Bells for Her
This is my first KotOR fanfic. I thought it would be fun to examine an element of the story that I think is only hinted at in the game, and through the eyes of my favourite character. I hope you like it.
The discreet Republic submarine cut through the waters above Hrakert Rift station, its two headlamps shining just bright enough to help its occupants navigate. As the craft climbed higher, away from the station and away from the sea bed's mysteries, increasingly bold waves of light lapped over its metallic surface.
Inside the small cockpit, Jolee Bindo squinted a little. The interior of the cramped little vessel was as infuriatingly dim as the station had been, and the bright light would strain his old eyes when they finally broke the surface. Seated in front of him, two young women stared dead ahead in reverential silence.
A surprising number of people had died in that base, and no-one had been saved except a giant shark, a couple of scientists and some poor fool who was probably still hiding in a locker. It didn't feel like much of an achievement to him, and he imagined the others felt the same way.
"Lot of killing today," he said sadly, trying to comfort the padawans. "Unpleasant stuff."
The woman on his right nodded slightly. The other ignored him.
"You made short work of Malak's personal gang of throaty-voiced skinheads, though," he added, deadpan. This time, the one who had nodded gave a little chuckle. He saw her shoulders jiggle with it. She had a good sense of humour, that one. He wished he could say that about more Jedi.
"He was Malak's apprentice," the younger girl said gravely with her crisp, faux-Coruscanti accent. "Darth Bandon. Republic Intelligence knew about him."
"Yes, well, he wasn't the most subtle," Jolee replied. "Looked like an idiot to me. Shaved his head and wore a high collar to impress his master. Did you notice that?"
This time Jolee earned an actual, audible laugh, in a rougher voice. "Oh!" exclaimed the other woman. "Is that a little jealousy coming through, Jolee? Not all of us have the luxury to shave our heads, huh?"
"Hrm," he grunted, suppressing a smile and trying to think of a witty reply. After a second he gave up and decided to let the youngster enjoy her victory.
She enjoyed it too much, evidently finding great comic relief in the little exchange. With a sly grin she turned to face him for a moment. As she did he had to work hard not to reveal his disgust in his face. She looked atrocious. More and more each day, her eyes and skin were growing waxy and sallow. She looked like she needed a good wash, but that wasn't it. The Force was messing with her. Now she appeared to have developed a little crack in her skin, like a bloodless wound. All three of them had endured some minor scarring during their little adventure underwater, but he knew this was no battle scar. It was the 'dark side' as they called it, in their over-dramatic way.
She still had no inkling, this girl, that she had once commanded armies. That she was the most powerful Force-user alive, who had defied the Jedi Council and brought the Republic to its knees. It was a good thing that she didn't know, too. He had seen her fighting and observed her during their frequent chats in the medical clinic of the Ebon Hawk, and it was clear that she was struggling to choose her path. She carried great guilt. The decisions she faced every day were weighing on her. He suspected she had done some unpleasant things lately, too. Each selfish deed showed itself on her broken skin. Everybody on board their ship had been watching her, too. Nobody had mentioned it.
Revan returned her gaze to their path. The submersible swayed to one side to dodge a small shoal of fish, and then Bastila found renewed purpose in piloting it. Angling it more steeply and increasing power, she shot the little craft through the water until it almost leapt out of the water. Rocking a little, it settled on the surface of the water inside the Republic's embassy.
As he had expected, the light quickly flooded in through the lifted exit hatch and hurt his eyes. He grumbled a little as he adjusted and waited for his young companions to step out of the vehicle. They took their time about it, both being physically and mentally drained by all the fighting on the surface. At least they had their Star Map.
Standing up, he realized he would have to make a little jump in order to move his feet from the submarine to the solid, durasteel ground. Neither of the younglings were about to help him. Bastila was intently studying her datapad, no doubt trying to make sense of the co-ordinates they had found, while Revan, or whatever she was calling herself, stretched and scanned the empty room, planning her next move.
The sounds of water droplets falling from the submarine's arms onto the surface were echoed by the tall, shining walls of the dock. Jolee added to the noise by leaping awkwardly off the submarine.
The loud splashing sparked his young friends' attention. In an instant, one of the women bared her teeth and flashed her lightsaber. Immediately, she had become the centre of attention. The glow of the saber's brilliant light illuminated beads of sweat on her forehead.
That one was on the path to the dark side. There was no stopping it and he could see that now.
They all relaxed, but she left the lightsaber switched on. It served to keep danger away from her, buzzing its deceptively gentle warning. The way she held it made Jolee uncomfortable.
He wasn't exactly surprised by what was happening to her, and he wasn't sure he blamed her. Not entirely, certainly. This mission was too much for her, and the Dantooine Council had sent her on it too soon. She needed more training. Of course, Vrook Lamar and his lot didn't see that. As profound and learned as they all were, those old men presiding over the Academy had little empathy for their headstrong young charges. Not since the wars, at least. Evidently they were so desperate to find this Star Forge that they had failed to see the evil in this girl.
They simply had no time to train her properly. Just like the other two Jedi on the Ebon Hawk didn't have time to watch out for her. Jolee was no mentor and no Jedi, as he kept explaining to Revan and Bastila respectively, so it was beyond his means.
Now it was too late though. When he looked at her, he could see the malice she was quietly building up. With every world they visited, every crooked little settlement they had to wade through and every sentient being they sliced in two, she changed a little. She was ill-prepared and refused to control herself. Perhaps she didn't have time either. Jolee was no master of the confounding torrents of the Force, but he held a connection, and when he looked at that girl he knew it was too late for her. She was falling.
Not falling, no. Turning. Turning nasty. He had not voiced this opinion since leaving Kashyyk, had not had reason to yet, but he hated that tidy little Jedi phrase, falling to the dark side. As if this 'dark' side were a separate entity to the Force, plucking unfortunate youngsters from their perches and dragging them down. As if it were beyond the control of the Knight in question, like some addiction they could not help. Could not be held accountable for.
They seemed to conveniently forget that the dark side of the Force was just that; one aspect of the great deity they worshipped. The Force was one entity, not two, and held no more influence on the mind of a follower than his teachers did. They were servants of the light, after all, not slaves to it. No, this falling to the dark side rot was just a convenient excuse for them to fall back on, rather than accept blame for their behaviour. Jolee knew that Exar Kun was a murderer and a thug, not some helpless victim controlled by evil will. The same went for every other Sith or 'dark Jedi'. These were people to whom fate gave a laser-sword and the ability to control the elements. Some of them are going to turn out bad, and when they do you're going to know about it.
The same went for her. She was filling herself with fear and letting it fester into hatred. When she inevitably turned nasty, it would be her own decision.
Jolee could see it through the Force and in her eyes. There was no stopping it now. He occasionally felt a sickly sensation in his guts, because she reminded him so much of Nayama. That empty, glassy stare she had started to adopt was unmistakable. Back then, that morning when they lay in bed and he woke her, when she looked at him, he knew that she had chosen. He had refused to believe it, of course, but he knew from then on. He would be damned if he cushioned himself with the belief that his wife had fallen. She had not. She had turned, just like Exar and just like the woman standing in front of him, clutching a blazing lightsaber as if it were a security blanket.
It would happen soon. When it did, there would be no-one to convince her to turn back. The poor thing would be waiting for someone to catch her when she fell, but no-one would. He could see it.
Suddenly the lightsaber deactivated. The beams of searing-hot light retracted into their cage, screeching one final warning as they did. The weapon sounded reluctant to switch off, like a wild cat hissing as it backs away.
"Are you alright?" Revan asked her.
The girl seemed to become aware of her clenched teeth and pulled them apart deliberately. "I…" she stuttered. "Yes. I was startled. Now let's press on, please."
Her demeanor was intended to hide the fear inside of her, but it only made it more obvious. She was dishonest, that one. She lied to herself and everyone around her to convince herself that she was on the light path. The girl was just not ready for any of this. A weak and insecure child, she had been taken from her parents and trained as an expert swordswoman. Because of her battle meditation she was then forced to carry the hopes of the entire Republic on her shoulders. Now as Revan's protector she found the Jedi themselves depending on her for their survival. With the extra responsibility of the Star Forge mission, and with all the death she had caused in her quest for it, her turn was inevitable. It was just too much.
The double-lightsaber should have tipped the Council off to the fact that she was incapable of carrying out this task. The longer weapons had a certain reputation for brutality among the Jedi Knights, and it was well-earned. They were wielded by cowards who were afraid that a single blade would not be enough to protect them from the dangers they faced. Some Jedi liked to kid themselves that they were using a 'staff' weapon, but Jolee knew that it was just two swords stuck together.
She carried two weapons because she worried that one would not be enough to save her. She enjoyed the reassuring speed with which the twin yellow blades dispatched her attackers. Before the end, Neyama had started to carry two lightsabers, too. One in each hand, but it amounted to the same thing.
Bastila started walking to the door and Revan followed, still deep in thought. The older woman, he suspected, would not turn, but it was hard to tell. The girl had been looking after her, and so had Carth. Revan was confident and talkative. That might just save her in the end. But after all this support, not even she would be able to stop what was coming.
One day very soon she would make a decision, and nobody would be around to snap her out of it. No parents, no lover, no Jedi and perhaps no friends.
Rather than make a long, drawn-out business of her turning, as Revan was, she would just crack. And then she would let the Galaxy burn so that she might have some peace. What happened then, Jolee could not say, but he would follow the others to find out.
They left the submarine's hatch open. As Revan planned their next journey and Jolee watched, Bastila took the lead and opened the door. The light from the corridor shone through and bathed her clean, white face. Delicately tucking her lightsaber into the folds of her soft, tan outfit, she coughed a little and proceeded.