My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 68

It was a relief to get out of the sharkskin coat, to be allowed to be himself again. To watch Sarah scrub herself clean, to see her stop hiding behind a doll's makeup and an exorbitant robe. She was so beautiful as she was that to see her do that to herself was a travesty. He understood why it had been necessary, but that didn't change his feelings. And it was even more of a relief was to see Dustil out of uniform, he still stood like he was clad in a gray Sith uniform tunic, but he wore the clothes that Sarah had handed him this morning and he did it without outward complaint. It was obvious he was not comfortable in it, but he could not make the transition over to the Hawk while in it. And Carth was going to give him the option of how much he said to who...if Dustil chose not to tell Mission and the others where he'd been and what he'd been doing, then Carth would support that. All they needed to know was that he was Carth's son, Sarah's apprentice.

We're taking him to the Star Forge.

It was a chilling thought, but it was the truth. Leaving him somewhere was not an option, he couldn't send him onto Brentaal without someone to be there for him. Dustil needed Sarah. And Sarah needed Dustil. He couldn't put his finger on the how or the why, but she did. He couldn't deny either one of them whatever they needed. Dustil wasn't his little boy anymore, small enough to be thrown into the air. Dustil was almost...no, no almost...Dustil was a man. He'd gotten there sooner than Carth would have preferred, but he couldn't change the past. Dustil was going to stand beside Sarah just as much as he was. He was going to do it with a lightsaber, while Carth could only pull a blaster. And he'd tried that on Malak before, to no avail. He wanted someone with a lightsaber at Sarah's side, at Sarah's back...and if that couldn't be Bastila, then it needed to be Dustil. The only way he could protect both of them was to let this happen. Whatever happened, they faced it together.

"What are your plans?" He asked and Sarah glanced at him. Now that they were here, it seemed like this had all gone too quickly. He wanted to pause, to take a breath, but he knew they couldn't. Bastila. The Republic Fleets. Everything counted on them getting this done, and done quickly.

"We jump for Brentaal."

He frowned, watching Dustil standing guard over their bags. Things couldn't be left alone on a Nar Shaddaa dock with the expectation that they would stay on that dock. But Brentaal was a risky move...he was technically stationed there. There was a huge Naval presence there. It was close to Coruscant. "Why?" He finally asked when she seemed content with that simple statement.

"Right now, this datapad is it. The only way to find the Star Forge, unless someone else goes through what we just went through. And considering I tampered with the Kashyyyk one, there's no telling if it can ever be accessed by anyone else, ever again. If we jump into this system and last only seconds, all of this will have been for nothing. No one will know. No one will know that we lost Bastila, no one will know where we went. Or when we vanished. They need to know, Carth. We jump into Brentaal, we send a delayed message, and we jump out from there. The Navy will get the message no matter what. Coruscant is too packed, too chaotic, and the Jedi have too much of a hold there. They're all too likely to recognize the Hawk, to sense my presence on-board. Too risky. But I won't take this information with us without some back up plan. A just in case."

"Brentaal is my duty station, my admiral's duty station." Unless he'd been locked out, he should have access to most Naval channels and communications. He should be able to send a message straight to his admiral's office, straight to her desk. "I can probably send a message straight to her."

Sarah grinned, and it was like a beam of light cutting through dark clouds. Her eyes were still unwaveringly yellow, but it was surprising how quickly he'd become accustomed to that. He knew he should find it unattractive, off putting, but he didn't. It was still Sarah, just Sarah with bright yellow eyes instead of gray, those hidden at the moment behind a set of darkened glasses. "Excellent." She chuckled. "There's our ride."

The Hawk appeared through the darkened smog, on a straight, no frills approach. Carth couldn't help but study, measure, judge it. Canderous's piloting skills were functional, and he flew like they were. No risks, no flair, no show. His landing was passable, but not optimal. It didn't matter, he'd gotten the freighter down in one piece.

There was a moment before the lock cycled open, Mission bounding down the ramp. Carth steeled himself, he was the closest and he'd get it first... She was already talking a parsec a minute, not giving him the slightest chance to actually reply to her, to answer her, when she threw her arms around him. "You're okay! You're both okay! And you multiplied!" Her eyes fell on the silent Dustil standing slightly behind Sarah. His proximity made it obvious that he was with them, not just a dock lurker.

"We're both okay, Mission." Sarah chuckled when it was her turn to be embraced, grunting when the exuberant twi'lek lifted her off of the decking. "Really. It's all good."

Canderous had appeared, much less enthusiastic, much more cautious. He weighed everything laid out before him, his gaze grazing over Carth, then Sarah, and finally, Dustil. It stayed there, and Canderous stayed just inside of the ship. "All good?" He echoed Sarah's last words. "Got what you went for and more?"

"This is my son, Dustil." Carth stated firmly, and ignored the rest. There was no other place that they could have gotten him but Korriban. And Canderous would not begrudge him this amazing gift, this second chance. "He's with us for this. And yes, we got what we went there for." And more.

"Your son." The older man gazed across the scene from the high ground of the freighter's hatch, then smiled. "That is a good thing to hear. A good thing, indeed. I'll buy you a drink to celebrate. Both of you." He nodded, "But we aren't staying here long enough for that, are we?"

"No, we need to go. We'll have to do it when we're done, but it sounds good. Definitely." Carth wished he could stir up something a little more optimistic, he wished he could seem as confident as Sarah seemed to manage so easily. "We've got what appears to be the location."

"There will be time enough for introductions and getting to know each other on the way." Sarah's voice was even but still firmly edged with command. She was in charge, and she knew it. The further along they got, the less she tried to obscure it. Of course, now she also knew who and what she was. She'd had time to start to come to grips with it. "Mission, help Dustil with the bags. We're leaving as soon as possible. Carth, you know where we're going..."

He nodded, climbing the ramp to move beyond Canderous before she'd had the time or inclination to finish...if she meant to finish it at all. There was no need for her to, he knew where they were going, and he was the pilot. Canderous followed, taking the co-pilot's seat beside him. Everything looked good and when he closed his eyes and listened to the freighter, everything felt good. He knew where they were going, knew it to the detail that he could decide the perfect approach into Brentaal for what Sarah wanted and what he had at his disposal. He could blend the freighter into the independent traffic at the far lee point, just one more questionable tramp freighter in a sea of them. That would still give him access to the Naval base's lee communication buoy, but shouldn't bring them to too much attention from the authorities.

"Brentaal?" Canderous asked warily, and he nodded. He knew he'd be nervous if he saw Canderous plotting a jump into Mandalore or Concordia with him on-board the ship.

"Brentaal. Sarah wants to send the Republic Navy the coordinates we're jumping to. Just in case we don't make it." He sighed, "Brentaal is her choice. It's my duty station so I should have the comm access to get them where they need to go without attracting too much attention. And it's on the way. She doesn't want to deal with the Republic or the Jedi. We're just there to get the coordinates to Dodonna and we're jumping out again. To there..." He brought the final coordinates up on the co-pilot's screen and the older man whistled between his teeth.

"Deep in the ass end of nowhere."

"Deep in the ass end of nowhere." Carth agreed, toggling the main ship comms on. "We all in?"

"All present and accounted for. Dust off when you're ready."

Ready. Was he? Of course he was ready to pilot, that went without saying. Was he ready to jump to Brentaal? Yes. He'd done it dozens of times. Was he ready to go beyond that? He had to be. There was too much riding on this for him to try to back out now, this was their last true chance. Anything beyond this would be suicidal, especially now that they'd lost Bastila. They either had to recover her or destroy the Star Forge, and both of those had to be done at the point far out in the Galactic west.

He fluttered the freighter's engines, cleared the pad, deftly avoided the buildings and other ships coming in, and hit jump the first possible moment, tearing away from Nar Shaddaa.

"Flawless, as usual." He'd been so focused on what he was doing that he'd missed Sarah come behind him, but by the way that Canderous had shifted in the co-pilot's seat, the Mandalorian had been more alert to his surroundings than he'd been. She rested her fingertips on his shoulders, her thumbs on the nape of his neck. "We've got this."

"Was I that obvious?" He already knew the answer to that. She read him like an opened tab laid out on a screen in front of her, she felt him. She'd never tried to hide it once she had understood it herself.

"No." She pressed a kiss to the back of his head. "Nor have I looked. But if you aren't concerned about this, then you'd be a fool. And you're not a fool."

"You're taking my son to the Star Forge."

Canderous locked his attention on his suddenly very interesting and completely blank co-pilot's screen.

"I'm taking your son to the Star Forge. I'm taking you to the Star Forge. I'm taking Mission to the Star Forge. Canderous. Zaalbar. We're all going, Carth. Every person I love, care for...is going. And I'm the one taking them there." She chuckled under her breath. "Only a fool isn't concerned about this. And I'm not a fool."

Carth wished he had words, something to give her at that moment, something supportive, but Canderous completely destroyed the tension with an outright laugh. "Look." He said, leaning back and folding his arms over his chest. "I don't quite know all the shit that's going on here, but I'm running out of time so I'm just going to come out and ask it... Do you know who you are yet, or not?"

"Uh..." Carth simply stared at him. Surely he wasn't asking what he seemed to be asking?

"I am..." She took a deep breath. "The Revanchist. Revan. Is that what you mean?"

"Yes. That's what I mean. I was wondering if I was going to have to be the one to tell you. Because I'll follow Revan onto the Star Forge without a second thought, but you need to know that's who you are, or I won't go."

He knew all along. Carth didn't know whether to laugh or scream. The sneaky bastard had known before Carth had. Hell, he'd known before Sarah had. "How?" He finally asked. What had Canderous seen that he had missed?

"We paid good money for information on what could possibly hit the field. It's how I recognized you." He stared at Carth for a moment, then shrugged. "And Alek was extremely open in his actions. It didn't take much for the spies we hired to draw the correlation between Alek's vanished comrade Amasri to the 'new' companion he still followed with the same fervor. And then we saw the pair of you in battle together, and all doubts were gone. After that, it was simple to find information on Idarn. I'd seen the images of you, but I wasn't certain. I thought you might have been a relative of, or just someone who happened to look like Amasri Idarn. When I heard you use the name on Kashyyyk, that pretty much drove it home. You were Revan. A very messed up Revan, with a Jedi handler. I had to know what was going on, and if you needed help, I would see if I could give it to you. And now, now I follow Revan into battle. Glorious."

Mandalorians. Even after all of this time, they never made an iota of sense to Carth. He'd been told that they didn't hold their defeat at Malachor against Revan, just the opposite. She'd won. She'd beaten them at their own game. She had been the better warrior.


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