My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 30

Sarah suddenly felt annoyed, peevish, and she beat the external signs of that frustration down. Something had happened. Something had changed... But again, she didn't have the luxury to try to figure it out. These all came at the most inopportune moments, distracting her when she couldn't be distracted.

"You with us, Sarah?" Carth murmured, and she nodded agreeably.

"Yeah."

"So." Canderous said, pointedly ignoring that hazy moment. "We wait until late and then..."

No. No. No. No. It was a sudden, jangling pain in her head that invited insanity... just on the heels of the last insanity provoking feeling. What was it about today that just seemed bound and determined to put her back in a hospital?

"No!" It sounded exactly like she wanted to snap, and for a moment, Sarah thought she had voiced the panic rising in her soul... But that was voice was lower than hers, and came from a higher point behind her. "We...we don't have time for that. I..."

Well, she wasn't the only one stumbling over the imperative from nowhere, and Carth had the same inability to express it that she had. But there was panic in his deep brown eyes, terrible concern engraved in his features. "We don't have time, Ordo. We move now."

She expected backtalk from the Mandalorian, they weren't precisely known for their willingness to follow the orders of strangers, but Canderous stared between the two of them measuringly. "It's going to be rough to take the Ebon Hawk during the wake cycle, but if the two of you are up to it..." He shrugged, picked up his rifle and grinned. "Nobody's going to say that some Republic flyboy young enough to be my kid has bigger balls than I do. Let's go."

It was almost laughably easy, none of Kang's so called guards had the slightest idea of what they were supposed to do with a seasoned Mandalorian veteran, Sarah and even Carth...already inside of the compound when they cut loose with destruction. They had been expecting the external defenses to warn them, to glean information and cull numbers, not to have something already on the inside make a move against them. Sarah powered down the corridors, pistol in dominant hand, vibroblade in a reverse grip in her weaker hand.Faster. More speed. Make the Mandalorian give chase. Running out of time. Hit hard. Harder. Now.

Don't let them think, don't let them react, plan. Just chew through them in a straight line to the docking bay... No time. No time. No time. She leapt into a group of three stunned guards, decapitating the first and using his falling body as a push to reorient herself to shoot the second. The Mandalorian shot the third without pause, picking up speed and focus as he went. They were committed, this was the only way to do this. Not going to get another chance...

And Kang was waiting for them in the docking bay, and he was not alone. Sarah took a half step towards them, readied to attack, when the voice in her head screamed a negative. Too late. Too damned late, and they were almost in the shadow of the freighter, their only hope. "Carth. Canderous. Get the ship warmed up, we are out of time."

"You can't take them on alone, Sarah..." Carth breathed in dismay. How could she explain to him what she didn't understand herself? Luckily she was spared from that when the first scorching, blinding beam cut through the ceiling of the docking bay.

"Go, damnit, go! It's started!" Their window was tiny, get the ship up, return to pick up Bastila, Mission, Zaalbar, and run like hell. And it seemed like the Sith were more than willing to take care of her gang boss and back up problem...the second and third bursts landed right on top of Kang... She was willing to take the gift as she found it, sprinting after Carth and Canderous, to the dubious safety of the freighter's open lock. Hopefully Carth was as good as everybody seemed to believe he was, because this was about to get ugly.

"Bastila, do you hear me?" She growled, cycling the lock behind her as Carth charged straight ahead, moving with a practiced ease towards what must be the cockpit. He did so without regard to the idea that anyone or anything might be lurking...obviously trusting the Mandalorian on his heels to deal with issues like that. Sarah would stay here, manning the lock, until they had everybody on board, speed of the essence.

"I do." Bastila's precise voice returned, her control admirable... the part of Taris she was in had to be taking the brunt of the bombardment.

"We have the ship. Get to where we can pick you guys up at."

"Understood."

Carth flew like a demon, the freighter twisting and banking, and Sarah grinned. Yup, she did so love her men to be competent...no...truly gifted. "Thirty seconds, Sarah." He warned tersely, all of the warmth gone from his syllables. He was in the zone, that perfect place.

"Lock cycling." It would change the flight profile of the freighter. Just slightly, but with the flying he was doing, every fraction was vital.

"I'm going to need you on the dorsal guns when we have them aboard. Canderous, you on the ventral."

"Understood." Her voice melded oddly with the Mandalorian's, and she grinned a feral grin. This was fantastic, fucking wonderful. She felt alive, and that was a rare experience indeed. Had she been alive like this before? The lock cycled, exposing chaos and destruction...and her heart sang. Taris was burning...burning...destruction rained down from the boiling sky. "I see you, Bastila."

Well, more sensed her, but Sarah wasn't in the mood to work out the small details. Carth was flying laterally, he'd skim alongside the skyscraper he was targeting instead of flying straight towards it and then trying to maneuver the freighter around. He was experienced at hot extractions, obviously.

"We see you as well, Sarah. Good approach vector."

Carth snorted over the link, and Sarah chuckled. So he had pride in his flying...from what she could see, it was justifiable. No false humility. And he threw proof down when he brought a freighter he had never flown before up to within a meter and a half of the roof that Bastila stood on. "Go, go, go!" She shouted, and the wookiee charged the distance, Mission in his arms. The droid followed, and then Bastila hopped the gulf to land beside Sarah... the lock cycling closed on her heels.

"All aboard!" Sarah bellowed, running down the access way to the guns, the heavy bulk of the Mandalorian filling her vision. He went down, she went up, taking the control yoke of the dorsal guns. It was the safer station for a gunner of questionable skill, easier and less chance of hitting her own ship. "Dorsal guns online."

"Ventral guns online."

"We're secure." Bastila's voice, a split second before Carth gunned the engines and the freighter exploded forward.

"We know we've got Interdictors in orbit." Carth hissed through his teeth, his voice loud in her earpiece. "We had a positive id on the Leviathan from the Endar Spire. This is going to get rough, even with the fleet codes."

Sarah only blinked, her attention fixated on the gun screens, feeling the freighter's engines hit maximum thrust and hang there. "Incoming." She snapped, knowing she'd see them coming before Canderous, eclipsed by the freighter's belly, would. "Fighters."

"I see them, darling." Carth chuckled. The freighter banked sideways, opening up both gun stations' arcs on the inbound Sith fighters, yet minimizing their profile. "And they're all yours... Bastila, where to?"

"Dantooine. We're running for Dantooine."

No. I don't want to go there.

Why? Well, it didn't matter, Sarah didn't have an alternate suggestion, and she had fighters to worry about. Let Carth do the flying, and let Bastila guide them.

There were the Interdictors, and her eyes paused on their graceful profiles. So beautiful, so graceful...a wonder of engineering that the Republic's Hammerheads could not approach. The Leviathan was secure in her fleet pocket, they were not in a picket line.

"Cruisers negative for picket." That gave them a chance to actually pull this off. The Sith fleet would never reach the Ebon Hawk in time to stagger her without that formation already being in place. All they had to survive was the fighter screen, and that was doable with Carth's piloting skills and a Mandalorian on guns.

"I see that. Plotting for Dantooine."

Lead lead lead. Sarah breathed out, dropping her targeting reticle to just ahead of the incoming fighters' noses and depressing the firing button. Of course, it didn't hurt that she wasn't exactly a slouch on guns herself...not as good as Canderous was, but not inept. And then, they ripped into hyperspace, starlight elongating around them, leaving Taris and the Sith fleet behind.

"Dantooine, next stop." Carth didn't try to mask the relief in his voice, and Sarah gave her suddenly blank targeting screen a toothy and feral grin. At least now there would probably be the chance for a refresher, and a bed...she'd worry about Dantooine later. At least Carth was safe. Bastila. The only two people around that she cared about, the only ones who didn't feel lost like the man in her dreams was.

She dropped out of the gunnery station, moving up to the cockpit. Carth was relaxed in the pilot's chair, his eyes closed. Bastila had the co-pilot's seat, her gaze locked on the view-screens...she felt far, far away. Sarah stared at the pair of them for a long moment, digesting how she felt about them. My family. And she'd do anything to keep them safe, anything at all.

"Sarah." Carth breathed, his eyes opening when he sensed her presence behind him. "We made it."

"We sure did." She chuckled, accepting his waved invitation to sit on his lap. "We sure did. Couldn't have done it without the best pilot in the Republic."

He only smiled, wrapping an arm around her waist and resting his forehead against her shoulder. "You did most of the dirty work."

"Dirty." She replied, and he gazed at her measuringly. "I'm filthy." She held her nose with one hand and waved the other as if to dispel her own funk. He shook his head, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"Sister, we're all filthy. You don't hold it against me, I won't hold it against you."

She glanced at Bastila, but the Jedi still seemed to be oblivious to their presence now that the immediate danger had passed. "Maybe..." she whispered, "I do want you to hold it against me."

His eyes widened, and he burst out laughing, tightening his grip around her. "You are incorrigible." He managed between sputters.

"Yes, yes she is." Bastila finally responded, her voice droll. "I'd suggest that the two of you find a room, but I doubt if there's a private cabin on a freighter of this model."

"Why Dantooine?" Sarah asked, and there was the shadow of something that flitted across Bastila's beautiful features before the young Jedi schooled her expression into serenity.

"Jedi enclave there. They'll shelter us, plus I need to report to the Jedi Council there in regards to...well...this..." She shook her head, standing. "I'll leave you two to it."

Carth waited until she was well gone before letting his face show his doubts. "Poor kid." He muttered, shaking his head. "I don't care what she is, it's criminal to put this kind of responsibility on her shoulders."

"Agreed." She was in the mood to be magnanimous, safe, comfortable in his arms, the pleasant sounds of a new ship thrumming in the air. They'd done the highly improbable, come out intact, what more could one ask for?

"Poor Mission." He stroked her hair, and she considered the statement. The guy was just too nice for words, truly. He couldn't just bask in the accomplishment, he had to look at the other side. Most of her comments had something to do with Mission being grateful to have survived...to still having Zaalbar, so she remained silent.

"Are you okay?" That had to hit a little too close to home for him, and she was more willing, ready and able to tackle that than trying to figure out how to deal with Mission.

His grip on her tightened suddenly, his fingers shaking. "I was there this time." He breathed hoarsely. "I was with you. I could do something. I wasn't helpless, even if it was just to die beside you. Stupid, I know."

She nuzzled him under the line of his jaw, his stubble rubbing against her nose. He seemed willing enough to accept it as it was meant, his iron grasp relaxing as he calmed down. "She's probably right." He said, and Sarah stared at the line of stitching in his collar. Which shewas he referring to, exactly? Mission? No, probably Bastila. "Dynamic class freighters don't have private cabins, normally."

She growled in response. She'd been so looking forward to a bed, but he was right. "So? I'll sleep on the floor to be with you." Had she really just said that? Worse, meant that?

"I...need..." He was pulling back, and his eyes were dark when she glanced up to his face.

"Time? Space?" Hardly what she wanted to give him, but she understood. This had been too close to something that would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life. Another heavily populated world, bombed into ruins. Another woman he cared for in the crossfire. Sure, he'd been there to back her up. Sure, they'd both survived, but she could sense that his turmoil had been stirred up again. "I got ya." She agreed slowly, rising from his lap and sending him an uncertain look. His eyes begged for understanding, for patience, and she nodded...running her fingertips down his cheek. "Sleep well, Carth."

Bastila was not surprised to see Revan come into the starboard dorm, decided during the time she'd snuggling up to Carth as the 'female' side. Mission was already unconscious in the bunk closest to the door, after a short and bitter cry had wiped her out.

"I'll take that one?" She asked, pointing to the bunk that didn't have Bastila's few belongings on it.

"Of course." No need to ask or even remark upon it. Carth's unease permeated the air around him, he needed time to be alone with his memories, room to sort them out and come to grips with them. Revan would only muddle them, draw it out longer than it had to be, and Bastila was surprised that she could perceive that. She really was willing to give him that sort of room, and the option to pull away from her in spite of everything. "He just needs a little time to work it out." Why, why, why was she trying to comfort Revan, especially with something she felt was so damned wrong? She's so damned...human. So damned...likeable. Oh, she couldn't get back to Dantooine fast enough.

Revan considered the statement, dropping her small bag on the bunk. "I know." She said. "I know. Just want a shower and bed right now, it'll all work itself out in due time."

She was in the refresher for quite awhile, paddling out barefooted, wrapped in a towel. Bastila did her best to not stare, or cringe... Revan. Revan. Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Revan...in a towel. It was a relief when slid, nude, into bed and was covered. "Yeah, I know." She said, "But I didn't bother to pack my jammies when the Spire was attacked, and you're wearing my off set of clothing."

True enough, true enough.

She was asleep in a moment, and Bastila laid down in the bunk just a couple of meters away from her, letting the excitement and stress of the day push her to sleep.

"Once we do this, we can never go back." Alek's voice echoed in the dream, but Bastila was simply along for the ride. "Is this truly worth banishment, Revan? Is the power of the Star Forge worth the price?"

Revan did not answer him, her shoulder was turned to the much taller man. A sun sank...or rose, Bastila wasn't certain... on the other side of her, and her expression was deeply pensive. Grass lapped around her, and Bastila knew where she was, because Bastila had spent so much of her time there, in fact, that was where she was dragging Revan back to.

"You can turn back still, Alek. The Enclave is there for you." Revan pointed towards the sun, and Bastila knew it was rising... she recognized the positioning of the two moons low on Dantooine's horizon.

"Leave you, Revan? After everything we've been through, together? After everything that we are to each other? Have you lost your mind? Do you think I am so weak that I would let you face this alone? Together, Revan. Either we give this up, together, or we go, together. As always. You are half of me, I can't...I won't... Revan, I love you."

It was an agony to experience, even secondhand. Bastila's eyes snapped open and she moved to where she could watch Revan. The vision was so clear, it was impossible that Revan could have it, and not remember. When she woke up, they'd have Revan to deal with. And it was going to be short...

Revan shifted, her eyes opened sleepily and she sat up, scrubbing her fingers through her hair. "Wha'?" She asked Bastila, honest confusion on her features, and the padawan relaxed. Still buried...Bastila had seen the true vision, unedited by conditioning, but to Revan, it had simply been a foggy dream that her bladder had interrupted.

"Nothing, Sarah. Go back to sleep."

"Will as soon as I get rid of some bilge weight." She mumbled, oblivious or uncaring that she was stark naked, traveling the few steps to the 'fresher.

Revan and Alek had visited Dantooine right before they'd vanished, Bastila had been aware of it. She'd been there, and had known that the Council had been expecting them at the Enclave, been expecting either a request to be taken back, or more likely, a confrontation. But they had not come to the Enclave, they'd left Dantooine without a word...and vanished.

Because they were not interested in the Enclave, or the Council. They'd gone to Dantooine because their first step in finding the Star Forge had been there. The Enclave, the place that they'd trained from their childhood, had not been why they were there at all. And Bastila was bringing Revan back...back to where she'd been trained, back to where she'd met and bonded with Alek, back to the first step on the path to finding the Star Forge.


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