Revan trudged along the wood-panelled corridor towards the quarters he shared with Bastila, Jolee and Juhani in the Temple. He wore a look of pure exasperation. Had the Masters always been this impossible? Or were they making a special effort just for him? Didn't they understand that his memories were largely kaput? His mind replayed the discussion that had taken place in the Councillors' meeting room.
"When you turned, Revan, a large proportion of the Jedi with you fell to the Dark side as well," drawled a Twi'lek Councillor. "Intelligence suggests that you - or your Apprentice - established at least one training ground, apart from Korriban. You understand, of course, the threat that the Sith pose to stability in the galaxy."
A low rumble broke the decorous silence of the Council chamber, as various assembled Councillors nodded and murmured in collective assent. Though he agreed that tracking down and dealing with any remaining Dark Jedi threat was a necessity, thought Revan, if he were to be honest his agreement probably had more to do with a desire to put things straight as far as possible than with actual strategic long-term planning for the future.
"Where is the... suspected training ground, Masters?" he had queried.
Glances were exchanged amongst the assembled Councillors. Master Lamar leant forwards in his little overstuffed chair, and shook a skinny finger at him.
"That's just it. We don't know."
Revan thought his eyebrows must have hit the ceiling. "You don't know?" His incredulous exclamation earned him the sternest of glares from Master Lamar.
"No. Given time, Intelligence may have found the location of the training ground, and we would have taken appropriate measures - in due course. But, there were... events. All across the galaxy. That said, I am certain that if you put your mind to it..." Master Lamar leaned back in his chair, steepled his hands and looked meaningfully over them at Revan.
"I don't underst-"
"Master Lamar refers to the wars you started across the galaxy, Prodigal," said a cold voice that he had immediately recognised as belonging to the haughty Mistress of the Archives on Dantooine. "I should think that meditating on the evil you have done would be the first step to earning your redemption."
The temptation to argue with Master Atris over the question of redemption and what it truly entailed had been intense, but short-lived. She, thought Revan, was plainly impossible and disinclined to listen to any argument on the merits that he might have to offer. So he had meekly bowed his head, and stated that much as he desired to recall the novelties of his career as Dark Lord of the Sith, he was unable to do so despite his best efforts; further, that any recollections he did have were sporadic and largely unrelated.
A general twittering amongst the assembled Councillors had followed: some were openly sympathetic with his condition, others suspicious. A lively academic debate erupted between two Masters who considered themselves authorities in their own right on specialised applications of the Force, with both enthusiastically proclaiming their respective views. Still other Councillors hemmed and hawed privately. Only Masters Atris and Lamar seemed to be unaffected: Master Atris cooly staring ahead, pretending that he did not exist; and Master Lamar still fixing him with his trademark glare.
Revan excused himself as soon as common politeness permitted.
"Bastila?" called Revan as he entered their shared quarters. "Juhani? Jolee? ...anyone?" No reply. Everyone, it seemed, had gone out. Revan disrobed as he wandered to the pantry: boots tossed in a corner... tunic on the floor... Entering the pantry, he started searching for a snack.
The sensors on the communications console registered movement and started a holorecording playback.
"My love? Guess what! Carth's pulled a massive string, I don't know how - but he managed to find out where my mother is! I'm sorry I didn't wait for you - Council meetings are... rather unpredictable, and Carth said he would take me there. Anyway, the address is in a datapad on the table, and I'll be visiting Mother all day... so... you know where to find me. Love you..."
Abandoning his search for something to eat, Revan jumped back into his clothes, grabbed the datapad and made a beeline for the Temple garage.
Helena Shan's sharp eyes darted briefly from her daughter's face to the young man who stood in the doorway of her room, and back again. She raised one delicate eyebrow.
"Very good, Bastila. I didn't know whether to take you seriously when you said your friend was nearby. How did you know?"
"I just did," said Bastila. "Can't explain it."
"Hmph. Some Jedi thing, is it?" sniffed Helena as she poured out a tumbler of water and passed it to her daughter. "Hand that to your friend, will you? And sit down, boy. Looking up at you is giving me neck-ache."
Bastila scooted to the side of the couch beside her mother's bed to make room for Revan. "Mother's being difficult today," she whispered as Revan sat down. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"How are you, ma'am?" asked Revan.
"Dying, as usual," replied Helena matter-of-factly. "Only now I shall be departing this galaxy in far less discomfort than I had previously believed."
Crap, thought Revan. What can I say to that? That's good to know, ma'am? or I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am? He settled for a suitably diplomatic vagary. "I hear the doctors here are very experienced..."
Helena brushed off the statement with an affectation of disgruntled royalty. "Of course they are. This ward specialises in caring for the terminally ill. All experts at watching people die, here."
Help! thought Revan, as he looked at Bastila imploringly.
Bastila pursed her lips and spoke firmly. "Mother, stop it! He rushed all the way here just to visit you." She glared meaningfully at her mother. Revan coughed politely and interested himself in the tumbler of water he had been handed.
The sick woman craned her neck and peered down the length of her nose at her daughter. "Obviously. His shirt's inside out."
"Mother...!" cried Bastila in exasperation, throwing up her hands. "You promised!"
"Promised what?" asked Revan, feeling utterly lost. Bastila ignored him. A slow, satisfied smile spread across Helena Shan's face.
"I did, didn't I?" Helena pressed a button on the console next to her bed and leaned back into her pillows as the upper portion of the bed adjusted itself to a position more suited to sitting up. As Bastila bent over her mother to adjust the pillows supporting her, Helena grasped her daughter's arm and squeezed it affectionately. "Thank you, my dear. Will you go outside for a while? I would like to speak to your friend alone."
"Alone?" repeated Bastila suspiciously. She lowered her voice to an urgent whisper. "Mother - you're not planning on reading him the riot act, are you?"
Helena tsk-ed and batted her daughter away. "I won't, if he gives me no reason to. Now, go outside and wait. I will send for you when I am done." Having spoken, Helena shut her eyes in a gesture of dismissal.
Bastila shook her head in resignation, whispered "May the Force be with you" in Revan's ear, and exited the room.
"Has she gone out, then?" asked Helena, her eyes still shut.
"Yes, ma'am," said Revan. Something akin to panic was starting to build in his gut. Helena Shan, he thought, was the sort of woman who could stare a stampeding herd of rancors into quivering submission through sheer force of character alone: she was probably entirely responsible for some of the more... obstinate traits of character that he had observed in Bastila since meeting her.
"Oh, good," said Helena with a sigh. Her shoulders sagged, and her demeanour changed abruptly: her customary poise and aloofness seemed to have deserted her. When next she spoke, her voice had lost its sharp, haughty edge - instead, she sounded old, tired, worn - though her words were still as precise as ever.
"I am so tired, do you know that?" said Helena, shaking her head. "I didn't know if... I would be able to - to wait. How long it would be, before... I could see my daughter again." She looked searchingly into Revan's eyes.
"She is the most precious thing I have, and I gave her away for her own good. Her father was a good man, but it was always one more hunt, one more adventure... never in one place for long enough to sink roots - what kind of upbringing would she have had? From the moment she was born, I knew she was special. My precious, special baby. So different from all others. I never got over it." Helena's eyes took on a distant, faraway look.
"Her father never got over it either. But -" she returned her attention to Revan " - that is not what I wished to speak to you about." Helena's eyes took on a sharp, appraising look. "How did you meet my daughter?"
"We, ah... met on Taris," Revan told her, picking his words carefully. "A few months back."
"Taris?" repeated Helena. "Before it was bombed, obviously - how long before?"
"We got out before that happened, ma'am," said Revan. This, he told himself, is going to be a very tricky conversation.
Helena frowned. "Was Bastila in some kind of trouble?"
"Not... exactly, ma'am. All of us were in trouble... what with us being, well, Republicos on the one hand, and a Jedi on the other -" Helena interrupted him with a query.
"Jedi? Well, aren't you one to talk! You're one yourself!"
Inwardly, Revan kicked himself for having made a slip. "Not then, ma'am. You could say that, ah, Bastila talent-spotted me, and the Masters on Dantooine agree-"
"Dantooine!" barked Helena, frowning even more. "That place got bombed to bits too!"
A hole in the ground would be nice now, thought Revan as he desperately tried to save the situation. "Ye-es, ma'am... but I assure you we were quite far away from it when that happened."
"Oh?" said Helena archly. "Where, precisely?"
Revan smacked himself mentally. "Manaan," he said helplessly.
Helena practically shrieked. "Manaan! More bombs! Some... desperate acts of terrorism, no doubt - an embassy, and even a research station -"
"That was us," confessed Revan. You're done for, old boy, he told himself. Might as well go out in a blaze of glory. He put on his most charming smile and hoped to the Force that it would work.
Smacking her forehead with a palm, Helena deflated into her pillows. "Oh, my goodness." She remained silent for a few moments, alternately rubbing her head and pinching the bridge of her nose. "Is there anything else I should know?"
Seizing the opportunity to pre-empt any further interrogation on Helena's part, Revan shook his head. "No, ma'am. From Manaan onwards, it was mainly me getting into scrapes. Bastila stayed out of trouble, mostly." Barely audible, the last word went unheard by Helena, whose stern expression softened as she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Good, good. Bastila is all that I have left, you know." Raising herself to a more erect posture, Helena fixed Revan with a serious gaze.
"I wasn't wrong on Tatooine, young man. My daughter grew up in my absence, but that doesn't mean I can't still read her like a datapad. Let us be frank with each other..." Helena tilted her head inquiringly at Revan.
"Revan," he said helpfully. "My name is Revan."
Helena nodded. "Revan. Oh, yes. She did say." She pursed her lips, thinking. "When we met in that cantina, it was clear to me that Bastila... was attracted to you. I believe I did hint at it, but you men can be incredibly thick. Today, I have had a better opportunity to observe the two of you, and I do not believe I am mistaken in concluding that the attraction is mutual. Hmm?"
"...that is true, ma'am," said Revan. He felt rather like an exotic insect being subjected to thorough scrutiny by an entomologist. Helena nodded to herself, leant back onto her pillows and studied Revan carefully for a minute.
"Do you love my daughter?" she asked abruptly. "Are you serious about her?"
Taken aback by the directness of Helena's query, Revan found himself blurting a most unpolished reply. "Of course...! I do! ...I mean, I am - "
"That is good. Do not toy with her affections. My daughter is not a trifle." Helena sighed once more, and raised her eyes to the ceiling.
"Do you remember what I asked you to do for me at the cantina? Please... look after Bastila when I am gone, Revan." She let her head fall a little to the side. "She knows I do not have much time left. The doctors say it may be a month or two, half a standard year at most... if I am 'lucky'." Helena leaned over and pressed Revan's hand. "Will you look after her when I am gone?"
Revan squeezed Helena's hand in reassurance. "Gladly."
The sick woman nestled herself back into her pillows, a soft smile on her tired features. "Thank you, Revan. This means a lot to me." Reaching for the console, Helena pressed another button and the bed slowly lowered itself until it was fully horizontal. Adjusting her posture, she shut her eyes again and settled herself comfortably.
"Call my daughter back in now, Revan."
"I'm so sorry about Mother's behaviour, Revan," said Bastila as soon as the aircar pulled out of the public berth at the hospital. "She's terrible like that. I don't know what gets into her sometimes - "
"No worries, Princess! Your mother's quite all right, actually. More bark than actual bite," said Revan as he negotiated a sharp turn.
"Would it be too much to hope that she didn't try to embarrass you?"
"My skin is thicker than a dewback's hide."
They rode silently for a while through the congested airlanes of Coruscant. "I will miss Mother when she's gone," said Bastila quietly as she scratched at the hem of her tunic. "Funny, that. I didn't even grow up with her."
"I missed you terribly after the Leviathan, but I don't remember us growing up together."
"I missed you too. Hang on - where are we going?"
"Oa Park," said Revan.
"You'll find out soon."
"You what!" shouted Carth into his comlink, before bellowing with laughter. "Ha ha ha...! Well done...!"
Canderous looked up from the holozine he was reading and grunted at the Republic officer. "What's up?"
Placing a hand over the comlink, Carth hissed at Canderous. "It's Revan. You owe me two hundred credits now."
"Frack." The Mandalorian dug about in a pocket, emptied a handful of credichips onto the table and started counting through them. "Fifty... seventy-five... one hundred and ten... thirty..." Canderous paused in his counting and barked at Carth. "Hey! I made a bet too. Ask him where!"
Rolling his eyes, Carth turned his back on Canderous and spoke into the comlink again. "So... you care to tell a friend where this happened? ...oh, nice. Nice one! Yeah, parks are good for that sort of thing... yeah." He covered the comlink again and mouthed a number at the Mandalorian.
"Kark!" Canderous cursed under his breath, emptied out another pocket and counted out fifty more credits.
"Congratulations, buddy!" said Carth into the comlink amiably. He walked over to the table and scooped up his winnings before giving Canderous the thumbs-up.
"When's the big day?"