My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 49

"You expect me to land a freighter on a tree-house." The amusement in Carth's voice was at odds with the edge of his statement, and Sarah simply nodded. Yes, as a matter of fact, she did expect him to land a freighter on what amounted to a deck in a tree. And he'd do it and do it well, with panache.

Sarah ran her hands over her hips, settling her gear comfortably. The last thing she wanted to do was to tip off Czerka that she was a Jedi, so once again she'd chosen a hodgepodge of civilian clothes and armor that matched the battered freighter she arrived in. A little research had given her a cover story, a reason for a tramp freighter and her motley crew to be on Kashyyyk that had nothing to do with bringing home wookiees, and she was ready to go. She picked up her pack, settling its weight comfortably on her shoulders, listening warily to the clink of specimen bottles within it, and nodded to Bastila standing in the access behind her. "Let's go get this done."

The freighter turned slightly, adjusted its tilt and sank onto its landing struts with barely a tremor. A perfect landing, just as she was expecting. "We'll be in touch." She said, moving by Bastila and striding towards the airlock, picking up Canderous as she passed the vehicle bay in the center of the freighter. It was time to play...

The iris cycled open, and the very weight of humidity, of life pressed in like a cloud. She forced down a cough, it felt unpleasantly like she was a lizard in an over-pressured terrarium in a zoo. She set her jaw, and strode intently towards the first person she saw in a Czerka uniform...who was conveniently striding intently towards her.

"Nice landing." He said by way of greeting, a half smile crossing his features. Good looking young man, and Sarah throttled back on the aggression, giving him a return smile. If he was willing to be civilized, she'd return the favor.

"Thanks." She said, glancing over her shoulder. No, it wasn't a nice landing, it was a perfect landing, the Hawk set just off center of the deck, giving her aft section, with the engine spray and exit, a wider berth than her front.

"Your name?" He asked, giving Bastila an appreciative once over with his eyes, but his manner remained cordial and professional.

Name. Well, it had worked without issue on Tatooine, with a Czerka official...so...it was worth trying again. "Amasri Idarn."

"You were just on Tatooine." His eyes flowed over her, over the silent Mandalorian, to the Ebon Hawk. "With a white and orange Dynamic."

"Yup. And I paid all of the fees as requested and made absolutely no trouble there. Exactly what I intend to do here. I have a contract to fill."

"Contract?" He glanced down at the datapad he carried, "Nothing in your history with us suggests you've been in the market for labor slaves before."

And Sarah would give her left arm to know that history. "And I'm still not. I'm under contract for pharmaceutical samples. Tach glands, in particular."

"You want authorization to go down into the Shadowlands? Drink your fill of crazy this morning?"

"That's why I brought the Mando." Sarah was all too well aware that she and Bastila did not look particularly impressive on their own, but the grizzled Mandalorian veteran was particularly impressive enough for both of them. He grunted in response, and the Czerka rep smiled outright.

"Right. Here are your fees, landing, services, licensing. And have a good day, ladies." He waited for her to transfer payment before he strode...no, strutted away, leaving Sarah watching him in confusion.

"I don't know." Bastila agreed, and Canderous chuckled.

"It's Tatooine all over again. New, pretty women." He noted, dropping a hand onto Sarah's shoulder. "Let's go get this done. Are we actually going to get what you said we came here for?"

"Probably be best." Sarah said thoughtfully. Although this should be their last fragment under Czerka control, there was always going to be future dealings with them. "I've got the med kit on me, we'll make this look good, but..." She dropped her voice, "We get what we came here for first."

"Do you feel it? Or do we need to try to incite a vision?" Bastila asked, pressing closely in.

Sarah snorted, shaking her head. "That won't be necessary. It's that way." She jerked her chin in the direction of a deep, gut twisting pull. "I feel it much stronger than the ones on Tatooine, Dantooine. Something here...feeds it, or it's more intact than the others." She stared out into the woven canopy of dense trees. "This place is unnatural...it reeks, of something." It wasn't an actual smell, but that's what it felt like, and she wrinkled her nose as if it were real.

"You sense the dark side. It echoes here, more than any place you've been since you came out of the coma." Bastila wrapped her fingers around Sarah's elbow. "Damn it, I wish we'd had more time to get you ready for this."

"Yeah, well." Sarah rested her hand on Bastila's and gave it a quick squeeze. "We don't. After this is over..." That was empty and she knew it. By Bastila's shifting expression, the younger woman did as well.

"Don't lie to me, Sarah. Don't tease me. You will never come back to us unless something happens to Carth during this. And I'll tear my heart out to make sure that doesn't happen. So...no. Don't even try. You were once my sister. But now, you are my friend. And we have a job to do."

Right. Sarah moved to where the Czerka rep was waving towards, and leery eyed a questionable contraption that looked as if it was the long lost great great grand aunt of a service elevator. Landing decks and elevators should not be made out of wood... She moved to it and glanced over the edge, only to see impenetrable darkness below. It was like Taris, all over again, only Taris had had better quality elevators.

"Going down."

Going down took what felt like forever, a creaky, increasingly dark trip into a tree trunk filled abyss. How could someplace so alive feel so very wrong? She understood the Undercity of Taris, everything about it had made sense, but this...didn't. It was echoing, whispering, alive when she stepped off of the elevator and gazed around. At least this time, she'd bothered to bring her own pair of low light lenses, preferring to use both her force senses and tech in tandem. "That way." She sighed, pointing. The faster they got this over with, the better... or was it? Every step forward was a step closer to Korriban.

"Right." Canderous grumbled, dropping a return beacon and staring in that direction. "You know, most wookiees don't even come this far down from the canopy."

"You know most wookiees aren't looking for a star map." Sarah sniped back, and he only gave her a half grin in response. "You aren't worried, are you?" The grin grew to full sized, and he shook his head, slinging his rifle.

"Nyac, adika."

Well, apparently Mandalorian was one of those many, many languages that she'd learned. And remembered when she remembered nothing else at all, because her brain translated without issue and helpfully supplied a list of responses, all in Mandalorian. "Who're you calling a little girl?" She demanded, and he paused with grave intensity...but his eyes danced. He walked up directly in front of her and pointedly stared...down. But his only response was to drop the palm of his hand down on her head and ruffle her hair paternally, before his sharply edged focus returned to the engulfing shadows that surrounded them.

"Lead the way."

It was a long and rather surreal trek, Sarah had to keep glancing at Canderous...it felt like she was walking in circles, hopelessly lost, even with the humming pull in her soul. He was keeping an eye on their distance and bearing from the beacon at the elevator, if anybody would realize she'd gotten off path, it should be him. But he remained solidly silent. Bastila had that glassy eyed resolve that Sarah was beginning to read as fear...but then, that oppressive, thick feeling was growing with every meter that Sarah walked.

She heard/felt it well before she saw it, and she gave Canderous a slight shrug when his comforting bulk stepped up behind her. "A force fence." She noted... "But why?" It was only three or four meters tall. Every damn thing on Kashyyyk could climb, and climb well. There was little it could keep in...or out. She and Bastila were Jedi...both of them could just flat out jump it, and the idea that a Mandalorian would be held back by this was just laughable. If it was that easy, they'd just have erected force fences all during the War...

The ground shook, small pebbles jumping, and she snapped out her lightsabers, rolling and ducking before she even had a good idea of where the damned Basilisk was. The Mandos had been pressing hard, and nothing seemed to keep them at bay.

"Alek! Alek!" She bellowed, boiling out of cover, scanning the area as quickly as she could. Nothing. Had they fallen back? Left her here, alone, with that Basilisk bearing down on her? And where there was one Basilisk, there were...

She was grabbed around her shoulders, yanked out of the way and crammed into a tiny space, protected by the sheer bulk of the man she had been looking for...

"Lollipops." She vaguely registered Bastila's voice, but before she tried to even make any sense of it at all, the ground rushed up to meet her.

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Bastila stood, frozen in shock. No, no, no. That had come out of nowhere, slamming in from the side. And it had been crystal clear, Malak's uncorrupted name, a battlefield...Commenor? Too much information, too fast, that would have overwhelmed Revan's programming...damn this place. The sheer amount of power it exuded, tainted, was pounding on everything that they'd done to keep Revan compliant. She'd had no other choice but to pull on Revan's programming, to shut her down while she still could. "Sarah?" She whispered, feeling the predatory weight of the Mandalorian's eyes on her. He was no fool. He'd just been getting along so well with Revan, he'd slipped in an endearment and then suddenly, bam, that had to happen.

"Back away." He snapped, waving her back with his rifle. "Don't go for anything." He knelt next to Revan's, flicking his gaze between her crumpled form and Bastila. "Why?" He breathed, gently turning her over and smoothing the hair out of her face.

"She was going to crash if she kept that up. If she really, really crashes... She'll need a hospital." And that was a possibility. Not nearly as possible as Revan remembering who and what she was, but not inconceivable. "This way, she'll go offline for a couple of minutes, and then she'll be fine." At least Bastila hoped so. Revan had come very very close to breaking through. And she'd never actually had the trigger word used on her before...

He made a softly displeased noise, sitting and dragging Revan's limp form into his lap. She gave no sign that it even registered, and Bastila felt more fear curl in her stomach. All of that programming had been done before Revan had been badly injured on Taris. What if she'd been holding off that injury by what Bastila had just snatched from her? Had that break in her consciousness put her back into a coma? If it had, then they were doomed.

"Carth." She breathed, tapping her earbud to make the connection with the freighter.

"Yeah?" He sounded fine, but he had no idea what she'd just done. If so, he'd probably share a lot with the none too happy Mandalorian staring her down.

"I need a favor." She breathed, moving closer to Revan and doing her best to ignore Canderous. "Call to Sarah. Tell her to wake up."

"What? Is she okay? What happened? Do you need a pick up?"

"No, no." She rested her hand on Revan's chest, feeling, measuring. No, not comatose, just out like a rock. "I just need her to wake up, she went down again."

Canderous snorted, his eyes dark and filled with accusations. "Okay, fine. I put her to sleep, but I need her to wake up again. She was going to crash on us out here. I'll let her crash on the ship, but here, now...no."

"I see."


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