My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 16

It was all so very, very oppressive. The weight of illness, of desperation, of injustice...it all hung heavy in the air around Sarah. It begged for violence, it begged to be crushed, annihilated, destroyed. Or embraced fully...she wasn't certain which. Carth's presence was a touchstone of sanity, he stood behind her, unbowed.

Find this Mission Vao. Get Carth out of here, intact. Get herself out of here before...something happened. What that could be, she didn't know. She felt hunted, watched, just under the notice of something she was certain she didn't want to be found by. Just being silly.

No, she wasn't just being silly. There was a Sith fleet in orbit, one that had dragged the Endar Spire down, out of... "Carth, what hit us?"

"Eh?" He was digging through the pockets of his hangar jacket, finally found the low light glasses he was looking for, and slid them on. "Hit us?"

She pointed unerringly upwards, and he glanced in that direction before nodding slightly. "Imperial flag... Leviathan. Karath's ship." He spat in disgust, "Malak's main fleet."

"That's a good look for you." She teased gently, trying to edge him away from the anger she heard in his voice. She understood that he was the best and that losing the Spire, being here like this, had to rub him the wrong way But she was also aware of two other things...no matter how good, how great Endar Spire's captain had been, she had been doomed the moment the Imperial flag had stagnated her. And that they'd been sold out for that to have happened. There was nothing he could have done...

"I hate that man."

She tilted her head, half closing her eyes to listen to him completely. Not just his words, but everything. The way his fists clenched, his teeth locked together, his breathing hissed. "He carried out Malak's order to bomb Telos." She murmured, putting the pieces together. "And...you would have served with him." With Carth's decorated past, there was no way he hadn't seen time beside Karath. "You were in the war, right?"

"Of course. Weren't we all?"

She considered the question carefully. It fell squarely into the mists, it squeezed out of her grasp like mercury, shied away and ran into a dark corner far away from her. "I...am not certain."

"Shit. Sorry, I keep forgetting." Concern startled him out of his funk with much more ease than her pathetic attempt to compliment him had. "For all we know, you were a great war hero, singlehandedly responsible for turning the Mandalorians back."

"I'm certain someone would have bothered to tell me that." She chuckled, moving cautiously into the dim fog beyond the elevator.

He laughed. "Probably. And it's not like you're Revan."

"Hardly, but I'm a lot more mobile and alive than Revan manages right now." Even she knew that the Dark Lord of the Sith was no more. Bastila had destroyed that one, gone and done. "You ever meet her?"

He sighed, clipping a low light sight onto his blaster and peering through its bright screen pop up. "No. I met Malak, but never Revan." His eyes were downcast, dark, his brows lowered. "And I liked Malak. He was a good man... I have to assume that Revan was the same, before they fell together. But they both had an excuse that Karath will never, ever have... they fell to the dark side. I don't understand it, but it happened. Karath didn't, he chose to keep following them after they fell to madness. I can't forgive that. He was my mentor. Irespected him. And his ship destroyed my home...my family. Everything I had. That's why I'm here, Sarah, to answer back to him. And..." He stared up at the invisible sky... "He's just right there, and he knows he's punched me down again. Bastard. Fucking bastard!"

"Hmmm." Sarah replied, checking her own blaster and eying the darkness. She didn't have all the fancy shit that he did, but she'd just have to make do until she could convince something recently dead to give her better. A jacket would be nice as well, preferably not blood soaked, but she wasn't particularly picky.

"That's the best you can do?"

"Pretty much so, yeah. You're pissed. I get it. You're not pissed at me, so I can't do anything. You have every reason to be, so I can't argue that. So, hmmm." She would get nowhere by feeding his rage, not here, not now. It would probably make for some fantastic fun, but that was a luxury she couldn't indulge at the moment. "So, unless you want some pissed off sex, right here, right now...there's not a lot I can do."

He stared at her, utterly derailed, one brow quivering towards his hairline. "You... are incorrigible."

"Yes, I am." She said agreeably, leading the way into the gloom.

They didn't walk far before Sarah saw dim lights and changed course slightly to move towards them. They illuminated a small group of huddled huts, furtive forms moving amongst them, and Carth made a suspicious noise under his breath. "Rakghoul?"

She focused on the closest, watched it move for a long moment. "No." She finally judged. The form was cautious, huddled, but walked upright. It was also small...somehow she just knew that it wasn't what Carth feared. "Let's go."

The smell was pervasive, and grew even more so the closer they got to the settlement, and Carth had settled into a nonstop growl of outrage before they were close enough to be noticed.

Sarah had been expecting wariness, concern, but she had not been expecting the press of fascinated people who responded to the sentry's call when the pair of them became visible. "Upsiders." The group whispered, and thin children pushed up uncomfortably close, pulling on her clothes with grubby fingers.

"Hey, hey, hey, munchkins." Carth chuckled behind her, "A little room here, okay?"

She sent a sudden, dark glare at one of the children, snatching her up by a skinny arm. "Don't." She breathed, tossing the child away, and Carth stared at her in thinly disguised horror. "Next one of you little buggers try to steal from me, or him, and I open up."

They scattered in a sudden flurry, squealing as they went. Carth's eyes still rested on her, and she did her best to school her features back into a fairly pleasant mask, knowing she failed miserably. He shrugged, obviously at a loss for words, and patted his own pockets thoughtfully. She knew his pockets were held closed by magnetic tension bars, to keep small items from falling out, especially in low or no grav. He probably would have noticed them opening...or more likely at his pay grade, they were locked to his touch. Her clothes, such as they were, were an open invitation to pickpockets.

"I apologize for that." A young woman broke from the crowd, warily approaching. "They're hungry...it makes them stupid and bold. You two aren't the usual. Salvagers. Sith. Or mercenaries. What are you looking for? If it's the escape pods, you're a week too late."

"No." Sarah made a great show of straightening her clothes, patting them back down. "We're looking for Mission." It was a calculated point to not add a last name, or a description. To make it sound like she knew her well, and was expecting them to know her just as well. "Seen her recently?"


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