My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 76

"We're going to be moving fast." Sarah stated, gazing at the three Jedi watching them. "Don't try to keep up with us." A Jedi tail was the last thing she wanted or needed on this. This was personal. This was private. These were just here to get her started on her way, but they played no real part in it all. She was probably going to end up doing things she didn't want to need to explain later. If there was going to be a later.

"Of course. Good luck and may the force be with you." The woman stepped back when Carth appeared in armor to step up beside Sarah.

"And with you." Getting in was not going to be a problem, everything here wanted to get her deeper in, farther away from retreat and safety. To trap her. To keep her. She nodded sharply to herself, stepping into a long striding walk towards the exit.

I am coming for you, Bastila. Just as I promised.

The corridor beyond was filled with noise, conflict, combat, the first of Malak's security forces against the Jedi squadron and Sarah set her shoulders. She couldn't afford to be bogged down here. They just had to get past this, and in a hurry. The most expedient way would be to have Canderous clear the way, but that would harm everything in front of her. Jedi and Malak's people, both, and she still needed the Jedi to run interference and provide a distraction.

'You have returned.'

Ah, so it was finally going to talk, to acknowledge her presence. It was about damned time. It felt a little farther away than it seemed like it should, a little quieter, almost muted. Muzzled? Shackled? Less? Sharing its attention with Malak? Focused on Bastila?

'Your gift is ready, now that you have finally arrived to claim it.'

Gift? The Star Forge's gifts were all highly suspect. None of them came without a price, a hook in her soul. She began to fight her way into the corridor, heading inexorably towards that voice, that call, shadowed by the men that she'd brought into this with her.

'He is engaging internal defenses. That can be stopped, if you so desire.'

No. No. No. She was not heading down that path again. Too many people had struggled to get her off of it to have her simply step back onto it again. It could make this all very, very easy. And the cost for that was too much to pay. She glanced over, Carth and Canderous were oblivious, their minds target locked and their attention focused on keeping her safe, keeping her moving forward. Dustil, however, was an entirely different story, his attention was fluid, watchful. No, they'd fight through this.

'Very well. Such is a fine decision for one as strong and worthy as you are. He would have never made it. I await you.'

She managed to push beyond the skirmish, through the security door and onward into the main corridor beyond. It was just as she remembered, dark, shadowed, lit by sullen crimson panels,echoing and ominous. Just as the Leviathan had been. "Do not listen to it, Dustil. It promises much, but exacts a huge payment for its services."

"Understood, Master." He seemed to be fine, fine with his surroundings, fine with her lead. Malak had not been when he'd stepped onto these floors, but Dustil had been spared...

Dustil had been spared, that was enough information. She cut the attempt down in a moment; no, she wasn't even going to try. She wasn't even going to wonder, to give chase to a memory she would never catch. All that mattered was the here and the now. All that mattered were the people standing with her, not the ones that had fallen in the past. Dustil would not break here because he had been spared what Malak and she had not been spared. She could guess part of it, the war, but there was more. There was always more. And she was willing to just let that be.

"Ha. Turrets. Now we're talking!" Canderous unlimbered his assault rifle and drew a bead down the corridor, filling the air with rounds and noise, the smell of battle. It stirred up Sarah's soul more than the sterility of a lightsaber ever could...that was everything that meant war to her. It got her blood up, it pushed away the doubts, the murmuring of the Star Forge, everything and pushed that one deep button in her make up. She was a warrior. A general. At her best in combat up to her eyeballs and nostrils. It had been why she could not have turned away from the Republic's pleas for her aid, this same Republic now fighting just beyond the Star Forge's superstructure. She had come full circle, here and now.

She broke into a run, ignoring Canderous's shots flying over her head. He wouldn't hit her. He couldn't. Where there were turrets here, there would be... Her steps became bounds, and she gave into a graceful, flying dance as she made first contact with the Sith coming up behind the turret wall. The force would not put her in the wrong place...

So many, the dark was illuminated by the glow of crimson lightsabers, and she instinctively ducked her head, creating a smaller target. She'd always managed to make her lack of size a blessing, rarely a curse. She had to make enough room for Dustil here...she could feel him behind her, pressing for an angle and finding none that didn't have her right smack dab in the middle of it. It was time to climb Sith faces.

She sprang up, planting a foot on the elbow joint of the nearest Sith's lightsaber arm to her, her next step was up to his shoulder. He was a big guy, and he did exactly as she hoped...he didn't collapse under her less than impressive weight. It did force his forearm down and his weapon with it, narrowly missing cutting himself with it.

Take him, Dustil.

He did and the man staggered under the combined assault, collapsing underneath her. She used that impetus to move herself down and forward, clearing the way for Dustil as she hit the next Sith. These were outclassed, where was Malak hiding the good ones? Were there any good ones anymore?

This isn't nearly enough, Malak. You're going to have to do a lot better than this. Of course, he had the Star Forge at his disposal, he could do a whole lot better than this. She couldn't get cocky, she couldn't get ahead of herself. She wasn't coming into this like she'd come into so many other things, with an army, a fleet, and a fully trained Jedi Knight at her side. Dustil was good. He was better than she could have ever hoped for him to be at his age, with his background, but he was still something she had to use carefully and sparingly. Otherwise, she'd have to go rescue him and that was nothing she really wanted to do. Or worse, she'd lose him...and that was truly nothing she could handle. If she got Carth's son killed in this, there would be no recovery from that. And more...Dustil was her apprentice, her family. It was all part of the package.

I just want to bring them home. And to do that meant she had to fight her way through this. The last one fell to one of Dustil's sweeping attacks and she turned, waiting for the others to deal with the turrets and catch up.

It was easy to 'remember' the way, to let her feet carry her to the elevator, to push the button headed up. None of the elevators went all of the way, it was a security measure...they'd have to take this one up. Then move to the other one.

And go get your gift...in the Armory.

That was the voice which had brought her through this so far, not the Star Forge, but either herself, or the force. Or both. If it thought she wanted, needed, that promised gift then she needed to at least take a look at it. And 'Armory' sounded promising. Very promising. "Left out of the elevator, we're headed for the command armory on that floor first."

Canderous grunted in an affirmative, but she expected nothing else...no self respecting Mandalorian would argue against going to an armory on space station like this one. He'd never see another one in his life...there was no other one. The door slid open and she sighed. More Sith. Another turret. She was moving the moment the door was open far enough to let her free, she was the smallest, fastest, she needed to draw fire away from the cornered Carth and Canderous. Well, by the time this was over, Dustil would have had his baptism in fire.

These were fools, tried and true idiots. The majority of them stood in front of her, their backs to the abyss which housed the Forge's central core, the edge just about four meters behind them.

And.. push. She waved her hand, clenched her teeth, and called upon the force. They toppled the moment the force push hit them, clawing at the decking as she continued to push them towards the edge...and over, into the abyss...into the Forge itself. There was silence for a long moment, she sensed Dustil fighting back laughter.

"I see that the Builders did not design their supery dupery space station to Republic safety specs." Carth muttered loudly behind her and that was it for Dustil. He broke into gusty laughter, incongruous to his circumstances and surroundings.

"No. They did not." She breathed, shaking her head. Well, time to go see what the Star Forge thought it had to bribe her with. And why that voice in her soul seemed to think it was something she should have. "Armory is this way."

It was right where she thought it should be, a small armory, filled with lockers, weapons racks, computer terminals and a holo emitter. Why? What? She watched Canderous head for the weapons racks like a moth to a bug light, her attention focused for traps, something...anything. She turned slowly, and froze, staring into her own frozen eyes.

"Uhhhhh..." She breathed, feeling the attention of the men jump to her. It was Revan. The robes. The mask cradled in her hands. Her face. An image formed by the holo emitter, paused into stillness.

"Voice match. Begin play." The emitter's image unlocked, moved, breathed and it was one of the most unsettling things that Sarah had experienced in her short memory. It was her, only a terribly wrong, twisted version of herself.

"So you have come. I have returned to the Forge." And that was the tone that Carth labeled as her pissy voice, deep, grating, unpleasantly filled with rage and threat. And his reaction to this horrible mockery of Sarah was fully open to her, he was broadcasting pain, horror, utter grief.

This is not me. I reject this. Was this what I supposed to see here? My gift? A warning? To see what I let happen to myself so that I never let it happen again?

"Can I call myself stupid? Why, why, why have you returned here? Something...something must have brought me back. Important. You...I...would have never returned without an imperative. So I have a gift for you, me. Why, I do not know. I can only assume that you do. Now, it will be in the bin behind you. And good luck. Revan out."

And it was blessedly gone, vanished. The ghost of her past winked out, leaving behind silence and held breaths.

"Huh." Canderous stated loudly, breaking the spell with the grace of a true Mandalorian, "That's pretty fucked up. Whatever happened to you after you left Malachor, it was not good, ad'ika."

"I can see that." It didn't really matter what was in that bin, Sarah understood what the true gift here had been. Maybe it was something important, maybe it was just a ruse to convince her to record that video to show herself what hung in the balance here, without understanding exactly what she'd done. She moved to the bin, touching the lid. It was locked, but it clicked open after it read her biometric signature, the tray sliding out. Or maybe that was simply the bow...because resting on black velvet before her were the gifts.

They were beautiful, two lightsaber crystals...one pale yellow, one completely clear. Forged from the very star itself.

No. Every gift from the Star Forge was suspect and came with a great price. She couldn't take these.

There will be no price to pay after the Star Forge is no more. And if that doesn't happen, you will have no use for the lightsabers these were meant to be a part of. They are yours. Sarah's. Not Revan's. One way or the other.


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