Revan woke early. She saw that Carth was still sleeping...possibly. The only way to know would be to try to wake him up, but she had other things she was more curious about, things that could be better answered if Carth wasn't aware of her 'asking'. She wondered most at Carth's insistence on identity. If anyone alive had a better idea of what waited on the other side than Carth did, Revan would be surprised. He had talked about Jolee as if the old Jedi were still in some form identifiable, someone of whom one could say he still possessed a certain identity. She narrowed her eyes and wondered if it were possible for her to slip as easily into Carth's mind as he seemed to slip into hers. Hell, she didn't even think he tried, he just did it as if he had always had the ability to read her mind.
She closed her eyes, choosing a form of Jedi meditation in order to conduct her experiment. Sith though she was, she was not a stupid Sith and didn't reject Jedi practices just because they were Jedi: if they were useful, then she used them, culture be damned.
Now, however, instead of emptying her mind so she could better sense the Force, she pushed away all that was Revan in order to find what was Carth. It was not an easy task; she found she had to push far more to the outskirts of her mind, empty herself more than she ever had as a Force user. With some difficulty she pushed away the question regarding why that should be so. A smart remark about the emptiness of a certain Republic pilot's head flitted by, and she let it flit; it soon left.
There it was. A thin line, a jagged line, faint, nothing like the Force in its whirlwind and its inundation. She took a moment to concentrate on nothing but that line that was Not Revan, and it became more distinct. With great deliberateness, she brought to mind a merest sketch of her hand. It took some time to do so without losing the line. When she had accomplished this, she set her mental hand on the tiny line.
The line became a thousand, a hundred thousand, untold fine threads touching everything. In that way it was like the Force; it was everywhere. She pushed away thoughts of using this not-Force, for now at least. Now she only wished to learn why identity was so important to the line.
The question was asked and answered, but not in a way Revan had expected, though she didn't realize she had expected anything. It was answered through the Force. She would wonder later how that was possible; for now, her meditation had become so concentrated on something so unfamiliar and faint that the more powerful and familiar Force vision hit her with such strength she physically flew back and hit a rock. Her eyes had so adjusted to the necessary dark that she was blinded by what she realized later was a mere candle flicker.
She stood in a small room, undecorated and sparsely furnished. It held that particular odor only Jedi enclaves managed, the mingled scent of the material used in construction and the unnatural lack of emotion. Revan had always hated that smell. She supposed it wasn't something that most people could smell, but they might feel it anyway. It was a Force scent.
She looked around the room. On the bed sat Carth, hair a bit wild, wearing plain robes and a sturdy looking neural disrupter band. Revan took a closer look at it. One of the most powerful versions; it was one of the sort that was used on Force conduits if anyone could get close enough to put it on...and then only long enough to get the conduit into a cave to destroy it. She wondered if that was what the Jedi were planning to do. She wondered how they had managed to put the band on him.
The door to the room opened and a master Jedi entered, a human by appearance, but she sensed he was very old. He looked nervous for a master. The man stopped short and looked at her. "You should not be here, Revan, it is dangerous. Please leave."
Surprised, Revan said, "What? Why? Why is it dangerous?"
"That I cannot tell you. There may come a time when you may find the answer, but otherwise, you must not pay any mind to what you have seen. Forget it, for it is of no importance to you."
"Much as I'd like that to be true, it is important to me. Why in the world do you have Carth here in a neural band that should have him drooling?"
The Jedi master looked confused. "Carth?"
"Oh. We never learned his right name. I sense you are telling the truth as you know it." The master paused a moment in thought. "So be it, I will tell you what we know, but you are bound under oath to keep this private. This man is the most powerful Force sink the Order has ever encountered. We were fortunate to find him when we had, before his 'talent' had a chance truly to manifest. He was untrainable...wild, uncivilized, no doubt traumatized by all the death he had witnessed. Of course there was no way for him to know he was the cause. At least, that is what we hope. He was very young, which is quite unusual in itself, but he was very powerful.
"Without training...we had little choice in the matter. We could not allow him to come into his full potential. It is not usually our way, as you know, but I would rather we had destroyed him. But many had visions of his future, a destiny that we could not ignore although we only recently began to understand its import. I will go with him when the time comes. It is the least I can do for allowing this monstrous condition to continue as it has."
"I'm not sure I understand," Revan said. "Do you mean you've kept him like this for most of his life in order to use him as a weapon whenever the Force tells you the time is right?"
The master nodded. "Disgusting, I know. Fortunately the time is fast approaching. We have received reports that the last Star Map has been found. We will depart for the Star Forge soon. It is believed that the Force has allowed his existence in order to neutralize a great Darkness there."
"Wait a minute," Revan shouted, "you mean that no matter what, this fool pilot was going to destroy my Star Forge? And that there was no potential path where he would have been trained to handle being a Force sink? So Carth was born a weapon, and that's that, but at least in the real world he got to live a real life for a while? Ugh, I almost feel bad for him; and that makes me queasy. But what a delightfully Dark Side thing for the Force to do."
No Dark, no Light; there is only the Force.
"I don't believe I catch your meaning," the master said as he fetched a comb, his tone momentarily cagey. He made an effort to tame Carth's hair, but it was slow work when the Jedi tried his best not to come into more contact with Carth than was absolutely necessary. The master was scared, and it appeared he had good reason. Revan could see the Force drain out of him as he worked. That surprised her; even if Carth didn't know how to use or control the Force, the neural band should have scrambled his mind enough that the Force couldn't move through him at all.
The master sighed and stepped back, examining his rude handiwork. He wasn't a very good stylist. "I just can't stand to leave him no dignity at all...it's quite bad enough that he's virtually mindless, he's still human."
"What you do is dangerous. I can see it."
"Yes, it is, even for me, the first Force sink the Order ever knew, but what choice do I have? What would you do, Padawan Ni'esla Stargazer?"
Revan crossed her arms. "What did you call me?"
"Who are you?"
"I am Master Sri. Don't look so surprised, Padawan Stargazer, I do know who you are. You are the one who came to us with reports of the last Star Map."
"I am Darth Revan," she said.
"Yes, I know. But you once were Ni'esla Stargazer, named for she who became the wind and she who helped save the wind. Two quite different paths, two very different women, and I think it was foolish to give you back only the first when you were brought to us broken. You have followed the path of ancient Ni'esla and not Stargazer. But the wisdom of the wise is often confounded." Master Sri motioned to Carth. "Another good example, I think. It is an evil matter for the end to justify all means: this is, as you said, an act of the Dark Side whether the Council thinks it for the best or not. Is it the will of the Force to rob a dangerous man of any chance at a real life? Is it the will of the Force to use a dying woman as a tool?"
Revan laughed without mirth. "Yes, I think it is. When I look at it from a certain angle, I know I was given a chance few are given, but I chose to be myself in my Darkness despite the crafted identity. But that was done by sentients. This man, whom you don't know, I do, and he had a life and he was a good man, but it was taken away from him for the same end the Council foresaw. That, however, was an act of the Force, not men and women. Which is the darker path, Master Sri?"
Sri folded his hands in front of him. "That is a difficult question. The Council has done great evil to him, but if you are correct, the Force has also done great evil. I judge the Council's answer to be the greater of the two. The Carth you know had something this poor soul never had. Viewed from a certain angle, this man was denied a chance many are given, to be more than a mindless weapon, but all become one with the Force in the end. He should have had the chance to live, and ultimately all are tools of the Force."
"That answer is too easy," Revan replied.
"It is still true. I would certainly have rather spent the last thirty-five years in the company of a good man rather than caring for someone who had his mind destroyed by premeditated violence."
"I see your point...but I'm missing the point of my being here. Why send me this Force vision?"
As soon as she said it, Sri became indistinct, blurry. "It is the will of the Force, I imagine. Although I don't believe this is your vision," Master Sri said. "But then, perhaps it is all of ours. I suspect that outside this vision I know more than I did before this vision was sent...as will you. Give my regards to your Carth." He turned toward Carth and whispered to him. Gently, carefully, he pushed him down on his bed, then pulled a blanket over him.
Revan caught Carth's eye for a fraction of an instant. Long enough for an irrational urge to put them out a second time to rage through her mind. Empty, empty eyes, not soulless but so close, dry but crying, This is all I ever was.
Sand shifted under her. Revan sat up and rubbed at the back of her head. She shook the daze out of it, then allowed white-hot rage to course through her. She had only a normal woman's release for it, but she would take it. She slammed her fists into the white sand and screamed, "I will hate it on your behalf! We are not just tools!"
She knew that she didn't harbor any feelings for Carth beyond a respect for his talents and a healthy appreciation for his form. She didn't particularly care about him, but she didn't hate him, try as she might, and what she had seen in the vision was not something she would wish on someone she didn't hate. It was not so much what Master Sri had said; he did have an excellent point, it was that gut-wrenching look in the potential-Carth's eyes. That Force vision had originally been Carth's, she was sure of it, and she could only see it as an answer to his demanding why? It was a poor answer, she thought. The potential-Carth might have known it, too. This is all I ever was. No wonder he was fighting the Force with everything he had, past the point of return, perhaps past the point of sanity.
After a few moments to calm down, to nurse her rage into a budding hate, she said, "That's what you were dreaming about, wasn't it."
Yes, part of it. I didn't remember, uhm, until now, the whole thing. I think I was too busy trying to get the Force to stop breaking its enforced blindness. It hurt me...that vision, the Force...I just wanted it out of my head.
"Sri's point was all philosophy, he never had it happen to him, so he wouldn't know. You feel kinda like the Force did to you what the Jedi did to me, in a way, don't you?"
Yeah...not, not quite the same...but sorta the same. I have a real identity, but it was never meant to be anything really. I, I don't mean that I was ever meant to be anyone important, but, uh, I guess I wasn't meant to be anyone at all. That's what the Force thinks, anyway.
Revan scooted over and sat next to Carth. After a quick check to be sure HK-47 wasn't anywhere nearby, she maneuvered herself close enough so that he could lean against her. She didn't think it would be much longer before he couldn't sit up on his own anymore. Then with a frustrated sigh, she put her arm around his waist and covered one hand with hers. Lightning flickered up her arm, harmless.
He twitched his fingers and moved his head just enough to make it clear he was asking a question.
"Because. I don't know. I'm mad and this feels good, damnit."
The honest laugh she got in response was stronger in her mind than in her ear, where it was nothing more than a faint cough.
"Not funny. And don't get any ideas. I'm not making a habit of this."
Whenever you like, gorgeous. I'm mad, too, and it does feel good. I guess sides don't really matter now.
"Meh. In a way, they never really did, did they? Force-damned Force was going to get what it wanted come hell or high water."
They did, but it's done now. The Force will be done... It was becoming easier for Revan to sense Carth's feelings; he was getting angrier. It's not going to win. I won't let it, I'm not a tool, there is identity. I'll die before giving in. Revan also sensed that he was losing himself to the fight just as surely as he was losing his connections with the physical world.
Revan nodded. She hadn't needed to fight the Force for her current identity, the one crafted for her just hadn't held up under what she assumed was her natural bent, but she understood the sentiment. She thought it likely that untrained Force sinks shared the same fate as Force conduits...which meant Carth was in for a long fight. Revan didn't expect to die any time soon, and she couldn't find it in herself to be at all upset about that, at least not at the moment. Real Sith never died.
She pulled Carth's head down to her shoulder and stroked his hair. Honest this time, no games. Something between a smirk and a frown touched her features. She realized she must like Carth a bit more than she thought if the Force vision had angered her as much as it had. Revan had never been one to get angry just for the principle of the thing as far as she knew, and while Jedi masters and their dirty tricks were personally enraging, she had to admit she had been angry because it was Carth in the vision. Oh, that's rich, Revan, she thought to herself. No, wait, it's just because I don't like other people breaking my things, that's all.
There are some advantages to this...you've got a very twisted view of the world, so it's probably both. Which is a bit...weird...but I never claimed to understand real Dark Side thinking.
"Go blow yourself out of an airlock. And stop eavesdropping on my personal thoughts."
On the balance, Carth seemed mildly amused, but Revan didn't miss the undercurrent of anger. She understood that very well; the universe at large had pretty much told Carth, in a most potent and spectacular way, that he was nothing but a thing to use, of course it stung when someone else laid a similar claim. The amusement, though... Revan sighed. Carth hadn't missed the thought that led to her reassuring herself it was all because she was really just that nasty at heart. Unfortunately the truth that she was that nasty at heart didn't change the truth that she liked Carth more than she had thought. "Upgrading slightly from 'I don't hate you' isn't much."
A mental shrug was his response.
Revan wanted the Force back. At least, some of it. The part that she didn't hate. The Dark Side...her thoughts were clearer in the Dark, she didn't question herself in the Dark. She put those thoughts aside. They were pointless. So there was more to her than she could see in the Dark, so what. She had to live with it now, live with it and be curious about what other surprising things she might find lurking around.
No one could accuse her of not being curious. Other than angering her to a degree that surprised her, the Force vision piqued her curiosity. "Did you ever know a Master Sri?"
Sri? Not sure...I knew a Jedi Master a long time ago, but I don't remember his name. He healed my family, my mother, father, brother, and I when we all got sick once. Well, he, he didn't heal my younger brother, but he was too young. I was only three, so I suppose I got lucky.
Revan snorted. "There just happened to be a Jedi master on hand when your family got sick? Nice bit of luck."
As Carth recalled the events, his expression regressed, tone becoming more child-like, as if he were reciting from a past point of view, not the present. He was, he was called in, I think? Another Jedi said we got sick from a Force drain, something like that, and we weren't recovering as fast as we should. So they got a Master to come help. I don't remember very well, we were all really sick. My brother died, but he wasn't even a year old...and Grandmother took him and said he was safe now, so it was...it was OK. Grandmother had died a few months before, so...I guess she was a ghost...but I believed her, so I wasn't as sad. I don't know why I don't remember the Master's name, he came in every day for six months. I was the sickest, except for Thanar.
The Jedi was busy...I heard later that my aunt got sick, too, and so did our neighbors, but they didn't get as sick as we did. We never found out why we got sick, just that it was a probably a Force attack and that no one had found the person responsible.
"If credits were worth anything, I'd bet an even thousand that that master was Sri." Revan laughed low, a cold sound. "And I'd bet another thousand that Sri knew exactly who was responsible, but never told anyone because the Force made sure it wouldn't happen again until it was damned good and ready."
At first, for a moment, Carth was confused. Then fury ran like ice through the jagged line, and Revan coveted it. His rage overflowed, as it always must have and she finally got to feel it, to take it and shape it...except she couldn't. She became enraged in her turn, but for different reasons. Now that she had access to the violent passions she always knew Carth possessed, they were useless to her. It ran through her blood just as surely as such emotions always had, but she could not do anything with it. She could not even enjoy it. Fury there to revel in, but she couldn't dance with it, couldn't capture it. There was no reveling, only sharing...and underneath it was a sharp pain.
Revan did the only thing she could do with this mingled rage—she howled and screamed, impotent.
In the future she was careful; if she got that close to Carth, so that she sensed his feelings as her own, she made sure it was in peaceful times. There was no seduction left in a Dark Side that had no power.
350 standard years later
Darshin disembarked, unsettled but not surprised by the landscape that greeted him, just as he had not been surprised by the derelict ships that dotted the system. He had seen by his own hand on a miniscule scale what Rakata presented on a planet-wide one. Nothing lived here, but nothing appeared quite dead, either. A perfectly preserved gizka nearby might as well have been resting rather than mummified by the disquieting lack of Force. The place was beautiful, the sky a startling azure, but it was the beauty of a place perfectly preserved, untouched by time, untouched by decay, untouched by change. He had to tread with great care; whatever it was that had trapped the Force in this system was still active. Whatever it was that had drawn countless Force-sensitives to annihilation still haunted this world. Annihilation was the only word for it; they didn't join the Force the way they should have upon death, they just vanished.
So did the Force that kept flowing into this void in a futile attempt to fill it. The Jedi Council had sent him to rectify the situation, if possible, if for no other reason than to stop the Force-impoverishment of the systems around Rakata. Darshin was well trained for many decades, so he sensed the siren pull and resisted it. It wasn't easy, and he imagined it would become more and more difficult. It already had become quite wearying since he entered the system.
Good fortune was on his side in one matter, at least; it had been very easy to locate the Ebon Hawk, making a search for the Force sink most suspected resided here easier. A rare thing they were, Force sinks, he ruminated as he walked toward the Ebon Hawk, but they were known. Granted only by the highest echelons of the Jedi Council, but known nonetheless. They just didn't know who or what was the sink in this case. They guessed it had been one of the crew of the Hawk, but nothing more.
He brushed against a plant, dead for centuries, and it disintegrated at his touch. Difficult to believe that wind hadn't destroyed it before. Certainly wind and water still held the power to erode even if nothing else did. Then again, perhaps they didn't. The Force was in the wind and water as well, under normal circumstances. He paused in his journey to listen to the wind. His disquiet grew when he felt none. How eerie to walk on such a desolate world! He continued on, glad he had brought a vacuum mask with him; it was possible that Rakata would have little in the way of life sustaining air.
Turning a corner, he pulled up short and stared. Then he blinked. He did not just see a youngish man sleeping against a rock. Sleeping, not dead. He took a step closer when a hand grabbed his arm.
"I'd stay away if I were you. You're damned lucky to have lived this long," a woman's voice hissed in his ear.
Darshin turned and blinked at the woman, stunned speechless. She was also young, much younger than he was, and she wore the robes of Darth Revan. The mask was gone, and the hood back, but those were Revan's robes. Darshin found his tongue and asked what could not be possible, "You are Darth Revan?"
She snorted. "In a past life maybe. Make that two past lives. Drop the Darth; I've been reminded too many times that I'm no Sith. But I am Revan. What are you?"
What, not who? "I, uh, I'm Darshin. A Jedi Master sent to disable the Force sink. We would have left the system alone if the Force didn't constantly try and fail to fill the void."
Revan laughed, a bitter sound. "Oh I know all about that, Darshin. The Force has driven one of my companions quite mad. Good luck 'disabling' the sink. How do you even know about Force sinks? I'd never heard of them."
Darshin shrugged. "I come from a long line of Force sinks. Most are pretty harmless, maybe what some might call psychic vampires, people that never have to learn how to Force drain...but some of us are quite powerful. But we're trained vigorously on how to channel the Force elsewhere. If we must be sinks, we should do our jobs properly."
"So I see the Force learned how to better use a sink, did it?" Revan was angry, he could see, but the anger was so old it was nothing but embers now.
"I, I suppose it did. This," he flicked a hand at the land around him, "is the first time in recorded history that a sink failed so spectacularly."
"Heh. It didn't fail, it outsmarted its destiny because it doesn't take well to being used and betrayed."
"'It'?" Darshin asked. "Is the sink a thing, then?"
"Not always, it wasn't always a thing." Her voice filled with a sadness almost as old and dead as her anger. "I'll take you to it, if you dare."
"Yes, please," he answered. Revan beckoned him forward and he followed her, marveling that she should be alive after more than three centuries.
As they walked, Darshin saw they were approaching the sleeping man. He wondered at that, but then he saw a rust red droid whiling away its time tossing tiny rocks at another rock. Perhaps the droid was the sink?
In a motion of surprising smoothness for a droid Darshin knew was centuries old, it stood and said, "Observation: You have a living meatbag companion, master. Query: Where did you find it? I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to allow me to splatter its entrails across the beach...it has been far too long, master."
Revan quirked a tiny smile. "As much as it would fill me with glee to see an actual, honest dead thing after all these mockeries, I'm sorry HK, but I can't let you."
"Disappointment: A pity, master."
"Indeed," Revan sighed. "Although, it might be a mercy killing...save him the trouble of fighting."
"Astonishment: Mercy, master? Where do you get such awful ideas? My audio sensors ache to hear you say such things."
"I know, but I'm afraid the years have tempered me." She turned to Darshin. "While you still have a chance, let me introduce what is left of my once great empire. This," she pointed to the rust colored droid, "is HK-47. That over there," she waved a hand in the general direction of the soft sounds of a utility droid's bleeping, "is T3-M4. My fleet consists of the Ebon Hawk, I'm sure you saw her when you landed. For what good she does me, since leaving is not an option." She spread her arms wide and her voice dripped with sarcasm. "And this dead planet is mine, too. Look ye upon the realm of the Dark Lord Revan and despair."
Darshin cleared his throat. "Uh, right. And who is that?" He pointed to the sleeping man.
"That, good Master Jedi, is the Force sink. Once upon a time it was a rather annoying Republic pilot by the name Carth Onasi. Now...it's just a shell."
Darshin started, and that tiny moment of surprise jolted him enough for his shields to fail. For an instant, a moment so small it could be measured in tiny fractions of a picosecond, but long enough that he almost joined the rest of Rakata in eternal destruction.
When his mind recovered from exposure to the Force sink, he found that several hours had passed. Stars twinkled in the night sky. Revan looked over at him. "Darshin, you are the luckiest bastard to walk on this planet in a long, long time. Don't expect to feel better any time soon, though. There's no Force here to heal you."
Darshin shook his head; he felt woozy and unfocused. He had been trained well, however, so he didn't have to think about keeping his shields in place. Those shields were supposed to protect others from his own power, but they also worked to shield him from the Force power of others as well. "I was startled. I didn't tell you, but my family name is Onasi. I, uh, I didn't expect Carth to be the sink. We all thought our Force sensitivity came through Dustil Onasi."
Revan tapped her chin. "It never occurred to you to wonder where Dustil came by his strength in the Force?"
"No, actually. Force power isn't always genetic. We always thought it originated with him, since there was no evidence of Force sensitivity in his line before him."
"Now you know different, although you probably won't live long enough to inform anyone. Who is 'we', anyway?"
"The Onasis. There are quite a lot of us, mostly Jedi, the rest smugglers, except for a few oddities. Dustil was a smuggler. I suppose that also clears up the question as to why so many of us are Force sinks, although I don't have any clue why no one realized how powerful in the Force Carth was. He should have been trained."
Revan burst out laughing. Not a mirthful laugh, but the sort of laugh one might throw in the face of fate, the universe, the Force. "That!" Revan wheezed, "is the funniest thing I've ever heard! Only, only, only, but there is Carth!" She held her sides to ward off pain she was laughing so hard. "'He should have been trained'!"
Darshin sat up, holding his spinning head. "I don't see what's so funny about it. Sri could have trained him, he trained me..."
In the midst of her laughing, Revan spluttered, "Of course you don't! And the story is too long to tell." She managed, after a few false starts, to regain control of herself. "Well. If you really are a distant relative, maybe Carth will let you live, but it won't let you leave. As I see it, you have three choices. Die by Force sink, become one with Carth; die by a nice blaster to the gut and entertain one former Dark Lord and one assassin droid, become one with Carth; or, if you are particularly unlucky, live forever in the empire of Revan. Which sounds the best to you? Because I doubt you'll succeed in your mission."
"I might," Darshin said. "I might be able to reach him, teach him to let go of the Force the way he was meant to."
Revan looked at him, staring him down. "If you can, I would welcome it. I have hated for a very long time this trap I've been in, and I would welcome release from it. A Sith Lord is prepared to live forever, but not like this." Long years had changed her mind on that point.
Darshin frowned. "I wouldn't be doing it for you. It's the will of the Force."
Revan growled low in her throat. "One thing I've come to have in common with Carth is a virulent hatred for the will of the Force. But take your best shot. Remember that here there is no Force, there is only Carth. It's right over there." Revan stabbed a finger in the direction of the sleeping man, whom Darshin now knew was his ancient forefather.
With effort, Darshin stood and walked toward Carth. Why did Revan insist he was an it? She had said he was nothing more than a shell now, but shells didn't possess the kind of power Carth still held. He glanced back at Revan, and he again wondered how she was still alive, how she had remained untouched by time. It was clear the same could be said of Carth, except that he didn't move. Darshin saw that he hadn't so much as twitched in all the hours since he first saw him. He kneeled down next to the man who appeared to sleep in peace, and he pondered and he watched.
Force lightning flickered between Carth's fingers and up his arms, but otherwise Darshin saw no evidence of any Force power at all. Someone, possibly Revan or one of the droids, had arranged things so Carth would be comfortable. Darshin drummed his fingers on his knees. How was he supposed to accomplish his mission without the Force? He knew the instant he opened himself up to the more powerful sink, he was a dead man.
He would try, all the same; it was the will of the Force. He set his weathered hand on Carth's younger seeming cheek, and he was lost.
You are family. You live. Now leave.
"I'm here to teach you—"
Darshin was aware of himself by the slimmest of margins. He had a sense that he should go while the getting was good, but he had a mission he intended to carry through.
To the bitter end, I know. I know all about bitter ends. I'm nothing but bitter ends. You might not like what you have now, but at least it's not a bitter end. Warn them away. Tell them not to come, not to die, not to torture me with their bitter ends.
"If you let go, you would find peace..."
There is no peace; there is the Force. Peace is a lie; there is only the Force. Don't lie to me. It lost. Sore loser, but what can you expect from a mindless stupid thing like the Force?
"If you don't let go, they'll come anyway. They can't help it." Darshin had to find a way to convince Carth, but how?
Can't. Fought this battle before. It always ends with the Force, and the Force is agony. I can't let it go, and I can't be taught to let it go. Revan stays where she is by choice; she's as stubborn as I am. You can't teach me because the Force destroyed part of me a long time ago, enough that Revan sees a shell and calls me a thing. She's right. There is the shell; there is the Force bound sink; and there is Carth. Carth will not be lost to the mindless Force. Carth is already trapped as it is. Do the only thing you can—warn them away. And leave, before you become one with Carth.
One last attempt...he couldn't leave him like this. Wherever this was, it was a horrible, painful place to be. "If you let it go, you can free everyone trapped in the sink, Carth."
Tell that to the Force that shattered me and trapped itself by doing it. It made a mistake it can't fix. I made a mistake I can't fix...I was too angry at it, and it moved too fast. It's both our fault. Leave now, please. I'm begging you, leave me alone. And tell Revan I love her, that I wish things hadn't happened this way.
Darshin fell backward into a sprawl. He scrambled back, wild eyed and frightened. Where were his shields? That was the only thing in his awareness for a long time. It felt as though part of his body had been ripped away.
But after a while, his mind righted itself and he looked around him. He realized he didn't need his shields now; he wasn't dead, wasn't trapped in the Force sink, and there was no Force for him to sink. He was alive, though? It must now be in whatever strange life Revan had, the sort that didn't age and didn't change. At least he felt as though he could lower his guard for once in his long life.
Revan stood nearby, hands on her hips, an old vibroblade in one hand. "I see you decided to be part of the Revan Empire. You want to give it one last shot?" She held out the vibroblade, hilt first, to Darshin.
He stared at the blade for a moment, then nodded. Taking it from Revan, he poised himself to plunge the blade though Carth's chest. He took a deep breath and struck, but the blade glanced away from something and Darshin ended up stumbling forward, following the momentum of his strike. His face hit sand.
Her voice toneless, Revan said, "It won't let you kill it. Trust me, I've tried and tried and tried." Her pitch started rising, old anger kindling again. "It's like a droid, in a way...very simple programming, really. 'Nothing hurts Revan'. Since I'd die if it died, it doesn't die. There's no reprogramming it, though. A long time ago things were a bit different, but those are the rules now. You might be able to escape if you skewered yourself on that blade. Me, I'm stuck. It won't let me skewer myself."
Darshin managed to pull himself into a more dignified sitting position. "He told me you were here by choice."
Revan made a face. "I didn't have much of a choice. He said he could make it so I slept a dreamless sleep, never to wake up, but that's all he could do. I'd rather live than sleep, even if this isn't much of a life."
The older seeming man picked at his boot. Darshin sensed there was more to the story than that, but he did not push for details. Instead, he asked, "You can talk to him, if you want?"
"If I want." Revan sat down next to Darshin. "I haven't in a long time, though. He's a little bit crazy and in a lot of pain, and that stopped amusing me a ridiculous number of years ago. Last time I talked to him, he begged me to leave, so I did. I'll grant the occasional wish if someone grovels right."
Darshin set his chin in his hands and gazed out at the starlit sea. "He told me to tell you he still loves you and he wishes things didn't have to be this way."
"Damn him. I know that, which I suppose I should be grateful for, since it keeps me from being trapped in the Force sink, but I hate him too much."
There was some hate in her tone, but like her anger and her sadness, it was growing dim. Darshin glanced at her, then at Carth, then turned his gaze back at the sea. "So that's it then."
"Pretty much. Welcome to my world, because you aren't ever leaving."
Darshin stood and brushed some sand from his robes. "I may not be leaving, but it's not your world and never was. I guess I'll just have to wait then, and send off some warning beacons. I think, eventually, my mission will be a success, although I didn't really need to be here for it. No sink can last forever before it reaches critical mass...though I do pity him, and you. I have a sense that this lousy situation could have been avoided, on both your parts. Or at least made easier." He sighed. "He's still there, I could teach him..."
After he walked away, toward his own ship and out of earshot, Revan spoke. "HK, help him send off his warning beacons. Then terminate him with extreme prejudice. Make it nice and messy."
HK's eye sensors gleamed. "Exclamation: Yes, master! Query: You will come to see my handiwork, correct?"
Perhaps the years hadn't tempered her after all. Or perhaps Darshin had struck too close to home; Revan had not been reminded in quite some time that she could, if she wanted, make the best of this bad situation...and it galled her to remember how much of this situation was the result of her choices centuries ago. It was her foot in the tuk'ata trap, and pride would not allow her to ask for help to remove it. And she had never liked it when someone saw her too clearly. She stoked the embers of her rage as best she could, but she had long since found that she couldn't really hate Carth for what happened, no more than he claimed he couldn't hate her. It would be easier if he did...the whole thing would have been over the second it began if he did.
It would be easier if the Force hadn't been so...personally involved this time around, rather than doing its usual thing of gently guiding. She rested her chin on arms crossed over her knees. There were a million and one things that participated in crafting this tangled mess; she could pin blame on everything five times over and hit the mark square every single time.
"On second thought, just help him, HK. I don't need the grief."
"Query: Grief, master? Why would it grieve you to see a meatbag artistically splattered across his ship? I promise to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible."
"It wouldn't, HK, but it would add one more thing to this pile of serious messed up bantha crap I'm in." She sighed. "I don't want Darshin's pity, but I guess it wouldn't be so bad having his company for however much longer we're stuck in this weird limbo."
"Disappointment: As you wish, master." HK-47 shuffled away after Darshin, his rust red shoulders slumped.
"Wait, I have an idea," Revan called to her retreating droid's back.
HK turned. "Statement: HK-47 is ready to serve." Revan almost felt bad. HK sounded so depressed.
"When you're done helping Darshin, take the Hawk. Patrol the system, just outside the limits T3-M4 described in the first beacons. Blast anything out of the sky that even looks cross-eyed at Rakata. Put that in the new beacons, that there will be a patrol protecting my empire. I'll contact you through T3 if there are any changes in those orders."
HK-47 perked right up. Sometimes it amazed her the kind of body language it had for a droid. "Answer: Certainly master! My circuits quiver in anticipation of any fool meatbags that come near. Assurance: I will make their deaths as vivid and painful as my extensive abilities allow. If possible, I will transmit through T3-M4 any explosions that might be visible to you so you may enjoy the sight of your enemies exploding in a most satisfactory burst of light."
"Good, you do that. Now go on." Revan shooed HK away with a hand. HK marched off, an excited bounce to his step.
Revan reached over and poked Carth's shoulder. "Did you see that? I'm going soft. I could have had some actual fun but passed it up. And now, HK will kill anyone before they reach the perimeter. No more deaths on your hands. They'll be on mine instead—I don't mind and it'll keep HK happy. Everyone wins."
She got no response, but she hadn't expected one. "I'm getting tired, Carth. How much longer is this going to last?"
This time she sensed, just at the edge of her perception, a mixture of weariness, loneliness, and determination. There was also a hint of appreciation, for what, she wasn't sure. If she had wanted, she could have had an answer in something like words, but she didn't want to get that close to Carth now. "I guess that means as long as it takes," she muttered, drawing circles in the sand. "Thick-headed Gamorrean pig-man."
Having Darshin there on Rakata did alleviate a good deal of the dimness that had seeped into Revan's soul. Simple, normal human contact had brought her back to life, even if that contact was with someone she thought she'd probably be in a perpetual argument with until the end of time. Having a Jedi to bait made life much more interesting; they argued back and forth over the cosmology of their respective sides. But after so long, Revan had gone Gray, neither true Jedi nor true Sith in her thinking. She didn't know when it had happened, but it had. With no access to the Dark nor the Light, neither side of the Force could influence her. She had become simply herself, whomever that was now. Not Ni'esla Stargazer, Ni'esla alone, nor Darth Revan. She was still petty and spiteful, still what many would call Dark Sided, but without the power of the Force to feed her cruelties, anger, and hate, she had softened considerably.
She did not hate Darshin; she didn't even really dislike him. She didn't get along with him well, but she respected him. He could hold his own with her, and somehow knowing that she had never intentionally hurt him nor indirectly destroyed his life made him worlds easier to deal with than Carth. She supposed that someday she would have to address that. She wasn't sure she felt guilty, precisely, but she did feel like she owed something to him, and she didn't like that. Revan did not like owing anything to anyone.
A few years after Darshin had arrived, Revan finally brought herself to the point where she thought she was ready to talk to Carth like a person again, and not a stupid, insane non-entity. It had been many years, more than she cared to count and more than half the time they had been stranded on Rakata, since she had done so. She had held onto an irrational feeling that everything was his fault in one corner of her mind despite knowing full well he had been as ill used as she and that blaming anyone or anything for what happened on the Star Forge and all things after was pointless. It was time to let go of that, well past time.
It only took a moment of meditation to find the thin line. She had found it so many times in the past that it was second nature. She was a bit surprised to find that she could reach Darshin through the line, but she didn't pursue it. She slipped inside the thin line while still holding onto it. She wanted a way back out should she become lost...it was far too easy to become lost trying to find Carth after he'd lost himself.
It was a bitter irony that fighting so hard to maintain some semblance of self against the Force inside him had subsumed him to a degree that often there was no recognizable self to contact. She nudged around the edges of what appeared to her mind to be a void, a vast emptiness of nothing. She didn't fear it for its ability to swallow her whole, since she had no Force for it to absorb, but she never got close to it. No reason to take the chance. And she stomped down on her hate while near it, because it had eyes and it saw her when she felt too strongly around it. It saw her and she saw herself in it, the Force life that had been taken and replaced long ago. That she hated perhaps more than anything. The Force Revan was just a ghost, a faint animal thing. It wasn't her, but she recognized it, and it recognized her...when she saw it she felt it scrape against her mind, trying to take it, trying to complete itself. She knew not all of the dead in the sink were like that, at least, she hoped they weren't. But she never saw any of the others, only her own shadow.
She saw her Force ghost and stepped back, trying to put it out of her mind. It had startled her, but she shouldn't have been surprised; she had been thinking about it. A few moments studiously ignoring the thing usually made it go away.
Revan wondered if she should have just tried talking to Carth with her own voice. It would have been easier, although it took time for him to be 'loud' enough for her to hear his mental voice. She guessed that Darshin had only managed to find him so fast the first time because he had tried reaching out with the Force. Neither of them could do that now. That left finding Carth or waiting for him to disengage from his fighting for long enough to gather a voice for himself.
She had realized long ago that finding him wasn't easy for her but it was much easier on him. At first, when it became necessary, she would try to find him, but as time wore on she had stopped trying to make anything easier except for herself. Dragging him out...it shouldn't have worked, but it did, and despite knowing it hurt him, he would still come out. That was, until the last time, when he had begged her to leave him alone and she had so magnanimously agreed, as if she were granting a boon.
She had been selfish more than anything else. Not a news flash; Revan was very selfish. But she had been more than a bit deluded at the time as well, having fallen back into old, easier ways of thinking, Sith Lord thinking, which was stupid because there had been no one to lord anything over and with no Force to command she, by default, could not be a Sith Lord. She was something else but it was too hard to figure out what.
Just selfish and bitter and angry. Dragging Carth out because she knew he would come, just to hurt him...when the only reason he would was because he still loved her, even if he didn't much like her. She sighed. She wished Darshin had come around sooner; he had made it so much easier to figure out what she was now.
"You know that now? You have that now?"
Revan looked around, trying to spot him. Carth had said that, but all she could see around her were dancing shadows and specks of light. Whenever she had found him in here before, he had looked vaguely like himself.
"I was, I was, more like myself then. I can't, can't, uh, spare more."
She sensed the truth in the first part, but she knew he was lying on the second. She wondered why. She also wondered, in an off hand manner, if she was doomed to have Carth reading her mind forever.
The shadows and lights shifted faster. "What do you expect, you're in my mind."
"Well, OK, I'll give you that," she muttered.
"Why are you here? I want to be left alone. Please leave me alone."
She frowned. "That's not true." Finding him did have one advantage that she had forgotten; she could read him almost as well as he read her here.
"Why are you here?"
"I'm not really sure," she said. And it was the truth.
Little lights flickered. There was 'silence' for a space. "I saw you in another life. It's a lot like what I see now. Maybe this is what I saw all along. I'm...glad. Please leave, Revan. Leave me alone."
Revan stifled a mean-spirited giggle. As she was now she wasn't exactly a prize—still selfish, petty, often nasty... And this was the Revan he loved?
"Honest, strong-willed, full of conviction, able to see the pointlessness of unreasoning hate? A modicum of self-control and a wicked sense of humor? That's not so bad, is it?"
"Honest? Carth, are you insane?"
"You are now, beautiful."
She started at that. Was she honest?
"Yeah, you are. You're honest with yourself, mostly...you know what your faults are and you don't pretend you don't have them." The shadows shifted, curling like mist. "Stubborn, too. Don't make me beg."
"To leave," Revan clarified.
"Yes, to leave."
"Why do you want to be left alone so badly? I know you're lonely."
Instead of answering, the shadows and little lights retreated. They were fast, but Revan, somehow, was faster. She flung herself at them, willing herself to catch light and shadow, and she caught them.
Dancing shadows and glittering lights burned her hands and blinded her mind. Madness and despair were not complete, neither was intractable pain, but it near overshadowed everything else. Fear crawled over her arms, fury still hot, soul-crushing loneliness staggered her. The Force caused the pain, the fight caused the madness and despair. Despair lead to fury because there was deep stubbornness, too... He knew he would lose the fight, he knew that everything that made Carth Carth would be obliterated, and he couldn't stand it and wouldn't accept it.
If he let go, if he had learned how, to him it would be acknowledging that Master Sri's Carth was just as real and valid an existence for him as the Carth that had been. That it would, in fact, have been preferable in many ways. So fury led to despair.
Loneliness went with fear. Loneliness was self-imposed because he was afraid. Afraid to be hurt more than he already was, afraid to hurt her. There wasn't anyone else to hurt. Alone was the only acceptable condition because Revan hurt him and he hurt Revan...because he didn't want to hurt Revan and Revan didn't care if he hurt.
She snatched her hands away from the dancing shadows and flickering lights. That made sense. She could try to care, and succeed for a little while, but in her heart, where it mattered, she didn't care, not in the way that really mattered. She had been hurting him since almost the moment she met him, though neither of them had realized it at the time. She couldn't even claim that rescuing his son hadn't been a round about way to hurt him. She did feel bad about it...but that triggered a realization. It was a matter of the heart and hearts were slow to change. She realized that Carth probably went round and round with himself about being in love with her, but he was and he couldn't stop it. No more than she could manufacture enough care for him to endure with him and help him with any of his troubles. She just wanted to get away from it—it did hurt too much.
"I'll leave. Honest this time. If it's worth anything, I wish things could be different. And, and, thank you."
The shadows grew fainter and the lights winked out. "For what?"
"Saving my life. I'm not much on owing people anything, but I think I can handle this one."
"You don't owe me anything, gorgeous."
Revan winced; it still bothered her that he loved her the way he did. There was something deeply wrong with 'I'll go through hell for you' love. "Yeah, uh. Maybe, maybe you could let Darshin visit sometime."
She left fast, only sparing a glance of venomous hatred for the emptiness. She didn't wait to see if it reacted or not.
That was the last time she had any sort of contact with Carth that could be called communication, and she was never sure if Darshin had been welcomed or not.
It wasn't the last time she would ever encounter him, but that was an event far in the future.
Darshin's prediction that there was a point at which the Force sink would fail because it simply could not absorb more did come true. It was not a dangerous outpouring of Force, not as it would be with a conduit or some of the old Sith who exploded when they died, but it was spectacular. Everything changed in an instant; many insentient plants and animals suddenly came alive, although none of the Rakatans did and neither did any sentient left in the system. They were not the same, however, as they were before. Life on Rakata became intense; things lived and they lived truly...no moment was wasted. Death on Rakata came swift, and it was right and welcomed. Creatures meant to die...Revan couldn't help but see there was no suffering in it, even for the prey. They died truly. Everything on Rakata lived and died as though there were nothing more important for them—to live when it was time to live, and to die when it was time to die. Revan was not surprised that no sentients had returned to life; with so much change in the insentient, she didn't think such change would have escaped the sentient...she supposed it was also a matter of fairness as well. They had died once, they need not do it twice, and with so many derelicts in the system, they would die quickly indeed. She couldn't imagine what it would have been like for anyone on the fallen Star Forge to wake up in a sun.
She found that there were certain things that Revan could hate with purity. It shocked her to find that righteous hatred even existed—experiencing it did nothing to draw her to the Dark Side, now that the Force had returned. Righteous hatred would not fuel it, or rather, the flip side: the Force would not fuel righteous hatred. She wondered if it ever did. She was also surprised to find how short her list of hated things was. She hated the Star Forge, truly. She hated the Force, truly. But...not...this Force. Not the Force she felt through her now.
The Force thundering through her, whipping around her like a whirlwind, this Force was not indifferent. This Force loved her. Revan had nothing to compare it to. Not only did she now know what it meant to hate truly, she knew what it meant to love truly. She didn't think she was capable of real love, but...she knew what it was now, and it didn't make her want to stab anyone's eyes out or gut them or even get angry. It didn't disgust her. She was not capable of real love, but...she understood it. She accepted it. It was, after all, a law of nature on Rakata. The Force loved. It felt good, and it didn't matter to the Force if she hated it or didn't care.
She knew that this peculiar Force wasn't the one she hated. This Force was shaped like a jagged line. Somehow, that made her smile.
This Force had an identity. Not a sentient identity—the Force could never be sentient—but it could and did become root-bound. It was stuck in a very stubborn and willful man so hell bent on retaining his own identity for so long that the Force became shaped like him. It mimicked him. The Force here had, in some fundamental and important ways, become Carth.
The Force that had escaped the sink and transformed Rakata in an instant was identifiable as Carth.
Carth had finally, after more than two millennia of fighting total destruction, found his life and death and love and hate and identity. Revan sensed that the real Carth had been utterly destroyed, but she fancied that his inevitable loss to the Force that irrecoverably changed it into a form of himself would have satisfied him.
Maybe. She had never cared much about him, but she hoped that the lost Carth would like the irony that the thing that destroyed him couldn't have succeeded without taking on his identity and thus, in a sense, preserve him forever.
So she did encounter him again. She couldn't talk to him exactly, nor communicate with him, because the Force was not rational nor sentient. But a part of it had become him.
It had also returned to her. She was strong in the Force once again. Revan wasn't sure if she would be strong in the Force most knew, but she was quite strong in the Carth-Force. To her annoyance, the Carth-Force was skewed Light Side...or at least, it was far easier to use Light Sided Force powers than it was Dark, and some Dark Side powers just didn't exist in the Carth-Force. No Kill, no Death Field. There was still Force lightning, but it was not possible to kill with it. A gizka found that out. It was still painful though, enough that the unusually intense gizka had bit her hard on the ankle after she threw lightning at it. Then it hopped away to continue being the best gizka it could possibly be.
Darshin found her practicing, and picked up the toasted gizka. The gizka snuggled up to him and cooed. Figured.
"He's gone now," Darshin said. "Well, his body is. Disappeared, left his clothes behind." He petted the gizka. "Strange how this turned out. Did you know there's no longer any Force healing?"
"No, I didn't. I was never very good at it. But if it helps any, there's no Kill now, either, and even Force Storm isn't fatal."
"In this Force, things will live and die by their times. I think physical killing and healing still work. But the Force won't let us use it to violate those laws. Decay and regeneration have returned as well."
"Finally!" Revan said, smiling. "I'm exhausted! I guess I'll just start where I left off?"
"Probably. You'll also have to eat. Anyway, I don't plan on staying. There's something very disquieting about Rakata. Not to say there hasn't been since I arrived, but the Force is strange here. While I...well, admire I suppose is the best word for it, what Carth managed, and I figure it's a good bit closer to real karmic payback the Force has had to endure in a long time, I find it very uncomfortable. I would like to return to places where the Force is true to itself. I sense that this...variety...of Force will not allow itself to be used nor will it use. It has a will, but I feel that will is turned toward things important to Carth, not to the galaxy at large. Maybe that too is the will of the Force. This is a unique place."
Revan was thoughtful. "I wonder if something bigger has happened than we understand. The mess that led to this was so...tangled...well, I wouldn't be surprised if the truth now is just as tangled. Go your way, Darshin. It's been an interesting time. I'll stay. I think I prefer a Force that won't use me. I'm a little tired of being used. And I think I'd have a hard time functioning without a Carth infection now, as insane as that sounds."
Darshin bowed. "Then I shall be on my way. You may want to call off HK-47, however. I fear it might shoot me out of the sky."
"Yeah, probably. I'll do that. Farewell Darshin. I never liked you, but you made a hell of a sparring partner."
"As did you. Farewell Revan. May the Force be with you." He turned to go, taking the charred gizka with him.
Revan answered, "May the Force serve you well."
Darshin couldn't help but grin as he walked toward his preserved ship. Behind him, a whirlwind had picked up, knocking Revan to the ground. She shouted in her most outraged tone, "I meant his Force!" He heard Revan stagger up and then fall after another whirlwind swept by. "I didn't say you were my Force! Augh! You were easier to deal with when you were just a hairless Wookiee!"
Wind rustled Darshin's robes, and he started. It had been a very long time since he had felt honest wind. Then, the Force rang in him, sang in him. The will of this Force...it willed Darshin never to cease being Darshin. It also thanked him. Until the moment he left the Rakata system, the Force never ceased to thank him.
Author's Notes: Beware of Sith Bunny Lords of Doom. Thank you to Jiara for beta reading and the Onasi Order for some nudging. Quick note—teleiotjs is a real Koine Greek word, related to telos. It means completeness or perfection. The j is just an attempt to transliterate eta in an alphabet with not enough vowels; τελειότης is the actual word ...dunno if it'll show up, but I can try.