My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 58

She was Revan. As much as Carth wanted to deny it, he could see it now. What foolishness had led the Enclave to believe that they, that Bastila, could control this? Use this? They had risked it all on an endeavor so desperate that his mind had difficulty working itself around it. And in doing so, the Enclave had given him over to her, gift wrapped for her convenience. And then, he'd given the rest of himself over to her, freely. He loved this woman, when he'd sworn he'd never love again. It was bitterly unfair, another hit to take his knees right out from underneath him, just when he'd allowed himself to perhaps see a brighter future. When he'd allowed himself to hope again. So...why didn't he feel hopeless? Where was the dread he should feel? He hurt like hell, everything ached, burned, itched, and he stank...but he didn't feel defeated. Was this the feeling that had tied people to her, following her over the edge? Was this why Karath had broken? Did he feel the same serenity by following Malak? Carth had stood beside Bastila, supposedly under the sway of her all important battle mediation, and had never felt this assured.

How could he love Revan? How could he not? She led the way, a brilliant beacon of rosy light...her lightsaber ignited before her, and all he could do was follow. After all, he'd promised her that he had her back... he'd promised that and a whole lot more.

I've fallen.

But she was all he had left. Now that he saw just how empty his life had become, he couldn't go back to it. And if she was still on target to complete the mission, he was still her pilot. But how could she still be on target? She was Revan. She was Darth Revan. Or was she Sarah? What was she? What was he to her, now?

Admiral-Consort.

Yeah, that. No, he was still her pilot. Admirals commanded vessels like this glorious vessel...admirals commanded fleets. He was fighting to get back to a simple freighter. Darth Revan's simple freighter... how the mighty fell.

He had been concerned that she would be off, he could still feel the warm blanket of drugs around her presence, pulling her down, away from him, but she moved with the focused grace and purpose he was used to seeing when she had a lightsaber in hand and the thought that she was going to need to use it. They had to do this fast, before the bridge crew understood what was coming... Before Karath could run.

She and Bastila fought together like two pieces of the same soul, falling on the first set of guards they came to like a pair of hunting kath hounds, cutting them down in a flurry of strikes and swings.

"There should be more crew than this." Carth muttered and Sarah glanced at him over her shoulder. Her eyes were still simmering, golden, but he sensed no malevolence from her...at least not targeted at him. She sent him a knowing smile, almost secretive.

"Many ships, not enough manpower." She stated and he nodded slowly. It was one thing to produce ships in a hurry like the Sith had, but apparently another thing altogether to adequately crew them. If they'd had access to only the crews that she'd led out of the Republic, the addition of so many new vessels must be stretching them thin. "But there is a watch barracks and ready room between us and the bridge. It won't be nearly as easy." And judging by the width of her grin, she didn't consider that a problem at all.

And it really wasn't. Throw two Jedi who moved as one entity into a room large enough for them to fight in, but too small for their targets to run from them in, add one gun and stir. Sarah was beautiful, driven, sharp and oh, so able...shadowed by Bastila every step, every slide, every leap of the way. They were marvelous, both of them. If anybody could do the impossible, it would have to be this couple. They slammed through a dozen Sith like they had fought together for years...

"Bridge." Sarah snapped, moving through the ready room, leaving Bastila to handle the last two survivors on her own. "Meet you there, Bastila."

"Right."

Sarah stepped into the corridor, gaining a sudden rush of speed, her steps silent against the decking. Carth barely made it into the corridor in time to see the end of what had attracted her attention, the second bridge guard slumping to the ground. Nothing else stood between them and the bridge...nothing between him and Karath but that door. Finally. After all this time...

"Are you sure you want this?" Sarah asked softly, and he bit his lip. Did he? Did he really? The answer was as obvious as the marks rising on his body. Yes. Hell, yes. The man needed to die, and he was the one to get it done.

"Yes. He's mine, Sarah. Mine."

"Yours." She agreed and pushed the button. Carth was surprised, he'd been expecting the bridge security doors to be locked, but the doors slid open immediately at Sarah's touch. And there, just meters in front of him...Saul Karath. It was as if his mind shut down, target locked on what he was there for...

Sarah rushed the bridge, flicking her hand in Saul's direction, and Carth wanted to scream profanities at her. She knew what he wanted, he needed to do it, not her, not like that. Saul was snatched off of his feet, spun into the air, where he whirled impotently.

"Save the best for last." He knew she hadn't spoken aloud, but he still heard her thought as she barreled by him to intercept Karath's guards before they reached him. He ducked out of the doorway, hitting the open lock as he did so... Bastila should be right behind them. She was going to be Sarah's main support, while he laid down covering fire as best he could.

Finally, after all of these years, he was going to get vengeance. He was going make Karath pay for everything the man had ever done to him, ever done to his family, his home-world. His soul. Morgana, I love you. This was going to give him the chance to finally achieve what he had ached for, dreamed of, for years. An end to the debt. With this behind him, he could finally let her go. Not forget her, that would never, ever happen as long as he drew breath, but he could begin to fold away the loss.

Bastila launched by him, moving without hesitation to help Sarah. The bridge was lit by their sabers, Sarah's rosy dawn blade and Bastila's twinned golden ones. And then, the only one left was Karath, still held where Sarah had put him at the beginning.

She stared at him for a long, measuring moment before releasing him to fall gasping to the decking. "He's all yours, Carth." She said, moving to the commander's station to study the screens. "We don't have much time to play with our toys, however." A line had formed between her brows, and her glare deepened.

"Understood. Can anybody use a lightsaber?"

"Use, or use well?" Her fingertips flew over Karath's input station keyboards, her lower lip captured by her teeth as she typed.

"Use well enough to kill him." He needed to be the one to take the killing blow, but Sarah had been betrayed as well. And lightsaber wounds were notoriously difficult to heal. If he lit into Karath with Sarah's lightsaber, nothing was going to be bringing him back...not even Karath's Dark Lord. And this was something he needed to do, face to face. To see into Karath's eyes, to remember this forever.

"Ah, yes." She slammed one final command into the system, "Not a problem. Here. Just make sure you don't have either end pointed at yourself and push the button." She tossed it at him and he snatched it out of the air, turning it over in his hand. It felt warm, alive, and he thumbed the discreet button set in one of the swirls. It ignited, humming in his grasp, and he turned on Karath. The man had remained stubbornly silent during the exchange, his expression set in equal parts fear and resignation.

"You're going to be no different than I am when this is all said and done, Onasi." Karath stated, his eyes flicking between the three of them. "You're on the same path."

"Just one question." Carth said, lifting the lightsaber to study the blade. "Who ordered the bombing of Telos?" What was he going to say, do, if the answer was Revan? He had her lightsaber in his hand. She was as vulnerable right now as she ever was going to be. Bastila was on the other side of the bridge...

"Revan ordered the offensive against Telos." Karath chuckled, and Sarah shifted uncomfortably beyond Carth. He could sense her denial, her outrage, her doubt.

"That's not what I asked. I asked who ordered the bombing." Telos had been a primary target, he could understand that. With Revan's forces coming up the Hydian Way...

"Malak." Karath whispered. "Revan ordered the fleets to seize Telos, for its resources. Minimal civilian losses, food production intact. But Malak wanted me to prove myself to him, prove I was willing to betray Revan, to betray the Republic, to betray you."

Carth knew that lightsabers cut through almost anything. He'd seen it in action. He just wasn't expecting how easily it went through Karath's abdomen...how easily it went through the bulkhead behind the man. "For my wife. My son." He hissed, yanking the hilt upwards. "You son of a bitch."

Karath slid to the decking, dead, landing in a heap at his feet. Carth wanted to stand there forever, to savor every moment of it, but he knew he couldn't. He could feel Sarah's anxiety, her desire to move. "Carth..."

"I know. Malak is here. We need to go, and you'll need this." He extinguished her lightsaber and returned it to her. While he'd love to gloat, he had responsibilities. Responsibilities to Sarah, to Bastila, to Mission and the others. It was one thing to have done what he had, another thing altogether to endanger those closest to him to bask in it. "You get everything disabled?"

"On my end. Looks like Mission has the rest down on her end. Let's go."

Carth nodded. It shouldn't be too far to the Hawk, they just had to hold it together a little bit longer. Once in hyperspace, they could collapse. Until then, they just had to keep going. Then he could get things looked at and dose himself up with painkillers. Then Sarah could sleep off those drugs. It would all be okay.

"Small craft bays should be this way..." Sarah snapped, heading into the warren of Leviathan's ominous corridors, making sharp, decisive turns. She certainly felt like she knew where she was going, and Bastila seemed more than agreeable following her path, right up until the moment when Sarah slid to a sudden halt, tilting her head. Carth had rarely seen doubt on Sarah's face, but that was exactly what that expression was. She took one small step backwards, almost directly towards him...and then three sudden, larger ones, pushing him along behind her. "Bastila..." She breathed a warning.

"I know. Sarah, there's no other way. We have got to..."

The security door at the opposite end opened, and Carth's heart stopped. A large man stood in the opening, his dark eyes flicking over the threesome. They lingered the least amount on Carth, moved to Bastila, and finally settling on Sarah and did not move. "I did not believe it when I heard." He wore a cybernetic jaw, his voice was gravelly and filled with reverberation, he was bald...but Carth still recognized him. He was a twisted, warped version of the man that Carth had met on the Arkanian Legacy seven years ago. Then he'd been Alek. Then he'd been an ally. Now he was a barrier, something standing between them and the Hawk. Now he was a threat. "But I see it is so, Amasri. You're still alive."

"Alek." Sarah breathed. That one single name held a wealth of emotions, or maybe it was just that Carth could feel her reaction to the other man, and that reaction was a welter of pain, confusion, sadness. She and Alek had served together for years...been raised in the same Enclave from childhood. She had more of a history with Malak than even he'd had with Karath. Years...no, decades. They'd been together through the entirety of the War. They'd risen together. They'd fallen together. And now, they faced each other once again.

"I should have known it would not be that easy to destroy you. Perhaps it is a good thing that once again, you defy the very odds against you...my dear." Malak's eyes moved from Sarah's face, back to Carth. "You led this one to a gift of vengeance...but now you owe me an Admiral. I felt Karath die. And you bring me a gift. Bastila. Finally."

"I owe you, Alek. That is very, very true. Good and bad, I owe. And good and bad, you owe. Neither one of us is clean."

"Have you lost your mind, Amasri? Why are you here? Have you come to challenge me? Face to face, as it should be done?" As I should have done it? I do regret not facing you, my dear. What I did was expedient, but not what either one of us deserved. You deserved to go down fighting like the Dark Lord you were, and I deserved to ascend without that shadow clinging to my reign. I hear them, behind my back, whispering that I was not good enough to face you...that I chose the coward's way. But today..."

Sarah had been listening to him with that 'something smells' look that Carth knew all too well. It was that expression she got when the Force was talking to her, loudly. "You always did talk too much, Alek." She spat, launching herself into the air, igniting the lightsaber as she fell towards him. Carth, forewarned by her expression, opened fire on Malak, hoping that the man would be distracted by the fact he had Revan about to land on his face, lightsaber first. Malak was not distracted by the spectacle in the least, Force pushing Carth into the unyielding metal bulkhead behind him. Pain bloomed on top of the receding agony that he'd been doing his best to work through, to ignore. A further insult arrived a split second later, when Malak Force pushed Sarah as well. She flipped gracefully in the air, somehow managing to adjust her trajectory to slide through the still open hatch...and she did it while drugged into a warm and fuzzy place.

She can't take him. Not like this.

As far as Carth knew, Malak was at the top of his form...uninjured, in full control of his faculties. He wasn't drugged. He probably remembered all of his training, all of his experience, all of his life. He was the Dark Lord of the Sith, and he was being faced down by an unlikely threesome. Their chances were not good...and it was a sobering fact that Bastila was their best hope at that moment.

Well, at least if he was going to die, he'd go knowing he'd taken Karath to the grave before him. He'd die at Sarah's side. It was an oddly calming realization, and he pushed himself to his feet, drawing another bead on Malak.

"Carth." It was Bastila's voice, in his head. "He is going to kill Sarah."

As if Carth didn't know that already. And afterward, he'd either kill Carth, or twist him. And Carth would rather die. He couldn't lose another woman that he loved. He couldn't remain intact and true to himself turned on his own people.

"He will not kill me, no matter what."

And Carth didn't like where she was going with this.

"So close, Carth. Take Sarah and run when you have the chance. And I will give you that chance. Together, the pair of you can get this done. And then you can come for me..."

If he didn't, this had all been for nothing. Sarah would die. He might die, and if he didn't, he'd be just another Saul Karath, despised by his own. Bastila would still be taken. Mission, Zaalbar, Canderous... They were running out of time. Eventually someone would get theLeviathan's guns back up...

"I understand, Bastila." He snapped, turning his attention to Sarah. She had been been punted back into the hallway, much farther down this time, and he simply stepped the two paces to clear the hatchway, following her into the corridor beyond.

"What the fuck are you doing, Carth? You can't..." Sarah snarled, gathering herself for a return leap, when the hatch slammed shut. "You son of a bitch! Bastila!"

"Come on. We have got to go." The idea made him sick, but Bastila was correct. It had to be done. And it was only worth it if he could move Sarah, and fly the Hawk out of here. "If we don't, then this has all been for nothing. Please, Sarah." It would be impossible for him to force her to do anything. Even drugged, she was more than his equal, and he wasn't in the best shape either. She had to understand. She had to know.

"I can't leave Bastila. Carth, she's... a part of me. The bond..."

"Sarah, damn it, move!" He pushed her, ignoring the threatening stare she gave him. "Move! Now!" He was yelling commands at Darth Revan. If it wasn't so terrible, it would be laughable. She gave him a final stare, before nodding and bursting into a lope towards the next small craft bay down. Well, at least she was headed in the correct way, even if she proceeded with that insulting grace...leaving him to grit his teeth and do his best to keep up with her.

The Hawk was right where she was supposed to be, Canderous standing on the ramp. The Mandalorian's sharp gaze took in the pair of them, flicking back towards the hatch when Bastila did not appear. "We're leaving now." Carth spat, following Sarah up the ramp and even with Canderous. "Are the engines powered up?"

"They are." Canderous's voice was dangerously level, but there was no recrimination in his eyes. He simply slapped the button to close the external iris, falling into step with Carth. "Are you up to flying us out of here?"

"Yeah. Just keep Mission away from us for now. And prep the medbay...for both of us." He couldn't deal with Mission at the moment, it would just be too much. And the second they were in hyperspace, he'd be down, unconscious. As would Sarah. That should hold Mission away from them until they were able to face this.

"Understood." Canderous moved away, towards the main bay and the med bay... He'd keep Mission occupied and possibly usefully busy while they got the ship in the air.

Sarah sat in the copilot's seat, glaring at the innocent screens laid out before her. She'd begun the take off procedure already, all he had to do was sit down, take the yoke, and fly. "You can go to sleep, babe." He sighed, gently lifting off from the Leviathan's decking. The mass approach sensor tied to the bay doors triggered, and they opened to reveal stars beyond. He sighed, closed his eyes, and pulled back the throttle. The engines engaged, and he opened his eyes to watch the readouts. They should have a window to get into hyperspace, headed for Nar Shaddaa, before the Leviathan's secondary bridge crew could override what Sarah and Mission had done to the ship. But should and did were not always the same... "Jump in...fifteen seconds. Any sign of pursuit?" He more than half expected her to be asleep. She'd been fighting to remain conscious through all of this, but she shifted to give herself a better view of her screens.

"Negative. Board clear. Leviathan's main gun board coming back online. Estimated time to resolution... thirty three seconds." Her voice was slurry but calm. She was Revan, she did what needed to be done. Once, he'd even hoped to serve under her, on Coruscate, but he'd been so attached to Karath's command that the option had never even been truly considered.

"And..." He pulled back the hyperspace throttles, half expecting to hear the interdictor well again, but the Hawk dropped smoothly into hyperspace. "We're away."

Sarah responded with silence. He steeled his nerves before turning to look at her...he was expecting the rage he found in her eyes, but he was not expecting the devastation in their depths. "I am so, so sorry, babe." He breathed, extending his hand to her. She wasn't going to take it, she was going to turn away from him...

She did more than take it, she moved to seek solace in his embrace, sobbing into his jacket. And all he could do was ignore the pain and wrap his arms around her, pressing a kiss into her messy hair. What the hell did he call her now? Sarah? Amasri? Revan? Revan. He was holding Revan.

"I got Mission otherwise occupied and the med bay prepped. Who's first?" Canderous asked slowly from the hatch behind them and Carth sighed. He was still solidly conscious at the moment, but he could feel her growing limp in his grasp. Her breathing was sketchy, shallow and fleeting...she reminded him suddenly of the first moments after he'd dragged her out of the escape pod on Taris. When she'd almost died in his arms, just like Morgana had...

"She goes first. I don't know what they gave her to knock her on her ass but it's working too damned well. Other than that, she should be okay...physically." At least her eyes were closed now, and the telltale signs of the slip that had come on the heels of her learning the truth were hidden.

"And you? I'm well acquainted with looking like hell, and you definitely qualify. Much more than you did coming off of Kashyyyk."

"I..." He'd been avoiding actually considering it, fighting it back. "Broke a couple of teeth. Bit my tongue. Busted a couple of ribs, I think. Fried in a torture cage." It wasn't bravado but simply exhaustion. He was too tired, too much in pain, and now too damned heartsick to make a big deal out of it. Out of any of it. "And she's had a very bad day." He stroked...Sarah's...hair back. Until he was certain, he was just going to keep calling her that.

"Bastila?" Canderous asked, carefully sliding a hand between Carth and Sarah's abdomens and shifting her weight off of him. She turned sleepily, apparently quite comfortable with the change in men holding her, burying her face in Canderous's shoulder and murmuring in Mandalorian. He murmured back, rocking her up until he could completely take her weight in his arms.

"Held off Malak while we made a run for it."

"I see. And where are we going now? Korriban? Or are we changing plans?"

"We're..." Carth gingerly stood, balancing by gripping the pilot's seat. "Changing plans. We changed them before this..." Well, Canderous needed to know sometime, and thinking about it gave Carth something else to focus on. "We made the decision after Kashyyyk to not take Mission or the Ebon Hawk to Korriban. Now we're certain that Malak knows the Hawk. It'd be even more stupid to take it to Korriban." Now we're certain that Malak knows Revan is alive...

"Good." The very lack of extra words from the Mandalorian balmed Carth's nerves. Canderous was rarely talkative, but now he was taking the minimum necessary wordage to an art form. "We don't know what she's been given?" He asked, leading the way out of the cockpit, towards the medbay.

"Not a clue. Can you take care of her while I take a quick shower? I stink." And once he went down, he wasn't getting back up again.

"I can. I will." Canderous promised, carrying her back towards the medbay, Carth trailing silently. He just wanted to be left alone, but that wasn't going to happen. The best he was going to get was Canderous, and that was close enough.

He stepped into the refresher, and slowly undressed. The marks on his flesh were now undeniably obvious, fine branching fronds of pink and red, with the occasional blotch of a rising blister covered his chest and stomach. "Fuck me." He growled, tossing his clothing into the corner. He avoided the mirror altogether...if a Mandalorian veteran told him he looked like hell, he was going to believe it, and he stepped into the shower...fighting down the trembling that wanted to take over when he tried to relax.

He washed as best he could, scrubbing was out of the question, wrapped a towel around his waist and moved silently to the medbay. The ship was terribly quiet, as if it was holding its breath, the muffled sounds of the hyperspace drive echoing through the corridors. Canderous had Sarah laid out in the medbay, hooked up to machines. Carth glanced at them just long enough to make certain nothing was blinking, red, or worst, blinking and red before he settled onto the empty bed across the tiny bay. "She going to live?"

Canderous chuckled, resting his fingertips on her forehead. "That one is as tough as a strill. She'll sleep it off given enough time. You, on the other hand, seem to have gotten the thin end of the stick. Let me first give you this..." He turned around with a syringe and Carth never heard what came second... the moment the painkiller hit his system, he fell into unconsciousness.


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