," Bao-Dur said. "I don't know what happened in there today with you and Sion and Kreia," he continued. "I don't know what words were spoken or what truths were revealed, but I do know, that there is not yet an end to wound in you. I see it in your face, General. And you feel it still, yes?"
Dane considered his words. It had been only minutes since she had stepped onto the Ebon Hawk—not nearly enough time to contemplate what had happened. She heard her friend's words but a lingering doubt still hung heavy over her.
At the end of the war, a healthy Bao-Dur had stood behind his young General as she annihilated Malachor V with his mass shadow generator. The loss of life, both Mandalorian and Republic, had been great and the Force had recoiled at the carnage. It punished Dane by leaving its stain on her, a blackened wound in the Force that she carried with her ever since. And now he wants to do it again. He is right, the wound is in me still, but there is no end this way. Not for me. Perhaps for him…
She looked at Bao-Dur.
"Yes, Bao-Dur," she said simply.
Bao-Dur's expression darkened. "Malachor V and everything it has wrought, began long ago, during the war. It has to end. Will you help me to end it?"
"Yes, my friend. This planet is a beacon of dark side energies, and for that reason alone, I will help you."
"You are my General," he said, sitting straighter now. "You give the orders, not I. But I have set it all up." His breath was coming in labored gusts now, and Dane knew he did not have much time. Bao-Dur must've known it too, for he spoke with urgency, his hand gripping Dane's, his feverish eyes boring into hers.
"My remote is down there," he said. "After we crashed, we were scattered and I injured. I knew it would come to this. Somehow I knew." He cocked his head ever so slightly at Dane. "Perhaps General, I have a bit of the Force with me too."
Dane smiled tremulously. "Oh, my friend, you have more than you realize."
This pleased Bao-Dur, but a spasm of pain erupted then, as though to remind him he had to hurry.
"Before the crash, I created a hologram message and fed it into the remote's database with programming that it should play itself at a certain time. That time came, I know, with the destruction of the Trayus Core."
"How do you know this?" Dane asked, surprised.
"I felt it, General," he said with that same pleased smile. "The message tells the remote to activate the mass shadow generator only upon your orders, and so destroy this hated planet once and for all. He is waiting right now, my remote, for you to give the order, General. Give it, and there will be an end."
Bao-Dur slumped, clearly exhausted. But his eyes never left Dane. Her awareness told her what her friend hadn't the strength left to say: He was in great pain and he was very tired, but he was holding on. Holding on so that she may tell him she would give that order, and when she did, he could rest. And he wanted very much to rest.
"You are right," she told Bao-Dur. "Malachor V has changed me. Changed you too, and everyone who comes near it. And in the end, it will have taken my dearest friend from me. I will contact the remote and give the order, Bao-Dur. I swear it."
Bao-Dur smile was broken and tremulous. His breath hitched sharply and fresh blood stained his lips. "And I…will always…be at your service…General. Always."
Dane sat for long moments holding Bao-Dur's hand as it grew cold in her own. My dearest friend… The pain threatened to engulf her but she pushed it away, buried it in some dark place within. There was no time to mourn Bao-Dur now, for it would crush her and she had more yet to do. More good-byes, she thought. She looked at her friend, lying peacefully on the bunk as though sleeping but for that awful wound.
"You, of all them, I needed most," she told his still form. "For what I have to do, I wanted your council and advice. You would have helped me to make the others see…" She laid her cheek against his hand. "Goodbye, my friend. I will do as you ask, but it will not heal me and it will not bring you back."
With effort, she forced herself to let go of him and rose from the bunk. She left the room and shut the door behind her without looking back.
Dane returned to the center of the ship. She looked up at the expectant faces and said simply, "He is dead." None of them looked surprised, though all of them—but for HK-47—were deeply affected by her statement. Even T3-M4 made a low, mournful sound.
Atton's face turned stony and he said nothing, though Dane sensed surprise in him that the Zabrak's death hurt him as much as it did.
Disciple was the first to speak. "Bao-Dur was a good man," he said. "I am sorry."
There were murmurs of condolence from Mira and Visas but Dane didn't want to hear them. "His last request was that we activate his mass shadow generator and I am going to grant that request," she said, daring any to contradict her. She half-expected a mutiny, for everyone knew what that meant. But they only nodded and Atton appeared relieved.
Disciple said, "Yes, it is time. This place….haunts." He said no more, but Dane knew what he meant. Malachor V was at the edge of the galaxy, and it called to the minions of the dark side to revel in its bloody past and glean energy from the death that was wrought on it. Its mere presence was like a shadow in the back of one's mind and Dane had no more second thoughts about its destruction. There is no life here. It will not be as before…
HK-47 took a mechanical step forward. "Amazed statement: I am pleased at Master's decision," he said and Dane thought if droids could smile, HK-47 would be doing so. "Old Master had a knack for destroying planets," he continued. "I am proud to say new Master does as well."
Dane ignored the droid and looked to Atton. "Can you get me a comlink to the remote?"
Atton started out of his thoughts. "Uh, yeah. Sure. Bao-Dur…um, he told me how. He said you would want to know…"
Dane only nodded. "Please do it."
Atton, without another word, set about it and after a moment, there came the crackling sound of atmospheric static. The storm was still raging on Malachor V.
"I'm not picking him up," Atton said after a moment. "We may have to wait for the planet to make a full rotation to get a lock on the droid's location. I'll keep sending out communication until we find him."
Dane nodded though she was impatient. The others were anxious too. All of them knew the longer the Ebon Hawk stayed in orbit around Malachor V, the greater danger they were all in.
"Remote, do you read?" Atton said into receiver set into the console where the star map emanated. He repeated those words a few more times and then there came a faint reply. Atton turned to Dane. "He's all yours. I figure you'll have about eight minutes before our orbit takes him out of range again."
"All right," Dane said. She bent closer to the receiver. "Remote, this is…Dane," she said hesitantly but firmly.
The remote responded and then was cut off and suddenly the star map in the center of the bridge was gone and in its place was a grainy holo-image of the remote hovering near a console in the wreckage of a Republic ship.
"So nice to finally hear from you…General Koren," came the unmistakable sound of Goto's voice. The unit was apparently transmitting from the surface; at times the round, black edge of the unit's body came into the holo-image's view. "I had been wondering if you had decided to abandon us."
"Goto, I am going to activate a mass shadow generator and destroy Malachor V," she bluntly. "I ask that you not interfere."
"Tsk, tsk," admonished the droid. "I should think you know me well enough by now, Exile, that I cannot allow you to do that." And to accentuate his words an ion blaster came into view, unlocked from one of Goto's many chambers. It was leveled at the remote. "We have spoken at length about returning balance to the galaxy. This hardly conforms to that notion, now does it?"
Dane pressed her lips together. "It does, Goto," she said slowly. "You can trust in that."
Goto laughed. "Trust is a currency with little value in my business," he said. "But, because of our long and interesting history together, I shall allow you—or shall I say, allow the remote—time enough for you to explain. You see, while I am assuming you killed Kreia and that distasteful-looking creature, Sion, there are many other Sith hovering about. They will gather soon, perhaps here, and begin to rebuild. On the other hand, there is the Jedi Masters on Dantooine, who are no doubt working very hard to build their enclave and train new Jedi. That seems to me a rather agreeable balance. Therefore, I cannot allow you to destroy this little rock. Where this is light, there needs be shadow as well, Exile. Don't you agree?"
Dane took a deep steadying breath. What she was about to say only Disciple knew, and she prepared for shock and dismay of the others. "No, Goto, there is no enclave on Dantooine. Only empty halls and ghosts. The Jedi Masters are dead."
There came a gasp of surprise from Mira followed by silence. Atton shook his head in disbelief while Visas merely nodded, as if she had expected it. Goto made a 'tsk tsk' sound.
"And was that by your hand, Exile?" he drawled.
"Not mine," Dane replied. "Kreia."
Inside the Ebon Hawk there was mutterings from Atton and Mira, while down below on the planet's surface, there was a pause as Goto absorbed this. "Interesting," he said at last. "And whatever did she do that for?"
"As punishment," Dane said slowly. "The council was going to strip me of the Force again, but Kreia would not allow it. It wasn't in her plans," she added bitterly.
"I can't say that I am pleased for there remain many Sith left in the galaxy. It is only a matter of time that they shall seek to bond together and wage war anew. A Jedi Council would have been a useful thing to have around," Goto said. "However, I am now more inclined to change my opinion as to whether or not destroying Malachor V is in my best interests."
Dane scowled. Of all the reasons to destroy Malachor V whether or not it was in Goto's "best interests" was last on her list. She leaned closer to the holo-image. "We must do it, Goto. Otherwise, those Sith you speak of will come here and feed off the dark energy of this planet. They will grow strong and many in number, and with no Jedi Masters to train others, there will be no one to fight them."
Goto laughed a tinny-sounding chuckle. "I'm sure there are many a Republic soldier who would take umbrage at such a remark," he said. "But still, you are right in that only a Jedi is a proper match for a Sith…especially when the dividing line between the two is as blurred as it is."
Dane ignored the pointed remark. "Goto—"
"And what of yourself, Exile?" the droid interrupted. "Are you not a Jedi Master? Do you not seek to repopulate the galaxy with your own progeny?"
Dane felt Disciple and Atton's eyes on her. She had started both of them on the path after taking on the mantle of Master and she had left their training unfinished. They will have to learn from another, she thought, and then another voice spoke up in her head, What other? Aloud, she said, "Perhaps. Goto, we can't stay here for long—"
"Two minutes and they will be out of range again," Atton put in.
"Let the remote do as it is programmed to do, Goto."
"Very well," the crime boss sighed. "I'll let the Iridonian's little pet do his work." Dane flinched at the casual mention of Bao-Dur but said nothing. "It's fortunate I thought to program myself a back-up in the event of an emergency such as this. My own cleverness continues to amaze me. All right, Exile, blow the planet to bits, if you've a mind too. I'm sure I shall see you again very soon. Very soon, indeed."
The transmission failed completely and the holo-image flickered out.
"What a bastard," Atton remarked.
"How will we know if he keeps his word?" Mira asked. "And if he does keep his word, how will we know when we have to high-tail it out of here?"
Dane looked to Atton. "Quickly, take us out of orbit and out of range of the mass shadow generator."
"How far away is that?" he asked even as he was running toward the cockpit.
"Far!" Dane called after him. She looked to the others. "Grab your seats and strap in," she ordered. The crew did as she commanded, each retreating to their stations.
Dane resumed her seat and leaned her head against the chair. She closed her eyes, feeling the thrust of the Ebon Hawk's engines as Atton maneuvered them out of Malachor V's orbit, and into space. Suddenly, she was seized with a fierce desire to watch that planet die. She threw off her seat belt and ran to the cockpit.
"Pull up a visio," she ordered Atton, who was startled to see her standing at the console behind him.
"Do you think we're far enough away?" Atton asked and punched some buttons on his own console. The screen in front to Dane revealed Malachor V, a wasted, broken planet; its only moons the debris of spacecraft—Sith and Republic alike, that were destroyed in the war.
"I think so," Dane murmured. She felt Atton move to stand close behind her, she could feel the nearness of him. "I want to watch it die."
To this, Atton nodded and moved to stand as close to her as he could without actually touching her. As the image on the screen changed—as Malachor V was slowly being laid to waste by Bao-Dur's mass shadow generator, Dane found herself leaning against Atton until he was nearly supporting her.
Malachor V did not explode in a brilliant shower of light and flame. It simply grew blacker and blacker. The green lightening of the dark energies that held it together was snuffed by this blackness and the planet itself simply fell apart. The debris of broken spacecraft, bereft of the gravitational pull, drifted away until finally there was nothing to look at but empty space.
Dane went numb. The pain, grief, and exhaustion of the last few days overwhelmed her. Like a litany of death, the names came to her: Master Vrook, Kavar, Vandar, Atris, Sion, Kreia, Bao-Dur… Even the dozens and dozens of nameless Sith she had murdered in the Trayus Academy fighting her way to Kreia, haunted her. And now the end of Malachor V—the place where she had seen and dealt more death than one woman should in a lifetime. And the wound is in me still… I knew it would not end in more death. There has to be another way…
Dane watched the empty screen long after all that was visible was the blackness of space. Atton stood behind her still, uncharacteristically silent. She sensed he wanted to talk to her, to comfort her, but that he hadn't the words. Finally, she turned around and smiled thinly.
"It's over. I have to rest now," she said hollowly.
"Uh, okay," Atton replied, and ran a hand through his hair. "Are you all right?"
Dane shook her head. "No, not really. I just…I'd like to rest now."
"Yeah, okay," Atton said, unsure.
Dane moved past him, slowly, her movements like those of an automaton. She passed into the hold where the rest of her crew regarded her with questioning expressions. But she said nothing to them, but continued to the starboard dorm, to her bunk.
She lay down on her bunk and was grateful that sleep came for her quickly. A respite from all of this death…just a little while… But her dreams were bloody and the faces of those who had been returned to the Force, recent and long dead both, called to her.
In the darkest part of the night, Atton stood over her, watching her, a soft expression on his normally guarded face.
Her sleep was fitful and she muttered and tossed about. Atton knelt beside her and stroked her pale-blond hair. She always kept it neat and tightly pulled back in a short ponytail, but now a few wisps had escaped. "Sshh, babe, it's all right. Rest easy, now," he murmured. Under his ministrations, Dane did ease—she ceased her mutterings and was still, sleeping deeply. Atton stayed with her for a long time.