My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 60

Nar Shaddaa. It was never a place that Carth Onasi had ever thought he'd actually come to. He'd heard of it, of course, because who hadn't? But it wasn't the venue that an upstanding Republic officer like himself normally sought out. He sighed, prodding his breakfast with a spoon and doing his damnedest to not feed into Mission's palpable fear and horror.

"Does it hurt?" She finally asked, and Sarah glanced between the two of them. Canderous snorted dubiously at the very idea, but he knew what he'd done to Carth. Zaalbar remained watchfully silent.

"No. Nothing hurts." Nothing hurt at all. In addition to that lack of pain, there was also the lack of sensation in his lips, his tongue, and his fingertips. Whatever he was on, it was equal to the task of dealing with the fallout from a Mandalorian vet's version of field expedient dentistry. But he still felt focused, almost okay, up to the task of landing the freighter at Nar Shaddaa when they entered approach vector. For some reason, Sarah wanted to stand off for awhile, to join a cluster of equally disreputable freighters doing the same damned thing. Why, he didn't know...but she gave the orders. And whatever served as approach at Nar Shaddaa apparently agreed with her timetable because they'd done nothing else but acknowledge their request for a certain landing zone and time to touch down with a vaguely positive sounding grunt. "I'm okay, Mission." He wished he could smile to get the point across, but that was out of the question. They were going to have to tell her sometime that she was going to be left with Canderous and the ship, but he didn't have the heart to do both that and face eating pudding for breakfast. He was starving, he wanted food. Not mush.

"He's okay, Mission. You did a great job, I knew you could." Sarah was back to her normal self, her eyes were gray, the rage in her features gone. She reached over and gave the teenager a supportive squeeze on the shoulder.

"But...Bastila."

"Not your fault. And we'll get her back." Sarah sighed, picking at her own breakfast. Carth would kill for it, but it was obvious she wasn't going to eat it, only tease him with it. "You're going to be with Canderous for this part, Mission. Keeping the Hawk safe."

"But...where are you going?"

"Carth and I are still going to Korriban. There's no other choice."

No other choice. That should unnerve him more than it did. All of this should unnerve him more than it did. But he'd follow her into hell if she asked him to... and the very knowledge that she was going sealed the deal. The thought that she would go somewhere dangerous, without him standing by her side, was too terrible to contemplate. Now he finally understood what had seemed so incomprehensible during the last stages of the War, and then the aftermath. If she'd asked, he would have followed her wherever she'd gone... that place that had broken her. Broken Alek. Broken Karath. But he would go there with her now, without a second thought.

"Malak knows we're here now. Malak knows we're on the Hawk. Korriban will be alerted to this, if we arrive there with it, we'll be shot out of the sky." It was so coldly logical when Sarah put it like that, swiping any complaints that Mission might come up with right out from underneath her. How could one argue with that?

"So what is the plan?" He finally asked and Sarah glanced at him warily. Whatever it was, she wasn't entirely pleased with it. No, she didn't think he was going to be entirely pleased with it. And she was apparently unwilling to discuss it in front of Mission, Zaalbar, and Canderous, dismissing it with a tiny wave of her fingers and an eye drop to the floor.

Later. In private.

"Nar Shaddaa is one of the few places we can find transport to Korriban."

Well, that was true. If one had money, they could find anything on Nar Shaddaa. Money was the only force in the universe that swayed the Hutts, and they controlled Nar Shaddaa. Their only interest in the struggle between the Republic and the Sith was how much profit that they could squeeze from it. But leaving from here would mean letting someone else do the flying, and that was never something he tolerated easily.

"Why are we waiting?"

"I want to spend the least amount of time possible with the Hawk down on Nar Shaddaa. The least amount of time possible out in the open. We'll arrive at the right time. And I need to shift some of the cargo. It's coming with us."

He froze at those words, pieces falling together in his mind. "Sarah..." He breathed warningly and she gave him an enigmatic half smile in response. The only 'cargo' that they were carrying was a load of high quality Firaxian sharkskin. He'd felt compelled to buy it on Manaan, it had been necessary... It had been a gift for her...

"Gotta look the part, Carth. Gotta look the part."

Of a Sith Lord.

They landed a couple of hours later, relegated to a tiny landing pad just large enough for the Hawk... it took a good part of Carth's skill to get her down with pinpoint accuracy, securely on the pad while giving Canderous the best take off profile, and still giving them enough room to get Sarah's crates out of the hold. She gave him an approving smile from the co-pilot's seat, then grimaced slightly, glancing around the cockpit. "I want to apologize ahead of time for what's coming up." She muttered, and he sighed. So here it came...

"There's only one way we can make it through Korriban." She stated, and he nodded slowly. He had an inkling of her plans, but she still needed to say it. He needed to hear it. He couldn't leave this up to his imagination...

"You as a Sith Lord." It wasn't a stretch. She had been one, and she obviously still had the inclination to be one, only slightly obscured now by what the Enclave had done to her. "And me as..."

"Mine."

Yup. That was exactly what he was afraid of. But he'd be overlooked as a slave, expected to stick closely to her, silently. It would get him down on Korriban. He wouldn't be expected to know/do/say anything. All he'd need to do was exactly what she told him to do. Like it or not, it worked. Even his current condition worked. He wouldn't have to try to cover the telltale marks of a long session in a torture cage, he could display them openly.

"You're going in as Revan?" It was ballsy crazy, but so was the situation.

"No." Her voice faded into uncertainty...she was pulling from half memories, he recognized that expression. Following her gut. "No Revan. That'll bring Malak down on our heads in a heartbeat. I'm..." She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. "Darth Augural. On a pilgrimage from..." She swayed in her seat and he reached out to steady her, holding onto her shoulder. "Someplace I'm not allowed to remember." She spat, returning to herself. "Fine. I can bluff with the best of them. I won't be recognized. Let's go."

He followed her down the ramp, blinking against the assault of brightly colored lights...before delving in his pocket and producing his sunglasses. The air was heavy with pollution, raucous noise, oppression and desperation, like a bigger, bolder Taris. "First stop?" Hopefully she had some idea, none of this looked like anyplace he'd ordinarily be.

"Tailor." She sighed, watching Canderous move the crates off, her expression resigned. When he was done, balancing the smallest crate on the top of the dolly, she strode towards him...Carth trailing in her wake. The Mandalorian watched them come, folding his arms over his chest.

"What do you need done?" Canderous asked, "Or are the two of you taking this alone from here?" It was a sobering thought...alone from here. But Korriban was supposed to be the last fragment, right? The final step to locating the Star Forge? But then what? Bastila had been the one with the instructions, and they'd lost her.

"No. We're not taking it alone from here...only Korriban. That is the place I can't take the ship to. After that, we'll need it back. If the Star Forge was easy to get to, the Republic would know where it was." It was the correct statement, but Carth knew it was more than that. She might not remember the exact details, she still needed the final map fragment, but she recalled enough to let her know what she needed. "This is only temporary, Canderous. If you're still willing to go with us, then we take it all of the way. To the Star Forge."

"I'm still in, then. Waiting for your call." He gave her a half smile, then clapped her on the shoulder. "Good luck to the both of you." He extended a hand to Carth, who took it without reservation. Somewhere along the way, this man had become a comrade, a friend, and had ceased to be an enemy. I trust a Mandalorian. I trust Revan.

Well, no. He didn't completely trust Revan. He was just so wrapped up in her that he couldn't step away, so he had to just close his eyes and give himself up to her. But he knew how foolish that actually was...but he honestly had nothing left to lose. He couldn't contemplate doing 'the right thing' at the moment, the idea of bolting, of running for Coruscant, the Admiralty, the Supreme Commander, seemed so desperately wrong. No, he intended to, as she put it, take it all of the way. To the Star Forge.

He hugged Mission, sighing his way through her goodbyes and suffering through her overenthusiastic squeezes. Poor, poor kid. But Canderous would take care of her. Canderous would take care of the ship. Unfortunately, Canderous would not be around to help take care of Sarah on Korriban, but things were as they were. Carth would be it, the only person standing behind her. The only support that Revan was going to be taking onto Korriban with her... It was a terrifying thought.

And then they were gone, leaving him and Sarah standing on the landing pad, alone with a dolly of crates on one of the most dangerous places in the galaxy. Sarah sniffed, shrugged, and fed in an address to the dolly's computer, falling into step behind it as it surged forwards. It led them deeper into the buildings, making seemingly random turns that simply confused Carth, until it stopped at an unmarked, dark storefront and idled there. Sarah's response was to simply let herself, and the dolly, in... opening the door as if she owned the place. But then again, she might just... He sighed, following her inside.

"Hey. Do we look open?" A sharp male voice demanded from the shadows, and Carth dropped his hand to the butt of his blaster. It was difficult to get a grasp of his surroundings, there were so many dark piles of what could only be fabrics, judging by their sharp, clean smell.

"Yes." Sarah stated firmly. "You do, Sarl. I have a rush job for you."

"No way." The lights flashed on, illuminating exactly what Sarah had claimed this place was, a tailor's shop, a maze of dusty piles of fabric. The voice belonged to a tall, thin, stooped man with wide, dark eyes. "You're dead. Gone."

"Perhaps I am dead, Sarl. But I am far from gone." Her voice dropped comfortably into pissy mode, and her eyes were muddy when she stepped into the largest pool of light. "I need robes. And I need my..." she flicked her fingertips in Carth's direction, "Consort outfitted appropriately."

"Ah, right, of course, milord." The man's eyes flicked to the dolly. "Ah, good. You brought supplies. Things have been lean recently, I do not have fabrics fine enough for the likes of you." Carth would have been more comfortable if he sensed any joke in the man's response to her, some feeling that it was an act, or expected...but no. He was either a fine actor, or he believed that Sarah should be referred to as 'milord', and she deserved better than what he had on hand. "What have you brought me?"

"Firaxian shark skins." She opened one of the crates and pulled one out, turning it to where the light played over its darkly iridescent surface. "Good enough?"

The tailor picked it up, folding it in his hands. "Never good enough, but the best we have available at the moment. You came to me for your first set, and now, for your new one. Any requests?"

"I don't want to look like Revan. It's too soon for that, yet. I want to look like..." Carth could feel her struggling, desperate to pin down what she needed to say. "...Like I'm from the homeworld." She was not pleased with that as an answer, but the tailor seemed to know exactly what she meant...or he was, again, the best actor that Carth had ever seen.

"Of course, milord. Traditional, conservative Sith Lord. You have brought me just the right things for that. And your...consort? He looks a little like he's put up a fight recently. Against you? I can..."

"No." She cut the man off before he truly got started, opening the smaller crate and setting it on the scarred table in the middle of the mess. "He is mine, but his place is right behind me. With a weapon. He is not a toy."

Damn straight I am not a toy. It was bad enough that he had to play act slave...the very least he demanded was to be put forward as a valuable one. He'd put up a fight for her, not against her. He would bow his head, call her milord when the time was right, but he didn't belong to her.

Are you so sure about that one?

He wished he knew. He wished he understood. But he was going to Korriban. That was what had to be done, and this was all just a part of that. He sighed, resigned, and shrugged out of his jacket and shirt. It wasn't as if he'd never been to a tailor before, he knew the drill.


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