So, I'm back, and much sooner than I thought. But the trade off is that my updates will be MUCH slower than they were with "Seeing Double." I will absolutely finish this story, it'll just take me longer to get there.
This story begins just pre-KotOR2. Prepare to be confused by this prologue, because as anyone who's read the first story knows, I don't follow the game exactly, but I will fill in all the confusing gaps in due time. If you haven't read "Seeing Double," you probably won't be able to follow this one...so go read it! ;)
Enjoy, and please review.
Prologue – Return
The planet in the Unknown Regions of space was a wasteland of barren rocks stretching endlessly to the horizon, so foreboding that no life dared try to thrive anywhere. A hot, stale breeze whipped small dust devils into a frenzy before dying out once more, their momentary dances the only movement on this dead world.
Nestled between the jagged cliffs was a single cargo ship covered by a thick layer of the planet's reddish sand. On its battered hull the faint words Ebon Hawk were barely visible. The ship's interior was silent and dim, running only on minimal systems, while the sole living occupant sat as still as a statue on the floor in the common room.
Cross-legged with her eyes closed, the woman with long, ebony hair sat with her hands on her knees and her back ramrod straight. Breathing slowly and deliberately, the worry lines around her eyes and mouth melted smooth as she relaxed into deep meditation, burying herself in the sheer emptiness of the world around her. So deep was her concentration that she did not notice the black-cloaked figure sliding silently up the ship's loading ramp.
The figure was tall enough to be male, yet moved with a grace that was distinctly feminine as she slid wraithlike through the hallways. Melting into the shadows in the garage doorway, she watched a fierce looking and heavily armed rust-colored droid as it stalked toward her location. Just before the droid could get close enough to spot her, the cloaked woman sprang forward. A dagger flashed toward the droid's neck, slid between the armor plating there and severed several small wires. The droid gave a garbled protest before slumping forward into a sparking heap. A malevolent chuckle emerged from the shadows of the woman's cloak as she stepped over the droid and proceeded noiselessly toward the common room.
The cloaked figure silently studied the meditating woman for several long minutes before she slowly approached, the same dagger still clutched in her hand. Sidling behind the woman on the floor, the covered woman crouched forward and pressed the dagger to the other's throat and said as she leaned into her target's ear, "You let your guard down again, Revan."
Revan's mind snapped back to the present, but her body showed no outward sign of surprise as she calmly responded, "What did you do to HK-47?"
Tightening the dagger against Revan's neck the other woman sneered, "So, now you place your life in the hands of a machine, Revan? You're getting sloppy…more so than usual." The mockery in her tone was offset by deep pain and bitterness.
Revan finally opened her eyes and channeled the Force to shove the dagger from her throat as well as push back her attacker. "I tire of this game," Revan snapped, her frustration barely in check as she stood and faced the other woman. "You mean to hurt me with your words because of your guilt for what you did to him, but this was not my fault. He made his choice, Aeryn, just as you made yours."
Aeryn drove the dagger back into its sheath and angrily shoved the cowl off of her head as she growled sarcastically, "Yes, and look what I earned for it, dear sister."
Revan could not stop herself from drawing in a sharp breath at the sight of her sister. Just like Revan, Aeryn's skin was pale and usually smooth, but now it was marred by signs of darkness. Black patches circled her bloodshot, shining bleached white eyes, dead to the Force as they had been since Malachor V. Ropy veins under her skin were visible along the neckline of her black uniform, and Revan was pained to imagine what long exposure to the Dark Side had done to the rest of her twin's body. Aeryn's head was shaved completely bald, and a massive Sith tattoo of intricate shapes stretched from between her eyes, upward across her forehead and scalp, and cascaded down her neck where it vanished beneath her shirt. Yet, all these things, sure signs of darkness and the Sith, were already known to Revan. Her focus rested solely on the single portion of Aeryn's tattoo that lay between her eyes.
The ink looked freshest there, in the shape of a diamond with a blazing red eight pointed star in the center, the only color in the entirely black markings. Her expression blank, Aeryn whispered, "That's what they gave me for killing him, Rev. All because of you."
A hot retort sprang to Revan's lips, but with an effort, she swallowed it and said in a measured tone, "Like I already said, you both made your own decisions."
Aeryn's jaw tightened and she demanded coldly, "Do our sacrifices mean nothing to you?"
A heavy sigh, laden with years of repressed pain and sadness broke from Revan's lips. "They mean everything to me, little sister," she responded quietly. "But this war is not about us. We face this foe here, far from the Republic, to protect those we love. Our life is sacrifice."
Aeryn frowned and remained silent as she regarded her twin for a long moment before she asked sharply, "Why did you call me here, Revan? You know any unexplained absences make the Sith suspicious."
Clearly relieved to finally get down to business, Revan nodded and said simply, "I have a new assignment for you, Aeryn."
Aeryn snorted as she sprawled lazily across a bench. "I'm a spy, Rev," she said. "That's about all I'm good for these days."
"You cannot keep going this way much longer," Revan argued knowingly. "They already suspect you, and soon enough they will decide you are too dangerous to keep around. I cannot risk you any longer."
Aeryn sat up and glared at her sister as she asked, "How can you know they suspect?" Revan shifted with discomfort, turning away from her twin, and Aeryn said accusingly, "You had another vision."
"Yes," Revan whispered, her eyes distant and distracted. "I could not tell you until I saw you in person. You must not return to the Sith, or you will compromise our efforts here and only get yourself killed." She turned back to Aeryn abruptly and announced, "I am sending you back to the Republic with a message for the Jedi Council."
"What?!" Aeryn exploded as she jumped to her feet. "Are you out of your damn mind, Revan? Have you seen me lately? They'll attack me on sight!"
Maintaining her calm, Revan shook her head and explained, "I do not believe so, but if they do and refuse to listen to my message, you are more than prepared to defend yourself against them." Aeryn looked openly surprised at her sister's endorsement of fighting Jedi Masters, but Revan continued, "This is how it must be, Aeryn. I do not understand why, but there is a threat growing within the Republic, and the Force has shown me that only you can bear the burden of it."
"Wonderful," Aeryn growled as she paced the common room uneasily, "putting myself at the mercy of the Force. How comforting."
A small smile twitched Revan's mouth as she murmured, "We are all at the mercy of the Force, little sister."
"Oh, stuff it with the preachy Jedi dogma," Aeryn snapped. She paced silently for another moment before heaving a heavy sigh and asking resignedly, "When do I leave?"
Revan's smile grew and she answered, "Now," as she walked toward the cockpit.
Looking surprised, Aeryn followed and inquired, "What about my ship? It's hidden nearby."
"Leave it," Revan said as she fired up the Ebon Hawk's systems. "The Sith will track it here to this dead world and will be unable to follow us further."
Nodding in understanding, Aeryn muttered, "I wondered why you chose this Force-forsaken hell hole to meet. I don't like this place…there's something wrong about it."
Revan gave her a sharp look before returning to the ship's controls. "What a strange thing for a Force-dead person to say," she mused. "But you are correct, there is something off here, though it is familiar to me. I hoped to find the source before you arrived, but it is allusive. No matter, we have more important things to worry about."
Aeryn sank down into the co-pilot's seat as Revan guided the ship into space. "What's the plan, Rev?" she asked.
"I am taking you to a planet on the Outer Rim where you should be safe until a Republic ship can come for you. When we arrive, I will contact an old friend and arrange for safe transport for you to the Council, then I will return here."
"Your 'old friend' – you mean Carth, right?"
"Yes," Revan confirmed with a fond smile. "If I know him at all, he is still a military man, probably of high rank by now."
Aeryn cast a sly glance at her twin as she said with false innocence, "You'll be close enough to contact all your old friends, Revan. Why not drop Canderous a line to let him know you're still alive?"
Revan's expression hardened and she sent an annoyed glare at her sister. "I have a job to complete, Aeryn, and you know I will not be able to do that if I contact him. Besides, he is doing well enough. We can wait." Aeryn opened her mouth to protest, but Revan said with finality, "We are about to enter hyperspace. You can use the next four weeks to repair my assassin droid that you so thoughtlessly butchered."
Aeryn scowled for a moment before growling, "Fine, but if he tries to kill me when I reactivate him, I'm scrapping him for good."
"But…it itches, Revan."
"Just ignore it, Aeryn."
Aeryn sighed and tried to focus on the panel she was repairing, but seconds later, her fingers found their way back to the two-week-old stubble on her scalp. "Damn it, Revan, it itches!" she wailed.
Unable to stifle a laugh at her twin's childish antics, Revan answered, "It is probably because of the ink the Sith used for the tattoo. In a few more weeks, you will not even notice it, I promise. In fact, in a few weeks, you will practically look your old self again."
The two weeks they had been in space had caused remarkable changes in Aeryn's appearance. Her hair was less than a half-inch long, but even that little bit softened her features dramatically. The dark circles around her eyes had faded, as had the bloodshot appearance throughout her eyes, though her irises remained the pure, empty white that showed her disconnect with the Force. The veins had faded and her skin was smooth once more, but a multitude of fresh scars had been revealed across her back, legs and arms. Revan recognized them as whip lashes, but Aeryn offered no explanation, so Revan did not pry.
"Yeah," Aeryn agreed, easing back to sit beside her sister on the floor of the hyperdrive room. "It's pretty amazing what the Dark Side does to the body, even a body that can't feel the Force, let alone use it."
"'Amazing' is not exactly the word I would use, but, I agree," Revan said with a smirk before turning serious. "As important as the information you supplied me was, I am relieved to have you out of that place, Aeryn. I was…worried."
Aeryn shifted uncomfortably and looked away as she said, "Yeah, I know, Rev. And to be honest, so was I. I…I did things, Revan, that I could never have imagined myself doing. I mean, the only people I killed were rival Sith, except for…." Her voice trailed off as she frowned deeply at the panel before her.
"I know," Revan said to fill the painful silence. She closed the panel she had just finished repairing and stood to leave Aeryn alone with her thoughts.
"I'm sorry." Revan stopped in the doorway and gazed back into her twin's dark expression. "I didn't want to kill him, Revan," Aeryn continued in a low whisper. "But I did him a favor by making it quick. Still…I am sorry." For all the emotions she felt ripping her apart, Aeryn could not conjure up a single tear for the dead.
Revan smiled softly in understanding and reached down to squeeze her sister's shoulder. "He knew the risks, Aeryn, and he gave his life freely. Now he is one with the Force. So, in that aspect, you did do him a favor."
Aeryn's leg bounced nervously as she waited in her ratty apartment on an Outer Rim planet, the name of which she couldn't even pronounce. She and Revan had landed a few days prior, settled Aeryn into the apartment, and now Revan was back at the Hawk establishing a secure link to the Republic.
What the hell am I doing here? Aeryn wondered. This mission is suicide! I was safer working for the Sith…though, Revan's probably right that my cover would have been blown eventually, probably sooner rather than later. Damn her visions. Why can't she ever have happy insights??
Aeryn shot out of her chair as Revan opened the front door. "What happened?" Aeryn demanded as soon as the door slid closed.
"Here," Revan said as she offered her twin a slim black eye visor and ignored the imploring gaze Aeryn was giving her. "You will need this if you wish to remain anonymous both here and back in the Republic."
"Thanks," Aeryn said, taking the visor and putting it over her disturbing eyes. "Now what happened?"
Revan smiled slightly as she answered, "We are all set. Admiral Onasi's fleet is much too far away to reach this planet any time soon, so he is dispatching the nearest vessel. The Harbinger should arrive in about six weeks time."
"Six weeks?" Aeryn complained as she wrinkled her nose at the dirty apartment. "Oh, well. I did see some promising cantinas yesterday. Perhaps it's time to get reacquainted with my old friend juma juice, eh?" she added with playful wink.
"Do you ever act your age?" Revan asked with a wry headshake. "If the Republic finds you as wasted and useless as I found you three years ago, I will come back here to detox you myself, understand?"
Aeryn offered a mocking salute as she teased, "Yes, sir. Now, let's get you to your ship – you've got a war to win."