My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 56

(AN- Trigger warning...torture things. Yeah, you know where we're at)

Carth had always loved flying. It was when he felt free, utterly competent, unthinking. His lips twisted in a wry smile as he glanced over to the copilot's seat...sadly, he'd never flown Morgana anywhere. She'd never even gotten the opportunity to leave Telos. He'd never gotten to show her, to share with her, just what his gift truly was. She'd known him as a man. A husband. A father. But never really as himself, the entire package.

The blanket wrapped bundle in the copilot's seat snorted in her sleep, shifting slightly. She wasn't sleeping well, and he sighed. She wasn't talking, but it was obvious that the Hrakert Rift station had rattled her deeply, to the point where she'd refused to sleep in their cabin. "It's okay, babe." He stated comfortingly.

"No, it's not." She growled, in that voice, that pissy angry voice she used in her sleep and his grip tightened on the control yoke. She was just asleep, only dreaming. She often made quite coherent answers to things he said to her while she slept, but she was not conscious. Of course, she was a Jedi. They were supposed to be...

A deep, echoing thunk rattled through the ship and sirens screamed in answer. A jolt yanked at the control yoke, but he'd already focused every ounce of his attention on the panel in front of him. He could feel Sarah come immediately awake, her stare planted on his face, but he didn't have the answers for her, yet.

"We're falling out of hyperspace." He growled. "We've been...interdicted." Again.

"Fuck me." She hissed, rolling out of the co-pilot's seat to land on her feet. "It's Karath. He must have picked us up at Manaan."

"Uh huh." He answered, the majority of his attention still locked on his ship. He'd experienced multiple interdictions before, but those had all been in cruisers, usually a Hammerhead, and those were immense compared to the Ebon Hawk...twenty four times larger. He'd never tried to fight loose with these odds... And he'd failed miserably the last time he'd tried it with a Hammerhead, the Endar Spire, over Taris... Sarah had damn near died then.

"Don't even try. We'll need to be intact if we're to have any chance of getting out of here. Put up enough of a fuss to make it look good, but don't damage the ship doing it..." She pushed the ship's internal intercom button. "All crew to main hold. You manage the interdiction."

"Aye, aye." No one else could, anyway. And right now, under these circumstances, she was in charge. Combat hardened Jedi tended to be generals, and she was certainly acting the part.

"What's going on?" Bastila stood in the hatchway, "Sarah?"

"We're being interdicted. It's the Leviathan, again. We need to prepare for boarding. We have to clear the nav computer. We need to hide the datapads. We need to lock down Tee Three. Assume that they're going to pulse the ship. If you have anything from the Enclave, it needs to vanish. Go, while I brief Mission." There was that tone that made panic disappear, calm, steely, in perfect control. What she must have been at her pinnacle, during the War...

"Mission?"

"Yes, Mission. Now is the time she pulls her weight. I told her that the time would come, and it has. This is why she's here." Sarah's voice was pulling away, but she was still audible. The ship was small enough that one could yell from aft to cockpit and still be heard, and the main hold was not far from him.

"Canderous! We're going to be boarded!" She dropped into Mandalorian without even the slightest of pauses, her voice rising and falling through the syllables, giving what had to be a sharp spate of orders. "Mission. We don't have much time. It's up to you to get us free when you can. I know you can do it. I know you will. Okay. Everybody knows what they're doing... and not doing. Just don't get yourselves killed."

It sounded like she had things under control back there, his job was to fly. Even though he knew it was highly unlikely that he could break the freighter free, he was damn well going to try anyway. He just couldn't let Karath... let Karath have...Sarah. His stomach knotted in on itself like a nest of snakes. No.

Her hand landed on his shoulder, squeezing tightly. "You promised." He hissed, clenching her fingers. "Do you remember? If you fall, you come for me."

"We've both made promises, Carth. And the time has come to start upholding them. They are the only things that are going to get us through this...you, and me. We're there now, and I'm there for you. Don't forget that. I know you hate Karath, and I did make you a commitment. I will help you avenge what he's done, and..." She took a deep breath, burying her face in the back of his hair. "...What he's going to do."

"Sarah, I..." What? Was terrified? She had to feel that he was. This was worse than losing the Endar Spire, then he hadn't been close to any of them. He'd been responsible, but every crew member there had been doing their duty. They'd been professionals, they'd been adults. He could hear Mission yelling in the main bay, and she most certainly wasn't professional or adult. Bastila had been a vaguely annoying snot he was supposed to defer to, but she'd become so much more now that he understood what she'd been shouldering. Canderous was an older Mandalorian, Carth had no idea what would happen there... Karath and Malak had gone to war in the beginning against them. How much bad blood remained? Zaalbar was a wookiee, Mission a twi'lek. The chances that they'd avoid slavery...slim to none. And Sarah, so beautiful, so gifted...so fragile. And so very important to him.

"Hold the course, Carth. I promise you, we will kill Karath. And he's about to let us on his ship to do it. But first..."

"It's going to get ugly." Why couldn't he doubt it when she told him things? But again, her words filled him with a steady assurance.

"Yes." Her voice was regretful, and she raked her fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry."

"You make it sound like you're going to be spared." He couldn't face that. He couldn't know. He couldn't watch. The idea made him sick, Karath was going to hurt her. Hurt him. Again. And again, Carth had let himself have something to lose. And again, Saul Karath held that something in the palm of his hand.

"None of us will be spared. But we've run out of time." A hollow scrape and thump of locking hatches proved her correct and she turned away from him...facing the aft...facing the hatch behind him. "See you later." He flinched at the sound of not one, but two, lightsabers igniting in the tight space and the cockpit was bathed in a lurid crimson light. "Because I am going to go let Karath know I'm here."

Carth came to. He was cold, stiff and quite naked, lying on unforgiving metal decking. The air around him hummed like a live wire, and he cautiously opened an eye. "Shit." He mumbled, covering his face with his hand. He was not in a brig...he was in a torture cage. Fear washed over him, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that he could do. Nothing to pull his mind off of this. Nothing to deny the obvious, he was in deeper trouble than he'd ever been before. He tasted bile, smelled his sudden rise of fear sweat in spite of the temperature. He wanted out. Now. He wanted to cry, to rage, to scream. "Sarah?" His voice trembled on the syllables, came out as a squeak instead of a call. The room was almost dark, lit by pools of uncertain light, unwilling to dispel the shadows.

"She doesn't hear you." He wasn't expecting an answer, only an empty echo of his own words, but there was a dull reply. Bastila. "She's asleep."

Asleep? She was sleeping while he was curled up naked on a deck floor? He stood up, throwing modesty to the wind. He was naked. Not his fault, and he had so much more to worry about. Bastila was in the cage next to his, equally naked, and he averted his eyes quickly. There were only two cages, and he scanned the room. Sarah... his heart clenched.

She hung suspended from the wall, her hands chained over her head. She was unsurprisingly nude, her face obscured in the fall of her ebon hair. The way she'd been arranged was subtly disturbing, like she was offering herself, arching her back, but her hair had grown long enough to cover her breasts. And she was...snoring?

"They've drugged her." Bastila stated, her voice dead. "Carth, I am so sorry. I failed you. I failed her. I failed everybody. We got so close."

"Shhhhh..." He hissed. They were being monitored, that went without saying. If she said much more, she'd give it all away. "Where are the others?" No Canderous. No Mission. No Zaalbar.

"I don't know. They weren't very interested in them. Just you. Me. And Sarah. Didn't help that she went through a good portion of the crew compliment before they stunned her hard enough for her to go down."

"Good for her." He'd been pinned down in the cockpit and stunned. No heroics on his part, but he also wasn't capable of the reality defying movements that Sarah called upon when she fell into her dance. "Too bad she didn't get more of them." He bit down on any other words as the door at the end of the chamber opened.

Karath. Carth was not one to hate easily, in fact, he truly hated only one soul in all existence...and that wasn't Revan. That wasn't Malak. It was that man striding towards him, the one who had once meant so much in his life...until he'd destroyed it. So many years of anguish and now, now words failed Carth. All he could do was stare in stunned, horrified silence... even though his life, Bastila's, Sarah's, hung in the balance.

"Carth. It has been far too long since we last spoke. I see the recent months have not been kind in your case. I barely recognized you." It was a terribly lame attempt, Carth knew what he looked like. Except for the fading bruises, he looked better than he had in years...and Karath was the almost unrecognizable one. Gone was the tall, handsome blond man that Carth remembered so well, replaced by this... a gray man, gray skinned, gray haired, dull eyed. The life was gone. The man's soul was dead. He was broken. "But I must admit I'm impressed. You are the last one I would have thought would play the game, and play it so very well. But you have failed again. You will not take my place."

What was he talking about? It made utterly no sense. Was that the point of it? To confuse and unbalance Carth, hoping to shake some juicy tidbit out of him? What place did he think Carth was after?

"I'm very disappointed in you, Karath." Sarah's words fell like artillery fire, deep, resonant, earth shaking... the pissy voice she unleashed in her sleep in bits and pieces came together in a coherent, focused sentence. And it was startlingly unnerving, Carth was happy it wasn't aimed at him. "You have failed me." She raised her head, staring at Karath through the splits in the strands of her hair, and her gaze smouldered with rage.

Karath stepped back, going flushy pale. The last time Carth had seen that expression was on the Arkanian Legacy, when Karath had faced down Mandalore himself. But Sarah? She was impressive, but... not that impressive. And what the hell was she talking about? She'd never mentioned even knowing Karath before, much less being in a position to be disappointed in, to feel let down, by him. "You can't be awake." Karath snarled, shaking his head in disbelief. "You've had enough to knock a terentatek down."

She laughed, a gravelly, slurred chuckle. "I am your worst nightmare, Saul Karath. You know that. I know that. And here...I...am. Get your rocks off while you still can, but it's all fleeting. And yes, Karath, consider yourself replaced. By him, my chosen Admiral-Consort. He's always been better than you. He saved your skin...more than once, you fuck up. You disobeyed me."

Carth clenched his fists...what was she doing? She was egging Karath on, inciting him, threatening him... she was going to get herself hurt. But she was out of her mind, thick with drugs. This wasn't her. Karath reached out, grabbing a hold of the mass of hair at her forehead, yanking her head around to stare into her face. "The only reason I won't kill you is that he'll do it for me. And he'll do a better job of it, bitch. He'll break you, and I'll get to watch. He'll break all of you. But you...you just need to go back to fucking sleep."

"You can try, Karath."

"I know what you're doing, Idarn. You don't play me for a fool."

"No." Sarah's voice was strangely level...she was fighting to come back. "Malak plays you for a fool. Give me more drugs, give me different drugs. You know I'll work my way around them eventually."

Karath paused, glancing over his shoulder at Carth...and Bastila. "He won't. Your Admiral-Consort, eh? Your replacement for me? I don't think so, Idarn. Watch...him...burn."

Agony. Sheer unadulterated agony, beyond any pain that Carth had ever experienced ripped through his body and he fell like every bone had been yanked out of him. It hurt too much to scream, to cry, to breathe. He was dying, there was no other way to put it. Every single fiber of his being exploded, ravaged. But Sarah was doing all of his screaming for him, he could feel her outrage like a tidal wave. And then, it died...leaving him panting on the decking, curled up in a fetal ball of misery. He tasted blood, but the idea of moving was too much to bear.

"So. You've gone and done something very stupid, I see. Fascinating, and I'm certain Darth Malak will find it amusing. But he is in another sector at the moment, so I will begin the questioning. So tell me...What planet were you trained on?" Karath drawled,

"Dantooine." In spite of her bravado, Sarah's voice thickened, slurred, and the moment Karath let go of her hair, her head lolled forward again.

"No!" Bastila cried, "Don't tell him any more! You can't!" Carth hugged tighter to his knees when her protest was cut off by a harsh scream and then, silence. No. No. He couldn't be here. This wasn't happening. It was all just a nightmare that he would wake up from in a moment, wrapped in knotted sheets and drenched in sweat. Sarah.

"An excellent beginning." Karath leaned in closer to Sarah, his hand resting on her bare shoulder, almost too...intimately...for Carth's taste. But then, none of this was to Carth's taste. But somehow, that touch was terribly disturbing, it made every protective cell in his body scream in denial. She was his, his to love, and his to care for. "Of course, you knew that Malak already knew that, so you gave up nothing. I know that, Idarn. But I see you're willing to talk...at least about that." Carth tried to tear his eyes away, but he was sickeningly fascinated by the way Karath stroked Sarah's hair back. "I am..." He chuckled, almost fondly, cradling her cheek in his palm. "Amazed to see you. It's been a long time. But I guess I shouldn't really be so surprised, should I?"

"No. You shouldn't be. You should have known better, Karath. I overestimated you and you've underestimated me." Her voice was still gravelly thick and she hung in her chains without a fight. Carth could feel her now, that presence he'd become accustomed to in the back of his head, and she felt so very tired. Mired down and struggling, fueled by anger, outrage, a thread of fear.

"Next question. If you fail to answer it..." Karath glanced back over his shoulder, his gaze falling on Carth. "Well, I know torturing you won't really work. Your will is too strong. But you learned nothing during your last attempt at male companionship, I see. Malak is very interested in you and Bastila...but has no use for Carth. However, I do. And I think you know exactly what I mean, Idarn. As to the Enclave on Dantooine, it has been destroyed by our fleet. It's an empty graveyard now, a smoking ruin marking the graves of your charred masters."

Damn you. Damn you. Damn you. Telos. Taris. And now, the Enclave. The man destroyed everything he touched...and he was holding Sarah's face in his hand. He had Carth and Bastila caged. It was over.

No. It wasn't over. He just had to keep telling himself that. Sarah wasn't dead. He wasn't dead. Bastila wasn't. He just had to hold himself together in spite of what he knew was coming. Sarah had been perfectly willing to give away information she knew Malak had always had... even Carth knew that Malak had been trained at Dantooine. Revan had been. Sarah had been. Bastila had been. It was not news to anybody. He doubted if she'd be willing to give up real information quite as easily, and his fingernails bit into his knees.

"How were the Jedi planning on using you to stop Lord Malak and our Sith Armada?"

She couldn't answer that. She wouldn't. He knew it, and he bit down on what sounded suspiciously like a whimper. He had to...

I am here. I am sorry, Carth. I love you.

"There is no hole deep enough for you to get away from me in, Karath. Dig your own grave, but I will not answer you." Her voice changed, still slurry, slow, but it fell with the sharp enunciation of a high ranking Imperial. Carth had heard the accent too many times to not recognize it immediately, even Karath didn't have it. But Sarah did. "And when this is over, I will curse your soul and spit on your corpse."

Stunning, overwhelming pain ripped through Carth again. Even thought his eyes were screwed shut, he was dazzled by a brilliant yellow white light. He could smell burning flesh...his flesh... He vaguely heard himself make a noise, an animal noise of pure misery. A sound no human should ever make, but he was making it. The gnawing, jolting pain settled deep in his belly, every muscle clenched in a bitter spasm. He bit down, almost relieved when he felt pain that he could comprehend, could grasp...his tongue..his teeth. "Uggggggg!" He howled, feeling the contents of his stomach rise, his scrotum contract. He was going to vomit. Scream. Piss himself. All he wanted to do was simply pass out, but that was denied to him. All that existed was pain. He wanted to die, to just get it all over with.

"I. Am. Going. To. Fucking. Kill. You. Karath!" Sarah snarled, and the pain suddenly abated. Through the thunder of his heart, the hiss of his wavering breaths, through the shock and shame... Carth heard a garbled, strangling noise. Was he still moaning? Was that him making that noise? He lifted his head, shaking. He had vomited. He had pissed himself. He was drooling blood, and quite a bit of it. But he was not the one making that noise. He focused on Karath, who was making that noise...his hands clenched on his own throat, his boot-heels suspended centimeters over the decking. Sarah was arced against the chains, her head up and her eyes wide open, a look of total hatred and intensity on her features. The light was uncertain, but Carth could swear that her eyes were not gray. Not muddy. They seemed to be the clear, feral yellow of a predator. It should bother him but all he felt was a deep, rejoicing satisfaction. Pay for it, Karath. Pay for it all. Die. And then, pay some more. He'd heard stories that Jedi, that Sith, could, as Sarah had threatened, curse someone's very soul. And if Sarah could accomplish that, well then, Saul deserved it.

A shot rang off of the wall, just centimeters from Sarah's head, and Karath dropped like a bag of wet laundry to the decking. Carth was gratified to see that he was moaning, choking, gasping and that he had a spreading dark spot at his crotch. Sarah had given as badly as he'd gotten.

"You better run, Karath. While you've got the chance. Go whine to your master. He's coming... and you stink like piss." If Sarah was at all perturbed by the shot, she did a magnificent job of hiding it...turning her head to unleash that stare at the guard who had fired it from the doorway. "You're not moving fast enough, Saul..."

Karath picked himself off of the decking, staring at her for a long moment. "You win this one, Idarn. But as you sense, he's coming. And look at you. Naked. Chained..." His eyes lingered on her breasts. "With your history with him, I'm sure he'll find this tableau quite appealing. And ironic."

"Keep running the tally up, Karath. I never forget an insult. And I mean what I said, I will curse your soul. I can do it. You know I can. And now, you know I will. Malak can't protect you from me. Run. Run!"

Karath did just that, fleeing the room. And all Carth wanted to do was lie exactly where he'd fallen, listening to his own breaths. He was alive. The pain would fade...the pain would fade...Sarah was still alive. Bastila was still alive.

"Bastila...there's something wrong. What is it?" Sarah sounded only mildly curious, conversational, as if she was asking about the weather. Carth could name a thousand things wrong with this...

"Oh, Sarah." Bastila sighed, as if she held the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. "I need you to listen to me right now. Please."

"I'm listening." She still had that precise edge to her words, she'd lost her Outer Rim accent. Somehow, that bothered him. He just needed a moment for his body to stop rebelling to think about it. But that wasn't going to happen now, he barely made it back up on his knees before he vomited again. He felt Sarah's gaze land on him, she was angry, concerned, outraged, and plotting... a whole welter of her emotions flowed over him.

"I love you, Sarah. I mean that. He loves you."

"I know that. Bastila, you have to tell me. I...I have to hear it from you. Something, whatever this is...is right there. I can't..."

"It's been broken." Bastila chuckled wryly. "So close, and it fails now. But we never expected it to have to stay through this...too much. Malak is going to kill you if we can't get you out of here. He failed the last time, but he'll take this opportunity...now that he knows he has it... to fix that."

"Bastila, you're stalling. Or monologuing. And we're running out of time. Do I let it happen or do I not?"

He managed to pick his head up and focus on Bastila, fighting down everything but the shaking. He couldn't stop that no matter how hard he tried, his teeth were rattling, his fingers quivered... What the hell were the two of them talking about? Bastila looked...stalwart. For the first time ever, she looked like she had a plan and was willing to run with it, to hell with the consequences. She looked like a damn leader, a Jedi.

"Remember that we love you, Sarah. But there is no Sarah. It's all fake. All of it. Your name. Who you think you are. None of it is true. It's all a construct that the Enclave on Dantooine built in your head. It's been falling apart from the beginning. Sarah, you aren't accessing Revan's memories because Revan died next to you...you're accessing Revan's memories because you are Revan."

Silence reigned. Carth had to run her words over and over in his head to make certain he'd heard them, grasped them, understood them completely. It couldn't be. It couldn't be. It was all... too bloody damn obvious for words and he buried his face in his hands. And even he wasn't certain if that sound he was making was tears or laughter. Just when he thought it couldn't get worse, it had. And he'd... he'd... he began to hiccup. He'd proposed to... Revan. He'd held her close, kissed her, loved her, worried about her, dreamed about a life with her...and it was all just a...

"The hell it is, Carth." She spat. "You...you made me promise that if I fell, I would come for you. Well, here it is. Don't play blind stupid with me now. You feel what I feel, I've never hidden that. I let you in from the beginning. I've never lied to you."

No, if he understood this, Bastila had. The Enclave had. But Sarah...Revan?...had not. "You tried to use Darth Revan." It was a laughable, laughable idea. "Because Revan would know how to..." Revan would understand how to take the journey that Revan had already taken. This time he was certain that his noise was laughter. "How did she get hurt? Or is that a lie as well? Did you break her during an interrogation?" He knew he shouldn't ask here. He knew there were cameras, knew there were sound pickups, but they'd already started and his head hurt too much for problem solving. Or was that a tooth? Teeth? He was afraid to know, but he definitely tasted blood.

"No, that was Malak's doing. The story about how we boarded the Coruscate is mostly accurate. The strike team. Malak firing on it. The only thing off is that Revan wasn't killed. But it's all over now, she knows. You know. Malak knows. Karath knows. It's all up to Revan now."

Carth was almost afraid to look in that direction. Sarah was Revan. Darth Revan. He'd been... she couldn't be... He almost hoped he'd feel something else when he finally turned his head, hoped he'd see something dark and malevolent that he could flee from. Something that suddenly wasn't Sarah anymore... But the only change was those eyes, otherwise she still looked like Sarah. Felt like a distant, thoughtful Sarah who was giving more attention to staring at the strand of hair dangling in her eyes than the unfolding scene around her. She's still stoned. She's still beautiful. She's still mine.

"Mission's loose." She suddenly stated, her eyes focusing beyond the strand at Carth. "Not long now."


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