The silence pervading the ship as he descended from the gun turrets was deafening. Even the transit humming of the ship's engines was subdued as the little freighter continued to increase the distance between itself and the Sith warship it was rapidly leaving behind.
His boots impacted against the deck with a heavy thud, and he turned to find Jolee Bindo standing right in front of him. "Where is Bastila? What happened on that ship?"
"We ran into Malak," Carth Onasi replied wearily, approaching from the corridor leading to the cockpit. "He would have killed us, but Bastila sacrificed herself so we could get away."
"You mean she's…she's dead?" the young Twi'lek girl, Mission Vao, asked, shock evident in her voice.
Something hard and heavy hit… Funny. At just that moment, he was stricken with an identity crisis. He had no idea who he was. Was he Revan, former Dark Lord of the Sith and propagator of the current galactic war? Or was he a simple soldier for the Republic; a soldier who had turned out to have an overwhelming gift of the Force. A soldier who had managed to secure the heart of the Jedi they were discussing.
No matter. It made no difference who he was. Whether he was Revan or whether he was Kagi, the pain was there regardless. Lifting up a hand and holding it over his chest, the Jedi stumbled over to the row of seats around the holoprojector and collapsed into them, leaning heavily back against them. For once, the smothering scent of the Wookie Zaalbar hovering over the row of seats did not bother him in the slightest.
"Bah, Malak won't kill her, don't be foolish," Jolee replied, waving off-hand to the young girl. "He'll want to use her battle meditation against the Republic. Turn her to the dark side and the Sith will always be victorious."
Yes, that was what Malak would do. Deep in his bones, the young Jedi knew the truth. Once upon a time, he had been Revan. And Malak hated him, and even now still hated him. Turning Bastila to the dark side would accomplish two goals. It would provide him with an unstoppable power to be used against the Republic, and it would strike a personal blow at his former master.
Agony twisted inside his guts, forcing him to bend forward as far as he could and place his head in-between his knees. Not once in either of his lives had he ever gotten spacesick; some odd, still-functioning part of his brain reasoned this must be what it felt like.
Mission turned her attention from the aged Jedi, taking two steps closer to the hunched figure and leaning over, resting a hand gently on his shoulder. "Kagi? Are you okay?"
"We have to go back," he muttered, so quiet that he could barely hear himself. He willed his heart and stomach to behave, succeeding only partially, and lifted his head. "We have to go back for Bastila!"
For a few moments, no one said anything. The varied expressions seemed to all be in agreement. Then Carth sighed, remembered something, and his face hardened. "Not so fast," he said, an edge forming in his voice. "We've got a bigger issue to deal with, here." He fixed his gaze on the distraught Jedi. "They deserve to know the truth about you. Do you want to tell them what Malak said, or should I?"
The young man seated across the bay attempted to give Carth a withering glare, but the pain in his torso bled all the malice from it. "By the Force, Carth, you think this is a bigger issue than Bastila in the hands of Malak?"
The soldier did not give the other man any ground. He crossed his arms in determination and glared hard at him. "Yes, it is."
Closing his eyes, the Jedi lifted both hands to his face and wearily rubbed his forehead. "Carth, when this is over, you and I are going to have words. And you will not enjoy it."
"Are you going to tell them?" Carth repeated, his tone as solid as durasteel.
"Yes, by the Force, I'll tell them." The young Jedi paused then, looking from one comrade to the next, judging their expressions. Most of what he saw was confusion, but it was suspicion, not surprise, that he saw in Jolee's eyes. He sighed. "I am Darth Revan."
It was as though he had set off a neutron bomb. Shock exploded on the faces of Mission, Juhani, Zaalbar, and Canderous. "Revan?" Mission cried. "Wha-what are you talking about? Is this some kind of joke?"
"It's no joke," Carth replied, shaking his head slowly. "The Jedi Council captured Revan and erased the Dark Lord's mind, programming in a new identity. Saul Karath told me on the Leviathan and Bastila confirmed it."
The former dark Jedi scowled, depositing his face in his palms once more. He was not in the greatest of moods at Carth right now, and the pilot was not helping his situation by reminding him of the fact that Bastila was in the hands of his mortal enemy.
Bastila, be strong, he pleaded across their bond, hoping that she could hear his words. I will save you, Bastila, I swear it on the Force!
"You're Darth Revan?" Mission said to him, drawing him out of his thoughts. The sudden discomfort of the Twi'lek girl was obvious. "This is…this is big. Do you…remember anything about being the dark lord?"
"I don't remember anything about being Revan," he answered icily, trying to keep his emotions in check. Every second they wasted debating this pointless topic took Bastila further and further away from him, and gave Malak more and more time to do Force knows what to her.
"And so the lies begin," Carth said.
The Jedi's only reaction was to turn his head slowly, painfully slowly, in the direction of the Republic soldier, his anger with the man increasing at every second. It was now taking every ounce of his control to keep himself from removing Carth's ability to speak with his lightsaber, but doing something like that would not help him get Bastila back.
Suddenly, something broke inside him, and all the dark feelings of rage and anger at Carth were blown away like smoke on the breeze, replaced with the very real knowledge that Bastila was in immediate danger, in immediate need of his assistance.
You were right, Bastila. Admitting our feelings is putting us in danger of the dark side. I must be cautious. It would not do to save you, only for you to return to an evil man.
"It was obvious you remembered something back there when Malak confronted you with the truth," Carth said, oblivious to the other man's internal musings. "It might have only been small pieces, but there was something there."
"Just a few flashes?" Mission asked anxiously. Even she could tell that their Jedi companion was struggling within himself, and that Carth was only provoking him. "That's it? Nothing more? Then I don't think there's a problem!" She projected cheer and confidence into her voice, desperately trying to resolve this situation without violence. "It seems to me that if you don't really remember anything about being Revan, then it doesn't really matter anymore. You are who you are now, right?"
He gave her a thin smile to let her know that her efforts to defuse this problem were appreciated.
"Of course it still matters!" Carth persisted. "How do we know more memories won't come flooding back? How do we know Revan won't suddenly turn on us?" He sighed exasperatedly, knowing full well that he didn't have the support of one single entity on that ship right then. "The whole time we've been chasing Malak, we'd had his old Sith master right at our side, listening to our secrets, hearing our plans!"
"Hey, soldier-boy," Canderous Ordo, Mandalorian hero, said, stepping forward. "I've got an idea for you. It's pretty obvious to me that you're the only person on this ship that's got a problem with him being Revan. Now I may not have the benefit of the Force, but even I can tell that he's rightly pissed off because his girlfriend's been kidnapped, and just waiting for an ample excuse to fly off the handle and hurt something."
The Mandalorian snorted, sliding past Mission to drop an armored hand on the Jedi's shoulder. "Now, I've got to say that this guy's got a lot of patience for you, Carth. If it were me, I'd have already shot you a long time ago. So do us a favor, and don't try his patience."
Carth opened his mouth with a fiery response to the Mandalorian, but stopped when he saw the Jedi staring at him intensely. It wasn't quite the intensity of a man stalking his victim, but it was almost such. It unnerved Carth greatly.
"This changes nothing, Carth," he said, and when he spoke, the Hawk fell silent as a tomb. "I was already committed to stopping Malak. But now that he has Bastila, nothing will stand in my way of getting her back. Not you, not the Republic, not the Sith, and not your self-absorbed petty hatred of me on the sole basis of the fact that I used to be Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith."
Mission stepped forward as well, standing on the other side of the Jedi from Canderous. She stared intently at Carth. "Malak's the one who destroyed Taris, Carth. I don't see the Sith Lord standing here. I see a friend who's been with us through thick and thin. And after all that he's done for us, I think we at least owe him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to whether or not he's truly changed."
The young girl glanced down at the Jedi sitting behind her, smiling lightly at him. "Besides, if Bastila could fall in love with him, then there's no way he could be the same Revan who turned on the Republic."
The Jedi turned an expression on the girl that managed to be confused and suspicious at the same time. "Just how did you know about us?"
"Later," Mission whispered. "Once we get you cleared from the Carth Tribunal, here."
Smirking, he nodded.
Behind them, Zaalbar crossed his big Wookie arms over his massive chest. "I agree with Mission," he said in his native Shryiiwook, knowing that everyone on the ship understood it by now. He looked down at the Jedi seated in front of him. "I swore a life-debt to the person you are, not to the person you were."
"Big Z and I will stick by you," Mission said with a nod, patting him on the shoulder. "We owe you our lives; we won't desert you now."
"How can you say that, Mission?" Carth exclaimed, face flushed with frustration. "The Sith bombed my home world! Revan took away my family and destroyed my life!"
Canderous scoffed, planting his war-creased hands on his hips. "Everyone knows it was Malak who gave the order to attack your people, Carth. You can't blame Revan for that, so stop making up lies to try and swing our opinions over to your favor."
There was silence for several minutes as Carth turned away. When at last he looked back toward the quartet, his face was considerably calmer, more collected. "I suppose you've proven yourself to be a friend of the Republic by your actions so far…Revan. But can I trust you? Can any of us?"
"Bastila trusted him enough to love him, Carth, knowing full well who he was," Canderous pointed out, truthfully. "Why can't you see that?" The Mandalorian smiled cruelly. "Then again, you are a product of the Republic, and they're not known for making the most insightful people in the galaxy."
The Jedi formerly known as Revan gently tapped the knuckles of his right hand against Canderous' torso armor, signaling for him to cool it. He then turned that same hand forward, toward Carth, to forestall any fighting. Things were finally getting back to peaceable measures, and he would not have it degenerate into petty insults.
Standing up, the former dark lord turned to look into the eyes of every man, woman, Wookie, and droid in the cargo bay. Then he turned to Canderous, stared into his eyes, searched his soul with the Force. "What about you, Canderous?" he asked calmly.
"You defeated the Mandalorian clans in the war, Revan," the armored man answered with pride. "You were the only one in the galaxy who could best us. We had never met one like you before, and never since. How could you even ask if I will follow you? Whatever you are fighting, it will be worthy of my skill."
Stepping forward, the Mandalorian held out his armored right hand, waiting for the Jedi to meet it in a strong, firm grip. "I'm your man until the end Revan, no matter how this plays out."
The two exchanged a solemn nod of respect, from one warrior to another, then the Jedi released the Mandalorian's hand, and turned to the man standing near the brightly-lit storage area.
"Jolee? What about you?"
"What about me?" the old man asked with a shrug. "I already knew who you were, but it wasn't my place to tell you. Wasn't up to me to just walk up to you and go 'Oh hey, by the way, you're the Dark Lord of the Sith!' Better off that you know, if you ask me."
Jolee paused, realized he was digressing, then shrugged again, and nodded seriously at the younger man. "Does it change anything? I'm not here to judge you. You'll do what you have to do, and I'll help if I can."
"Thank you, old timer," he said with a smirk, getting a dirty look from Jolee in return. Schooling his features to absolute neutrality, he turned his eyes next to the somewhat-twitchy, trigger-happy 'protocol' droid standing silently near the back of the room. "HK? You turning on me?"
The droid paused, as if not hearing correctly, then focused his visual sensors on the Jedi who had purchased him. "Commentary: I am…experiencing something unusual, master."
Raising an eyebrow, the Jedi asked, "What's happening?"
Another pause, then, "Answer: My programming is activating my deleted memory core." The droid paused again, connecting more data. "I believe I have a…homing system that is restoring it, master."
He calmly gestured with his left hand for HK to elaborate.
"Observation: My homing system is a function of my assassination protocols; that which I told you had been deactivated. This system was not." HK-47's tone became musing. "It seems that the homing system deliberately restores my deleted memory upon…" Another pause to access data. "…Upon returning to my original master."
"Let me guess," the Jedi said, deadpan. "Me."
"Affirmation: Correct, master. Sith protocols maintain that all droid knowledge be deleted before assassination missions, and restored upon return. I have returned to you," the droid said proudly, "and my full functionality is under your personal command. It is a distinct pleasure to see you again, master."
"Uhh, great," the Jedi said, distinctly aware of Carth's eyes boring into his back. That sudden burst of memory on HK-47's part hadn't endeared him too well with the soldier. "You know, I'm not exactly Revan anymore, HK."
"Observation: That does not matter, master," the droid replied firmly. "I am your droid, regardless of your actions or personality."
"Wow," Mission said, raising an eyebrow at the droid. "What are the chances of that happening?"
"Remember," Canderous said to her, raising a finger instructively, "we're talking about the Force here. At this point, Malak himself could drop out of the sky and I wouldn't bat an eyelash."
"But you'd be the first to blast him," the former Revan said, turning to face the armored man.
Canderous laughed. "And deny you the opportunity to rip him to shreds for kidnapping Bastila? You must be joking."
At that point, the little astromech droid, T3-M4, rolled up in front of the Jedi and reeled off a string of whistles and beeps that few on the ship could understand.
"I knew the little guy would come through for you," Mission said. She obviously understood the astromech language. "Droids don't hold grudges," she said sagely, nodding in a theatrical manner.
Finally, the Jedi turned to face the pilot of the ship, as did the rest of the crew. "Well, Carth," he said. "Are you going to stand with me against Malak?"
"Well, the others seem to trust you," he answered, subdued. "And I don't see any other way that we can stop the Sith. And I suppose that Malak is the real enemy here. I really don't have any other choice, do I?"
"I won't let you down, Carth."
"I want to believe you," the soldier said. "You've proven yourself time and time again on our mission, but this is a little much for me to wrap my mind around."
The Jedi snorted. "How do you think I feel?" His tone was mild, so as not to provoke Carth, but there was no questioning the seriousness in his words.
"This must be even more of a shock to you," Carth replied, nodding. "I don't know how you even keep going. I guess we both just have to find a way to push forward." He paused, then continued, "Don't worry, I won't let my personal feelings get in the way of my assignments or this mission. But don't forget, I've sworn an oath to defend the Republic. As long as this mission stays on course, I'll stick with you. But I won't let you betray the Republic under any circumstances."
Carth sighed and looked up at the ceiling, as though letting all the toxin of the previous encounter bleed out into space. "So I guess that's it then," he said. "We keep going. We've still got one more Star Map to uncover if we're going to find that Star Forge and save Bastila, so let's do it before it's too late."
"And that is something we agree on quite heartily, Carth," Canderous said.