The Whips and Scorns of Time. Chapter I. Currency
A/N: It's been quite a long time since I last wrote for this fandom, but I've felt the draw recently to end my semi-retirement and write this short 2 or 3 part story. The second and perhaps third chapters will be coming soon. I hope you enjoy! ~Auros
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,[...]
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns... Hamlet Act III Scene I
I pull a stylus out of my belt, and sitting down at my datapad write the following:
I envy people who can see beauty and good every day, for that faculty perpetually evades me. Today marks one year since I left everyone to search for Revan, and I cannot help but feel that I am no closer to finding him today than I was when I left. I am now more confirmed than ever in my worry that this mission is hopeless.
I set the pad down on the seat next to me. Glancing out the cockpit window of the Ebon Hawk I see the approaching surface of a dark green and blue planet. I've long since left the Republic. The Outer Rim is a vast territory; I've heard it said that there are more inhabited worlds here than in the entire Republic—most of them isolated, desolate, and backwards.
At this point, I'm following whispers and blind chance to find a planet which has contact with the elusive Sith Empire. The last five planets I've visited have only brought me farther away from the major trade hyperlanes. I have every suspicion that this planet will do just the same.
I pull up planetary data from the local infonet…. "Well this is interesting," I say aloud to no one. I talk to myself when I can't stand T3's grating beeps and whistles any longer. I see that this planet is rather populous compared to others in the area, and used to be linked to the Perlemian Route before a Supernova interrupted the existing lane over 2,000 years ago.
"Guess nobody bothered to fix it," I say.
I scan for the largest city, and contact a docking facility 30 klicks from the center. I land the Ebon Hawk smoothly. Flying isn't nearly as hard as Atton made it out to be.
I am greeted by a blustery downpour, and an agitated Rodian as I exit the ship. "Don't you dare try to cheat me!" He shrieks. "Don't even think about it human! I got family that'll cut pretty girl head off and put on wall."
I have no cause to doubt his sincerity. I put up my hand to assure him that I'll pay and reach into a pocket of my brown cloak to grab some hard cash. Credits are as worthless out here as my reputation as a Jedi. I imagine that the locals would hardly notice if the Republic or the Jedi Order disappeared. I may get to test this theory soon.
"How much?" I ask in my best impression of the local patois.
The rodian tilts his head slightly. Then he says, "Oh! I get it. You pay 30 per night."
I may not be half the linguist that Revan is, but I'm not about to be hoodwinked into paying double what's standard for a shithole like this. I haggle him down to 20, and I'm too tired to bother to push any lower.
I catch a shuttle into the city center. I walk out from where the buildings glow bright and tall to where they flicker ominously. This is where the traders and pilots will be; I know from experience. It's also where every transient scum-schutta will be. Oh joy! I think.
"Where's the best place to get a drink?" I ask a bum, who's crouched at the opening of an alley. He's getting soaked by the omnipresent drizzle of rain, and I feel sorry for him.
"How much is that worth to ya?" He asks, turning his head up. The overcast gray skies reveal dark eyes, and a filthy face.
My sympathy fades quickly. Everyone's just out to get their share. "Five," I say curtly. "Take it or the next gutter-bum will."
He seizes the money quickly, and then points me to a place a few block away.
The street is lined with bars, cantinas, casinos, and sleazy looking hotels. How many wretched hives of scum and villainy there are!
I enter the one he told me about, and I'm not at all surprised that he thought that this was the place to be. I think the name of the bar roughly translates to the Murder Victim, or the Dead Man. So many nuances of this delightful language that I've yet to learn!
The place looks like it's been burned down at least twice, but that could be due to the fact that the main source of light emanates from the patrons' pipes and cigs. The bar is on the far end, and it's nearly full. I spy a single seat between a collapsed bantha-of-a-man, and a black-cowled person who's crouched over a drink.
It's as good a place as any to see what I can find out. The black-hooded man is on my left; he gives a little shake as I sit down next to him. Perhaps he notices just as I do that bantha-man has passed out in a puddle of his own vomit. I decide its best to follow the man on the left's lead and keep my hood on—even this far out pretty blondes still turn heads.
"What do you take, ma'am?" the bartender asks, and I'm a little taken aback to be addressed with the honorific. Courtesy is in short supply out here.
My mind blanks, and for some reason the only thing that I can think of is Tarisian ale. Why did I say that! I don't even like Tarisian ale. The bartender raises an eyebrow. "That's hard to come by these days," he informs me.
Yeah, I think, but the knock-offs aren't.
"That ain't gonna come cheap."
"Just get me the local price," I say as nonchalantly as possible. I've gotta stick by my choice; to change my mind would make me look like a fool.
He comes back a moment later with a short glass of clear rust colored liquid. The whole scene brought me back to my days in exile—drowning in drinks to treat my wound. I'd learned a bit about drinks back then, enough to know that real Tarisian ale was slightly cloudy, due to enzymes left-over from the Tach gland from which it was made. There was even a helpful rhyme to remember this by: Fear if it's clear, Gulp if there's pulp.
I take a sip. It's strong, and it burns my throat as I swallow. At least the real thing goes down smooth, I think. "That's gonna be 25," he growls. "You startin' a tab?"
"Are you kidding? Twenty-five for this fake slime?!" I say, raising my voice slightly mostly from anger but also from fear that I'm running low on hard cash.
"For such a little girl, you sure got some balls," he says, ready to get his money whatever it takes.
The black-hooded man to my left lifts his hand from his drink and says softly, "Don't worry about it Smasher, her drinks are on me."
He doesn't look at me right away. In fact, he does nothing to acknowledge that I'm even there. If it had been any other man who'd have paid for a drink of mine, he would have turned to me with the expectation that I would sleep with him on the spot. This man is different. There is something familiar about him, but I sense nothing out of the ordinary when I stretch out with the force.
"Thank you," I whisper to him, after taking another sip of the counterfeit liquor.
"You're eternally welcome," he says, in what was the most elegant accent I'd ever heard this language spoken. "Earlier this evening, I had the misfortune to order the same 'Tarisian ale' as you did just now… As the name suggests, Smasher has a reputation for having a short temper, and I couldn't allow a fellow connoisseur—shall we say—to feel the wrath of that brute."
"That's very considerate of you," I say, perplexed by this hooded gentlemen, who still has not deigned necessary to so much as glance at me.
"If you would not take it as too much of an intrusion, may I ask what your name is," he says. He says it like he's had these words planned out for his whole life.
"Not at all," I say dismissively. "My name is Reli—"
The man puts up his hand, index and middle fingers extended to shush me. "I thought that 'Smasher' would serve as an adequate example to you that such names don't have currency out here," he says in a startling cruel tone.
I don't know quite how to take this, in those situations I find it best to keep my words taut. "Yeah what kind of name would have currency?" I ask bluntly.
"I think that General or Exile would suit you much better," the man says in galactic basic. A chill races up my spine.
The man turns to me and I am confronted with a face that stops my heart. Adrenaline floods my veins, and I feel a barrier to my force-sensation removed. I am flooded with all of the energies of the most powerful Jedi I've ever known—Revan.
His face is covered in shadow by his overhanging cowl, but I could never forget those ice-blue eyes and the fiery stare they could produce. Everything else, dark complexion and hair seems oddly unchanged as well, as though he hasn't aged in all these years.
"Revan, I… Revan—" I am at a loss for words.
"I know, I know," he reassures me, placing a hand on mine. Leaning in to talk, he says, "Let's go somewhere more private to speak."
I get up to follow him across the room. He carries both of our drinks. On the other side of the bar there is an isolated empty booth. Serendipitous, I think, before wondering if Revan has had this all planned out for some time.
"You were closer than you thought," he says, as we sit down facing one another.
"To finding you?" I ask rhetorically, "Obviously."
"Yes, of course. But you were also close to finding me where you expected to find me, in the Sith Empire."
"What do you mean?"
"This planet is one of a handful in this sector with a hyperlane linked to the True Sith Empire. Given a little more time, I'm confident you would have found out about it. But that would have only been half the work, as the Sith Empire is vast and finding me in it would have been difficult, especially as I did my best to hide myself."
"You seem quite proficient at that," I say, remembering the way that I was unable to detect his presence even sitting next to him. I begin to worry, too. I run through every possible explanation that I can come up with to explain why Revan is not in the Sith Empire fighting the Sith. I came here hoping to find him fighting the Sith, I tell myself, but there was always the possibility that I would have to fight him. He could be here to kill me. I slide my hand to my lightsaber.
"The Force grows in you like impatient sapling," Revan says sagely. A wry smile crosses his lips. "I can see a Master putting it like that. What I mean to say is that your power is only a shade of what it once was; I'm sure you would have felt through my barrier in times past."
I don't know if Revan is trying to insult or comfort me. All I manage is a weak nod, my mind all the while running through what I remember of Revan's lightsaber fighting style.
"Calm yourself 'Exile'," he says my title with relish. "You can take your hand off your lightsaber…Do you honestly think I would have waited this long to kill you? As Dark Lord of the Sith, I learned that engaging my quarry in conversation is counterproductive. I hid myself from you because I needed to know your intentions, just as you seek to know mine.
"After all you trained under Kreia—yes, Exile I have heard much about your exploits from my limited contacts in the Republic. I needed to know how you had reacted to her unique teachings. I needed to know if you had come to fight the Sith or join them, or to do something else entirely."
Arrogant as ever, I think as I finish the last of my drink. "What did you find out about me?"
Revan reaches into his pocket and pulls out a silver case. He takes a cig from inside, puts it in his mouth and lights it before answering my question. "I could sense that you walk in the light, but you do not march like some pathologically obedient Jedi underling. In that way you…you remind me of who you were the last time I encountered you; there is a difference, however, but I have trouble placing it."
"Do you think I might?..." I flick my eyes at his silver case, and Revan immediate grabs it and offers me a smoke. "I started smoking during the war," I say, gazing at the loathsome stick in my fingers. "I haven't had one since I came back from exile. Just never had the time, I suppose. Almost forgot they existed."
Revan takes in a deep drag. From the light at the end of his cig, I can see that he has indeed aged. "I picked it up on campaign, as well," he says after pausing to think. "We all did. I lost the craving as well; evidently, the Council did not think it a habit that was necessary to rebuild in my broken mind.
"When my memories came back—most of them, at least—so came the smoking. Speaking of memories, I wonder if you might help me with a dark spot in mine. You see, I do remember you; I remember a lot about you, but I feel like there is something missing. When was the last time I saw you?"
I chuckle faintly. "Perhaps, when you hear this you'll understand why I am immensely skeptical of you, Revan…The last time I we saw one another was in holographic form. You ordered me to activate the Mass Shadow Generator on Malachor V. You ordered me to carry out the war's most lingering atrocity. You thought, also, that you were ordering me to my own death, but that clearly was not to be."
Revan looks shocked. His blue eyes stare into my greens, but it is clear that his gaze was elsewhere. Revan's previous arrogance, something I remembered about him since the first time I met him, is melting away. I can see it in his trembling lower lip. "I…I remember it all." His pain is palpable. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"No—Don't," I begin to stop him from apologizing, but I see the futility. "We're both sorry. We're both responsible for—it…But there's nothing we can do to change what happened there. All we can do is go forward."
Revan nods, but I think he's only barely heard me. He seems incredibly distant, as though a wave of memory has caught him and pulled him out to the sea of his troubled past. He can wallow in his regret another time, I think, callously. I need to bring him back to the here and now.
"Revan," I say, "I need to know something. I need to know why you came to me, why you left the Sith Empire, and why when I feel your force energy I feel only confusion."
Chapter II—Lost Cause