A/N I posted this to kotorfanmedia some time ago and realized I forgot to cross-post it here. If anyone knows cures for Writer's block. I'll certainly take them because I'm locked up on Destiny's Pawn.
The transport ship Ossus lumbered through the great vacuum like a bantha. It was a Jedi ship, but there was only one true Jedi among the three-dozen passengers. Despite the average age of the passengers being seventeen, everyone was quiet and subdued for they knew they were the failures, the disappointments. They either had no families to return to, or they had been taken from their families too young to recall them. Reaching the age of majority without finding a master to train them, they were being shipped out to the Outer Rim world of Telos to be laborers and farmers.
The towheaded lad in the medical bay was among their number. Promising in the Force as Mical was, everyone assumed someone else would train him when he came of age. Some knew he'd already been chosen for training, but that Jedi shipped out to the Mandalorian War with Revan and the rest of the traitors. When it became clear that no one would be that "someone else" to train him, they started him on the drugs and started training him as a medical technician. It was the best fit to his aptitudes other than Jedi work, or so they told him.
He was at the lab station, working on synthesizing medicines from the basic compounds they had on the ship to make the necessary drugs. They were commonly called "numbing wafers," as the chemicals disrupted brain chemistry so that one wasn't able to sense the Force. It was a mostly painless process, a dull headache being the most common side-effect. The feeling was akin to going deaf – what was once easy to hear taking more effort until there was nothing but silence. It was more to protect them, to make sure their Sensitivity would no longer trouble them.
Mical prepared the batches as normal, put it in the processor to form the wafers, and made sure to take his own dose from the tray first, the wafer dissolving under his tongue. This was his new life, his new duty. It was the Will of the Force that he serve the Jedi not be among them. It was to be his place, and he wasn't going to question that. The only thing he really wondered was that Telos would be like. It just didn't seem proper to be shipped out to a planet to live out one's days without knowing anything about it other then a dry readout on the climate.
He put the doses on the hovercart and was about to leave the sickbay when the door opened. The dour-looking Arkanian had his lightsaber in-hand and was scowling more than usual.
"Master Artax," Mical said, leaving his cart behind to tend to the Jedi. "What troubles you?"
Artax looked at the cart. "You've taken your dose today, correct?"
"Yes, I have the latest batch ready to dispense, why?"
"We'll need you to do it quickly, then get back to the medical station. We're going to need you to make bandages and emergency medicines – as fast and as much as you can. Casualty reports are in the thousands now, and expected to be worse by the time we arrive."
"Master?" Mical was confused, the sinking feeling in his stomach turning to nausea as it interacted with the wafer. "What has happened? Have the Sith attacked a convoy? Are we changing course?"
"No, it is worse." His voice was calm, impossibly so, and Mical felt himself shivering. "We have received a distress call from Telos itself. We will be taking as many aboard as we can. We will need all available hands to the medical bay."
The Ossus was the second ship on the scene, coming out of the hyperspace jump just six hours after the Leviathan left the system in search of new prey. However, news traveled faster, a funereal hush weighing on her decks so heavily hardly anyone dared to move, let alone speak. The only thing Mical had heard since the announcement were the chatter and hum of the droids pacing the deck, oblivious to all but their tasks.
The sickbay was checked and double-checked, every medical droid on standby, a cargo hold hastily converted into a morgue for the dead they had yet to bring in. What it really marked was a turning point in this whole war. Sure, it was known Revan fell, that the best and brightest of the Republic's protectors – Jedi and soldier – were turning to her ranks. It was also known Malak had gone from the consummate Guardian to a creature with blood-thirst that would make Mandalorians terrified. It was also known that, as Sith, the former friends were in competition, with devastation to the Republic being their method of proving points against one another. Telos was proof of all of the above in a single, brutal package.
As soon as the Ossus assumed orbit, a load of one thousand, three-hundred, and twenty-two casualties from Telos were assigned to her. Most were from the capital city of Thani, sectors twelve through twenty-eight of the residential quarter.
The corridors were a blur of blue coveralls hopping from cot to cot. Kolto was on strict ration, so conventional medicines were put to use. Cots were stuffed into any available space; droid closets, supply rooms, even the corridors when those failed them. The deafening din of screams and medical equipment was inescapable as people shouted for their loved ones or made frantic inquiries. One man with a crude tourniquet strapped to the remains of his leg tried to dictate his will to the two corpsmen trying to treat him.
Out of the casualties, there were four-hundred and twelve deaths within the first twenty-four hours, primarily from blunt force trauma, smoke inhalation, and burns. Yet, out of the fatalities, those injuries only accounted for three-hundred and fifty-nine. The other fatalities had injuries that, while severe, were treatable with conventional medicine. When someone died, they were pushed off into the cargo bay like freight, awaiting a droid-powered shuttle to Telos. As pestilence brought on by the decaying bodies was just as much a threat to the survivors as any bombs, there was little dignity they could give to the dead other than charting their name (if known) and DNA, then stacking them into a pile and burning the lot with high- temperature plasma charges that cremated the dead instantly. All to make room for more casualties. One shuttle of bodies, one shuttle of patients.
Mical lost count of how many bodies he had pushed into the cargo bay, how many lives he summed up with a blood sample and a name in the logs. One was an old woman so horribly mangled she barely resembled anything human. One was a Rodian boy that looked to be sleeping, if not for the tell-tale discoloration – the smoke choked him in his sleep. Another was a Mirialan woman of middle-age with expensive clothing that was stacked with a Twilek man that had likely been homeless. Death was indeed the great equalizer.
The smell of blood and chemicals was heavy on the deck as Mical worked tirelessly. He'd been without sleep for thirty-two hours now, and sorely wished he was still able to extend his endurance with aid from the Force. As it was, he was cobbling together crude stimulants to stay awake and reasonably alert.
Mical was in the shuttle bay, unloading the latest batch of casualties when he got his first look at his future. He was working with three others to pull the living casualties off the shuttle, to replace them with their latest batch of the dead. While time had flown during the chaos (and don't bloody well quote him the third line of the Code, there wasn't a damn bit of harmony in it), it seemed to slow the instant he approached that last repulsorlift stretcher.
Perhaps it was only the combination of sleep, stimulants, horror, and death that put in in this daze, but Mical would never stop believing in the Force, even when it no longer believed in him. Right now, it was calling him towards the otherwise anonymous man.
Unlike the others he had been treating, this one was clearly a soldier – human, possibly in his early thirties, he had a square jaw and high cheekbones, auburn hair cut in a typical military style, with the start of a beard in the same shade. Trim and athletic with hands callused in the right way for a pistoleer, he wore a republic officer's uniform, stained with so much dried blood the yellow panels on the tunic were practically obscured. Superficial lacerations and abrasions covered his face, and his hands were cut and bruised all over. Like so many others, he had been trying to dig in the rubble for something, maybe someone...
Like many of those taken too early to remember anything other than enclaves, the idea of loving someone was a curiosity on many levels. It was like trying to explain the Force to those who couldn't feel it, something one knew to exist, but had no true comprehension about what it meant. It wasn't anything that they were trained to comprehend, and unlike most of the others, Mical wondered often about what it would be like to care for someone so much.
He made a show of checking the datapad hooked up to the medical scanner, both to check the vitals and to put a name to one of the dozens he had been trying to save.
Onasi, Carth. Trained as a freighter pilot with a call-sign of "Fleet." Rank of Lieutenant Commander, native to Telos. Injuries consisted of moderate internal injuries and several fractures in his lower legs from what looked to be falling debris. He had been put on bone knitters and sedated as the kolto was on strict rationing. Furthermore, he had suffered smoke inhalation and a catalog's worth of cuts and bruises.
Mical put the datapad to the side, feeling a little silly for doing this, and too delirious to truly care. "Good to meet you, Commander. I'm Mical, and I wish we would be meeting under better circumstances." Steering the stretcher out of the shuttle, Mical started to push him out of the shuttle bay and into the corridor. He had just set up a treatment cuff with saline and vitamins, a crude but effective method of keeping the man hydrated and blood pressure steady.
Mical's head snapped up to see Master Artax at the foot of the bed, looking distant and sad.
Artax looked down at the unconscious soldier. "See to the ones who will live, Mical. He won't."
Again, feeling bold and a little argumentative. "Pardon me, Master Artax, but his injuries aren't all that sev-"
"It's not the injuries that kill, it's the attachments. You've seen them, Mical. The ones who will themselves dead, the ones who lost everything they held onto."
Again, the exhaustion must have been affecting him, or so he told himself at the time. "I will not give up on a man that can be saved! Surely, there is something this soldier can still live for."
Artax walked up and looked down at the unconscious soldier. "That soldier isn't likely to see the next week. I can see it in the Force."
"And I say this man is going to live!" Mical argued. No small part of him felt like he was going crazy. Why was he arguing a Jedi – a Jedi Master no less? What was it about one particular patient that was causing him to get like this? It was like something outside him had taken control of his voice. "I've put enough of the dead on shuttles. He will not be among that number."
Artax stared at him like he had just announced his intention to join the Sith and grumbled something about the Jedi that followed Revan and how Mical belonged in those ranks with his would-have-been master. Mical ignored most of it, making the final adjustments to the treatment cuff.
"I know for a fact, Mical, that you are deaf to the Force and can't see the mark of death on him," Artax shook his head, looking at the soldier. "But if you are willing to try and save this one, I can't fault you."
At the forty-third hour, Mical was relieved to get food and some hours of sleep. Sleep, however, was something of a cruel joke, a blurry recap of all the death he saw. His "food" amounted to little but the ration bar and protein drink he choked down. He put on his blue coveralls, dreading the next parade of dwindling medicine and a steady flow of casualties. All I seem to be doing is pulling them in, shooting them up, then transporting them to be burned. It's less healing and more a bloody factory. When Mical walked out into the halls, sure enough there were a different set of injured, ill, and dying than before.
Walking to an information terminal, he punched up a search for Carth Onasi, thinking that he should humbly apologize for his outburst to Artax. If a Master had seen someone's death in the Force, then who was he to question it? He was just a failed apprentice, one of the Order's disappointments...
His heart almost burst through his chest when he saw the name among those still living. Quickly, he punched up the location of the patient – a converted droid closet on his way to the medical bay. When Mical got to the location, he half expected it to be empty, or another refugee in the soldier's place. That would have meant the computer was wrong and Artax was right. But the soldier was lying on the cot, looking just as lost as Mical felt, literally staring into nothing and had obviously been at it for some time.
"You're alive. Oh, thank the Force..." Mical breathed, hanging against the door frame.
Carth glanced up before sagging back on the pillow. "Do I know you?"
"I'm not assigned to you at all, I just...saw you this morning..." Mical looked at his shoes, feeling terribly foolish. "My name is Mical. I'm one of the medics aboard."
Carth stared at the ceiling. "Telos, the bombing..all of it. It wasn't a bad dream."
Mical swallowed hard. "I'm afraid not, Commander. You're on theOssus, a Jedi ship."
"Jedi? Talk about a carbon flush." Carth didn't even look his direction. "But it is true...that means..."
Mical almost jumped with alarm. He saw that look – the suicides and those who died with treatable injuries had it. He almost dove over to Carth's side. "I can look into the refugee reports. If any of your family has survived, I can..."
The other man shook his head. "No good. She..." He raised his hands and looked at them. "I know my wife's dead." He did look up at Mical with a thin hope. "My son, though. I wasn't able to find...Look him up. Last name of Onasi, first name is Dustil. He just turned twelve a month ago."
Mical nodded quickly and pulled up the datapad, entering the name, searching the names of living refugees. No result. He tried pulling up the names of those documented dead. Sure enough, the only hit he was able to find under "Onasi" in that database was a woman named Morgana, aged forty, died in the militia's mobile treatment unit awaiting transport to a ship, as the unit ran out of medicine twenty minutes earlier.
"I see no entries for a Dustil, but I shall look on your behalf, Commander." Checking the time, Mical knew he had to leave. "I will come by and visit you as soon as my shift is over. I should have answers by then."
The injuries they got now were not as critical, more people they could patch up and ship out to the refugee freighters bound for Citadel Station or out to the Ords. The still looked like walking dead – glass-eyed and unable to move at any speed faster than a shuffle. An orphan human refused to leave the side of an older Deveronian girl until her own mother broke down and agreed to take the child with them. An Ithorian bellowed for a herd that no longer was, delirious from fever. A Rodian managed to find a way to get her hands on an ordinary human medicine that was fatal to her species and commit suicide with it. Contagions from poisoned air and water were replacing the traumatic injuries they saw the previous two days. And Mical continued his work, building drugs and ferrying the dead to mass cremation on the planet below.
Most of it became a blur. The promise he made to Commander Onasi earlier in the day was a better focus than Jedi mantras, and when he got off the shift, he did another check and double-check of the casualty logs. Still, no entries for a Dustil Onasi, either in the living or the dead.
At the end of the shift, when he was downloading the results of his search (or lack of results, rather) to a datapad, Master Artax approached him with the numbing wafer. Without thinking about it, Mical accepted it.
"You've worked very hard, Mical."
"Thank you, Master Artax. I've good news, too. Commander Onasi is still alive. I checked on him this morning."
"He's not on your duty rotation."
"I checking with him when I was off-shift as to not neglect any patients. I thought you would be pleased with the news."
Artax put his hands behind his back. "While the news of me being wrong about someone's death usually is, Mical, I don't like the idea of you taking interest in a specific patient. Why him? You barely know this man, and yet I sense attachment, why?"
Mical shrugged. "It's not attachment...not really. Maybe he just puts a face and name on all these patients. Most of the time, the only names I get is when I'm entering them in the fatality reports. You said the Force marked him for death, so the fact he's still alive and getting stronger...Perhaps the fact gives me hope."
Artax shook his head. "Hope's nothing to rely on."
"If I am deaf to the Force, and I cannot rely on hope, what may I rely on, Master Artax?"
Artax thought for a moment, trying hard to find an answer. Maybe he was too tired to come up with one. Mical had once thought Jedi Masters were the wisest sentients in the galaxy, but at that moment Artax looked to be just another man. "Take your wafer, Mical. Get some rest."
Mical took the wafer and put it on his tongue. He hadn't noticed its bitter taste much before, but now he practically gagged on it.
Late, during his alloted relief time, Mical found he still couldn't sleep very well, the din and the blur of patients he had seen during the day played back for him in slow motion, especially the parade of the dead, their open and darkened eyes accusing him, staring at him. He could try to punch up a sedative, but mixing stimulants to keep awake and sedatives to sleep was the downfall of many medics.
Taking a deep breath, Mical tried to call on the simplest of meditative exercises. He had always relied on it to calm him and put him to sleep, stilling his thoughts and listening to the Force instead.
But nothing sang back. For the first time, Mical was truly alone.
Giving up on sleep, he took the datapad from the table and went to find Carth.
Carth was still in the converted droid closet where he had been earlier in the day, propped up against the wall with the help of a foam wedge. Mical took out the datapad as he approached.
Carth opened his eyes. "Mical? You're back."
Mical sat on a footlocker, since there wasn't much room to maneuver in the narrow room. "Yes, why wouldn't I be?"
"I've seen nothing but medical droids all day," he said. "I suppose you forgot about -"
"No, sir." Mical handed over the datapad. "I meant what I said. Unfortunately, I have only that."
"Dustil's not listed among the living." Carth folded the datapad to his chest and shut his eyes.
Mical snatched the datapad back, and punched up the other list. "He's not among the dead, either. I ran a scan against all the unidentified bodies as well. None of them is a match to your DNA; therefore your son may still be alive."
"'May' being the operative word. TSF is still pulling bodies out."
Mical sighed. "For one, I'm hoping he's still alive."
"Oh, don't pull that bantha pile on me," Carth argued. "He's what to you? A name and a blood sample?"
"Maybe," Mical countered. "But you are not."
Mical was preparing for a contemptuous argument or some insulting reference to the Jedi. But all he got was an owlish blink. "Why?"
"I can't even answer that myself," Mical admitted. "I just know I want you to live."
Carth laughed, but there wasn't the slightest bit of mirth to it. "So, you want me to live? How about if I tell you that the hell that you're seeing all around you – and the planet was worse – is my fault. I could have stopped it and I blew it. Still want me alive then?"
Mical went over the things that came to mind in terms of an answer. Many of them were platitudes about the sanctity of life and how this fellow couldn't have prevented the Sith onslaught. That's all they were, though. Neither of them could use platitudes. Folding his arms and leaning back, he raised an eyebrow. "I would need more information."
"Okay. Man who did this – I know him. He is – was- my mentor, someone I called a friend. He was there at my son's naming ceremony, for Force's sake! He wanted me in on this."
"Somehow, I can't picture you being close friends with Darth Malak."
"Not who I'm talking about. Besides, he probably can't take a leak without Revan's permission."
"This kind of destruction isn't her style," Mical countered. "She's all surgical strikes, assassinations, selective targets and symbolic gestures. Malak's pattern is different. "I've been watching this war closely, hoping..." He shut his mouth before he said anything further.
"Hoping to join her, that it?" he snarled. "Why the hell not, right? Beats being on the losing side, or so that chuff-sucker Saul Karath told me two weeks before he turned my home to slag."
Mical knew he shouldn't be doing this, but if it distracted Carth, so be it. "I did try, yes. But I was all of twelve years old, and they kicked me off the ship going to the Mandalorian front as soon as they caught me stowing away."
"You don't look like a Jedi."
"Because I'm not," Mical said, his shoes somehow becoming fascinating at that moment. "I failed my training, so I'd be no use to the Sith, either."
"I see," Carth said.
Mical, eager to change the subject, checked Carth's vitals. "You're getting stronger every time I see you. A week or two, and you'll be walking out of here under your own power."
Carth seemed a little disappointed, grumbling something Mical couldn't make out and looking at the blank wall.
"You really don't want to live, do you?" Mical asked.
Again, no answer. There was something about that wound in the other man that resonated, He would have said he sensed it in the Force, but knew that couldn't be the case anymore. The desperation and pain he was feeling...Mical knew that his life, for all intents, was over. The Service Corps was a dead-end. Everything he treasured - books, holocrons, dreams of service, the rolling hills of Dantooine - all of it was closed to him. Even the planet he was to serve was gone. He knew it likely paled to losing one's family, but he never had a family and therefore had no reference.
"I won't pretend to understand your pain, Commander," Mical said. "But I can offer an open ear."
After more than two minutes of companionable silence, Carth turned towards him. "Mical, do you trust the Jedi?"
"I have no reason not to...not really, anyway. The Masters know what is best for me, and I...I've no choice but to accept their judgment." He made a show of checking the treatment cuff on Carth's arm.
"Don't trust the guy who claims he knows better about your life than you do. Just look out the damn port if you want proof of why you shouldn't," Carth said with a sneer.
"The man you knew?"
Barely a nod, but Mical saw it.
"Mical," Carth said, leaning back on the wedge. "Talk to me."
"About what, exactly?"
"Anything - the swoop race scores, the ship's gossip. Hell, even rattling off a supply list would help. You're the only live person who comes by, and the only thing that plays back when I close my eyes..." He stopped himself. "I could use a break, and you can, too., Start talking, kid."
"Very well. Have you even been to Dantooine?"
"Can't say as I have."
So, Mical told Carth everything about Dantooine; telling him about the grasslands that stretched as far as the eye could see, about how the biggest landowner was a chronic pain for the local Council, about how fast iriaz ran. Carth interjected, sometimes going on a tangent about some of the places he'd been posted, but his voice would always trail off when it got too close to something painful, and Mical was quick to lead the subject back to something carefully neutral. After an hour or more, they both were yawning.
Carth's voice was softer when he spoke again, starting to doze off. "Mical, thank you."
"For what, exactly?"
"For giving a damn."
Mical looked over his shoulder before he left. "Rest, Commander. I'll be by when I can."
Fewer live patients were coming aboard by the fourth day. Now, they were getting soldiers who had been poisoned during the rescue operation. Telos was becoming a dead world, a toxic stew of pollution and bombing residue turning the world's skies a thick gray. Most of the plant life was already dead. Within a week, the atmosphere would be unbreathable. TSF forces came in coughing and vomiting up blood. They had to put ocular implants in one sergeant whose eyes were literally burned away by the chemicals recovering bodies from Caiten City. One private, no more than twenty, was dragged in by two of his squad, but it was already too late – he went into cardiac arrest and died as Mical was fitting him with a treatment cuff. Ten more TSF personnel were in kolto tanks until artificial lungs could be found for their damaged ones.
After his shift, Mical tried his search again, and still came up with no news for the Commander. Still, Mical was imagining that it wouldn't be long before the man's injuries were healed. He put the datapad in his pocket and walked down the corridor, back into the droid closet and opened the door.
Empty. The cot was gone, the equipment was gone, and there was no sign of Commander Onasi. Confused, Mical sped to the next terminal and turned it on, running a search.
Triage unit. Critical care. No!
Mical didn't care how improper it was. He ran, praying to a Force he could no longer hear.
As soon as he came through the doors, Jena stood in front of him, blocking his way. Obviously, word of Mical and his unofficial patient had spread around the ship. "Where is he? Is he?"
Jena put her hands on his shoulders. "We have him on medicine. Lucky the droid caught it in time. Mical, he's not your patient."
Mical shook his head. "What does that have to -" He looked around to see several people in the Service Corps blue coveralls staring at him for his outburst. "Jena, please..."
"Mical, you've been working like a bantha, longer and harder than most of us. I think this has gone to your head. You need to rest, too."
"Jena, I just need to know if he will live. I know he is not my patient, but he..." Mical swallowed the lump in his throat. "Jena, I know what we are supposed to believe, but I...I think of him as a friend. Please, let me see him."
"Master Artax isn't going to like this, but..." Jena bit her lip. "Well, he asked for you when he came to. And frankly, most of his recovery depends on him wanting to live."
"Where is he?"
Jena handed Mical a medkit and guided him over to a nook, open on one side and walled on three as it was in the far corner of the medbay. He was partially propped up to help his breathing, though it was still labored.
"Commander Onasi," Jena said. "You have a visitor."
One brown eye cracked open. "Evening, Mike."
Normally, Mical hated that nickname, but he would tolerate it coming from Carth. "You gave me quite the scare."
"Mical, most of his medications are in that kit. Anything goes wrong, you yell, okay?"
"I will. Certainly. Thank you."
Jena stepped out, leaving the two of them with as much privacy as anyone could have on the ship at the moment.
"Wasn't able to breathe. Signaled the droid, but I heard it was close," Carth said.
Mical paused, pulling out his updated report. "Still no records of your son among the dead."
"But nothing in the refugee list, either."
"Many private ships left Telos and escaped the Sith fleet. There could be over ten thousand refugees not showing up on the official logs, and that's a conservative estimate."
"Doesn't matter. Either way, I failed."
Mical looked at the datapad. "If you die, what will I tell your son when I find him?"
Carth narrowed his eyes. "He probably already hates me for spending so much time away. I fought like hell to protect Morgana and Dustil. I was supposed to be the one giving my life for them. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Do you know how kriffing many ships like yours I piloted? Crammed to the gills with people who lost everything? The Mandalorians nuked Serroco from orbit – took out every city. The fallout was as bad as the initial blast. The rubble still glows in the dark, probably."
Carth couched hard, almost doubling over. Mical went to steady him and check the cuff. "Easy there..."
"Don't...frakking...tell me...'easy.'" Carth managed between coughs. Managing to catch his breath again, he continued. "Serroco was only one of so...many worlds I lost track. You were too young for that war, but I was there...I...saw so much I..." He sucked in breath and Mical waited for him. "I saw a lot of people die, ordered people to their deaths, saw civilians with limbs blown up. Towards the end of it, Mandalore had strapped kids – kids no older than about eight – with high grade explosives and sent them charging at us. I didn't want to explain it to 'Gana. I couldn't...I went through all that so they would never have to understand those things."
Mical waited patiently while Carth hacked and coughed. The treatment cuff was injecting the necessary blood thinners, but it took effect in minutes, not seconds. At least the medkit Jena gave him had a dose of kolto. That would certainly help, but he had to want that help. Mistrust and guilt weighed so heavily on the other man's face.
Carth leaned back and closed his eyes, trying to shut Mical out. "I'm dying, right?"
"Not if you want to live, but you have to want it. We can pump drugs in your blood, we can monitor your condition. We can do all those things, but unless you want to live..."
Carth seemed to be debating this in his head silently.
Mical gritted his teeth. If this man was going to live, he'd have to get up and fight. Looking back, he could have made appeals about how the Republic needed veteran soldiers. He could have invoked philosophies about how suffering was unavoidable. He could have even parroted the pithy words of his teachers on Dantooine, far from this hell.
But, he didn't. Maybe it was fatigue. Maybe it was anger at being cast off and having nowhere to go now, maybe it was even the Dark Side. Maybe it was all those things fused with desperation. His patience spent, his voice a growl, he fired back. "You say you could have stopped all this. You blame yourself? Fine, then. If it is your fault, Commander Onasi, then death is far too light a sentence. Your punishment is to live long enough to make Karath see justice."
Carth scowled. "You aren't Jedi, and you aren't...Just what are you, anyway?"
Mical sighed and threw up his hands, frustration over all the compounded failures bubbling over. "I am nothing, no one, and with nowhere to go. The Jedi took me practically from infancy, then threw me out with the recycling. I was headed to Telos to perform manual labor in a farming commune, and now even that is gone. There are so many patients and so much traffic going in and out that the only names I've actually learned are yours and the corpses. I've no home, no family, no work, and not but ten credits in my pockets. As crazy as it's going to sound, you're the last bit of hope I have. So go ahead and die. All the better to prove me a failure." Realizing he was flushed red from his outburst, and kicking himself for ranting about his own troubles which paled by comparison, he sat heavily at the foot of the bed.
There was no answer, It was not like he was owed one after the complete fool he just made of himself. Two deep breaths later, he attempted a better explanation.
"I…damn…I…" Mical's mouth no longer seemed to work, and he buried his face in his hands. Force, his eyes were stinging. Of course, he was a disappointment. Jedi were masters of their emotions, caring for all equally and never one over others. Here he was, investing so much in someone he barely knew and who didn't want his help. All he had to look forward to after this was being shipped out to another Outer Rim world, maybe even ending up tending to the refugees they had crammed on freighters earlier. He was going to be left behind while others made a difference, accepting his exile humbly and quietly. With the blocks in place and the drugs doing their work, there wasn't even the feeling of connection, no comfort in the Force.
However briefly, he envied the dead. He understood. Composing himself, he made an attempt to explain.
"I believe in the Republic. The rule of law, the right of all sentients to equal treatment under those laws, the right of planets and people to govern themselves as they see fit. All I've ever wanted for my life was to serve the ideals it stands for. Live for it, die for it. Makes no difference. And I'll never have that chance. I failed. My best was not good enough, either."
A terribly long silence followed, and Mical was certain that Carth was staring at him with contempt or worse. When he dared look up, there was a thoughtful look on his face.
"You're serious about that?"
Mical nodded, not trusting his ability to speak.
"The Fleet needs all the good men we can get – especially now. You take all that dedication and put it into the Fleet, and I'll sponsor you. In exchange, I'll not only live, but I'll recover enough to go back to the Fleet and kill that Sithspawn myself. Deal?" The look on the soldier's face would have scared Mical a few days ago, but was now oddly encouraging.
Mical stood up and brushed the wrinkles out of his coveralls, salvaging as much dignity as he could. He reached out his hand. "You have a deal, sir."
Carth accepted the handshake, and for the first time since Telos was gone, he was smiling.
Over the next five days, patients were being shipped off the Ossus and onto transports out of the sector. It was still busy with the injured they already had, but there were signs of life and renewal. The last transport included the mother of one of the younglings they had aboard, a Zabrak boy who hadn't spoke a word since they brought him aboard excitedly shouted when he saw his mother and flew into her arms, the woman thanking Master Artax profusely. The old Arkanian may have even shed a tear, though that could have been a trick of the lighting. Jena, one of his fellow corps members excitedly told the story of a pair of Twi'leks from different sectors that had been seen holding hands as they left the ship, only having met when the shuttles brought them to the medical bay.
Among the ones who had recovered enough for transfer was Commander Onasi. Mical wasn't there to see his transfer to the Aken, a Republic medical cruiser, where he was expected to make a full recovery. He hadn't expected Carth to follow through with an agreement made when he was in a hospital bed, pumped full of medicine, but one of the protocol droids delivered a datapad to him.
I called in some favors from the Mandalorian Wars to get this pushed through. In some ways, you remind me a bit of another of the Jedi's screw-ups. You can thank him for those millions of lives saved at Serroco. Always wanted to thank the kid, but he vanished and I never saw him again.
Only advice I can give – keep your eyes open and watch your six. People can't be trusted and that goes double for Jedi. Hope their loss is the Republic's gain.
I've made good on my end. You make good on yours.
Carth Onasi, Lieutenant Commander, 88th Outer Rim Fleet.
With datapad in hand, Mical walked into Master Artax's quarters. The Arkanian got up from his cross-legged meditation position and gestured for Mical to come in.
"I thought you should know, the Ossus is headed to Ord Mantell until the High Council assigns us another post."
"I'll not be going."
Artax blinked, like he could not believe what he was hearing. "Mical?"
"I found my own way. I've already signed up to join the Republic fleet." He produced the datapad.
Artax shook his head, glancing at it and putting it aside. "I can't –"
"I've checked the legality of it. I've reached majority without achieving Padawan rank, the drugs and training have done their work. I've also found a sponsor to the academy on Gallius Prime. The TSF freighter will be leaving for there tomorrow, and I've obtained permission from the captain to come aboard once you've signed the papers."
Artax nodded with understanding "Commander Onasi. He was in here just before discharge. Looks like the two of you made quite the impression on one another."
"I would think you'd be glad to be rid of me."
"Look around you, Mical. What you've seen – this is war. You sign on, and you'll be lost to it. Death, possibly worse." Artax shook his head. "I know how much you idolized Li-Bek and Revan, and look what war turned them into. Li-Bek's in exile – a ruin, a shell of a man. Revan's a lost cause. War's no place for you. You're a scholar, a -"
It came out sharper than he wanted, but Mical didn't mind. "I respect the Order's decision. You've made it clear that I am not to be a Jedi, but I will still serve the Republic and what it stands for. If it's with a blaster rather than a lightsaber, then so be it."
"I see," Artax said. "Well, you are right in that I can't stop you, but I won't be at your funeral, either." He pulled out the desk drawer and the vial, shaking out one white wafer. "Your last dose, Mical. Farewell, and Force be with you."
Mical took it and left the office. He popped the wafer in his mouth absently, just like he had for the past few months. He would have let it dissolve, like all the other times, but he spit it back into his palm.
Don't trust the guy who claims he knows better about your life than you do. Just look out the damn port if you want proof of why you shouldn't.
In disgust, he looked up at the security cam silently sweeping the hallway and palmed it instead. Later, he'd dispose of it in the fresher.
It was the first deception he didn't mind committing.