Part One - Just Another Tomb

"So let me get this straight," Carth muttered, glancing askance at the huge pillar blocking the path to the opposite side of the tomb. "You want to blow up a rock pillar to clear the way even though it could wake up those droids over there?"

He motioned across the seemingly infinite chasm to where a handful of assault droids lay in standby, waiting for a cue to signal the dawn of combat. It was evident that any sudden motion or noise, such as that from an explosion, would awaken the droids. Lire Dakaar sighed and shifted her weight slightly, tugging the long sleeves of her robe up around her elbows. They'd been on Korriban for almost a week now, and the darkness of the Sith world was beginning to affect her. She was not showing Dark Side inclinations; rather, her high Light standing caused her to become tired after extended periods near great concentrations of dark power. She looked nearly exhausted even though such was not the case now; she simply appeared weary. Beside her, young Mission just looked nervous about being in yet another Sith Lord's tomb.

"Yes, Carth," Lire replied quietly. "I want that pillar blown up. And if the droids wake up, no problem."

She held out a hand as tiny blue sparks—evidently her most recently learned droid destroying power—arced across her fingertips. Mission's mouth formed an O of awe; she and Lire were almost like sisters, and it always impressed Mission greatly when her friend discovered a new power. Carth sighed.

"All right, but I bet this won't be pretty."

"Another of those gut feelings?" Lire asked, sounding concerned as she glanced over at the sleeping droids. She knew not to ridicule his "bad feelings" because listening to those feelings had saved their lives more than once. Carth nodded.

"Yeah, this one says it's gonna be messy. That pillar's not just rock."

"It's therangen, I know," Lire replied, glancing momentarily at it before folding her arms thoughtfully and sighing. "Stick a grenade in it, pull the pin, run for your life, and the thing explodes about two seconds later."

Carth nodded, frowning apprehensively at the droids. Lire shrugged one shoulder before turning to Mission, the explosives bearer of this little group. Lire did not like endangering the girl with such things, but Mission had quite the knowledge of demolitions. She had, in fact, been helping Carth learn the finer points of setting and recovering mines.

"Got anything to go boom, Mish?" Lire asked.

The young Twi'lek dug around in the pockets of her oversized utility belt for a minute before she pulled out one mine, holding it in her cupped palms with utmost care.

"I've got one plasma mine," she said. "Restock some time, will ya?"

Mission frowned unhappily at the prospect of having so few explosive toys, and Lire chuckled at her expression before gingerly taking the mine. She looked it over, pursing her lips.

"You're sure we have nothing a little less . . . intense?"

Mission shook her head.

"Nope. Sorry."

Lire sighed and nodded resignedly as she turned to Carth, holding the mine out to him. He took it and set it at the base of the pillar, crouching down to set it while trying to ignore the gnawing sensation he had of dread and doom. Mission crept up behind him, trying to be careful not to distract him.

"You gonna use the remote detonate?" she asked, voice hushed. Carth nodded without looking up. "Oh, good. That's the way to do it, anyway."

Carth grunted an acknowledgment as he continued setting the mine; it was, after all, a very delicate process. One crossed wire could send the pillar and them sky-high. Mission looked down over the edge of the narrow stone catwalk, peering down at the endless darkness below. Who knew what could be down there? More than likely there were evil Sith traps. Maybe there were wild beasts ready to rip you to shreds if you weren't dead from the fall. Or maybe, if you were still alive when you hit the bottom, there were huge, deadly spikes ready to impale you and turn you into a human shish kabob. Mission swallowed hard as she felt herself totter. Gazing down from enormous heights had that effect on her as well as most people: she felt as though she might fall any minute. She was so certain that she was going to tumble down into that dark abyss, especially after she almost thought she'd seen something moving down there, that she let out a yelp and went careening back into Carth. He shouted in surprise, Lire jumped, and then there was an earth-shaking explosion as the mine went off prematurely. The pillar crumbled and dropped off the edge of the catwalk, vanishing into the depths as the droids across the way activated immediately. Lire leaped into action, ion-based sparks leaping from her fingers. She deftly destroyed the droids in a matter of seconds before turning her attention to the scene of the explosion. Mission was pushing herself up, coughing and brushing dust from her blue-hued skin. Lire grabbed her shoulders and gave her a bit of a shake.

"Mish, are you okay?" she asked, eyes worried. Mission nodded.

"Uh huh, I think so . . ."

Lire embraced her almost maternally before her gaze fell on Carth. He most definitely was not all right. He wasn't screaming, but he was curled up on the catwalk, his face covered by both hands as he made strange gasping sounds, almost as if he couldn't breathe. His hands were red and weeping from burns that trailed up to his wrists, and his clothes were blackened from the explosion. Lire bit her lip and sank to her knees at his side, leaning over him and prying his hands away from his face. She inhaled sharply when she saw the sight beneath those hands. His eyes were squeezed shut, almost sealed, and the skin around them was weeping plasma. The rest of his face looked nearly charred, and Lire immediately had a sinking feeling that he might not be all right. He was still making those horrible wheezing sounds, so she gathered him into her arms and just held him tightly, pressing his head against her chest. She seemed to be rocking him as she turned to Mission, who was pale with fright.

"Mish," Lire said slowly, trying to keep her voice calm and level. "Go back to the Hawk and get Jolee. Tell him to bring his stuff. Get him back here, and if the Sith ask, tell them whatever you must. Go!"

Mission turned and darted off back toward the tomb's entrance. Lire heard the heavy rock scrape across the cold stone floor once, then twice when it shut again. She put a hand against Carth's cheek, trying her hardest to heal him. Her Force energy was drained, however, from unleashing that devastating attack against those droids. So all she could do was hold him and wait for her strength to return so she could try again. He stirred faintly in her arms, causing her to clutch him more tightly. His eyes opened slowly at first, as if it were painful to do so, but eventually they opened completely. The thing that Lire noticed immediately was that his gaze didn't latch onto her face. Instead, it was almost as if he were staring off into space. There was a shuddering gasp from him as he groped for her hand, squeezing hard when he found it.

"Lire . . ." he whispered, voice hoarse and almost terrified. "Oh, Force, Lire . . . I can't . . . I can't see."

A/N: As you can probably tell, this tale takes place pre-Leviathan fiasco. If it didn't, Lire would be under death threats from Carth. --; Actually, I normally like to play the Korriban level in two parts: the first part I do right after I get the Dustil side-quest, so I run off to find him. Then I do a whole slew of missions because for some reason I really like Korriban. The second part comes after I run off and do another planet, get captured by Saul, etc. That's when I return to Korriban and cash in on all the prestige-earning missions I did earlier. Saves time and doesn't kill the Carth romance side-quest by putting off Dustil's rescue.