My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 25

Carth looked like gently warmed over hell, and Sarah felt vaguely guilty at having kept him out past his bedtime. Although she had to admit that his unshaven and vaguely haggard appearance wore him well, he'd lost a bit of that stiff shine that screamed military. A little less pinned down, a little less clean cut. He was relaxed in his chair, one foot propped up on his knee, either ignoring or oblivious to the stares he was the focus of. Watching him, she guessed oblivious...he was content to nurse his hangover behind closed eyes while he waited for caf and food. "What?" He demanded without opening his eyes, but the question was obviously directed at her and not the silent Bastila.

"How's it feel to be the guy in the cantina that everybody else wants to be?"

He pried open an eye to stare at her, "What are you talking about, Sarah?"

"You. The guy with the wife and the girlfriend she won for you by shattering the Taris swoop race record. All we need is Mission, and your harem is complete."

"That is so not even funny." He sighed, folding his arms over his chest and tucking his chin into his throat. "I am definitely a one girl kind of guy. Preferably one within ten years of my own age. No, scratch that. Required to bewithin ten years of my own age...so that cuts out both Bastila and Mission. Especially Mission." He did an exquisite full body shudder complete with sound effects.

"Mission?" Bastila asked cautiously, and Sarah nodded.

"Twi'lek teenager. I believe she's adopted us, and we're taking her with us." She didn't expect a complaint from Carth, he was the sort who would never consider not bringing Mission off of Taris. "And the wookiee."

"And our own crew?"

"No sign of any of them. It...doesn't look good..." She silenced, feeling the man come up behind her. Carth came out of his loll, his face suddenly all business, not hiding the hand resting on his blaster butt. No friend then...

"Sarah and Devid. How convenient...I was going to come looking for you, but I see I don't have to." The voice was deep, raspy, without flourish and vaguely familiar.

Ah, well, Sarah was certain that there were more worrisome things looking for her than a Mandalorian, but she could be wrong. "Canderous, was it?" It was sad and disturbing that he remembered their names, she needed to do the same. And with her memory, that was a harsh need.

"Yes. I hear congratulations are in order."

And this man was no man for pleasantries. She craned her neck to stare up at him dubiously, letting her expression show those doubts. "Cut to the chase, I'm growing old here."

He snorted, and gave her a pretty obvious 'aren't you cute?' glance. She might be pushing forty, but he had longer than that in the field, grizzled, scarred, graying, with the weight of age and experience wrapped around him. And he was still living, that told her all she needed to know. Not just a Mandalorian, but a good Mandalorian at that. "I need to speak with you...both...all...in one of the back rooms. It's in your best interest. All of our best interests, I think."

"Sure." She sighed, standing and extending a hand towards Carth. "I'll hear you out." She sensed that Carth was less willing, but he was a veteran. Those prejudices wouldn't ever go away, completely. They might fade, retreat, but the fact remained...he'd fought Mandalorians to protect the Republic from their invasion. If the Mandalorians had not attacked, then Revan and her followers would have never come to the forefront...and would have never fallen. Telos would have remained untouched. She almost expected lip from Carth, he was hung over and scared, but he merely accepted her hand in silence.

Canderous led them to the back of the cantina, into one of the smaller pazaak salons, waving them towards the empty table. "Have a seat. Looks like you two put in some celebrating. Good job, by the way."

"Mandalorian giving me chit chat and idle talk..." Sarah silenced when an older Twi'lek woman came in with their breakfasts, setting them down on the pazaak felt in front of them. "Ah, gotcha." She shrugged. "What's the real deal?"

Canderous scratched at his stubble on his throat for a long moment, obviously making certain that the waitress was gone. "Fine. The real deal. I see in front of me, three Republic citizens. One of them... Captain Carth Onasi."

Carth stared at his breakfast with a little less enthusiasm than he'd just had, before shrugging it off and beginning to eat, obviously content to let Sarah do the talking for him. "I'm going to guess that you are the command crew from that Hammerhead falling in pieces from the sky, and that you want the fuck off of Taris...asap."

"Go on." Not denying it was tantamount to admitting it, but something had to give, and soon. He was on the right track, even if he had some of the details wrong.

"You've got one of the best pilots in the business with you, good enough to get this done. I have a few things that may get this all to fit together... I know where there's an astromech with the ability to get the main Sith base doors open...and any door in the place as well. I know where the fastest ship on Taris is, and I can get us there to...liberate her...with your help, and your pilot to run the blockade."

"And you get off of Taris."

"Malak isn't known for his patience or his reasonable nature. Even if I turned the three of you in, chances are it would turn out badly for me. The best course of action seems to be this: get the fleet codes, get the fastest ship on Taris, and make a run for it. After we're away, and someplace safe, we sell the ship, split the cash, and go about our separate lives."

"Works for us." Sarah stated into the pause, cutting off Bastila before she even got started. No. The Mandalorian would not respect her, she felt jittery and uncertain... Sarah needed to put her in her place, be strong.

"You can't just..." Bastila spluttered, rising to her feet, and Sarah locked eyes with her. Shut up and sit the hell down. Now.

Amazingly, it worked, the young Jedi went dead silent, pale, and dropped back into her seat. "Right then." Canderous stated, his gaze measuring, "Fleet codes. And it can't be me to go get them, they know me too well around here. And it shouldn't be flyboy, if I can recognize him, they will."

And it shouldn't be Bastila, for the same reasons. Left her few options, and they all started with Mission. Which wasn't a bad idea on second thought. "I'll take Mission." That was a dispute rising in Carth's eyes, and she held out a hand. "Unless you want me going alone?" That effectively silenced him as well, and Sarah nodded, tilting her head to Canderous. "Tell me where the astromech is, and we'll take this part from here."

"It's at the droid store in the Upper City. Droids by Janice. Just tell her I sent you for it. And you'll probably need to pay her, but..." He spread his hands apart, "Shouldn't be an issue for you."


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