My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 4

Sarah had to admit, at least to herself, that his embarrassment was almost endearing. She'd never hint it to his face, but his expression had given it all away. Poor guy, all flustered over a hard on.

"So." She said, deliberately keeping the chuckle out of her voice. "What do we know, other than the obvious?" The obvious...the Sith held Taris. Bastila was nowhere to be seen. They had no ship. Somehow, the very weight of this should bother her more than it did. But few things honestly did bother her, she'd always faced her life with a nearly unflappable calm, as if she'd been through so much worse...but just couldn't place it. She just felt numb, anesthetized, when things got bad. "I..."

Knew Taris. She'd been here before, but couldn't recall when. Or why. She knew it was a cityscape, skyscraper cheek to jowl with skyscraper, not an empty, distant spot on the whole world. She knew without thought that it had never been a favored place, that she had always viewed it with some level of disgust. "Have been here before, but it's been awhile." As always, the memories slipped away, leaving the personal details out, but the concrete details remained intact. She pushed the thought away, she didn't have time for this. Even when she did, it didn't help. It was as if the more she focused on them, the more they slid away.

"I doubt if it's improved in your absence." He muttered, and she nodded. Things had been ugly then, and couldn't have been bettered by a Sith occupation. The worst of Tarisian society's views would only be inflated by the fuel of its new occupiers.

The hallway beyond the door was much more brightly lit than the apartment, and she blinked against the glare, depending on her other senses in that moment of weakness. But the hallway was also empty, echoing. It was obviously circular, fading from her view in each direction. It had an oppressive, watchful feel and she rested her fingertips on her blaster, her gaze moving to Carth. It was obvious that he felt it as well, his jaw had tightened and his eyes were narrowed... but they couldn't stay holed up forever. Even if they didn't have to find Bastila, they had to move... eventually the Sith would find them. She forced herself to stride along with Carth, matching his speed and stance, making it look as if they'd been together long enough to click together. Two strangers living together, traveling together, invited too many questions. And the fewer questions they got, the better. Let it look as if they were comfortable, at ease, long term.

It didn't take long to realize that the apartments were not empty, but it certainly seemed like the residents were going out of their way to avoid the pair. She caught glimpses of forms ducking into doorways, heard those doors locking behind them.

"Nice." Carth muttered under his breath, and she nodded slightly. How were they supposed to gather intel when no one would stick around long enough to be seen, much less questioned?

"Where'd you get the food last night?" She asked, and he shrugged.

"From the upper city, I pass well enough." He glanced her up and down, and looked less convinced at that. "You will somewhat."

She knew what she looked like already. She was wearing the only set of clothing she now had, and that had gone through a devastating crash...on her skin. It smelled of smoke, and was stained with blood and soot. "Somewhat?"

He made a scrunchy face, and managed to look even younger when he did so. "You're human." He noted bitterly, and she sighed. Taris had been a very intolerant society before the Sith came. Now, the two would just feed off of each other, xenophobia and judgment all wrapped up. "Especially if you don't talk."

"That goes for you as well." He had a rather distinctive voice, and it suffered the same flaw as hers own did... they were both from somewhere out in the Outer Rim, far from Taris. Far from the Empire. She could, if she had to, put on a convincing Imperial accent, but it wouldn't fit with her present appearance. No, it was best to stick with her natural voice...for now.

"I know." He chuckled. "We'll see about getting you some clothes. You'll stick out less..."

Probably. Blood tended to draw attention. She had never been the sort who attracted much attention, easily overlooked, average looking... but here on Taris, things were different. It was a newly occupied world, and those were always filled with paranoia. Even the most mundane would run the risk of focus, the last thing she wanted. And if she stood out, then he shone. How the hell did they hide him? What a mess. What an absolute mess.

He chuckled, and then paused. A single male twi'lek stood in front of them, manning a thrown together vendor's kiosk, warily watching the two of them come. He oozed worry, and Sarah measured him for a split second. He was almost to the point of running...

"Hey!" She greeted sunnily, ignoring Carth's curious glance in her direction. He then stepped back, shadowing her as she moved forward to the kiosk. "Whatcha got?" She broadened her Outer Rim accent, making it obvious that she couldn't sound further from an Imperial if she tried.

"Best things, best prices!" The twi'lek was still not convinced yet, his gaze going from her face to Carth's. "You two must be the new ones... I didn't expect you to be...human."

"Yeah." She leaned in, gazing at the small items arrayed on the counter. "My name's Sarah." It was, just like the rest of her, perfectly normal and innocuous. Forgettable. "This is my husband, Devid." She gave Carth a slight motion. Play it straight. Don't overplay it. And pray that Carth played the same. He remained admirably straight faced, if a little silent, his gaze locked on her. That would work, he was coming off as the watchful spouse. Now, she just had to hear what she needed to know, without letting on that she didn't know.

"Ah." He was deliberately avoiding looking at the largest blood stains, his eyes locked on her face. "Terrible to be stuck here, with all the others."

Stuck. Interesting, she wasn't aware that 'all the others' were stuck as well. She grasped that she and Onasi would be...they couldn't just wander up to the spaceport and book passage off. The world was under Sith control...

"Yes." She sighed, embroidering the single syllable with equal parts exasperation and worry.

"They'll lift the quarantine eventually. They can't leave Taris locked down forever."

So, Taris was locked down. Fascinating. While the Sith tended to grip onto to their new acquisitions with a tight fist, to completely lock down a world was harsh even for them. Quarantine? Medical? Something stirred in her unreliable memories that said that was entirely too possible...

"Not soon enough." Nothing on the table in front of her was out of place, nothing was obviously from any of the Endar Spire's escape pods. It was just the usual hodgepodge of salvaged items that these tended to have. Come on, come on, keep talking...

"When they find what they're looking for, it'll stop."

Bastila. Only finding Bastila would be that important. They don't have her...yet.

"How much for the shirt?" She'd barely glanced at it, but it fulfilled most of her needs...it was a shirt, it was intact, unbloodied, and it would more than cover her.

"Five credits."

She gave Carth a sideways glance, not even bothering to hide it. Did they have the money? It fit their circumstances, fictional and real.

"Fine." He stated with a bare nod, handing her a crumpled bill.

"You two have a ship?" The twi'lek asked, and she shook her head. No, that would be too easily disproved. Having a ship wasn't easily faked, especially without access to a dock, to a computer system to spike into.

"Nah." She handed him the money, taking the shirt from him. "We're transit pilots. On the return leg." It was easy, just let the story flow. Don't make too much of it. See it in her mind, make it real, and let it out. This was her job, it was what she was good at. As long as Carth stayed on the right page, it was good. "Thanks." She grinned, "We'll see you around."

She stepped away, pulling the shirt over her bloodied one and following a silent Carth to the hallway that must lead out from the apartments. She was waiting for something, teasing, questioning, even outrage, but he gave her none of it.


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