"Looks like it's been hit with an ion charge and dumped here," Atton said as they approached the little astromech.

"That would explain why we didn't hear back from him," Cat said, tucking the sides of the mining uniform shirt together and into her pants. It was utterly ruined now, but it would hold for the time being. She crouched down next to the droid. "Can you travel, little guy?" she asked it.

It responded that yes, it was operational, and that it's number was T3-M4.

Funny enough, Atton seemed irritated by the thing. It's almost like he doesn't like anyone but me, Cat thought to herself.

The three of them got under way.

She was able to clear her mind and work her muscles, as this part of the facility seemed fairly overrun by the rogue mining droids. Again, the combat felt great, and she couldn't help but admire what a handsome figure Atton cut as he used the 2 Republic blasters they'd managed to find back on the Harbinger. His dexterity was admirable, allowing him to dodge nearly every blaster bolt that came his way.

She worried a bit about Kreia, but knew there wasn't much they could do for her at this point besides get to the ship and prep it for launch.

They left the fuel depot for the docking bay, and were met with another wave of nasty malfunctioning droids. They could see the Ebon Hawk from here, and it was a welcome sight. She couldn't wait to leave this place, this tomb. And go where? she asked herself. Anywhere but here, seemed to be about the right answer.

Only a few more droids, and they were there. Finally, Cat thought with a rush of relief.

The three raced to the loading ramp and made their way aboard.

They'd no sooner entered the ship's cockpit, when they noticed dozens of Sith Troopers flooding the hanger. "Wanna give the ship's laser turret a work out?" Atton asked.

"Nah, let 'em come," she said excitedly. She felt a rush as she ran back to the ship's garage, preparing to meet all comers in combat.

There were 25 of them to be exact, and she felt like laughing as the last one fell. Bring it! She was just warming up.

"All right, sweets, you've had your fun, now lets get out of here," Atton said, heading back to the pilot's chair. She was glad that he seemed to know his way around the cockpit. She wasn't sure if she would have managed, had she been on her own.

They were just firing up the engines when Kreia appeared, clutching the stump that used to be her left hand.

"Kreia!" Cat cried, jumping up from her seat and rushing to the old woman's side. She lifted Kreia's hand to inspect her wound. Yep, that looks about like what she'd felt back at the Peragus fuel depot. The wound was singed around the edges, the vessels cauterized. She would recognize such a wound anywhere. It came from a light saber.

The poor woman seemed to sense Cat's questioning look. Out of breath she gasped, "there's no time for questions now. Let's be done with this place."

Atton didn't need to be told twice. The ship lifted off, heading out into space.

As they prepared to navigate the dangerous asteroid field, the Harbinger fired up it's laser cannons, and raced in pursuit of them.

"This just gets better and better," Atton grumbled, concentrating on the ship's controls.

Cat began to chew on the tip of her right thumb nail, an old habit from previous life-and-death encounters.

"If they hit us we're dead! But if they keep missing us, we're dead! That's great odds," Atton griped.

"What of the asteroids?" this, from Kreia, "they can be destroyed by us as well as them, can they not?"

"That'll take out your buddy's ship alright. Along with the entire field, the colony, and us."

The thumb nail popped out of Rain's mouth. "Just keep evading them until we clear the field, then make the jump to hyperspace," she said firmly.

Kreia gave a tisk of disapproval, but Atton seemed glad to follow orders.

"Hold on then. This is going to get a little rocky."

Atton was a superb pilot. Although the ship was unfamiliar to him, he managed to safely navigate the Hawk through the asteroid filed, dodging laser fire as he went. They had to make the jump to hyperspace the very second they cleared the field, or the Harbinger, would have a clear shot at them.

As the ship began the jump, Cat was horrified to see the field ignite under one of the Harbinger's laser blasts.

It set off a chain reaction, one asteroid exploding, igniting the next, back, and back, until nothing was visible but a massive ball of fire.

It was all left behind them as the hyperdrive did it's work.

The enormity of what had just happened hit Cat and she dropped into the chair next to Atton's. At minimum? They'd just killed a planet.

Silence reigned. She looked over at Atton, and he leaned back from the ship's controls, looking dazed. "Well, the Peragus astrogation charts say we're headed to Telos. We're about six hours out," Atton volunteered into the ensuing silence.

Kreia grasped her injured limb with her right hand. "My wound pains me. If you'd like me to answer your questions, you can find me in the crew quarters. There we can speak in private," and she shuffled off.

Cat took a breath, then stood up from her chair. "I'm gonna go check her wound for her. Can you handle things up here?" she asked.

He tisked, "We're on autopilot for the next five and a half hours or so. I'll probably just catch a nap." He put his feet up and lounged back in the pilot's chair.

"OK, then. I'll be back soon."

She walked slowly through the ship's empty corridors. She could hear the hum of the hyperdrive, and the high-pitched whine of T3's gears as he moved about the ship's engine room.

So they were headed to Telos. Atton would probably take off the moment they touched down, but she was unsure what Kreia was going to do. Any prior plans Cat'd had before all this felt moot now. She and Kreia needed to stick together for the time being, or until this "Force bond" business was sorted out. Maybe they could travel to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant...

"The temple lies empty..." Kreia burst into her thoughts as she entered the port side dormitory.

So Kreia and Cat talked. They talked about the Jedi, the Sith, and the events leading to her arrival on Peragus.

It was hard to believe. The Jedi were all gone. What amounted to everyone she'd ever cared for had perished. Killed off by the infighting that had occurred after Malachor V. And Revan... oh, god, she'd started it all. Her redemption did not matter in the grand scheme of things, for instead of staying, and helping to rebuild the Jedi order, she'd disappeared.

One thing was clear, however, it seemed the Sith would not stop their pursuit until Cat was dead.

Kreia offered to teach her, to help her learn to use the Force again.

But they needed more help than she alone could give. Atton was the first to come to mind, although she didn't hold out much hope that she could make him stay. The situation they were in was precarious at best, and it sounded like she would need to rely more and more on these "Jedi ways" that had turned Atton off so much.

Maybe he just needed to be persuaded.

Thanks to her healing powers, Kreia's amputated hand had already healed about as much as it ever would. "If you think you'll be alright, I'm going to see if I can find some armor around here. And maybe grab some sleep," she said as she backed out of the room.

"Ah, yes." The old woman might be blind, but she wasn't stupid. "Go. See to that fool in the cockpit. But watch him closely. His thoughts are slippery... I do not trust him, and nor should you. Such a man will always serve himself first."

She entered the cockpit and Atton leaned back in his seat, grinning at her. "Well how is she? Still aging?"

"She'll be fine. She's a strong old lady."

He chuckled a little, "Really, how old do you think she is? She may have been good looking once, but it takes some hard living to make creases like that."

Leave it to Atton to lighten the mood. She laughed out loud, " 'Good looking', huh? Are you that desperate?"

"Hey! I just got out of prison. If we had a decent navicomputer, we'd be dropping out of hyperspace into the Nar Shaddaa Red Sector right now."

"Aw... poor Atton. You'll have to wait and pay for sex later." she giggled.

But then she stopped.

Maybe... maybe he would just take off when they landed. And maybe they would never see each other again.

Maybe she wanted to forget, for a while, all the death and destruction that she'd been running from for so long. Forget how complicated everything had gotten, and how much danger she was in.

Maybe she'd never feel again the way she did when she was with him.

She didn't think about trying to make him stay. She only thought about being with him. Right now. For this moment in time.

"Hey, um... so we've still got like five hours on auto pilot, right?" she asked softly.

"Yeah, so? You up for some Pazaak?" he started fishing around in his jacket pockets for his deck.

"No, I... Atton. I don't want this to mess anything up. I like you. A lot. And I'd like it if maybe later you'd think about whether or not you'd consider sticking around, and helping me and the old lady out."

"Um, well, I..." he stammered.

"Just let me finish. What I'm trying to say is... if you want, you can have me."

His eyes widened at her a moment.

Then he jumped up from his chair.

He'd never been tender with her before. Not once. But as he came to her, he softly cupped her face and brushed his lips across hers.

He didn't speak, just kissed her, softly, rolling his tongue over hers.

He held her to him, not with the desperation he'd had earlier, but with a sweetness she had yet to see from him.

"Let's go to the starboard dormitory," she whispered, pulling her lips from his.

They tip-toed through the ship like naughty children. The last thing they needed right now was another interruption from Kreia.

Atton hit the control, closing the door behind them as they entered the dorm.

Then he was pulling her to him, his mouth covering hers as he yanked that dratted mining uniform shirt off of her.

Gentle Atton was gone.

In his place was the strong, demanding Atton that she wanted so desperately.

"Damn... I want... I want you like you were the first time I saw you," he groaned, shoving her back onto the middle bunk, and jerking her boots and pants off, leaving her in the skimpy undies she'd been wearing when they met. God, was it only hours ago?

She pushed his jacket back off his shoulders, and he grabbed the hem of his own shirt and pulled it off over his head. She rubbed her hands across his pecks, then slid her hands around and gripped his muscular forearms. He leaned into her, nipping and biting his way down her neck until he reached her cleavage.

She felt his hands bunch in her hair, pulling on it as he turned his face into her breasts, biting her through the thin fabric of her top.

She started to whimper and he moved farther, past her belly, and buried his face between her legs.

The sensations built until she cried out, and he moved over her, ripping her panties off, and loosening his pants as he went.

In a rush he was surging into her, breaking quickly past the barrier he hadn't expected to be there. He froze, his eyes flying to meet hers. He had a surprised look in his eyes, but it quickly turned to a hot look of triumph and possession.

He started to move then, his shoulders blocking out the room. She had to reach out her right hand and brace it against the wall behind her to keep from hitting her head.

His strokes were hard and deep, and the brief pinch of pain had faded, leaving her dizzy. He hooked the insides of his elbows behind her knees, pushing her legs back into her chest.

The world seemed to spin off its axis, and she felt something build inside her, then burst. Bright lights flashed behind her closed eyelids, and she clung to him, crying out as the world exploded around her.

He went wild then, his strokes becoming fast and erratic. With a final hard push he clutched her to him, grunting as he found his release.

He rolled to her side, pulling her along with him until she lay cradled against his chest.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he whispered low.

"What?" she asked, although she knew what he was asking her. She traced a fingertip across his chest.

"That I was your first?" he asked. "How...?"

"I don't know. I grew up in the order, where such things are forbidden. And I've just never found anyone who made me... feel the way you do."

He crushed her to him, burying his face in her hair.

And it was enough.

~ end ~