This was ridiculous. She was a Jedi, a Force-gifted warrior chosen for her raw power. She had faced down Sith Force-soldiers, battle droids, insane Selkaths and even monsters from her darkest imaginations. She had openly confessed her love for a man she knew was war-criminal, and she loved him still. Yet here is was a door that defeated her. Not an armored gate of some legendary fortress, bristling with auto-turrets and plasma shields. Not a reinforced blast door of a star-cruiser. Not even a bared door with a childish "No Girls Allowed" sign of some local boys youth club. No, a simple plasteel door, unlocked and inviting. Painted in a faded yellow pigment, worn and rusted with time and howling desert winds. A bar's door. But in Bastila's mind it loomed large; it seemed larger than the entire world. Larger than anything she had ever seen. Its shadow fell over her, consuming and suffocating her.
A hand brushed against hers and she flinched. She looked over at her companion, the man she was hopelessly in love with. His features were written with sympathy and concern. He knew even without reading her mind how difficult this was for her. Their eyes met and for the briefest of moment, Bastila let the walls down and their minds connected again.
It was like fire and water condensed into one pure thought. Her fear was warmed and soothed, as if Alex was wrapping a blanket around her mind. But her anger, supplied by her fear, was cooled and calmed. In one split second, she felt a wave of reassuring calmness overwhelm her. She felt his love for her and she basked in it. How could she ever deny this? Why would she ever want to? This was bliss. Bastila smiled, and the moment was lost.
False memories and images of him cradling Juhani burst into her mind. She saw his lips on Juhnai, and heard the Cathar growl his name. Bastila turned from him, an all too familiar anger welling up inside her. She closed the Force-bond and Alexander flinched at the sudden, harsh action.
The door to the cantina ground open and a drunk rodian stumbled out. From inside Bastila could smell carcinogen smoke, alcohol, and the perfume of poll-dancers. The rodian spat a wad of goo on the ground.
"Charming" Bastila said dismissively.
"Hurr, spend ten minutes with that blasted woman and my bowl movements will seem like heaven." The rodian slurred. All three Jedi winced.
"I didn't need that mental image." Alex sighed.
"Ja', I could have lived without knowing that." Juhani managed. The rodian left in a huff, mumbling to himself.
"He must have been speaking to my mother." Bastila sighed more to herself than her Jedi companions, "Wonderful. She's hitting the bottles again. Wish I could say I'm surprised."
"Bas, you okay?" Alex whispered. She turned to him and saw only Juhani ravaging his lips, taking off his clothes and having him. She turned away and attempted to force the images from her mind. She didn't respond, she just moved into the cantina.
Bastila pushed her way through some crowds; mostly drunk losers drooling over Twi'lek sex-dancers. Juhani too ignored the lustful looks she received. Alex paused for a moment, watching a particularly flexible dancer. Glares from both Jedi set him in motion again. Bastila saw her mother through the crowds in an instant. She was at a booth in the far corner. She was alone. Bastila approached with robotic, stiff strides.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" the woman asked when Bastila stood next to the booth.
"Typical." Bastila said, "I am here, mother. Or are you too drunk to remember me?" Alex and Juhani shared concerned looks but said nothing.
"What the hell do you expect?" Helen Shan exclaimed, "I haven't seen you in decades. Not even so as a wave-message with a photo. How the hell am I suppose to recognize you?" She paused and glanced at her two companions before continuing, "Do you know how long I have been trying to find you?"
"What did you expect?" Bastila sneered, "You knew that communication would be impossible once I joined the order. Now what's this all about, mother? Where is father?" Helen studied her daughter for a hard moment and slid her drink to the opposite side of the table. She motioned to the seat there.
"Sit." Helen said simply, "I should have expected as much." Bastila studied the drink and seat but accepted neither. She turned her glare back to her mother.
"Did something happen to father?"
"Your father is dead, Bastila." Helen said after a moment, "That is part of the reason I wanted to see you."
Bastila's mind collapsed and her vision swam. Alex steadied her with a firm hand and Bastila fell into his embrace. No images came. She just let herself be held in his warm embrace. Her father…dead. After so many years apart, this is her home-coming? Tears brimmed in Bastila's eyes and she slowly pulled away. She offered Alex a grateful half-smile and he made the most of it. Bastila turned back to her mother who raised an eye-brow at the display of affection.
"What happened?" Bastila asked, then her eyes narrowed and anger filled her again, "What did you do to him?"
"Bas!" Alex began but she held up a hand to silence him. Helen scoffed and spoke directly at Alexander.
"Isn't this a lovely reunion?" She asked, "Already she's blaming me for everything. Tell me…you're one of her friends I'm sure. Do you treat your mother this badly."
"Leave him out of this!" Bastila stepped between the two, her eyes burning. Alex gently pushed her aside and Bastila sighed.
"My mother died a long time ago, if you must know." Alex said diplomatically. Both Juhani and Bastila blinked at this. Bastila knew it was a false memory, but still…the Jedi had given him the memory of his mother's death? Helen raised an eye brow and turned to Juhani.
"And you? I hope you at least treat your mother with the respect she deserved." She asked. Juhnai opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. More memories flashed in her mind but Alex placed a hand on her shoulder and she relaxed. Bastila stiffened at this, and Helen noticed the jealousy in her daughter's eyes.
"I…my mother has also passed on." Juhnai said after a moment, "But I cherished the time we had together."
"Is that so?" Helen said, "Well I'm likely to join her soon, I guess." Bastila sighed at the pleading tone her mother had.
"I was told you were sick." She said simply, "Are you really dying or is this another melodramatic cry for attention?"
"Such sweet things to say to your mother." She eyed Alexander and smirked, "I hope for your sake she can put that tongue of hers to better use than insults." Alex blushed at this and turned away. Bastila felt the hair on the back of her neck rise and she almost growled.
Your mother hates you…the voice in her head mocked…she let your father die
"Enough, mother!" She spat, "Tell me what happened to father." She slammed her hands on the table, knocking Helen's forgotten drink over. Helen rose to the challenge.
"I hadn't realized Jedi were so spiteful!" She spat, "You want me to tell you I brought your father here for an expedition, do you? You want to blame his death on me?"
"Hey, calm down." Alex tried to get between the two women.
"Did you?" Bastila said through her teeth, "Are you responsible for his death?"
"You never could accept that your father loved hunting. He loved traveling and searching for treasure. He loved leaving you alone with me!" Helen sighed, "But no…I was always the villain. I was always to blame." Bastila just glared at the woman. Her eyes were unmerciful.
"Fine!" Helen exlciamed, "Yes I brought your father here to look for kryat dragon pearls. On the open market just one would be worth millions. The expedition went into the desert and he died."
"How can you be so sure?" Bastila asked, "Father is an experienced hunter…you didn't even bother to look, did you?"
"I know he's dead, Bastila." Helen said sadly, and this gave Bastila a pause. "They were attacked by the kryat dragon and one of the mercs fled. He said he saw your father…my husband, die."
"I…I see…" Bastila stared at the ground.
"Oh Bastila…" Helen sighed and made to embrace her daughter. Bastila pushed back.
"So what do you want from me then? Credits?" She narrowed her eyes.
"Hardly." Helen said, "I want you to use those powers of yours. I want you to bring me your father's holocron."
"Why, so you can sell it?"
"Is it too much to ask to have something to remember my own husband by?" Helen's eyes were beginning to fill with tears, "He was the love of my life, Bastila! I knew your father better than you ever would!"
"Huh." Bastila snorted, "I'm on a very important mission from the Jed Council. I doubt I would have time to help you."
"Bastila, I am your mother." Helen gasped, "He was your father!"
"Ask my companion if you don't believe me." Bastila dismissed her mother with a shake of her head. Helen turned to Alexander.
"Please?" Was all she said. She had taken a read of the man during the last few minutes. She was positive he would accept. If he cared about her daughter in the way Helen suspected than this would be a simply decision.
"Of course." Alex said casually.
"What?" Bastila growled at him. She took him by the arm and pulled him a few feet away. "Alexander, I know you're trying to be some sort of…paragon. But you don't know my mother. She is just a guilty of my father's death as the dragon that killed him. I…can't bring myself to do her any favors…not anymore."
"Bastila…" Alex put both hands on her shoulders. She squirmed but he tightened his grip and the look in his eyes was like stone, "This is your mother. She is dying. All she wants is this one thing. If you don't help her now, you'll regret it for the rest of your life." Alex saw the effect his words were having. Bastila's mind processed his words, his stern features. When it came to doing the "right thing" he was unwavering. She knew this wasn't an argument or even up for discussion. He was just telling her how things were going to go. Why had she thrown him out? He would be with her and not Juhani.
"…I have too many regrets already….." Bastila whispered, her eyes glistened with tears, "Ok…ok, I'll do it." Alex smiled and tilted his head slightly. He was asking for a kiss. Bastila shook her head and retreated away from him. She turned back to the table where Helen was pressing Juhani for information on their Jedi quest.
"Ok mother." Bastila said as she approached, "We will find father's holocron."
"Thank you." Helen said, "This means a lot to me, Bastila." The young Jedi had nothing to say to that. Her mind weighed heavy on her. Her father was dead and her mother dying. She felt like the bitter anger in her had more than doubled. How in the Force's name was this supposed to be fair? She turned from her mother without another word and stormed away. The two remaining Jedi turned to Helen and she smiled.
"Don't worry. She throws tantrums when she's upset." Helen's smile made it clear she was remembering Bastila's childhood, "Some things never change." She looked at Alex, "You love, don't you?"
Alex nodded slowly and clicked his tongue, "Yeah…yeah, I do."
"Then go." She motioned to the bar door Bastila had just left through, "Go make sure she doesn't use those laser sword you Jedi carry to hurt someone."
"Take care of yourself Helen." Alex said as he walked away. He heard her laugh and her reply was lost in the noise of the crowd.
"I don't think you should be here with us, Mission." Carth said as they made their way through Anchorhead. The teen Twi'lek scoffed.
"Hey, back off old man." She countered, "I'm just as important to this crew as you are, Mr. Pilot."
"Oh really?" Carth rounded on her, "What is it that you do, exactly? Start bar-fights? Lose your weapons in the heat of battle? Panic like a child?" The look on the teen's face said that was a step too far. Carth gulped and stammered, "I…I'm sorry Mission. I don't know why
"No, no, it's cool." Mission dismissed his apologize, "You don't think I'm good for anything. I'm just some punk-ass kid, right?"
"I…I didn't say that." Carth tried to point out. But this was Mission Vao. Fourteen year old street-rat turned Galactic rogue. Went she ranted, no force in the Galaxy could stand in her way.
"No, but you were thinking it!" She exclaimed, "You think I'm only a few cycles older than Sasha, right? I'm a child!"
"You ARE only a few cycles older than Sasha." Carth emphasized the point. Mission threw her hands in the air.
"Gah! See, right there! That condescending-soldier-boy-Mr-pilot-man-I'm-so-awesome-because-I'm-thirty attitude! I can't stand it!" Mission took a deep breath to continue but Canderous was at her in a heartbeat.
"For frakings sake, shut up!" He bellowed, loud enough to draw a few glances from shoppers, "You two are like Thanagarian moon-lemurs in heat! Just shut up!" The Veteran grumbled something to himself as he stalked off, his eyes studying the crowd fiercely. Mission didn't look at Carth but lashed out with her fist. She smacked his arm at the elbow and the pilot cuffed the back of her head with his palm.
"Hey!" Mission exclaimed and Canderous spun on his heel. Both pilot and scoundrel snapped to attention under the Mandalorian's unforgiving gaze. A few seconds passed and Canderous nodded to Carth.
"Onasi, I think we might be close." Instantly the stress-relief playfulness he had showed moments ago drained from his face and a war-veteran took its place. Carth's eyes hardened and his heart quickened. He hadn't spent a lot of time with their stowaway, but he had seen the looks Bastila and Alexander gave her. He would do his part, and gladly.
Briefly another life entered his mind. He remembered a child of his own; a son. He remembered teaching the boy to fish and fire a child's zap-gun. Carth crushed the memories with a grimace. That life was gone; burned in the fires of betrayal. Canderous nodded in approval but Mission baulked at the sudden change in demeanor of her bickering partner.
"Carth?" She asked, her voice a whisper.
"Not now Mission." He nearly growled and pulled the two pistols from his belt. Mission nodded slowly and drew Alexander's heavy blaster from her hip. She had tried to given the characteristic weapon back to him, but Alex had politely but firmly refused. It was her heavy blaster now, and its weight was a great comfort. It was not her most treasured possession but it was damn near the top. Mission followed her two companions down a back alley, her heart hammering in her chest.
Canderous held up a hand to signal a halt. The Republic pilot responded instantly, but the Twi'lek teen kept walking. Canderous shot out his fist to stop her. She grimaced at him but said nothing. Canderous peered around the corner and glanced down the long alleyway. There, next to an unmarked door, two human guards stood. They wore black carapace armor and hand expensive rifles over their shoulders. Whoever ran this slave-market, they were well equipped. Luckily what the guards had in equipment they loss in intelligence and discipline. There was a sizeable distance between the two and the door. It was obvious they were also playing dice and gambling. Still…better deal with them quietly so as not to alert those inside. Canderous turned to his companions. He tapped his rifle, shook his head, motioned to Carth and himself and waved a hand in front of Mission. Carth nodded grimly and holstered both pistols. Canderous set his rifle on the ground and drew the blade from his hip. He glanced back at Carth and was pleased to see a grim look on his face and a vibro-knife in his hands.
"What are you doing?"Misson whispered. Canderous sighed and crawled around the corner, leaving Carth to fill the clueless teen in.
"Stay here." Carth whispered back, "And it's best if you look away…this is going to be messy." Mission's face paled a little, but she wanted to look mature.
"I've seen worse." She said with as much confidence as she could muster. Carth crouched down and turned one last time to her.
"I hope for your sake that was a lie." He said and stalked after Canderous. His steps were quick and quiet. The guards were completely unaware of his approach. As distasteful as this was, Carth couldn't bring himself to feel sorry for these men. They willingly trafficked in slaves. This was justice as far as he could tell. Canderous was within striking distance and Carth was so close he could see the hair on the back of the guard's neck. The two guards laughed and placed more credits down as a bet.
Carth glanced at Canderous and the Mandalorian narrowed his eyes and nodded. He struck fast, his blade coming down in a graceless arch and burying itself in the first guard's skull. The other gasped and jumped back, right into Carth. The Republic pilot gripped the man's mouth, tilted his head back and in one slash, severed the man's throat. The guard dropped, gurgling his last moments and died a heartbeat later. Canderous wrenched his blade from his target's skull and retrieved a ident card from the man's pocket.
Canderous moved quickly, his blood racing. He put his back to the wall next to the unmarked door and slammed his fist against it twice. Carth reacted quickly and took up a similar spot on the opposite side. As predicted a small vision-slit opened.
"Yeah?" A voice growled and a moment passed, "Oh shit!" The door opened and a third guard in similar garb rushed out. He barely got three steps before Canderous buried his blade into his neck and ended him.
"Bad way to die." Canderous commented.
"Being a slave is a bad way to live." Carth countered, "Let them die." The Mandalorian chuckled darkly.
"You'd have made a fine Mandalorian, Onasi." Canderous said. Carth's face darkened.
"I'm nothing like you." He said firmly. Carth turned from the veteran and waved to Mission. The Twi'lek jogged over quickly, Canderous' rifle in her arms. She couldn't bring herself to look at the bodies and followed Carth and Canderous through the now open door.
"Are you sure your friend is alright?" Sharina Fizark asked for the tenth time in as many minutes. Bastila sighed again and put a hand to her forehead. This woman was as intolerable as her mother.
"Yes, I'm sure he's fine." Bastila had repeated this line so many times it was getting on her nerves. Of course Alexander would be the type of man to talk to anyone who looked like they needed help. And of course he would offer it. Bastila felt her admiration and her annoyance at him rise.
Helping the needy was a Jedi's job, no matter how aggravating the helpless always were. She admired his almost obsessive behavior towards the helpless. He was saintly she supposed. But that didn't make these side trips any less taxing. It seemed no matter where they went, no matter how many people they strove to save, there was always more. More. MORE.
What was the point in helping so many? The Jedi had been around for thousands of years, and doubtless they would be around for thousands more. Young Force-aspirants would be training in the hallowed halls of the Jedi Temples, some new some old, long after Bastila and her ilk had passed from memory. Bastila, Juhani and Johlee would eventually be forgotten. Even Revan and Malak, the instigators of a Galactic War, would eventually pass from all knowledge save a few post-action reports in the Jedi archives. What would Bastila have to show for her life? A hundred years from now, as Bastila lay on her death bed, assuming she had not fallen in combat before then, what would Bastila remember? What would her legacy be?
Would she be the Jedi who ended Galactic hunger? Or slavery? Poverty or war? Was that even possible? For every problem she solved two more took its place. The Galaxy was a hydra, and each head was a population in turmoil, or a planet ravaged by war. Despair started to weigh the young Jedi down.
Bastila considered the voice's words. She knew it was just her subconscious being allowed too much freedom, but it was a valid point never the less. Galactic peace really did seem hopeless. Even factoring out the monumental task of Galactic levels of intervention, was it worth it? Did the number of good souls outnumber the bad? Was the Galaxy even worth saving? Was any of it worth saving? Why not let planets burn in the fires of civil war? What did the Jedi owe any of them? Surely war was just as natural as peace. What the Jedi could solve with a summit-meeting could just as easily be solved with armed revolution. A Jedi's time was valuable and limited; it was said there was less than one Jedi for every world in the Galaxy. Each one of them bore an awesome responsibility towards the Galaxy, but ultimately what good did it do?
How many long forgotten Jedi had spent their entire lives fighting for freedom or protecting the innocent? Bastila knew of Jedi who braved plague contaminated planets to deliver medicine, and others who had spent years easing tension between rival cites, worlds or star-systems. But the Galaxy was still at war, and plagues still took their tolls. Would the Galaxy really miss one Jedi? Or two? After Bastila and Alexander defeated Malak and his Empire, would the Galaxy care if the two faded to obscurity together on some remote farm world? Would anyone even notice? Doubtless some new warlord or tyrant would rise with dreams of Galactic conquest and doubtless another ad-hoc crew of heroes would strive to save the Galaxy…again. And again. And again.
Unless…someone imposed order…unless someone had an iron grip on the Galaxy…
Bastila was pulled from her heavy thoughts by the door to the Tatooine hunting lodge sliding open. From inside Bastila could hear roaring laughter and what sounded like a wrestling match between two drunk hunters. Alex strode out with that damned handsome grin of his. Force above how she hated and loved that grin. It was so arrogant, yet so charming. Bastila just wanted to rip it off his face with her lips.
"Well, did you sell it?" Sharina Fizark asked as Alex approached. The Jedi smiled and handed her a credit-pad. The woman looked at the amount listed and gasped.
"Seven hundred credits?" She exclaimed, "That…that can't be right. A wraid plate is only worth three hundred, tops!"
"Well I convinced them it was a particularly impressive desert wraid plate." Alex shrugged, "A few mumbled words, a drink or two, and everyone was clamoring to buy it."
"I…I don't know how to thank you enough." Sharina said, overcome with emotion, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." She hugged him fiercely and went off, staring at the flashing "700" on the datapad. When she was out of ear-shot, Bastila turned to Alexander.
"How much did it really go for?"
"About four-eighty." He said with a shrug. Bastila rolled her eyes.
"You know we don't have unlimited funds, and we certainly don't have unlimited time." She chided.
"Bas, if we don't stop to do the right thing, who will?" Alex asked. He gave her a charming, amused glance.
"Is it really doing any good?" She whispered. Alex had turned away from her, but he glanced back.
"What was that?" For the briefest moment, with his hair billowing in the wind and his armor covered in dust, Bastila thought about her visions. She didn't see Alexander as he was, but as Revan, the hero of the Republic. The man who had been pushed to the edge of the abyss by the bitter reality of war, and toppled over.
"Alex, I-" Bastila began but Juhani approached carrying bags of desert apparel.
"These should protect us while we search for the star-map." She said and handed her companions a bag each, "But we will still need to procure a sand person's clothing."
"Are we really going to broker peace with those…nomads?" Bastila sighed; another Force-damn side mission. How many were there?
"It's the right thing to do, Bas." Alex offered, "I-" The communicator on Alex's belt chimed and he quickly activated it, "Go."
+We found the slave-marker!+ The Jedi could hear screams and laser-fire behind Mission's voice. Instantly the three were ready for combat. +Bit off more than we can chew. Come in on this signal+
"On our way. Keep tight." Alex closed the channel and nodded to each of his companions. As one they took off in a Force assisted sprint, their lightsabers drawn and ready.
The three raced down the corridor, weapons blazing. Canderous fired from the hip, his rifle raking unprepared guards with blistering fire. Carth fired bursts of fire, keeping the more alert guards behind their cover. Mission for her part, still unfamiliar with Alex's heavy blaster capabilities, fired single shots. Each was a aimed carefully, and each was a kill shot.
A squad of guards flooded from a side room and brought their rifles to bear. But these men were different. They wore silver plate armor, contoured around their hard muscles. But it was the faceless, single visors masks that they noticed. Canderous' lips curled in disgust. It was true! Neo-crusaders. Raiders and pirates. Scum.
Canderous fired a barrage of shots at these would-be Mandalorians. One unlucky bastard took the full furry in his chest and pitched over, little more than burning remains. The rest of the squad advanced slowly, peppering the hallway with fire. Carth ducked behind a corner and tossed Mission a frag grenade. She nodded, primed the device, and lobbed it down at the advancing squad. Carth tossed a plasma grenade a second later.
The entire building was rocked with the twin explosions and the Mandalorian squad simply disappeared. Only one survived, but his armor was broken and bloodied. Canderous advanced with menacing intent. He slid the blade from its sheath and stood over the dying man.
"The slave-pins, trooper." He snarled and stepped on the bleeding stub of the man's leg, "Where are they?" The Mandalorian screamed and the sound made Canderous twitch in anger.
"Down…down that way!" He pointed and Canderous brought his blade down. The Mandalorian died and Canderous spat on the remains.
"Pathetic excuse for a Mandalorian." He snarled and turned to his companions, "Let's go." The three ran down the hallway and found a blastdoor blocking their way. Canderous entered a random code, and when it failed he pulled the casing off the entry-pad.
"Mission, run a bypass." He commanded and turned back the way they came, rifle ready to deal with any stragglers. Mission pulled her hacking kit from her belt and wired into the system. It was a crude numerical lock. Seconds later the blast doors ground open and they gasped.
Beyond was a massive hanger, filled with a dozen starships and hundreds of cages. Most were empty, but a few had shackled mal-nourished sentients in them. A gathering of almost thirty men on the far-side drew their attention. The three had not been noticed yet. Perhaps that was a good thing. Canderous made his way over to a cargo crate and peered at the gathering. They could hear part of the conversation.
How many are there?
You lost them?
Canderous hissed at the familiarity in the voice. His eyes hardened at the apparent leader of the slave-trade here on Tatooine.
"Canderous?" Mission whispered to the steel-eyed Mandalorian, "Who is that?"
"A ghost." Canderous replied grimly, "One that needs to be reminded how real Mandalorians act." Canderous narrowed his eyes and felt the blood rush in his ears.
Canderous stormed from cover. He was livid. His vision was red and the blood raced so loud in his veins he could barely hear his friends calling out to him.
"JAGGI!" He bellowed at the group. The men turned to him, and one was foolish enough to raise a blaster. Canderous shot him in the face with a single round and the man toppled over, his head little more than a smoldering crater.
"Canderous Ordo!" The voice dripped with venom and hatred, "By the Gods, look at you old man. Time has not been kind to your features."
"Nor has it to your judgment." Canderous countered, "Slave trading? This is what you are reduced to?"
"Don't judge me, Canderous." Jaggi snarled, "You of all people have no right to question judgment."
"How did you survive that battle?" Canderous asked, "I saw your fighter go down in a blaze of glory." He shook his head, "You should have stayed dead, Jaggi. You could have saved your reputation that way."
"Don't lecture me about reputations, coward!" Jaggi yelled, "If you hadn't abandoned the formation, our squadron would still be alive!"
"I did what was tactically prudent at the time." Canderous' voice wavered for a moment, "You were a soldier, Jaggi. You were to follow my orders to the letter, even until death."
"Fine, seeing how you are so set on the old ways, let's do this properly." Jaggi drew his pistol and tossed it to the floor, "Ralgar, your blade." A Mandalorian drew a vibrosword from his belt and handed it to Jaggi. Canderous grinned and placed his repeater on the ground and drew the hacking blade from his belt.
"To the death then, Jaggi." He snarled. Jaggi nodded and advanced slowly.
"Aye, the death."
The door at the far end of the hanger exploded in a blaze of fire and debris. The slavers staggered under the shock wave and raised blasters in shaking hands. There, advancing through the dust, three figures armed with glowing blades of light.
"Jedi, here?" Jaggi gasped, "Kill them!" His attention was turned from Canderous who lashed out with his blade. The strike took Jaggi in the arm, but failed to cut through the armor. Jaggi rounded on Canderous and swung his blade down to sever the veteran's head.
Laser fire cut into the ground all around Alexander. His Force abilities kept the fire from striking him as he charged headlong into the slavers. His mind searched briefly and instantly found Sasha's terrified mind in the cages. He sent a whip-crack thought into Mission's mind, ordering her to find the girl and get her back to the Ebon Hawk. He was certain Carth would help her. Alexander turned his attention to the rapidly closing distances between him and the slavers. He leapt the last few meters with the Force and landed with his blade poised down. The blade passed through a slaver's head with easy, felling him. To his left and right Bastila and Juhani smashed into the slavers.
Juhani tore into the slavers with wild ferocity. She lashed out with her lightsaber and her claws. Each strike rent flesh open and spilled blood. The scent of the precious fluid was thick in the air and Juhani snarled. More memories entered her mind and she used it to fuel her prowess. She did not give into the anger to become a full berserker, but controlled it. Small amounts of anger were used with each strike, just enough to get in close and finish the job. She would not let Alexander down again. A slaver swung a bayonet at her head, and Juhani easily dodged out of the way and cut the man's head from his shoulders. More slavers surrounded her and she tore into them, seeing her own tormentors in their eyes.
Bastila moved with cold detachment. Each block, counter and strike was timed perfectly. The voices in her head drove her on. She told herself she wasn't trying to compete with Juhani, that this was not a contest for Alexander's approval.
Bastila reeled under a blow she should have easily seen coming. The Mandalorian raised his blaster to strike again and Bastila lashed out with the Force. She gripped something inside him, squeezed it and wrenched it aside. The Mandalorian groaned in agony and collapsed.
This voice in her head was going to get her killed! Bastila swung her duel-lightsaber in a graceful arch, separating the torso from the legs of two Mandalorian slavers in one blow. A flurry of las-beams roared passed her and Bastila deflected a dozen back at her attackers. Two slavers fell, clutching smoking holes in their bodies. Bastila surged passed them to clove into a slaver who was trying to get a lock on her companions with a bulky auto-cannon.
Bastila glanced in at the melee and made a bee-line for Alexander. Her partner was engaged in a vicious duel with a scarred Mandalorian slaver with a jagged Mohawk and teeth filed down to fangs. Bastila approached quickly and plunged her blade into the back of the slaver and tore her lightsaber through the Mandalorian's hip. Alex blinked in surprise and grinned.
"That was my kill." He almost chuckled. Bastila allowed herself a smile, remembering her days with him on Dantooine.
"I…I want…" She couldn't bring herself to say it but Alex put a finger over her lips and smiled gently.
"Come on, there is more work to do." He said and charged back into the melee. Bastila smiled to herself and followed him, her lightsaber bringing death to all it touched.
Mission raced through the cargobay, Carth two steps behind her. Laser fire tore into the cages around them and Mission was tackled to the floor as Carth dove for cover. The Twi'lek grunted and glanced up. She saw a screaming blonde girl, eyes shut and hands covering her ears, in a cage a dozen meters away.
"Carth!" She screamed and pointed. The pilot saw Sasha and nodded. He rose quickly and fired both pistols to devastating effectiveness. Four slavers fell, riddled with bloody holes. Mission sprinted towards the cage and slid to a halt by it.
"Sasha?" She whispered. The girl opened her tear covered eyes and instantly put her hands through the cage bars to grasp Mission's gloved hand. The Twi'lek smiled despite the situation. "I'm here. It's going to be okay. Take a step back sweetie." She pulled Alexander's blaster from her belt and Sasha scurried to the far corner of her cage. Mission blasted the data-lock off the cage door and it swung open. Sasha leapt into her arms and Mission felt a sense of family she had thought lost since Griff left. She clutched Sasha tightly and kissed her forehead.
"We're getting you out of here." She whispered.
"Mission, let's go!" Carth yelled over the firefight. Mission looked up and nodded. She held Sasha close to herself, cradling her like a beloved little sister and sprinted for cover. Carth fired another volley and downed another Mandalorian.
Canderous grunted in pain as Jabbi's vibrosword slid passed his guard and cut across his hand. The cut was deep and the blade dropped from his now numbed fingers. Canderous roared in anger and tackled Jaggi to the floor. He had killed enough in his life to know he could murder Jaggi with tooth and nail if need be. To his credit, Jaggi recovered quickly and swung his mailed, spike-laden fist at Canderous' head; the blow connected with a hollow ring and Canderous felt something in his skull crack. The Mandalorian veteran surged forward and locked his gloved hands around Jaggi's throat. The arrogant fool had thought this place was secure enough to walk around without a helmet. Canderous squeezed with all his might, pressing his fingers in the leather skin of Jaggi's neck, intent on showing him the cost of his folly. Gouts of thick, red fluid began to stream from Jaggi's many wounds and he tried in vain to suck air through his windpipe.
The spike glove returned, crashing in Canderous' head again and again. Warm blood filled Canderous' mouth and his teeth rattled in his jaw. Jaggi head butted him, and Canderous was sure his nose broke, but he stood firm, the righteous, even joyful lust of his hate-rage flattening the pain. Canderous' vision fogged with the sweet anticipatory surge of a hand-to-hand kill, as Jaggi's tongue began to twitch madly, lapping for breaths it could not take. Canderous was dimly aware of Jaggi's fists punching his head and fists, flailing to inflict some sort of damage on him before he ended his life.
Canderous registered a vibro-knife at the edges of his vision, then the sudden bloom of pain in his left thigh; he ignored it and squeezed tighter, compacting Jaggi's throat into a ruined tube of bloody meat and broken cartilage. Jaggi twisted the blade and Canderous grunted in pain. He lifted Jaggi's head up by his throat and brought it crashing back to the steel floor. Jaggi lost his grip on the knife in his daze and his vision blurred. Blood erupted from his mouth as his lungs began to fail. Canderous raised him up again, and brought his skull down on the floor. This time there was a sharp crack as the back of Jaggi's skull flattened. Jaggi's eyes rolled into the back of his skull and Canderous was sure he was dead. Still, he slammed the Mandalorian's skull into the ground one last time and blood and liquid brain matter began to seep from the dented skull. Canderous rose on shaking legs and pulled the knife from his leg with a grimace.
The battle was over in minutes. Amongst the dead were Jaggi Ordo, and Lur Arka Sulas. The former had been caught by surprise attempting to flee by Juhani. The Cathar had showed no mercy to the slave master and had torn his asunder. With battle won, the Jedi turned to the task of freeing the few slaves in the cargo area. Canderous stood over the leaking body of Jaggi. His old friend's features were twisted in pain and his body was limp and pale. What had happened to the great Mandalorian crusaders? Was this what he was destined to? An ignoble death on some backwater planet? Canderous turned from the body and grimaced as he limped away. His companions had sense enough not to stop him or offer medical assistance. The war-veteran's blood was still up and he was one wrong word from violence. Canderous left the cargo bay, and he hoped, his old life behind him.
"Hey, Alex!" Mission's voice cut through the pregnant silence of the cargo-bay. Alex looked up from the wound he was treating on a Rohian female's leg. At the far end of the cargo bay he saw Mission standing there, a little girl holding her hand. Alex smiled and turned back to the former slave.
"Will you be alright now?" He asked. The Rodian nodded and gave her approximation of a smile.
"Yes, human. I will survive." She said and Alex took off in a sprint. He met Sasha half-way and the little girl clung him. He smiled down at her and soon Bastila approached and smiled down at her companion and their stowaway. Alex looked at her and held a hand out. Bastila blushed, took it and kneeled down by them. She let herself be pulled into the embrace and smiled as Sasha snuggled closer to her. A single tear of joy went unnoticed as it traveled down Bastila's cheek and for the first time all day, the voice in her head was silent.
Bandon looked down from the gantry to the massive cargo area of his bulk cruiser. It wasn't the prettiest or fastest of the Sith armada, but its cargo was by far the deadliest. Darth Bandon stood on a walkway overlooking the hectic activity of the tech-engineers as they readied their precious cargo. They swarmed like ants over its hull and weapon mounts. Compared to the siege walker they might as well have been ants; just an insignificant and mindless.
Bandon smiled under his robes. The Jedi bitch may have escaped Malak's destruction of Taris and she may have gotten the best of Calo Nord and his bounty hunters, but she would not escape him. Bandon would succeed where even his Master failed; where even Revan failed.
Soon Bandon thought, Soon Bastila will be dead, I will be in command of the Sith Empire and the Galaxy will burn.
I know this was short, but I really wanted to get these two chapters out. I plan on Tatooine being longer than the other planets, maybe about six-to-eight chapters.
Thank you for your patience and hopefully this met your expectations.