My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 74

The security droids were simply an appetizer, she understood their programming, their strengths, and each was the same the one that came before it. They were great training tools, dangerous enough to keep Dustil on guard, strong enough to make him reach, but not truly a threat. Canderous had an uncanny ability to back off when he wasn't needed, but was quick to throw in when the numbers of droids hit the worrisome level...but he was smart enough to figure out what she was doing here with the younger Onasi. Teaching a new warrior was always an honor and a duty. His people had not become a force in the galaxy by shirking on the training of their young ones.

The air hung thick with the stench of destroyed machinery, ozone and fried electronics, when she sensed the first stirrings of a living, breathing force adept standing on the steps in front of her. He, and it was male, clung to the shadows...he'd been watching, measuring, judging their progress.

"Lord Revan." He greeted into the silence after Dustil chewed the last droid up, pieces falling to the tiled floor in a metallic clatter. How had he recognized her so precisely? This was not one of a handful of people who should be able to recognize her without the mask...wherever that was. "So it is true. You live. You have defeated death itself."

Well, that sounded promising. Not even Malak could claim to have 'defeated death itself'. "That's right."

The dark form paused, and for the life of her, she sensed no threat, just curiosity. And... relief? "And you come equipped with a new apprentice."

"Obviously." There had been no attempt to mask Dustil's role in all of this. Of course, she hadn't been expecting to be recognized...which would then mean he would be placed as Darth Revan's new apprentice. She'd been lax somehow.

The man stepped out into the light and Sarah was certain that she did not know this man. She might have met him once or twice before, but that was it. "And what can we do for you, milord?"

What? This was not how she'd seen this going, at all. It was a trap. A trick. "I need the disruptor field brought down on my command."

"You come to take the Star Forge back from Lord Malak? You defeat the death he meant to give you, and return to us?"

"I come to haunt Malak." Why was he talking? Was he buying time? Stalling for something? Trying to corner her? "The coward who would not face me."

"And you will face him?" The man's pale, pale eyes were intently fixed on her face. "Remove him from the Forge? We followed you here, not him. Have you come to lead us out of here? There was a way with you...there is no path under him. If he ever knew what it was, he has let it go."

And I don't remember what it was. Or do I? But this is one of my people. I took responsibility for them and they followed me into hell. And here he is, still looking to me for the path forward. Do I have that?

She had to. She'd brought the Ebon Hawk and her crew here, under the belief that she had that path. She'd brought everybody she cared about anymore here...on that path, just like she'd brought this man here...on that path. "I need to bring down the field." Too many questions, too much unknown. She was responsible for this mess.

"You know where the terminal is. No one here will stand in your way, milord. When I recognized you, I took care of any issues which might have hindered you. The Temple is yours."

"Thank you." She'd never stopped to consider that there might be people in Malak's organization who were still loyal to her. She hadn't been expecting to be recognized at all. "How did you know me?"

He laughed, shook his head, and turned to stride into the depths of the Temple. "Simple, milord. Malak told us you were alive. And then he sent your image to us so that we could keep an eye out for you. So I did. Welcome back, Lord Revan."

Welcome back. Nothing could ever just be easy, could it? She glanced behind her but Canderous was a rock and Dustil seemed less than surprised as well. "Let's go." She sighed, striding towards the archway that seemed to be the correct way to go. But this might just be a blessing, she could sense Vandar much more strongly now. They were close. Very close, and that meant she was running out of time.

There was a trail of black and gray clad corpses in the gallery, and they were still warm. They'd been alive less than an hour before, but they'd been dead before she'd passed into the Temple. He knew I was coming. Was it a trap? Well, even if it was, she had no time left to try to skirt it. It was go time.

She ran down the gallery, hopping over corpses as she went, keeping close attention on Dustil. Canderous would accept a heap of dead Sith apprentices with equanimity, the recent Sith apprentice might...not. But if they bothered Dustil, he did a fine job of hiding it from her, matching her pace, three steps behind her and the reach of her light saber and his off to her side. He felt coiled, released, finally free to shine, to grow, to be himself.

Down. Must go down.

"Sarah? How are we doing?" Carth's voice was level, clear through her earbud. "We are good on this end. Prepped to fly on your word."

"Ahead of schedule on this end, but they're close. I should have had..." What? More warning? More of a hint? But it was difficult to read through this place. It swathed her in dark side power and the incessant murmurings from the smug Star Forge. It was jamming so many of her frequencies with static and plans.

"You can sense fleets in hyperspace and you think you should have had more warning than the half an hour you've had so far." His reply was droll and Dustil snorted in agreement and amusement. They were ganging up on her and it was delightful. "And they're still not here yet."

"Uh huh." It didn't matter, they were coming. She jumped down the first set of stairs she came to, only to be faced with another security droid. It ignored her and she was more than happy to ignore it. "When they get here, you do the talking...especially if it's your admiral. If it's Vandar, well, he knows you as well." She wasn't certain which would be worse, this fleet admiral recognizing her...or not recognizing her. They couldn't argue over who was in charge and who was a war criminal now.

I have to be the one to face Malak. I have to be the one to get to Bastila first.

Was it hubris to think she was the only one who had a chance?

Hubris? Is it hubris to accept who and what you are? Accept being Revan? Because only Revan can do this. And you are Revan. You've run out of time to convince yourself of that, be it. Deal with the consequences later, because it's the only way there will be a later. Too many people you care about hang in the balance, and you are one of them.

The terminal sat in a large, shadowy room, flanked by obelisks, and she moved straight to it, throwing caution to the wind. No time. No time. The screen flashed to life the moment she rested her fingers on the interface. Why remove all of the access codes of a dead woman? She'd had so many, she'd been so paranoid, cautious...all for good reason.

Command override code, her fingers flowed over the interface without pause for thought. This was hers. It knew it. She knew it. It's down. And it needs to stay down. Forever. There was no coming back. No maybes. No doubts. No holding things for later. She ignited her lightsaber and sliced the blade through the terminal, once, twice, three times...destroying it. Now it was down, and there was no way to bring it back online remotely. "The dish is on the roof." It needed to go, too. It all just needed to go. At least if the Fleets jumped in now, they had somewhat of a chance. As much chance as they were going to get until she could get to Bastila...

Canderous grunted in answer, racking a round into his grenade launcher. "Then we blow shit up. That I can do." Yes. That he could do and do it well. She led the way, retracing steps to the gallery, and then up from there, emerging out into the beautiful day. The view was stunning, and if she'd had the time, she would have savored it.

"Blow shit up." She snapped, and Canderous leveled his weapon at the dish array. It exploded a moment later, brilliantly lighting the sky in flames. It would take at least a week to repair it, for anybody to bring the disruptor field up again. And only the victor was going to have a week, by then, it would all be over.

"What was that? I got a hit on the sensors..." Carth sputtered into her ear. "Sarah?"

"I figured I might as well just make getting the field generators back online a repair and time heavy option...if it's even possible. But it's done, we're on our way back now." It was good when things started to click into place like this, it allowed her to slide into herself and simply react. No questions, just actions.

There was a long moment of silence, she sensed Carth's attention locked elsewhere and then his voice, focused on Mission. "Yes, I see them. No, don't answer them. We'll get Sarah and the team and then reply to them. Sarah, you hear that?"

"I heard your part. You're coming here?" If available time was compressing then it made sense that he did a pick up here...the roof was broad and designed for shuttle landing. If they left, he would have to wait until they made the beach again, more than thirty minutes away.

"Is it clear? The lead elements of the Fleet have arrived. They're already engaging the Sith fleet, trying to punch through to the Star Forge."

And they didn't have a chance in hell of getting that done. They were as good as dead already. "It's clear. Just follow the smoke and land on the shuttle pad next it. It's really our fleet?"

"Yes. On my way. I want you here when I contact them. Just in case I need you." Of course. He could deal with the Admiral, deal with the Navy protocol, but he'd want her to deal with Master Vandar, to make the arrangements with the Jedi with the fleet, if there were any.

There are. Now that the Fleet was materializing, she could sense them. Vandar had brought friends, good, because he was going to need them. She was going to need them...

"Your fleet has arrived, milord?"

The man was sneaky. She hadn't sensed his approach at all, but then she'd been sensing for the Republic Fleet, its Jedi contingent. It didn't matter, sloppy like that got one killed. "Yes...?" And she still didn't even have a name for him yet.

"Lord Raskas. It has been awhile, milord. I understand that I may not have left much of an impression on you." His pale eyes flicked over her and the pair with her. "I have been in charge of the Temple here for two years now, because that was the place I was supposed to be. And now I know why." He glanced at the smoking ruin of the dish array, his expression thoughtful.

Raskas. Raskas. "Raskas Arel?" The name was there, she just had to dig deeply enough. He'd been at Malachor. He'd been with her at Commenor. He looked very different than the young, earnest Jedi that name tried to bring to mind. "From Commenor?" That had been the most recent time he'd actually stood by her side.

"Raskas Arel. From Commenor. Your orders, milord? If you are assaulting the Star Forge to confront Malak for his treachery, we stand ready to support you."

Oh, and that just complicated things. Did she trust? Could she trust?

Again, do not overlook what you have at your disposal. Dustil. Those still loyal to you, even after they thought you were dead.

"The Star Forge must be destroyed. I was wrong. It is more of a liability than a resource. I am here for it and Malak. If I am successful, neither one will exist at the end of this." And if you don't agree, I will kill you here and now.

He chuckled, a slight smile creasing his lips. "It is good to have you returned to us, milord. Malak cannot come close to what you were to us. And right there, with those words, you prove it once again. You admit when you are wrong, and take the steps to make it right. He has ceased to be wrong, even when he is. I will contact those who still look to you, inform them. You will have our support. We will do our best to remove the obstacles we can and get as many of those still loyal to you out of the Star Forge. Now...your ship arrives. Good luck, milord. We stand with you."

"Good luck, Raskas. See you on the other side." If he did not lie, then these were still her people. She still had a responsibility to them. But he was correct, in a nape of the earth approach, skimming the treetops, the Ebon Hawk appeared just ahead of her engine sounds.


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