My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 46

Carth had a lot of experience being left to his own devices on a ship, waiting. At least now he had things to do, it was bad enough that they had Mission out here with them, but at least he could try to start laying the foundations for a better education than she'd gleaned piecemeal off of Taris. It kept him busy, and it kept his mind off of the worrisome last contact he'd had with Sarah. Followed? How could they have been followed off of Taris? And if they had been, then they'd led those followers straight to Dantooine, and the Enclave there. He sighed, shaking his head. How much of a secret could that be if Malak himself had been trained out of there? Served from there? Met Revan there? It wasn't as if the man was suddenly going to forget where he'd learned how to be a Jedi at. That was just too stupid to consider. They couldn't have given away the Enclave's location to a man who'd already known it.

"They'll be fine." Mission stated, glancing at him over the screen she'd been studying. "If you're worried, then call her."

No. He knew better, he'd only make contact in an emergency or if they were overdue. It was too risky, especially if Sarah thought she was being followed. "Don't want to distract her." He shrugged, leaning in to catch a glimpse of the screen. "How's it going?"

Mission wrinkled her nose at him in answer. "I don't see why I have to take a test." She muttered mutinously, but Carth ignored it. She was not getting out of this, no matter how much of a tantrum she wanted to give him. He was not a teacher by any means, but he could kill some of his extra time by getting her started at least. He'd be damned if he'd simply overlook the obvious, to shirk what needed to be done because it wasn't his business, wasn't his responsibility. Mission had to be smart and she was still pretty young, her education could probably be salvaged. If something good could come out of this trip, and out of the fact that he'd be spending a lot of time watching the precious Ebon Hawk, he'd take it. And he honestly liked Mission, she was a good kid when she just admitted that was what she was. He grimaced, flipping through the available educational programs he'd picked up on Ord Mantell while Sarah had taken Mission safely least Mission was someone to talk to. Zaalbar was a strictly one sided conversationalist, unless Mission was around to translate, and the wookiee had become very quiet recently.

"What else do you have to do?" He asked when her gaze locked on him. They'd cleaned everything there was to clean during their stay on Dantooine. Everything was perfectly arranged, except for... "Unless you want to pick up the starboard dorm? That's your mess, mostly." At least he strongly suspected it was hers, he didn't see Bastila as being the untidy type. It gained him an amused chuffing laugh from Zaalbar, and Mission's sudden intent focus back on the screen in front of her, exactly as he'd expected.

"Carth." Sarah's voice, loud and clear in his earbud... she was broadcasting in the open, where before she had contacted him via the much more secure holo link with T-3. "Hunt successful. Will be returning close to first dawn, be ready to leave."

"Gotcha." He answered, feeling Mission's eyes lift to him in curiosity, and then in relief when he touched his ear. "Will prep for take off then." He frowned when Sarah dropped the connection, knowing that Mission was intuitive enough to read him well but he was unwilling to try to hide things from someone he lived with. Sarah's voice had been sharp, curt, edging towards pissy. She was annoyed, but not truly upset. Things hadn't gone badly, they had just not gone exactly as she'd planned or hoped.

"She's snarky?"

"Yup." He chuckled, taking the seat across from her and rolling his head back, closing his eyes. "She gets that way."

"I thought Jedi weren't supposed to do that. I thought they were supposed to be more like Bastila. I thought they didn't have boyfriends, either... There's something wrong, isn't there? I mean, she's..."

"Sick. Too sick to be a Jedi, Mission. We just need to help hold her up through this until she can rest, heal."

"Isn't there someone else who can do this? There are lots of Jedi, right?" Her gaze was outraged, and he could only shrug in response. It should be like she said, but he knew better. Only Sarah and Bastila could do this, they were sure of that. And a return to Coruscant was so very risky, from what he understood. He could be pulled back by the admiralty. The Temple at Coruscant could take Sarah out of this completely, but would they replace her? Was there even someone who could replace her at all? No, much as he hated to admit it, it certainly seemed like Sarah and Bastila were it. Their last chance. Their last hope. A truly sobering thought that he wished he wouldn't have had. But one last hope, one last chance was more than he'd had at the beginning of this, when he'd truly felt that they had no chance whatsoever.

"No, Mission. It's got to be us." At least she was young enough to be blameless in this. She was just an underage refugee from an obliterated planet, the Republic would do nothing to her. He was a commissioned officer, and he suspected he was at some level of absent without authorization. Sarah and Bastila would answer to the Jedi Order. Canderous would be fine, he was simply what he was, a Mandalorian mercenary. And the Republic hung in the balance. "Finish your test." He sighed, wondering if Sarah's shopping spree had included alcohol. He wasn't a big drinker by any means, but thinking about this made him unsettled. He'd love to just get the Hawk in the air, in hyperspace, and settle down with Sarah and a drink. He knew the hard decisions had to be made, and was certain that they were making them, but nothing could completely chase away his awareness of just how dire their situation was. "Did Sarah buy any booze?" He finally asked. Mission might be cute as a button, but she'd been raised in the underbelly of a gang. He doubted if he could shock her by inquiring as to their alcohol supplies.

"She did. Bastila disapproved, but." Mission shrugged, her eyes back on her screen. "Sarah won. Sarah always wins."

She did, especially when she went up against Bastila. But then, even though no one had come out and said it to him directly, he was still convinced that Sarah had been Bastila's master well before the Jedi strike team had gone after Revan. It was the only thing that made sense to him. When Sarah got that look and put her foot down, Bastila deferred and fell right into line behind her.

"Hmmmm." He answered noncommittally. He didn't know. And even if he did, it wasn't Mission's business as to what sort of relationship Sarah and Bastila shared. He wasn't even sure if Sarah knew it anymore, and Bastila tended to hold her cards close, never saying any more than she had to. He wished she was more open, if she'd really known Sarah well, then she could help Sarah regain herself. But that something else that fell under the later category... right now, Bastila was edged with focus. He could feel it, and it just underlined his understanding that things were bad. Bastila cared deeply for Sarah, that was obvious, and he just had to put his faith in the fact that she was acting in Sarah's best interests. And she had a whole hell of a lot more information than he did, and undoubtedly a deeper understanding...she was the Jedi. She was bound to Sarah in a way he could never completely grasp.

"I'm going to try to get some sleep before they get back." Maybe that would help him, he hadn't slept well the night before. The cabin had been too quiet, the bed too large. He'd been, hilariously enough, too lonely to sleep correctly. It was a sad, sad state of affairs, indeed. And it was a disturbing one. When had he started to miss her? To need her? It was stupid, he should know better...but she'd always maintained that she was just as interested in seeing if their relationship could work as he was. Maybe it wasn't as stupid as it seemed when she wasn't here. He didn't have these doubts when she was close by, he didn't feel empty when he could hear her voice, feel her presence.

"Sure." Mission mumbled, her attention focused on the screen in front of her and he smiled slightly, heading back for his cabin. It was quiet, still, and he undressed, lying spreadeagled across the sheets, taking up as much room as he could. The bed, chosen to be roomy enough for two, seemed suddenly to be much too large, much too empty, for just one. He sighed, rolling over onto her side of the bed and burying his face in her pillow. She would be back soon, and then he could sleep for real. He'd just have to settle for a doze, a nap, maybe just some rest.

They rolled in, exactly as promised, less than an hour before first dawn. Carth moved out to meet them, emerging from the darkness that held the Hawk close. His eyes coasted over the three of them, all alive, he sensed no real anxiety or injury. "All good?" He asked when Sarah slid to the ground next to him. Canderous snorted in reply, a thin edge of amusement coloring the sound.

"All good." The Mandalorian replied, dismounting and moving towards Carth, his features hidden in the shadows. "She's just a little miffed at me."

"Am not." Sarah's very tone belied her two terse words. "It was a good shot. A great shot. And I told you we weren't there for sport."

"You still wanted a piece of him." The Mandalorian's voice was sympathetic, understanding. "You have a streak of my people in you."

"It was best you took him down." Sarah slapped reins against her palms, "I just got myself going, psyched up, made it there and...he's dead. Kind of anticlimactic."

Canderous chuckled and rested his hand on her shoulder. "One day, little one, I'd love to hear the stories of your deeds standing against us. If you ever remember them, I'd be the first to listen."

Bastila muttered something under her breath, but she was still mounted and the breeze stole whatever it was. Carth considered asking, but decided against it. Bastila had never admitted to having been a Revanchist, she'd never even hinted that she'd followed Revan into the War. Was she simply hiding it, or had Sarah gone...and Bastila had not? So many questions, but Sarah no longer had the answers, and Bastila had made it obvious she wasn't forthcoming with much information.

"Let's get a move on." Carth said, taking a hold of the reins of Bastila's ronto and leading it towards the stable they had been rented from. "It'll be getting hot soon." The less time they spent here, the better.

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