My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 43

Sarah deliberately broke off from Carth's protective space, leaving him, Bastila and Mission wandering the Lodge and looking at the mounted specimens that ornamented the space. He was doing a fine job at driving people away...great for keeping Mission safe, not so good for getting information.

"You hunt?" A twi'lek male with watchful eyes asked from behind her, and she nodded slowly. "Wraid?"

She snorted in response. "Hell, no. I hunt, I don't farm. I'm here for krayt. Big krayt. I didn't come all of the way here for Wraid."

"I know where there's a big krayt..." He was hopeful, heartened by her answer.

You know where the krayt I'm looking for, is.

"Maybe we could pool our resources. Go together?"

No. I am not opening up the way to the fragment to you. The last thing they needed were others, fools, trying to treasure hunt the Star Forge now. It was unlikely that others could actually find it, but all it took was one person who knew too much to speak to someone who could seriously get in their way. Malak must know where the fragments are. He and Revan found them. We're on a path that he knows to watch...

"How 'bout I just buy that information from you?" He had a strong mind, but not strong enough to hold her off. Bastila flinched, her gaze jerking over to Sarah...her frown obvious, but she remained at a distance, silently disapproving. Well, that was just too damned bad. The Council at the Enclave had put Sarah in charge of this.

...enough money to get out of here... His mind flowed, and Sarah nodded with a broad smile. Yes, yes. Enough money to leave Tatooine behind him, for good. She pushed on it slightly, and he crumbled, pulling out his datapad.

"Here. It is here." He sighed, handing it to her. She nodded, yes. That was exactly where it was. And his maps showed the pathways through the high ground, exactly what she needed. She transferred more than enough money to get him off of Tatooine, and followed it up with another, less desirable one...resetting his map information to an earlier date...one that lacked the den's coordinates. She sealed the deal with a smile, a fleeting touch, and a curious question... "What krayt?" He watched her go, stunned and silent.

"Got what we're looking for, here." She greeted the threesome, locking eyes with Bastila. Carth caught it immediately, looking between the pair of them with open concern. "What?" Sarah challenged the younger padawan... "You know I did what I had to do."

"I know. Which is why I am saying nothing, Sarah. This is why you've been put in charge of this. You are willing to make those decisions, and follow through with them. It doesn't mean I have to embrace those decisions, myself. I support you, but I will not always agree with you."

"Fair enough." And it was. She didn't need Bastila's approval, as long as she was willing to follow orders, Sarah's orders. "We don't have the luxury of taking our time. You're here...you're not with the fleet. Which means they're getting gutted to buy us this opportunity. They're dying to give us time."

"I know that." Bastila breathed slowly. "Again, Sarah, this is why you're in charge. And it's why I'm not. Let's go." She turned, giving Sarah her shoulder in answer. She was able to close Sarah off, to shut the doorway between them... but Carth was an open book of conflicting emotions. He understood what the Navy was going through without Bastila's support. He had long term friends, people he'd served with, dying. The Republic he served was crashing down around his ears. He knew what had to be done. But like Bastila, he wouldn't always agree with what she might have to do to get things done, and done in a timely enough manner. And, in spite of that, he'd support her. Or maybe because of that...she wasn't certain. Somebody had to be the hard ass in this one, and it looked like it was going to be her.

"What'd you do?" Mission asked curiously, a distinct lack of judgment in the question.

"I paid the fine twi'lek gentleman a handsome amount for his map, although he'd rather have gone with us. I then altered the map on his datapad and removed his memory of this particular krayt dragon...and its den."

"Oh. Is that all? I thought you'd done something bad."

And Sarah loved her completely at that moment. "That's all, Mission." She chuckled, shaking her head and ignoring Bastila's distant stare. "Let's go. Take you and Carth back to the Hawk and we'll get this started."

Unfortunately, she walked right into the twitchy, creepy guy...who was obviously waiting for them just outside of the doorway. "Hey, there darlin'!" He greeted effusively, but his eyes tried to get around her to find Bastila. "My name's Tanis. Tanis Venn. We don't get that many human females here on Tatooine...so if there's anything I can do...for either of you...just let me know." He was gathering breath for more, in spite of the expression Sarah knew she had, when Carth moved her aside and stepped into the breach in front of her. He was a good bit taller than the man, and had a ragingly fine air of outrage rising around him. Sarah adored it, completely and totally.

"Hey! You talk to her with a bit of respect in your voice or you'll end this conversation minus a few teeth, got it?" He snapped, and the man wavered immediately, torn between pursuing Bastila and keeping safely away from Carth.

"Why would I want you when I've got him?" Sarah drawled, obviously looking the man up and down and sneering to let him know he poorly he measured up.

"Does he got both of you?" He ended the question on a squeak and fell to the ground. Carth had not moved, and looked suddenly confused. Sarah had not moved, but was much less confused...she'd sensed Bastila's reaction, felt the Force pull when the man had fallen. And rarely had she encountered a better time to pull that trick.

"Ass." She mocked, stepping over him, striding towards the Hawk. She was running out of patience, now that she was here and knew exactly where she was headed.

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

Bastila closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to center herself and shake off doubts. It seemed like Revan deliberately lulled her into a sense of security, and then slammed the truth back at her. She could go for days being someone that Bastila was comfortable being with, being around. Smiles, jokes, a fine companion. And then she just flipped into something that was so obviously a muzzled Darth Revan that it took all of Bastila's willpower to not react to her in a totally inappropriate way. And she had the amazing gift of just plucking things that she was supposed to have forgotten out of the air... It was obvious that she struggled against those memories concretely denied to her, every time she pushed, she closed down...exactly as she'd been programmed to. But if she could get at the memories kitty cornered, come at them from another angle, she could grab onto them and hold them. And eventually she'd be holding enough of them to start to erode her programming...

It didn't help that she was very, very gifted at manipulating those around her. She'd put a damper on doing it to the Ebon Hawk's crew...Carth, Mission... but those she had to climb over to get to the Star Forge were obviously fair game. If she wasn't right, Bastila would try to argue with her, try to steer her away, but they simply didn't have the luxury of time. Revan was correct, the time they had out here was being purchased with blood...with lives. And the more time Revan was loose, the more time she had to chip away at those memories, and the closer she got to her own core. Time truly was of the essence and it was best to just get out of Revan's way. If there was a later, then Bastila could try to make sense out of it all, fix what could be repaired. Until then, she just had to follow Revan's lead... just like so many before her had. That was a terrifying idea, Revan tended to lead her followers into darkness, but what other choice was there? At least..

Bastila's vision blurred slightly, and she wiped her eyes. No. She was not going to think that way. She sensed that Carth already was, the shadow of his decision clung to him. He would follow Revan into darkness if she led the way, he'd already told her so, that was a done deal. He was hers, perhaps more than Malak had been. There was a completeness to Carth's faith... he was a lost cause already. She'd have to watch him carefully, when Revan snapped, he'd be there, a resounding echo of it. The Dark Lord and her Admiral-Consort... She smirked slightly, there could be Carth's revenge on Saul Karath, longer and more drawn out than a simple death would be. Serving under Carth, serving under Revan's chosen... she was not a fickle lover, and Carth was everything that Bastila understood she prized. She'd give him everything he asked for, and Karath was Malak's lapdog...not necessarily Revan's. She'd hand him over with a bow stapled to his skull if Carth even hinted that was what he desired to have.

No. I can't think like that. Bitterness, anger, vengeance...all paths to the dark side. She had to stay strong. She had to stay focused. She had to stay optimistic. She had to stop thinking about handing over Malak's current admiral to Revan's up and coming admiral.

"Why don't you like Sarah?"

Oh, and that was the last thing that Bastila needed, trying to explain this to Mission. Sarah had escaped to a nice, cushy cabin...leaving Bastila alone in the starboard dorm with the teenager. Odd, the only children and teenagers that Bastila had any real experience with were younglings, other padawans, force sensitive youths trained from childhood to be Jedi. Just like she had been. "I like Sarah plenty." Bastila stated truthfully. Yes, Sarah was a fine person, it was a pity that she didn't really exist. "Her memory issues make her erratic sometimes. She has truly forgotten so much of her teachings that she doesn't remember what she is. What she was meant to be. But..." Bastila sighed, "She is in charge of this. She is the only one who can be. After this is over, we can try to heal her." Hopefully, Mission could read between the lines, hear the warning there. "I like Sarah, Mission. A lot. But I can't forget what's going on with her. It's part of my job to be her memories until she regains hers. We are bound together, she and I."

"Until this is over?"

Oh, Bastila could only wish. "No, Mission. Forever."

"Oh, so you have a lifedebt to her? Kind of like Zaalbar?"

"Sort of. Except I saved Sarah, not the other way around." Not that that would make much difference when Revan remembered who and what she was. She'd keep Bastila, that was a given...


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