What the History Holos Leave Out
Author's Note: I've left Revan's appearance up to you, but I decided to include a name for her programmed identity (Skye) so that I don't have to dance around it later when the distinction between her and Revan matters. I figure it happens often enough in KotOR fics that it's not a big deal, but if it really annoys you, you can always just copy this story into a Word document and change her name to whatever you like. :-)
Disclaimer: If KotOR was mine, I'd be posting this on fictionpress.
Escape Pod/Taris - More Than Dumb Luck
"It's Onasi, right?"
The soldier sitting knee to knee with me in the cramped escape pod only flicked a quick glance in my direction, as if he'd momentarily forgotten I was there.
"Yeah," he finally said, before turning back to the blank interior wall. I tried not to take offense that he found it more enthralling than me. To be fair, I was only talking to take my mind off our situation, and the adrenaline still pumping madly through my system wasn't doing wonders for my conversational skills. Neither was the fact that a decent portion of our crew had just died—including my bunkmate, who had sacrificed himself to give me the chance to escape despite the fact that we'd only just met. That kind of selflessness was seriously impressive, but it only made me more determined than ever not to die today.
"Is this your first crash landing in an escape pod?" I asked.
This time when Onasi looked my way, he stared. I couldn't tell from his raised eyebrows whether he thought I was crazy or just stupid for making small talk as we rocketed through space in a metal bucket, but he was kind enough to humor me.
"Unfortunately, no. Why do you ask?"
"I was just wondering if there was any way to steer this thing, or if we're at the mercy of fate."
The raised eyebrows lowered again. I optimistically took that to mean he was reevaluating his previous assessment of my sanity and/or intelligence.
"You don't believe in the Force," he surmised.
I just shrugged, which was easier said than done in the restrictive safety harness.
"Sure I do. But either way, it's just another name for the same thing."
He was silent for a moment, maybe processing that, maybe ignoring me.
"No, there aren't any controls," he said at last. "But these things are pretty sturdy and they come equipped with energy suppressors, which are supposed to lessen the impact."
I was beginning to regret that I'd asked.
"Oh, they help," he assured me, at the same moment the pod began shaking more violently. We were picking up speed. "But that doesn't mean it isn't going to hurt when we crash."
I let my head smack into my palms, massaging temples that hopefully wouldn't be shattered within the next few minutes. I was grateful that this stranger had elected to jeopardize his own life rather than leave a soldier behind. I truly was. I knew my chances of survival were infinitely better in this escape pod than back on the empty ship that was probably being blown to pieces as we spoke. But I still found it difficult to summon the proper gratitude. What I mostly felt was dread.
"So what happens after we crash?" I asked through my fingers.
"Do you always ask this many questions?"
I couldn't tell from his tone whether he was amused or annoyed, so I straightened up and tried to be more professional.
"Not if you have a problem with it, sir."
He opened his mouth to say something, but I never found out what it was, because we smashed into the permacrete a second later.
After that, I don't remember a thing.
Waking up felt like coming out of a coma after having been trampled by a herd of banthas. Underwater. Not that I was speaking from experience—as far as I knew. Force, what had happened to me?
I tried to think back, but the strangely vivid dream I'd just been having about a Jedi and a Dark Jedi trying to cut each other to ribbons was stuck in my head, and it was hard to remember what had happened before that. Probably not an underwater bantha stampede, then. I was pretty sure something like that would have stuck.
I sat up, ignoring the fact that this made my vision swim, and tried to take in my surroundings.
I froze when my eyes fell on the handsome stranger watching me.
"Good to see you up, instead of thrashing around in your sleep," he said seriously. "You must have been having one hell of a nightmare. I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up."
Was that supposed to be reassuring? Why had he been watching me sleep? And more importantly, who the hell was he? I didn't like the implications of him talking to me as if we were friends, considering I hadn't a clue how I'd ended up in his apartment. He did looked vaguely familiar, but not familiar enough for comfort. I tried again to remember how I'd gotten here, but I still couldn't place him.
Fortunately, he seemed to sense my confusion and came to my rescue.
"I'm Carth, one of the Republic soldiers from the Endar Spire. I was with you on the escape pod. Do you remember?"
I breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Carth Onasi, from the personal communicator. Orange jacket, uncooperative hair. Carth Onasi, who needed to work on his pep talks, and thought I asked too many questions. Apparently we were on a first-name basis now. That was fine by me, now that I knew I hadn't been picked up by some random stranger.
Admittedly, I didn't really know Carth either, but he had waited on the dying ship for me instead of taking the last escape pod for himself. Like Trask's sacrifice, that said a lot about his character. Besides, he was a soldier, and a soldier on a ship that seemed to be chock full of unusually selfless people.
I already trusted him. Maybe that was stupid, but my gut feelings were usually pretty reliable, and my gut said Carth was a decent guy. It also said I was half-starved, but I tried to ignore that fact for now.
"Right, I remember," I said, because I had to say something to prove I was lucid. "I'm Skye, by the way. So… how did we get here?"
Since there wasn't an escape-pod-sized hole in the ceiling, the gap in my memory between crashing and waking up in this bed was still something of a mystery.
"Well, you've been slipping in and out of consciousness for a couple of days now, so I imagine you're pretty confused about things. Try not to worry. We're safe… at least for the moment."
Again with the pessimistic pep talks. I appreciated his honesty, but would it have killed him to leave it at "we're safe"?
Carth proceeded to tell me how he'd stumbled across this abandoned apartment after dragging me away from the crash site, and that the planet—Taris—was under Sith quarantine. He said he'd been in worse spots, which I supposed was comforting, but not nearly enough for my peace of mind. If he was right, we were stranded down here, out of reach of the rest of the Republic fleet. That meant we were on our own—and so was Bastila.
Carth was clearly determined to find her, and he wasn't going to get any argument from me. If she was really as important to the Republic war effort as he claimed, we'd be guaranteeing victory for the Sith if we didn't try.
Besides, I owed him my life. The least I could do was help him out.
"Any idea where we should start looking for Bastila?" I asked.
"While you were out I did some scouting around. There are reports of a couple escape pods crashing down into the Undercity. That's probably a good place to start. But the Undercity is a dangerous place. We don't want to go in there unprepared. It won't do Bastila any good if we go and get ourselves killed."
"Don't worry, I wasn't planning on it," I said, trying to lighten the mood a little. This guy was as serious as a plague. "So let's get started, shall we? The sooner we start looking for Bastila, the sooner we find her."
"Good idea," he agreed. "We can use this abandoned apartment as a base, and we can probably get some equipment and supplies here in the Upper City. Just remember to keep a low profile. I've heard some grim stories about the Dark Jedi interrogation techniques. They say the Force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away your memories and destroy your very identity."
That sounded an awful lot like Sith propaganda to keep people scared, but I diplomatically chose not to argue. I liked Carth, and for all I knew, there could be some truth to what he was saying. If even half of the stories were true, the Jedi could perform some pretty incredible feats that couldn't be explained unless the Force was more than a fancy name for fate. And maybe it was. I just wasn't going to believe it until I saw it.
Carth noted my lack of concern or awe, and quickly changed the subject.
"But I figure if we don't do anything stupid, we should be okay," he said, probably recalling our last conversation about the Force, like I was. "I mean, after all, they're… they're looking for Bastila, not a couple of grunts like us. All right, soldier. Let's move out!"
I raised an eyebrow, amused.
"What was that about keeping a low profile?"
"Sorry. You're right. I should probably drop the military routine. Old habits, you know."
He shrugged, which drew my attention to the horrible orange jacket he was still wearing… and started the gears in my head turning. Maybe Carth wasn't big on questions, but there were other ways to get to know people. Time to try a little experiment…
"Well, at least we don't have to worry about finding you a disguise," I said casually, nodding at the offending jacket. "No one will ever take you for a self-respecting Republic soldier in that."
"Hey, easy on the insults, sister," he said, looking mock-offended. "You don't see me criticizing your… bizarre half-leather get-up. Besides, it's not that bad, is it?"
So he did have a sense of humor. I bit back a grin, keeping my face stoically straight.
"This happens to be a standard-issue jumpsuit," I informed him matter-of-factly. "And yes, it is that bad."
"Hey, I didn't have to drag you away from that crash site, you know. And I could still take you back. Then you can try your hand at making pals with the Sith by criticizing their uniforms. I'd love to see how well that goes over."
Damn. And here I'd actually been worried I was in for the long haul with one of those uptight, I'd-die-before-I-cracked-a-joke types. Carth was a natural at this. He might actually give me a run for my money.
My hopes for this partnership were getting brighter by the minute.
"Okay, the jacket is only mildly horrible," I compromised. "Is that better?"
His only response was to raise one eyebrow.
"Fine. Mildly irritating."
"I guess I can live with that," he said, finally cracking a grin—the first one I'd seen from him since we'd met.
It was a good thing, too, because if my heart was going to react like that every time he smiled at me, I was going to need a transplant before the week was out.
Get a grip, I chided myself. So Carth was fun to banter with and easy on the eyes. Big deal. I could say the same of plenty of other men, even if you threw in the part about him saving my life. (After all, I was a soldier. Getting shot at was part of the job description.) It was probably just the combination of having survived a horrible ordeal and being alone with him that was getting to me.
Which was all the more reason to get out there and start looking for Bastila ASAP.
But first things first. I was famished, and I wasn't going to be much use to anyone if I passed out from hunger in the streets. I doubted Carth would appreciate having to drag me everywhere we went.
"Come on, let's find some food," I said, rising and shouldering my pack. "It'll be a good warm-up for finding our lost Jedi."
As it turned out, it was considerably more than that. Our search for food led us to the cantina, where my sorely underestimated skills at "making pals with the Sith" were directly responsible for getting us to the Lower City... where we just happened to get mixed up in a gang rivalry against the very people who were holding Bastila captive.
That was when I first began to suspect the Force might be more than dumb luck after all.
To be continued…
Another Note: A lot of the credit for the existence of this story has to go to blackberet, since "Downtime" was a big part of the inspiration behind it. I finally have a computer that can run KotOR again, and obviously this story was inspired by the game, but I wouldn't have been in the frame of mind to pull this little series out of it if I hadn't already been reading blackberet's story. You should check it out, whether or not you're enjoying mine. And I'm not just saying that. It's really that good.