For My Baby Sister, Brittany
For those of you who actually read my author notes, I'm sure you remember me venting a few chapters back about how my sister's boyfriend had been beating her and yet she always went back to him. Well, she suffered the ultimate consequence for such a choice. He finally went too far and now my beautiful sister is gone. But while her pain is over and I can at least take comfort in the knowledge that he will never hurt her again, the rest of us who love her will suffer for her choice the rest of our lives.
I share my sister's tragic story with you now so that others may learn from her mistake. She loved her boyfriend and she couldn't let go of the man he was when they first started dating. That was why she stayed with him through it all. She was only twenty-three years old and the most beautiful woman on this earth, inside and out. If you look at my author profile page, I have her picture posted so everyone can put her face to this story, not just a blank generic stick person.
Brittany, this and everything else I write from now on is for you. Your brother and I love you, your niece and nephew miss you, and we'll see you again someday.
One Year Later…
Mira had been on Nar Shaddaa for about nine months. When she arrived, she gave herself enough time to find a place to crash in the evening before setting out for the refugee sector.
Things had improved for the refugees since she had been here last. Liara taking out Saquesh and the rest of the Exchange had helped the refugees immensely. And the Serroco gang had not tried to encroach any further on the refugees, preferring to keep to themselves.
Mira had found that there was definitely no shortage of people who had loved ones missing. She merely had to turn and point and she'd find someone who needed her services. Taking a note from Liara's book, Mira never charged more than what she needed to survive and continue with her work. And if someone couldn't pay, she'd let it slide.
Things had been going well. She put her Force powers to work to locate the missing. This often took her off-world, though occasionally she'd get lucky and discover the person who had been missing had been on Nar Shaddaa the entire time, lost in the crowd.
Up until her last mission, reuniting families had been easy. She had simply to find the person then bring them back to where her client was. But the people she had been sent to find last were different.
A man named Kenten Dannuz had hired her to find his wife and young son. Like most of the other refugees, the war had caused his family to disappear in the wind while he served the Republic. What made this case different was that his family had been taken by Gamorrean slavers.
Hiring help for this particular job had never even crossed Mira's mind. She had always worked alone when she was bounty hunting, and now that she was a Jedi, she had simply assumed that a few dim-witted pig-men would hardly be a challenge. This proved to be a very costly assumption.
Mira found Mrs. Jypsa Dannuz and her son, Eethun, quite easily. They had just been purchased by a wealthy merchant and three Gamorreans were transporting them across planet to the purchaser. Mira managed to intercept them before they reached their destination.
The problem came after Mira had incapacitated all three guards. She had boarded her small landspeeder and was readying it to leave. Jypsa and Eethun were seating themselves when one of the guards that Mira had thought was unconscious snuck up on them and quickly snatched Eethun just as she was driving off.
Jypsa didn't even hesitate as she leapt from the back of the vehicle to rescue her child. She pounced on the Gamorrean's back, beating at him with her tiny fists. The slaver shoved Eethun aside in order to deal with the slight woman who was attacking him. Mira quickly stopped the landspeeder and jumped from it. She grabbed Eethun and threw him back into the landspeeder. She turned to retrieve Jypsa but stopped short when she saw the Gamorrean grab Jypsa from over his shoulder and swiftly break her neck. He then tossed her to the dirt like she was a piece of trash.
Mira immediately ignited her blue lightsaber and cut the slaver down. Then she retrieved Jypsa's body to bring back to Kenten, telling young Eethun his mother was just sleeping.
The worst part of the whole ordeal was that, as upset as Kenten was at his wife's death, he was not angry with Mira. He instead was grateful to her that she rescued his son and brought his wife's body back to him. Mira would have preferred his rage.
That last mission was what prompted Mira to seek a partner for all future endeavors.
She had received many responses from all walks of life, but none had been hired. Some wanted too much money, some didn't seem trustworthy, and some were still a little wet behind the ears.
The girl in sitting in front of Mira now seemed the latter.
She was a blue twi'lek who looked like she was 15-years-old. She was very pretty with a well-toned body, but Mira wasn't looking for someone to charm her enemies. She could handle that herself. The twi'lek had two things going for her, however, and they were the only reasons Mira hadn't told the teen she wasn't interested: She said she had a male companion who, to use the girl's words, was "incredibly intimidating" and all the two of them wanted as payment for their work was room and board and Mira's promise to help them locate someone.
Still, Mira wasn't sure if she wanted to be responsible for a teenager. The work she was doing had already proven itself dangerous at times.
So Mira told her just that.
"I bet I've seen more action than you ever have!" the girl responded hotly.
Mira sighed. "Look, kid, I'm sure—"
The twi'lek angrily cut her off. "Hey! I ain't no kid! I'm almost twenty-one-years-old!"
Mira was surprised at the girl's age, but twi'leks typically had a youthful appearance. "Fine, Miss…"
"Oh!" the twi'lek exclaimed. "My name! Sorry, we never did get to that, did we? My name's Mission. Mission Vao. Pleased to meet you."
"Look, Mission, I'm sure you can handle yourself, but what I am doing is dangerous. People have died, which is the reason I'm taking on help in the first place."
"I can handle myself! Me and Big Z can take on whatever you got. We helped Revan take down Malak, you know. We even got a Cross of Glory for it," Mission revealed proudly.
Mira's red eyebrows rose slightly. "Impressive. If it's true."
Mission folded her arms across her chance. "Why would I lie? You can easily check if it's true or not. There were photos of our whole group all over the holonet."
If she's telling the truth, I could find out exactly how skilled this twi'lek is if I contact Mandalore, Mira thought. HK-47 said once that he and Mandalore had also fought in that epic battle against Darth Malak with Revan.
Mira studied the girl a moment.
"You said you had a companion?" Mira asked suddenly, changing the subject. "Why isn't he in here with you? Obviously, I would rather meet with both of you before I make a decision, in addition to learning more about the job you have for me."
'Well, Big Z is more of the strong, silent type. If I decide you're okay to work with, then he'll make an appearance. He's right outside. And you'll find out who we want to find if you decide to take us on as partners."
Mira contemplated the young woman in front of her. Mission was not a child, as she had first thought, so that worry was taken care of. And if she really was one of the crew that served with Revan, then she was more capable than she appeared. Mira took that as a plus. She herself was often underestimated, and it worked in Mira's favor. And having two attractive women who knew their way around the battlefield could only help, in addition to her mystery companion.
"I would like to meet your boyfriend, then, if you find me suitable to partner with," Mira said.
Mission's face immediately showed her disgust with the idea of her companion being her boyfriend. "Yuck!" she cried. "He's like a brother to me! A very large, hairy, stinky brother. You'll see what I mean. Let me grab him real quick."
Mira watched her poke her head out the door and confer with someone quietly. Then she stepped back and made room for her "brother."
Mira gasped in surprise when she saw him. At first glance, she thought it was Hanharr, brought back to life once again. But on closer inspection, she saw that this one was taller and leaner than Hanharr was. His fur was a lighter shade of brown. And he didn't have Hanharr's infamous wrist cuffs.
She restrained herself from immediately ordering them from her domicile. Hanharr had been the only one of his kind she had ever encountered, and that was more than enough. But through the Force, she could sense that this being in front of her did not share Hanharr's madness. And if that was true, he would indeed be a valuable ally if he had even a fraction of Hanharr's strength. And he certainly was intimidating to behold. The fact that he traveled with Mission and helped keep an eye on her, well, that spoke volumes of him to Mira.
So Mira decided to test him first. He surely knew who Hanharr was. Zaalbar was only the second of their species Mira had ever encountered, so they couldn't be too widespread.
"Now that we have all met, I have a confession to make," Mira started. "I already have a partner. Like your large friend here, he only meets the candidates once I've given the okay. He's actually of your race," she said, looking at the wookiee. He returned her stare, his face looking blank. "Maybe you know him. His name is Hanharr. He—"
Mira was cut-off by the most terrifying roar. She quickly stood and placed her hand on her lightsaber.
Mission went to her friend. "Zaalbar? What is it? What's the matter? Do you know this guy she's talking about?"
Zaalbar roared his answer to Mission.
"He is not of my tribe, but I do know of him. He is an outcast and exile of my people," he told her angrily in his native Shyriiwook. "He slaughtered his entire tribe, including the young. He claimed it was to save them from being enslaved. Madness…" He glared at Mira.
Mission looked to her, surprised. "You work with someone like that?"
Mira started to shake her head when the angry wookiee in front of her turned to leave the room.
"Leave her, Mission. We will find other means to locate—"
"Wait!" Mira said loudly. "Just wait a sec. I was just testing you. I don't have any partner."
Mission crossed her arms and stared hard at Mira.
Mira tried to explain herself. "Hanharr was the only one of your kind I've ever met. We weren't exactly friends. So when I saw you were of the same species he was, I needed to get an honest reaction from you on him. If I had decided to take you on as a partner and you ended up being just as crazy as he was, I'd be royally screwed. But you've convinced me that you are nothing like him."
"And why should we believe you?" Mission asked her saucily.
"Two reasons: One, I wouldn't need a partner if I already had a big hulking mass of fur following me around. You and Zaalbar don't seem to need a lot of help. You really think a Jedi and a… whatever you are," she said motioning to Zaalbar. "would need much assistance? And two, Hanharr couldn't be my partner anyway. I killed him about a year ago."
The three of them stood in silence for what seemed an eternity. Then Mission interrupted the quiet.
"I don't know, Big Z. I think we can trust her."
Zaalbar didn't answer and continued to stare at Mira. Mira returned his gaze. He then slowly nodded his agreement to Mission, never taking his eyes off of the bounty-hunter-turned-Jedi.
"If you say so, Mission. But I will be watching you, flame-haired female. Maybe you killed Hanharr, maybe not. Your actions in the future will prove your worth to me."
"Whatever gets you off, big guy. You wouldn't be the first male who couldn't keep his eyes off me. Just don't forget that you also have a job to do and we should get along fine."
The wookiee grunted in abhorrence at the girl. She was far too hairless and four breasts shy of beautiful in his book.
"So we got the job, then?" Mission asked.
"If you want it, it's yours, kid. Sorry, Mission," she corrected quickly at the angry look Mission shot her. She sat back down at her table, Mission also taking her seat once more. "We can go over the fine details in a little bit. For now, I'm curious about who you're wanting to find."
Mission and Zaalbar glanced at each other quickly before focusing on Mira once more. Mission leaned in close to her, lowering her voice to a near hush. "We're looking for a good friend of ours. She went by Mercee Sindal for awhile, but you would know her by her real name, Revan…"
X X X X X
Visas was sitting alone in the apartment she shared with Mical on Telos. She was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to meditate. Lately, she had been feeling… called. She couldn't quite explain it. It was something, or someone, trying to get through to her through the Force. It was not unlike what she felt nearly two years ago when she first detected Liara's presence. What set this apart was it was a deliberate calling, whereas Liara had been unintentionally sending out waves through the Force.
Visas had been feeling this disturbance for a few days now. But each time she tried to concentrate on it and follow the call to its source, she would become distracted and lose the thread. Usually she excelled at meditation. Lately, however, her relationship with Mical had her unable to focus for long on any one thing.
For the past year, she and Mical had been living together on Telos. They helped Chodo Habat with his restoration efforts when they could, kept in contact with Admiral Carth Onasi on things from Telos's progress to news from Liara, and continued their Jedi training together. They had even "adopted" a four-year-old zeltron boy named Ashur.
Visas had first detected the young boy three months ago due to his force-sensitivity. She had felt it calling to her while she and Mical were heading home from visiting with Moza. Ashur had been sitting in a dark alley alone, tearing into a pastry that he had either stolen or was given to him. He was dirty and small, but his heritage was still very evident from his dusky red skin, purple hair that was so dark it was almost black, and violet eyes.
And his demeanor was trademark zeltron. Once he saw Visas, his little face lit up and he smiled, knowing even at the tender age of four how to charm the opposite sex. Visas and Mical couldn't help but be won over by the charismatic child. Ashur had accompanied them home that night so that he wasn't on the streets and it easily became a permanent arrangement. Mical had once asked Ashur why he never tried to be taken in by anyone else. Ashur had simply replied that the people before Mical and Visas were not who he was meant to go with. As for his short life history, he refused to answer any questions. Mical still tried to this day to get something out of him, but Visas respected his need for privacy and left the subject matter alone.
And so it was that Visas and Mical became the surrogate parents of Ashur. While he was about average intelligence, he was extremely streetwise and enigmatic. One could already see the handsome man he would one day become. Like all zeltrons, he could produce pheromones at will thus making him even more adorable. He had done this often while living on the street in order to obtain food from others. As for his force-sensitivity, Mical and Visas both took it upon themselves to train him, occasionally seeking guidance from Chodo on the matter. He had a hard time with his studies, as he preferred to have fun, but he was a quick-learner.
Visas couldn't be happier. She had grown comfortable with being Ashur's caretaker, taking joy in the new role. She was also content with where her relationship with Mical was going. In the beginning, things had been going so perfectly that Visas lived in almost constant fear that something was going to happen to shatter her happiness. After many months however, she finally began to let her guard down and allow herself to love the fact that Mical loved her and would never betray her. She had stopped looking for ulterior motives behind every sweet nothing he whispered to her. She had stopped wondering what he could possibly see in her when she was so damaged. And best of all, she had stopped seeing herself as damaged.
That is, until about a month ago when Mical began acting distant. He was still as affectionate as always, but lately he would disappear for a few hours without letting her know where he was going or what he was doing. If she tried to ask any questions, he would become evasive and his answers were always vague.
Like today, for instance. Mical told Visas he was taking Ashur to meet with Chodo Habat to discuss more complex lesson plans for Ashur's training. But Visas happened to know for a fact that Habat was meeting with some people from the planet Ithor about an issue with a previous shipment of wildlife.
She did not confront him with the hole in his alibis because she was unsure what to accuse him off. Was he seeing someone else? Was he losing interest in her? Or was it a simple matter of the honeymoon stage wearing off and the two of them becoming complacent with each other?
None of the possibilities soothed Visas's worried mind.
So she tried to put Mical out of her mind for the time being and focus on the signal she had been receiving through the Force. With little effort she was able to locate the broadcast again. The trial came when she tried to follow it to its source once again.
Visas followed the echoes, further and further, straining to keep with it and not lose concentration. She reached and probed, endeavoring to locate the origin. She could feel herself getting closer, though a few times she nearly lost the connection. But she managed to keep with it, continuing toward the end.
So close, she thought. I am nearing the beginning of this outreach. Follow the eddies, go with the currents. Nearly there, do not lose it!
Visas gasped as she finally detected the source. She stood quickly, breaking her connection to the thread. She could scarcely believe it, but knew she was not wrong about who was sending out the call.
She opened the door to her apartment and began down the hall, using her Force Sight to scan for Mical. Once she was able to reveal to Mical who it was, he would probably want to notify Admiral Onasi and Mandalore…
"Visas! I was just coming to get you!" she heard Mical shout from further down the corridor. She continued her walk toward him, wondering briefly what he had been up to.
"Where's Ashur?" she asked him once he was in front of her.
"Oh, he's playing at the park with a few children. I had something I had to take care of so the widow Haptom is watching him."
Visas just looked at him. He had told her before he left that he was taking Ashur to train and now she finds that he had things to take care of so he left him with Mrs. Haptom. She opened her mouth to ask him about his sudden change in plans when he took hold of her hand.
"Come, my love, there is something I must show you," he told her quietly as he led her along.
Visas thought about jerking her hand away and demanding answers to his strange behavior, but she couldn't bring herself to question the man who meant so much to her.
Mical took her through the complex and then called for a shuttle to the outside. Visas momentarily forgot her issues with Mical as she took in the beauty of the planet's restored environment. It was still enclosed by the planetary shields Bao-Dur had designed long ago, but that fact did nothing to diminish the landscape.
Mical pulled to a stop in the grass near the beaches and helped Visas from the shuttle. Still holding her hand, he walked with her along the shore. He commented here and there about different plants and animals that had been integrated successfully into Telos' habitat. But Visas scarcely heard him, still trying to decide if she wanted to say anything about his earlier lies.
He brought her around a grouping of large boulders on the sandy beach, revealing a blanket with an array of food set out. And in the middle of the blanket was a vase with a very plain and almost ugly flower. It was good size, though not in bloom. Its petals were closed tightly and the only color to be seen was gray.
Visas turned quickly to Mical. "Mical, what is all this?"
He smiled at her suspicious expression. "Just a little something I have been planning. Do you like it?"
Visas only looked at him before looking back to the flower. "I truly do not know what to say. Is this why you have been lying about your whereabouts?" she asked before she could stop herself.
Mical's face turned red. "You knew I lied, did you? Yes, well, I could not very well tell you I was planning a surprise for you. It would not have been as meaningful had you known, I think. I do apologize for my deceit. I hope you can forgive me."
Still stunned from his surprise as well as relieved this was his only reason for fibbing before, all she could do was gesture to the flower. "That is…a very unusual flower."
Mical smiled again, stooping to pick it up. "It is a very special flower. It is called Verum Formosita. Or simply Alethea. It is actually one of the most rare and beautiful flowers in the universe. It is not much to look at while closed, but when it opens up, it is quite a different story. It is breathtaking, words cannot possibly describe it."
He plucked the flower from the vase and set the vase back on the ground. Then he handed it to Visas, still explaining the bloom's properties.
"You see," he continued. "While it is growing, it is open. But once fully mature, it closes up tightly and will not bloom again except under one condition…"
Visas gasped as the flower slowly began to unfurl its petals.
Mical placed his hand over hers. "It will only open in the presence of two people who are really and truly in love with one another."
She was once again rendered speechless as she looked from Mical back to the flower. It was almost completely open now and Mical was right about the outside belying its true splendor.
There were many petals and each was bright and vivid colors. They ranged from purples and blues to pinks and reds. And each petal looked to have diamonds sewn onto the outer edges, though Mical explained it was simply the petals' designs.
Visas was about to try to articulate to Mical how much such a gift meant to her when she noticed something in the middle of the flower. She looked closer and was surprised at seeing a gold ring tucked inside of it. Gently so as not to damage the flower's stunning petals, she took the ring from it. She looked to Mical questioningly.
"It took very careful planning on my part to get this ring in there before it closed but not so soon that it might have gotten lost in the fray," he told her.
He took the ring from her and took a knee, taking her left hand in his. "Visas, we have gone through so much together. We have travelled all over the galaxy, fought together, bled together. We saved the Republic together. And now that things have calmed down somewhat, we have even taken on the responsibility of a child together. And I would have it no other way. I love you, Visas Marr. You are my match and my opposite. We are the same and yet you are everything I am not. I know that should we ever part, I would never feel whole again. So I must ask you: Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Visas could only look at him, stunned. "Mical, I… Are you certain this is what you want?"
He gently squeezed her hand. "More than anything, my love. But if words are not enough to sway you, and with you they so rarely are, then I think the flower speaks for itself."
She looked at the flower again before going back to him. "Yes, Mical. Yes, yes, yes."
He smiled as he let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. He pulled her glove off and slid the ring onto her finger before standing once more and kissing her. "You have just made me so incredibly happy! I cannot wait to tell Ashur!" he told her eagerly.
She laughed, something she was doing more and more of these days as she rested her head onto his chest.
"I'm sorry if this is not done by Miraluka customs, but I'm afraid I am unfamiliar with them. Humans typically wear a ring around the ring finger on the left hand because that is the one finger that has a vein going directly to the heart. So I—"
Visas kissed him, putting an end to his apology. "Do not apologize. That is a very beautiful practice you humans have. And one that I have no issue with partaking in." She laid her head back onto his chest. "This is honestly the best day I can ever remember having."
"Well, I had planned on us having a romantic dinner here, but I am so excited that I just want to hurry to everyone and spread the good news."
His words reminded Visas of what she had set out to find him for in the first place. She pulled away from him quickly.
"Wait, Mical, there is something I must tell you. I told you I had been detecting a signal or call of some sorts through the Force."
He gave her a quizzical look at the abrupt change in subject. "Yes, I recall."
"I finally traced it to its source! Though it defies all explanation, it came from none other than Revan…"
X X X X X
"Some of our scouts came across this one in the jungle," Kelborn said to Mandalore, bringing a young girl into the room. He had carried her in over his shoulders and stopped in front of Mandalore, depositing the child firmly on the ground.
Canderous barely acknowledged her, his mind on his clan. "Why are you wasting my time, Kelborn? Send her to Kex and have her put to work. I have other matters to attend to."
Kelborn did not shy away from his leader. "Supposedly, our scouts found her right as she was taking down a maalraas."
Canderous looked to the girl again, this time taking a moment to examine her more closely.
He judged her to be about nine or ten years old, but he was not familiar enough with children to make a real guess. She was gangly and plain, but there was a fierceness in her eyes as she stared back at him that Canderous couldn't help but admire. She was definitely not in the least bit afraid of her situation.
"A maalraas, eh?" he asked Kelborn.
"Yes, Mandalore. It was not full grown so not as big a threat as it could have been, but she took it down all the same. The scouts said she used a homemade blade to knife it in the gut and again in the throat when it rushed her. They said she didn't show the slightest hint of fear."
The girl glared at Kelborn. "Why would I be afraid of an overgrown kitty? Should I've been? Does that mean you are?"
Kelborn made no move that he had even heard the girl, but Canderous made it immediately clear that he did not appreciate her words.
"Mandalorians do not fear that which is weaker, and most of the animals that inhabit this jungle fall into that category," he told her firmly. "Now, while one should never be afraid to speak their mind, you will show the proper respect afforded to one of Kelborn's rank."
She glowered at him but did not talk back.
"Good girl," Canderous told her before turning his attention back to his clanmate. "Why did you bring her to me, Kelborn? Were you thinking she should be adopted by the clan?"
Kelborn shrugged. "Must we only recruit full grown adults? Though we continue to grow in number, we are still few. And we have even less women. I think she would do well as one of us."
"You may be right, Kelborn. Do you have someone in mind to keep watch over her?"
"I don't know what you're talking of doing with me," the girl interjected. "But I'll let you know now that the last guy that tried to make me his slave was killed by me. Just like the big jungle cat was."
"We were actually speaking of taking you in as one of our own and training you in the ways of the Mandalorians," Canderous told her gruffly. "And if your last master was too weak to defend himself against a child, then he deserved to die."
The girl did not seem offended at his words. "That's what I thought, too." she said, nodding a bit. "That's one of the reasons I don't feel bad for doing him in."
Canderous turned to Kelborn. "She will fit right in, I think. Provided the training doesn't kill her." He looked back to her. "What's your name kid? And how old are you?"
"I'm eleven and my name is Nessira."
"Nessira, I am Mandalore the Preserver, leader of the Mandalorians. The man behind you is called Kelborn, he is my second in command. As a Mandalorian, you will learn to fight. You will learn to defend. You will learn military tactics, both Mandalorian and other cultures'. The training is arduous and potentially fatal, but it helps weed out the weak and unworthy. While we will find someone to take care of all of your immediate needs, everyone here will be your family. We will look out for you and you will be expected to do the same. Pull your weight and always strive to prove your worth and you will do fine."
Nessira looked back at him, saying nothing at first. Then, repeating what she had heard Kelborn say to Canderous moments ago, said, "Yes, Mandalore."
Canderous went back to ignoring her and addressed Kelborn. "Find someone to place her with. Her training will start immediately."
"Yes, Mandalore," Kleborn said. He then placed a hand on Nessira's shoulder and steered her out of the room.
Once he was alone, Canderous went to the monitors on the far side of the room and surveyed his clan and home.
They had indeed grown in number since he had assumed control of the dying race. Every month brought new faces to the clan, new resources, and new equipment. Canderous made them train hard, always honing their bodies and minds for battle. He focused on physical training and had his men learn other races cultures and military procedures.
For the most part, he encountered little resistance to his leadership. He occasionally had to show a few of the younger Mandalorians who was boss and once had to battle one veteran Mandalorian who thought he was better suited for the title of Mandalore. But all in all, his word was law.
There was only one thing that Canderous was doing that ever garnered a major reaction from his people: having a jedi help to train them.
Canderous understood the clan's incredulity at being taught anything by someone of the peace-loving order. Many years ago, he would have sided with them on the matter. Not that he let on that he was in anyway sympathetic. He stood firm on the decision and brokered no argument from anyone on the subject. He had battled enough Jedi, and fought beside some as well, to have learned from his mistake of underestimating them. It was a mistake he did not wish his people to continue to repeat. But in all honesty, the idea to have a Jedi train his men was not his own.
Canderous thought back to the day that Bao-Dur had been buried, the day that he had been approached with the suggestion.
After the service, he and Carth Onasi had been speaking to each other, each feeling the other out for news of Revan. In the middle of their discussion, Carth received a message. Canderous remembered watching as Carth's expression went from one of dutiful stoicism to one of barely concealed excitement. Initially, Carth's enthusiasm meant nothing to Canderous. The concerns of the Republic were of no concern to him. But what Carth said to him after closing the message made his mood match Onasi's.
Jolee Bindo was on Telos. And he had news of Revan.
Canderous could barely recall telling Liara and her group goodbye as he and Republic hurried to meet Jolee. Neither spoke to the other, each too consumed in his own thoughts.
What would Jolee tell them? Did he know where Revan was? Was she going to ask for them to come battle at her side? Had she finally chosen between them?
Was she dead?
The shuttle ride took forever and the elevators after that seemed to take even longer. But finally, they caught sight of the crotchety old man.
After their first greetings to each other, Jolee made several attempts to tell them why he had come before veering off topic onto one thing or another. And every time he did, Canderous had to bluntly remind Jolee to get to the point before there was bodily harm done. This of course did little to speed Bindo along.
Eventually, Canderous and Carth were able to get the whole story out of Jolee. Revan was indeed alive and had used the Force to communicate with him. She had given him two messages to deliver, one for Carth and one for Canderous.
To Carth, she had simply reminded him to keep the Republic aware of the danger it still faced and not to grow too complacent. That the true enemy would reveal itself soon, possibly sooner than the Republic had to recoup.
As for Canderous, she let him know that the Mandalorians had a part to play in the upcoming war. She made it known that their foes threatened not only the Republic, but the entire galaxy, including Canderous' people. Then, through Jolee, she dropped the bomb that she wanted Canderous to accept the old man as a teacher for his men. Jolee was to help train his men against Force users, as well as stifle any more misconceptions that the Jedi and Sith were weak due to their reliance on the Force. She knew that the Mandalorians downfall was due, in part, to their underestimating users of the Force.
Canderous couldn't argue with her since she wasn't present, though he did tell Jolee, quite forcefully, that he wasn't training his men to do a damn thing. But after he thought about it, he decided it wasn't such a bad idea. Since it was coming from Revan. If anyone else had suggested it, he would have felt differently.
To his and Carth's disappointment, Revan did not say anything to either of them on a more personal note. But Canderous understood. It was not the time to be soft and sentimental. Not when there were battles to be won.
Thinking of Revan and Jolee prompted Canderous to head over to the old man's training grounds. As he neared he could see Jolee and Davrel practicing in the Battle Circle. Neither were armed and Canderous knew that Bindo was not using his powers. Canderous had seen that it was a major lesson in humility and of the Jedi's physical prowess when Liara had taken part in the Battle Circle. So if Revan wanted to quell suspicions on Force Users being weak, he knew this was a good place to do it.
He watched as Jolee calmly and easily dodged and blocked all of Davrel's attacks. Jolee had not even broken a sweat and Davrel was clearly out of breath. Finally, when Davrel swung and missed for the umpteenth time, Bindo quickly smacked him upside the head.
"By Mandalore's honor old man!" Davrel said, bringing a hand up to his head where Jolee had hit him.
Jolee shook a gnarled finger in Davrel's face. "Don't you 'By Mandalore's Honor' me, boy! I've told you over and over that you are not some raging boma beast who just attacks and doesn't think! If repeating myself won't work then by the Force the back of my hand will get the job done!"
Davrel scowled at him but said nothing, still trying to catch his breath.
"You know," Bindo continued as he watched Canderous approach them. "You remind me of a certain assassin droid I once traveled with while fighting beside Revan. Now mind you, he was a tad harsher, what with his 'Shall I blast him now, master?' and 'Shall we find something to kill to cheer ourselves up, master?' But still, your approach to battle is much the same. I remember a time when our ship had been overrun by gizka—"
"No!" Davrel interrupted. "No, no, no. Not another one of your tales. I would rather slit my wrists and bleed out slowly than listen to you prattle on about the good ol' days again!"
This remark earned him another smack to the side of the head.
Canderous grinned from beneath his helmet. "Resorting to torture to teach my clansmen, are you, Jedi?"
"Hmph!" Jolee crossed his arms while he eyed Davrel. "Depends on what you mean by torture. If you're referring to my hand coming in contact with a few hard heads here and there, I would hardly call that abuse. If you're getting lippy about my stories, I have more than a few about you that I can share with your people."
"And when you do my boot will come in contact with your wrinkly backside," Canderous warned, completely serious.
Jolee waved him off. "Don't worry, I wouldn't dream of undermining your authority. Now, did you come down for a particular reason, son? Or have you come to watch me age?"
"I came to make sure you're proving as useful as Revan claimed."
"I think I'm old enough to know what I'm doing by now. Davrel here is doing better than I'm letting on. He's learning to withstand a few of my mind tricks. And he's strong and eager to prove himself."
Davrel puffed up with pride at Jolee's words to Mandalore.
Canderous turned to the young Mandalorian. "Resisting the Force's mind tricks is all well and good, but don't get too cocky. You still have a long way to go if you can't manage to hit a man who is old enough to be your great-grandfather."
Davrel's ego deflated right before their eyes. But he took his Mandalore's words in stride and simply said, "Yes, Mandalore."
Canderous nodded to Jolee to carry on and continued his survey of his compound. Yes, his clan was growing in number and strength. Maybe one day their strength would surpass the Mandalorians' before the war with the Republic.
Revan, when you need me, I'll be ready. I'm your man until the end. No matter how this plays out…
X X X X X
Atton smiled as he watched Liara pace nervously back and forth in the main hold. She had brought him in from the cockpit a few minutes ago to tell him something, but she hadn't quite gotten to whatever it was she wanted to say. He wondered briefly if she was going to try and leave him again.
Over the past year their search for Revan had taken them all over the galaxy. And every time they landed, she would try, in vain, to leave him. The last planet they were on she had even attempted to get him drunk in a small cantina so she could slip out unnoticed and take off. Atton had thought that was her game so he had insisted she drink with him.
She was a Jedi, true, but her inexperience with alcohol was her undoing. She matched Atton drink for drink. Atton had laughed to see her face flushed and her eyes glassy. And he could barely stay in his seat when she started slurring her words. She had eventually claimed that she needed to leave to use the restroom than had boldly walked out of the cantina, like Atton couldn't see her. He followed her of course, staying in the shadows because seeing her so inebriated was simply too entertaining. She stumbled her and there and cussed at a few buildings and plants that tripped her up, but never actually fell and ultimately made it to the Ebon Hawk. Once she got in the pilot's seat, Atton made his presence known and stopped her from leaving. She had gotten so frustrated and, fueled by the alcohol, had tried to physically remove Atton from the ship, raising her voice and telling him that she didn't want to risk his death with whatever Revan was doing. This proved fruitless and in the end, their struggles turned into something passionate and…well, it was one hell of a night. And morning.
For the most part, they stayed in space, usually only landing when they had to replenish fuel or resources. Some of the planets they stopped at were so far removed that Atton wasn't even positive they had ever been identified by the Republic.
The planet they were on now, for instance, couldn't be named by the ship's navicomputer. But Atton knew for sure this was where they were supposed to be. T3-M4, with the assisstance of HK-47 and his ability to mimic Revan's voice, had finally unlocked the Ebon Hawk's navicomputer, allowing them to see where the ship had been. This planet was the last one visited before being taken in on Peragus. However, if Revan was still here remained to be seen. A lot of time had passed since the ship had left her possession…
Atton and Liara had explored the nearby areas and found the planet to be wild and full of jungles. From what they could tell, no one had ever tried to settle in this area. Aside from a few animals, all of which were aggressive, they found no signs of life.
Which made Atton think again of the possibilty that she might abandon him here. He knew she wouldn't leave him on such an isolated planet so he wondered again at what had her so agitated.
Could it be that she was unhappy? Atton himself was happier than he had ever been. He had worried for awhile that he might grow bored with Liara as time went by but that had proven false. If anything, he relied on her more and more each day. She was his peace and that fact didn't bother him anymore. His happiness being dependent on her was fine with him now. And Atton felt deep inside that she was content as well. Even with the constant reminder of his flaws, such as his yellow eyes, she loved him.
Yes, his eyes were still yellow. In their hurry to reach Revan, there hadn't been much time for good deeds. So they hadn't changed back to their usual color. He was self-conscious about it at first, but Liara soothed his fears by telling him she thought it was kind of sexy.
So what was her deal?
Liara stopped her pacing and faced him, wringing her hands. Her anxiety was starting to make Atton nervous. She was normally more in control of herself than this.
"Atton," she started. "You know how I feel about you. You know that I have never asked for anything from you and I want you to know that all of that still applies."
Atton narrowed his eyes at her. "Okaaay."
"I—" she faltered a little under his gaze. She let out a frustrated sigh. "Do you remember when we first met?"
Atton gave her a slow smile. "How could I forget? You were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I even remember what you were wearing."
Liara tried not to grin and instead rolled her eyes. "I was wearing nothing but my bra and panties."
"Your wet bra and panties. We can't forget that. It's still my favorite thing for you to wear."
She started her pacing again. "I just never could have imagined way back then that we would be where we are now."
Atton went up behind her and put his arms around her. "You know, all this talk of when we first met has me in the mood to do other things."
"Atton, no. This is serious," she told him as she moved to pull away from him. His arms tightened around her to keep her from leaving his embrace.
He pulled her hair away from her neck and kissed her right below her ear while pressing her back against him.
"No," she said again. "I have to say this."
Atton turned her around so she was facing him. "No, you don't. if it has you this upset, I don't think I want to know. Whatever it is will pass. Everything'll be fine."
He bent his head down to hers to kiss her.
"I'm pregnant," she told him, effectively stopping him in his tracks.
Atton stood up straight and looked at her, sure he had heard her wrong. "What did you just say?"
Having finally gotten the words out, most of Liara's nervousness left her. She looked at him calmly and repeated, "I'm pregnant."
He merely blinked at her a few times, still unable to grasp what she was telling him. "I don't understand," he started slowly. "How you can be pregnant? I—"
"Surprised Statement: Surely the meatbag pilot is aware that the act in which he partakes so very frequently with my master can result in offspring," HK-47 explained, having walked in at the end of the conversation.
Atton glared at the droid. "I know how it happened!" He turned back to Liara to further question her when HK continued his lecture.
"Mocking Query: Indeed? I was starting to wonder if humans were aware that intercourse resulted in conception, what with all the unplanned children running around. Are you not aware then that there are steps you can take to prevent pregnancy?"
"Of course we're aware, you homicidal idiot!" Atton replied loudly. "Which is why I don't understand how this happened! Lee," he said, his voice softening a bit. "You always used the Force to keep from getting knocked up."
She gave him a small smile. "Well, my guess is that I conceived that night over a month ago when I got very drunk and tried to leave you. I doubt that in my drunken haze I remembered to do it before we…" her voice trailed off.
That's probably exactly what happened. Atton thought. Well, it was one hell of a night. And morning.
Liara looked him in the eye, her face impassive. "Like I said, I expect nothing from you. I know having a baby is the last thing you want, but I will be having this child. So I can drop you off—"
"You're wrong. The last thing I want is to become old and feeble and unable to perform. But yeah, having a kid is pretty up there on that list, Lee."
"Observation: Perhaps, given the present circumstances, you should want to be unable to perform. Then you would not be in the mess you are in now," HK-47 offered helpfully.
Atton gave him a hard look. "Why don't you shut it, HK?"
He took a deep breath and looked back to the woman who had changed his life in so many ways. He couldn't believe she was pregnant. She was carrying his child. Their child. Atton stared, still looking for the words to say.
"Look," Liara said. "I told you I want nothing from you. You didn't ask to be tied down so I will drop you off at the next settled planet. I don't need you."
"Well I need you! Dammit, Lee!" He ran a hand through his hair and made a frustrated sound. "You have told me many times that you don't need me and that I'm free to go whenever. All I have to do is ask. But you are everything to me! I'll admit that one of the first things that attracted me to you was that you weren't trying to be pushy and needy with me. But we are way past that. And you know what? It would be really nice if you wanted me and needed me like I do you."
Her mask of indifference crumbled as she listened to him. She reached for his hand and brought it to her lips. Then she looked back to him, still holding his hand in hers. "I'm so sorry, Atton. I never meant for you to believe I didn't need you or want you. I just never wanted you to stay with me out of obligation. And you know that being trained as a Jedi, I am still learning how to express my emotions. The truth is that I do need you. I love you."
Atton pulled her to him and hugged her. They didn't say anything for a few moments. But Atton finally broke the silence. "Damn, Lee. A kid? I'm not saying I don't want to be with you or anything, but man, this is big."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. I know you well enough to know you didn't plan on this. It is what it is. I just can't believe it, that's all. I never wanted kids. Not because I don't like them, but because I didn't want to be responsible for someone else like that. I mean, this kid is going to learn how to act and what to do from us."
Liara pulled back from him a little so she could look him in the eye. "You'll do fine. I know you'll be a great father."
He released her and sat down in one of the hold's chairs, his head in his hands. "Come on! What if we have a boy? He's going to learn how to be a man from me. And I'm not the best example mankind has to offer."
"Statement: Master, I must agree with the pilot meatbag," HK-47 said. "He is most definitely not what your son should strive to emulate. However, I am here and will be able to teach your son many wonderful things. I would find it enjoyable indeed to have a meatbag companion who is a little like me."
Atton looked at HK for several seconds before looking to Liara. "Do you see what our son has waiting for him? A mother who is constantly putting herself in harm's way, a father who can't even take care of himself, and a maniacal tin can 'uncle.' This isn't helping me to be ok with this."
"Acknowledgement: Yes, bringing a boy into this universe that has a great chance of becoming like you is enough to frighten anyone. But cheer up, meatbag, there is a fifty percent chance you will have a daughter. Then your only job will be to shield her from men like you."
Atton jumped up. "Would you get the hell outta here?"
"As the father-to-be desires," HK replied as he left the room, playing a telosian lullaby on his audio output.
Atton stared at Liara, his face pale. "He's right! What if it's a girl?"
She laughed as she walked up to him. "Calm down, Atton. It will be ok. Boy or girl, you will be a wonderful father. Our son would gain so much from you. Loyalty, passion, the drive to keep going even when things look their worst. And if we have a girl she—"
"If we have a girl she's going straight to a convent!" he interrupted.
Liara continued to smile. "Atton…"
"I can't believe this. I'm going to be a father," Atton said almost to himself. He stared at Liara's belly like it was the first time he had ever seen it. He was reaching a hand out to touch her stomach when T3-M4 came whirring in.
Atton completely ignored the chirps and beeps T3 emitted, assuming that HK had sent the little trash can in to tease him some more. "Get lost, droid. Me and Liara are talking right now."
"Atton, wait," Liara said as she listened to T3-M4. He continued his droid speak to her. After he finished, Liara's hand went to her lightsaber. "He said he saw someone board the ship on the security cameras."
Atton drew a blaster. "Lee, go wait in the cockpit while I look around."
"That won't be necessary," a figure said, emerging from the shadows down the hall. "I'm right here."
Liara gasped when she saw the woman step into the light of the main hold.
Atton had never met her before but he still knew who she was. One didn't forget a woman as beautiful and powerful as her.
Revan, the Dark Lord and Prodigal Knight had returned…
A/N: I apologize for how long this last chapter took. For obvious reasons, I was not quite in the mood to finish it up. But I have now, and how bittersweet it is. My first piece of fanfiction has finally been completed! I hope this chapter does not disappoint and it is enjoyed as much as the others. Again, Brittany, this is for you…
EragonPeep, Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you! I'm glad you liked it so much and think I did a good job. Yes, this is the last chapter But as they say, all good things must come to an end… Thank you for reading!
Leeirane, Did Liara give up so easily? I guess it all depends on who you ask, lol. Anyways, thanks for reading and leaving me a comment. Glad you enjoyed it!
Whiteshade24, I love Atton, too! Woot for the flyboy! And yay for Mical and Visas being together! And boo for being glad I killed Bao! I'm just kidding, to each his own! I guess that just means there is more Bao for me, then! Ha! At least you liked that, I couldn't ask for more! Thanks for reviewing and for reading!
LilliaJohnson, I thought it might be a tad cruel to only post one chapter when things were getting heated, so I posted both chapters. JUST FOR YOU! Thank BioWare for me not killing anyone else off, because if it was canon, I probably would have done it. And I actually wrote some lines you were jealous of? That is one of the best compliments I've ever gotten! Thanks for everything!
Dark-Huntress Moony, lol, glad you're still loving the story. Hope you still do now that it's over. I appreciate you reading and reviewing!
Akimi Butterfly, of course I'm not going to let Atton die! He's much too awesome and he's the father of my fanfiction babies! As for Bao, denial can bring a lot of happiness, so yes, fly away Bao! Continue your planetary reconstruction! And thank you for your well wishes on my grandmother. She is in remission as of now, so yay! And thanks for all the comments and reviews!
Akeem20, I know the news of my sister is of no surprise to you since I told you a while back that it had happened. Thank you for your condolences and for the nice things you said about her. It really meant a lot…
Anyways, I'm always so relieved to hear good things from you on what I've written. And I'm glad the previous two chapters were no exception. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR STICKING WITH ME THROUGH THIS STORY IN ITS ENTIRETY! It's been a very long trial and you have truly been a great source of confidence for me as I tried out my writing wings. And you know how much it means to me that you are inspired by what I do. I hope your writer's block has cleared, and you know if you need help through any of your written endeavors, you need only ask, now that things are settling down for me. Thanks again so much!
Brjto, I don't believe I've heard from you before. So thanks for stopping by and letting me know what you thought. I'm glad you've liked what you've read so far!
Artliyon-Rand, Yes, I post on deviantart, kotorfanmedia, and this website. I'm glad you're letting me know how much you like it on two fronts ;P
Neko-hime-cfi, I LOVE YOU, TOO, lol! I do know that the group was to be responsible for training new Jedi, but I actually just went with Kreia's predictions on everyone, taking a few liberties here and there. Hope you don't mind. And I'm so relieved that most people like how I portrayed Atton, huge relief! Thank you so much for reading and letting me know what you thought!
Thorn of the Gods, you gave me such a wonderful compliment! It is too awesome that you read through everything like that! Thanks for making my day! And yes, poor Bao!
Writtenrhythm, tee hee! I'm glad to see my attempts at putting numerous elements in here worked out well. From romantic to humorous to HOLY CRAP! And I hope my ending satisfies…
Harlequin in Chains, I know the review you posted was actually for Chapter 2, but since you posted it recently, I'm responding to it on here. Thank you for the kudos and I'm glad you like my work! Thanks for reading and reviewing! I hope you liked the rest of it!
Ujemaima, yay! You gave me a review for both chapters 17 and 18! You are forgiven for your delay in commenting, obviously with how long I took I can hardly cast stones I'm glad you've stuck with me for so long on here, even with my occasional long absences. And I might decide to do a sequel, which is why I left it wide open for one! So we'll see. But thank you for all the feedback and for reading! I hope the ending doesn't disappoint…
Princess Ashira, thank you for such a nice comment. I did manage to finish it (finally) and can only apologize to everyone again for the amount of time it took. But thank you for reading and for letting me know I still have people waiting to read how it ends, lol!