Disclaimer: Star Wars or KotOR still do not belong to me. Any references to the game are not mine.
Summary (contains mild spoilers - skip if you wish):
Since this is going to be a very long work, I've now decided to add a more detailed summary here. So: there are not that many darker KotOR fics, but this is one of them.
What if Revan's mindwipe did not go as planned and Revan slowly started to regain his memories? What if there actually was Darth Revan - the puppeteer - breaking through the shell? Darth Revan, who is not seeing redemption as a possibility since he had far too important reasons behind his actions? Can even a young, determined Jedi Padawan - with whom he is sharing a Force bond - impact him? Or will she be the one to succumb?
How would all of this have affected the KotOR storyline...and the whole galaxy?
Starts somewhat LS/Grey, but we'll be seeing Revan's thoughts darkening as memories slowly return and Darth Revan gets closer to the surface. It will take a while, but eventual DSM Revan/Bastila. Or actually Darth Revan/Bastila. :) The first part of the story will focus strongly on returning memories and the second part will deal with the aftermath.
This is an AU fic and not a novelization of the game (although the beginning draws some heavy inspiration from there).
End of summary/spoilers
Warning: Rated T for darker themes, violence in later chapters, coarse language and mild adult themes.
Chapter 1. Musings of a Patient
Before all else, it began in darkness.
My life, whatever it had been, had gone through quite a change. This was all I could faintly comprehend when I had awoken a certain night in the Dantooine Jedi Enclave, my body battered and barely clinging on to life.
And as I was soon to understand, left with only remnants of my memories.
The first perception of my cloudy eyes were a small dark room and the black shadows of a large array of medical equipment and a horde of hoses and tubes surrounding me. I was able to faintly distinguish the quiet beeping of a control unit somewhere in the background. Although the bed was soft, it soothed the abysmal pain in my body just barely. Oh Hell, muscle and bone screeched in combined anguish - this much I understood.
The pain became more obvious, the entire existence, when it fully filled my consciousness and pushed away any close to coherent thoughts. So I did the only thing I could: I closed my eyes and wished to be redeemed by sleep again. I wanted to wake up at another and hopefully better time, or not to awaken at all. It did not matter to me. Not even a single question regarding the cause of my body's state of utter failure did cross my mind. Hell, at that point it couldn't interest me less.
Now, within this moment, existed only this room, this bed and this pain. My body, packed full of drugs, obeyed easily my mind's command to sleep.
And I slept.
My second perception was a Jedi healer. A Twi'lek woman named Zaza, as I was to learn later. Her slightly aged face, her green skin and her extremely compassionate eyes, which met mine the exact moment I regained consciousness. This time the room was bright. Almost too bright, as the light hurt my eyes and encouraged the pain in my neck and head to flare up and explode into a storm of angry jolts. It felt like my brain was impaled by a spike, which penetrated deeper and deeper into my head; it was pushed by the force of each throb, slashing my brain into worthless pulp.
"Wha…" I tried to ask, but the voice came out as an inhuman gurgle. My tongue, glued still due to the dryness in my mouth refused to operate. Sheer terror started to build its tendrils within me. Instinctively I tried to stand up but received no answer from the muscles which should have moved my body. My feet and hands stayed on the bed as if they were glued onto it. The pain, the inability to move and the absolutely unfamiliar environment started to push my mind into a state of unwelcome panic.
"Hush," Zaza soothed and pushed gently a glass filled with water to my lips, making it possible for me to erase a tiny bit of the dryness inside my mouth.
"Do not move. You are severely injured and must let your body rest. We have tied you to your bed, but only to protect you."
Zaza's calmly spoken words settled my mind a little, although something inside me shrieked in anger; rather an intuition than an actual thought.
"Do you remember what happened?" Zaza asked quietly, forming every word in her mouth with extreme care. The exactly same way as someone suffering from limited understanding is addressed. Like a child. I tried to force memories out from my head, piece things together, but bumped into nothing else than emptiness. All black. Nothing.
I certainly did not know where I was. Nor did I have a faintest memory of the series of occurrences which had led me to this bed. Undeniably, the awakening felt a lot worse than the next morning after a night full of Tihaar, I thought bitterly. Following a moment of drastic digging into the interiors of my head I had to acknowledge my defeat and give in to the fact that something obviously was missing.
"No, I don't," I managed to answer with a raspy, hoarse voice, which had regained some of its strength back after the water had moistened my throat - though the sound still sounded like weak croaking at the best. Now my eyes had started to get accustomed to the bright lighting, and I managed to distinguish a few fuzzy humanoid-like shapes behind Zaza. They were observing the discussion but showed no intention of taking part. Zaza's eyes did not leave my face when she pushed the glass to my lips again. Fresh water tasted good, refreshing. I suspected something pain-relieving had been mixed into the liquid because the pounding inside my head seemed to wear off, giving some space to thoughts.
"Be at peace. You'll hear everything soon enough," she continued. "Let us start with something simple."
"Do you remember your name?"
I searched my head again and was slightly relieved to find an answer to at least this question. It was a start, at the least.
"Ensign Eldran Daraz, Republic Navy," I answered semi-automatically with a routine which first made Zaza wince. Then a small smile spread to her lips and she nodded approvingly. Within the outer range of my vision I could see the others in the room leaving softly, without making any sound. They were Jedi – already at this point I was completely certain.
The events which had led me into this bed had completely vanished from my mind. Luckily, Zaza seemed to hold all the relevant answers and she was more than eager to give them to me. Apparently the healer wanted to be very helpful. Extremely unluckily, her way of speech was something one usually hears in the near vicinity of small children. Sometimes it felt rather tiresome – my short term memory was faulted, not my intelligence – but by being tolerant I received some of the information I much desired to gain.
Zaza quietly but steadily explained that I had been on one of my first missions on Dantooine. The mission had been quite simple: I had been a part of a group of Republic soldiers tasked with securing an area from Mandalorian raiders. They had settled to the countryside after the Mandalorian Wars, just like numerous other identical, equally furious and violent groups. However, everything had gone completely, utterly wrong. Our patrol had ended up in a Mandalorian orchestrated ambush. Because of a sudden, strange twist in the Force or, in my opinion, more likely due to pure and dumb luck only I had survived...although just barely.
A local farmer had stumbled upon my unconscious, mangled body and had carried me to the Jedi Enclave, thinking only the Jedi held the skills to keep me alive. I had been knocked out for a couple of weeks, had floated in a kolto tank for a few days and they had operated my spine and skull numerous of times. I had to be kept in a medically induced coma in order to let the injury in my head to heal to a point where it was safe enough for me to wake up without making the situation any worse.
Now that the effects of the drugs in my body were diluting away and my consciousness had pushed through the coma, I still had the unpleasant fate of resting in that particular bed for a long time. The bindings had been precautions which were put in place just to ensure I would not be too spontaneous to move. Zaza informed me that it was going to be quite while before they were allowing me to sit up.
But now I was safe, healing steadily and the Jedi believed I would fully recover from my injuries. At least physically – and only if I sticked strictly to her instructions. My mental recovery, the possibility of regaining my lost memories, was completely a different story. According to Zaza, after a horrendous accident like mine it was typical for a human mind to block certain memories away. Due to some natural safety precaution, like a switch, a mind has a tendency to leave only empty spaces in spots where traumatizing events should have been. This was no surprise as my head had been quite a bloody mess, to put it lightly: my skull had been literally open and the healer had put there a metal plate in order to close the gaping hole.
"The events might return later," Zaza had comforted with all her Jedi-like empathy. I didn't care.
Memories of the destruction of my squad were the kind I knew I would not miss. Hell - I was certain that I was not going to mourn if this particular event had entirely disappeared from my mind and would never, ever return. Mainly, I was silently thankful to this unnamed farmer and the Jedi. Because of them, I was still alive and breathing, and it was all that mattered to me at that point. The instinct of survival was the instinct which drove me, and it had always been so. I did not feel a slightest bit of sadness for my lost comrades. Why would I? They were just a bunch of names without even a trace of a face left in my mind. For me, they did not exist.
The healer removed my bindings, but only when I had in return first promised to follow her instructions carefully and stay obediently in my bed as long as she thought was needed. This eased me slightly. Now, when I could carefully raise my hand and twiddle with the bed covers with my fingers, I knew my body was at least somewhat functional. I knew that there was going to be a way out. My head was something that did worry me. Somehow, I was able to understand that my memory loss did not end to the Mandalorian attack... But I decided to toss these thoughts aside for a while and focus on the essential: to get myself moving and out of the bed again. During this time, a few lost memories and mental pictures did not seem like something to lament about.
It took days for me to understand the extent of what actually was missing.
Ever since I had fully regained consciousness, Zaza was a daily, but not an unpleasant visitor. Every single day she visited me to check my progress and to converse with me. And actually I started looking forward to her visits. Mainly because in addition to her my only visitor was a conversationally useless service droid whose only function seemed to be to serve my daily meals.
Pretty soon it started to occur to me that my memory loss seemed to be the largest concern for Zaza - although she did not think the loss itself was medically alarming. This seemed to be somehow off the line, it seemed bloody odd. Maybe she just wanted to make sure my severe injuries and the events leading to those had not affected my psyche too much and I wasn't about to get all emotional about that. Maybe she just felt empathy.
Usually our daily conversations started the same way. The first thing Zaza always asked was if I had regained anything from the past events. Every time I had to repeat the same answer as the previous day. That I remembered explosions and the acrid smell of smoke and the taste of blood in my mouth. And in addition, nothing really. I did not even remember my arrival to Dantooine, although the lightning-fast start of my military career and the following training camps were pictured clear in my mind. To some extent, at least.
The days spent trapped to the bed offered me loads of time to get submerged into my thoughts...and quite fast I started to comprehend that the jigsaw puzzle of my head had a troubling amount of pieces gone missing. Just like the last few weeks had been completely wiped out from my mind, there were also holes in places where shouldn't be.
Once I had told this to Zaza, the healer analyzed in her calm manner that some parts of the memory loss must have been caused by the head injury itself. She encouraged me to enjoy the memories I still had left. Although 'pretty' was not the word used in connection with these, at least I still had something describing who I was. Something which defined my inner self, my persona and my history.
Zaza seemed to take great interest in my life, so I didn't hesitate to take the time to reveal pieces of my past to her. What else would have I done those days, my body almost literally tied to the bed? I talked and talked, and often she even wanted additional information to fill up and fatten some occurrences she seemed to think I used too little words to describe.
I could faintly recollect my childhood in Deralia and my parents' deaths in the aftermath of a Mandalorian attack, when I was still a child. I could recall my escape among other refugees, my long road eventually ending at Nar Shaddaa. Like most homeless kids there, I ended up as a street urchin. Years on the streets taught me all kinds of skills more or less shady - but the most importantly – the ability to survive.
Smuggling was not a chosen career but rather a way of life in Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler's Moon. This profession was also the one I had later found myself involved in, first as an errand boy, and later steering my own ship between the stars. Illegal goods, spice; whatever was needed, that's what I smuggled. Only slavery was something I kept my hands out of, for a bunch of bloody good reasons. I couldn't call myself rich, but the profession kept my ship fuelled, my stomach full and took me to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, to places I couldn't even image as a child. I couldn't complain, I had enjoyed the way of life.
...Until one day my career had ended to a Republic trap. This was around six months ago.
Basically I was given two options: rot in the prison or serve. My choice was more than obvious. The bane of the galaxy, the war, was my savior. The Republic was desperate to find new recruits for replacing ones who had fallen to the endless fleets of Darth Revan and the Sith. They were equally desperate to end the war which had tormented the galaxy for years. Even not so law-abiding citizens, as myself, were qualified to enlist.
Because of this one choice I became one of the loyal soldiers of the Republic Navy. Or, to be honest, at first my motivation took its power purely from the intention of saving my skin from decades of penal servitude on some remote prison asteroid.
But. War has a tendency to change a man. Initially, I was forced to serve. Then, slowly, military career started to seem like a better option than living under the tyranny of the Sith. And finally, as months passed by, I started to picture myself as a part of a large machine. A construct with only one function: to bring peace to the galaxy. My effort was a small droplet of work in the sea of the highest purpose. I would lie if I'd say that in the end I hadn't been content with the new direction of my life. Hell, proud even.
Still, some parts of my life seemed detached. My memories were fuzzy and broken. Just like if my life had been torn to pieces and assembled crudely back together into a broken cloth which missed parts.
Bloody worthless piece of a trash for a head! And my bloody bad luck for taking parts of my life from me.
During one bitter moment these swirling thoughts had formed into words in my mouth and I had thrown them to Zaza's face.
"There is no luck. There is just the Force," was her calm, steady answer. Whatever this Force of the Jedi was, Zaza was certain there was a reason why I was still alive. According to her a purpose existed; a purpose because of which I had survived on the day that should have been my last.
The Force has to have a friggin sense of humor.
I kept this thought silently to myself. If anything, Zaza had strict opinions about the Force and presumably did not tolerate sarcastic comments. And during that moment I learned my first lesson about Jedi's exceptional skills. Somehow Zaza had sensed my amusement, something I truly did not expect.
"Young one, you will see the truth behind my words. Ponder upon what I have told you," she replied and ended our discussions for the day.
These bedridden days gave me the initial reasons to question my mental stability for the first time. Although Zaza's daily visits usually included uncomfortable medical procedures, a part of me strongly enjoyed her company. But then there were different moments. Dark moments. Moments I did not comprehend the slightest. A few times anger and bitterness flared inside me so strongly I truly did want to strike her dead to the chair she was sitting in. I did not understand these feelings. Not a single time had she insulted me. She had always treated me with respect and empathy. I had even started to acknowledge her as someone trusted, perhaps a friend. It was like my head held a different being, a demon which for some absurd reason thirsted for her blood.
The unwanted, alien feelings always lingered inside my head for a short time. They lasted for maybe a second at the maximum, so perhaps she never noticed the forced smile on my lips and the sudden dangerous gleam in my eyes. Or she hid it well and reasoned the feelings as a part of natural surges of frustration, sarcasm and anger playing a well-known role in them. Familiar feelings returned always quickly. Sometimes even I had trouble noticing that a moment ago my head had held something quite the opposite. I was confused.
Although we conversed frequently about my life before my time as a soldier, there were some memories I did not want to share with Zaza. Some memories were as fresh as the previous day, although I could not attach them to any logical context. One of them was a memory of the eyes...
...Grey eyes, eyes of steel which stare straight at mine while my surroundings flash and crack. Everything diminishes into total darkness. Final darkness. So dark that no light can penetrate it. A void...
In this particular recollection dominated feelings of hatred and betrayal - although the steady glare of the eyes showed no such emotions. It was a cocktail of inexplicable sensations and I didn't seem to get any closer in figuring out what it meant.
I left these unmentioned, for the better. Primarily, I thought Zaza would take me for one too fragile and messed up being to ever let out of the bed if I told her what I saw. And if even I felt the memory was obscure and possibly insane, what would have she thought? I decided to be selectively honest towards her, keep these thoughts out of my mind while she was present and hope she would not sense this kind of a minor lie with her Jedi skills.
And there was more.
In some other memories I watched the world through a computer-enhanced vision of a visor. These memories were filled with war, battles and Death.
...My arms folded to my chest, I observe the death of a gigantic battle ship in a place which I can only call a command bridge of another of the same kind. Countless small lights and explosions shear through the ship while it sings its swan song. I feel triumphant; I can feel the rightness in my acts. Something inside me laughs victoriously...
I could not figure out any explanation for these memories, could not link them to any previous event in my life. So I pushed them to the back of my mind, reasoning they were a part of some strange holofilm I had seen previously. They must have been because Eldran the smuggler or even Eldran the soldier played no part. However, I could not block out a slight feeling of hesitation, flickering somewhere in my mind.
...A thought with no source, rather a feeling, it was often there. It told me to question. But what? I decided to bury these memories and thoughts deeper inside my head and try to piece everything together at a later moment. At least time was something I did not have a shortage of.