Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me, but to Obsidian and Lucas Arts, and the aforementioned dialogue was not written by me…I've just appropriated for my own selfish use. ;)
Warning: Some material may not be suitable for younger audiences and there were two f-bombs in there last I counted.
Thanks are owed to: VaguelyFamiliar for providing the nearly all of Bao-Dur's game dialogue. I had a completely different story in mind until she did that, so thanks to her for the inadvertent inspiration and for taking the time in the first place.
To Alexandra3 for motivating me with a deadline.
To Elena the Eccentric for the suggestion. I was waiting for that!
And to my beta-reader Miss Becky, who tackled the fact that I had decided to do alternating tenses midway through my first draft and she caught every word I missed. Also, a million years ago, I promised her a Bao-Dur fic so this one is dedicated to her. Love ya!
Okay, I'll shut up now. Enjoy.Lifelines Part I Prologue…
The last thing I remember clearly is deciding to go to war. Everything after that is shot to hell.
It was Malachor V, of course, that ruined my memory, and me playing fun and games with a little contraption called the mass shadow generator. Thought I could end the war, you see. Thought I was being merciful, for frack's sake. Turns out I was half-right, but it cost me. I blew my own memory apart as surely as I tried to blow that gods-forsaken planet out of the ether. So now, all that remains of the Mandalorian Wars are fragments—bits and pieces that I cannot, for the life of me, connect to anything else.
Four years of my life are compressed into a few choice moments of violence and explosions and loud noises, so that when I think on them, I invariably spill hot caffa on my lap or choke on my cigarra smoke. Those memories don't so much as swim benevolently to the surface of my consciousness as they jump out at me—teeth bared and itching for a fight. I have no particular fondness for those visions; I can't fathom why my psyche has kept them around and booted everything else out—stuff that I wouldn't mind having a sliver or two of.
I can't remember if I had friends or took lovers, played sabacc, drank too much or gambled my pay away like I did during my exile. I can't remember sharing a laugh with a soldier during a moment of downtime. I don't know if I liked the chow or had to choke it down. I can't remember if I was ever praised by a superior or reprimanded by one. I don't know if I was a good general or not—if I was the kind of officer that made men and women cringe when they saw me walking by, or if they whispered snidely behind cupped hands…or if they silently vowed they would follow me to the end of the galaxy and back. All of those memories are gone and instead I have the sound of shrapnel ripping along the armor of my transport and the snap of a twig behind me that reveals a heavy-footed Mandalorian stalking me in a jungle.
Unnerving too, is that right after the war, the face in the mirror that stared back at me was somehow four years older than when I last saw it. Not that anyone else would notice. I have a perpetually youthful face for having made it to thirty, and I'm as short as a fourteen-year-old girl. I have narrow blue eyes and straight black hair that brushes my shoulders. My face is paler than I'd like but hey, I can't have everything. At this point, all I want is ten minutes of a memory that doesn't cause me to twitch like a spice junkie needing a fix.
I did it to myself, I know. The effects of the mass shadow generator were worse than I could have ever possibly imagined and, of course, I remember every millisecond of that experience. It blasted me down to my center, like an ion grenade tossed into a well that just keeps falling deeper and deeper until finally exploding somewhere in the core of my mind. It was the screams, I think. The sound of a hundred thousand voices screaming in agony and protest as they were torn from their bodies. I ripped myself away from the Force in order to silence them, to protect myself from that ion blast of a massacre that roared through me again and again, until I thought I surely must have fallen to someplace lower even, than the dark side.
In retrospect, I'm lucky I only lost the four years.
After the war, with my memory shot, the Fleet cut me loose. I got an honorable discharge since my amnesia had made me 'unfit for service.' So I'm not a general anymore. I'm not a Jedi anymore, either, for obvious reasons. I'm not much of anything. A ghost, maybe. A shade, or a shadow that is burned onto the sidewalk after a thermal detonator turns the body into ash. I want to die but there is no death, only the Force and I sure as hell can't have that.
I'm an exile from my own life so I figure I may as well return to the Council and make it official.
I expect it to hurt. It does, but not as badly as my discharge from the Republic. I can only guess that means I enjoyed being a general more than I did being a Jedi, but honestly, who the hell knows.
I have flashes of my trial and the stern/ compassionate/unrelenting faces that exiled me. I remember jabbing my blue-bladed lightsaber into the gut of the statue. I know the Council thinks I did it out of defiance. Wrong. It was just a little show-and-tell; a silent performance piece because I can't tell them what I really feel and I can't ask them for help. It's my bunk and I just have to lie in it. What right do I have to ask them for anything, anyway?
After the trial, that holovid of my life picks up again and the ribbon of my memory becomes whole and unbroken, until I purposefully try to tear it apart with spice and booze so that I won't have to remember that I can't.
Odd jobs come and go, as do the days, nights, men, some women too, until those years of my exile become as blurry a mess as the war years. I wait to feel something that will spark my memory, but nothing ever does. If you ask me what I really did during that time I would say I spent it glancing at strangers, searching for a connection or recognition that I foolishly thought would jumpstart everything again. But I was stuck with the bits and pieces, and the strangers just looked away like strangers do.
Eventually, the ghost that is me drifts aimlessly, like so much discarded spacejunk until I finally wake up in a kolto tank on mining facility where the dead don't stay dead, and where pain is a living, breathing thing. I meet the old woman with her secrets and plans. I meet the pilot with his glib tongue and shifty eyes, and listen with amusement as he introduces himself to my chest. Soon after, I realize that my little escapades on Malachor V did not go unnoticed—cosmically speaking— and so the three of us begin our quest to put the poor broken Jedi back together again. I have little hope it will help me recover what I had lost, but I have to start trying. Frack the Force, I just want my life back.
And then we land on Telos and I look into a stranger's eyes and this time he doesn't look away, and something long asleep in me begins to stir.
"Good to have you back, General."
I opened my eyes despite the protest of my aching skull, and glanced around. I smelled smoke and heard the sounds of licking flames and thought for a second that the war had come back to me. I jumped to my feet, my hand reaching for my blaster, but there was only the burning wreckage of the transport we picked up from the TSF station behind me and an Iridonian Zabrak standing in front of me.
He was tall—but then most people are tall to me—and well-built. Though he wasn't holding a weapon, I knew instantly that he could and had. He'd fought before and fought well. There is something in a person's eyes that can tell you if they've seen or dealt a lot of death, and his brown eyes were full up with it. A remote droid hovered over his left shoulder and I could hear the hum of the energy that powered the Zabrak's left arm. At my feet, Kreia and Atton lay unconscious.
"Easy now," the Zabrak continued, as I aimed my hold-out at him. "You survived one spectacular crash. Lucky I was here to pull you and your friends out of that shuttle or you'd be more than a little crispy."
I nodded absently, but didn't hear the Zabrak's words. A dizzying, twisting sensation of displacement came over me. I knew that my feet were still on the ground next to Atton's head on the green grass plains of Telos, but I was somewhere else too.
It was his voice. It sounded so jarringly familiar. And not just the we've-spoken-once-or-twice familiar, but familiar like I've heard that voice in a hundred different tones and variations before—laughing, whispering, raised in anger and lowered in warning. I knew that voice, but my broken memory wouldn't make any connections. And the Zabrak was looking at me like he knew me and then some. He looked at me as though he'd been waiting for something, like a lift home that seemed like it would never come, and now it was here. He looked at me as though he were satisfied and settled somehow—not all the way, but a little bit more and my feeling of displacement increased.
"Where am I?" I asked, and I didn't mean Telos.
The Zabrak's easy smile slipped a little and I knew it was because he was expecting me to say something else, his name maybe. But I didn't know his name, and so his gladdened expression failed a bit.
"You must be in shock from the crash. Have to expect some long term memory loss from that."
He said something more to the remote hovering over his shoulder, but all I heard was those two magic words I wanted to hear them again. "What did you say?" I demanded.
He eyed me with a peculiar expression on his face. "I said, after a crash like that, I'd expect some long term memory loss," he said.
I nodded. "Who are you?"
He flinched as though I'd slapped him, but recovered quickly. "I'll humor you, General," he said bitterly. "I was one of the Iridonian mechanic corps that was at Malachor. Bao-Dur? I can see how you'd forget me, being that I was the only one." The sarcasm in his voice was hard to miss, and laced with pain, but I only heard his name.
Bao-Dur. Like his voice, I knew that name. I didn't remember how I knew it, but I knew that I'd spoken it a thousand times, shouted it, whispered it, and—Force help me—somehow I knew I'd had it expelled from me in a gasp of ecstasy…more than once.
I looked at Bao-Dur then and he looked at me. I could feel him willing me to drop whatever charade he thought I was playing, and I was trying so hard to make my fractured memory whole again…but I could not and then Atton and Kreia came around and we all had to get down to business.
Three days, one brief incarceration in the Secret Academy, and four Echani duels later, we had the Ebon Hawk back and I had time to ponder this new development. I locked myself into the starboard dormitory for the entire duration of the jump to Nar Shaddaa and tried to remember this Iridonian, but it was useless.
I wanted to go to the garage and talk to him but I couldn't do that. I couldn't explain my memory loss—it was hardly believable in my own mind—and I couldn't force it on him, either. Already, in the short time I'd known him, I didn't want to hurt him. If it was true that we had had more than a casual acquaintance before, I thought it would probably sting a bit if I talked to him like he was a stranger. It would've stung me.
So I stayed in my bunk and tried to figure it all out. Didn't happen. But that night I had a dream that was much more than a dream, and the pieces of my shattered memory started to come together.
"General Lysia Tors, this is your new mission crew," the ensign says, pointing to each of the men and women in turn who are lined up before me. "Lt. Goran will be your Second, and then you've got privates Agris, Taen, Shmei, and Faldoon. Oh, and your med droid, M5-D6 and your tech," he adds like an afterthought.
"My tech. Has he got a name?" I demand of the ensign.
"Huh?" the young man asks, distracted, as he was already turning his attention to my equipment manifest. He peered at the Iridonian tech standing beside the med droid. "Uh, I suppose…"
"Bao-Dur," the Zabrak says, speaking without having been addressed. His voice is soft and smooth, a contrast to the cacophony from the noisy base around us. "Name's Bao-Dur, General," he adds but doesn't salute.
I've only been in the service for three months but I quickly came to realize that I'm not one to tolerate guff from inferiors, nor do I appreciate it when a private shows 'moxie' or 'guts.' Save that shit for the field, I say, and salute your officers, dammit. But for some reason I feel a smile trying to pull at my lips.
"Are you a good tech or are you just filling a vacant post because you can handle a hydrospanner better than the man next to you?" I ask.
Bao-Dur meets my eyes unflinchingly instead of focusing on some point above my head as most of the soldiers do when I am addressing them. "I'm good, General. Some would even say I'm half machine."
It is on the tip of my tongue to say that he looks all man to me, but that's not likely to engender the kind of officer/soldier relationship I'm trying to cultivate. So I bite my lip instead and say, "Glad to hear it, but can you handle a blaster too? We're going to need every man we have, because it's going to get real interesting around here, real quick."
Bao-Dur nods, an intensity in his eyes that looks like something I've seen in my own. "I'm counting on it."
A variety of Jedi-like admonitions about not letting one's emotions get the better of one come to mind, but then I remember that it was only three standard weeks ago that the last of the Iridonian colonies fell to the Mandalorians on the Outer Rim so I hold my tongue.
"Carry on then, Bao-Dur," I say, and make to turn away when his soft voice stops me.
"I will and thank you, General."
The others in line beside him twitter or shift nervously. I give them an eyeful and they instantly go still. "What did you say?" I ask, stepping closer to the tech.
"I said, thank you, General. You came when others did not," he says, still looking right at me. "Other Jedi, I mean."
"I know what you mean," I say abruptly. No one at Fleet Headquarters, or anywhere else for that matter, had thanked me for leaving the Order, for turning traitor to the Council, mostly because I wouldn't let them. I don't want to be reminded of where I came from. I just want to do the job and win so that I can feel like it was worth it all. But for some reason I like hearing it from him.
"Don't mention it," I say in a low tone and Bao-Dur smiles faintly. It's then I realize this conversation has gone on longer than proper. The ensign apparently comes to the same conclusion.
"Now, General Tors, if you would come with me to the equipment shed, we'll get you outfitted and stocked."
I dismiss my team and as I move to follow the ensign, I meet Bao-Dur's eyes. I nod my head at him once, and he salutes me in return, a hint of a smile touching his lips. Something passes between us then. I don't know what it is; I don't examine it with the Force. The second I stepped onto the transport on Dantooine, using the Force became a no-no and only reminds me that I am a traitor, so I shelve it and try to figure my feelings out like a regular person would. Surprise, surprise, that doesn't work. As the ensign drones on about my armor, weapons, tent location and credit allowance, I am thinking about a little smile and those brown eyes.
I settle into my new quarters and begin my command over my regiment. The days begin to blend together in a tiring routine of drills, drills, and a few more fracking drills. Whatever it was that passed between Bao-Dur and I on that first day remains undefined but that becomes okay as soon as I make the decision to keep the tech around me as much as possible. I get to know him, discreetly, for it's unseemly for an officer to spend so much time with the grunts, so to speak.
I learn that the Mandalorians wiped out his entire clan and he's pretty sure his planet is gone too. I learn that he has a smooth, intelligent sense of humor that can be biting or sweet depending on his mood. I learn that when he and I are together, the war doesn't seem so hard to confront and that I truly want to see what future lies after it. But mostly I learn that that undefined sensation that passed between us only gets stronger with every passing day until I can practically see an energy field between us. I long to touch him,but I'm almost afraid I'll get shocked. And when battle comes, he is at my side and I feel safe, no matter how bad things get.
I quickly come to rely on that feeling of safety. I relish it. But my greatest joy is that I sense in him, through the Force, that I make him feel the same way.
I woke up that morning with a smile on my face and whistled tunelessly as I cleaned up and got dressed. My good mood was something of an anomaly, but wholly attributed to Bao-Dur. Somehow, meeting him again sparked my memory. I wanted to go to him and thank him, but it still seemed too strange. I couldn't recreate the friendship we had so long ago. The two of us couldn't just slip into our old skin so fast, if at all. There was too much yet left unknown, but it was a start. And after ten years of the war being reduced to bursts of sound that made me shake and visions that were wet with blood, that small start was good enough for me.