A/N: All right, second chapter of the day and farewell until whenever I update again.
It'll be more regular once I have my first draft done. I'll pretty much be doing edits, rewrites and fanficing. With a bit of going through my game backlog.
"I thought you were cutting back on the drinking."
Trista looked up at Atton as he stopped in front of her booth, arms crossed. "So did I." She motioned for him to sit next to her, and he set his own glass down and settled in. "I'm here on business."
"Business meeting in a cantina. Best kind." He leaned back against the booth. "And what unfortunate soul are you going to pester today?"
She shrugged, studying the cantina. "The Exchange."
Atton sat bolt upright. "Are you serious?" he snapped. "Look, I don't know how out of touch you are with the galaxy but -"
"Shush." She frowned, sipping her drink. "I did survive on the Rim for ten years."
"Hasn't seemed much like it," he muttered sullenly, though his mind went back to where she'd snapped Benok's arm without looking.
"You try having the Force push its way back into your head, unwarranted, and see if it doesn't throw you off balance," she retorted. "I'm starting to come to terms with it. It's getting easier to focus on everything else without that screeching 'look at me' in my head."
"Great, so, the first thing you do with your newfound 'sanity' is arrange a meeting with the Exchange," he grumbled. "By the way, I use 'sanity' very loosely here."
"Not really the Exchange," she replied.
"There you are." The woman who had tried to step into their issue with Benok settled down across from them. "Luxa. We met previously."
"Yes." Trista accepted her hand and shook it. "Trista Morace, as I'm sure you are aware. This is Atton Rand."
"Currently functioning as a glorified bodyguard," he said, though he didn't extend his own hand. "Just, if you were wondering."
"I wasn't." She redirected her attention to Trista. "So what do you want, Jedi?"
"First, I want everyone to stop calling me that," she said. "I'm not a Jedi."
"Shame. But fair enough. Can't speak for everyone, you know. There's a lot of preconceived notions about you around here."
"Secondly, I want to know if the Exchange has my ship."
"I don't know. But I can find out. Is that the only reason you distracted me?"
"No," she said. "I need to arrange a meeting with your boss."
"Lopak Slusk? What d'you need to see the squid-head for?"
"I'm working with the Ithorians. They want the Exchange to back off. I would ask you, but I'm sure going directly to the boss would be more efficient."
Luxa nodded thoughtfully. "I can get you in . . . provided one thing." Trista nodded, and she continued. "You kill Lopak Slusk."
"I'm not a hitman," Trista replied. "If those are your terms, I'll go with making a phone call."
She shook her head. "He will likely not listen to you. Or, really, be interested at all. Put me in charge, I'll make sure we back off the Ithorians. Hate working with Czerka anyway."
Trista pursed her lips. Atton glanced at her, not sure if she was buying it or not. "Get us into the Exchange, and we'll see."
Luxa nodded. "Fair enough. I'll spread the word; come by tomorrow morning. That should be enough time." She stood, saluting in a somewhat sarcastic manner as she left. "See you later, Jedi."
Atton shook his head as she disappeared. "Are you serious?"
"As a rancor pit." Trista casually sipped at her drink.
"This is insane." He held up his hands and shook his head as he stood. "I mean, really. I've done some crazy things, but this is insane." She watched as he stood and headed for the pazaak den.
:: He is correct. Our time would be more efficiently spent elsewhere. ::
:: The Ithorians have shuttles to the restoration zones, :: Trista replied. :: If we help them, they can provide us with passage. ::
:: You are becoming distracted by the affairs of a sole planet, :: Kreia chided. :: Do you not think there are other planets more deserving of your aid? Or, perhaps, a galaxy that needs a guiding hand to avert destruction? The restoration effort is doomed to failure without fuel. There is no reason to help these people. ::
:: Again I ask, what else would you have me do? :: Trista snapped irritably. :: Sit around and wait for the Ebon Hawk to fall into our laps, or for the Republic ship to take us to Coruscant? I have never done well with waiting. ::
:: If I recall the history of the Mandalorian War it was you who urged Revan to take the less expedient road. :: Trista nursed her drink irritably, trying not to think about what Kreia was saying. :: She feared the Mandalorians would resort to a war of attrition should it not end quickly. You did not agree. ::
:: Revan and I didn't agree on a lot of things, :: Trista said quietly. :: That was merely one of many. ::
:: And yet you followed her order, but did not follow the one she gave when she left for the Unknown Regions. Curious. ::
:: I wanted us to return to the Jedi. To seek help and forgiveness. We fought. She left. That is all there is to that. :: The memory brought up her harsh previous nightmare, and she coughed when she nearly choked on her drink.
:: Indeed. ::
Kreia fell silent and Trista quickly finished her drink, paid for it, and left.
Outside she wrapped her jacket around herself, despite the air inside Citadel Station not being cold, and walked along the entertainment module. This part of the station was on its night cycle, and was quiet except for the always-present music of the cantina. There were no apartments here, and the further away from the cantina she got the fewer people she saw.
Regaining the Force had thrown her, hard. To go from a decade of being alone, nearly dead in her own head to suddenly feeling life, feeling energy all around her - to feeling like a Jedi again - it had been like being tossed off a cliff into a raging torrent. It had deafened her just as wholly as the battle at Malachor V. But her feet were back up under her, and she thought that just perhaps - maybe - she was getting used to the new normal.
She still had to deal with people, again, of course. That was taking some getting used to. While she'd run into people during her exile, and in fact sought them out on occasion, the moments had been few and far between. She had been too content to take the odd job here or there, too transient to settle in one place, too worried that if she'd stopped running she would just have her past find her again.
But something seemed to hold her back. The torrent of the Force felt hollow, like there was something necrotic eating at it. It felt close, like she could turn around and touch it if she closed her eyes. It scared her, made her wary of seeking it out. But she could feel it, all the time, no matter what, even when she didn't want to. Even now it felt like it loomed behind her, threatening to overwhelm her if she'd just let it.
"Looking a little lost," someone said, interrupting her musing. She snapped out of it, staring down the man who had interrupted her.
"I'm walking," she replied. "Unless that's a crime now."
For the first time, she didn't bother trying to act like a Jedi. What did it matter? She wasn't one - why she had even been bothering to emulate one didn't matter anymore. People would expect what they would expect, and that was their own prerogative. She was already tired of the ruse - she had enough to exhaust her without it.
"Nah," the man said. She sensed more than saw the two men with him, who had come up behind her. "But there's a bounty on your head. Put out by the Exchange on the 'pretty little Jedi bitch.' That means you, sweetheart. So come along quiet or we'll make you."
"You're sorely mistaken," she replied. "You're even more mistaken if you think you can manhandle me."
"Didn't think we sent the impression we were asking," he snapped, locking her wrist in a vice-like grip. She swallowed, instinctively attempting to pull away.
She had little doubt that the second bounty had come out from Benok, as revenge for humiliating him. So, because it was of a secondary Exchange member, she would not be taken to Slusk. Therefore, any attempt to actually let these men take her to the Exchange would not work into what she had initially considered, and therefore she would not go quietly. Especially when the intelligence of at least the ringleader seemed incredibly low, which meant even her cooperation would not end well.
That meant a fight and, at the moment, she almost wanted to oblige them.
"Let go," she said calmly, letting herself relax. "I assure you, I'm far more than you can handle."
"Ain't seen much more than talk right now," he growled. "You gone come quiet, or -"
Trista slammed her elbow into his arm, forcing his hand open. She jerked away, a swift kick forcing him back. One of the other two men encroached on her back, and she swiftly drew her vibrosword and swung it back on the draw, cutting a deep wound across his chest. A quick spin of the blade sliced down across her other assailant's chest, and she turned to smack the flat into the original man's head, laying him out flat.
Steps alerted her to a group of TSF officers, who hurried onto the scene. She sheathed her sword and stepped back. Cameras. Made sense, this close to the 081 TSF Office.
"I was being assaulted," Trista explained, when a few of them looked back at her. "I warned them I'd be more than they could handle. They were not willing to listen." She motioned. "None of them should be dead, though they will need medical attention."
"Stay there, for now."
Trista thrust her hands into her pockets, waiting.
"Tris. There you are." She looked over as Atton sprinted up, then eyed the men. "Just followed the closest TSF patrol, figured I'd run into you. What-"
"Benok must have put a bounty out on me," she explained. "I was jumped."
He scowled, shaking his head. "Not surprised. Exchange mooks tend to be sensitive." Atton set his hands on her shoulders, looking her over. "You okay?"
"Fine," she replied with a nod. "It's my fault. I wasn't paying attention to how far away I was getting. I just needed to . . . clear my head a bit."
"Just, be careful," Atton said. "You know, don't get yourself killed or anything. It's apparently bad for the galaxy or something."
To his surprise she replied with a half-smile. "Or something."
"Master Jedi, Grenn says you can leave," one of the TSF officers said. Trista sighed, started to correct him, then just nodded.
"Probably best for us to head back to the apartment," Atton said. Trista nodded in agreement.
"Probably. How did the pazaak go?"
He shrugged. "Good enough. Didn't have much to start with, but made a few credits."
"Good," Trista replied. "At least, someone has something around here."
"Yeah." He shrugged. "Better than nothing." Atton glanced over at her. "You're sure you're all right?"
She nodded, thinking back to her revelation. "Why wouldn't I be?"
He shook his head. "No clue." At least he no longer had a question about whether or not she could defend herself. He still was concerned - after all one show of competence did not erase several ones of incompetence - but he was starting to think he may have misjudged.
That, or she was turning back into a Jedi. He sighed as they stepped into the shuttle.
"Kreia going to come raid the Exchange with us tomorrow?" he asked in the silence. Trista shrugged.
:: I may not agree with this course of action, and while you would survive if you went yourself, I will accompany you. ::
Atton motioned. "You did the thing again."
Trista blinked. "What thing?"
"You glassed over for a second."
"Ugh." One of those gods-damned silent conversations, then. "She talking in your head?"
:: The fool may not be as foolish as he sounds. ::
"Yeah," Trista replied. "She does it a lot, actually."
:: If you would listen I would need to do it less. ::
Never trust a conversation you can't hear, Atton thought. "Well, as long as she's doing it to you and not me."
:: Possibly because I would not waste my time with him. ::
Trista released an aggravated huff. Atton glanced over at her, but didn't comment.
The next day was a busy one.
The trio left for the Exchange early, fighting their way to Slusk's office, and being forced to kill Luxa when Slusk seemed surprisingly willing to cooperate. Chodo Habat, despite being upset over the bloodshed, was happy that the Exchange would leave them alone. Trista managed to get him to release information on the man Grenn was looking for, and they escorted him back to Grenn's office while Chodo Habat was determining their next move. Kreia returned to the apartment, and Atton and Trista to Habat's office.
Once they returned however, it was clear that they had not been expecting what he had planned.
"You want us to do what to the Czerka receptionist droid?"
"With a pair of droid technician credentials, B4-D4 will leave with you. You will bring him here and we will reprogram him to access and download the Czerka mainframe. With that information, we will be able to expose Czerka Corporation, and return the restoration project to its intended course."
Trista sighed. If it wasn't one thing ... "Right, so where do we get these credentials?"
"There is a Czerka droid mechanic in this apartment." Habat handed her a datapad. "We have it on authority that he has a substantial debt to the Exchange, which forces him to work for Czerka. Explain the situation, and return him here. We will offer to pay off his debt in exchange for his assistance."
Trista was slowly beginning to regret the necessity of working with the Ithorians, but reminded herself it was better than sitting around doing nothing. "Very well. We'll return shortly." She nodded to Atton, and the duo started back out.
"Escort duty. Exactly the sort of thing you need your volunteers for," he said quietly. Trista shrugged.
"It's better than sitting around waiting for the Sith to fall into our laps," she replied.
They were quiet as they started into the rest of the apartments. Atton finally cleared his throat. "So. You worked with Revan."
She glanced over at him and hesitated before answering. "I was second only to Alek. Er, Malak."
Atton didn't look over at her. "What was she like, during the war?"
Trista paused again. "She could have been the best Jedi the Order had seen since Nomi Sunrider," she said quietly. "Her failings were great, but she was more a Jedi than the ones sitting on the Council could have dreamed to be." She would always believe that, even if no one else did.
"Yeah, except she fell. There were Sith teachings in the ranks before Malachor - not like she wasn't halfway there then."
Trista stopped, and turned to face him. "How do you know that?"
"I was military. What, that surprise you? Just about everyone was. Happens when the galaxy is fighting itself."
Made sense. Trista nodded and kept walking.
"I don't know why she fell," Trista said. "I urged her not to go, but whatever she found in the Unknown Regions completed the process. If you want insight, I have none. I haven't seen her between Malachor and now to ask."
:: You have suspicions. ::
:: Not particularly. ::
"Will you two stop that?" She glanced over at him. "Look, just flaunting it about out there will get all three of us killed."
:: That, I seriously doubt. ::
:: He's right. It isn't fair to him. ::
:: He is unimportant in these events. ::
Trista huffed and glanced back over at him. "But no, I've very little idea why Revan fell. But I know she did nothing without a reason. If she fell, it was because there was no other alternative - of that, I'm sure. She was far too practical, had far too practical of a view on the Force."
Atton didn't reply initially. "Why'd you follow her?"
"She was -" Trista stopped herself, and swallowed. "We were close. I was the second person she approached after the Council shot down her concerns about the Mandalorians. There was no way I couldn't help, not when it was completely clear that the Republic would fall without Jedi intervention. I think this is the apartment."
Atton checked a datapad and nodded. "It is."
Trista knocked, a solid tap-tap-tap that almost perfectly mimicked a peace officer's. A Duros opened the door, glancing between them.
"Have a droid needing fixed?" he asked. Trista shook her head.
"We have a message for you," she said. "We need your credentials."
" . . . er . . . why?"
"We're borrowing Czerka's protocol droid to download the Czerka mainframe and expose their corruption."
Atton rolled his eyes. "Usually people wait before revealing everything, Tris."
". . . come in."
They did. He closed the door behind them.
"That is a noble cause. Unfortunately I cannot help." He busied himself with something on his workbench. "I owe a large sum to the Exchange. It is them who force me to work for Czerka. Without the debt paid off, I cannot even let you borrow them."
"The Ithorians are prepared to give you the money for your debt, in exchange for reprogramming the droid," Trista said. "You will keep your credentials as well, but you will be working on your own."
The Duros thought for a long while, considering his workbench very intently. "I . . . I will help," he said. "Czerka treats their employees rather painfully at times, especially their contractors. Any opportunity I have to damage their reputation, I will take." He collected a bag of items. "I will accompany you to the Ithorian compound. If we are stopped, I will say I am performing a job. We should not be questioned too harshly." He opened his door, and they started towards the compound.