My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 41

Sarah's eyes snapped open. She had been blissfully asleep, curled next to Carth in the cool, dark, quiet cabin...and then she was awake. Just like that. He was deeply asleep next to her, his breathing measured, and she rested the palm of her hand against his back. He made a soft, contented noise under his breath, but did not stir. She carefully left the bed, tucking the blankets around him and threw on a robe, stepping out into the cargo bay, and from there, into the main part of the ship. Bastila was wide awake, sitting in the copilot's seat, her gaze entranced by the hyperspace flume visible through the view-screen. "I know." She said, before Sarah managed a syllable. "You saw the next star map in your dream. The Tatooine one. None of the other planets match what you showed me."

"A large cave, the lair of some sort of animal. Filled with debris, remains... sand." Like sand was going to be a useful point of reference. This was Tatooine, after all. She sat in Carth's chair, curling up with her head on the armrest, letting her mind, her thoughts, drift. It was easier closer to Bastila, and even clearer when the younger woman touched her head.

"No. Not a cave. A room." Bastila breathed. "Like some sort of a bay. The opening is too regular to be natural. Probably a krayt dragon den, there's not much else on Tatooine that would lair like that. But it's not a lot to go on, much less than we saw of the Dantooine temple."

Sarah sighed, closing her eyes. "Revan managed to find the star map fragments without having, well, Revan's, memories. Somehow. It's not impossible. A buried bay means it could be yet another temple, and the last one had a feeling about it."

Yes, it had. And of course Revan and Malak had found it on their own. They couldn't lose sight of that truth, even if the visions were fickle, they were more than Revan had had. There was more to finding the other maps than the visions.

"True." Bastila agreed, soothingly.

"Of course, Revan and Malak were experienced, older, had their memories..." They were, from what Sarah understood, the pinnacle of Jedi produced in this generation. Bastila was a padawan, talented, but young and often overwhelmed. And Sarah presumably had years, decades, of experience...that she didn't remember. In fact, she was probably a contemporary to Revan and Malak, trained out of the same Enclave. She had followed them to war...she had disobeyed her masters to do so.

The worn pattern of the pilot's seat cover wavered before her eyes, the headache was immediate and debilitating. She could feel Bastila get up, move away for a long moment and then return. She was wrapped up, first in a warm blanket, and then in Bastila's arms.

Sarah was gone when Carth woke up. He frowned, dressing quickly...he had not overslept. In fact, he'd woken early. Her side of the bed was chill, she had been gone a long time. She wasn't in the main bay, wasn't in the galley, but Canderous was, preparing his breakfast.

"They're in the cockpit, been there for a long while." The Mandalorian stated, shrugging. "Both asleep."

Asleep? Why would Sarah leave their bed to go sleep in the cockpit? Had something gone wrong? Had a glimmer in the Force told her it was best to be there? If so, why hadn't she woken him? If the Ebon Hawk needed a pilot, he was the obvious choice.

He moved through into the cockpit, his eyes habitually glancing at the readouts first. Everything looked good, no concerns there. Bastila was asleep in the co-pilot's seat, it had been rocked back to a near horizontal surface. The pilot's seat was also rocked back, Sarah was huddled there like a child, her face buried in the seat and the line of her upper arm.

Bastila stirred, opened her eyes. "Morning, Carth." She breathed, sitting up slowly.

"Rough night?" He asked, squatting next to the pilot's seat, his seat, and peering at Sarah. She was not going to be waking up any time soon, he was familiar enough now with how she slept to judge that. She had crashed...

"She had the next vision, of the site on Tatooine. Then she tried to push on her memory wall again, and she shut down. You can probably pick her up and put her to bed again, she'll wake up if I try it."

"I don't like this." He admitted, and Bastila sighed, shaking her head.

"We spoke last night." She said, standing and stretching. "The visions may not be as useful as we originally thought, especially now that we know the worlds we're going to. Revan found the fragments without them, so they're not an imperative. Perhaps we can work on shutting them down, closing that door to Revan's death in Sarah's mind. Work on finding the fragments the same way that Revan must have, through our connections with the Force. Sever Sarah from Revan, for once and for all..." She grimaced, "It's not implausible that at least some of Sarah's issues are from Revan's death. I feel that the attempt to keep that connection alive, to begin the journey to the Star Forge, is no longer as valid as it was in the beginning."

"Good. I'd prefer..." That she had nothing at all to do with this. That she had time to heal, recover. That she had the opportunity to regain everything that she could. "That she not have to carry that around. Bastila, I..."

"I know you do." For just a moment, it felt like she carried the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. Before he even understood that he had done it, he'd wrapped his arms around her.

"Bastila. We'll make it." He said, giving her one last supportive squeeze before releasing her. "We'll look back at this when it's over and it'll all be okay."

Her answering stare was inscrutable for a long moment, before her eyes dropped to Sarah's huddled form. "Of course, Carth. Go take care of her, she needs you. She loves you."

"Right." He managed to get his arms underneath Sarah and lifted her up into his arms. She was a dead weight again, and he pushed that particular memory away. She wasn't dying, she wasn't dead. She was simply sleeping. He carried her back through the ship, giving Canderous a sheepish half grin when the Mandalorian watched him pass by. He didn't know, and he didn't really want to know what the man thought. Sarah wasn't weak. And he wasn't weak for taking care of her when she needed it. He tucked her back into bed, added an extra blanket, and left her to sleep it off in silence.

"What?" He asked grumpily, well aware that Canderous had said nothing at all, and that he was throwing out a preemptive attack...when there might not have even been an attack coming.

"I said nothing." The Mandalorian replied, "There is nothing to say. Your chosen one is injured...from combat. You are honored to care for her. I would think much less of you if you did not. One of the only true ways to judge a person is to watch how they care for their family. I am familiar with how you fought, and now I see this other side of you."

Carth's mouth went dry, but he sat across from Canderous and poured himself caf. "And the loss of my first family?" He didn't even know why he was asking. Why it mattered to him. This man had been an enemy, he shouldn't give a damn...

"Loss is one of the things we truly have in common... Mandalorians, outsiders. We lose our families, our loved ones. And they are everything that we hold dear, Onasi. But at the end of the path, you pull yourself out of the hole and make another family. Otherwise, you have admitted defeat to the loss, and in this case, the people who inflicted that loss on you. Avenge their deaths with your new partner, use that to cement your bond with your new family. And keep going, denying yourself a true life means that your enemies have beaten you. Defeat them with your new family, raise children to guard what you hold dear. Make your enemies pay. It's the only way."

Charming breakfast discussion; death, vengeance and mayhem. Carth smiled, taking a long swallow of his caf and closing his eyes, listening to the ship for a long moment. It was a happy ship, everything felt perfectly right.

"Where are we going? And what are we doing... been kept out of the loop here."

"We're going to Tatooine." There was no way to keep what they were doing away from Canderous, if Bastila and Sarah had brought him, then they intended to use him. "We're looking for maps, information that will tell us where..." He shrugged, both of the Jedi with him had made it clear they weren't entirely certain what they were after, exactly... "Something very important to the Sith is. Something we need to take out. Something that Revan and Malak found after the War."

"The Sith are worthy enemies."

Yes, yes they were. Carth would prefer that they weren't quite so worthy, but he knew better than to say it aloud. Thankfully, that was the moment that Mission made her appearance, trailing Zaalbar...loud, happy and joyous, sweeping away darkness as she came.

"Tatooine, eh?" She demanded, sinking into the seat closest to Carth. She had always given Canderous a wide space, uncertain around him. "What will I be doing there? You guys do need me, right?"

"Of course we need you, Mission." Bastila appeared from the starboard dorm, looking a little less turned out than normal. It was a good look for her, her hair rumpled, her eyes sleepy, and Carth hurriedly chased his mind to safer thoughts. He was pretty much taken. He liked what he was pretty much taken by. And Bastila...no. She was too young. And she could be damned annoying...most of the time. "Maybe not on Tatooine, but that will just be our first stop. But all of that is Sarah's call."

And Carth heard relief and something else in that statement. It almost sounded like dread...

*************

Someone had put her to bed, Sarah woke warm, content, and fully rested. The headache had passed, and she felt good. Better than she'd felt in a long time, at least there was some down time here. A breather, even though she knew she needed a whole hell of a lot more than that. Maybe when all of this was over, she could return to Coruscant...seek greater help...return to the Temple...

Bad idea.

Of course it was. But why? That voice never gave the why, it only gave empty and confusing imperatives. She shook her head, dressed, and stepped outside. There were voices, Mission's carried loudly, Carth's laughter, Bastila, protesting something... They filled the passages of the Ebon Hawk, and it felt suddenly like home.

"Hey, guys." She greeted, and they all turned to glance at her. "How long until Tatooine?"

Carth tilted his head, as if the very air itself would answer him. "Seven hours, give or take." He finally answered, half rising, and she waved him sit back down again. Give or take was good enough, for now. "Any clue as to what we're doing there, yet?"

"Other than survive, find the next fragment and keep sand out of our orifices, nope."

"Somehow, this reminds me of something. If I think hard enough, I might remember the last time a Jedi told me to go someplace without a clue... No, wait, it's coming. Give it time. I seem to remember... Ow. Was that necessary?" He rubbed his shoulder, where she had lightly smacked him.

"Yes." She stated, sitting on his lap.

"We can't all go running around in the sand looking for...well, whatever this thing actually looks like. Tatooine is a rough place, somebody's going to need to stay with the Hawk, for security, at all times."

"Agreed." Without the Hawk, they'd be stuck. On Tatooine. And that was a hell she didn't want to consider. Also, the Hawk was still unregistered, and had last belonged to the Exchange. She could draw unwelcome attention, indeed. "I'd like to leave somebody who can fly her, with her. Just in case." And that pretty much meant that she had just volunteered to leave Carth with her, minding the store. Somebody adult, responsible and able to care for the ship, willing to butt heads when the situation called for it, and careful enough to keep Mission out of trouble. She expected some flak for it, but he only nodded as if he'd been expecting it. And he truly was the best choice for the job. "No matter what, I have to go. Bastila must, as well. Probably Canderous, for fire support." And for the fact that the quickest way to get on his bad side was to leave him here, away from the fight, away from the glory, babysitting a ship and a teenager that wasn't of his clan.

"Okay." Carth said, apparently at ease with the idea of being left with the ship. Of course, that was undoubtedly what the majority of his career had entailed, and he was probably wise enough to know that it was going to be a whole lot more comfortable on the Ebon Hawkthan wandering around with her on Tatooine. "I'll hold down the fort with Mission and Zaalbar."

"But..." Mission began, but silenced when Carth glanced at her. "I kinda wanted to see Tatooine." She whispered when he glanced away again. Sarah didn't think that Carth had overheard her, but Sarah had, and by the slight amusement on the Mandalorian's face, Canderous had.

"I doubt if we're headed straight out into the dunes, right?" Canderous asked, and Sarah nodded in agreement. There would probably be paperwork, there was always paperwork...especially on a Czerka world. That corporation lived on it, and while she thought she could easily avoid it, having the freighter made things a little more difficult. She'd prefer to not have to make the 'Jedi were here messing with peoples' minds' waves here, especially so early in their journey. Things were only going to get worse, not better. "Then you and Flyboy take Mission with you to press all the buttons that Czerka is going to want you to, get whatever made up shit permits, and I'll watch the ship for that. I've seen Tatooine, and I doubt if it's gotten any more fascinating in my absence."


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