My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 42

After the benign climate of Dantooine, Tatooine's blistering, glaring heat was evil incarnate. Sarah had decided against the robes, again, unwilling to tip Czerka to their true nature... She wore the loosest, airiest undershirt she owned, tucked into a belt, over her flying pants and boots. Carth had opted for his version of the same, shedding the orange hangar jacket, his eyes shaded by smoked glasses. He managed to look about as far from military officer as he could probably manage...his hair was long, his scruffle was scruffy, he'd lost some weight and he maintained a wary, watchful distance that worked all too well for a man escorting not one, not two, but three rather attractive females on a world not really known for its level of civilization.

"Shut it." He snapped when Sarah smirked at him, and both Bastila and Mission looked equally confused at the exchange. "You can be a giant pain in the ass."

"Ass." She echoed and he had to laugh, shaking his head.

"Go. Git. Move." He ordered, waving her to leave the ship ahead of him. "All of you."

Sarah nodded, gathered her will, and exited. It was like walking into an oven baking trash...the sheer weight of heat combined with the smell was head spinning, and she swallowed down a fleeting rush of nausea.

"Pwwwaffft." Mission chuckled behind her. "It smells worse than the Taris sewers here...and those were sewers."

"Yup. Those were sewers." And Anchorhead was just one giant, overheated sewer, run by one of the worst corporations in the galaxy. Sarah took a deep breath and emerged into the glaring light... she really needed to invest in a pair of glasses like Carth's, and soon.

Ah, and there was the expected Czerka lackey, datapad in hand. "Freighter." The man stated the obvious, staring up at the Hawk's underbelly. "Last port of call?"

"Dantooine." She answered blandly, well aware of just how far away that was from here.

"Cargo to declare."

"None." She was confident that the vessel was clear, and carrying only their own essential supplies. Carth had gone over her several times.

"None? You brought an empty freighter to Tatooine?" He found that idea disturbing...or was it alarming? "Reason for your stay?"

"Tourism." She answered blandly, feeling Carth fight to keep a straight face.

"Tour...ism?" The 'customs agent' repeated in ill disguised horror, and Sarah gave him a level stare.

"Tatooine used to have some of the finest big game hunting in the galaxy. Have things changed since the last time I was here? Used to have a pretty hopping swoop track as well. I'm here to hunt, and I'm here to gamble. Like I said, tourism."

"Oh. Right. Tourism, gotcha. You've been here before?"

Sarah gave him the same bored stare that she'd been using from the beginning. Repeating every single thing that she stated was obviously going to make this take twice as long as it should. "Ummhummm." She agreed.

"Your name?" name. "Amasri Idarn." It fell like an odd echo in her soul. Vacant. Discarded. A fake name, probably.

"Hmmm..." He tapped at the datapad, and Sarah glanced at Bastila. She looked utterly calm, her gaze locked on the custom agent. "Ah, there you's been awhile since we've seen you but..." He held up the datapad next to her face, "Welcome back to Tatooine. Your hunting license will expire soon...if you intend to spend more than a couple of months here, you'll need to renew it. And there are, of course, fees for your berthing here..."

Sarah sighed, nodded. Of course there were. The Enclave had been generous, opening up accounts for was not a real issue. Time was. The longer this took, the worse things became...and this had taken their only true weapon away from the front... Bastila was here. Not with the fleet, where her gifts were a game changer. They were playing their last hand here, and Sarah fully intended to win it.

"If you fall, come for me." Carth's voice in her head and she shook the idea away. She wasn't going to fall. She wasn't going to fail. There would be no need for her to come for him.

"What's that?" Mission asked shyly, while the man was turned away, calculating fees. She was pointing at a large, floppy eared animal tied to a post in the shade, and Sarah smiled.

"It's a ronto." Sarah wondered if there were any for rent, because they'd make this easier, faster... "They're for riding, or they carry things." She turned, feeling the first eddies in the Force around her. Yes, it was out there. Yes, she could feel it. Yes, it was in something which felt the same as the Temple on Dantooine. It was that way... She felt pulled, drawn...

"Yes, Sarah." Bastila whispered, her fingers gentle on Sarah's shoulder. "You feel it. We don't need the visions anymore, all we need is the Force." Well, that all sounded good, but Sarah would prefer it if Bastila didn't deliver the news with such gravity. "Amasri Idarn?"

"Dunno. First name that popped into my head, I must have been using an assumed name the last time I was here." Sarah shrugged it off and Bastila nodded slowly.

"Do you remember the last time you were here?"

They'd traveled in the dark, just the two of them, guided by the Force and the the light of the three moons. Driven then as she was driven now, but the man with her stared holes through her. His eyes were dead, black, empty...

Carth turned to her suddenly, and she was bathed in his gaze. His eyes were alive, bright, filled with the power of everything that he was. They were dark...but that was only because of the glasses he was wearing...they were truly warm behind the smoked lenses. "Get a load of the creepy guy." He chuckled, motioning with his chin towards a fine example of 'creepy guy'. The man was staring at the three of them blessed with breasts as if his very mind was about to short circuit from the scene before him. In fact, he seemed to have developed a very noticeable nervous tic...jerking his head every few seconds or so.

"Lovely." Sarah grumbled, before shrugging in answer to Bastila's still unanswered question. "I vaguely remember being here before. Unless it was you know who who was here before." But that made no sense. She would possibly know a name that Revan had operated under...even though that was an odd and random piece of information to glean under those circumstances, but that didn't explain her picture on the custom agent's datapad. "No, I guess it would have had to have been me. Unless Revan looked a whole hell of a lot like me."

Bastila snorted in answer, and Sarah nodded. "Exactly. So yeah, I was here. And all I remember is that we traveled at night. Hardly informative." And why, why did she feel the urge to lie to Bastila? There was so much more in that snippet of her own memories. Her memories. That was unassailable. She'd been here looking for something, much as she was now...

That headache started to unfold, suddenly the glare was beyond what she could bear. "Bastila..."

"I have you. Look at me. Sarah. Look at me." Her eyes were clear, gray, comforting. "You have to center yourself. Hold onto me. Hold onto Carth. You can't keep falling over every time you catch a glimpse of yourself, we're there for you. Breathe through it." She smoothed Sarah's hair, while Carth rested his hand on Sarah's shoulder. She could just stand there, just like that, forever. Suddenly, there was another hand wrapped around her waist...and it did not belong to Bastila or Carth. Mission stared at her, deep concern in her eyes.

"You okay?" She demanded, and Sarah had to laugh. She looked so damned serious, but so damned young at the same time.

"Sure am, munchkin." She sighed, "I sure am."

"I am not a munchkin. I'm just as tall as you are." Mission wrinkled her nose, stood to her full height, and stared Sarah in the eyes to prove her point. That was true, Sarah was not a tall one, and Mission looked as if she might just turn out to be fairly tall. A few months of regular meals could make a lot of difference...

Months. Sarah nodded to herself, setting her jaw. Mission deserved to have those months. She deserved to have years. Sarah just needed to buck up, she could have a breakdown after this was over, when it was safe to do so. "Do we have a final tally yet?" She asked the customs agent, who nodded and handed her his datapad. It was, as she expected, a truly inflated total and she gave him a long stare before signing off on it... muttering under her breath as she did so.

"Let's go." She said, pointing at Carth. "I need a pair of those."

"Why?" Bastila quipped, "Isn't one of him enough?"

It was a rare thing indeed to see Bastila drop even a little bit of her guard, to hear her crack a full out joke was almost stunning and Sarah had to grin in response. "We're starting to get to you." She said, and Bastila nodded.

"Bad influences, all of you. And I have to agree with Carth, that is one very disturbing man. Stay away from him, Mission."

"Why are you telling me that? I can see he's weird. And twitchy. Very, very twitchy."

"Sarah's taken, and has Carth with her. Pretty sure she'll stay out of that kind of trouble."

"Sarah's here and has Carth with her." Sarah stated. "And that makes me pretty sure that Mission will stay out of that kind of trouble."

"Damn straight she will." Carth grumbled, staring at the man in question. "Where now?"

"Glasses and then..." She gave her memories a big shake, but managed, as Bastila had instructed, to do so without knocking her knees out from underneath herself. "To the Hunting Lodge. See if anybody there has seen what we're looking for."

"What are we looking for? Nobody's bothered to tell me, yet."

"Here, we're looking for a krayt dragon den. A big krayt." She pointed over his shoulder... "In that direction. It has the map fragment in the den."

"So you can feel them? You don't need the visions, as Bastila hoped?" There was hope in his eyes, and she nodded slowly. Yes, if they were all like this one and the one on Dantooine, then she would need no visions to find them. Perhaps they could do exactly as Bastila suggested, shut down her links to the late and unlamented Dark Lord of the Sith, take back her own life. Only with that distance could she hope to figure out what was hers, and what had been Revan's. And Revan could keep those memories, Sarah would do without them. She'd rather have nothing.

"So far, I can feel them." And truly, the visions didn't seem to show very much useful at all, only the immediate area around the fragments. Helpful, but not vital.

"That's fantastic!" He enthused, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and shooting the 'creepy guy' a death stare. The waft of testosterone laden 'ownership' was almost hilarious, and it grew even more so when he herded her up close to Bastila and Mission. Carth, protecting his little harem... priceless. She knew better, of course, he was firmly attached to her and viewed the other two women as people he cared about and was responsible for... Mission, especially... but there was little to no actual interest there. Sometimes, she sensed his eyes rest on Bastila, and then he yanked them away...usually to plant them firmly back on Sarah. But then, he was taken...not dead. And she could most certainly deal with that.

The Hunting Lodge was more populated than she'd been expecting, and she was less than thrilled when Creepy decided to follow them in. He remained at a distance, eying Carth with wariness and Bastila with lust. She appeared to be his main target of interest, followed by Sarah. He barely glanced at Mission, thankfully... he might just survive. Might. She could sense Bastila's increasing unease, and it was her turn to rest a hand on Bastila's arm and calm her. Just a creep. We can more than handle him.

The crowd glanced at them curiously, and almost as quickly, looked back at the man who had followed them in. She could feel amusement, anticipation, the edge of disgust...a firm undercurrent of bated wait. He was not a popular one here, she could feel it, and they were hoping for a throw down. But that could lead to fines she was unwilling to pay, it was still best to get what they were here for...and to leave.

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