Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 14 - Names of the Dead

Carth woke before dawn. A near lifetime of military schedules had long since trained him out of sleeping in. Even at this hour, speeders whizzed past his apartment, casting shifting lines on the wall through the slitted window shades as they passed by.

But that was a whole world away. Inside his room, all was silent and calm. The only sound outside the beating of his own heart was the soft breathing of his wife beside him. He rolled over onto his side and gazed at her beautiful, serene form. In moments like these, Carth was able to forget that Ev was anything more than just that: his wife, the woman he loved.

He had cherished these few weeks of leave and followed by meetings with the Telos Restoration Project Council on Coruscant. It allowed him and Ev more time together than either had hoped for when they first decided to marry. That would soon change. Although he had not received the order yet, Carth knew he would soon be taking the Sojourn to Telos for a very long assignment.

Carth resisted the urge to pull Ev into his arms and ignore the rapidly approaching morning. He had to be ready to meet with the TRP council in a scant few hours and Ev had to return to the Jedi Temple before anyone noticed she was gone. He rolled out of bed and padded across the soft carpet to the 'fresher for a nice, long shower.

When he came out again, Ev was awake and sitting before his computer terminal, wrapped hap-haphazardly in a sheet. Seeing him in only a towel, Ev neither smiled nor flirted like she usually did. Her eyes were glued to the screen. She flicked her gaze up at him and said, “You left yourself logged in last night.”

Carth moved behind her to see what had her so transfixed. Lines of text zipped down the terminal faster than he could read them. “What's this?” he asked. What could Ev want access to that she could not get without his level of security clearance?

“I am compiling a list of all the known deaths from this war; military, Sith, and civilian,” Ev replied quietly. Her voice seemed so small.

“There must be millions,” Carth marveled.

“No Carth,” she countered and met his gaze. “There are trillions.” Never since meeting Ev aboard the Endar Spire had Carth seen such a look of despair in her eyes.


***


“Yeah, yeah, I'm happy as a tak on a log here,” Jolee said. A projection of his blue-ish colored bust hovered over Ev's comm terminal. “They've got me set up in a special 'human-sized' guest lodge. It's almost like they're back to thinking I'm some forest god or something.”

Ev laughed, “I bet you miss your hole under that log down in the Shadowlands.”

Jolee chuckled dryly. “I went back down there, you know,” he said, “and I had to shoo a nest of kinrath out of my living room. There wasn't much left worth moving up here.”

“But you had to see it,” Ev observed.

“I had to see it to be sure that leaving that nice cozy place wasn't the dumbest thing I've done this half of the century,” Jolee snorted.

“And?” Ev asked.

“And now I'm the Jedi Watchman of this sector,” Jolee deflected the question, “It's like they're saying, 'Jolee, if you're going to hang out in the woods like some crazy hermit, you might as well be useful.' They're sending me off to check on a conflict on Trandosha at the end of this week. Now that's got to be messy.”

“Have fun,” Ev laughed, “I'm sure it's not anything you can't handle. At least Trandoshans don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they get angry.”

“But they do have a nasty bite when you get 'em mad,” Jolee countered.

“Nothing you can't handle,” Ev repeated with a grin.

“The things you get me into,” Jolee shook his head. “Now, I know this isn't just a pleasure call. You said you had something to ask me about, so ask me. I'm a very busy Jedi.”

“Sure you are,” Ev snorted.

“Well?” Jolee asked, “I might just keel over and expire here waiting for you to come to the point.”

“Right,” Ev nodded, then jumped into the real reason for her call, “Jolee, I was wondering just how much you knew about me as Revan, or even before that.”

“I thought you should be able to do better math than that,” Jolee retorted, “By the time you were Revanchist-ing around the galaxy like some justice-possessed crusader, I was crashed and happily burrowed under my log.”

“And before then?” she pressed, disappointed by Jolee's unwillingness to help.

“I left the Jedi Order before you were born, kiddo,” Jolee shot back. “I knew your face and your voice because I did see it on the HoloNet before my generator ran dry down there in the Shadowlands and I gave up on depressing news. I never forget a face.”

“Right,” Ev sat back with a sigh. Another dead-end.

“Didn't give you want I want, did I?” Jolee observed.

“It's just, it seems like the Jedi have purged practically everything about me from the archives,” Ev complained. “I have to know more about my past and about the wars.”

“Oh, they never throw anything away. They've probably got it locked up in some top-secret private library of theirs,” Jolee said disdainfully, “Now they start pretending like history is dangerous. You might do better by looking at other archives. The University of Coruscant, for one. Carth could probably get you into the navy archives too. There might even be some old Jedi that were actually around when you were growing up who aren't as stuffy as that Vrook Lamar.”

“Thanks Jolee,” Ev nodded. It was not as if she had not thought of all of those ideas before herself, but it was refreshing to have someone talk straight to her.

“If that's it,” Jolee said, “Freyyr is calling.”

“Yeah, that's it,” Ev nodded, “Thanks Jolee. Take care of yourself.”

“I'll let the Force do that for me,” Jolee replied with a crooked smile and signed off.


***


Ev trailed behind Carth through the Republic Navy Headquarters at a respectful distance. Only a few heads turned at the passage of a Jedi through the halls. Ev, for her part, wore the most generic Jedi robes she could find. Contrary to the complaints and observations of many, Ev did own a couple sets of boring, brown Jedi robes. Now, she wore them to look every bit the harmless, studious Jedi she hoped to come across as.

Ev and Carth exchanged few words on their tour through the navy headquarters other than an occasional, “This way.”

Finally, they found the archives, tucked away in a back corner. It was a tightly-packed, insufficiently-lit hall with high, vaulted ceilings. Cataloger droids hovered and zipped down the narrow aisles between towering shelves of holodisk records. Directly in front of the doorway Ev and Carth entered through sat a middle-aged man in a crisp lieutenant's uniform. A neatly pressed sleeve hung loosely off his left shoulder where his arm once had been. His right arm was fully functional, however, and he saluted them with it.

“What can I do for you, Admiral?” he asked, seeing Carth's uniform.

“This is Jedi Knight Ev Pell,” Carth explained and Ev stepped forward to the desk. “She is conducting research on the Revanchist and her group's involvement in the last two wars.”

“The Jedi Archives have tragically lost much of their material on the Revanchist,” Ev added, hoping that the lieutenant was not the hero-worshiping sort that would recognize her face from all of the publicity materials of a year ago. “So I have been forced to take my research elsewhere.”

“I see,” he nodded.

“I have granted her full clearance up to my level,” Carth added.

“I see,” the archivist said again. He leaned over and punched a combination into the key pad of a spherical cataloger droid that sat on the table beside him. With a quick beep, it sprung up off the table and unfolded a pair of spindly arms from its body. “QR-4M13 will assist you in finding what you need,” he explained, “You will find the private reading rooms in the back of the archives, Jedi Knight Pell. Will that be all, Admiral Onasi?”

“Yes, thank you,” Carth nodded. Turning to Ev, he added, “I hope you find what you're looking for.”

“Thank you, Admiral,” Ev replied curtly, keeping her face blank.

Carth wished he knew just what it was that she so desperately wanted to find out.


***


Like every morning, Ev guided Dustil through lightsaber exercises. Now, they used live sabers almost every day, and almost always used both of hers against him. Dustil—and all the apprentices from Korriban—favored makashi over all the other forms, so Ev did all she could, switching from form to form, to force him into more creative tactics.

Switching rapidly from the leaps of ataru to the measured, steady strikes of shii-cho, Ev kept Dustil on the offensive. His blue lightsaber hissed against the purple saber in her right hand and the red saber in her left. Ev spun away from Dustil, but he leaped towards her, quickly closing the gap. Feeling it was time to up the challenge, Ev moved to bring her left saber into full play. It was time to use both sabers aggressively. She shifted her weight onto her right foot and swung in with her left saber. Instead of defending against the new threat, Dustil made a powerful strike at her right saber, while Pushing at her with his left hand. Ev lost her footing and stumbled, the violet lightsaber flying from her grasp. It extinguished itself and clattered to the floor. In an instant, Dustil had his lightsaber pointed at her chest, poised to kill.

“Well done,” Ev complimented, her eyes wide in surprise at the sudden turning of the tables. Dustil was getting better, but that trick should not have worked on her. “You really got me that time.” She extinguished her second lightsaber and waited for Dustil to switch his own off.

With a laugh, Dustil Pulled Ev's purple saber towards him. It flew into his left hand and lit up at his touch. “So now that I've got you once when you've got both sabers going,” Dustil asked triumphantly, “are you going to teach me how to double-wield?”

“Yes,” Ev breathed. Somehow, Dustil's live saber still pointed lazily at her abdomen sent a nervous chill down her spine. “But not today. I think I've had enough for the morning.”

“Aw,” Dustil whined, “I was just getting going.” Even so, he obediently extinguished both sabers. Finally, Ev was able to relax. Turning the hilt towards his master, Dustil respectfully handed Ev's saber back to her.

“Thank you,” she said, clipping it back to her belt. She pushed herself up off of the ground and stood stiffly. “You may be raring to go, but I need a break.”

Dustil squinted at her. He did that every time he tried to reach out with both the Force and his own internal reasoning at the same time. “Ev, what's the matter?” he asked suddenly, “You really are off today. I almost got you three times before that too. I know you're supposed to be one of the best duelists in the Order.”

Ev took a deep breath and let it out in a slow sigh. “I'm sorry Dustil,” she admitted, “I must be tired today, and it is taking away from your training. I was out late last night doing my research at the HoloNet news archives.”

“Out late?” Dustil asked, “Oh, come on. I'm up late almost every night and you don't see me making a mess on the dueling floor.”

“That is a matter of perspective, Dustil,” Ev retorted with an eyebrow raised.

“Really, Ev,” Dustil pressed, “How late were you out?”

“I didn't get back to the Temple until almost five this morning,” Ev admitted reluctantly.

“Five? Seriously Ev,” Dustil scolded, “You need to get more sleep. Your research can't be that important, can it? You've been spending more time in archives this week than you have training me.”

“Here I am,” Ev marveled sarcastically, “my Padawan giving me a lecture on healthy sleep habits.”

“No, I'm serious,” Dustil said stubbornly, “You go get some rest or something and I'll go find someone else to spar with.”

“Dustil,” Ev began to protest, using her assertive 'master' voice with him, but he blew her off.

“See you after lunch, Ev,” he replied firmly and strode off towards the other end of the practice room where a few other students were sparring.

Instead of a nap, Ev felt the burning desire to go back over her notes again. She was getting closer and closer to a picture of her younger self. So many trails and leads were getting nearer to their end. Urgency gnawed at her, but she could not place why. Sighing, Ev slumped her shoulders and turned for the exit.

Dustil was right. She needed more sleep. She headed back towards her quarters, half-hoping that sleep would bring more dream-memories with it.


***


“Private Elbom Ranelwo, age 25, Chandrilla, died in combat, Battle of Gizer. Private Quan Linkthon, age 24, Belnar, died in combat, Battle of Gizer,” Ev read, mumbling to herself, “Private Laurlie Spencer, age 27, Coruscant, died in combat, Battle of Gizer. Private Juterub Lanth, age 27, Sullust, died in combat, Battle of—”

“Ev, there you are,” Juhani started Ev out of her reverie. She wound around the garden path and glided over to the bench where Ev was sitting.

Ev hastily put aside the datapad she had been reading and stood to greet Juhani. “Juhani, you're back,” Ev said warmly, “How was your trip?”

Embracing briefly, Juhani answered, “It was enlightening. I do not know what I expected and I cannot explain what I felt, but I know I am moving forward.”

“That's good hear,” Ev replied, somewhat distractedly.

“My people are rebuilding,” Juhani explained and sat down with Ev, “There is hope for Cathar. After walking on the world of my birth, I feel that I have cleansed much of my anger and hatred from me. I have found my roots again.”

“And planted deep,” Ev observed, “I sense a calm in you that you didn't have before leaving.”

Seeing the datapad on the bench beside Ev, she asked, “What was that you were reading when I came. I hope I did not interrupt you.”

“Ah, no you didn't,” Ev affirmed quickly.

Juhani's sharp eyes scanned the pad from where she sat. “That is a list of war casualties,” she realized, “Why are you pouring over the dead?”

“They are the dead of the late Mandalorian Wars and early Jedi Civil war,” Ev explained, “They are my dead.”

“Your dead?” Juhani asked.

“Mandalorians who died under the guns of my fleet. Good Republic soldiers who died against my Sith. Civilians whose worlds burned beneath my unyielding might. Jedi who thought they could stand against us. Sith men and women who I stole from their their homes to my cause, only to die in my service,” Ev replied, “All of them are my dead. I killed them.”

“That wasn't you,” Juhani protested, “You are a new person now.”

Holding her hands up before her, Ev stared down at them as she had many times before. They were so small, and yet they held so much responsibility. “These hands, Juhani, these hands still killed trillions, whether I remember it or not,” she replied distantly, “History remembers. These people's families remember.”

“And by reading their names, you are trying to remember,” Juhani assessed.

“Something like that, but not quite,” Ev failed to explain.

“You hope that by reading all these names, you will be cleansed,” Juhani grasped it. She understood.

Ev nodded. “I cannot pretend that they never existed just because they do not now,” Ev replied, “I need to do their memories service, and this is the best I can think of.”

Juhani shook her head and placed a hand on Ev's shoulder. “Ev, be careful of guilt,” she warned gently, “That leads to the Dark Side. You cannot let the past consume you. Those trillions of long-dead voices could drown out what is here and now.”

“I will be careful,” Ev promised, “But this is something I have to do if I am ever going to move on.”

Juhani sighed and gazed over Ev's lap at the datapad. That Ev would attempt something so daunting and yet so noble was beyond her. And yet, it frightened her. Where was the calm she last felt in Ev before her trip to Cathar? What had changed and why? Uncomfortably, she changed the subject, “I have decided to take on a Padawan as well.”

“Good,” Ev smiled, “You will be an excellent master, Juhani, and the order needs as many masters as it can get at the moment. Have you decided who?”

“Shasa,” Juhani replied, “She is skilled and has a temperament to match mine.”

“I'd worry about someone with the same temperament as you,” Ev teased, “But Shasa really does mesh with you. Have you told her yet?”

“Not yet,” Juhani shook her head, “But I plan to soon.”


***


Bastila watched Ev from across the atrium. Ev knew that she was coming to meet her, and yet she showed no sign of noticing that Bastila was so near. Ev was always sharply aware of her surroundings. Now, she only stared fixatedly at the datapad in her hands. It was as if nothing else mattered.

Ev's unresponsiveness was not the only thing that gave Bastila cause for concern. Ev was trying to shut her out. Day by day, she was feeling less and less over their bond. Before, Bastila had been backing off to give Ev more privacy, particularly in her relationship with Carth, but now it was Ev pulling back as well. Bastila still felt the uneasiness, fear, and guilt seeping over their bond and she knew that her friend was not well inside.

Taking a deep breath, Bastila crossed the atrium to where Ev was sitting. Ev finally looked up, smiling at her and quickly tucking away the datapad. As Ev stood to greet her, Bastila could sense something eating away at her beneath that easy smile. “It's about time, Bastila,” Ev teased. “Caught up with Snow? Or was it the meetings this time?”

“I was merely taking a leisurely stroll through the Temple,” Bastila replied.

“Leisurely stroll? That's unlike you,” Ev chided, “I'm glad to hear you're finally relaxing.” The forced humor in her voice made Bastila feel uneasy.

“You know, brooding is unlike you, Ev,” Bastila pointed out, cutting straight to her fears, “If we are talking about what is unlike ourselves.”

“Brooding?” Ev asked, her expression of surprise was unconvincing, “Who said I was brooding?”

“Juhani said that you have been reading over a list of the war dead,” Bastila reported.

Ev looked her squarely in the eyes and nodded. “I am,” she replied. “I find it cleansing.”

“Ev, you'll never make it through the whole list and stay sane,” Bastila pleaded rather than admonished, “You can't let yourself get obsessed with the past. We have the present to deal with. You are who you are now.”

“I know,” Ev replied heavily. Forcibly lightening up, she added, “Did Juhani tell you that she has taken Shasa as a padawan?”

“Yes, and they are both doing very well together,” Bastila replied, “Juhani will make a far better master than she allows herself to imagine.”

“You too,” Ev pointed out, “How is Snow getting along?”

“She is enjoying the council meetings, and is incredibly perceptive,” Bastila praised, “I am glad to have her there with me. She will make a great Jedi one day.”

A silence fell between them.

“Ev,” Bastila said finally, “I'm worried about you. Something is bothering you, and you're shutting me out of it.”

“You don't want to have to share in everything I feel,” Ev replied with a hint of bitterness in her voice, “I thought you would enjoy a bit of mental autonomy for once.”

“I do,” Bastila protested, “But that does not stop me from worrying about you. Please, what is bothering you?”

“Nothing new,” Ev brushed off the question, “And I can take care of my own concerns, Bastila.” Just then, Ev straightened up and peered over Bastila's shoulder. “Master Cafran,” she called.

Bastila turned and saw a familiar elderly Jedi Master walking through the atrium as Ev started towards him.

“Good afternoon, Ev,” he greeted her with a slight smile.

“If you had a minute, there were some questions I wanted to ask you,” Ev started with an eagerness that almost felt eerie when compared with the unrest Bastila felt coming from inside her.

“I do happen to have a minute on my hands,” Visto Cafran replied, “Walk with me.”

As an afterthought, Ev added over her shoulder, “See you later, Bastila.”

Bastila watched her go, turmoil growing in her own stomach. Something was tearing Ev apart inside. She was changing, and it scared Bastila. Worse yet, Ev was shutting her out of it all. She resolved to talk to Carth as soon as she could. Ev might push Bastila out of her life, but she could never seal herself off from Carth.

Bastila watched her go, turmoil growing in her own stomach. Something was tearing Ev apart inside. She was changing, and it scared Bastila. Worse yet, Ev was shutting her out of it all. She resolved to talk to Carth as soon as she could. Ev might push Bastila out of her life, but she could never seal herself off from Carth.


***


There was fear and pain all around. Hatred was so thick in the air, she could almost taste it. This place, secret and perfected, it fueled her army. It fueled her.

One of her special operatives, robed and hooded in black, marched up to her, dragging a hapless Jedi by her collar. He flung the woman to the stone floor before Revan and stood proudly over his captive.

The woman would have been beautiful if not for the bloody nose, bruised arms, and dark circles beneath her eyes. Inclining her head to stare up at Revan seemed to take all the energy she had.

“This one will not be broken,” he reported with a snarl, “I thought you would like to have the honor of terminating her yourself.”

“You are most considerate,” Revan praised.

The Jedi on the floor started to speak, but only coughed weakly from the effort. Revan waited. Finally, she managed to form her words. “I pity you, Revan. You don't understand the destruction you have wrought on the Republic.”

“And you do not understand the destruction I am preventing,” she replied. “If anyone is to be pitied, it is you.”

The Jedi coughed again and laid her head against the floor again. She had no fight left in her.

“But I do not feel like pitying anyone today,” Revan continued. Beneath her mask, her lips curled into a sneer. She raised her hand and slowly closed her hands into a fist.

The woman began to wheeze and cough more violently, writhing on the floor. Soon she couldn't cough, only writhe. Then, even the writhing ceased and she was dead.

“Well done, my Lord Revan,” the operative praised.

“And you have failed,” Revan turned her ire on the operative, “This woman should be in my army, not lying dead on the floor.”

He paled. “Lord Revan, have mercy,” he protested frantically, “She was a helpless cause. You know those Jedi...”

“I am no more inclined to mercy than I am inclined to pity today,” Revan replied. She raised her hands, feeling the irresistible tingle of the Force surge through her. It leaped from her fingertips as bright lightning. The operative screamed and writhed. He tried to run, but his spasming muscles would not obey. Revan's wry smile broadened. Now this was satisfying. He collapsed to the ground, still twitching and screaming. Revan drew deeper into the Force and intensified the lightning—


Suddenly Ev lay awake in bed, soft covers around her soaked with sweat. She was far from the dark place of her dreams. Carth leaned over her, a fearful look in his eyes.

“Ev, are you okay?” he whispered.

“I—I'm fine,” her voice was dry in her parched throat. Just like that Jedi. “It was just a dream.”

“Was it?” Carth asked pointedly.

“It's all in my head, Carth,” she reassured him.

“What's all in your head? Do you even know?” he asked, “You've not been yourself recently. Ev, I don't want to leave you like this.”

“But you have your duty to the Telos Restoration Project,” Ev finished for him, “We knew this would happen to us when we married. You have your duties and I have mine.”

“Ev, I can't leave you tomorrow knowing that you're falling apart inside,” he said pleadingly. “I want to be here for you, but I can't if you won't open up and let me in. I want to know what's wrong.”

Freeing herself from the tangled, damp sheets around her, she rolled over onto her back and stared up at the dark ceiling. After a long silence, she said, “Carth, trust me, there are things that you don't want to know.”

- Next Part -


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