"You were right in most ways not to trust the words of others especially after your trial before the Council after the Wars, but they were afraid, especially because of Revan's return at the head of the armada that would spark the Jedi Civil War…"

"A war among Jedi?" whispers the Exile

"Yes and no, unlike you many of Revan's followers from the Wars alongside a substantial amount of the Republic's military formed the ranks under a new Sith banner."

"I thought we had accomplished something meaningful not just for the Republic, but for the Jedi, to define us through the struggles we took up, though there was something else going on out there… something we had not seen… the Council had some reason to fear it, but they never knew it as we had…"

"Indeed, to have the reins to speculate from the illusion of safety within an Enclave or a Temple, distances yourself from the struggles that happen all around you…"

"They did not understand, at least it felt that way to me, but likewise trying to prove that to them was like having to give the order to activate that thing all over again except like it already happen once, it was almost like knowing they would were going to do something…"

"Something you had to face, to face it knowing you were going to suffer for it regardless of their decision…"

"It is hardly strange that I should find a like mind in you, you have the look of someone who has been down the roads, still on them even now, but perhaps I reach much…"

"You are hardly wrong; it is the conflict, the struggle that strengthens us…"

"Any idea what happen here?"

"I take it that this place has become its own tomb…"

"I am going to look around; we are going to need a way off this place, especially if whoever came after the Harbinger discovers where we are… I will be back for you… any suggestions?"

"I would recommend some clothes if only to keep warm and look halfway decent…"

"I will be back…"

Kreia settles into a meditation knowing that at least the Exile's mind is an open one, but she too knows well enough not to entirely trust anyone though she is willing to step up again as someone else needs to take the wheel. Kreia realizes she is getting too old for this, but there is still work to do especially the training of the Exile. She truly is the last hope in Kreia's mind because she had been the only one to turn away at Malachor, a question that still circles through Kreia's thoughts from time to time. The Exile fights her way through a series of mining droids, which have been reprogrammed to attack organics.

***

"Beyond those doors there is movement, but not from anything alive…"

"Kreia, I thought the telepathy ended when I woke from the tank…"

"It appears it has not, nevertheless, steel yourself for the coming fight…"

The Exile whips out a vibroblade taken from the locker in the security office, a few sections back, and mentally preps the possibility of using the grenades she found there as well. A flurry of motions follow her unexpected leap through the opening doorway ahead, and before she even catches her breath, the mining droids are scrap heap on the deck around her. She exhales, replaces the grenades to her belt, and grips the blade's hilt as if remembering something, a strange feeling, something without words to explain it.

"It feels familiar and alien…"

"It is the Force…"

"It has been a long time…"

"You must embrace it again… you will need all the abilities available…"

"One must never rely upon it too much…"

"Quite right, but the Force like any ability requires constant use otherwise…"

"You leave it behind, but it never leaves you, you ignore it though it remains…"

"You have thought over this much…"

"The learning does not end…."

"It never does… but now… you must continue…"

She resumes experiencing cross eyed visions of the Peragian facility and the surface of Malachor V. The corpses were enough to pull her back into the moment, and she finds a stealth belt on one of them. She barely recalls the last time she used one, which had been during the Wars, a tactic that rarely worked against machine or organic though the stealthier user, the more likely one is able to evade detection. She examines the behavior cores of several units in the Operations section of the facility, and finds their algorithms were rewritten not long after her purported arrival here.

"No coincidence in that development; at least now this group is not liable to attack me. Survival favors the prepared so these units will come in handy. Now to dig through some more computers, but it seems even from the CSO's logs that things were already bad before my arrival though went straight to hell after…"

A thorough search of the administrator's logs reinforces the security chief's fears about the escalation of tensions between the miners in regards to her. It privately frustrates her that her return so far has led to more deaths, not on the scale of Malachor, it felt unlikely to top that, but before this is over, more will die, it feels inevitable to her. She took the Council's decision because she felt a need to face them, to explain her decision yet like before they had shown a worry about the real cause behind her return. It had everything and nothing to do with Revan.

She again slips back to the moment as she walks towards the holding cells at the far side of the Operations Sector. Her hand reaches towards the door controls though she naturally hesitates considering what has been behind the doors so far. Kreia again reminds her that she need not fear this one, he is only a man, but the Exile feels even more uneasy to cross the threshold. Her last experience with a man had been the male majority Council and before that her field superiors, Revan and Malak.

"You miners go and change regulation uniforms even more since I got here?"

"Eyes up, look at me, not my body!"

"You got no sense of humor lady!"

"Most of the bodies I have seen here so far are dead and the droids are on the prowl to kill anything organic surely you must know something."

"I have been in this cell for hours, maybe even a day or more by now, you lose track of time in a Force Cage, wait a second, you are not that Jedi I heard the guards babbling about?"

"I am, I only woke up from the tank awhile ago to find the other tanks' occupants dead and the rest of the facility so far seems as empty as a tomb."

"I got a deal for you, let me out and we will find some way out of here…"

"I obviously cannot get back to my ship in the hangar alone…"

"My name is Atton Rand, by the way," says the man.

"I am Vina…"

"A pleasure, so let's go…"

Atton rewires the communication console, and learns that the facility is in lockdown, which effectively seals them off from the hangar. The only way is through the mining tunnels in order to gain access to the fuel depot then find the lift to the hangar bay. However the only way to unlock access to the tunnels is in the fuel depot, as the controls to do it here have been fried or removed at some point during the escalation.

"Anyway to reach other parts of the facility through this console…"

"The communications system is mostly functional, the dormitories are silent, but I hear droid speak coming from the hangar, probably more of those kill switch miner droids…"

"No, it is not one of them; I'll talk to him…"

"Him?" says Atton

"He is a utility droid if I understand the noises right…"

"Hello, are you all right?" asks Vina

[T3 makes a response]

"Double check…"

[T3 confirms status]

"Is there anyway for you to unlock the turbolifts or access hatches from your location?"

[T3 reports status of the two possible routes]

"I rather risk it than stay stuck up here waiting for another string of attacks…"

T3 begins by hacking into the hangar bay's control terminal, and discovers that lockdown controls were taken out of the console. He downloads the layout schematics of the bay, and determines the shortest route to the auxiliary lockdown console, which is situated on a gangway that runs over the fuel pipes used for larger starships that can only make exterior docking. He makes short work of several miner droids, which are of similar design to the ones that were attacking Vina on the Administration/Operations Level. The droid eventually reaches the controls, and discovers the lockdown had been initiated from another location near his current position within the past day.

He logs out and whirls around to face unexpected company. A sonic discharge freezes his motivators and eventually shuts him down. The turbolift to the tunnels is open. Vina discerns this much from the consoles in the Admin/Ops Sector. She looks to Atton who figures that droid did the job. He is about to speak about getting directly to the Hangar Bay.

"Only the access to the tunnels is available, the rest of the lockdown is still in effect, it seems whoever did this, wrote the protocol a little too well, which means more consoles will need bypassing or overriding before we make the hangar…"

"You realize how dangerous it is to be down in those tunnels with that stuff…"

"Well somebody has got to save our skins; you sure don't look like your volunteering…"

"You are either crazy or brave, maybe both, better you than me…"

"See you on the other side…"

***

"The interference is definitely affecting the transmission, but there should be some gear down there to insulate you against the heat and anything else though I am also detecting a whole splatter of droids down there too… the same kind you got guarding me up here… makes me feel liked…"

"Glad to be of service, I'll see what I can find…"

"Be careful huh, I can't exactly get out of here without you…"

"I am growing on you huh?"

"Just watch your back okay…"

Vina had felt a slight attraction to this Atton, but even she had to admit an urge to distrust anyone especially him or Kreia. The exile had hardened her against everything and everyone, but she felt a strong need to bond with others again, it had been an empty life for too long. It had been far more personal dealing with Atton than it had been with Kreia or the crew of the Harbinger before their untimely deaths days ago. She cautiously makes her way around the droids after reactivating and repairing one to attack some of the nearby ones to create a diversion for her while she suits up in a spare miner's uniform.

"It may not be fashionable, but at least it fits and feels warm enough, going around in a cut-off jumpsuit was embarrassing more in front of him than me… I really am starting to like him… get a grip Vina…"

He contacts her again.

"Find anything?"

"Some gear, a miner uniform, some heat shields, and a stealth belt..."

"Damn..."

"Something wrong?" asks Vina coyly.

"Uh, did I say that out loud?"

"I'm sure the droids heard you too... the tunnels aren't the only hot spot right now."

"Just finish whatever you need to do done there..."

She continues onward once reattaching and reactivating the stealth belt around her waist. Sensor repair balls are also flying around, probably as mobile repair units to the miner droids, but some of the droids are also packing some serious firepower in the beam energy department. Vina nears a section of the tunnels where there is a gas leak, and the comlink chirps again.

***

Atton tracks her through the sensors and the glitch ridden camera system. He makes another com call to her.

"Sensors show you are near one of the gas pockets, if you have a body shield on use it."

"I understand, anything else shows up, let me know… I am on the move…"

"More droids ahead too…"

"Never easy is it?"


A/N 1: Exile/Atton play off each other from the start in this version of their meeting. I kind of made her flirt with him unconsciously, I mean if you were a man or a woman and you hadn't really had intimate experience in a long time, you would be inclined to reach out to someone on a personal level.

A/N 2: As a female Exile, I really wanted the relationship to go further then him flirting with her and being jealous of Mical/Disciple.