An old, old thing I found on my hard drive, but which is close enough to done that if you'll bear with some jumps, it's a fun enough read...
"You…" said Darth Malak, closing his hand into a fist, "are Darth Revan."
Sabine glanced over her shoulder briefly to see who he was talking to. Carth? No, the surgery involved would be ridiculous. Bastila? Well, anything's possible, and she does like to hear herself talk, but I wouldn't have guessed—
"You," said Malak. "In front of me. With the purple lightsaber." It was difficult for cybernetics to look nonplussed, but he managed.
Sabine stared at him for a couple of seconds, and then started laughing.
"No, I heard you, I just don't believe you. That's…just…Are you trying to lay the groundwork for some kind of insanity defense?" She gestured with the lightsaber, setting it humming. "Because I was just planning on killing you, frankly, so don't go to any trouble on my account."
She stopped. The quality of the silence behind her had gotten awfully loud.
She turned and looked. This probably wasn't the smartest thing to do with a Sith lord standing in front of her, but she looked anyway.
Carth was glaring at Bastila. Bastila had her eyes pinned on Malak, but her expression was pure guilt.
"It occurs to me," Sabine said slowly, "that I am the only one laughing."
"Heh," said Carth, packing a world of bitterness into a very short syllable.
"It's true," the Jedi said wretchedly.
Sabine shut off her lightsaber—Sith Lord be damned—and slapped the hilt into her palm a few times. "How could that possibly be true?"
It took several minutes of Malak and Bastila interrupting each other to explain. The word "brainwashing" came up several times, along with "memories" and "explosions." Sabine listened, stone-faced, until Bastila ran out of excuses and Malak ran out of gloat.
"And that's it, then?"
They both nodded. It was a little unsettling how similar the two looked for a moment, particular since one was bald and had no lower jaw.
Sabine considered this from all angles and came to a conclusion.
"…I gotta sit down."
She dropped onto the deckplates and put her head in her hands.
Carth's boot prodded her ungently in the kidneys. "There is a Sith loooord standing heeeere…" he said, in a kind of sing-song that would have amused her under other circumstances.
"Apparently there's two of them!" she snapped back.
As a matter of fact, she wasn't worried. She wasn't sure why she wasn't worried, but she wasn't.
Because Malak is one of the galaxy's great gloaters. He won't kill you until he's milked every last drop of anguish out of you over this.
How do I know that?
Because he was my apprentice.
I really am Darth Revan.
Well, I'll be damned.
She dropped her hands and looked at each of them. Bastila looked ready to cry, and Carth looked ready to kill, and Malak looked like a small boy who had just been given a puppy.
I suppose this explains why I always liked the double-bladed lightsabers…
In a way, it was almost liberating. She'd been so worried about falling to the Dark Side. Bastila had her second-guessing every word, every thought. Sabine'd been half-convinced that one more fantasy about Carth, and she'd wake up with a sudden hankering for black robes and a star destroyer to call her own.
Sabine laughed softly to herself. She couldn't believe she'd been worried about that. She was Darth goddamn Revan. She had crushed worlds.
All that angst, wasted. If I live through this, I'm going to yell at Bastila.
It occurred to her that it might be a lot easier if she didn't live through this, because there would be far too many recriminations afterwards. She'd destroyed Telos. Someone wasn't going to forgive her for that.
Do they even make "Sorry I blew up your homeworld" cards?
She got to her feet and shot the lightsaber with a fierce hum. Malak's expression grew even more beatific, a Sith Lord who had been given a puppy and was about to eat it.
"Well," she said, inclining her head to Malak. She sounded very calm. She must be Revan, because Sabine would never be that calm. "Apparently I've been waiting for this for a long time."
She fell on him.
It was straightforward brutality, with no finesse at all. She didn't care if he wounded her—what was she saving all those limbs for anyway? She didn't bother with the Force. The Force could go hang. She would kill him with fist and lightsaber and teeth and toenails if that was all she had left.
If she'd had any lingering doubts that she had been Revan, they were gone. The blackness of her rage was like tar bubbling up in her chest. Only someone with a great deal of practice could hate with a hate as pure as that.
Perhaps the ferocity of her onslaught startled Malak. He made a quick gesture, froze Carth and Bastila in place, and fell back before her.
His expression was always hard to read with the metal bar, but the lines around his eyes changed. The puppy seemed to be disagreeing with him.
She took an opening that no one in their right mind would take and scored a hit across his ribs.
Malak leapt backward with a hiss. He gestured again, and the door slammed between them.
"Sonofabitch!" she yelled, and charged down a corridor perpendicular to his, her boots skidding on the deck. She'd get him. He couldn't hide forever, no matter how many doors he shut.
It occurred to her that she was still yelling. She listened, and heard herself scream "I'll teach you to blow up my flagship, you bald bastard! I liked that ship!"
Yep. Definitely Revan.
She skidded around another corner. Echoes ran cursing in her wake.
Hate is the path to the dark side! said a little voice, desperately, in the back of her head. It sounded a little like Bastila, which only infuriated her more. Anger is the path to the dark side!
She was Darth goddamn Revan. She practically owned the Dark Side.
Berserk rage is no match for a cool head, said a different voice. This one sounded cold, cold, and it came from a place that echoed inside her skull.
She should probably have listened to that one.
Unfortunately, at that moment, Sabine came barreling around another corner, and Darth Malak slapped a hand out at the air, and the Force smashed into her like a rancor in full charge.
She went down in a sprawl on the deckplates. Her lightsaber shut off an instant before it would have taken off her left leg at the hip.
Told you so, said the cold voice pleasantly.
It didn't hurt. That was the funny thing. There was blood leaking out of her ears and her sinuses felt like they were packed full of gauze and the whole world was ringing like an enormous bell, but it didn't really hurt.
Sabine tried to get up, and didn't get very far at all.
Malak came walking toward her, slowly. It was hard to say how a man with a metal collar across half his face could grin, but he was managing. It was all in the eyes.
"Revan, Revan… I can't believe it was this easy. You've gotten soft."
The shattered halves of her personality unified in one brief thought.
He raised the lightsaber over her head. She put a hand up futilely to ward it off.
Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Force. Goodbye, Carth—
Bastila's lightsaber blocked the downward strike. The shrieking hum of the collision made her teeth ache.
"Get away!" Bastila shouted. "I'll hold him!"
"Goo' idea," Sabine said, trying to climb to her feet. The world was moving very inconsiderately around her. "Just hol' 'm down, while I…find…m'…li'saber…."
The door slammed down in front of her. Bolts clanked inside the metal. Sabine blinked at it. Either the ship was listing badly sideways or she was.
Your inner ear's screwed up, and you're in some kind of shock. That explains the balance and the giddiness, offered the little voice in the back of her head.
I'll kill that bald sonofabitch for this! I'll—at least yell at Bastila for this! said a different little voice.
"We have to get back to the ship!" Carth yelled, practically in her ear.
"Can'…leave…Bas'la…" she slurred.
"She's buying us time! Come on!"
Sabine found her lightsaber and got up. The world lurched violently. So did her stomach.
She swayed on her feet, lifted a fist, and pounded futilely on the door.
"We don't have time for this!"
Sabine turned, took a step, and nearly went down. Her legs seemed to be different lengths.
All those little wiggly bones in your ears. Who knew they were so important to your feet?
"Aw, hell," said Carth, jamming one fist onto his hip. "Can you even walk?"
"'Course. 'M Darth Revan, apparently. Worlds tremble, et cet'ra." She made a sweeping gesture with one hand and nearly fell over again.
He thought about leaving her there. She could actually see the thought pass over his face, like a weather system moving over the surface of a ravaged planet. He looked like hell, which was not surprising, granted they'd all been tortured the evening before.
She wasn't worried. The same preternatural calm that had let her turn her back on Malak let her read the weather over Planet Onasi with eerie ease.
Either he'll decide that he owes it to Bastila, or that I'm too dangerous to leave alone with Malak. Either way, he'll drag me along.
I wonder if Revan sees people like this all the time.
Oh, yes. The cold little voice sounded almost like all the rest of them, but it made her twitch anyway.
"Hell," muttered Carth again. He crouched down, caught her around the waist, and slung her over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.
Sabine'd had more than a few fantasies about being in Carth's arms, but they'd involved other positions, and lacked the shoulder in her gut and the world spinning. If she'd had anything left in her stomach, she'd have lost it. She retched instead.
"Puke on my clothes, Darth Revan, and you'll be licking it off."
"'M a lord of t' Sith…" she muttered. "I don' have t' take that…"
He jogged for the ship. There are limits to how fast one can run with a groggy woman slung over your shoulder. She was impressed he made it that far.
Better enjoy it while it lasts, because it sure won't happen again.
She laughed a little at that, because the alternative was to cry, and she was pretty sure Sith Lords didn't cry where anyone could see them.
Canderous's voice crackled over the com. Carth panted out a reply.
Good ol' Canderous. He won't care if I'm Darth Revan. Heck, he'll be ecstatic. Probably call all his little Mandalorian friends to brag…
They entered the hangar, and the pilot put on a final burst of speed. His shoulder jammed into her stomach with every stride, and she bit down on a knuckle. The world spun like a kaleidoscope.
The walls of the Ebon Hawk swept in around them.
Carth dropped her on the deck like a sack of potatoes, and ran for the cockpit. From what felt like a great distance, she heard HK yelling "Recrimination: What have you allowed to happen to the Master?" but it faded mercifully into the thrum of the engines.
Her head was really starting to hurt now.
Two faces came into her field of view.
"Hi, Can'drus. Hi, Mish."
Canderous sneered. This was not unusual, but she generally didn't get to see it from this angle. Foreshortening did not improve matters.
"Are her eyes supposed to be red like that?"
"'M a Sith!"
Canderous shook his head. "Burst blood vessels. Happens if you catch a concussion grenade in the teeth. She'll be fine in a bit, she's just punch drunk." He sneered a bit more. Mandalorians were apparently supposed to eat concussion grenades for breakfast.
"I can see up your nose…"
The sneer deepened even further. Sabine was intrigued to see that the inside of both Mandalorian and Twi'lek nostrils were nearly identical.
It's these little discoveries that keep life interesting.
"Somebody get to the gun turret!" the pilot yelled from the cockpit, as the ship dipped and fluttered like a wounded bird.
"I'll go!" Sabine said from the floor, and was nearly flattened by Canderous sprinting for the turret.
"I coulda done it…"
The Wookie picked her up gingerly and lugged her into the med bay, and she passed out for awhile because consciousness no longer seemed worth hanging around for.
She sat in the medical bay with a coldpack pressed above her eyes, while Jolee peered into her ears with a scope and did small twitchy things with the Force. Most of them made her feel marginally better. One made her attempt to projectile vomit.
"Whoops! Sorry. Heh. They stick those nerves so close together…"
"Can't do much about the eyes. Should heal up in a day or two."
"That'll do." She pulled the coldpack away. The world grudgingly agreed not to spin. "Jolee…"
"Something on your mind?"
"So…turns out I'm the Dark Lord of the Sith."
"Are you, now?"
"Well, I was."
"Was! I was young once. I'm not now. We're none of us what we were."
"Did you ever blow up any planets when you were young?"
"Not that I recall, but my memory's not what it used to be."
"Hmmm." She replaced the coldpack.
"Don't think I ever saved the galaxy from Mandalorians, either."
"Can't say I'm surprised, but you young people, now…You're taking this all very calmly, if I may say so," the old Jedi said, dropping his scope on the counter and washing his hands.
"No screaming or crying or self-mutilation or anything. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm too damn old to stay up nights for a suicide watch."
"I think I'm working up to it." The coldpack had gotten warm, and she rolled it in her fingers, looking for a cold spot. "I don't know. How am I supposed to feel? So I was Revan. What does that even mean? I killed a whole bunch of people, but I don't remember doing it, and I'm not exactly sure why I did it. I certainly don't have the urge to do it again."
"That's a good sign."
"I guess." She found another cold bit and pressed it against her forehead. "Kind of wish I knew why I did it in the first place. Why would I want an empire? I can't keep my own crew from trying to murder each other. What did I plan to do with it? The height of my ambition these days is to—"
Getting Carth to make a move.
"—keep HK from taking a flamethrower to the gizka," she said, barely stumbling over the words and hoping that the other Jedi hadn't been listening to any easily overheard mental frequencies.
"That, and I get this feeling Revan was a very pragmatic woman."
Thanks. I tried.
"Great tacticians generally are." Jolee put the scope away. "You, on the other hand, normally have a very short fuse."
"What does Carth think of—"
The coldpack sailed across the room, hit the cupboards, and fell to the floor.
Jolee grinned like an elderly shark. "That's what I'm talkin' about…"
"Don't you have a cryptic story or something to cover this situation?" she asked testily, picking up the cold pack and tossing it into the trash. The sinus-headache feeling had faded, but a rather more normal one was starting up at her temples.
"No, for once you've managed to come up with something I haven't seen before. But the next time I'm hanging around someone who's great destiny is to be a former Dark Lord, I'll know just what to tell 'em."
They all sat around the briefing table and looked at each other.
They'd sat down at the table more times in the last few months than she cared to count. There had been "What's A Star Forge, and Why We Care." There had been "Kashyyyk Culture and You." There had also been the lecture series tentatively entitled "Co-Ed Living For Mandalorians" which had culminated in the regrettable "Pants Are Not Optional," incident, during which Bastila and Canderous had nearly come to blows and had to be forcibly separated by the rest of the crew.
And every time, through the important briefings and the not-so-important ones and the dinners and the card games, Carth always sat next to her. He never made a big deal out of it. That was just his chair. And during all those meetings and all those meals, he'd sat just close enough that his knee would brush against her leg when either of them moved.
It was a subtle thing. There were quite a lot of people on the crew these days, so it wasn't like the table wasn't cramped. She had just noticed it after awhile, and liked it.
At the moment, he was sitting as far from her as was humanly possible, with his chair wedged against the bulkhead behind him. She was flanked instead by Canderous and HK-47, like a pair of sardonic honor guards. This did nothing to make her feel less villainous, particularly since they were both cleaning their guns at the table again.
"So," Sabine said, and ran out of words.
"Tell them," growled Carth, staring at the bulkhead behind her, "or I will."
HK slapped an energy cell into his blaster with an ominous clicking sound.
"Well." Sabine stretched her hands out in front of her and looked at them, since it was easier than looking at anyone else at the table, and a great deal easier than looking at Carth. "As some of you already know…apparently I used to be Darth Revan."
The number of eyes locked on her made her uncomfortable.
"Heh. Go figure," she added.
"Whoa," said Mission.
After all the yelling and the recriminations and the loyalty oaths, it eventually boiled down to the fact that nobody really cared, except Carth.
She had a theory about this, or possibly Revan did. Sabine supposed if you had to have a Sith living in the back of your head, Revan was a better choice than one of the slimy little deviants from Korriban. Once that scary initial black rage had faded, the little voice was as calm as carbonite. It was like having ice cubes in the back of your head.
Her theory—or Revan's—was that Revan was just a name to most of the crew. Destroying worlds was simply too large a thing to get your mind around unless you happened to live on the world in question. The only people who had thought of Revan as an actual being instead of a name in the dark were Carth, Canderous, and HK-47.
Canderous, as she'd predicted, thought the whole thing was just unbearably cool. Mandalorians didn't use words like "cool" but she got the gist. There was something disturbing about the enthusiasm with which he was cleaning his guns, as if he was hoping to be given the order to execute everyone in the room in the next few minutes.
HK-47 was ecstatic to get his master back, even in watered down form.
Carth, on the other hand…Carth wasn't getting over this one in a hurry.
"If it helps any," she said, carefully not looking at him, "I don't…feel…evil. I mean, I have no desire to suddenly kill you all or anything."
Carth folded his arms and glared at the ceiling. The weather system over Planet Onasi was looking distinctly stormy.
"I don't know." She raked her hands through her hair. "What does being evil feel like? How do you even tell?"
"We could get you a gizka," said Mission, "and see if you want to pet it or kick it—"
"Yeah, but by that logic, Canderous here is evil."
There was a brief, awkward silence.
"Moving right along…" said Sabine, who did not need the Force to see the abyss opening up under her feet. "I guess we just keep on doing what we're doing, and hope we find this Star Forge before Bastila runs out of time."
She pinched the bridge of her nose. Being a former Sith lord might be a good thing or a bad thing or simply a thing, but there was no getting around the fact that Bastila had saved her life and paid the price. After all the snipping and the lecturing—particularly that little lecture in the torture tanks, as if she could bloody well just let Saul fry Carth with a cattle prod—Sabine would have traded her hope of heaven just to get another dressing down about impure thoughts. It didn't seem real. In a properly run universe, Bastila would come out of the refresher at any moment and complain about somebody leaving fur in the drain.
Sabine almost wanted someone to tell a dirty joke, just so that the sheer force of disapproval could summon the other Jedi up.
The same part of her brain which insisted that Bastila couldn't possibly be gone was insisting that if she was really getting choked up at the table, as she appeared to be, a hand would come from her right and grip her shoulder, and that would make it at least marginally better. Except that the hand didn't, because HK was sitting to her right, and Carth was still glaring at the ceiling as if it'd been the one to blow up the planet.
And now we're making jokes about it. Hate may not get you to the Dark Side, but the jokes very well could.
Don't be stupid. How many Sith have any sense of humor?
The answer was apparently "at least one," because the little voice in the back of her head was snickering.
"So, anyway," she said, putting both hands on the table, and hearing the resignation in her own voice, "there we are. HK, get on the holonet and see if you can find out whether Dantooine was really destroyed. If there are any evacuation efforts, the Ebon Hawk is available to render aid, etc. Other that that—" she had to look at Carth this time, he was the pilot, "—is the ship okay after our run-in with the Leviathan? Can we make it to Manaan?"
"It'll get there in one piece," he said tonelessly.
"Then let's get moving."
That appeared to be the sign for everyone to go back about their business. Chairs scraped away from the table.
She headed back to the med bay to see if there was something for her headache, and Carth was headed for the cockpit, which meant that they came face to face in front of the forward hallway.
The silence got uncomfortable very quickly. "Well?" she said finally, just to be saying something.
The look in his eyes was pure poison. "I'm watching you," he said.
"And this is different from the last three months how?"
He made a small, hostile noise and slid passed her. He had to cram himself up against the port bulkhead to avoid brushing her, and he did. By the shape of his jaw, he was clenching his teeth so hard it was a wonder they didn't splinter.
She almost called "I'm sorry I blew up your planet," down the hall after him, but something reached out from the cold place in the back of her head and cinched her vocal cords shut long enough for her to comprehend just how bad saying something like that would be.
Don't mention it.
The voice was definitely gaining tried testing the waters a little. Are you going to start choking people from across the room?
Would you like me to?
Then don't worry about it.
Sabine pressed a hand against each temple and wondered if she was losing her mind.
No. If anything, you're getting it back.
Could we maybe have a little silence in my head for a few minutes?
The ice settled back, like a glacier retreating. Sabine dug through drawers for headache medicine.
There was a Sith in her head. It didn't sound like someone talking in her skull, like another Jedi. It sounded like the little voice that she used to talk to herself, except that there was an odd sort of echo to it, as if it came from some distance away.
It didn't seem hostile. It didn't immediately start gibbering about survival of the strong, and she didn't pick up her lightsaber and throw herself at the throat of the first person she saw, which was good, because the next person she saw was Canderous and it would have ended badly.
He grunted an acknowledgement, yanked open some drawers in the med bay, found a tube of something anti-fungal, and left again. Sabine tried not to think about that. She could only barely cope with all the complications they had already—if the crew all came down some bizarre Mandalorian version of athlete's foot from the shower, it might be the last straw that sent her screaming out the airlock with no suit.
She shut the drawers behind him, finally found some headache pills in the back of an old first aid kit, and swallowed them dry. She really needed sleep. Sleep would be good. Passing out from pain was not an acceptable substitute.
Lying in her bunk, with only the running lights along the floor lit up, she poked at the cold spot in her mind like a sore tooth. Are you going to try to turn me to the Dark Side?
Is that a yes?
No. Look, no one wakes up in the morning and thinks "I'm going to be evil today!" It just doesn't happen—well, okay, maybe some of those Sith kids on Korriban. They're idiots. You turn to the dark because you have to do something that the light's no damn good for. And yes, if something like that comes along again, then yes, we'll probably turn to the dark. Again.
It wasn't ice cubes. It was a whole frozen lake back there, and something moved under the glittering surface, but the voice continued, calm and conversational and a little amused.
And yeah, you'll come along with me, because I'm you, and because even now, you're no good at second guessing yourself, and you're secretly pretty sure you had a damn good reason for whatever you did.
"I am not!" Sabine sat up in bed.
HK-47, who was stationed outside the door, slid it back immediately. "Query: Is there a problem, master?"
"No—it's—no, it's fine, HK."
"Statement: Very well then, master, I will return to my post."
"Hang on." She waved a hand at him. "HK—when I was—you know, back when I was Revan—do you think I had good judgment?"
"Pleased statement: Excellent judgment, master. After all, you created me."
She sighed. "Good to know I can come to you for an unbiased opinion, HK. Thanks."
He clanked away, the door sliding shut behind him.
I'll never turn to the Dark Side, she told herself imperiously.
Well, and I hope we never have to. Although if you get an urge to try using the Force to persuade that pilot to give you a hot oil massage—
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
I'm just sayin'.
There was a long mental silence. She wouldn't talk to herself. That was it. She couldn't turn herself to the Dark Side if she didn't listen to herself talk.
One of the various little voices tried to point out a possible flaw in that logic, and she squelched it immediately.
The ship muttered somewhere in its steel bones as they hit the hyperspace lanes.
Well, maybe one question.
Did we ever—I mean, it's not the sort of thing the Jedi'd implant in my brain, so I don't really know if—I mean—y'know, I kinda have this thing for—
Oh! Yes. Plenty of times.
You were in love plenty of times?
If it was possible for ice to give an embarrassed cough, it would have sounded like that. Oh, love. I thought you meant—never mind. Um. Yes. Once.
Really? Who—oh, god, it wasn't Malak, was it? Tell me it wasn't Malak!
Baldy? No. Never did like men with painted skulls. Although he wasn't bad looking when he still had the other half of his face.
An image formed briefly, blurry around the edges. Malak, without the metal collar. He was wearing brown robes and frowning at something, the tip of his tongue caught between his teeth. He looked incredibly young.
Sabine felt a sudden wash of fondness for the young Malak, which startled her so badly that she sat up and hit her head against the bunk ceiling.
Whoa, careful there. Sorry, getting some mental bleedover. Baldy was a dear friend, once before--ah, well. It was a long time ago.
Sabine shuddered, trying to get the taste of being fond of Malak out of her mouth. It felt desperately wrong. Hatred was cleaner, somehow.
But there was someone?
Yes. The mental voice became oddly soft, a frozen lake with snow slipping in patterns across it. You wouldn't remember him.
This mental image was weaker, half-remembered, sunk deeply in shadow. Sabine couldn't see the man's face very clearly, but there was a sense of calm, and a scent came back to her—skin and cloves and something else she couldn't identify—that struck her as terrible, intimately familiar. It hit her like a bolt to the chest, and she found that there were tears in her eyes for no particular reason.
Why am I so sad?
We killed him.
He was in our way.
She'd murdered whole worlds and couldn't remember it, but she felt a wrenching stab of guilt for this man she couldn't remember ever meeting.
The voice was as gentle and implacable as winter. I tried, you know. Gave him—gods, I don't know how many chances. Laid out everything. But—well, when you've already decided to sacrifice your soul for what has to be done, sacrificing your heart's not really that bad. In a way, I'm glad he didn't fall with me. We would have hated each other before long. Malak and I did. At least he died painlessly.
Lightsaber to the back of the head. He never knew I was the one who killed him. I owed him that much.
What was his name?
Revan was silent. And then, almost kindly, Best you don't know, I think. I was evil, you know, not cruel. Let this stay buried. It is a small thing, after all, and I promise it has no bearing on the Star Forge or anything else.
How can I trust a Sith? she wondered.
The same way you can trust yourself.
The glacier retreated, and there was only silence inside her skull.
"I'm hearing voices," she told Jolee the next morning, having locked the door to the med bay and checked for stealth fields.
She'd settled on Jolee because no one else was going to do any good. Mission and the Wookie would be completely out of their depth, Juhani's hero worship was not conducive to a sound mental health diagnosis, Canderous would offer to shoot her in the head in hopes of nailing one of the voices where it lived, and Carth still wasn't talking to her. This seriously limited her options.
"Hearing voices now, are we?" The old Jedi frowned into his caffa. "Was this really worth rushing breakfast for?"
"I'm serious. Revan's in my head. I can hear her." Sabine boosted herself up on the counter, ducking her head to avoid the overhead cabinets.
"Well, you're her, so who's head is she supposed to be in?"
I like this guy.
"No, you don't understand—it's like there's this cold place in the back of my head and I can hear her talking to me."
Jolee eyed her over the rim of the cup. "What's she say?"
"Err…well…" Sabine rubbed at the back of her neck. Now that she came to say it, it didn't sound all that terrible. "She…actually doesn't seem all that bad."
"Not all that bad in a "Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies," kind of way, or in a genuinely not-bad kind of way?"
I could totally go for something chocolate chip, now that he mentions it…
Sabine threw her hands in the air. "I have no idea! How do you tell? She's not telling me to give in to my hate or my rage or anything else, and she hasn't suggested we blow up any planets! She's not saying "Hey, let's go pull the legs off gizka!"
I always thought gizka were cute.
"It's—just—damnit, Jolee, I think she's smarter than me."
The old Jedi took a long drink of caffa and rolled it around. "So…let me see if I've got this right. You are talking to you, inside your head, and you are worried that you are smarter than you."
"I'm the one who's supposed to be senile, kid. Don't go movin' in on my turf."
She moaned into her hands.
"I don't know what to tell you, kid. It's not like you can really be possessed by yourself. I think." He took another slug of caffa, and muttered "Damn Jedi Council, mucking around with things they don't understand…."
Now I know I like this guy.
"God!" she said out loud. "What are you, anyway? Are you me, or not me or…"
Jolee inched toward the door.
Granted that I was here first, it would be fairer to say that you are me. However, if it makes things easier, think of me as…oh…a mental construction erected by a surprisingly healthy psyche to cope with the near-annihilating mental trauma of discovering that you're actually a genocidal tyrant when you thought your worst crime was occasional justifiable homicide.
This took a minute to sink in. Revan had quite a large vocabulary and apparently wasn't afraid to use it.
"So you're not real?" It was easier to talk out loud. It helped her keep her selves straight.
Jolee set his back to the door and drank a bit more caffa.
I'm entirely real. Just because something's in your head doesn't make it not real. In fact, granted that we're currently a personality put together by the Jedi council, I am technically much realer than you.
Hmm, quite. Look, you're thinking about this too hard, and no good ever comes of that, and Galactic Basic doesn't have the right pronouns to make this work anyway. This would be a much easier argument in Rodian. Now there's a species who understands its pronouns.
"You're changing the subject."
No, we're changing the—look, never mind. Just think of me as…Revan's ghost? Will that work for you? It's not really accurate, because we're not dead, but it's the best we're going to get. I promise not to stage a coup of the motor functions unless you're about to do something profoundly stupid.
"Who decides what's profoundly stupid?"
Jolee coughed into his hand. Sabine shot him a glare.
We do. I kept you from saying something stupid to Carth last night, now, didn't I?
She sighed. "Fair enough."
Now you're starting to freak the old man out, so quit arguing with yourself. I was a Dark Lord of the Sith, not a derelict who yelled at herself on street corners. Let's keep a little dignity here.
Sabine slid off the counter. "Jolee—I'm sorry. I didn't mean to argue with myself in front of you."
He shrugged. "Not the first time I've seen it happen. Probably won't be the last."
He let himself out. Sabine waited until the door had closed, and said, almost under her breath, "One more question."
It's not like I have anywhere else to be.
"Are you going to suddenly do something evil out of the blue?"
The ice was briefly contemplative. That depends on you, doesn't it?
I'm really you. This is you filtering your memories and your old personality back in the only way you can handle. If—we—do something evil, it'll be because you want to do it. I'm not going to suddenly pick up a blaster and start shooting. I can't do that. Even if I could, it'd be stupid, and I was never a stupid woman.
"Was that a yes or a no?"
Look, if you do something bad, don't blame it on me. This is not a "Try the Dark Side free for thirty days without guilt" offer. You want to go Force Persuade the Mandalorian to give you a foot rub, it's all you.
Although if you do that, I'm not going to object, because have you noticed our feet are killing us?
"There is only one solution," said Sabine out loud, to the ceiling.
We're getting the foot rub?
"I'm going to have to get so drunk I can't hear myself think."
"Little early for that, isn't it?" asked Mission, eyeing the bottle in Sabine's hand.
"Mission," said Sabine steadily, pouring out another shot, "when you have discovered that you are a former Dark Lord of the Sith and your friend and mentor has been kidnapped by your murderous former apprentice—and there is not a damn thing you can do about it because you're stuck in the hyperspace lanes for the next week—then you are welcome to begin drinking at any hour of the day you please." She downed the shot. The first three had burned, but now most of the nerves in her throat had been stunned into submission.
"That's fair, I guess," said the Twi'lek warily. "You okay?"
"I am so far from okay that I cannot see okay from here. Other than that, I'm fine. If I give you twenty credits, will you go lift the bottle Canderous is keeping in his foot locker?"
"Thank you. You're a good friend. Should I snap and begin to itch for long black robes again, I wanted you to know that." She poured another shot.
"Err…thanks, I guess…?"
The Twi'lek went out. The Mandalorian came in.
He sneered at her. She gave him a level look, drained the shot glass, and slapped it down on the table.
Apparently that was a warm greeting on Mandalore, because he pulled up a chair, took the bottle, and said "What are we drinking to?"
Really, the foot rub would hardly be evil at all. It's not like we didn't grind the lot of them underfoot once already. It'd probably remind him of old times.
She made the next shot a double.
"Can I ask you a question?" asked Canderous, after they had passed the bottle back and forth a few times.
Oh, lord, here it comes. That thought, at least, was pure Sabine. "Sure."
"What was it like when you—Revan—killed Mandalore?"
Sabine tilted her head back and sighed heavily. Well?
Tell him I thought "Die, you armored son of a bitch, die, my god, why won't you die, you have got to be the hardest man to kill I've ever met." And when it was all over I limped down to the med bay and passed out for two days and if I hadn't been a bloody Jedi keeping my innards tucked in with the Force, they'd be calling that planet "Revan's Folly" today.
She relayed this information. Canderous's scowl turned into something far more disturbing.
He actually—very briefly--beamed. It was not pretty.
Is that really what happened? she asked herself tentatively.
Not exactly, but it's what he wanted to hear.
She went back to the bottle with a vengeance.
"It was a beautiful fight," said Canderous, holding the glass up to the light so that amber shadows fell across the table.
He might had said more—she knew for a fact that he could wax positively poetic about anything involving warfare—but Carth passed through on his way to the cockpit, saw the two of them drinking, and worked up a scowl that would have done a Mandalorian proud.
Do you want a weather report on that, or can you figure it out for yourself?
Thanks, I think I've got this one covered.
"You're welcome to join us," she said to the back of his head, as he punched something out of the drinks dispenser.
The hard lines of his back were eloquent.
"Fine, have it your way. It's just a lot easier to tell if I'm plotting sedition if you're in the same room."
The growl that came back would have been more appropriate to a Wookie. Sabine sank back into her chair and closed her eyes, telling herself that there was absolutely no prickling behind them, it was just exhaustion and burst blood vessels and fumes from the bottle.
By the time she opened them again, the pilot was gone, and Mission was standing in the middle of the room, looking awkward.
"Hand it over," Sabine said, holding out a hand.
The girl glanced briefly at Canderous.
"I'll take the heat."
Mission set an amber bottle down on the table and skipped hurriedly to the other side of the room.
Canderous eyed it thoughtfully, then picked it up, unscrewed the top, and poured out two shots. He handed her one, saluted with the glass, and drank it down.
You sure you've got your heart set on the pilot? He'll be watching you for the rest of your life, waiting to see if you do something evil. I grant you, this one has a face like a firaxa, but he'll go with you all the way to the heart of the dark.
Sweet mother of gizka, no! The alcohol wasn't working nearly fast enough for Sabine's comfort.
Canderous read the label on the bottle, because it's just one of the things that people do between drinks. He sneered at the ingredients.
C'mon, it'd take four days, tops. Two if we can divert to Kashyyyk.
There is no way I'd ever—why Kashyyyk?
Curiosity was going to be the death of her, and that was just all there was to it.
Big game hunting. It's better than foreplay with Mandalorians. Stand on top of a pile of dead kinrath and lick blood off your fingers, and the man'll follow you to hell on his knees.
The mental image was brief and searing and required no help at all from the back of her head. No! I—no! That's disgusting!
Oh, well, probably for the best. Mandalorians make love like they make war.
Even intoxicated, Sabine could see a punchline when it dropped on her head from a great height. She resigned herself to the inevitable.
Quick and brutal and they always keep their boots on. Revan paused, possibly waiting for applause.
Her lips twisted. Thank you so much for sharing. How do you even know that?
The scent that hit her this time was smoke and sweat and darkness. A voice rasped something in her ear in harsh Mandalorian. Sabine jerked in her chair as if hit by a shock rod.
Canderous glanced at her impassively and carefully lifted the bottle out of harm's way.
Know thine enemy, said Revan, with a serenity that would do Master Vandar proud.
I like to be thorough.
"Thank you, Darth Hedonist!"
It took a minute for her to realize that somewhere between irritation and increasing drunkenness, she'd said that out loud. Canderous was watching her as warily as an unstable thermal detonator.
She shook her head at him. He didn't ask for an explanation, but he did slide the bottle a few more inches out of her reach.
I can't believe you.
Through passion I gain strength, said Revan pleasantly.
They don't mean that kind of passion!
Really? Oh, well, I'm sure you're right. After all, which one of us would possibly know more about the Sith code?
Sabine's breath hissed between her teeth.
I still can't believe—Mandalorians?
Oh, sure, I blew up how many planets and killed how many Jedi, and you're judging me because one lousy time I went slumming in a Mandalorian bar and wound up going home with this grim grey-eyed bastard with biceps like a—look, never mind. It's really not that surprising. There comes a time—at least there did for me— when you take more comfort in your enemies than you do in your friends.
The alcohol obviously wasn't shutting Revan up, but it put a kind of glittering amber haze around the words that made it easier to ignore. The next words seemed to come from very far away. Besides Mandalorians aren't that bad. They're psychotic buggers, but they're straightforward about it. You learn to appreciate that in a foe.
Sabine leaned forward across the table and snagged the bottle.
And they know how to drink in silence, which is something we ought to cherish in this world.
On that point, at least, Sabine couldn't argue. Canderous didn't say a word, and Revan didn't say another one. They drank without speaking until the world went away and somebody carried her to bed.
Sabine stayed in a drunken stupor for three days, after which time she'd exhausted the available alcohol supply and Jolee came in to yell at her about what the Force could and could not fix with regards to her liver.
For some reason, she didn't have a hangover. She wasn't sure why.
I made sure we drank plenty of fluids. You think a Sith Lord doesn't know how to go on a bender?
She dressed mechanically and went to the shower, where she stood with hot water pounding down on her face for nearly twenty minutes, trying not to cry. I won't. I won't. This is stupid. I won't.
She expected some kind of sarcasm from Revan on that point, but the "ghost" was silent. The coolness in the back of her mind felt almost sympathetic.
I suppose if she's me, she's as miserable as I am, Sabine thought vaguely. She got out of the shower, toweled off, and threw her clothes back on.
Well. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Suppose I should go deal with it.
She padded into the main room, and found Carth eating breakfast.
He started to get up, stone-faced. She raised a hand. "Stay. I won't say anything."
Apparently this was acceptable, because he sank back into his chair. Sabine dug out some food—some kind of reconstituted oatmeal mess this morning—and a handful of vitamins and dropped into the chair farthest from him.
He stared fixedly at the fore bulkhead. She stared fixedly at the aft one.
The tension in the room was not noticeably improved by two people sitting opposite each other, trying very hard to pretend that they were not watching each other out of the corner of their eyes.
This is cute, Revan offered, after awhile.
Will you shut up!?
No, really. I can see what we see in him. Bit paranoid, but that's generally a good idea if you plan to romance a Sith.
I am not a Sith!
Does he know that?
"I'm not a Sith," she said out loud.
"So you say," said Carth, still not looking at her. The temperature in the room, already cool, dropped another few notches.
She slugged down the vitamins with a shot of cold caffa. Any more bright ideas, O Dark Lord?
There was a peculiar mental thrumming, as if someone were drumming their fingers on a sheet of cold tin.
I'd cry, actually.
Cry. Put your head down on the table and engage in a little muffled weeping. He swore up and down to protect you when the Jedi council set you up for a fall—a very perceptive man, by the way, I quite approve—and every overprotective male fiber in that regrettably dressed body is going to scream bloody murder at him.
Sabine swallowed more caffa. Her throat felt thick. That seems a little manipulative.
You're the one asking for romance advice from a former genocidal Sith tyrant. What do you want me to say? Look at him, you can practically smell the guilt rolling off him. Ask that Cathar that follows you like a stray housecat if you don't believe me—I'm sure she can smell it. Besides, it's not like you haven't been wanting to cry on his shoulder for what, four days now?
She gritted her teeth, because Revan was painfully correct. Is this how the slide to the Dark Side starts?
What, by crying on people's shoulders? Shit, no, I'm pretty sure I remember killing a bunch of people.
No! With listening to your advice!
There was a mental sigh, like wind off the icy lake. Sure, the Jedi Council strip-mines our skull and recreates us out of spare parts into their ideal little Jedi, and that's fine, that's all shiny and wonderful, but I suggest you bloody well stop pretending that Carth hating you doesn't feel like a knife in your guts, and suddenly I'm the bad guy? Teeth of the gods! I can't believe I conquered the Mandalorians with this brain.
The logic of this position was a little unnerving. Sabine stabbed her oatmeal with her spoon, trying to break up a lump. Carth got up, poured another cup of caffa, and dropped back into his chair.
They went back to staring at the bulkheads.
Cry, huh? she thought meekly.
Don't do it on my account. I had my bloody dignity. Malak never saw me shed a tear. Which ought to be a pretty good argument for doing it if you're so determined to prove you're not a Sith, come to that.
She slid another glance at Carth. His shoulders were hunched up under the jacket and his jaw was set. If you knew what to look for, he looked almost as miserable as she felt.
Is that your strategic advice?
That's my advice as the greatest tactical mind of our generation, yes.
She stabbed at her oatmeal again. It glorped. Carth glanced at her at the stifled sound, then looked quickly away.
Why are you being so helpful?
For the tenth time now, you are me. And that means that if you have some unrequited passion for this bitter pawn of a decadent dinosaur of a republic—ahem. Pardon, my Sith is showing. That is to say, if you want the flyboy, I want the flyboy. This really isn't a hard conversation, and I wish we could stop having it.
She slid Carth another glance. He hadn't shaved for a couple of days, and his eyes had dark circles under them.
Are you sure this isn't the path to the Dark Side?
Revan sounded irritated, a sharp, frosty crackle in the back of her head. If love is the path to the Dark Side, we should all pray to fall. If you really want to go over, I can tell you right now that despair is a much surer road.
Sabine felt something in her throat that was either a laugh or a sob and could have gone either way. You sound like a Jedi.
I was a goddamn Jedi hero once, remember? Now start crying or he's going to go off to the cockpit and you'll blow your chance.
Oh, what the hell…
She leaned her elbows on the table, put her head in her hands, and thought, very carefully, I blew up Telos and he's never going to stop hating me for that.
Her eyes began stinging almost at once, and after that, she couldn't have stopped if she wanted to.
There was a long, long moment when nothing happened, and the notion that she was making an utter fool of herself was salt on the emotional wounds.
Then she heard his chair scrape, and heard him curse, and then he said something, but his voice cracked halfway through, and then he had an arm around her shoulders.
"Oh—shit—don't cry, beautiful, it's not—shit—"
What it wasn't, Sabine never found out, because he knelt next to her chair and she fell off it onto her knees and found herself sobbing uncontrollably into the collar of his jacket.
Carth wrapped his arms around her and leaned his cheek against her hair, saying all the meaningless things that decent men say when women cling to them, few of which are rational or true and none of which are half so important as the tone they're said in.
The wind off the frozen lake sounded like someone whistling.
Sabine cried herself out in a very short time, which was just as well, because the floor of the common room was not the most private place for an emotional scene. Jolee appeared briefly in the doorway, lifted his eyebrows and nodded briefly, then took himself off, probably to stand guard and make sure that HK-47 didn't wander in and choose to believe that Carth was murdering the Master.
"Sorry," Sabine said hoarsely, once the tears had stopped. "Sorry for—well, everything, really."
She thought about pulling away, even lifted her head a little, but he held her close, one hand moving across her back in a slow, repetitive motion. "It'll be okay, beautiful." She dropped her face back to his shoulder, wanting very much to believe him.
Sitting on the floor in that particular position was not at all comfortable, but she didn't want to move anyway. She wanted to sit there and listen to the hum of the ship and the sound of Carth's breathing, until the world ended or possibly a little after.
Still, eventually she had to move. Her knees hurt and one of her feet was asleep. She stirred a bit, sniffling. Her face felt hot and her throat was scratchy and her eyelids ached and she still felt a great deal better than she had for days.
Any further advice, O Master Tactician?
You've got a hand on the back of his neck. Get the other one up under his chin and you could snap his neck, but I suspect it'd kill the mood.
She controlled a snort with difficulty. He must have felt her move slightly, because the hand on her back paused, and he turned his head a little.
Actually, I'd thank him, disentangle yourself, get up, and go put a cold washcloth over your face. I wouldn't go for a kiss at the moment—never could cry without turning a horrible shade of red, and your nose probably looks like a boiled potato.
Carth was very warm, and very solid, particular compared to bossy voices in her head. …I don't want to get up.
Hey, I'm enjoying this too. You think the Dark Lord gets hugged very often? By someone who means it? But you're going to have to get up eventually, or someone's going to show up and then you'll both be embarrassed.
Sabine got up.
"Thanks," she rasped, looking down at him. She put a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up at her and smiled, even though his eyes were shadowed. Her heart clenched painfully inside her chest.
I see we've got it bad, indeed.
She made it to the door of the refresher, and his voice stopped her.
He was right behind her. She didn't need the Force to know exactly where he was, or the moment before his hand settled on her back.
She turned her head a little, unable to see him, but hearing his voice practically in her ear.
"I can't say this whole thing—you being Revan—doesn't kill me. But—well, we'll figure something out. And you didn't know. It's not like you lied to me." The hand squeezed, then drew away. "We'll figure something out."
"Thanks," she said again, almost inaudibly, and fled into the 'fresher.
That went well.
Sabine glanced in the mirror and discovered that, in addition to everything else, Revan had been right about her nose.
Sabine got up in the middle of the night to use the fresher. Revan had nothing to say, which was good, because there are certain times when one wants absolute privacy, and perhaps a magazine.
A few minutes later, yawning, she hit the open button. The door slid back, and she was eye-level with a great deal of bare chest.
Raowr, said Revan.
"Whoa," said Canderous, "didn't realize it was occupied." He stepped back to let her get by.
Will you look at those scars? Man looks like he went ten rounds with a torture droid. Damn, that set looks like teethmarks!
The fact that you seem to find that attractive is really disturbing, she informed herself.
Told you I had a soft spot for Mandalorians. Although I do wish they'd take their boots off.
It occurred to her, rather belatedly, that she was staring at Canderous's chest without saying a word, and had been for upwards of half a minute.
She dragged her eyes upward.
He was grinning like a drunken firaxa. Sabine felt herself blush a mortified scarlet.
Okay, I gotta know—
"Tell me," she heard herself say, "do you ever take your boots off?"
"Nope," said Canderous, with a grin so evil that it would have done a Sith proud, and stepped back into the fresher.
The door slid shut.
Raaaaoowrr. I wonder if you can fit two on the floor of the fresher.
"You're revolting!" Sabine hissed, and fled for her bunk and the relative safety therein.
The problem with having Darth Revan in her head wasn't at all what Sabine would have expected.
She did nothing overtly evil, unless you counted the nagging about foot rubs.
Is it my fault the deck wreaks havoc on our insteps? If you're feeling guilty, how about Force Persuade "You will find giving me a foot rub to be an emotionally rewarding experience?" Everybody wins!
She did not whisper about the power of the Dark Side.
In terms of raw firepower, there's really not much to choose.
She didn't insult Sabine's friends, or call them distractions, or fools, or anything else of the sort.
Since I'm you, they're my friends too, and I am quite fond of them. Anybody so much as lays a finger on 'em, I'll tear it off.
Since this squared almost exactly with Sabine's feelings, it was hard to find fault. And things were certainly a great deal easier with Carth the past few days, even if they weren't quite back to where they had been. He'd even insulted her the other day, which had been such an immense relief that she'd damn near cried again, but had settled on calling him a sniveling bantha turd instead.
Pity the Jedi didn't see fit to include a bigger vocabulary. You'd be amazed what you can call someone in Bith.
Her wardrobe hadn't suddenly turned black, either.
Actually, I always liked pink.
You did not just say that!
Sheesh, now you sound like Malak. He got all bent out of shape about the pink thing too. I had to let it go. I don't mind my apprentice betraying me for power, but betraying me for the color of the carpet on the observation deck was too much.
No, the problem was that Revan was wry and black and savage, and had an absolutely foul sense of humor. And she was often oddly kind.
Well, it was…
Damnit, it was not how Sith were supposed to act!
I'm sorry, would you prefer I wear dark robes and stand on the bridge of my star destroyer, brooding?
"Frankly, yes!" Sabine snapped, mostly under her breath. She was working out in the cargo hold with her light saber, which left her body occupied but her mind clear.
People who do that are idiots. Armies followed me because I inspired them. About the only thing the brooding-on-the-bridge inspires is a high turnover in command personnel. If he didn't have the Star Forge, Darth Baldy couldn't keep good help, the way he goes through officers.
'Course, once you've got a Star Forge, power has its own kind of charisma…
Sabine slashed the lightsaber down in a wicked block, feeling her wrists protest. "About the Star Forge…"
You want to know where the one on Manaan is?
Green surrounded her, the dark, heavy green of deep water. Her nostrils filled with the bitter, medicinal tang of recycled air, and she heard the creaking of an environmental suit against the utter silence of the deep.
Sabine rubbed at her nose. "Why do I always get the smells?"
Mmm, good question. Scent is the sense most tied to memory, and since I'm basically a big pile of memories back here, when I dredge one up, you probably get the smells, too. Hang on, let's try an experiment—
The night filled with fire and screaming. There was smoke in her lungs, gagging her, the acrid smoke of burning vegetation mixed with the almost peppery smell of explosives. "They're burning the trees!" someone yelled next to her. "Get down, they've set fire to the trees—"
"Agitated Query: Master! Are you injured?"
Sabine came to on her knees, choking, with her fingers splayed at her throat. HK-47 was bending over her, apparently about to administer the Heimlich maneuver, which would not have been pleasant for anyone involved.
"No…fine…" she wheezed. Her throat felt scraped raw. "Just…err…went down the wrong pipe…" She waved him off. The droid clanked back to his post at the door, eyeing her with mechanical concern.
It was hard for ice to be apologetic, but Revan managed. I'm sorry, that was a lot stronger than I thought it would be. That was the most vivid smell I could think of, but I didn't expect it to flatten us.
"Where was that place?" Her voice was hoarse, missing the upper register, as if she really had inhaled smoke.
Dxun. The Mandalorians burned part of the jungle to find our position. Damn near smothered both forces, but they were always one for victory at any cost. Revan sounded thoughtful. Didn't expect it to take so strongly. The smell must really tie into things back there in the ol' hindbrain.
Sabine stifled another cough. "Is that likely to happen again?"
I'll try to avoid it. There's thirty-odd years worth of memories back here, but most of 'em aren't germane to the situation, so I've been avoiding dumping them on you, except as incidentals. If something comes up involving the Star Forge or our mission and I think it'll put us down, I'll try to give you fair warning.
"This is so strange, talking to myself about what I'll let myself know about myself," Sabine muttered. She was dripping with sweat from the workout and the unexpected flashback.
It's a pretty unique situation in here, too.
"Why are you helping me, anyway?" Sabine asked, rubbing a towel through her sweaty hair and realizing how belatedly she was asking. "How can I trust you to tell me what I need to remember?"
And yet again, I'm you. Also, I want the Star Forge destroyed, too.
"Why?" She put down the towel and found a bottle of water in one corner.
It served its purpose. I had a plan. Everything was on track until that idiot Malak stopped just embracing the dark and decided to give it a hand-job, too.
Sabine slammed her tongue against the roof of her mouth in a desperate attempt to keep water from roaring through her nasal passages, and just barely succeeded.
"Where do you get this stuff?"
I have an earthy turn of mind, said Revan, unruffled. Comes of hanging around all those military types. You'd probably be shocked if you could hear what your pilot is thinking half the time, and even I don't want to know what goes on in Canderous's skull.
It occurred to her that Revan was trying to distract her, and doing an excellent job. Sabine went doggedly back to the earlier conversation."So what was our plan?"
There was a long, long mental silence. Hmmph. Well, took you long enough to ask, I suppose.
"And?" Sabine demanded.
The ice over the lake was very thick. Sabine found that she was holding her lightsaber in her hand, and not sure quite what she would do with it—stick it in her ear and try to carve Revan out manually?
I don't recommend that.
"Tell me! Tell me or I'll—I'll—"
Do what? Run and tell someone that the voice in your head won't talk to you? Revan's tone was almost silky.
Sabine slapped the lightsaber hilt against her palm. "I knew it!" she hissed, keeping her voice down, because if anyone but HK heard this, things were going to get ugly. "I knew you were evil!"
Oh, for the love of…again, with the evil. Listen to yourself. I just showed you a memory of Dxun, and you damn near coughed your lungs out, and now you want me to start digging through our old life with both hands?
Sabine folded her arms and waited, narrowing her eyes at nothing in particular.
Yes. There are things I know that I haven't told you, and do you know why?
"They'd be incriminating?"
Incriminating? I've blown up planets! You know I've blown up planets! Have I ever denied anything? I told you that I put a lightsaber in the back of the head of the only man I ever loved, and I even admitted that thing with the drunk Mandalorian! What possible wickedness could I still be hiding? Revan sounded almost wild, and Sabine had a sudden memory of that black, implacable rage she'd felt, in those first few minutes of Revan's return.
The ice was always so thick that she'd forgotten what might be under it.
You want to see what it's like to torture a Jedi? Hell, have a look!
There was a crackle of lightning and the stench of burning flesh. Someone writhed in front of her, a faceless figure which may have once been human. Sabine gagged on the smell, and someone screamed, inside her head or outside or both—
It vanished almost instantly, leaving barely a flicker in its wake. Sabine had thrown out a hand to ward off the terrible scene, and drew it back unsteadily.
Sorry, said Revan, after a moment. That was uncalled for. The ice creaked uneasily underfoot. I'm usually pretty good about my temper, but…well, I shouldn't have done that.
Sabine sat down on one of the supply crates and cradled her head between her fists.
Self-loathing is very Jedi, if it makes you feel any better, said Revan lightly.
She concentrating on breathing very deeply, very calmly. She hadn't been meditating lately. The inside of her head was too crowded a place. Sabine closed her body down, one muscle at a time, remembering to breathe.
Hey, now, what are you doing up there?
Get past the rage. Get past the memories, and get past the fear of what other memories might be lurking.
Get past the tiny, sneaking gratitude to Revan for keeping those memories locked down tight.
There is something here. Do not be distracted by torture or the death of worlds. There is always a reason. Revan does nothing without a reason. Revan is not a madman, she is sane, very dangerously sane, and there is always a reason.
"What," said Sabine very carefully, into the darkness behind her eyelids, "what exactly was our plan?"
Grudging admiration. Well done. Seems you're not as far from me as you'd like to think.
"Answer the question."
We were going to conquer the galaxy quickly and efficiently, and leave enough left to save.
Unfortunately, Malak—well, he was never entirely stable. Power leads to victory, but it also leads to corruption. She sighed. It's not his fault. He never learned to hold himself apart from the dark—to keep his mind and lose his soul—and I was not the best of teachers. So he broke under the strain, and now he isn't going to leave enough left of the galaxy to be worth saving.
Ironic, really. I could not have foreseen this, but the Jedi did give me a chance to correct my great mistake.
"That's your plan. You wanted to conquer the galaxy to save it." Sabine heard herself laughing, very quietly, the laughter of someone who had taken a mortal wound. "You wanted to save the galaxy."
Hey, just because I'm evil doesn't mean I'm a bad person.
"Yes, it does."
Semantics. Yes, I wanted to save the galaxy, and the only path I saw lay straight through the dark. And if you knew what I knew, you'd do it too. Actually, you did do it too, since you're me and—well, you get the point.
If you knew what I know…
"Then show me."
No…no, I don't think so.
Has it never occurred to you, my dear, that the reason I don't just dump everything into your head like a pile of ugly bricks is that I never wanted to be Darth Revan in the first place, and I really don't want to do it twice?
Her concentration broke. She sat up straighter, fingers clenched on the edge of the crate. There was a cold satisfaction from the back of her head.
The ship thrummed as it dropped out of hyperspace. A moment later, there were footsteps, and Juhani leaned around the doorframe, her slitted eyes dilated with excitement.
"We're at Manaan."
This isn't over, Revan, Sabine swore, jogging for the dorm.
It is for now. You have too many things to worry about right now anyway. You've got a Star Forge map, the Star Forge itself, Bastila, the Sith, Carth—there's plenty on your plate without fighting with me inside your head.
Ask me again, when you've saved the galaxy, what I know.
Sabine paused. The ice was miles thick. You'll tell me then?
"We spend way too much time in prison cells," said Carth.
"Yep," Sabine said.
You call this a prison cell? In my day, we got held in torture cages you couldn't turn around in, and we had to walk to the interrogation chambers and it was uphill both ways—
Oh, aren't we funny?
I like to think so, yeah.
Canderous grunted. "We shoulda shot our way through."
"I have this dream, Canderous…" Sabine said.
He sneered. Mandalorians apparently didn't have dreams, or at least they didn't talk about them.
"My dream is a day when we get off a planet without eradicating a whole bunch of reasonably innocent bystanders."
The sneer grew. "That's a lousy dream."
"Yeah, well, your dreams probably involve hip-deep piles of dead bystanders. Regardless, I'm sure the Selkath'll let us go once we explain things."
Both men looked at her. Neither of them appeared too convinced.
"You know," said Carth, rubbing the back of his neck, "for once I'm with Canderous. We're not in the Republic here, and I really don't like the look of our lawyer."
Et tu, Carth?
Heh heh heh… Revan apparently found that amusing.
Don't you start.
Actually, I'm with you on this one. Carth's just paranoid, and Canderous is just…Canderous. Stick to your guns and be polite, and it should work out.
"What do we do if they won't listen to us?" asked Carth, anticipating Sabine's next thought.
What we usually do.
"What we usually do," Sabine said with a sigh. "Start killing everything in sight, I suppose."
"I'm so glad we're the good guys," said Carth.
It did work out. Sabine didn't pretend to understand the Selkath legal system, but they were apparently not immune to the notion of expediency.
Released, the trio slogged back through the white stone city. The surf churned against the pilings, and things that probably weren't seagulls but were in the same general niche wheeled overhead.
"It'll be nice to sleep in something other than the bottom of a force cage," Sabine muttered.
Canderous sneered. Mandalorians apparently enjoyed sleeping at the bottoms of force cages. "I'll be glad to get out of the smell of fish. And courts. This planet needs conquering."
"You think every planet needs conquering," Carth muttered.
"Listen, soldier-boy, just because I'm willing to admit—"
"Could we just walk in peace for five minutes?" Sabine asked, rubbing her temples. The Selkath hadn't offered them showers. She wanted a shower very, very badly. She'd killed a great many Sith, and her skin felt positively sticky, even though there was no visible blood on it.
I could shut off both their vocal cords.
Only if you can make it look like an accident.
There was a terrifyingly thoughtful silence in the back of her head.
"Sorry, beautiful." Carth slung a companionable arm around her waist.
Oh god. Oh god. What do I do? What do I do?
You put an arm over his shoulders, idiot. Revan sounded mildly disgusted. And you lean into him just a bit, so he remembers you're a woman and not just a killing machine. Rather more quietly, and almost to herself, Sabine heard the Sith muttering This is like being a teenager all over again. I swear, if the Jedi Council weren't dead, I'd strangle them for making me go through this again.
Canderous glanced back at them and rolled his eyes. Apparently Mandalorians didn't—
Oh, they totally do.
Sabine was painfully aware of the heat of Carth's side, and the pressure of his arm against her back, all the way back to the ship.
She laid in her bunk, listening to Juhani purring in her sleep, and finally whispered "What do I do about Carth?"
Well, what do you want to do?
"I—" A complicated jumble of emotions and images threatened to swamp her, with no help at all from the back of her head.
Heh heh heh. No need to say it, a blind rancor could have picked that up. Hmm. It still depends on what you want.
"I want Carth, mostly," she muttered, barely able to say it even in a subvocal whisper.
There's wanting and wanting. If you just want to kick his feet out from under him, you can walk up to the cockpit right now—but I don't recommend it.
"What? Why not? Oh, I suppose you'd rather find a bar full of drunk Mandalorians—"
Settle down there, and don't knock drunk Mandalorians until you've knocked—never mind. Look if it'd been me driving, I'd have jumped his bones before we ever left Taris. However, since it wasn't me driving, and you have been much less demonstrative, shall we say, you have to keep on as you've been going. Our dear pilot has a paranoid streak that would do a Sith proud. Even now, he's only about half-sure that you're you, and that he's not being manipulated by Darth Revan.
"I'm not entirely sure he's wrong," she muttered.
Hey, you don't have to take my advice, you know. But since you did ask--if you suddenly change your behavior, it's going to set off all those little warning klaxons and he will look at you with beady little eyes and even in the throes of—ahem, sorry, getting a little warm up there, I see—he's going to be asking himself "Am I being seduced by a Sith to keep me from asking questions?"
S'pity the boy's as Force Sensitive as a mule, he'd have made an excellent apprentice.
She growled a little at that, sitting up in the bed.
Oh, relax. Darth Carth, can you imagine? The crime against language would never be allowed to stand.
That got an involuntary chuckle out of her. Sabine gave up sleep as a bad job, got up, and went to the 'fresher to throw water on her face.
"Does it ever strike you as odd," she asked the mirror, "that here we are, trying to destroy Darth Malak's fleet—"
That was my fleet, damnit. He just borrowed it.
"--and the goddamn Star Forge, and save Bastila and…I don't know what all…and the thing that keeps me up at night is wondering whether Carth likes me?" She flicked water at her reflection.
The overhead panels were always falling down, which meant that the lighting in the fresher was never terrible stable. So it was probably just a trick of the light that gave her reflection a dark cowl of shadow, and crooked one corner of her mouth up in a sardonic smile.
Nah, I think it's very human. Things like Star Forges and fleets are almost too big to get one's mind around. You can only fear for the fate of the galaxy for a few hours at a time before stuff starts to shut down.
Love, on the other hand, will bang on the door all day long. It's one of the great redeeming qualities of our species.
"Hmm." She considered taking another shower, and discarded the notion. She already used more than her fair share of the hot water. Mission was playing cards with the wookie in the main room, so possibly there'd be caffa somewhere.
I suspect you're just going to have to wait for him to make a move. Not that there aren't things one can do to encourage his thoughts in that direction…
"I am not using the Force on Carth!" she said in an undertone, slapping the open button on the door.
Perish the thought. There are ways to influence someone's thinking without reaching directly into their skull and overriding their brain, you know. For example, when was the last time you wore something that didn't have armor plates sewn into it?
This distracted Sabine sufficiently that she picked up a cup of caffa in thoughtful silence.
"Hiya!" said Mission, waving. "Wanna play?"
"Nah…" Unless…I don't suppose you play pazaak like a master tactician?
I bloody well hate pazaak. Does nobody in the galaxy play chess any more?
Sabine smothered a grin behind the rim of her cup. What's this? Does my brain deceive me? A vice that Darth Revan has not embraced wholeheartedly?
Any game where you can't call in an airstrike is crap.
Sabine dropped into a chair and said "Deal me in."
"You never make any snide comments about my fighting," Sabine said, standing in the shower with hot water sluicing over her. Blood and grime and sweat circled the drain in a gritty spiral. The Rakatans looked vaguely amphibious, and their blood was thick and orange and sticky.
She loved fighting, for the silence in her own skull, but she hated the way her skin felt afterwards.
Why should I? You fight very well.
In all honesty, you're a much more elegant duelist than I ever was. Malak used to say I fought like a bull rancor, and he was quite right.
Besides, if there's ever a time you shouldn't be distracted by some bossy voice in the back of your head…
The praise warmed her as much as the hot water did. "Thanks," she whispered, feeling water sliding down her face, carrying fear and exhaustion away with it.
Aw, hell, you're too hard on yourself, and I'm too hard on ourself too. I always was. You've done good. You've done a lot better than anybody had a right to expect. I'm proud to be you.
Unexpected tears stung her eyes. She ducked her head under the water to wash them away.
It was hard, sometimes—Revan's shadow was very long, and Sabine felt increasingly as if she was the ghost.
It wasn't that being Revan was difficult. It was that it was easy—dreadfully easy—and she liked it too much. She heard herself speaking, thoughtlessly, and saying things that Revan would say. Canderous told her an absolutely vile joke the other day, and what came out was that familiar, throaty chuckle.
Revan might have been all the worst of what she had been, but she'd been all the best, too. Sabine felt like a thin and washed out candle, held against a great velvet darkness.
It's okay, Revan said, and the voice was comforting, and far kinder than a Sith's ought to be. It's okay. We're not so separate as you fear.
Sabine shut off the hot water and reached for a towel. She held it pressed to her forehead for what seemed like a long time.
It was almost funny. She'd been so afraid that she might be Revan, and now her fears were that she wasn't nearly Revan enough.
Don't worry. We'll work this out eventually, who's who, and what's what. These things take time, that's all.
Sabine didn't ask the question—didn't even dare think the question—but Revan was older and wiser than she was, and answered it anyway.
It's you he loves. Never doubt it.
Water had dried on her skin, and she shivered with gooseflesh. She began drying herself furiously with the towel, as if she could scrub away the doubts.
You do him too little credit. He loves you now, but he will not love you less for being whole.
The mirror was fogged, and Sabine couldn't see her own face, and found that she was glad of it.
"I think I could love you," said Carth helplessly.
Yeah, that's what we like in a man, wholehearted commitment. Oh, baby.
Will you shut up?!
"I—" Sabine had to stop and lick her lips. "I think I could love you, too."
Such an articulate couple.
Carth lifted his eyes from the floor and looked at her, and she looked at him, and realized she had absolutely no idea what to do next.
Revan, shut up. Revan, help. I'm getting some mixed signals here…
"Um," said Carth, and rubbed the back of his neck.
Oh, for god's sake, just kiss him, already.
How do I—
Sabine found herself propelled forward by a purely mental shove, and then both hands went up, one to his shoulder and one squarely to the back of his head and she heard herself mutter "To hell with it," in a voice that was not quite her own and pull him down toward her.
Bloody well have to do everything myself…
Fortunately for all involved, Carth leaned forward and closed his mouth over hers.
About damn time. I'll let you take it from here, shall I?
Sabine had no coherent thoughts left, certainly not enough to answer, but judging from the chuckling, Revan hadn't expected one anyway.
Bastila shot her lightsaber and stood, a dark figure on dark metal deckplates, the holographic map shining savagely behind her.
Sabine would have to kill her.
The lightsaber snaked out and she slapped it aside.
She couldn't do it.
The fallen Jedi pressed the attack, and Sabine blocked and blocked again, falling backward along the walkway. There were openings in Bastila's guard. She didn't take them.
I can't do this. I can't kill her. I can't. She's my friend.
The door was almost behind her now. Soon there would be nowhere left to retreat to.
"And now you will fall before the power of the Dark Side," the other Jedi hissed.
And Revan struck.
Sabine had a sense of something uncoiling in the back of her mind, a great dark presence flowing out of that icy lake, and her fingers shifted on the lightsaber and Bastila looked up into her eyes and…faltered.
Forgive me, Revan murmured, as ice crystallized across her soul, but I really can't allow us to die for this foolishness.
The lightsabers sang with a high electrical whine, and Revan threw the younger woman back across the floor, a step at a time.
No! Sabine shrieked, an observer in her own mind. No! You can't kill Bastila!
Which was foolishness, really, because as Revan herself had said any number of times, she'd killed whole worlds. What was one fallen Jedi compared to that? Even the Council would find Bastila's death justifiable, and once that accursed Battle Meditation was ended, the Star Forge would fall.
Lightsaber screamed on lightsaber, and Sabine was encased behind a wall of ice inside her own head.
Revan, what are you doing?!
There was no answer.
Bastila was definitely on the defensive now, her eyes wide and frantic, hair falling in tendrils in her eyes. Revan pressed forward, unhurried. Sabine could feel her lips pulled into a set grin of concentration, the movements rapid and furious—and yet all her mind was cold, cold, cold.
The Council would applaud Revan's actions. Revan was doing the right thing.
Council be damned. Sabine threw herself at the ice wall, pounding on it with mental fists.
She might as well have been pounding on a glacier.
Has she been able to do this all along? Has she been waiting for this?
Revan did not fight gracefully. There was no elegance to it, nothing beautiful. You could not compare it to a dance or poetry or to anything but killing. She fought like a butcher, raw power and brutal efficiency. It would take a different sort of mind to find beauty in it.
Sabine had a sudden memory of Canderous holding up a shot glass, amber shadows drifting over his scarred face, saying "It was a beautiful fight."
No wonder she likes Mandalorians. The war practically turned her into one.
Revan came in for an overhead strike, almost too high, forcing Bastila up on her toes to block, and the former Sith picked up a foot and kicked the Jedi's kneecap hard enough to shatter.
Bastila went down, her lightsaber skittering out of her hand, the blade retracting, rolling across the deckplates.
There was a long, long silence in the room, broken by the harsh sound of Bastila's breathing.
"I yield," Bastila rasped out finally. "The light is more powerful than the dark."
Revan leaned down and caught the front of the younger woman's tunic, lifting her a few inches off the deck. The lightsaber hummed furiously.
No! No! Don't do it! We're not Darth Revan anymore, we don't have to do this!
"Only a fool sells their soul for power," said Revan, and dropped Bastila contemptuously to the floor.
She turned away, and suddenly the ice wall melted and Sabine staggered a step, finding herself in control of her body again.
You let her go… she thought, astonished, and turned back to see Bastila staring at her with wide, bewildered eyes.
Do you think I know nothing of mercy? The words were rimed with frost. Do what you think is right.
Sabine swallowed a few times, very hard. I want to save her.
So do it.
There were words that needed to be said. Sabine reached for them, and found nothing at all. Her mind seemed to be all ashes and echoes and emptiness.
You're more eloquent than I am. It hurt to admit it, but Bastila's soul was more important than Sabine's pride.
Teeth flashed briefly in the icy dark. So I am.
Revan shut off her lightsaber, and began to speak, very carefully, about redemption.
And that, more or less, was the end. Sabine knew, even as Revan spoke, even as Bastila's face glittered with tears, that it was over. The ice had moved, slowly and implacably, as ice does. She could no more have driven Revan away than she could have thrown back a glacier by pushing on it with her hands.
She saw the plan. She knew what Revan knew, and knew that there was no other choice, even if it broke her heart.
Will we come back? she asked, in the quiet of her own skull.
I don't know. But if there is any way in all the worlds, we'll find it. I promise.
Will we be Darth Revan again?
I never wanted to be Darth Revan in the first place. I walked the dark road because it had to be done. If there is a way to get through this without going back to the dark, then we'll do it. And if there isn't, then…well…you know what we'll have to do.
She had tried to resist the dark, but the dark was just too reasonable.
It's okay, kid, said Revan gently. I've been me for thirty-three years, and you were only me for a couple of months. You never really had a chance.
You did good.
The dark swept in and wrapped her up and made her whole.
Revan stood up and stretched, one vertebrae at a time. Each one crackled individually.
She wanted a drink. She wanted a bar full of drunk Mandalorians to kill. She wanted to go find Carth and do things that would make the Jedi Council's meddling little brains explode.
She did none of these things, because there was a galaxy to save, after all, and the unknown regions of space are not made notably better by a hangover or blaster wounds, and leaving Carth was going to be hard enough already.
She sighed and raked her hands through her hair.
She hadn't lied to herself. Revan had never believed in self-deception, even under such bizarre circumstances as the last few months, when "herself" had been a pretty slippery fixture indeed.
If there was any way in heaven or earth, she'd come back.
She turned on her heel and walked for the door. She figured she had about eight hours to get the ship off the planet before the good Admiral panicked and began sending out intercept orders. Time enough for what she had to do.
He'd wait for her. If Revan knew anything about human nature, he'd wait.
Revan would be glad to come back to him. She'd lost the capacity to love without restraint, and her time as Sabine had given it back to her. Perhaps it would have been easier to leave if that hadn't been true, but—well—that was life. You took the good with the bad, and the dark with the light.
And if he didn't wait—well, one of the few things about the Republic worth saving was the fact that you could always find a bar full of drunk Mandalorians somewhere, if you knew where to look.
"C'mon, HK," she said, tapping the droid's metallic shoulder. "It's going to be one of those days…"