She is a child again and she plays in the fields beyond the enclave.
They all laugh and chase and run across the rolling fields.
Can she hear us?
The ribbon is streaming out from Zayne's hand, the ribbon he took from Master Q'anilia's robes. Bastila always marveled at the silky stripe of color and wanted some for her own hair, just a little, just cut it in half and then
Go easy, go in stages. We can't lose her.
And then she could have one piece for each pigtail.
The lavender grasses come up to her eyebrows now and she can't see running. She can't see the red ribbon or the mop of Zayne's hair.
She yells his name to no answer, no running sound, nothing now, and she stops and looks around through all the blurry grasses.
What did she say?
Of course Zayne isn't here, Zayne was bad, he caused all of that trouble years ago in the war. He got them all killed. He defied his masters. A good padawan
I said easy, damn it!
A good padawan always obeys his master.
Now the grass brushes over her face and her hands as she reaches outstretched to find her way through. All the others have left her and she is alone. When she was even younger yet, her master told her about her talent.. That those with her talent would reach many.. but always stand alone.
There is no sound but the sound of the grass. She holds it away from her face and steps through. When her hand comes away wet, she looks at her fingers and finds all the red. Huge smears of red and black in the grass.
An insect buzzes somewhere loud and close. She jumps and goes through, following the slashes of red and tamped down grass, calling out for help- someone's hurt- and in the grass she finds someone, a body, it is her and it's her body, Bastila Shan bleeding from her nose and mouth out in the field help
"Bastila," someone said.
There were faces around her and a bright light behind their heads.
"Bastila, you're safe with us now," said the voice from the female human.
She became aware that she stared at three jedi masters and a room of military uniforms, a room of humans and aliens of many kinds.
Cold sensation on her face. A wet washcloth gently dabbing her cheek and neck.
"Master Vash," she whispered.
Lonna Vash smiled.
"Signs are looking good, ma'am," said a blond Republic medic.
"Do you know where you are?" someone asked her.
Her eyes moved from face to face.
Another voice asked, "Do you know what has happened?"
Her voice was a croaking sound. The field.. there was a field, and blood..
"What is the last thing you remember?" asked Lonna Vash.
Bastila closed her eyes. Then opened them. "Revan," she said.
"You had us frightened," said Lonna Vash as she lathered Bastila's hair. "You've been out for two weeks."
Two weeks! Bastila sank in the tub, her shoulders sagging. "I don't understand," she said.
For a moment, Vash said nothing. She just hummed softly as she worked her fingers through Bastila's hair. The gentle touch brought back childhood memories of daily rituals in the enclave. Preparing the children for the day's start and day's end. Lonna Vash had always been kind to her, and though Bastila knew it was wrong to favor one master over another, Vash had secretly been one of her favorites.
In her early fifties, she had a youthful spirit and a mischievous spark to her. Laugh lines crinkled around her eyes, and she was always telling jokes, always cracking a smile. The force glowed in her. Bastila yearned to be like that when she was just as old. She wished she could laugh so freely, to live so freely and be so alive. But Bastila's gift was one that demanded restraint. Restraint and discipline.
Late afternoon light filtered through tall grass and a simple window. She had been taken to a chamber in the sublevel to wash up and prepare. Apart from the antique tub and low tables, the room held no other real furniture but a mat woven from the lavender field grasses. Bastila could smell the grassy field smell even over the scent of hot water and the soap that Vash brought to a pleasant foam.
"Do you remember what happened on the Indomitable?" Vash asked in a gentle voice, then.
"Malak fired on the ship," Bastila mumbled against her arm. Her lips felt dry and chapped. Her neck hurt and she felt as though she could hardly hold up her head.
Vash swept up soapy curls from the back of Bastila's neck, brought the whole wet lathery mess up, sculpting and kneading. "You dragged Revan to safety. Do you remember that?"
"I.. I couldn't leave him. Her," she said. "We'd gone through so much trouble.. Master Fethnu wanted to kill him.. He is a him, isn't he? I mean, or is it a woman?"
"I thought you would want me to capture him. To take him alive."
Vash said nothing yet. She listened and touched gently, her hands welcome in Bastila's hair. She wanted to be comforted, to be as a child again, but no warmth of affection could heal the cold dread in her bones. Something was wrong.
In the guilty silence, Bastila added, "I thought that's what the Council would have wanted." Gripping the edges of the tub, she turned her head as best she could.
Vash smiled and stroked her face, leaving behind a sudsy shampoo dollop. "You did better than we could have imagined," she said. "You kept well to your training and I can't imagine the things you must have seen aboard that ship... "
"There were.. machines," Bastila said. "I.. what's happened to me? I feel so.. "
"We didn't understand at first," Vash told her, "but when Revan went under.. you went under. You nearly died. We think somehow a bond formed between you." She dunked a bowl into the water, filled it.
"A bond through the force."
"Such as between a master and apprentice?" said Bastila in horror.
Vash canted the bowl over Bastila's head, rinsing out the soap. "Exactly that," she said. "We were afraid that if he died we would lose you also."
Her hair all poured down her face, Bastila said: "Revan lives?"
Master Vash led her into the gold light of a breathtaking Dantooine sunset. Bastila went on unsteady legs, her boots knocking out a drunken cadence on the flagstones of the complex walkways. Padawan learners smirked and giggled to watch her walk, children of half a dozen races. Their minders shooed them on to take them to the tubs and to the communal meal. Bastila knew the routine well: there would be group meditation afterwards, the recitation of the day's lesson, and then they would stand by their mats and recite the Code. Then to bedtime.
Bastila hardly knew where she was going, but she trusted Vash, and she trusted in the hand interlaced with her fingers. Revan was here. On Dantooine. Bastila had come to understand that her confusion was his confusion, that this drunken stupor of hers was the sharing across their bond.
She was afraid.
A speeder idled in the tall grass. The setting sun bounced off the metal. Both craft and driver were absent of any identifying marks or insignia, but Bastila knew the man must be military. The short hair, the ramrod posture, the old scar running down his face and throat. He waited outside the craft to help them enter.
Bastila held her free hand to her eyes to see him better against the light, and just as they came up on him, she recognized him as one of the troopers from the last mission.
"Ladies," he said.
The speeder took them a distance across the fields. How far, Bastila couldn't tell. She leaned heavily on Master Vash and watched in a glaze as the grasses rolled by in glittering violets and burnished golds. The alien antelope iriaz bounded away from the craft with great acrobatic jumps. A kath howled somewhere in the hills that bordered the grassland.
They passed the fencing of a family farm, crossed a stream, and then went until the sun dipped beneath the horizon. The last light was going softly purple when the speeder pulled up on the complex. The cluster of buildings were in Dantooine style, though the main structure had the curvy architecture of the enclave.
It would have seemed insignificant if not for the Republic ships grouped nearby: two freighters, a shuttle, and six aurek fighters.
Armored troopers patrolled the area.
A bothan in dirty coveralls was wandering around trying to get better reception with his holo.
"What is all this?" Bastila said as the driver helped her down. He smelled of sweat up close. "Is he here?"
"Security's tight, ma'am," the trooper said. "Don't worry about anything."
The driver snapped off a sharp salute and jumped back into the vehicle.
"We keep him out here for his safety," Vash told her. "There are those who might try to harm him, if they knew."
Bastila took it in with amazement. She hadn't known this all was here.
"He can't escape," Vash went on, as she led Bastila past the patrol and into the building. They saluted as she went by; she half-wondered if the troops' gesture was meant for her as a jedi, or for her as Bastila Shan. "He's in something of a coma.. he can't hear, see, or interact with us in any way. He's been badly hurt."
"Will he come out of it?"
In a careful voice, Vash replied, "We don't know."
Heavily armed soldiers met them at the doorway. Their masked heads turned to look the women over.
"Identification," one said.
They were checked, scanned, and scanned again. The one soldier watched them close, weapon ready, while the other reported their credentials over his commlink. In the indeterminate period of waiting, Bastila swayed slightly, fighting the urge to close her eyes and sink against the cool stone tiles.
Once they were permitted entry, Vash spoke up again. "We're in a delicate situation so far. We need to find whatever it is that Revan and Malak discovered. Their edge over us is considerable.. or was. The destruction of Telos wasted some of their major assets, and now that Malak turned on Revan, Malak has lost the flagship Indomitable and a significant number of key personnel."
"There were droids on the ship of a kind I've never seen." Bastila remembered the scythelike hands, the glowing eyes, the way they ripped through jedi as through straw dummies.
"They're very different, and they're very old." Vash shook her head. "We have reason to believe that Revan and Malak encountered some ancient sith technology after Malachor. But we have few clues."
"Can't we.. Isn't it possible to look into his mind?"
"We.. tried," Vash allowed. "His mind is too damaged for us to continue that way."
"Where do I fit into this?"
"We don't know yet, my dear. No one intended for this to happen." Vash slowed, turned, and squeezed her shoulder. "Your wellbeing is our foremost concern, Bastila."
Because of my gift, Bastila thought. My curse.
They stood in the corridor a moment before a matching pair of silver women came to flank them. Same faces, same eyes, same voice.
"We will take you to the chamber," said the echani sisters.
Bastila had never before seen such security measures.
Every room, every corridor, every corner- guards, sentries, patrols.
Bastila felt like she was swimming out of her fog, and as the world focused for her, she began to realize the immensity of this situation. "You would think they have half a battallion stuffed in here!"
"Just about," Vash replied.
There were alien soldiers here of races she didn't even know.
And bothans- everywhere.
Lonna smirked a little, then. "The admiral was against it. She didn't want him to get ahold of them somehow. You never knew him when he was a boy.. but he always had a special way with machines."
The echani women led them into another series of tunnels, down a lift, and then into what looked like a vault.
"We will take leave of you now," said one of them. They were identical. Same hard face. Same flat eyes.
"Thank you," Vash said.
When they were alone, Bastila whispered, "I'm going to see him now?"
"Yes.. but he won't be awake." Vash stroked her upper arm, squeezed, and said, "Don't be afraid."
The vault opened for them.
The sudden contrast in temperature got to her first. No longer the cold air of the tunnels, the steaming environment of the chamber made her head spin. Hot and so humid. The sound of water. The floors were wet and she nearly tripped over hoses. The smell of brine filled her nostrils.
Someone helped to steady her. Master Zhar.
He spoke gently to her in his native tongue, turned her face up, and smiled.
"I'm- I'm fine, thank you," she told him. "Just a little light-headed."
"Take your time," Vash said.
When her eyes adjusted to the dark, Bastila saw the array of empty tanks and grouping of medical equipment. The chamber looked hastily converted to its new purpose. Military personnel were moving quietly about with datapads and holos. More bothans.
Master Zhar was relating how he had moved a half hour ago, reacting to a tap on the glass.
"Shame on you, Master Zhar," Vash replied with a slight smile. "Didn't they tell you not to tap on the glass?"
Zhar smiled back, a smile of sharp twi'lek teeth. He admitted that this was so, but he was delighted to see a reaction from inside the tank. But he hadn't moved since.
Bastila had always wondered what Darth Revan looked like. So did everyone else. The great mystique around Darth Revan was due in no small part to the mask and the armor. Even as she stood facing the dark lord on the bridge of his flagship, Bastila had no idea if she fought a woman, a man, an alien- some even whispered he was a machine.
All she remembered, and it was blurry now to her, all she remembered was a figure of liquid black speed, swifter than her, stronger than her, toying with her.
That sibilant voice distorted from the helmet vocabulator, and what it said to her.
The thing in the tank looked small. Pale, sickly, pathetic. She could count the ribs on his torso. Tattoos ran up and down his body and dark bruises showed up all over in multi-colored splotches. A body of scar and injury, new and old.
He was nude and the first naked man that Bastila had seen.
A breathing mask was fitted over his face, so all of his features that she could tell were prominent cheekbones and bruised, sunken-looking bloody eyes. He was bald with stitches and sutures, and jagged pieces of metal stood like a fringe from the back of his skull.
"It's stuck in his head," Bastila realized. "His mask went into his head."
"There is talk on how to remove it," Vash said. "We have the best surgeons on it already."
She took in the sorry sight of the tank. So did Zhar, looking in, friendly, but apprehensive. Vash studied the two of them instead.
Bastila could look no more, and turned her eyes away. "I don't know who he is," she said. "I don't recognize him."
Not like this, no, replied Master Zhar. They had to shave off all his hair for the surgery. They still have to do more.
Vash added, "We'll see that you are sedated when that happens."
A cold stab of fear.
Bastila swallowed. "Could we.. is there a way.. how do we dissolve this bond?"
Zhar and Vash exchanged a glance.
"We need your help on this, Bastila," Vash replied. "We will do everything we can to protect you. Your wellbeing is important to us."
"I can't look anymore," she said, turning away. "The great sith lord."
He wasn't always, Zhar told her. Don't be afraid.
"I trust in your judgment," Bastila whispered. "I will do what is asked of me."
She was to come every day to see him that first week. One of the soldiers dragged in a mat for her to kneel on. In the dark, smelly chamber she attempted to meditate. Ventilation was poor and her robes cloyed to her skin. Sweat itched in uncomfortable crevices. Only until the afternoon of the first day did the woven mat hold out the wetness from the dank floor. It was a small mercy that after hours in the secret complex, Bastila became accustomed to the briny smell of kolto. If she didn't think about it.
From time to time, medical personnel came to treat the tank. They had chemical levels to adjust. Scans to run. They ignored her. Sometimes a soldier would come in to check on her. For the most part she was left alone. Her and him.
He looked disgusting in that tank of his. Pale and wet. She wondered why he didn't dissolve in there. Why he did not rot. She told herself that she had done the right thing, but had she? Looking at the metal that even then protruded from his skull, Bastila feared there was no way for him to come back from this.
Secretly, she hoped he wouldn't. It frightened her, the pale horrible thing in the tank. In the oppressive heat and smell of the hidden chamber, with a head full of wool, she began to hope that he would die somehow and nothing would come of this. She experienced emotions she could not name, thinking of this great lord Revan reduced to the shriveled flesh in the salty water.
But if he should die, would she die also?
Bastila struggled for clarity. She had a dim memory of childhood on Talravin, of the cold waters on the northern cape where she was born; she would think of a time where she had gone down to the beaches with her father, she would think of the time a wave had rolled over her, had pushed over her head with a roar of sound. She felt like that now, kicking and fighting to break the surface, but her thoughts were drowned out. So hard to think, so hard to focus. The code brought no comfort to her.
I am so lost. I am so lost.
How had this happened?
She remembed Master Fethnu, the approach to the Indomitable. She remembered his cold face, his cold eyes, the way his four-fingered hands clenched and unclenched. He was dissatisfied with her and told her so on many an occasion. His voice as frigid as Arkania. You will never learn to control yourself, will you?
He did not die easy. None of them did.
In her mind's eye, she saw it again and again, the way Revan moved, the way the mask oriented to regard her closely.
She heard the voice speak through the vocabulator, heard it even now, as the buzz of the kolto tanks grew louder and louder.
BASTILA SHAN, Revan said, I HAVE WAITED FOR YOU. I HAVE SUCH THINGS TO SHOW YOU.
Her eyes opened.
She was alone.
Her and him.
The thing in the tank.
She stayed away. She would not go.
"I can't go there anymore," she whimpered into her knees. She pulled up tight in her bedsheets, pulled up close, her body shaking beyond her control. "I can't, I simply can't."
Her shame poured down her cheeks, wet and hot, and she could not bear to pull out of her contorted posture. She couldn't bear to look upon Master Vash.
Lonna came to her and brought her gently into the folds of her travelling cloak. Bastila resisted, at first, but she was so long starved for affection that she couldn't help but press into the Corellian's arms. "There you are," Vash said. "You know, even I have days I simply don't want to get out of bed. I understand completely. My bond with my apprentice has caused me much grief. He is among the most headstrong and impatient young men I have ever encountered. It is why I chose him, of course, and I know one day he will make a fine jedi. I wouldn't want it any different."
She took in a breath. "I can't begin to imagine the struggle you now face. It was by happenstance this came upon you, but the ashla works in ways we do not always understand. I believe Revan is worth redemption. I don't know what form it will take.. If it is meant to be.. but I know that we must try."
"I'm so confused," Bastila whispered.
"I know. I know. And perhaps it isn't all your own emotions. Who knows what he can sense, what he dreams in there. He's been betrayed by the one he loved and trusted most, his own brother in spirit, and he is here captive in the hidden base of his enemies."
Bastila turned a sharp look to Lonna, then, whose gray eyes looked squarely into her own. "Make no mistake," Vash continued, softly. "There are many here who would kill him. Some are restrained by the wishes of the Council. Some not. Some hold back from the fear that we would lose you too. Some have weighed that price.. "
Vash stroked her hair. "I've never believed he meant to destroy the Republic. I don't know what he intended. I don't know the reason, not yet. We need you to be strong, Bastila. He needs you."
Even in Dantooine's morning light, Bastila felt a darkness she could not escape. The ride seemed longer than ever, stretching on and on, and she felt hot and cold all at once. Too much movement. Too much wind. The soldier brought the speeder round to a stop, and she threw up in the grass on her hands and knees. Her senses returned to her with a twinge of shame, the great jedi sentinel Bastila Shan out here like this, like some party girl staggering home. She could almost hear her mother now.
The soldier was a different one than before, an older man with perhaps a bit of mirialan in him. His bearing was professional and without judgment for her; she got the feeling he might have had a daughter only a few years younger than herself. He handed her his canteen of water, for which she was grateful.
"I apologize," she said.
"No worries, ma'am," he replied. "You were out at Valla's moon, weren't you? For the strikes?"
"Yes- yes, I was."
He looked out across the grass and nodded slowly. "There was talk you were," he said. "Even if it was just rumors.. helped to think you were there to have our back."
"I don't remember much of it, how it went, to be honest. When I go into my trance.. I feel everything, and nothing. It goes by.. like a dream."
He held out a gloved hand to help her up. She handed back his canteen.
"The sith took Revan," the soldier said.
Bastila bit her lip. "I.. I've been told not to discuss it. I hope you understand."
The soldier nodded. His eyes were the deepest green she had ever seen, nearly black, reminding her of the seaweed that would wash up back home on Talravin. Those eyes studied her now. "I don't want to go too far, ma'am.. but there was a time when we owed everything to Revan, Alek, Arren Kae, Yusanis, the Onderon prince, the others like them. Revan stood up for us when no one else would. Things had gotten so terrible.. no help from anyone.. and then the jedi came just as we wanted so badly. And Revan leading them. Didn't even know what was under the mask, who was in there. Maybe it didn't matter."
Bastila took in a breath. What to say?
"I just hope, ma'am, you'll keep in mind that even after everything.. after all this.. many of us still think Revan's our hero. Might be that something's happened. Revan helped us when we needed help most.. ah, I don't know. Beg pardon, I shouldn't talk like this."
She laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed, once, before she climbed back up into the speeder.
The soldier said, "It's just that I hope she'll listen to you, ma'am. You've got to help her."
Down and down into the hidden complex Bastila went. At one point in her dreadful visitation here she had come to wonder the original purpose of the facility. Had it been the original enclave? Had it been moved? But she had never seen a dwelling and teaching-place of the Order to be so full of locked doors, controlled points, and narrow corridors rife with hidden turrets.
When the whole procedural had been accomplished, she at last gained entry to the kolto chamber and its humid recesses. She saw then she was not alone.
It was Arren Kae.
A sharp panic gripped Bastila's heart, but then, she realized the woman was far too young to be Arren Kae, and that Kae had died on Malachor.
The girl was the youngest of the echani handmaidens, the shameful evidence of Arren Kae's sin. She stood before the kolto tank, her hand upon the glass. Her face held an expression that Bastila could not decipher.
Then it was gone.
"Mistress," the girl said softly with elegant composure.
Bastila felt she had intruded upon a private moment. She searched for something to say. "How is he doing? Has he moved at all?"
"Five of the best surgeons in the Republic have been shuttled out here to tend to him. They are resting now. They say it will happen early in the morning."
The girl took a few steps closer. "Do you feel him?" she asked. "Is he in pain?"
"It's hard to say," Bastila replied. "I, I mean, I don't believe he is experiencing any pain. It's quite pleasant to be immersed in kolto ordinarily."
The girl watched her face.
"I feel a kind of.. Confusion. It's difficult to concentrate. I'm.. a little afraid."
"You should not be. We all die."
Bastila could not name her apprehension, her regrets. "Yes. It is the natural way of things."
"How did he fight, when you fought?"
She almost smiled. For the echani it was all fighting, all combat. "I don't know. It all happened so quickly. I made it to the bridge and I'm certain I would have been killed. Then the Leviathan fired on us."
"I will leave you to you to your meditations," the handmaiden said. "Be at peace. You have done all you can."
Bastila turned her eyes to the thing in the tank. "Wait," she said.
"What was his name?"
The rest of the day passed in contemplation. It passed too quickly.
She attempted to center herself in thoughts of tranquility and oneness. She drew upon the sayings of the masters of old. She tried to believe, but the words rang hollow and fear rose up in her like cold water that would close over the top of her head.
She found herself in anger, kneeling in the dank stink of the kolto chamber. Anger for the thing inside the tank. He had gone against the Council to engage the Mandalorians in their foolish war. He had made a mockery of the Order and its sacred ways. He had succumbed to his own petty temptations and doomed so many.
It was late afternoon by the time she returned to the enclave. There was time enough to join the young padawans for the day's-end session; they were training with wooden staves, each in his row and column, going about their stances and motions.
She joined masters Zhar, Dorak, and Vash for the evening meal, though she had been advised to eat little. There was conversation; she nodded and spoke when appropriate, but had no heart for it.
After bathing she went to see the children one last time, where they lay in their cots, with their sweet little hands, their sweet faces. A wistful pain went across her heart.
Bastila knelt by her mat that night. She cleared her mind.
Throughout the day she had come to realize that she had unfinished business. She knew she had to cast them aside to achieve inner peace.
Her origins before joining the Order, before becoming what she was. She thought of her mother, shrewish and resentful, from a respected family long out of money. Her father, a winsome free spirit, lured by far-off places and treasures. His death and how it shadowed her childhood. She loved him and loved how they traveled. The places they went, and the place they came home to: rainy Talravin and its loamy smell, its heathers and bluff grasses. The blue fog in the morning..
If Revan died, she may die also. But she had tried her best. She had tried to take him alive. It was the jedi way.
She would live and die for the Order.
It gave her no peace.
She lay in her cot waiting, heartsick, watching the dawn come through the window.
And after that, Bastila knew nothing.