Title: "Survivor's Guilt"

Spoilers: Knights of the Old Republic video game

Summary: Carth Onasi helps himself by helping Mission Vao with her fears soon after their flight from Taris.

Author's Notes: Just a little filler story I had as an idea when playing the game. Takes place right after leaving Taris and before landing on Dantooine. I'm ashamed to say I've had this story pretty much done since September of last year. I just hadn't had the urge to polish and post. Hopefully, this might kick start me back into doing some more writing.

My thanks to both Alice the Raven and VanillaLatte for their beta efforts. Sorry for the long wait!

For about the twentieth time in the last few hours, Carth Onasi rechecked the navicomputer hoping to find something, anything wrong with the heading of the Ebon Hawk so as to occupy his mind. He really didn't want his thoughts to wander towards the devastation still raining down upon the world from which they'd just barely escaped. Darth Malak's destruction of Taris had hit too close to home for the Republic captain; it was Telos all over again.

One more for the score, Carth thought grimly. Another planet laid waste by the rampages of a Sith Lord – all to try and kill one lone Jedi. Although a soldier to the core, a small part of Carth just couldn't fathom how the Sith could be beaten. True, Bastila Shan had been rescued, but there was only one of her who could be present at a skirmish at any one time. While she could use her Battle Meditation to help win one fight, the Sith seemed to have endless ships and could possibly attack from many directions at once. How does one fight someone, a Sith Lord no less, who's willing to go to any lengths to remove any and all threats? A quick memory flashed through Carth's mind of rubble that was once his home on Telos…of his mad, desperate search for his family…his anguish at holding the broken body of his wife.

Carth shook his head angrily. He knew he was being self-indulgent in thinking how he'd pay back Saul Karath for his part in his wife's death, but now was not the time for gloomy thoughts.

They had escaped and, for the moment, they were alive. He took some small comfort that he and the lieutenant from the Endar Spire, Mira Dana, had been able to rescue not only Bastila, but also a handful of other people from Taris. Among them: a Mandalorian mercenary, several members of Taris' Dueling Arena games, a number of shopkeepers, an astromech droid, one Wookie and a Twi'lek urchin thief. The Captain chuckled dryly. They were a ragtag bunch, weren't they?

A yawn from the back of the cockpit made Carth looked over to see a rumpled-looking Mission Vao standing there, a steaming cup of caff in her hand. Seeing the captain, the young Twi'lek girl deflated a little.

"Oh…sorry," she said quietly. "I thought everyone had gone to sleep."

"We're still a few days away from Dantooine, and even if we left the bulk of the Sith fleet back at Taris, there's still a chance we could bump into an Interdictor," Carth said. "I'm on watch until Lt. Dana relieves me."

Mission took that in but said nothing. She leaned on a bulkhead, letting her eyes roam from the instrumentation around her to the vortex of hyperspace swirling just outside the cockpit. Carth leaned back in his seat. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he looked back at Mission.

"Something I can help you with?" he asked softly.

Mission sighed. "No…it's just that…" Her voice trailed off. She glanced down and then back towards the way she came. "There's just nowhere else to go."

It took a moment before Carth realized what the youth was getting at: Mission had been looking for a place to be alone. While the Hawk sported excellent facilities, nearly every available space had been taken over by the survivors of Taris. He gestured at the copilot's chair.

"Do you want to sit down?"

"Thanks," Mission said, taking the proffered seat. They sat quietly for several minutes more, with Carth methodically going over a checklist and Mission staring out past the cockpit, taking occasional sips of her beverage. While Carth did not mind the girl's distraction, he solemnly hoped they wouldn't start going at each other verbally as they had while looking for Bastila. However, even he could see how subdued she was compared to her usual effusive self back on Taris. After checking the fuel state of the ship, Onasi glanced over.

"Can't sleep?"

Mission's blue-tinged face actually got a little darker in embarrassment as she shook her head. "I'm just too wired…especially with everything that's happened," she mumbled.

"I know what you mean."

Mission looked over at the captain while chewing on her lip. Several times, she opened her mouth as if to say something, but after a moment's thought, quickly shut it. Then, the young girl, in a very tired voice, finally said, "Do you know what's really been bothering me? Every time I close my eyes, just when I think I start to sleep, I see Zaalbar."

Carth blinked. "What's wrong with that? I mean he's here with you, right?

Mission shook her head. "I know that up here" – she pointed to her head – "but not here," she said, pointing to her heart. "I can still see him barely hanging on to the loading ramp as we're flying away. Even before that, I yelled at that big walking carpet to get in, but he had to help all those other people get safely on board." Mission swallowed, a bleak look in her eye. "If that Mandalorian hadn't held on to Big Z long enough for the rest of us to pull him in…I honestly don't know what I would've done."

Carth put down the checklist and leaned forward in his chair. "Mission, for the moment, we're safe. I won't lie in saying the Sith have forgotten us – I know they haven't. But for now, they don't know where we're going, so we're one step ahead of them."

"I know," Mission said with a weary nod. "It's just that it was so close. I just keep asking myself, 'What if?' I close my eyes and I see us flying away, leaving Big Z behind with everything falling apart around him." She chuckled hollowly. "And you know the stupid part about it? In my mind, Z should be cursing at us for leaving him behind, but instead he's roaring and cursing up at the Sith for destroying the one place we both called home."

Carth's face creased in concern. He'd seen his share disasters, both natural and man made – hell, he'd been part of some of them, so he knew what they could do to people.

Mission's eyes grew shiny and she started blinking rapidly. "Zaalbar's the only bud I have now…but all my other friends…people I hung out with…" Face scrunching up and lower lip trembling, she gasped, "There wasn't anything I could for them…!" Setting aside the now cold caff, the girl covered her face with trembling hands as a shudder wracked her body.

Carth sat there uncomfortably as anguish consumed the young thief. Then, hesitantly, he got out from his chair, walked over, and placed a tentative hand on the girl's shoulder. Before he could say or do anything else, she reached up and hugged the older man, pulling him down. Arms still held out in an awkward angle, Carth slowly enfolded the grief-stricken Mission, patting her gently on the back. Even though the captain felt her trembling as well as the warm tears on his neck, he didn't hear a single sound come from the person in his arms.

"Wh – why did it have to be my friends?" Mission whispered hoarsely. "Why did I survive?"

Carth's face fell a little as his eyes widened. He'd heard similar accusatory questions before – from himself. Ever since the massacre of Telos, all that kept him going was getting back at Admiral Karath for his betrayal. But there were times, late at night, when he'd wonder what would happen after he got his revenge. The dead might rest easier, but what about the living? He wouldn't wake up and suddenly see his wife before him, as if nothing had changed. For months after Telos, he'd sit on the edge of his bed, staring down at his blaster, thinking that this would be the only way he could find peace – that this was the only way to be reunited with his family. Yet his sense of duty to the Republic was far too strong, and Carth knew that to truly, finally give up would mean that the Sith had beaten him completely. He would never, ever give Saul Karath that satisfaction.

"I honestly don't know, Mission," Carth finally said, still comforting the girl. "Was it luck? Was it being in the right place at the right time? I honestly couldn't say." He gently pushed the girl away to reveal a miserable face, with eyes red from crying looking up at him. "You have to keep in mind, though – and trust me when I say I know how it feels – you are alive. And remember this: just as we were leaving, I transmitted the Sith code we needed to run the blockade to the entire planet, so anyone could escape. The scanners showed many ships leaving the surface after that." He brightened a little at a thought. "And don't forget that outcast village in Undercity. After we found that map for them, all the people took off for their 'Promised Land,' so they must've been clear of the destruction."

A hopeful gleam lit Mission's eyes. "Really?" she asked. Carth nodded. But just as quickly as the hope came, it dimmed. "I don't know. I mean, I knew Taris inside and out, but I don't know anything about Dantooine, or any other planet." Crestfallen, Mission said, "Where do I go from here?"

Carth looked thoughtful. "I've only known you for a few days, Mission, but I've seen how well you can take care of yourself. You're good in a fight and pretty resourceful when it comes to getting in or out of places. Right now, the Republic could use people like you."

Mission sniffed and blinked. "The military? Me?"

Carth brought a hand up. "It's only a suggestion for now – something to consider, nothing more. Besides, you're still a ki – " The Twi'lek's eyes blazed in ready fury. " – still below the legal age for military service," Carth finished smoothly. "You'd be part of something bigger than you, working to make a difference in this galaxy. You want to get back at the people who destroyed Taris, that's the way to do it."

For a moment the young Twi'lek girl looked like she was going to laugh the suggestion off, but her brow furrowed in consideration. Carth didn't know whether she would really do it or not but at least the idea had been planted. He hadn't been joking either: the Republic desperately needed talented people.

Mission smiled a little and wiped her eyes. "Look at me…blubbering away like I'm some kid." She shot Carth a daring glance, but the captain kept his face as straight as possible.

"So…" he said. "Feeling better?"

Mission blew her nose on a dirty looking rag and nodded. "I'd better get to bed." She got up from the copilot's seat and walked out, stopping just at the corridor leading to the main area. She looked back at the captain.


"No problem," Carth said.

"…grandpa," Mission finished and ran in a giggle as a pair of flight gloves flew out and hit the bulkhead close to where she'd been standing a second before.

A moment later, a bemused Mira Dana walked in, holding the gloves and looking over her shoulder.

"What was that all about, sir?"

Ruefully shaking his head, Carth said, "Never mind, Lieutenant. Just helping someone get over some bad dreams."

Lt. Dana nodded and left it at that. She and Carth then proceeded to go over any checks that had been done by the captain while she was asleep. After returning the lieutenant's salute, Carth left the cockpit in capable hands. As he passed through the main hold of the Ebon Hawk, he could hear the snores of people sleeping off the stress from their hectic escape. In one of the cargo holds, he spied Mission Vao sleeping soundly, her arms wrapped (as much as they could) protectively around a slumbering Zalbaar. Although most bunks were taken, he'd been given the infirmary table since it offered some privacy. Taking off his shoes, but leaving his uniform on, Carth lay heavily on the small bed.

He was loathed to admit it, but he actually felt a little better at helping Mission.

Now that they'd found Bastila, he had no idea what would happen at Dantooine or to the rest of the 'crew' in their fight against the Sith.

Just as the stress of the past few hours finally caught up to him, the captain's thoughts wandered towards Mission…Saul Karath…his long dead wife…and finally, with fatigued surprise, to a certain dark-haired lieutenant.

Carth's eyes closed and he passed into sleep.