"Just think about it. That's all I ask." She pushed a briefcase across the table at me.
I glanced around, just to make sure we were still alone. If there was one place on the smuggler's moon where I could count on blending in, it was this cantina during semi-finals when every hauler worth his spice came on-planet to catch the live holofeed. Between the terrible Bith band and the wide-screen holos blaring out a running play-by-play, two former Jedi (or two former Sith) were just another set of warm bodies taking up useless table space along the wall farthest from the crowded screens. Even our droid server didn't want to miss the action, and while that made ordering another round problematic, our privacy was pretty well secured.
"What's this?" I started to examine the briefcase more closely, but she put her hand over mine and frowned.
"Don't open it here, Talonis."
I didn't bother telling her to call me Pohl instead. We'd been through this a thousand times. There were deep lines on her forehead, and fainter ones that grooved along the side of her mouth. She'd been telling me to think about helping them for over an hour now. She was giving me a bad headache, one that our surroundings didn't help.
A roar from the crowd at the bar told me the Titans had scored against the Rancors. Again. There went three hundred of my credits. Typical.
"A present? You shouldn't have." The scowl on my face was deliberate and I saw her eyes widen with the old hurt.
"It's just a few things," she said. "To remind you."
She didn't need to say why I needed reminding. She wanted what they all wanted. She wanted him. We'd been through it all before. We'd been going through it over and over again for the last hour.
"You know, I spent the last month running anti-viral meds through the Vargas quarantine," I told her. "Got at least a dozen crates through the blockade, and I sold them at a loss. I probably saved thousands of lives."
I knew that didn't make up for the things he–I–had done. But nothing would. Didn't it mean something that I wasn't taking over the galaxy again? They'd given me a medal for that before everything went to hell. It was hanging on the navboard of my hauler, right next to the Deralian dreamcatcher.
That and a fifty-cred chip might get me a caffa on Corulag. Maybe.
But Bastila Shan dismissed my good works with a shrug. She lowered her voice – something she should have done from the beginning, but, like I said, that was why I'd chosen this bar in the first place. "We need you, Revan. I need you. I need to know what you remember about your life before–"
My hand came down on the table a little harder than I meant it to. Calling me Revan was even worse than Talonis. "Not much, Bastila." I cut her off. "You and the Council saw to that."
Bastila nodded at the briefcase again. A plain, plastacore model, maybe about eight kilos, with rounded edges and a Force lock holding it all together. The prickle of apprehension I got when I thought about the Force was coming through pretty loud and clear from that thing. I wanted nothing to do with it.
"Some of your–Revan's--personal effects are inside. We--I--thought they might help you remember."
My laugh was supposed to be careless but it was hard to pull off careless around her. "We, huh? I meant to send you two a wedding present, but I got tied up with the Kessel run and didn't get the news for a month. I got a postcard from the kid that she and the wookiee got invited, and I heard the old man's training your new stepson when Juhani stopped by on her way to Yavin, but somehow our invitation must've gotten lost in the mail--"
Her mouth tightened to a thin line. It made her look hard and even more exhausted. "Citadel Station cracked down on refugees. They were going to deport me. Under the circumstances, it was kind of Carth to offer--"
I snorted. "You don't need to defend yourself to me, princess."
Nearly ten years ago a man I couldn't really remember told her to wait until the end of the Mandalorian wars. She'd been too young for him--me--then anyways. Now, we were both too old and I was someone else. Still, the pulse of the fading bond between us echoed sometimes. She'd saved me from myself once. And then I'd saved her right back, just before I killed my former best friend. It should have just made us even, but life is funny. Life leaves scars that still ache even when the wounds scab over and heal.
Even when you don't remember half of the story.
Her eyes were very blue and tired. I took another drink to ignore the clench in my gut.
"Carth's a good man," she said quietly. "We comfort each other."
My eyebrow raised. Comfort, I understood. "That's what it's all about, right?"
"You've gotten fat," she observed. The corners of her mouth lifted slightly. "I never thought I'd see you fat."
I smiled. "It's hard to eat well on the road."
"And when you're home?" Her voice was deceptively bland.
"Look, don't pin all your hopes on me." I'd said something like this to her before once back on Manaan. Only then I hadn't meant the future of the galaxy, I'd just been talking about our relationship. I wasn't sure if that made it better or worse. "I'm not the only hero out there, you know. I'm not even a hero. I'm just a normal guy trying to live a normal life."
Bastila Shan sighed. "These aren't normal times, Revan."
"I'm not your only fracking hope," I snapped. I wished she'd stop calling me Revan. I didn't mean to snap, but she was getting to me. Maybe it was those lines around her mouth. She was too damn young to look so drawn and frightened. For a second, I wanted to kick Onasi's ass again for letting her risk herself meeting me on Nar Shaddaa alone. Then I realized she probably hadn't told him she was meeting me. The Admiral was a good man, but trust wasn't his strong suit.
"No, you're not our only hope." Her hand pushed at the hood and pulled it over her face. She glanced around us, as if she'd just remembered the risk. The crowd was blissfully oblivious. The Titans had scored another goal. "But I have to try every avenue, every possibility--"
"Fine. Okay. I'll take the fracking case." I grabbed it clumsily by the handle and stood up fast.
"That's all I ask." Her voice was suddenly Jedi-serene again. I wondered if I'd just walked into another trap.
I saw her back to her hotel, but she didn't ask me in. I would have declined the invitation anyways. Probably. Talonis Revan and Bastila Shan might have taken on the galaxy, maybe saved it, married, settled down with a couple of kids--but Pohl Ogo and Bastila Shan-Onasi were just old friends who'd been through hell and came out the other side. I was pretty sure she'd be okay in the long run. There was durasteel under that soft skin, and the fortitude that had launched a thousand ships for the Republic. She had her Battle Meditation and the Admiral–they'd work out. Besides, their personal life was none of my concern, just like mine was none of theirs.
That had been the deal. Four years ago after almost six months of debriefing, press junkets, and psych evaluations--back when the Council had teeth and the Senate still took Jedi advice–that had been the deal. Technically, Talonis Revan was dead. And Pohl Ogo–the man who may or may not have ever existed–was free to live his life doing the job he'd always (or never) done. I went back (or started) driving long-space haulers. Maybe my life was a far cry from Talonis Revan's, but the thing about normal guys was, they didn't fall to the dark side. Not to mention, no one tried to kill me, and I got weekends off. Mostly.
And like I said, I did good deeds. Maybe they weren't galaxy-spanning, but they were something. There was a town on Eos with new moisture vaporators free of charge, thanks to me. I'd evacuated those colonists on Bespa last year during the volcanic eruptions, gotten that grain shipment through to Wayland during the worst of the solar flares, scared the hell out of those pirates on the 'Dosha Rim, helped out those orphans on Degobah –
It was all a drop in a galactic-sized bucket. I knew that. But it sure beat dying with the Jedi.
Back aboard my hauler, I waited for the approval codes from Nar Control and stared at the plasticore box. Maybe I should have just tossed it out the airlock, but instead I snapped open the seal and looked inside. There was an old lightsaber hilt that looked vaguely familiar. Some holos in an album with Talonis Revan's name on it that didn't. A stack of datapads written in gibberish – some kind of code, I assumed. And underneath at the bottom, a knight's tattered robe with something heavy wrapped inside. I pulled out the robe and the mask of the Mandalore clattered onto the floor.
I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Of all the things they could have saved, they'd saved that. She'd saved that. Mandalore's mask gazed blankly back at me: dented visor, chipped durasteel. A symbol that had won–and lost—a war. It all depended on what side you were on.
I should know. Even if I didn't remember, I'd certainly heard enough about it.
"Idle Curiosity: What is it about this collection of inorganic materials that amuses you, Master?"
I glanced back at HK. He'd removed his own restraining bolt again. "I don't remember programming you for idle curiosity."
"Resigned Statement: There is much the Master does not remember. Old Echani proverb: necessity is the mother of invention."
I picked up the mask. "Do you know what this is, HK?"
"Secondary aphorisms: Beware the Echani bearing gifts. A Mandalorian in the hand is better than two sniveling Jedi in the bush. How crueler than a shryock's tooth is a thankless Happens on Nar Shaddaa stays on Nar --"
"Shut up." I waved my hand at him and his restraining coupler sparked blue as it reactivated. I tried not to use the Force, I really did. The Star Forge mission taught me to trust honest work and occasionally the good end of a blaster over Jedi trickery. But one thing about the past–it never really lets go. Not completely.
Even when you can't remember.
Forty-five minutes later when we cleared orbit, I turned HK on again and set him to work cracking the code on those datapads. It wasn't very hard. After all, Talonis Revan–I–had created it in the first place.
After I found out the truth I spent the rest of the ride back home to Onderon thinking pretty damn hard.
Those stupid beastrider bells he'd picked up somewhere jangled as the door slid open. From the looks of things, riot season was in full swing. Several unfinished funeral wreaths and a pile of uncut malreaux roses were scattered across every flat surface. I'd told the beskar to hire some help during the busy times, but he never listened. Stubborn bastard.
He looked up from the workbench, a pair of laser cutters in one hand and a bunch of rose branches in the other. "Thought you'd be back last week."
"I got a comm from Shan when I was finishing up the last run." I swung the twelve-pak I'd smuggled through customs from Taris onto the counter and tossed one over. He dropped the laser and caught the bottle in one smooth movement that belied his age. Implants maybe, we didn't talk about it.
"Oh?" A bushy eyebrow raised. He could say more with one inflection than most people with a whole vocabulator.
"She says the Jedi are dying. She wants me to do something about it."
Canderous Ordo snorted. "I wondered when they'd get her to work on you."
"She gave me some things," I added lightly.
"Oh?" he grunted again. He needed a shave. Actually we both did. A shave and a shower and maybe a sauna. And a steak or two. My gut rumbled. I was starving. But that would have to wait.
"She gave me a case of Revan's old crap." It had taken two years for Ordo to stop calling me Revan. In those two years some of the old hero worship had faded for both of us. I liked to think it had been replaced by something stronger.
"And?" Ordo shrugged and picked up the cutter again. Malreaux stems are tough and the ichor's acidic. I stepped closer and watched him almost burn a hole through the table while I fumbled for a way to tell him what I needed to say. Talonis Revan probably would have made a nice speech. Me, I just blurted it out.
"There were coordinates. Another star map."
I tried to make it seem like no big deal, but from the what the man I'd used to be had written, I was pretty sure I wasn't just looking for another long-dead Rakatan ruin. There was something else going on. Something Revan–I'd–started a long time ago.
Beware of Echani bearing gifts.
Something I needed to finish now.
"You drive a long-space hauler and I run a flower shop." Ordo put down the tools and took a swig from his bottle. The hole he'd burned in the table sizzled until he poured some beer on it. "You want to go chasing after glory? Get back in shape first." He glanced down at my stomach and slapped it lightly. "I bet Shan was surprised to see this gut of yours."
I chuckled. "You could say. She called me fat."
"You are. She really married Republic?" Ordo folded his arms. "She never struck me as the marrying type."
"You're not exactly the best judge." I opened a beer for myself and leaned back against a stack of crates. From the blocked-out customs stamps, I was pretty sure they didn't contain more roses. Canderous Ordo may have run the best flower shop in Iziz, but that didn't stop him from doing a brisk business in black market weapons on the side. I was pretty sure he was stockpiling arms somewhere too, but that was his business, not mine. Or so I'd always told myself.
Until now. Now, I was counting on it. On him.
"I have to go," I explained. "The Jedi are dying because of what I did."
"And good riddance." There was an edge of anger in his voice now. "Pack of useless hu'tuun –"
"I'm going," I told him more sharply. Commandingly. I thought I'd let the guilt go a long time ago. This wasn't it. This was something else.
Ordo lumbered to his feet. We were the same height, but he seemed taller, even with the weight I'd put on. Funny, we ate the same and he had at least twenty years on me, but I was the one with the paunch. "Fine," he snapped. "I could use a vacation. When do we leave?"
I pulled the mask out of my bag and dropped it on the table. He'd have to get a mechanic to take care of the dents, or maybe do it himself. He'd like working on it himself, I thought. There was a blast mark near the brow, where Malak's bombardment had almost taken the top of Revan's--my--skull. He'd have to get that fixed too. Maybe he could just stick the faceplate on a new helm.
"We don't," I told him flatly. "I'm going alone."
Those gray eyes didn't change. It wasn't like with Bastila. I'd never been able to read Ordo, but I didn't need to. Over the years, we'd gotten to know each other pretty well.
He picked up the mask and weighed it in his hands. "Thanks," he said. A muscle twitched in his cheek. "Mar'e. I thought you said Shan gave you a bunch of Revan's crap."
His mouth twitched. "This isn't crap. And you know it."
I jerked my chin in response. He smiled slightly.
"How long do we have?" The mask dangled from his scarred fingers, seemingly careless, but I knew better. Bastila Shan wanted me to save the galaxy, but I knew no one would follow Talonis Revan–not after what he'd done. And Pohl Ogo? He was just some guy.
Canderous Ordo was different.
"I'm getting out of here tomorrow," I said. "First thing. I want to get an early start."
He grunted affirmation. Maybe even approval. "I'll put some steaks on the grill while you take a shower. You stink like a Gammorean."
"Okay," I nodded.
"And shave," he snapped at me. "Might be a long time before you have time again."
"Okay." I nodded again.
"Or'dinii a'dika," he mumbled under his breath and went into the kitchen to make our dinner.
"Okay," I said again to the empty room. I took a deep breath, whoever I was, and let it out again. "Okay."
AN: I threatened to write this story two or three years ago. I am very gleeful that I finally did.
beskar -- Mandalorian iron
hu'tuun -- cowards
mar'e -- at last
Or'dinii a'dika -- crazy kid, lad or darling
Originally written for a Dueling Challenge at the most wonderful .com/