"Alright, so, she's living. What now?"
Mace Windu glanced around the circle of Jedi masters, searching for answer to his question. Their debate had dragged on for a half an hour before Ventress had shown up-and then abruptly ended it. The Rattataki female had remained oddly silent for the past fifteen minutes, as the Council went over their plans for how to accommodate Ventress. But now, she spoke up, and she sounded rather sure of herself.
"I don't want to delay," she finally said. "I want to move now, while the Sith still don't expect us to move, and then, I'll just disappear."
"Where will you go?" Shaak Ti questioned. "What are you planning?"
Ventress shrugged. "I don't know," she confessed. "I just want to go away. As far away as I can fly. Far from the Jedi, from this war, from Dooku. You can deal with him yourself, because I am not strong enough. I will aid you in any way possible-but I just want this to be done with."
Mace and Yoda shared a glance. "Let you go free, we cannot," Yoda said slowly. "Too much trouble, have you caused. Too close with the Sith, you are."
"Were," Ventress corrected sharply. "I just want those traitors to die!"
"Easy," Shaak Ti soothed. "And this is why you can't stay here. All you've ever known is violence-you were never taught how to control your emotions. And, sadly, that's what landed you here. It's not that we're driving you away; it's you that's driving yourself away. You just can't stand being in such an environment where you would be forced to contain your emotions."
"I do have self-control," Ventress mumbled. "It's just rarely exercised."
"Because you were never told it was a good thing, right?" Ki-Adi-Mundi said. The words wre supposed to be a mere statement, but the venom in Ki-Adi's voice was evident. Shaak Ti punched him a glare, and was surprised that Ventress had nothing to say on the matter.
"Exhibit A," the Rattataki finally said, after several more seconds of silence on her part. "I can freely choose to ignore that, and it doesn't bother me as much as you think it does. I can allow my emotions to control me, or I can choose to ignore them. It's quite easy; it's very controllable for me."
Shaak Ti sighed, leaning back in her chair. "Alright, obviously, our priority is Sidious right now. We can't risk this information getting out, and so, we need to move either today or tomorrow. At the very latest, day after tomorrow. But if it's not done then, I send Ventress to do it."
"You would trust her?" Obi-Wan said. "With all due respect to you both, can she be trusted?"
"For the moment," Ventress offered, a sly grin upon her face. "We share a common enemy. Why would I betray my ticket to revenge? Once he's dead, I'll be on my way."
Shaak Ti seemed about to say something, as she opened her mouth and sat up a bit more, but then, she changed her mind. She closed her eyes, holding up a hand as she tried to gather her thoughts, and then leaned forward, setting both elbows on her knees. The Togruta sighed heavily, drawing her mind to one point. "How about you let me do the talking?" she finally said, turning slightly to face Ventress. The woman behind her merely shrugged, as if to say, no promises. It was good enough for Shaak Ti.
"Alright, clearly we need to move soon," Agen Kolar said. "I say we do it today. I mean, most of us are here, and so we can spare a few masters to go and-"
"No," Ventress said sharply. "You cannot confront him directly. He's too good for that. One of us needs to go, alone, and pretend to be doing something normal-giving a report, a debriefing, something. And then wait until he turns his back, and then attack. You'll never get him outright like that, no matter how many you take."
Obi-Wan glanced at Yoda. "Well, if it's a matter of strength, than I vote Yoda," he said. "He's the best of us with the Force; he's truly in tune with it, and he's one of the Seven Great Swordsbeing of the Order."
"If that's the case, so are you," Mace pointed out. He ran a hand over his shaved head, and then added, "But Vaapad is dangerous, too. I don't mean to brag, but maybe I should go. My style is the least common, and has the most lethal potential. Palpatine couldn't have fought it before; he hasn't fought me."
"He could still have analyses going," Obi-Wan pointed out. Everyone's gaze turned to Ventress. The Rattataki glanced around uncomfortably, seeing everyone's eyes on her.
"What?" she said. "I don't know everything! But it's more than likely, if that's what you're asking. If anyone close to Sidious has fought Master Windu, than yes, he will be prepared for Vaapad."
Shaak Ti sighed. "That would be Grievous. I would recommend Saesee, but you're offworld. Agen?"
Agen shook his head. "I've had my brushes with the dark side before-I anticipate that fear will awaken within me, and overpower me. My apologies, but no. Master Yoda? Your opinion?"
Yoda offered a small hum of thought, and the room fell silent, waiting for the shriveled little alien's decision. His face slowly turned to each member of the Council in turn-first to Mace on his right, and then moving counterclockwise around the circle, viewing each physically present member in turn. His eyes lingered on Ventress for a moment, but he sighed and closed his eyes at the sight of her. Ventress wasn't offended-she had never even wanted to be considered, and knew it was impossible for her to carry out the mission. She would instantly raise suspicion. Yoda continued his examination of the circle, finally ending with Obi-Wan, on his left. He paused again, closing his eyes and bowing his head, sinking into the Force for guidance. Without opening his eyes, or lifting his head, he wordlessly extended a finger, pointing to the member of the Council the Force dictated to choose.
There was a collective gasp from the group.
Shaak Ti had been chosen.
"Of us all, the greatest you are," Yoda said solemnly. "The Force has chosen you, Jedi master Shaak Ti, to go and kill the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Go, my child, and rid us of the Sith."
Shaak Ti paused, bowing her head in thought. She was just trying to safely absorb the realization. A hand on her shoulder drew her gaze upward, and she saw Ventress standing over her, looking down with something unreadable on her face. Shaak Ti suspected it was Ventress's version of concern.
"Go," she said softly. "I don't doubt you. She who can turn a Sith's heart-she who can execute a Sith. I'll be waiting with the other masters. Don't worry about me getting into trouble."
Shaak Ti smiled dryly. "Thanks for the concern," she said lightly. "If I may, master Yoda, may I take one other with me?"
Yoda paused to meditate again, and then slowly nodded. Shaak Ti took her own glances around the circle, finally settling on Obi-Wan. "Your insights saved Ventress," Shaak Ti said, standing up and turning to face Obi-Wan head-on. "And your insights have served us well before. Your mastery over a blade is impressive, as well. Simple, yet effective. Your personality directs Soresu in ways I have never seen so effective before. You keep a calm head in a crisis, and you're a very diplomatic person. I request that you do this with me."
Obi-Wan looked surprised. He could safely say that he wasn't keen on the idea. "Master Ti, you surpass me in every one of those ways listed," he said, trying feebly to talk her out of it. "You wish my assistance?"
"He will be prepared for advanced moves and styles," Ventress interjected. "Your simple, sloppy style will throw him off if it comes to conflict."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Obi-Wan said slowly, glaring at Ventress. The Rattataki shrugged innocently. She told it like it was. You didn't like it, learn to live. Obi-Wan sighed, and then pushed himself to his feet. "Shall we?" he asked, turning to Shaak Ti. The Togruta nodded once, offered a bow to the Council, and then took a step towards the door. She paused, however, and then stepped back again, moving to stand close to Ventress.
"Whatever you do, do not come after me," she hissed under her breath. "He can play you like a violin. He can punish you in ways no one has even heard of. He can use you, and he can kill you. Stay here, and remain with someone in this room at all times. Have I made myself clear?"
Ventress offered Shaak Ti a small bow of respect, which seemed to placate the orange-skinned humanoid Jedi. She motioned to Obi-Wan to proceed her out of the Council chamber, and the two progressed down the hall, out of sight, until the doors hissed shut again, barring them from view. Ventress sighed with longing, but she knew she had to stay away from the battle. She couldn't risk her own demise, or that of the Jedi around her, at Sidious's hands. She moved closer to the windows around the room, leaning against the permaglass with one shoulder and staring out into the skies with empty eyes.
Mace almost felt bad.
"I'll keep an eye on her," he volunteered. "We are adjourned, then. Unless, you would all like to remain to see what happens?"
"I don't know about you, but I'm kind of cutting it close as it is," Saesee Tiin said, from whatever world he was on. "My apologies, but I'll have to leave. But please, by all means: contact me with the news."
Yoda nodded. "We will. May the Force be with you, Master Tiin."
Saesee nodded, and returned the parting words before his hologram disappeared. Ki-Adi-Mundi, anxious as ever to get away from Ventress, stood up, bowed, and left without a word. Plo Koon followed suit, and Coleman Kcajr's hologram disappeared. Yoda looked a bit distracted as it was, and so, he stood up and left the room to meditate, although he promised his return. Kit and Mace Windu chose to stay for the entire duration of the meeting, and voiced their decisions. Even Piell left for a few minutes, returning after getting something to drink. Kit Fisto left for a few moments and then returned with food, which he passed around the circle of remaining members. Ventress declined when offered something to eat-or drink-by both Mace and Stass Allie. The healer Jedi finally got up and coaxed Ventress into taking something to drink, but the former Sith stubbornly refused a seat. She claimed it was rude to sit in the presence of her superiors. Someone had then made a snarky comment about how Ventress was right about being inferior to them, to which Mace smacked Kit Fisto upside the head. Ventress then seemed to be having trouble containing herself.
"Care to put your credits where your mouth is?" she hissed, suddenly turning away from the window. Her skirts followed suit half a second after her, creating a dramatic flair. "Just a friendly spar," Ventress coaxed. "I want to see if this sarcastic water-dweller has enough power to justify his words."
"Let's not get out of hand," Mace said quickly. He was still worried about Ventress's rage emerging, and he had promised Shaak Ti he would keep Ventress on a short leash.
"No weapons, then," Ventress said, trying to reach a compromise. "I don't have one anyway, so someone would have had to let me borrow theirs. It's never quite the same."
"I'd take it," Kit said, a smirk on his face, "But I can't hit a girl."
"We'll wrestle, then," Ventress said. "No punches, kicks are allowed, and the first one to have their shoulders pinned down for three consecutive seconds loses. Sound fair?"
"Someone neutral keeps score," Kit said, already shrugging out of his outer robe. "Call your own fouls."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Mace protested. "You can not just randomly arrange a fight in here! This is a sacred place, and you can't just disregard that!"
"We're not doing this out of maliciousness," Kit reasoned. "There will be no blood, no anger, and after this, I doubt we'll fight again. So think of it as sacrificing a toe for the leg."
Mace sighed. He regretted having Yoda leave the room, for however short an amount of time, because he lost a valuable force of reckoning. He also lost a voice of reason. Kit's logic also made sense, regrettably, and so, Mace gave in. "Fine, but we keep this to five minutes. After that, if no one's won, I call it off. But beware, if either of you take it too far, I will stop you, and the consequences will be severe."
"Understood," Ventress hissed, her eyes narrowing in excitement at the prospect of a spar.
"Understood," Kit said. But somehow, he made the word much less threatening, and much more light-hearted. Mace thought that was incredibly in tune with Kit's personality. The green-skinned Jedi had always had a certain air about him, one that just banished tension from the air…
Ventress smiled, reaching around behind her and dropping her belt from her waist. "Your conditions are fair," she said, addressing Kit. She reached around her back again, and the rest of the people there could hear the sound of fabric swishing away from a body and dropping to the floor. Ventress had shed her volumous skirt, letting it fall to the floor around her ankles and revealing her tiny shorts and wraps. Kit turned his eyes away from Ventress's long, slender legs, outlined further by the skin-tight wraps and sinfully tiny shorts. He wasn't sure that should be legal, let alone allowed in the temple.
And she wasted no time. She attacked.
A blur of white was all he saw before Ventress was in his face, taking his shoulders and setting her entire weight against him. Kit tumbled over backwards, the air being knocked from his lungs as Ventress took the first power position. She set her weight in Kit's hips and then leaned forward, setting the heels of her hands in his shoulders, under his collarbones. She could hear someone counting out a second and a half before she was rolled over onto her back, and suddenly, their positions were reversed. The count began again, but Ventress was smarter. She pulled her legs into her chest, forming a barrier between herself and Kit. With a sharp kick to the stomach, Ventress sent Kit flying, and then jumped nimbly to her feet. "Come on, bantha fur-ball, is that all you've got?!" she taunted. Kit smiled, climbing to his feet from his skid. Ventress had sent him flying and so, to avoid breaking glass, Mace had reached up and grabbed the Nautolean's ankle. Kit composed himself, grinning and wiping a bit of spit from his face.
"As a matter of fact, I was just getting warmed up," he said, and moved into range again. Ventress rose forward onto the balls of her feet, anticipating the next move. Adrenaline began to rush-Ventress could feel it, coursing through her veins as if in battle. Her fingers hummed with the energy; her arms burned with the unspent power. Legs tightened and twitched, itching to run and jump. Ventress and Kit circled each other for a moment, each sizing up the other with deadly accuracy. From off to her right, Ventress heard Even Piell mutter, "I'm putting my money on the Rattataki."
"I'll take that," Stass Allie said. "Ventress has speed, but she lacks the physical size and weight necessary to win a wrestling match."
"I beg to differ," Even retorted. "Her speed and agility allow her to get out of Kit's way. The way she kicked him earlier? A product of her flexibility and small size."
Ventress tuned out the rest of the conversation, instead taking the offense again. She took two running steps, and aimed a strong kick at Kit's gut. Kit caught her foot easily, but Ventress had anticipated the move. She used Kit's hold on her foot as a stepping ladder, jumping up to put all her weight into Kit's hands. She managed to get herself around the back of the green-skinned Jedi, and then locked her arms around his neck. She hooked her hand behind her opposite arm, pulling as hard as she could. She wrapped her legs around Kit's waist for added security. "Tap or snap," she hissed in his ear, referring to an old term used in fighting. "Tap" referred to the way one could exit a fight-by conceding defeat. By tapping twice on your opponent's arm, you conceded defeat and thus, the victory went to the other party. If you didn't tap in three seconds, the opponent reserved the right to snap whatever part of you they had a hold of. And time was running down for Kit.
Kit fell over backwards, putting Ventress in the way and forcing her to get out from underneath him to avoid the fall. The ploy worked; Ventress fled from out from under the bulky alien, but then returned a second later-on top of him. She pinned his shoulders down, and waited for the three seconds to be up. Hopefully, the fall had knocked the wind out of him-
Kit shoved Ventress back, taking a deep breath in the few second sit had gained him. He sprang to his feet, then, and this time, it was Kit who took the offensive. Ventress reached out to grab his arm when he reached for her, but Kit was one step ahead. He grabbed Ventress arm and pulled her down, directly onto his waiting knee. Ventress took a coughing, sputtering breath, staggering backwards and wiping a bit of blood from her face.
"No foul," she panted, seeing what game Kit was playing. They were both toeing the line of the rules set earlier, and Ventress refused to be the one who chickened out. "Come on, let's have it!"
Kit smirked, coming at her again. Ventress was smart, though, and the same trick didn't work on her twice. She dodged left, and put in a kick at Kit's gut. Kit dodged it easily, and their moves seemed to cycle. The fight dragged on, neither able to gain an edge. Ventress's slender figure and agility gave her an advantage, but Kit's sheer size and strength over hers gave him the edge. Ventress finally managed to get close to Kit, and leaned forward as if to strike. Kit dodged to the side, right into Ventress's other hand. She grabbed the lightsaber hanging from his belt, whipping it into her hand with a firm smack! Ventress twirled the blade elegantly, igniting it with a flick of her thumb. She paused, blade poised in a defensive position, and waited for Kit's next move.
The room held still.
Ventress had a lightsaber, and Kit didn't. Mace could feel his heart leap into his throat. He had wanted to honor Kit's feelings, and thus allowed the fight to take place, but he hadn't realized Kit had neglected to remove his lightsaber from his belt. He hadn't thought Ventress would go for such a bold move. Would she attempt an escape? Would she attack? No, she was too smart for that-plus, Mace couldn't feel any malevolence in the Force. She wasn't going to move, then? Mace couldn't see any part of her that thrummed with the excitement of the victory, but she could easily be deceiving them. Mace readied himself to intervene, if necessary.
"No foul," Kit finally said, after several seconds of dead silent and bated breath. "But I concede defeat."
Ventress smiled, deactivating the saber and tossing it back to Kit. The Nautolean caught it easily, clipping it back to his belt and offering a hand to Ventress. Ventress accepted, shaking hands with Kit and keeping the fight friendly. Kit then walked back over to where he had dropped his outer robe, picking it up and swinging it back over his shoulders. Ventress moved over to where she had dumped her extra clothes, and picked up her skirt, wrapping it around her waist and settling it back into place. She put her belt back on over it, and checked to make sure her top had not slipped. Settled back into her skin now, Ventress sat down on the floor, next to the empty chair that was Shaak Ti's. She couldn't help the stab of nostalgia that accompanied the motion-but still, she hid it behind a mask of adrenaline rush. Ventress settled into a cross-legged position, pushing her skirt down between her legs to try to convince those around her of her dignity. Ventress was proud to say that she wasn't a slut-at least, off the battlefield-and that she maintained her chastity.
Conversation returned as usual in the Council chamber, but the tense air could not be cleared. Yoda re-entered a minute after everyone had settled again, and he had taken his seat next to Mace. There was still that tension of waiting, however, of now knowing the outcome of an event-an event that could change the course of the galaxy forever. One by one, conversations ceased. Even and Stass Allie, formerly chatting about lightsaber colors, were the first to fall silent. Stass Allie tried, in vain, to talk to Ventress, but the Rattataki was too nervous to keep much conversation. She tried, to her credit, but neither woman could continue much of a conversation. Kit, who had been talking to Yoda and Mace about his wrestling tactics, dropped out of the conversation when the topic began to stray towards the effectiveness of Force lightning, and then, finally, Yoda and Mace fell silent. The entire room became as silent as a tomb: one that Ventress found herself squirming about, feeling like her analogy was too close to the truth. The minutes ticked by, but each felt like an hour to the remaining members of the Council-and especially the one lone Sith, sitting on the floor and trying to meditate. She was sitting cross-legged still, but was hovering a few inches above the ground, deep in concentration with the Force. Yoda was the first to follow her into meditation: Mace did the same, seeing Yoda doing so, and the rest of the Council mirrored his movements. Kit was the last to leave the waking world, and he was reluctant to do so to begin with. Anything could happen, he claimed, and he was not going to be the one to miss out on it!
Ventress was stirring, though. Her bad feeling about before had done nothing but worsen over the course of the next hours, made even worse by the fact that she couldn't even feel the dark side of the Force. What had happened to Dooku? What was happening to Sidious? Ventress took a deep breath, seeking out the dark side, gently probing with her mind to try and find the source of the Jedi's biggest nightmares-
The second she touched it, she screamed in agony.
Ventress recoiled from the dark side, snapping back into the light of the real world. The howling of a million winds drove her mad, and she fell to her knees, gasping and clutching at her chest. Ventress squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the pain again. She could hear others murmuring around her, but she was still struggling with the visions that suddenly berated her-
Shaak Ti, bathed in light, standing over a fallen Palpatine, just pulling her lightsaber from his chest and making sure the deed was done and would stay done by taking off the traitor's head-
Obi-Wan, wounded and bleeding, telling Shaak Ti to keep fighting-
Shaak Ti, crouched over her fallen comrade, hands over a tear in his stomach, burned open by lightsaber, transferring some of the light she was radiating into him, the wound closing-
Obi-Wan and Shaak Ti, setting fire to the body of Darth Sidious, who had gone all-out to stop Shaak Ti as soon as he could, which was only after she had stabbed him through the chest-
Palpatine, still fighting, drawing on the dark side to compensate for Shaak Ti's wound in his chest-
And finally, the light around Shaak Ti intensifying, and then becoming almost like that of a divinity as Palpatine was killed-
And then Ventress realized-since she had touched the dark side, and Shaak Ti's light was attacking anything in the dark, she had harmed herself in the process. "They won," she said softly, struggling to get her breathing back under control. "They won!" she repeated, struggling to bring herself back upright. "They're both alive, and they're okay. Obi-Wan was wounded, but Shaak Ti healed him, and now they're heading back to us-they burned the body, so he's not coming back…"
There was a huge release of breath from the remaining Council members, and suddenly, they were all crowding around Ventress. Mace took a hold of Ventress's left arm, and pulled her to her feet, asking her if she was okay, why she had felt such pain, how she knew these things-Ventress shook her head, trying to push through the throng of Jedi. "We have to get to the landing platform," she said. "I need to know…for myself. I just need to see it…it's too hard to believe."
Mace nodded, and released Ventress's arm. "Let's go," he said to Yoda. "We'll go on ahead," he said to the remaining masters. "You stay with her, please, and get her to the hangar bay when you can. Master Yoda and I will-"
Ventress's bold defiance startled Mace and Yoda alike. Had the girl not heard Shaak Ti? She was to remain with Mace or someone else from the Council, and obey them! Ventress hissed slightly at the pain, and then took a deep breath and drew herself up straight. "I will not be a burden," she said. "That was what caused Dooku to leave me, and I will not have it happen again."
"Notice we didn't leave you out," Mace said dryly, "but instead told you to come at your own pace. But we can argue that later. Come on!"
Ventress nodded, and suddenly sprang into action. She was a blur of white and purple and brown, the colors of her skin and her clothes mixing as she darted through the hallways of the Jedi temple, aiming for the hangar bay closest to the Council room. She knew they would land there-the view was exactly the same. Mace and Yoda had a hard time keeping up with her, but managed: they would not let themselves fall behind to a former Sith! The rest of the Council lagged a bit, but arrived moments after Ventress streaked onto the landing platform. She opened the doors with a wave of the Force, charging out into the hangar with little thought, or regard to what might be behind those doors-
The ship was just landing.
Shaak Ti and Obi-Wan jumped out as soon as the landing ramp was lowered, Shaak Ti looking worried, and Obi-Wan looking frantic. Not the expressions anyone had expected to see. "Where is Anakin?" Shaak Ti cried, running right to Mace and taking his shoulders in her grip. Mace, a bit overwhelmed by Shaak Ti's charge, took a staggering step back, holding his arms out before him defensively.
"Easy," he warned, gently taking Shaak Ti's hand sin his own. "He's in the temple. I had Luminara keep him busy, using the excuse that she needed him to fix her airspeeder. It worked, and he's still there, with no idea what's going on."
Shaak Ti breathed a sigh of relief, and Obi-Wan did the same. "Thank the Force," she said breathlessly. "If he felt that at all-"
"I did," Ventress said ruefully. "It was a total accident, I swear!" she said quickly, seeing Shaak Ti's expression. Recognizing the Togruta's scathing glare, she switched tactics: "I wasn't fighting anyone or anything! It was nothing involving the Force! I was just-" Shaak Ti's glare still didn't cut off, and so Ventress switched methods again. "I can explain, if you'll just give me a chance-!"
"Alright then, go ahead," Shaak Ti said frostily, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I was meditating, and couldn't feel anything in the Force, it was like it was neutralized in my body, so I reached for it, and, since I was going in blind, I accidently touched the dark side, and it really, really hurt, and then I got these visions, and I saw what was happening in Palpatine's office, and I saw you, and Obi-Wan, and Palpatine, and the light, and the flames, and the lightsabers, and-ow, my head hurts…"
"Did you take a breath that entire time?" Kit asked incredulously, staring at Ventress as if she had grown a second head. "That's impressive. Beats Anakin blowing up the toaster. On the bright side, we had really crispy waffles…"
Shaak Ti smiled at Kit. "That was pretty funny," she said, recalling the incident. "But we need to take care of the here and now. Is everyone alright?"
Mace glanced around, taking an account. He then nodded to Shaak Ti, who moved on to ask, "Did anyone go off on their own?" This time, everyone shook their heads. Shaak Ti took a deep breath, and then held up her hands. "Alright, I will see to Ventress. Master Allie, if you could kindly see to Master Kenobi's wound, I would be much obliged. I healed it while in my trance, and so, I don't know how good a job I did." Seeing everyone's confused looks, Shaak Ti waved them off, saying, "I'll explain later. But for now, find Anakin, and do not tell him what has happened. Master Kenobi knows what to do; I've briefed him on our plan. He'll take care of the ending of this war once it is confirmed that he is able to do so. Go into the Council chamber, see to his wounds, and there he will tell you what is to be done. Go, now, hurry!"
The remaining Council members scurried off, Obi-Wan at their forefront, heading for the Council chamber. Ventress and Shaak Ti remained, alone on the landing dock, save for the droids. Ventress looked rather ashamed of herself; she avoided meeting Shaak Ti's eyes, and she would occasionally bite her lower lip out of worry. She could tell that Shaak Ti wasn't happy, for some reason: not angry, but not happy. She wondered if she could maybe do something to lessen her displeasure.
Shaak Ti sighed. "Don't be," she said slowly. "You did nothing wrong. But, now, we are all faced with a choice. You are staying for now, that I am sure of. But, once the Jedi have ended the war officially, you may not want to remain here. What are you going to do then? Where are you going to go? What are you going to do for a living? You can't be a Sith; you can't be a Jedi. You can't be good; you can't be evil. You yourself don't even know, do you? Do you even know what you want to do? You walk the line, Ventress, and you are left with a decision not many people ever get the chance to make. For most of us, our destiny is set in stone before we are even born. But for you, Ventress-your destiny seems to have been overlooked." Shaak Ti tried to catch Ventress's eye, but the Rattataki was doing her best not to make eye contact. Shaak Ti reached out, trying to keep her movements slow and fluid, as not to startle Ventress. She was certain Dooku hadn't been kind about punishing her for failures. Shaak Ti gently took Ventress's chin in her hand, and turned her face to look up into Shaak Ti's obsidian pools of emotion.
"Well?" Shaak Ti asked. "I'm not going to overlook you-not this time. You deserve better. There's a part of you that doesn't yet know maliciousness, malignance, war, betrayal, hate, even sadness and pain: look for that part of yourself. Look for the sun. I know you burn easily, but the sun will help." Shaak Ti offered Ventress as kind a smile as she could muster, and let her hand fall back to her side.
And when it rains,
Will you always find an escape?
Just running away,
From all of the ones who love you,
You made yourself a bed
At the bottom of the blackest hole
And you'll sleep 'til May
And you'll say that you don't want to see the sun anymore.
"Go," Shaak Ti encouraged. "I need to see to ending this war. I will call you when I need you. Can I trust you to go to one of the masters and just stay with them?"
Ventress nodded. "I'll find Luminara," she said. "And apologize. I want her to know that I bore her no ill will; it was nothing personal, just the war-"
"It's fine," Shaak Ti said. "I'll talk with her later, to make sure you made it to her alright. Fare well, Ventress."
Ventress couldn't bring herself to tell Shaak Ti that the words he had spoken to her would be the last.
"Hold up a second!"
Ventress leapt aboard the public transportation heading away from the landing dock at the last second, just as the doors closed. She had nothing to carry with her; she had no weapons, no luggage, just her person and a bit of money had hidden on herself for this reason exactly. She usually kept a few credits in her clothes, just in case. She paid the driver, saying, "As far as you'll go. I don't care in what direction, just…just go."
"How does Rattatak sound, miss, seeing as you're a native of that planet?"
Ventress felt something like guilt and sorrow stab at her heart, but the emotions were foreign to her, so she didn't know what they were. "Perfect," she said, and accepted her change from the pilot. She took a seat at the back of the bus, and waited while they jumped to hyperspace.
It would be a clean break, unlike with her and Dooku. She had left a parting note, though, just to make sure she could say everything she wanted to say-and so that Shaak Ti didn't think ill of her. She stared out the window as the ship departed, drawing away from Coruscant's surface. As the ship gained momentum, it flew faster and faster, and soon, Ventress couldn't even make out the Jedi temple anymore. She still stared, though, at the metallic-gray planet beneath her, as it slowly became nothing but a sphere hovering in the sky, seemingly suspended in mid-air. It reminded Ventress of the first time she had moved something with the Force: she had balanced a ball above her hand, and she remembered thinking that it was amazing that the ball could simply hand there, in suspended animation, at nothing more than a thought or her will. Now, though, Ventress knew that there was something larger at work. The universe was still an amazing phenomenon, despite.
As they jumped to hyperspace, Ventress found herself lost, again, in thought. This was going to be impossible for her to let go of. Her entire life had known nothing but bloodshed and horror and pain and-
Ventress stopped herself. If she was going to remain true to her own word, she needed to simply forgive…and forget.
Asajj's parting letter to the Jedi is as follows:
Dear Shaak Ti:
I can't help but say that everything you have done for me is extraordinary. You helped me realize myself, and you helped me realize that I really am more than a mere tool to be used and then thrown away like trash. I promise, I won't harm myself. I have much better things to do. Now that I know who I truly am, I know what I was truly called to do. I am going to represent the Jedi in the Outer Rim worlds. Maybe we'll run into each other again. Maybe not. Either way, please know that I have returned to the light, and this time, I'll stay. I carry no saber, no blaster, no weapon except myself and the Force. I aim to be like Fay. Maybe you remember her? Remarkable woman; if you didn't know her, I advise you to look her up. She was truly an amazing person, and I am truly sorry to have killed her. But, rest assured, I have changed.
Fay never used a saber in her life; I will not touch one again, except in dire need. I will spend my days settling conflicts in the Outer Rim, and I hope I can maybe redeem myself by serving the light. But, Shaak Ti, please know this: my true goal is to be like you. Such a remarkable woman are you, to brave the strongest Sith in centuries without fear! I know now what you did: you took the entire of the Force into your body, and channeled it to save the universe. For that, I am sure the world is in your debt. I sensed it on you before: you have become truly intertwined with the Force, and I can see it in your eyes: you have become immortal. You'll live forever, unless you choose to give your life force to someone else.
Convey my apologies to Obi-Wan: he was only trying to help me, but I couldn't see it. I am sorry for that, and I hope he can forgive me. Anakin: I forgive you, and I hope you can do the same. Masters of the Council, I am grateful for your mercy, and your trust in both Shaak Ti and myself. I apologize also to Luminara, and to Ahsoka, for harming you in the past. But I pray you can understand my causes, and reasons for my actions. I could not see the light, and I have you, Shaak Ti, to thank for the fact that I now can. I have given up my Rattataki makeup, and my Sith sabers. I no longer seek to kill, but instead, to give life. No, I will never marry, or have children. With any luck, I can retain my chastity until my death. I will remain true to the Force, hopefully with as little distraction as possible.
Yoda, be flexible.
Mace, be humble.
Ki-Adi, be trusting.
Obi-wan, be confident.
Anakin, be thoughtful.
And finally-I will miss you all. Fare well without me, and I hope we will someday meet again.