My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 72

"Alek and I were lovers, yes." Although it was something that Carth had already suspected, it was still surprising to hear her confirm it. And to confirm it so matter-of-factly, but then again, why wouldn't she? He understood that it had been forbidden under the Order's rules, but he wasn't a Jedi to try to hold her to those. Her very relationship with him was a violation of those rules. And he remembered Alek from before, he'd been a strong, kind, honorable man. Nothing to be ashamed of. His fall had been no different than Sarah's, except she'd been yanked away from it and he'd been left in it. Was Alek redeemable? Could they do the same with him that had been with her?

"No." She pushed the last tool into the bag and zipped it closed, handing it back to him. "He can't be." Her voice was edged in steel and he considered it, considered her. She'd already tried to work it out. She'd already tried to find that end in this mess. It wasn't something she discounted lightly. "The Star Forge is more than just a factory. It is an instrument of the force, of the dark side. I...I must have realized it at some point because I fled from it. Malak did not. I let him have it. And I knew when I did so that it would tear him apart, and it has been doing so since then. Little bit by little bit. It's gone too far, Carth."

"I'm sorry." He'd been so focused on what needed to be done that he'd given precious little thought to what they were actually doing. He hadn't known Alek well, but this had set Sarah up against someone she had once been devoted to. Someone she'd once loved.

"I got him into this." Her voice broke and he gathered her into an embrace. "I just don't remember. How? Why? What? He was better than I was, a better person. But I'm not allowed to remember that. What if I do it again? With you?"

"I'm not Alek. I'm not even close to being a Jedi, Sarah." While that meant he could never be exactly what Alek had been in her life, that he would never understand what it was like to be a Jedi, to fight heel to heel with her, armed with a lightsaber, it did protect him from their less wonderful issues. He simply couldn't fall as deeply as Alek had, he wasn't powerful enough. He was safe in that way. "And I'm with you the whole way." She had to do this. They'd gotten in too deeply to turn back now. "We go get what we need and we get out of here." Hopefully, what they needed was actually here. He just had to get the cards and get her out of what he now understood was a haunted place to her. It didn't help that the entire vessel was dark, silent, eerie, the all too perfect backdrop for this. "Okay, babe?" He rested his hand on her head, giving her hair a quick ruffle. Her face was covered by her rebreather and it was the best he could do.

"Okay, babe." She repeated. She sounded mostly convinced, which was as much as he could hope for. Just a little bit further. They'd already come so far. The only way out was through the other side. And to get there, he needed the cards that should be stored in Testament's shielded storage bay. Should be. Had to be. He pushed the very idea that they might not be out of his mind, shut the door on the dubious whispers, hopefully hiding them from her. Testament had not been Revan's flagship when she'd been chosen for her fatal last mission. She'd been replaced, supplanted by the greater Interdictors favored by Revan and Malak...Coruscate and Leviathan. She'd been last decade's model, a workhorse that had already been put through the majority of the Mandalorian War before she'd gone on to wherever Revan, Malak and Karath had vanished to. Why fully stock it on this run? The only bright spot he could see was that there seemed to have been no attempt to get her spaceworthy again. She had been abandoned right where she had crashed.

He worked his way forward, cautiously minding his footing and his path. It was more confusing than he thought it could be, he knew this class of ship backwards and forwards, but he'd never dealt with one in complete and total darkness. Emergency lighting, yes. The inside of a rancor's stomach It was incredibly disorientating...

She touched him, just a flicker of pressure on his arm, and his direction sense sorted itself out immediately. "Thanks." He muttered, striding into the darkness. Ah, he knew this corridor, his cabin should be that, her cabin. Which meant that the bay that they were looking for was that way. He walked towards it and hit the entry button, not surprised when he got no response. Utterly no power meant no power, none of these secured interior doors were just going to open for him.

He rested the bag on the decking, digging through its contents while Sarah held a light steady for him. He'd come prepared for this, every pilot had received basic salvage and recovery protocols, and it was quick going to plug in the portable auxiliary battery to the door. He pressed the button again, frowning when the brightening screen asked for his biometric signature. Well, even if it did not recognize him, it had to recognize her...recognize Amasri Idarn.

Match: Onasi, C. Lt. Insufficient command authorization for entry.

She chuckled behind him and he slid away to give her access. She repeated the process, smiling when it came up with Match: Idarn, A. Gen. and the door slid open, revealing darkness only faintly pierced by her light.

"Yeah, yeah, its database is old." He had not been a lieutenant since the War had ended. Once the Revanchist fleets had vanished, taking so much of the Navy's command structure with them, his promotion to captain had been a foregone conclusion. They'd had to fill that vacuum and fill it quickly.

"Yeah, well, you're no more a lieutenant now than I am a general. But it all works, we're in."

Yes, they were. And he was heartened to see a packed hold, but boxes didn't necessarily mean that they were the right boxes. "We're in another one of those horror vid scenarios." He joked, heading towards the shielded compartment that should hold what they were looking for.

"Yup. And did just fine with the ones that came before."

That was most certainly true. "You're going to need to get this open as well." The compartment was still locked down. Was that good? She coaxed the door open to reveal insulated box piled perfectly on top of insulated box. His hands shook when he pulled one down, thumbing it open. The uncertain light played over a precisely ordered row of sealed, new cards to replace the fried ones on the Hawk. They were even the right size... He let his anxiously held breath loose, relaxing. "It's good." He said, knowing that she'd probably already read him and had known the moment he had. Or she'd recognized them herself and didn't need his input. "We'll take a few of case we can't get that field generator down and have to run the pulse again."

"We have to. If the Republic shows up, they can't assault the Star Forge with it up. They'll be easy pickings. I did it before, I can do it again. We just have to be ready to join the fight when it gets started, and not be stuck down here. Even if they bring Jedi...they will have as much luck facing down Malak as Bastila's strike team had trying to face down me. Less, because I won't be in a position to backstab Malak, and the Star Forge will support him. They won't understand it in time. They'll die. And their deaths will feed the Forge and just make Malak more powerful."

"You make it sound like the Star Forge is aware." Four boxes should be overkill. And he liked overkill when it came to things like this. He took an empty bag out of the bag and began packing them in.

"It is. The dark side has worked on it for millennia."

He could have done without that knowledge. Every time he got his mind around something here, she hit him with more. "So the Star Forge is aware, and is supporting Malak?" This was beyond his pay grade.

She stilled, and he sensed the 'something smells' expression more than he could see it in the shadows of her barely lit face. "The Star Forge is aware. Who it supports is a question I don't have the answer to at the moment. It could be Malak. It might not be. But I have a much better understanding of how it works and what it is...even without my full memories, than any Jedi could. I have to be there."

And that meant he had to be there. He sighed, shouldering the bags and beginning the path to retrace his steps out of there. She followed him until they reached the intersection with the officers' quarters, before she reached out and hooked her fingers in the back of his pants, pulling him to a halt. "I...want to check my cabin. See if I left anything behind. To stand where I stood before...when I was myself."

"Of course." It sounded like a bad idea, but how could he deny it to her? But if she fell apart here, in the silence and the dark, he could hold onto her through it. No prying eyes, no need to be strong for Mission, for Dustil, there would just be him and he had a shoulder to cry on if she needed one.

It was just a few moments to the correct corridor and he paused in front of what corresponded to his cabin on the Endar Spire, the Old Man's cabin, the largest of them. She would have outranked Testament's captain once she'd taken the ship as her flag. "Yes, that's the one." She confirmed, and he attached the battery to the door locks. Other than the power flow issue, the cabin was unsecured, it opened to his touch.

It was empty, completely empty, inspection ready and devoid of any personal effects. The closet was empty when she pulled the doors open, and each and every drawer was as well. He could feel her rising frustration, the way she pulled them open and slammed them closed again underlined that.

"Why?" She snarled, "Why can't I remember? I need to remember. I have to remember."

No. If she remembered, he'd lose her. He didn't know how or why he knew that, but he did. And worse, she'd lose herself. That was something he couldn't accept. If he had to, he could let her go. But he would never let her lose herself again. He knew her, he knew she wasn't a monster. Whatever had happened to her to get her to behave like one was a crime, a sin. It was something he would never understand, and he really didn't want to. "No." He breathed, putting the light on the desk and gathering her up into his arms. "Don't do that to me."

"How am I supposed to protect you if I don't remember how to fight Malak?"

"You've remembered everything you've needed to know so far. I don't think that has been a coincidence. But this is something you don't need to know. I think it is something you can't know." It had broken her before. It would break her again. "Come here." He sat down on the bunk, patting the space beside him and she finally came and sat, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "Take a load off."

She snorted under her breath but relaxed, letting him maneuver her down onto the bunk, resting alongside him, her head pillowed in his armpit. It was dark, silent, calm and if there were ghosts of another time here, he certainly didn't sense them. All he sensed was her presence, the weight that was her. Not a physical weight, he outweighed her and stood over her, but a spiritual one. But she would always be his Sarah.

"Onasi to Hawk, go ahead." He stated and she shifted in his grip, her attention locked on him. It was irresponsible to not check in, to leave the others guessing, worrying about them. Especially if they were taking a much needed mental health break while in the bowels of a derelict.

"I hear you. Trouble?" Dustil's voice was a little scratchy from the superstructure's interference, but not that badly distorted. Good, they still had solid communications.

"No. Just checking in. We're fine. Taking a little extra time to check the ship out, but we have the cards."

"Okay. Good. Mission and I will start pulling the panels." Dustil's voice betrayed no emotion at that, but Carth grinned in the darkness. Mission was going to be soooooo heartbroken to work alongside him in that task... He broke the connection, resting his hand on her head.

"Yes, they are adorable." Sarah chuckled.

"Just as long as you don't tell me it sticks." But weirder things had happened. Mission was going to be beautiful, and if he was not committed and not more than twice her age, he'd be looking.

Sarah paused and he could sense her considering it. "No." She finally said, snuggling into him. "It will not stick. Mission will remain to you what she is now, always."

"So, about that. When we get out of here..." He just had to keep thinking that way. He had to just keep planning for the best. There was no use in planning for the worst, because if that happened, his planning days were over.

"You want to adopt her. I know. After this is over, we'll get married. We'll adopt Mission and raise her and Dustil together. I promise. And maybe even try for one of our own together." She suddenly sat up, pushing away from him. "And for us to get there means we have to get out of here. Let's go. We need to have the Hawk ready to go when the Republic Fleets arrive, if they do. And I need to be in a position to take control of the Temple then. I can't turn off the disruptor field until then...otherwise I tip our hand."

"And if the Fleets don't arrive?" It was a terrible thought, but it was one they had to face.

"Then I take control of the Temple and wait for them to send a ship or five to investigate. If that happens, though, I will have to do things I do not want to do to wrestle control of the Star Forge away from Malak. Terribly risky things... We pray for the Fleets to arrive instead."

"Understood." To control the Star Forge without the backup of the Republic Fleet would require her to embrace what she had been, Darth Revan. She would have to more of a Darth than Malak once again. And yes, Carth prayed for the Fleets to arrive instead. They had to come. They'd put him and Sarah on this path, hadn't they? But he wasn't sure anymore just who had been pulling all of the strings here. The Navy most certainly had not known that Sarah was Revan, or had they? Did the Jedi Order know, or had the Dantooine Enclave hidden that like they'd hidden so much? Sarah remembered being in a hospital on Coruscant, but had she really? Why hadn't she been cared for in the Temple? Had she even really been on Coruscant at all? He raked his fingers through his hair, it was all so unnerving. This was making him paranoid, making him question the things he'd never needed to question before. It had been easy to trust the Order and to trust the Navy. They'd been the constants in his life when it had fallen apart. At least now he had something else to fill that gap now that he was doubting them.

"Don't let your head explode there, Flyboy." She chuckled, picking up one of the bags and the light and heading out into the black corridors. "We got this."

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