Don't ever change
Despite attempts by Lucidae and several mutual friends for reconciliation, Mysteel and T'shere refused to speak to each other from that night on. It saddened many to see two of the most recognizable faces in Aethon at each other's throats, especially after all the hardships they had endured together. But in the grand scheme of things, their argument changed nothing for Mysteel was still resolved to leave for Coruscant and take her vows. So a day after the incident, she told Revan that they could leave as soon as it was convenient for him to do so. (Or in her own words: 'as soon as fucking possible.')
Revan was perfectly fine with that, and the Jedi went ahead to make the necessary preparations for departure, while telling Mysteel to do the same. First and foremost, he transferred all relevant files regarding the Praeconor Oblivio from Lucidae's databanks and stored the remaining samples into special transportation capsules. Then with Kyne's consent, he traveled to Darith's central star port to secure his transportation.
As his benefactor had promised, Revan found a ship registered under his name in one of the hangar bays, just waiting for him to take. And the sight of it took his breath away.
Well...it looks like I got an upgrade. Revan thought when he first laid eyes on it.
According to the port's manifest, the ship the Watcher had given him was designated the Deliverance, which the Jedi thought was dully apt. And while he could appreciate the Watcher's black humor, what truly fascinated him was the vessel itself. After a cursory inspection, Revan discovered that the vessel possessed features similar to the Alpha Wing, but with subtle differences. Like his former mode of transportation, this one was slaved to his voice and the aviation controls fit his memory to a tee. But unlike the Alpha Wing, this one was dark like a raven's wing, with sleeker contours and a narrower chassis. The ship also possessed several distinguishing upgrades including an improved weapons arsenal, triple reinforced hull, automated repair unit, much more powerful thrusters, secondary shielding and a cloaking field that would not only obscure the ship's energy output, but visually as well.
It was, by any definition a very powerful asset, which the Watcher had apparently bequeathed to him as a reward for a job well done. And while the Jedi could appreciate his new toy, he couldn't help but feel that there was an unspoken promise that came with this prize...something that went along the lines of you owe me. But he didn't have time to dwell on the hidden implications right now. All that mattered right now was that he was going home.
When he had secured his cargo and made sure the ship was prepped for launch, Revan sent a message to Mysteel, telling her to meet him discreetly at his ship's coordinates once she was ready to leave. This proved quicker than he expected as the Twi'lek actually showed up at the hangar bay in less than an hour.
"Wow Rev..." said Mysteel, blowing an appreciative whistle as she met him at the base of the magnificent ship.
"If I knew all Jedi got such cool toys, I would have joined up sooner."
"Are you ready to go then?" Revan inquired. The Twi'lek nodded with a smile.
"Yep. Right after I finish saying goodbye to everyone."
"Everyone?" echoed Revan, before his eyes widened at the crowd of red and black suddenly flooding into the hangar bay. Soldiers, parents, children... virtually everyone who knew the Twi'lek seemed to be appearing behind her in force. And from what he knew, that was pretty much the entirety of Aethon.
"Something wrong?" Mysteel asked innocently, noticing Revan's surprised expression as he surveyed the oncoming procession.
"How did all of you get in here? Doesn't Reeka have a bounty on Aethon?" he asked in a troubled voice. The Jedi knew the group was well known as a terrorist organization around Darith. And Reeka's security would not have simply allowed so many of Aethon's followers to march straight into his tightly controlled port without any resistance at all.
"Oh, well funny thing." Said Mysteel with an odd look. "Kynes said the bounty Reeka put on our heads was called off earlier"
"Because Reeka's dead."
"Dead?" the Jedi echoed in a shocked voice. "When? How?"
Mysteel shrugged. "A day after we returned back to Darith actually. It's all pretty confusing, but Aethon's data sniffers say that the bloated slug was found cut up into several chunks. Some of him was found in his harem...others scattered in his animal pens. A couple of his guards even claim they found chunks of suspicious green meat in their soup! Well long story short, nobody's been around to keep the mercenaries in line now that Reeka's gone. And with a power vacuum in Darith just waiting to be filled, none of the other petty crime lords are bothering with us at the moment."
Revan frowned at this disturbing piece of news. The Watcher…It had to be him. This has his fingerprints all over it.
If anyone could have pulled off such a hit, it was him. The Watcher did say he was going to track down the source of the weapon, Why he ended up killing the slug, Revan couldn't say for sure, but he suspected it was to tie up any loose ends with Reeka's connection to the original sellers. But to kill a notorious crimelord, in his own fortress no less…If the Jedi ever held any lingering doubts as to his benefactor's influence, they were gone now. Still…
I'm going to have to tread lightly with that one. Revan thought darkly before turning his attention back to the matter at hand..namely the hundred odd people crowding his hangar bay.
"Couldn't you have said goodbye to them at base?" he asked the Twi'lek ruefully. The Jedi had planned to send a parting communique to Lucidae after reaching orbit, and the last thing he wanted now was another ceremony.
"Oh, it wouldn't have been the same. " replied Mysteel with a wink. "Besides, I needed someone to carry all my clothes. I have a lot of clothes."
Revan shook his head in resignation. He suspected Mysteel just wanted to make the most dramatic departure possible. If the Twi'lek liked anything, it was a great scene. Regardless of the reason, Aethon was here, and they were all intent on saying goodbye.
And did they ever. Whether it was a hug, a parting gift or even just a few kind words, Mysteel was soon undated from all sides by people who wished her well, for the Twi'lek was truly the heart and soul of Aethon's fraternity.
They love her like they love their own children. Revan thought not without admiration as he saw the procession of sobbing people taking turns to squeeze the life out of the increasingly breathless girl.
I guess Aethon really is a family...
Mysteel didn't get all the attention of the corner of his eye, Revan saw two familiar killing machines approach him while server droids loaded Mysteel's prodigious luggage into the Jedi's newly minted ship. Mandalore and Octavia had actually delayed further deployment with the rest of their companies in order to say their farewells, something that the Jedi found oddly touching and unsettling at the same time.
Mandalore was the first to speak as the pair approached. "If you die before we meet again, I will hunt your wretched corpse down and piss on it." The metal clad warrior said bluntly. "The honor of your death is reserved for me."
"Of course." replied Revan coolly. "Although I think I'll wait until you've regained leadership of the clans before I issue a challenge. I wouldn't want to fight you while you're still handicapped."
Mandalore grunted in amusement. Then in a surprisingly candid moment, the Mandalorian slammed his fist across his massive chest in salute to the Jedi, one of the greatest honors he had ever bestowed to an outsider. Revan titled his head in acknowledgment and the Mandalorian walked away without another word. Next, Octavia stepped up in front of him, the machine baleful red lenses whirring and clicking. The Jedi got the sense the deadly droid was recording this transaction, although for what reason he could not say.
"I've never liked you human." Octavia stated eventually "In fact, I believe it is fair to say that I hated you the moment you sauntered onto my ship."
Your ship? Revan thought with mild amusement but kept silent, sensing that the giant machine had more to say.
"But..." Octavia said after a long pause. "after the events that have transpired...I think I hate you a little less,"
"That's the nicest thing a droid has ever said to me," said Revan with a faint smile.
"You only get one," replied Octavia. With that, the droid stalked off and disappeared amongst the milling crowd. Revan turned and spotted Kynes, who had at some point started leaning against his new ship. The woman was looking at him with her typically inscrutable stare, something that still made him distinctly uncomfortable. Revan prided himself on being able to read most people's ticks, but he admitted Kynes was one of the tougher individuals to pierce through. Worst of all, the Jedi didn't know whether she held any feelings of resentment for removing a valuable companion from Aethon.
Therefore the Jedi watched the woman with a good amount of trepidation as she approached, thinking the sniper might have a parting barb. But to Revan's surprise, the sniper only held out a hand when she came near.
"Good luck back in the Order." She said with surprisingly sincerity "I think we can all use some of that in this day and age."
"There's no such thing." Said Revan, shaking her hand. "But, thanks."
After a moment's pause, he asked. "How is T'shere?"
Kynes shrugged as if to say the answer was obvious. "Bitter. Angry. Hurt. Let's not lie to ourselves. We all knew that this was the only real outcome when Mysteel decided she wanted to take her vows."
Seeing Revan's frown, she added. "Don't get me wrong. Although I think Mysteel would be better suited in Aethon, I bear her no ill will. This is something she needs to do, and I respect that."
The sniper lips twisted into a faint smirk.
"But I fully expect you to keep her alive in the coming years. Otherwise you might find your head in the center of my crosshairs."
"It's good to know that there are so many people who are just waiting to kill me." Said Revan, returning the grin. "But the Order is hardly more dangerous than life out here in the Outer Rim."
At those words, Kynes' face grew somber. "That's where you are wrong Jedi. T'shere wasn't exaggerating about the Order's fallacies. The organization is a snake pit of treachery, half lies and deceit. I should know..."
Revan gave the woman a curious look at her leading remark. "I get the feeling that you are referring to something specific." He said, folding his arms.
Kynes stared at him impassively for a few moments, as if silently debating whether to reveal her hand. After a few more seconds of scrutiny, she gave a slight nod and said.
"Do you remember when I said that I had a relative in the Order?"
"Vividly," replied Revan. The Jedi had not had the recurring dream since his injury, but the memory of the woman being spliced open was not something he would soon forget.
"Well, I've been keeping my eye on her progress ever since she was inducted, mostly because I know she didn't wish to be there in the first place. And now, I have good reason to suspect she's been...tampered with. Not the same way as you, but no less disturbing."
"In what way?" asked Revan, his frown deepening.
"She..." Kynes began, but caught herself at the last moment. Shaking her head, the sniper said in a soft voice.
"No…I think that is something you need to discover for yourself because truthfully, I do not have concrete evidence. However, I can't shake the notion that something horribly has happened to her. I can just…" the woman struggled for a moment to find the correct words.
"...feel it..." she finished
The sniper didn't elaborate but Revan knew that this was the closest Kynes would get to actually asking for his help."
"I'll look into it for you," the Jedi promised.
"Thank you." Said the sniper after a moment's hesitation. "But whatever happens, do not let the Masters know that you're prying around. The implications of your discovery could be...dire."
"I'll be careful."
Kynes nodded and Revan turned away, thinking that their business was done. But just as he was about to leave, the sniper reached out and touched his shoulder. The Jedi glanced at the hand then back at Kynes, who had an odd look on her face that he couldn't quite place.
"Look Revan," she said slowly "I know you think of me as cold hearted bitch, but I want you to know that I appreciate the things you did for Aethon…for the Republic. And unlike T'shere, I don't believe all Jedi are self aggrandizing pricks who can't tell their anus from a hole in the wall."
"Thanks...I think." Said Revan doubtfully. Kynes favored him with another thin smile to show she was joking.
"In fact, I like to think we are parting on amicable terms." She walked closer, without removing her hand. "And who knows, perhaps in the future, we might even-"
"No." Revan said simply, and walked away.
The Jedi navigated around the crowd and eventually found Lucidae receiving a tearful farewell from his prized pupil. Revan could see from the pained expression on the Master's face that Mysteel was hugging with typical overzealous strength, squeezing her victim like she would an overgrown toy. Eventually, Lucidae managed to extricate himself from her grasp and said.
"I will miss you little one. You're absence will leave a void in all our hearts."
"Don't worry Master, I'll contact you soon." murmured Mysteel between sniffles. "I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the chaos I cause at the Order,"
After both of them shared a chuckle, the Twi'lek turned around and looked longingly towards the exit, something that did not escape Lucidae's notice.
"I'm sorry Mysteel, she isn't coming," the Master said in a gentle tone.
"I know..." Mysteel replied miserably, head drooping. "it's just that..I don't want to leave Aethon with her hating me."
"She doesn't hate you Tails." Lucidae assured her "Thalia's loss struck her harder than you know. And with these sudden change of events, your sister is terrified at the prospect of losing the rest of her family."
The Master raised the Mysteel's chin back to eye level.
"Do not worry. Your latest argument might seem dire, but it is in the nature of siblings to quarrel. But never doubt for a moment that T'shere loves you fiercely and will come around eventually."
Mysteel's gave a teary nod and squeezed her Master once again. "Promise me you'll take care of her for me Master." she whispered "Help make her be better, just like you helped me."
"Have no fear on that account little one." said Lucidae, patting Mysteel's back gently. "As her Master, I will always be there for her. Always."
Eventually, Mysteel broke the embrace and turned to the most important person to her in the room. Her sister.
The little Rutian stood miserably in a corner, crying quietly with her head down. It was clear that her grief at seeing another member of the family leave was no less than Mysteel's. As the little girl's tears fell to the cold floor, Mysteel walked up and gently took her sibling into her own arms.
"Goodbye little sister." she said softly, planting a kiss on the younger Twi'lek's forehead. "I will miss you most of all. And don't worry, I won't forget about you either. When I have a chance, I'll come back to Ryloth and visit you and the family."
The little girl's face brightened a little at the prospect. "P-promise?" she asked in a quavering voice.
"Promise." Mysteel said with a teary eyed smile. Then she brought the girl into a tight hug and whispered. "But whatever happens, remember that you have sisters that love you. And I'll be missing you every second until we meet again."
"I-I'll miss you too, Tails." managed the little girl between sniffles. The two embraced in silence after that, neither quite willing to end the moment.
"You know," Revan said eventually, breaking the heartfelt moment. "Thalia never did give her a proper name,"
The little girl turned her head the speaker and squeaked indignantly. "I have a name! I'm Mission!"
Mysteel smiled sadly. "That's right Rev. Didn't you know? Her name is Mission Vao."
Revan glanced doubtfully at the girl. He didn't think that wasn't much of a name, but he supposed stranger things have happened in the galaxy. "Well...far be it for me to argue the point,"
Revan left the two to finish their goodbye and turned to the man that had changed his life in so many ways. Lucidae might have been a traitor in the eyes of the council, but to Revan, he was the man that that had renewed his hope in the Order. For as cutthroat and treacherous as many men and women could be, there were still those that had courage and honor, even if the rest of the Council didn't recognize it. Therefore, when Lucidae lifted his hand out for a traditional Jedi salute, Revan gladly grasped the other man's arm.
"Safe journey Revan." Lucidae said sincerely. "I can rest much easier now, knowing that there are Jedi like you guarding the Republic."
"The Outer Rim is in good hands." Revan replied with a nod. "And remember. If you discover any unusual activity, Mandalorian, Sith or otherwise..."
"I promise you will be the first to know," Lucidae assured him. The Master then tipped his head as a gesture of respect for all the Jedi had done. "Bring back honor to the Order my friend and help them to be mighty again. I have a feeling that the Republic will be needing their finest warriors very soon."
Revan dipped his head in a bow as well. "I promise,"
There was nothing more to be said. With a final nod for Mysteel that it was time to leave, Revan started walking to the Deliverance's boarding ramp. But as soon had he taken his first steps onto the stairs, the Jedi felt a slight tug on his robes. Revan looked down and saw Mysteel's little sister staring up at him with her curious dark eyes.
In a very shy voice, Mission said. "Bye Revan. Th-thank you for saving me."
Revan gave the girl a faint smile and said. "You're welcome...Mission."
The trip back into the core worlds was direct and uneventful, exactly what Revan had hoped for. When the Deliverance firstbroke through Coruscant's outer atmosphere and made planetfall, Mysteel let put a gasp of wonder and joy. Revan didn't need to turn from his controls to see why. The heart of the Republic space was famed far and wide for its soaring skyscrapers and bustling traffic, a planet with a single unified metropolis that spanned the entirety of Coruscant's surface. Everywhere one looked, new wonders and curiosities could be seen. Majestic spires of marble, the daunting walls of the Senate, the seedy nightlife district...all were in prominent display for newcomers to see. And as this was Mysteel's first foray into the Core Worlds, the Twi'lek lapped the scenery up with gusto. She pestered Revan with a plethora of annoying questions, mostly along the lines of "Oooh, what's that?" or is "Is that a mall? Can we go shopping?"
Revan answered half heartedly, less interested in sightseeing than getting to their ultimate destination. Even though he had technically fulfilled his mission of penitence, the Jedi didn't know what to expect as he took his first steps into the temple. Would he be scorned, questioned, perhaps even barred from entry?
What will I say to Alek when I go back? And what if the Masters-
His thoughts were interrupted as his overexcited companion jumped into the passenger seat beside him.
"So," Mysteel asked him in a playful tone. "what's the age of consent in the Order?" The Twi'lek complimented her question by crossing her legs and twirling one of her tentacles.
"Never," replied Revan in a deadpan voice, never taking his eyes off the view screen. Mysteel's expression melted from playful curiosity into one of pure horror.
"W-W-W-What?" The Twi'lek fumbled several times in an attempt to express her outrage, which would have been comical had anyone been actually looking at her.
"Everyone knows that Jedi take vows of chastity Mysteel." Replied Revan, more to stop her stuttering than to provide any meaningful input. However, that only seemed to galvanize the Twi'lek even more.
"That's absurd!" Mysteel huffed. "T'shere told me that she used to get more tail..."
Her line of reasoning was abruptly silenced when Revan shot her a 'are you kidding me?' look.
"Oh right, the whole expelling thing..." Mysteel muttered, tentacles drooping. After looking disconsolate for a moment, the Twi'lek announced in a cheerful voice.
"Oh well, I guess I'll need to find...alternate means to relieve stress."
Revan sighed. He had to give it her. The girl was never to be defeated by such trivial obstacles such as logic or the laws of physics. After a moment of musing, Mysteel took out her lightsaber and gave it a thoughtful look.
Revan shot her a disgusted look. "I'm pretty sure what you're thinking of is a crime."
Mysteel looked like she was about to burst into tears. "But Rev..." she whined "what I'm thinking of is a victimless crime."
Revan palmed his face into his hands.
"I'm just saying," Mysteel complained for what seemed like the hundredth time, "don't you think it's wrong that someone as hot as me hasn't gotten properly laid yet?"
Revan resisted the urge to grab Mysteel's lightsaber and impale his eardrums. The Twi'lek had been bemoaning her fate of eternal celibacy ever since they left the ship and made their up the stairs to the Jedi temple. For some reason, the girl seemed adamant that getting laid had to take priority before taking her vows, and it was giving him a severe headache. To further his irritation Revan noticed a few pedestrians giving them odd looks from time to time as they snatched pieces of their conversation.
"Chastity is a virtue," Revan replied curtly, hurrying Mysteel out of earshot from the nosy people. "You'll learn to live with it."
"Oh, you're just like Lucidae." complained Mysteel. "Both of you sound like a pair of dull old codgers, but at least he has an excuse!" The Twi'lek stopped walking and waggled a finger under Revan's nose. "You know what they say, don't you?" she said slyly. "If you don't use your equipment often enough, sooner or later, it'll misfire."
"Please stop talking." Revan said, putting his hands up in exasperation before starting a brisk pace to escape. "No more metaphors, please."
"Rev, I don't think you understand just how big a crime it is for a bod like mine to go to waste," Mysteel whined as she followed, oblivious to her companion's pleas. "I mean, can you imagine how many guys and gals back in Aethon would have paid to have some fun time with me, if Lucidae let them? Can you imagine the sheer amount of sperm wasted? I mean, it probably could have filled a lake! I-"
Revan was spared any further torment when the Twi'lek's jaw dropped as she caught sight of the monument in front of them.
Before them stood the gates of the Jedi temple, the crowning jewel of Coruscant. The structure immediately brought a sense of immenseness, with its vast soaring pillars and mighty ramparts. Each piece of marble, every brick of stone was lovingly carved and painstakingly polished into a pearly white sheen. Some conservative elements of the Order disdained the grandeur of the temple as a symbol of pride and self aggrandizement, but nothing could be further from the truth. The temple was a testament to the resilience and enduring strength of the Jedi, a symbol of what people could achieve once reunited.
"It's so beautiful..." murmured the Twi'lek, staring dreamily at the one place she always wished to see. And who could blame her? The sight of the magnificent structure would take any person's breath away. But for Revan...to be back home, the one place he thought he would never return finally proved too much. Tears began to fall unabashedly from his face, like the relief of being reunited with a long lost love.
"Are you...crying?" asked Mysteel in a surprised voice when she noticed her companion's face.
"Yes." said Revan without apology.
"Huh, and I thought my periods were bad." said the Twi'lek with a giggle.
Before Revan could form a witty retort, a familiar voice shook him to his very core.
"Revan! Is that you?"
The Jedi whipped his head to the side and to his surprise and joy, found himself looking at one of his closest friends.
"Exon" Revan breathed. "It is-"
The large man didn't give him a chance to reply. Exon rushed up and crushed Revan in a bear hug with his tree like arms, arms that could snap a man's neck in two with nary a thought. Revan tried to laugh, but the air was had been blasted out of is lungs, Eventually, the Jedi managed to pull himself free from the giant man's hug.
"It is good to see you my friend." He finished in a breathless voice,
"Aye likewise." Replied Exon, who was still grinning from ear to ear. The tall man gave his friend a cursory inspection as he pushed him back to arm's length.
"I must say, you look different though. Force I hardly recognized you with such long hair!"
"It keeps my head warm," Revan deadpanned and the two men shared another laugh.
"Can I infer that your presence here means your exile is at an end?" asked Exon when the mirth had died down.
"It is." Revan affirmed. "I have completed my mission of repentance, and am ready to rejoin my brothers in their struggles."
"That is good to hear." Exon replied with a slap to his shoulder. "I look forward to hearing about all your exploits in the Outer Rim. You have no idea how dreadfully dull it has been cooped up in a cell, with nothing to do but meditate."
"In retrospect, I believe the Masters were kind to me during the sentencing." Revan mused, drawing another chuckle from his companion. Their happy reunion was interrupted by an exaggerated coughing sound. Revan glanced back at Mysteel who was giving him a very pointed 'are you going to introduce me?' look.
Revan took a deep breath and said. "But I'm forgetting myself. Exon I'd like you to meet-"
The Jedi's introduction was abruptly cut off when the Twi'lek walked in front of him and hugged Exon, her arms barely managing to wrap around the man's massive waist.
"Hi, I'm Mysteel!" said the girl cheerfully, to her surprised target "I was Revan's partner in crime when he in the Outer Rim. And now I'm here at the temple to take my vows as a Jedi Knight."
Exon looked down at the Twi'lek in alarm, plainly confused by the queer female's behavior. Revan resisted the urge to laugh at the comical scene of a giant man being hugged by someone half his weight. Seeing his bewildered expression Mysteel said.
"What? You hugged him. I thought that was how Jedi greeted each other."
The Twi'lek turned and gave Revan a conspiratual wink.
"and I can tell he's really happy to meet me,"
Exon abruptly disengaged from the hug, his face reddening like a summer apple.
"That's-that's just my lightsaber!" He stuttered.
"Oh, I bet it is!" replied Mysteel lewdly.
Revan smiled inwardly as he watched the exchange between the polar opposites. He also noticed that a couple of Jedi had stopped their activities and were watching the three with curious expressions.
Better stop this before we draw a crowd.
The Jedi was about to help his beleaguered friend when he heard a familiar shuffling sound behind him. It was a sound that he had hope and dreaded to hear for many weeks. After taking a deep breath, he turned around and saw...
"Master Vandar..." Revan said softly, his voice was barely above a whisker of a whisper.
"Revan." replied the venerable Master. Vandar's features were that of a old oak, gnarled and wizened. Age and the burden of his office had deepened the lines on his ancient looking face. Yet the diminutive mentor's smile was genuine when he beheld his greatest pupil.
"I prayed for the day we would meet again."
Revan tried to speak but the words became ashes in his mouth. A tumult of emotions threatened to overwhelm him at that moment. Joy, relief, bitterness and confusion all welled up in the Jedi's heart at seeing the person that had once been one of his closest confidants. Revan found himself going to one knee like he did when Vandar first anointed him a Jedi Knight. But try as he might, the words would not come. Only tears.
Fortunately for Revan, Mysteel relieved him of the necessity to form a coherent response. Upon noticing the new arrival talking to her companion, the Twi'lek proceeded to rush up to the diminutive Master with sparkling eyes.
"Oooh what an adorable little Jedi!" she gushed. Vandar and Revan looked up in surprise at the interruption. Then to everyone's horror, Mysteel scooped Vandar into her arms and proceeded to hug him like he was some sort of toddler.
"Are you one of the younglings?" she asked her newfound toy. "Of course you are! I know he and I are going to be best friends!"
"Mysteel, put him down!" gasped Revan askance. He and Exon tried to extricate the beleaguered Master out of the girl's grasp but to little effect. "That's a Master of the Order!"
"Oh don't be silly Rev." giggled Mysteel as she protected her tiny prize. "How can someone so small be a Master? Look at him, so cute with those big eyes and those floppy ears! I know! I shall call you Mr Floppy!"
After a few seconds of cat and mouse, the pair managed to pull Vandar out of Mysteel's playful hands.
"Well, that was certainly...interesting." said Vandar as he was gently set down by his rescuers. His clothing was rumpled from all the jostling he had endured, but to Revan's relief, the old Master did not look any worse for wear.
"Master Vandar, are you all right?" asked Exon in a worried voice.
"Oh I'm fine." Said Vandar with a winded smile. "Better perhaps. I think she realigned my hip."
"Vandar?" echoed Mysteel, her face gradually registering recognition at the name. "Oh...you were being serious. I guess that explains why he was so wrinkly."
Everyone was too stunned or horrified to reply. Most of the bystander's had become slackjawed at the Twi'lek's blatant disregard for protocol. While Vandar smoothed out his robes, Exon was giving Revan a stare that said: What have you done?
Revan palmed his face into both hands again. This definitely wasn't how I envisioned coming back.
"So..." said Mysteel to Vandar, breaking the awkward silence. The Twi'lek's tentacles were curled sheepishly in apology. "Did I make a good first impression?"
"I'm sorry for that debacle Master." Revan said in an apologetic tone after he and Vandar were alone. The pair walked at a leisurely pace within the temple's familiar halls as they talked. Revan had told Exon to give Mysteel a tour around the temple grounds while he and the good Master caught up on business. Although in truth, he had essentially left the man to fend for himself in a hopeless battle.
"Don't worry about it Revan." Vandar assured him with a tired smile. "Lucidae warned me that his pupil could be...boisterous. What matters is that you have returned to us, cleansed of any taint to your name."
The venerable Master shuffled at a snail's pace and Revan had to make sure not to outdistance him. He noted with some concern that the Master seemed much older than when he last saw him, although Vandar had always looked ancient. The Jedi liked to think it was because Vandar was worried for him, but more likely it was weariness from handling the political intricacies with the Senate and fellow Council Members. The upper echelons of the Order was a viper pit after all...
"I will not lie Revan..." continued Vandar. "When you left the temple gates with that... thing, I feared I'd seen the last of you."
"I felt the same way," said Revan quietly.
"I know I've told you this, but it was not my wish to subject you to exile. The Watcher demanded it, and his word is law amongst the council." Vandar's large ears dropped lower as he confessed.
"I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive our decision, to forgive me for...everything."
Revan stopped walking and studied his mentor in silence for a long moment. The Master's face was downcast and infinitely weary, as if the burden of the entire galaxy was on his tiny shoulders. The Jedi knew that behind that leathered demeanor lay an untold number of secrets and lies. But everyone had secrets...and while Revan would never fully trust him or the council again, he found that he did miss Vandar, at least enough so they could move on from the unpleasantness. Therefore, it was with a light heart that Revan knelt to one knee and placed a hand on Vandar's shoulder.
"I do Master." he said with a smile "I felt lost and alone for a while in the Outer Rim, I admit. But my time in exile has made me stronger. I saw things there that defied description, things that horrified and inspired with equal intensity. And most importantly of all, I finally understood what it meant to be a Jedi Knight."
With those words, the Master's careworn face brightened considerably.
"You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that." the Master said with genuine relief.
"If I had it my way, I'd make you a damn Master for all the services you've rendered."
Revan laughed. Try as he might, he could not see himself in such a confined position.
"Not a title I would relish Master. My place is out there in the battlefield, where I can meet the enemy head on. I would sooner not be confined to a library, or prattling to a group of children. Can you imagine me as role model?"
The pair shared a laugh. After it died down, Revan added.
"The irony is that it took another outcast to lead me back to the true path."
"Ah yes...Lucidae." Vandar grew solemn at the mention of the man. "From what I have gleaned in our mutual friend's message, you're time in the Outer Rim has been well spent." the Master commented. The Master started shuffling forward again as he spoke.
"Apparently, you and his allies managed to thwart a massive bioweapon from being unleashed as well as eliminating a dangerous enemy."
"Malleus," confirmed Revan grimly. "A legacy from a bygone age. I will give you a full report on what I learnt of him and his ilk in due time."
As they walked, Revan turned his head to the distance, watching the bustle of Coruscant's citizens as they went on with their lives, completely oblivious to the horrors that lurked in the coldest reaches of the galaxy.
"I will not lie to you Master Vandar." the Jedi said after a moment's pause. "The situation in the Outer Rim is grim. Aethon and I only barely managed to prevent that madman and his twisted minions from unleashing devastation onto the galaxy. And even though he is dead, Lucidae has reason to believe that there are many of these so called 'Reborn' still out there, ready to take up Ajunta Pall's nefarious schemes."
"That is very worrying indeed." said Vandar in a concerned voice.
"It gets worse." replied Revan grimly. "Malleus warned me that the Republic's enemies are amassing. Mandalorians, Sith...they have sensed our weakness and are on the verge of spilling out from their wretched holes to feed on carrion."
"I believe you Revan." The Master's weathered face looked grim in light of these dire tidings. "And I regret that we didn't take earlier actions to prevent this when you first reported activity on Chiron."
He gave a sigh and held up his empty hands.
"But truthfully, the Jedi can do very little. We are stretched painfully thin as it is, keeping a veneer of civility within the galactic core. I fear that any warriors we send to hunt the Mandalorians and Sith would only be destroyed piecemeal."
"The time to act is now Master Vandar." Revan said sternly. "Our numbers may be depleted, but unless we do something to thwart our enemies, the galaxy will burn. We must act to thwart them from devastating our realm before their numbers overwhelm us."
"I agree." the tiny Master said with a nod. "That is why I need you Revan, my strong right arm. To help me on missions to do just that."
Revan knelt back to one knee and said. "I am ready Master. Task me."
"I have no doubt about that." Vandar said, looking at his prodigal knight with pride. He placed a hand on the Jedi's shoulder much like the younger one had earlier. "But before we work on those specifics, I believe you have something to give me regarding our new friend."
"Mysteel." Revan called out, knocking on the door for the third time. "Hurry up, you're going to be late for your own ceremony."
The Jedi could hardly even believe the words as he said it.
This was actually happening. Mysteel will become a Jedi Knight...
After Revan had finished talking with Vandar and handed him Lucidae's message, the Master had convened a special session with his fellow Masters on the matter of the Twi'lek. The meeting was surprisingly brief, and from what Master Vandar had told him, the votes to reinstate him and accept to Mysteel as a new addition into the Jedi Order had been unanimous. Even more surprising to Revan was that the fact that the Masters had decided to waive the requirement to test Mysteel in trials, and go straight to her inaugural ceremony.
Revan wanted to ask Vandar what Lucidae could have possibly said in his data pad that had convinced the Council to break so many protocols, but decided it was a question for another day. Now he had a new member to welcome into the Order.
"Mysteel," Revan called out knocking on the door again. No answer.
With a sigh, the Jedi pressed an automatic override into the keypad and entered Mysteel's chamber. Like most of the Jedi's living quarters, the cell was small and spartan, with only the barest essentials provided for its occupant. Unlike the other chambers though, this one was filled with clothes...lots and lots of clothes.
Its like a temple dedicated to bad taste. Revan though, staring at the mountain of garish colored clothing and shoes. The Jedi broke off his inspection when he heard the sound of humming from the adjacent room. Walking to the source of the sound, Revan found the target of his search. Mysteel was surrounded by an even larger mountain of colorful clothing, splayed across the room like tacky wallpaper.
The Twi'lek was also half naked, holding up several items of clothing to her chest while staring in front of a large mirror. From time to time she would toss several articles and away before grabbing another stray item from the floor, trying to find the combination that she liked the best.
"Hmm, I like this top. But it doesn't really go with these brown robes." Mysteel mused with a sigh, "Ah, who am I kidding, nothing goes with these robes. Why can't the Jedi have better taste in clothing?"
"If you're quite done?"
Mysteel yelped in surprise at the unexpected noise. She instinctively grabbed a nearby mug and threw it at her unexpected guest. Revan sidestepped nimbly, letting the projectile explode harmlessly against the wall.
"Rev! Mysteel said in mock outrage once she recognized the intruder. The Twi'lek covered her body, albeit half heartedly. "A gentlemen knocks before entering a lady's room!"
"I did. Thrice." Revan replied, keeping his eyes glued firmly at the floor.
"Oh sure you did." said Mysteel in a huffy voice. As the Twi'lek started picking up the junk around the floor, she asked "Well, you didn't see anything...inappropriate, did you?"
"Oh..." The Twi'lek almost sounded disappointed.
"Did you want to?" she asked after a moment's pause, a mischievous light sparkling in her eye.
"Just hurry up. We're going to be late and the Masters are not people for waiting." said Revan, ignoring the question. Mysteel stuck out her tongue but grabbed her ceremonial robes lying across the bed and slipped out of the room. Revan called out hastily for Mysteel to finish dressing but to little avail, so he walked out with her. A few of the initiates in the immediate vicinity gawked at the half naked Twi'lek as she half walked, half dressed herself down the temple hallway.
"Do you remember all the lines you need to say during the ceremony?" Revan whispered, trying not to make eye contact with any of the people ogling them.
"Of course, I've known them since I was a little girl." Mysteel replied with exaggerated indignity, hastily tying her roughspun robes to her waist, "Lucidae used to say them to me every night, kind of like a lullaby. I probably could recite them in my sleep."
"Just remember. The Masters are a prickly lot." Revan warned "Recite them to the letter during the rituals. Don't do anything to piss them off"
"Oh Rev, you worry too much." Mysteel pouted. "I'll be fine. I mean, what could go wrong when I've got you backing me up during the ceremony?"
"The council hates me."
"But they're going to love me!" she replied in a cheerful voice. "In fact, I've got some awesome ideas I wanted to propose to them on how to get the Jedi recruitment quota up in the next few months."
"Oh really..." Revan said doubtfully.
"Yep!" said Mysteel, totally oblivious to the Jedi's worried tone. "First of all, we need to remove the dress code. I mean look at these boring brown robes. They're itchy and looks like someone dyed them in vomit."
The Twi'lek stopped her rapid pace for a moment and adjusted the rough material around her butt while giving Revan a rueful look.
"Uggh, I think I've already gotten a rash. Jedi should be allowed to wear whatever they want. In fact, I'd suggest we get rid of clothing completely and do everything naked."
Revan resisted the urge to palm his head again, something he realized he was doing with much more frequency the past few days.
"Mysteel..." he said slowly, but the Twi'lek shushed him.
"I know what you're thinking, but my plan has practical applications as well. I mean, armor would just slow us down. And if all of us fought naked, our opponents would be too busy looking at our fun parts to pose any threat. We could just walk up to them and cut them into ribbons. Brilliant right?"
"Mysteel..." Revan tried to interject, but the Twi'lek simply continued to ramble on.
"And another thing that needs to go is the how celibacy rule. Everybody needs to let off steam sometime. If the Order reversed their policy so everybody got laid once in a while, we'd replenish our numbers in no time! I can see the slogan right now, a great new age heralded by a tide of sperm-"
Revan finally caught the Mysteel's attention by clasping the Twi'lek's shoulder and spinning her around.
"Hey..." he said.
"Yes Revan?" Mysteel asked sweetly.
The Jedi was about to rebuke her for all the outrageous suggestions but stopped at the last moment. So what if she didn't fit into the image of what a stereotypical Jedi was supposed to be? Revan knew she wasn't going to fit the mould when he chose her to join. But that didn't mean she wouldn't be a great Jedi Knight. Loyalty, courage and discipline didn't necessarily mean one had to become a closeted stuffy preacher of sermons, As outrageous as Mysteel could come off, it was that free spirit that defined her. What made her great.
So in the end, the only thing that Revan said was.
"Don't ever change."
Mysteel laughed and said.
"Right back at ya Rev."
Deep within the bowels of a forgotten hellhole, someone was strapped to a surgery table screaming.
It was a pure unadulterated sound of agony, a one man orchestra of anguish and despair. Which was a remarkable feat in itself, for his face was little more than a thick slurry of writhing flesh, with only a wet hole where his mouth used to be.
The conductor was unmoved by the exquisite music it was creating, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand. The glare from the operating lights rendered the surgeon gaunt, spectral and menacing. And if one were to look closer, they would have noticed his hands were not even made of flesh at all. Fingers as thin as needles moved in a precise ballet of sinuous motion, weaving strands of tendon and muscle to form a complex pattern of flesh over bleached bone. What had been a chaotic mess of sinewy meat gradually took form into something that was recognizably a nose…then cheeks…then lips. Like a clay mould, the surgeon was bringing definition from nothingness, bit by agonizing bit.
No ordinary man could have performed such a miracle of artwork and engineering…and indeed, it was no man that actually conducted the surgery as his audience could attest.
"How much longer will this take Fleshsmith?" came a cold voice from behind the hulking surgeon.
"Patience my friend, patience." Replied the surgeon, his voice rendered almost unintelligible by thick static. "This process cannot be rushed. You do want the resemblance to be exact, do you not?"
"Yes, but I have other procedures I need to perform on this sack of flesh, with little time to spare." Growled the other man, every syllable a hissing lisp.
"Already, I have sacrificed too many subjects on this endeavor and this…wastrel was the only one that survived the preliminary stages of my testing. I will not tolerate any more delays."
The surgeon let out a noise that approximated a sigh and turned its metallic waist around one hundred and eighty degrees.
"You have no appreciation for the finer arts Raithe. A true artist doesn't simply carve form and beauty into a sculpture. They nurture it… get the stone show its true form and beauty. So it is with flesh."
The Fleshsmith could tell that the man known as Raithe was not impressed by the rhetoric.
"Results, not excuses Fleshsmith."
"As you wish. A few more minutes." Replied the Fleshsmith, returning to his duties. The metallic being resumed piecing the individual strands of tendon and meat together with blurring speed, the movements pre-programmed by its logic engines to replicate the desired subject. While the vile machine conducted its ministrations, one of its slave droids sprayed a sickly looking liquid over the subject's raw meat, which quickly coalesced into synthetic skin.
The patient felt every moment of course. Every nerve in his face lit on fire as it came in contact with cold steel and burning acid. The muscles on the patient's body were chorded like steel in an attempt to break free of his shackles, but to no avail. And the pain...The agony that the trapped man felt was something that defied description and he wished with every fiber of his being for release. But it never came…and the best he could do was continue screaming in his high reed voice.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Fleshsmith finally retracted his needles and rolled back to admire its handiwork.
"There, the sculpting is complete." Said the thing in a self satisfied voice. "What do you think professor?"
Raithe strode up to the operating table and stared down at his prize with black viperous eyes. After a moment's inspection, the muscles around the corners of his mouth twisted into a leering smile.
"I must say, you have outdone yourself Fleshsmith. The likeliness is uncanny."
"Of course it is. How could I do any less?" replied the gaunt form.
"What do you think Vanaerys?" asked Raithe without looking back to the shadows where his bodyguard stood like an upright corpse.
"Does this thing not look like a perfect simulacrum of that which I hate the most?"
"Yes my Lord," whispered the tortured woman, her dead grey eyes staring straight into space.
"So…" said the Fleshsmith after Raithe continued to stare at the patient for an uncomfortable amount of time. "What do you intend to do with this piece of meat professor?"
At the question, the Fleshsmith's companion snapped his head up with a feral expression.
"Oh I have a great deal planned for him my friend. A great deal." The man said in a wet growl "He shall be my instrument to wreak bloody havoc on my foes. Especially him."
Raithe tilted his head down again and gave the new formed face a hungry look.
"Isn't that right...Revan?"
The thing on the table said nothing, but his twin black eyes locked on Raithe in an unblinking stare.
And they hated.
Author's note: Well...this story was a bitch to write.
When I first started the Forgotten, I didn't think it would explode into such a large piece of writing. But the story elements got more complicated and eventually went beyond my projected size. Truthfully, there were times when I just thought of throwing in the towel after so many plot threads, but decided to stick with it in no small part to the encouragement from my readers. So thanks for that. Really appreciate the feedback I get.
I know I ended this story on a cliffhanger with new issues, but in honesty, this will be my last story. Things have been getting progressively more busy and I have had less and less time to write. I simply can't do another blockbuster story and keep up with everything else. But at least I finished this one so that's a small comfort to me.
So let's see, I want to thank all my readers and those that gave me feedback. A few deserve special recognition. Jedirevan lord of sith, thanks mate for all the support you've given me. You were definitely the guy that kept me going. Without your feedback, I would definitely have quit halfway. Thank to 6tailedninja. You've been with my stories since the very beginning and I appreciate you for sticking with me all the way. And thanks to LucifferBG for all the Star Wars lore and general technical information you provided to me. My story would be a lot more poorer without your help.
Lastly, thanks to all the readers and people who posted reviews. It was a great ride, but I'm going to end it here. All the best to you all and Happy New Year.
PS. I do have another piece of new art on my deviantart page. Check it out if you have time and see if you can tell who it is. If enough people recognize the person, I'll post a concept art for Kynes that has never been seen =).