"Almost Dawn"

By Allronix

"Force, what Force?" Challenge

Missing Scene, KOTOR2

Summary: For four years, they have awaited word and news. On Citadel station, the time for waiting is close to an end.

No word.

He should have expected this, another false lead, another dead end. It was like Dustil all over again, though much worse. His son was now in a Coruscant psychiatric ward, so heavily sedated he probably didn't know his name any longer.

The last Jedi – if he could be called such – was a cynical man in threadbare robes that barely fit his lanky frame. Years of hard living had made General Cian Li-Bek, AKA "The Exile," look like death warmed over.

"She's likely dead, Admiral. Stop looking out the window and acting like a fool. I am what future there is…"

It took Carth considerable willpower not to turn around and lay into the bastard. Grenn had found the dirt. They had pinned their hopes on what? He was no Jedi, just a mercenary with Force abilities. He sold Telos out to Czerka, helped Vaku into power on Onderon. The only thing he didn't do was sell out Dantooine. Maybe whoever was left there had a better bribe. Or maybe he used up whatever was left of his conscience.

The Ravager was destroyed, but it was only a stay of execution, wasn't it? The Republic's Outer Rim was a mess, one the Senate had marginal interest in at best. They were guarding the Core like a Hutt with a credit stash, but it would fall away from them without the resources from the Rim.

Captain of a doomed ship, he thought. More than ever, we need a hero, a rallying point. We need you, Revan.

I need you.

Feeling utterly devoid of hope, he trudged over to the cabinet. Telosian brandy. Rank had its privileges. He was tempted to down it straight from the bottle, but some leftover bit of decorum kicked in. Officers and gentlemen drank from a tumbler. Mercs drank from the bottle. Frankly, imitating that Force-wielding mercenary was the last thing he wanted to do.

His com panel rang again. With an irritated sigh, he put to liquor aside and trudged over to it. "Yes?"

Grenn was on the other line. "Admiral, there's a man here to see you. Says he knows you and was a little mad at having to wait."


"Oddly enough, the guy's Mandalorian. Maybe some merc looking for work, who knows? He hasn't got the armor or anything. Carries a damn planet-smasher on him he wasn't about to hand over."

"Did he give a name?"

"A damn alias, I'm betting. Says his name's Jango Black Hawk."

It took him a few moments for it to process. Black Hawk…it…Oh, let it be some good news, please!

"Send him in, Grenn."


"I know who he is."

The door slid open and two TSF Security guards were escorting the burly man. His hair was a little whiter, the creases of his face a little deeper, and he sported a full beard now. The iron eyes, the proud walk…some things could not change.

"It's okay, guys. Wait outside. This…he's a friend."

The security guards looked incredulous, but knew an implied order when they heard one. They turned around discreetly and let the door close behind them, leaving the pair alone in Carth's quarters.

Carth walked up, and Canderous shocked him by pulling him into a bear hug, slapping his back, laughing. "It's been too long, old friend. I was beginning to wonder if our paths would ever cross again."

Carth shook his head in amazement. "Canderous? Last I knew you were headed to Nar Shadaa…Where…Where in the nine hells have you been? How did you get here?"

No sooner had he said it did he remember what Grenn had said about Exile's crew, including getting unexpected assistance from a fellow calling himself "Lord Mandalore," helm and all. "Wait. You, wasn't it? And…and the Ravager…You…" Carth blinked in amazement. "Thank you."

"I protect my clan. Did you forget so easily the oath I made in the Kashyyyk Shadowlands, battle-brother?"

"No," Carth admitted. "Just wasn't sure if it ended after…" He couldn't say it. Scattered like dry leaves there were now, the Star Forge victory largely forgotten by the aftermath of a dying Republic.

"It doesn't. I've come to ask your help again, old friend. And to warn you. You dealt with Exile, but he is merely a general – and generals answer to the true powers. He traveled with this damn Force witch. I'd call her a Sith, but she has just as much contempt for them as she does everyone else. She's had him on her chain since Peragus, if what I've heard is to be believed."

"Then where is she now?"


"What! Canderous, you…you…No, you are serious. Damn."

"The Hawk's computer was voice-locked. T3-M4's also had a partial memory wipe and HK-47 was found in scattered pieces. I think the back-ups might be able to be restored, but I'm no technician."

"Kairi…she voice-locked it and wiped the droids. She didn't want us following her," Carth said bitterly.

"No, Carth. That's what I thought, too. The truth is…worse. Far worse."

"Worse?" Carth suddenly felt the blood rush to his feet, leaving him dizzy. He unsteadily sat on the couch.

"The voice lock was not hers, Carth. It was done by Kreia – the Force witch – who also happens to be Revan's former master. I suspect Kreia wished to lure her away from us, isolate her, make her easier to trap. From there, she could easily take the Hawk and the droids."

"Which would explain how she got the ship - she grabbed the Exile before any of her rivals could," Carth realized. "And once she had him…" He rested his head in his hands. "Is there any chance – any at all- of getting anything out of those navcomputers?"

"I think so. Where is Mission?"

"Still with Zaalbar on Kashyyyk. Safe for now." Carth looked up. "And Juhani?"

"In my camp at Duxn. I managed to pass her off as a Cathari soothsayer, and kept her from Kreia's eyes. But I do not want her pulled into this. We cannot enlist the aid from users of the Force. Kreia can bend them like steel in a forge. Wherever Revan is, she is not there of her free will, and it will be men like us who are best to reach her."

Carth thought it over a moment. "Even against Force users?"

"That witch may have tricked me into her service, but I learned something from her at the same time. They rely overmuch on it, and expect us to rely overmuch on them. In fact, they count on it. Take it away, and there are merely men. Men that can be defeated."

Carth thought a moment. "Send me a signal when you can - coded. We will meet on Coruscant. I have a few questions to ask there first, some preparations to make."

"If you do not receive it within the month, Carth, assume I am dead, and continue without me. There is one final lead if that happens – a broken shell of a woman who lives at the northern polar region of your planet. Apparently, Exile decided that keeping her alive was a much greater cruelty than finishing her off. I'm inclined to agree."

The news was baffling, but Carth decided that investigating on his own would yield more answers than Canderous could provide. He nodded.

"I've not long. Exile will be taking off for Malachor soon," Canderous said. "And I still need time to pull on the armor. He has never seen my face, and I'd like to keep it that way."

"Okay then," Carth said. "Do what you have to. I'll wait for the signal. Safe flying."

Canderous turned around, somewhat reluctantly, and headed for the door. As the door sealed shut behind him, Carth took a long look over Citadel station. No small part berated him for this, the abandoning of his post. He had duties and it would be treason to abandon them. Yet, once he held that belief and it had cost him everything, including this planet.

But holding position would mean nothing. It wouldn't even forestall the end, and Carth knew it. Even if Mission could extract any data from the files, it would be a partial listing – garbled data, missing coordinates. At best, there would be a list of planets where she had gone, and they'd be picking up clues from a half-dozen ports – another Star Map hunt.

But better than nothing, and better than putting their hopes on someone who could care less.

Carth capped the brandy and put it back in the cabinet. He had plans to make.