Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 13 - A Mandalorian Without Armor

Mandalorian Neo Crusaders swarmed all around her. She had three of her best Jedi at her back; Bryony, Ferroh, and Malak. The odds were overwhelming. Any other Jedi would feel death and oneness with the Force drawing imminently closer, but she was the Revanchist. Nothing was impossible. Death could not touch her.

The four Revanchists beat their way forward and she was at the head of it all. Seen through the narrow slits of a helmet, the army of Mandalorian warriors hardly seemed to be a threat. They would win the day against these war-hungry bucket-heads once again.

Then why was she so afraid?

There had to be some reason for that feeling that haunted her...


Ev woke drenched in a cold sweat. She was dreaming again. But Ev was not fool enough to believe that these were just dreams. Unlike the visions of the star maps that Bastila had desperately fished for through their bond, these visions were rising up on their own. Whatever the Jedi masters had done to her was beginning to wear thin. Ev was remembering.

Ev peeled her sheets off her body and sat up stiffly in bed. It was morning, but she felt exhausted, as if she truly had been fighting for her life all night long.

The dream visions always left her feeling like this. She couldn't will them to happen and she couldn't will them not to happen. They came when they would and left her with little more than frustrating snippets of her past.

All the same, they were occurring with increasing frequency these days, as often as twice a week. Usually, they had to do with one war another, but there were always vital pieces missing. Occasionally a vision of her childhood on Dantooine would flash by in her sleep. Even in those visions, Ev could still feel the weight of her own destiny hang heavily over her every move like a dense fog. All of the visions were frustratingly disjointed, blurred at the edges.

It all seemed so disconnected from one dream to the next. There was one feeling, however, that tied them all together: fear. The Revanchist was afraid. Revan knew there was something terrible behind the Mandalorians, but she could not pinpoint just what.

She did not dare speak of these visions with anyone, not even Bastila or Carth. It would only worry them. Ev was glad that Bastila was making efforts to narrow their connection. She would hate for Bastila to share these dreams with her now.

Ev sighed and swung her legs over the edge of a bed. She may feel like an industrial construction droid had just run her over, but she still had the day to face and Dustil to train. A cold shower and a hot cup of caff would wake her up enough to be functional.

Dragging one food after the other, Ev crossed the room, slung a lose robe over her shoulders for a bit more decency, and grabbed a towel. She slothed out into the corridor and headed for the 'freshers.

As she trudged up to the first corner, suddenly a bronzed assassin droid leaped out into attack position with a blaster rifle pointed at her. “Exclamation: Ah ha!”

“HK,” Ev slurred blearily.

“Query: Did I startle you this time, Master?” HK-47 asked hopefully, lowering the weapon and straightening up.

“It's too early to startle me,” Ev replied flatly.

“Query: But is it too early for you to defend yourself?” HK asked and made a sudden lunge at her.

Ev instantly drew in the Force and side-stepped easily, faster than the battle-honed droid could strike, and with a casual flip of her right hand, Force-shoved the droid back against the wall, his metal feet screeching against the stone floor.

“Observation: It appears not. I cannot defeat you, Master, even in the morning,” HK-47 concluded as he righted himself a again, somewhat disappointed.

“Good,” Ev replied irritably, “I'm your maker after all.” It was an amazing concession that the Jedi let her keep HK-47 around. The droid was an antithesis to nearly everything they stood for. Ev managed to keep him entertained by challenges like these and encouraging him to patrol the area surrounding the Jedi Temple, looking for anything suspicious.

“Statement: I saw someone you might be interested in these last few days,” HK-47 teased her with minimal facts.

Ev did not give him the satisfaction of knowing it bothered her. “Oh?” she asked, shifting her weight from one bare foot to the other.

“Statement: That Mandalorian is hanging around again,” HK-47 admitted.

“Canderous,” Ev nodded. Somehow, her drowsy head made a connection between Canderous and her most recent dream. Logic couldn't explain the draw, but suddenly she knew she had to go see him. “HK, I have an idea. Come with me.”

“Acquiescence: Yes Master,” HK replied and followed Ev back into her room.

While moments before, Ev's mind had been muddled and cloudy, now her braid clicked methodically through her newly-formed plans. “I'm going to see Canderous,” she stated, “Where was he hanging around?”

“Admonition: Sneaking out of the Temple again, now, Master?” HK mock-scolded.

“HK,” Ev retorted impatiently and crossed her arms, “I asked a question.”

“Statement: That you did, Master, and I will answer it,” HK recited evenly, “Response: He was last sighted two hours ago in a seedy cantina by the name of 'Jumper Plug' on level four hundred twenty-seven, two blocks east of the Jedi Temple.”

“Thank you, HK,” Ev nodded. It was the same area she had seen Canderous in the last three times they had met. “And now I have a new assignment for you. While I'm out, I need you to stay here and pretend to be me so no one notices that I'm gone.”

“Statement: Go away! I hate mornings!” HK's vocal pitch was so close to Ev's that it was uncanny. He switched back to his usual voice, “Query: How was that, Master?”

“Just fine, if you would drop the 'statement' tag,” Ev suppressed a laugh.

“Explanation: I was programmed this way, Master,” HK explained wearily. “Supposition: You could change that, Master, if you so chose.”

“Probably,” Ev replied, “But not this morning, anyway. I've got to run if I don't want anyone to notice that I've gone.”

“Request: Please do hurry back, Master. I shall be terribly bored remaining in your room all morning,” HK whined.

Ev snorted but did not reply. She took her quick trip to the 'fresher then dressed in Coruscanti street clothes before taking her usual winding route through the little-used climate control maintenance tunnel and sneaked out of the Jedi Temple.

Using public lifts and walkways, Ev descended several levels. No one gave her any second glances as she sifted through the crowd. She enjoyed the anonymity of the Coruscant streets. She never carried her lightsabers when she went out. She did not need them. Even if she ran into any unsavory situations, Ev knew at least a hundred other ways to get herself out of trouble without the use of her Jedi weapons. Without them or her Jedi robes, Ev was indistinguishable from any other Coruscanti citizen.

Within ten minutes, Ev arrived at the Jumper Plug. HK was right in calling it seedy. The aromas that seeped out were not the sort to make a human feel hungry; rather the opposite. Ev hoped that those particular smells were appetizing to at least some kind of alien. Even the lights were dim at this time in the morning. Ev wondered if the Rodian collapsed over the table in the dingy back corner was dead or just asleep. Neither would surprise her in this place.

Stepping just to the doorway but not inside, Ev scanned the cantina. Canderous was not inside. That did not surprise her either. It had already been three hours since HK had spotted him. He could not have gone far, however.

Ev crossed to the other side of the pedestrian walkway and released the breath she had been holding. The walkway was busy at this time of the morning, but not crowded. It was enough for her to get lost in but not bumped into as she closed her eyes and reached out with the Force through all the buzzing life around her. Each person had its own spark and destination, but only one in the immediate area was familiar to her: Canderous. She found him.

Ev opened her eyes again and turned back the way she had come. Half a block away was a tap caff called The Jolly Mando. Its sign showed a yellow-armored Neo Crusader cheerfully holding out a mug of caff on a china saucer. Ev shook her head. No one would stand for that even five years ago. It's amazing how fast the public forgets the terror of their enemies. I wonder how Canderous stands it.

Ev did not need to look inside to know that Canderous was already there, sipping at his own caff. She walked straight in and to the counter.

“Whath can I geth you?” the Rodian in a neat apron behind the counter asked.

“Give me the regular Jolly, black, and an order of flat cakes,” Ev requested decisively.

“Thath will be sikth crediths,” she replied and punched in Ev's order.

Ev dug into her hip pouch and produced the required credits. She handed them over and took a mug of caff from the cashier in exchange. “Your flath cakes will be broughth tho you shorthly,” she explained.

Ev nodded and walked with her mug—the same sunny yellow color as the armor of Cassus Fett—directly towards Canderous' small table by the window. He was already staring, bemused, at her.

“May I join you?” she asked him, a twinkle in her eye.

“Have a seat, Ev. All I have to do is skulk around this area for a night and you're here having breakfast with me in the morning,” Canderous observed. “I don't know how you do it.”

“It's HK-47,” Ev explained, taking her seat and letting her mug fall heavily onto the table. “I keep him busy prowling the temple district and looking for anything suspicious.”

“I'm suspicious then, am I?” Canderous asked ruefully over his plate of biscuits and gravy.

“I don't know,” Ev shrugged, but there was still that mischievous glint in her eyes. “What is a Mandalorian doing skulking around the Jedi Temple? Selling caff?”

“Ha,” Canderous barked.

“So what have you been up to?” Ev asked after a sip of her caff. “Thinking about me again?”

Canderous chuckled, “You don't think I would come to hang out in this area for my own reasons?”

Ev narrowed her eyes and stared intensely at Canderous for a moment, reaching out and searching for his motives. “No,” she replied plainly, and sat back in her chair.

“I can't fool you, can I?” Canderous cracked a slight smile.

“No, you really can't,” Ev parried back, “But you already know that.”

“Here are your flat cakes ma'am,” a serving droid wheeled over and deposited the steaming plate onto the table in front of Ev.

“Thank you,” she told the droid and immediately dug into the stack of flat cakes with her fork. She looked intensely at Canderous again and asked, “So, what's on your mind.”

“Next week will be a year from the day you killed Malak,” Canderous observed.

“Yeah,” Ev agreed between bites, “That kriffing Bothan from the Chancellor's office keeps trying to get me to make some big appearance and encouraging speech at the one-year anniversary.”

“Will you?” Canderous asked.

“Not if I can get Bastila or Juhani to do it,” Ev shook her head. “Now that I've gotten out of the public's eye, I want to stay out.”

“I don't blame you,” Canderous agreed.

“So?” Ev asked, but when Canderous did not explain himself further, she added, “Have you gotten a steady job yet?”

“Krekk Lompson, the Iridonian Exchange boss of this part of Coruscant hired me to bash around some trouble-makers and collect debts,” Canderous answered indifferently.

“Like what you used to do for Davik on Taris,” Ev observed, “I thought you hated that.”

“I need to do something to pay the bills,” Canderous said with a shrug, but Ev detected restless unhappiness beneath the veneer of indifference. “And he pays me even better than Davik did.”

“Does he know you killed Davik on Taris and stole his ship?” Ev asked pointedly.

“Yeah,” he nodded, “And that's why he's paying me so much. I never thought I'd say this, but he's rewarding me for acts of dishonor, and I don't like it.”

“So now you see what a bunch of dishonorable scum-bags the Exchange is run by,” Ev said.

“It's not that I didn't before,” Canderous qualified, “But I like it a whole lot less now.”

“You really aren't meant for this life, Canderous,” Ev replied.

“What else can a Mandalorian do in this day and age?” Canderous demanded, his quiet frustration rising, “Sell caff?” He trust his hand indignantly in direction of the Jolly Mando sign. “And why did Carth get the ship anyway? I stole her for you.”

“He's my husband, that's why,” Ev replied shortly with an eyebrow raised in challenge.

Canderous sighed and leaned back in his seat, “Sometimes I envy that man.”

“Don't go there, Canderous,” Ev warned icily.

“Hey, only sometimes,” he chuckled, but Ev could see that he was unnerved by her steely glare. Good. “What have the Jedi been keeping you busy with lately?” Canderous asked, deflecting the conversation.

“Not much,” Ev admitted with a shrug. “I took Carth's son as my padawan, so now most of my time is taken up with training him.”

“Now, I thought the Jedi were so few that they would need every last one out on some mission or another, cleaning up the mess left by your war,” Canderous supposed, “Especially Jedi like you.”

Ev wondered just what he meant by 'your war,' but she kept that to herself. “You would think,” she replied dryly. “In essence, they don't trust me and they're not letting me out of their sight.”

“Rough,” Canderous sympathized tersely, “And stupid.” He paused, then stared directly at her, saying, “You and I aren't made for peace times.”

“No, we aren't,” Ev agreed, “But we have one.”

“Do they think you're going to remember what it was like to be Darth Revan and switch sides again?” Canderous asked.

“They fear that,” Ev nodded, “yes.”

“Do you remember any?” he asked pointedly.

With Canderous sitting in front of her, Ev could not lie to him or to his honor. When it came down to it, she had no reason to. Canderous would not fear her or worry about her. It was almost as if he expected this as a part of who she was.

Reflexively, she reached out with the Force to see if anyone from the Temple was trailing her or if someone was paying undue attention to her and Canderous. There was nothing.

In a low voice, she finally answered, “I have been dreaming.”

“Dreaming about memories?” Canderous asked.

“Yes,” Ev nodded gravely, “But only bits and pieces. It is more frustrating than it is illuminating, though I am beginning to understand what it felt like to be Revan.”

“Good,” Canderous said firmly, “I'm glad that the Jedi did not destroy the best strategist of our age. It's good to know you're still in there.”

“Did we ever fight on the same battlefield, Canderous?” Ev asked. It was a question she could have asked many times before, but did not really want to know the answer until now.

“I wouldn't be alive if we had,” he answered with a chuckle.

“Fair,” Ev nodded. Ev tried to remember her dream from that night, but it oozed and slipped from her mental grasp. “Can I ask you something, Canderous?” Ev asked.

“You can ask. I will probably answer,” Canderous replied, “What do you want to know?”

“Why did the Mandalorian Clans really go to war?” Ev asked, “Every memory I can recall is shadowed by a fear of something greater and more sinister than just the clans.”

“Like they say,” Canderous explained, “It was a test of our might, a chance to prove our glory in battle.” He could see Ev was not satisfied. “But I doubt Mandalore would have mobilized all the clans like he did without urging from the Sith,” he added quietly after checking to see that no one was listening in.

“The Sith,” Ev caught her breath. The wave of cold, numbing, and yet mobilizing fear that caught her in that moment mirrored the nagging feelings she always had in her dreams. “But that doesn't make any sense. Revan's Sith did not exist yet at the time of the start of your war. And Exar Kun's Sith were wiped out. Besides, they were just a bunch of Tetan brats overly interested in the arcane and a couple of Force ghosts of ancient, long-dead Sith Lords.”

“Don't look at me,” Canderous shrugged, “All I know is that the Sith were involved. Whoever they were, they invited Mandalore to attack the Outer Rim and the Republic, and it was a challenge he took to prove our honor.”

“They why doesn't the galaxy know about this already?” Ev asked.

“Only top ranking Mandalorians knew that Mandalore the Ultimate had anything to do with the Sith,” Canderous replied, “Mandalore was the ultimate authority. He would loose respect if the clans suspected he was taking orders from someone else. I only heard Cassus Fett mention it just the once.”

“Huh,” Ev nodded. The cold fear gripped at hear heart again. “Then that means that there are other Sith still out there, separate from Revan and Malak's Sith. The Galaxy is not out of danger yet.”

“But they're quiet, aren't they?” Canderous observed.

“The quiet threats are the most dangerous ones,” Ev asserted quietly. She took a sip of her caff. It was beginning to get cold.

Canderous watched her and started to smile. “I can see you're thinking,” he observed.

“There has to be someone closer to Mandalore who would know more about his connection to the Sith,” Ev thought out loud.

“You're looking at probably one of the highest ranking Mandalorians that survived past Malachor V,” Canderous pointed out.

Ev sighed, but she was already filled with a new resolve. Until she disproved the existence of Mandalore's Sith, they were a threat to the Republic. In that moment, she knew that she would not truly rest again until that threat was eliminated.

If the Sith struck now, the Republic would be obliterated. Battle weary, broken, and off-guard, the Republic was in no condition to fight off another enemy. Nor were the Jedi. There were just too few and the leadership was too bogged down by tradition and in-fighting. There was no strength left in the galaxy. Even the Mandalorians were scattered and gone from the plays of power.

A thought struck her. “Then why don't you bring the clans back together?” Ev asked.

“Reunite the clans?” Canderous asked. “Why should I?”

“Because Revan is asking you to,” Ev replied, fixing her dark gaze on him. She knew Canderous could not refuse such a request from Revan herself. She continued, “Because I have a feeling that there is still a danger lurking out there and that it could rip the galaxy to bits. Because the Mandalorians really are a great force and may be the only hope for the galaxy when the time comes. Because Mandalorians are not meant to be mercenaries and thugs. They are meant to be warriors.”

Canderous stared at her skeptically. “Why would they listen to me?” he asked, “I was just fighting on the side of the Republic. That is the kind of news that got around fast, even if I didn't go on your glitzy victory tour.”

“Because you were all over the publicity material,” Ev replied, “If they didn't know who you were beforehand, now they do. Even bad press, as you would call it, is publicity.”

“First Revan destroys the Mandalorian clans by taking Mandalore's helmet and denying us our leader,” Canderous muttered, “And now she asks me to reunite the clans again. Without a Mandalore, it will be almost impossible, and without Mandalore's mask, a new Mandalore cannot be chosen.”

“That, I can work on,” Ev promised. “But will you do it?”

“I'll think about it,” Canderous replied elusively, but she knew he had already decided.

“You do that,” Ev nodded. “And now I have to get back to the Temple before someone realizes that that's HK in my room and not me taking a lazy morning.”

Canderous chuckled. “You know how to find me,” he replied.

Ev stood, draining her mug of cold caff then slamming the cup down onto the table. Without another word, she turned and left.

Canderous remained behind, deep in thought.

- Next Part -


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