My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 77

Bastila stood on the observation deck of the Star Forge, her eyes locked on the battle before her, but more and more of her attention was drawn into the station behind her.

Sarah had come. Bastila had known that before the station wide alerts had gone off, but now her proximity was undeniable. The question was, what did Bastila intend to do about that, if anything? She wouldn't have come alone, Sarah did nothing alone. She relied on her backup and she almost always had a deep bond with those she fought with...it was a weakness that could be exploited. If she'd brought Carth with her, she could be made to see the truth again, not the lies that she'd been programmed by those fools on Dantooine to believe.

Who had Sarah brought with her? Canderous, probably. She viewed him as the rock his name truthfully proclaimed him to be. There was no way he'd accept being left to babysit the ship on this run. He'd want to be in the thick of things and Sarah understood his mindset. She'd bring him. Carth? Less of a probability, his place was with the ship. Sarah had often protected him, both as her lover and as the irreplaceable crack pilot that he was. Mission? Probably not. And Sarah didn't tend to bring Zaalbar either, trusting him to watch Mission instead.

'There are three men with her.'

Three? Three? Where had Sarah come up with three men? Canderous. Carth? And...? No, the Star Forge must be mistaken. Or lying, it did that sometimes.

"She needs to be reminded of who and what she is." It had been a crime to have broken Revan, she was needed. Needed here, and she needed to be whole. Bastila had played a part in a devastating crime that needed to be atoned for. She had to make things right again. "What does she want?"

'Uncertain. She is hiding that from me. All I get from her is that she wants Malak gone.'

"Well, that makes two of us." Her time here had shown that Malak was sliding under the weight of being the Dark Lord of the Sith. Every time she looked at her own situation through the lens of her battle meditation, that fact was clear. Even if Sarah didn't get him, he'd implode sooner than later. "Revan was in her rightful place as Dark Lord." Until Bastila had helped destroy that.

'What do we do?'

"We hold the fleet battle to a stalemate until she gets here." Sarah was nonnegotiable. Everything told Bastila that; the force, working through her battle meditation, her heart, her soul. Malak was beyond their reach, but Revan was not. And somehow it was all tied to what they'd stolen from Revan. They'd fucked it up so very, very badly. Bastila just wished she understood how. But the longer she stayed here, the murkier it became. The first few days here, it had been clear and vibrant, Revan had been working on an imperative when she'd arrived here. Everything she had done was because of that goal. And then she'd lost touch with it, she'd left the Star Forge in an attempt to regain her perspective. That was what Bastila needed to do. But first she had to manipulate the battle to her own ends...right now that was to hold it in neutral. A holding pattern until she could measure Sarah's will, to see if that one had started to make sense of this again.

'You and she together would be unstoppable. Together, you could fulfill the purpose that that brought her here.'

Yes, whatever that was. Unfortunately, Bastila didn't believe that Sarah remembered it. Why hadn't she just had faith in her? Why had she allowed herself to be used against her own master? None of this would have happened had she simply refused. Sarah would have not been startled on the Coruscate's bridge, and that had been the distraction that Malak had used against her. Sarah would have simply crushed the strike team and gone on about her business. But she'd recognized Bastila, she'd faltered in her attack and that had been the opening, the weakness, that had brought her down. I was used. Sarah's been used. Damn the Council. Damn them all. Damn herself. She should have known better. She just had to get to a place where...

The door opened behind her and she froze, sensing Sarah. Carth. Canderous. And a stranger, a force adept stranger, standing in the opening.

"Bastila." Sarah's voice was calm, soothing and very, very comforting. Bastila gathered her courage and turned. Sarah stood in the front of the group, warily between the men with her and Bastila. She's slipped, but has not fallen. Korriban did not break her. Her eyes were bright gold, but she didn't breathe of the dark side, her complexion was pale...but it was her natural paleness, not a reflection of the dark side on her outer visage. Unsurprisingly, she had Canderous on her left side, full armor, full weapons, glorying in everything he had been raised to be. The surprise was the young man on her right side, offset and slightly behind her. He was the other force adept, the power burned steadily within him and Bastila took his measure silently. Padawan? No...no one would have given one of those to Sarah and even if they would, there had been no time for it, but he definitely had a lightsaber hilt in his hand. Apprentice? It was much more likely, she'd been to Korriban and the Academy. But he felt so familiar... When had she met him? How could she have met him if that was where he had come from? He had black hair, dark eyes, thick brows, and he was more than willing to kill her, unlike the three with him.

"You've replaced me?" That was something she'd never considered. And it was so offhanded to simply pick up an apprentice in what little time that Sarah had been on Korriban, so desperately unlike her. And to trust him enough to bring him here, it didn't make sense.

"You know you cannot ever be replaced, Bastila. We are bound. You were my padawan. I helped raise you. I love you." She began to walk towards Bastila, slowly and deliberately. "But you are to the point where you no longer need me to be your master any more. When we make our way out of here, I will petition the Council for you to undergo your trials. I want you to stand beside me as an equal. It is his time to learn from me."

"But who is he?" There was more here than was apparently. He fit in more than just being an apprentice picked from Korriban...

Sarah turned her head to study him for a moment and he remained respectfully silent. "Dustil is my stepson." The words were solid and without embellishment or a half truth. "Carth's son."

Many of Carth's features but none of his coloring, that was why he was so damned familiar. And it explained everything. Completely. "You need to stay here with me, Sarah." Bastila had the chance to finally make it right, make it up to the woman she loved. "Together, we can depose Malak, take back the Star Forge. We can remember why you needed it in the first place, before you ran from it. We can free you from the Jedi. They used me to break you, and I...I..." Her voice caught on the first hint of a sob. "I know now that you were here for something. You were doing something, and it was important. I should have trusted you!"

Sarah stopped in front of her, resting her palms on Bastila's shoulders and gazing up at her. Her proximity chased away the Star Forge's murmurings, the weight of Malak's insanity, all of it. She brought a placid distance from the chaos and uncertainty. "Breathe, Bastila. I have come like I promised I would. I held you up as long as I could. And now, I really do need you to trust me. And to follow my lead."

"Of course. What do you need?" The thought of not doing as she asked was so distant that Bastila was barely aware that it might be an option. She was back and everything was going to be just fine. Trust. Follow.

Sarah leaned forward and the since of privacy and isolation deepened as she rested her forehead against Bastila's, their breaths mingling, her fingers twining into Bastila's hair. "Turn the tide." She whispered. "Against Malak. And then return to the Ebon Hawk in the small craft dock below this level. I still have to deal with Malak before I can leave. Do not listen to the Forge, it lies. It manipulates. It's why I ran from it."

It's why I ran from it.

"And it's going to have you, Bastila. You shouldn't hear it anymore. And it shouldn't hear you anymore. Enough of that." She continued, stepping away from Bastila. She was right, it was silent. Now all Bastila felt was the dark sided energy coalescing within the Forge's depths and it felt as repellent as it should.

Turn the tide. She had the majority of the main Republic Fleet out there, the fleet she'd played a large part in bringing here. They deserved better, they deserved her at her best. It was time to do her job. "I've got this. Good luck." Sarah was going to need it, but Bastila couldn't do both things at once, she couldn't do the battle meditation to yank the Republic fleet back from the brink and help Sarah face down Malak. It had to be one, or the other. And she was the only one who could save the fleet. "Do you know where he is?"

Sarah paused and then nodded. "Yes. I know where he is. Not far now." She smiled, more of a grimace of pain than a true smile. "It's not like I go to do this alone, Bastila."

Yes, you do. But you already know that and you're putting on a brave front for Carth and your new apprentice. I won't ruin it.

Sarah turned from Bastila, sensing her settle down and begin to actively use her battle meditation, shutting down from her surroundings. It was, as she'd said, not that far now. And she still had Canderous, Carth and Dustil, even though the force told her she would face Malak alone. Was it because she was supposed to leave someone here to protect Bastila? She was vulnerable in this state, open to attack or distraction... No. It was something else. She could feel Dustil watching her, weighing her, but she had no answer for him. "Let's go, but be careful. Because..." Because why? It was dangerous and she wasn't exactly sure why? They knew the first part and the second part was useless information. "I love you. All."

"Humph." Canderous muttered. "The only way out the ass is through the throat, ad'ika. Now isn't the time to waver, you fight with your family and we have your back."

"How right you are, ori'vod, how right you are. It's been one hell of a ride." Just a little bit farther. She met Carth's eyes, he was silent but unbowed. Everything about him told her that, she saw it, she felt it. Dustil as well. And Canderous, well, she knew the Mandalorian mindset. It was a beautiful day for others to die.

The corridor beyond was silent, empty and she regarded it warily. "What is it, little one?" Canderous asked in Mandalorian, his voice low and she shrugged.

"Trap? I don't know. Something is wrong." She answered in the same and he made a noncommittal sound, moving ahead of her, his shields ripping in the light, his pace slow and deliberate. But they reached the end with no issues at all, even the alert lighting and sirens were off here. But they'd been off in the room with Bastila...she was just being jumpy. Another security door, left unsecured, and a matching corridor, just as silent. Just as empty. I don't want to go in there. But she had to. There was no other choice. She stepped into the corridor, shadowed every step by the hulking Mandalorian. It'll come in the middle...it'll come in the middle.

No, it came at the beginning, the ear popping, blinding concussion of a flash bang grenade. She was moving before her mind had the chance to comprehend anything at all, her lightsaber ignited and swinging. Nothing alive...there was nothing alive...droids packed into the walls...turrets. Too many. There are too damned many.

This was where it all ended, months later and just meters from Malak, she couldn't believe it. How had thought this was even possible? But with Bastila, the fleet still had a chance. She just needed to buy time. More time. That's all this was. She stopped thinking, stopped acting and let it all go, in a timeless state of reaction. There were too many rounds in the corridor, friend and foe, to even consider trying to dodge them. Canderous had gone full auto, showering the corridor with fire and grenades while she worked the area immediately behind him, hitting the droids that made it through.

Agony lanced through her and she staggered, stumbling into the Mandalorian. He stood like a rock while she clung to him, trying to clear her head. She'd been shot. She'd been shot, and it was bad. She needed to vomit, to fall over.

"Dad!" Dustil's voice went through its entire range, from almost adult male tenor to a prepubescent shriek.

No, it was worse than she'd thought. She hadn't been shot. Carth had been.

How? He'd been towards the back, but there were a lot of loose rounds flying. A lot of ricochets screaming by in random directions. The how didn't really matter now. All that mattered was that he was down and she needed to get control of the situation immediately.

You all just need to stop now!

There was silence, and then a sudden rocking explosion that knocked her back on her heels. The corridor filled with acrid smoke but the shooting stopped.

NononononononNO!

She spun. Carth was seated on the decking, Dustil crouched next to him. He was still up. Still conscious, but she could smell the blood seeping from between Dustil's fingers as he tried to stem the flow. "I'm okay, Babe."

That would be a whole hell of a lot more convincing if every syllable wasn't a gasp and if his complexion wasn't shocky pale. "Canderous, the med kit..."

"I'm on it. Where's he been shot at?"

"Left abdomen?" It was difficult to tell, there was blood flowing in the seams of his lower armor, in his lap.

"Hip." Dustil corrected tersely, his teeth locked together. "He got hit by a ricochet. I didn't answer it quickly enough."

You can't wait here. You're doing exactly what Malak wants you to do and you'll be ground down here with the next wave, and then the next. This is why you have to do this alone.

"Carth, I love you but..."

"You have to go." Canderous growled, squatting next to Carth and using his combat knife to slice his pants away. "Leave me to watch your family, Revan. I will guard them while you can't. Go!"

I can't. But I have to. If I don't, I might as well just let him bleed out here and then follow him.

She took a deep breath, turned her back on them and ran to the next security door. It opened easily but closed immediately on her heels when she stepped through. And in the silence of the expanse beyond, the snick of the locking mechanism was as loud as a scream.


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